YOU HAVE FORGOTTEN SOMETHING IMPORTANT FOR A SPECIAL PERSON: a sponsor note. Need a last-second gift? How about an actual piece of the Big House? Friend of the blog Martin Vloet got his hands on the original redwood Big House benches—the ones installed in 1927 and used until 2005—and had them made into limited edition pens, cufflinks, pendants, and bottle openers. He also claimed the old plastic seats and cut them up into magnets or pendants. The first 99 pens are reserved for Michigan football players, past or present, that want like to claim their jersey number. The rest of the pens will ship, #100 through #1927, on a first-ordered basis.
Use the code MGBFREESHIP and save on domestic shipping of any size order placed by 11:59 pm TODAY. As long as it goes out tomorrow, USPS Priority Mail should be able to make it to any US address by December 24.
Follow this man. Eric Shap on Michigan's defensive issues in their last two outings:
3/ I thought the defense in the USC game was especially sloppy -- poor post defense, guys losing shooters, and getting beaten back door. Those issues were mostly corrected against WMU, but another concern I'll be keeping an eye on due to Michigan's scheme is non-contact screens. pic.twitter.com/XKYoNyXaCQ
— Eric S (@eric_shap) December 18, 2018
5/ Lastly, Michigan's early season two-point defense was unsustainable and both South Carolina and WMU hit some difficult, low percentage shots inside the arc. pic.twitter.com/VxzSaXQB4h
— Eric S (@eric_shap) December 18, 2018
A combination of a December lull against teams that don't really have Michigan's attention and a reversion seemingly well past the mean; if holding Eric Paschall to 3/13 from two without doubling wasn't a realistic picture of Michigan's D, well neither is that last set of clips above.
If NET's taken as seriously as RPI that's fine. Weird article in the Washington Post trashing the NET rankings, which are wonky as any NCAA hodgepodge is going to be but hardly a disaster waiting to happen for tournament seeding. The article has three wrong premises. One is that NET is the be-all and end-all of selection and seeding:
You might not think such a discrepancy in the rankings would mean much, but consider how this could affect the NCAA tournament, where a team like Texas Tech would be given a No. 1 seed via its NET ranking, but plays more like a No. 3 seed, per its consensus ranking.
The committee still exists. We're still talking about quadrant one wins. There are still teamsheets. NET will be followed no more blindly than RPI was. Which was a little blindly, if we're being honest, but not to the point where a team gets a one seed solely because of a single number on the sheet.
Two is that a hodge-podge of computer rankings is an appropriate comparison point. Many, if not most, of the rankings in the giant compilation the author cites are predictive rankings that are inappropriate for selecting and seeding the field. At this point in the season many still have a significant preseason component—Kenpom won't be fully preseason-free until the end of January. If the season ended today a field selected and seeded by Kenpom alone would give Purdue, which is 6-5 and has just two B-level wins, a five seed. NET ranks Purdue 31st instead of 17th. NET's deviation from the average here is a positive. The article cites Houston's NET ranking (10th) vs their computer composite (23rd), but you could cherry-pick a weird outlier for almost every one of these ranking systems. ESPN's BPI has Michigan 11th.
Three is that NET won't be able to better distinguish between teams given an additional half-season of data. This is an absurd comparison to make:
Based on last year’s consensus rankings, a top-four consensus team had an average RPI ranking of 3.3. This year the average NET ranking of a top-four team is 5.5, almost identical to a team ranked between No. 5 and No. 8 in the consensus group. In other words, the NET rankings are incapable of distinguishing between a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, a stark contrast compared to last year where, via RPI, there was a clear difference between the two.
For one, last year's RPI-influenced committee put Kenpom #9 Kansas and Kenpom #14(!!!) Xavier on the one line. As a group the two-seeds were stronger. For two, most teams have only played a third of their games so far. Of course there is going to be more disagreement amongst ranking systems when they have less data.
The only real question is "is NET better than RPI when tourney time nears?" Open question, but it would have to try real hard to be worse.
