Saturday, April 4, 2009

Farewell, Faithful Readers

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It is with a fair amount of sadness that I am writing to tell you that I will no longer be posting on The Ace of Sports. It's been a pleasure writing on the site, and I appreciate all the people that took the time to read my musings on all things Detroit and Michigan sports. A special thanks goes out to all my readers, Nico, who designed the original banner, Aleks, who figured out how the hell to put that banner up, and my fellow Ace of Sports writers, Joe, Sam, and Noah.

However, you will still be able to find me on the web, writing about Michigan sports. You may be aware that I am currently interning at The Wolverine Magazine, and the guys at The Wolverine have let me set up an official blog for the website. The site is up and running, and I'm really excited about the opportunity to write for The Wolverine and get some fantastic insider access that I never had on this blog. Update your links accordingly:

Thanks again for following The Ace of Sports, and hopefully you'll continue to enjoy my work over at the new digs.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Beilein Helping Michigan State?

A lot of things are going Michigan State's way right now.
When they face Connecticut in the Final Four, they will be playing 90 miles from East Lansing. They will be riding a high that only an underdog can ride. They will have on the sidelines one of the best coaches in the business.
But they will also be facing a coach on the other bench who has never lost a Final Four game. A 7'3" center who, despite having the soft touch of Andre The Giant under the basket, still poses a significant defensive threat. An offense unlike any they faced in the Big Ten.
All of us at Ace of Sports love Michigan, but in this case, you have to be rooting for the Big Ten. Luckily, John Beilein and his assistant coaches are willing to share some of their secrets to beating UConn in this Detroit Free Press article.

Now, the Wolverines did not beat UConn, but they came about as close as any team whose largest serviceable big man is 6'8" could have. Izzo should read up, because the Spartans are in for a fight. 

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Michigan-Oklahoma Live Blog

What's up everybody, Michigan and Oklahoma are about to tip off so let's do a quick review: in their last game against Clemson, Michigan looked good. Really good. For most of the game. They struggled rebounding the ball, and that won't get any easier with Blake Griffin down low. They shot the ball well, particularly Manny Harris, who played like a man possessed. DeShawn Sims was virtually absent, accounting for only nine points. If Michigan is going to have a chance of winning today, Sims needs to step it up against one of the best big men in the country. Michigan almost gave the game away in the final minutes but once again Manny bailed them out at the end, hitting perhaps the biggest shot of his young career, an and-1 floater in the lane.
And that's how it went down.
It's the second round of the NCAA Tournament. You know Jon Beilein has this team as prepared as they'll ever be. It's win or go home. Let's get it.

Initital thought: how much would it suck to be Taylor Griffin? Nobody ever talks about you because your little brother is so much better than you. I didn;t even know he existed until this game. He's virtually anonymous, all because of his little brother. Anyway, back to the game.

19:15- After a quick foul on Manny Harris (bad), Sims hits a nice fadeaway jumper (good). If he can get involved, this game will be very, very close.

17:30- So far, discouraging play from Michigan. They have already blown a couple of golden opportunities on the offensive end, including a sure dunk from Sims, he just wasn't ready for the pass. Michigan cannot afford mental mistakes like that. If they want to win, they can't have any space-out episodes Sims is now famous for.

16:04- Traveling call on Blake Griffin. That's a good sign, because this guy walks all over the world, it's good if the refs won't allow it.

15:25- Nice Michigan drive-and-dish that results in a Zach Novak 3-pointer. If both our white boys are hitting, that's a VERY good sign. It stretches the defense and frees up space down low for Sims to do work.

15:05- Manny just picked up his second foul when trying to box out Griffin. not good. Not good at all.

14:35- Some inbred-looking guy for Oklahoma just nailed the ugliest 3-pointer I have ever seen. I hate this man.

13:58