[After THE JUMP: more NCAA legal troubles, what is USC even doing, and a sudden 180]
Weird flex but ok. Rashan Gary gets dinged a bit by PFF based on counting numbers in an article on draft prospects who underperformed:
RASHAN GARY, DL, MICHIGAN (80.4 OVERALL GRADE)
Hailing from Paramus, New Jersey, Gary was the consensus top-ranked player in the 2016 recruiting class. Unlike most players transitioning from high school to college, Gary actually lost weight at Michigan. The 290-pound high school defensive tackle is now listed as a 283-pound defensive end. The problem is his pass-rushing moves still resemble that of a defensive tackle as he’s collected a grand total of 74 pressures over the last two seasons (teammate Chase Winovich has 106 for comparison). The athleticism is evident, but he might have to transition back inside at the NFL level.
I don't disagree with some of this—Gary probably should have been a 3T at Michigan and will probably be a 3T in the NFL—but using raw counting numbers when Winovich almost literally never came off the field and Gary was rotated more, missed a number of games with shoulder issues, and played through those issues for much of the rest of his career. He's more of a risk than you'd think a #1 overall recruit would be but he's certainly done enough to go high unless you think the shoulder issue is chronic.
And now the most important part of Signing Day. Michigan did not land an All-Name teamer. Rough:
In keeping with tradition, the only signing day list that matters: The Class of 2019 All-Name Team. pic.twitter.com/6RnfhWOIRp
— Matt Hinton (@MattRHinton) December 19, 2018
You blew it all up, you maniacs! [fist bump] The NCAA is preparing to lose the Shawne Alston case, which might set off a slow-motion avalanche. The theory behind this particular lawsuit against amateurism is that the conferences have conspired to set the value of a scholarship. If the lawsuit goes the plaintiff's way the NCAA could be prevented from setting a cap on the value of scholarships and then here we go.
Naturally, the manager class is freaking out:
If the plaintiffs win, there is concern among the Power Five that a Wild West culture could take hold. The last time conferences oversaw athlete compensation was 1956 before the advent of TV, rights fees, agents and riches from the NFL and NBA.
Ah yes. A "Wild West culture." One that is distinct from this one, where OSU keeps Urban Meyer despite his enablement of a domestic abuser, Louisville has no action taken against it despite a freakin' FBI investigation that clearly implicates their head coach despite already being on probation, and payments to recruits under the table are expected at virtually every school in the most successful football conference in the country.
Example: If the plaintiffs win, as expected, the SEC could theoretically compensate athletes with cars.
Anyway, no time like the present to blow it all up and this may eventually be the thing that does it:
Privately, though, there seems to be a general a feeling the plaintiffs will win, setting off alarms with which the NCAA is familiar. Alston is not the first legal challenge to the NCAA's hide-bound amateurism model. But the cumulative effect of all those court cases may be a chipping away of the NCAA's DNA. Without that one-of-a-kind amateurism model that exists nowhere else in the world, critics have wondered whether the NCAA would have any remaining worth.
Does it have any currently? What's the point of having rules if you have no enforcement?
About face. Jim Delany went from discounting any idea of playoff expansion to this in the matter of a week:
“The Big Ten would be happy to discuss structure issues with colleagues,” Delany told The Athletic. “It’s probably a good idea, given all of the conversations and noise around the issue, to have discussions with our colleagues.
“The Big Ten would definitely have conversations.”
At this point it appears to be the SEC and ACC versus everyone else.
How to sabotage your athletic department in one easy step. How is this even possible in 2018?
Some frustrating mounting over how slow #USC is to announce signings. Folks have to remember that the #Trojans support staff is all of three people these days. Alabama, Clemson and even Notre Dame are closer to 40.
— Gerard Martinez (@gmartlive) December 19, 2018
I enjoy USC more as the bumbling post-cocaine-addiction version of itself.
Etc.: Zero ambiguity from Quinn Hughes about his plans: he gone. 2020 D recruit Jacob Truscott profiled. MSU CB Justin Layne and OSU RB Mike Weber declare for the draft. OSU won't miss Weber much but Layne was clearly a level above the rest of MSU's CBs. Kenpom on the randomness of three point D. Red enters the US Hockey Hall of Fame.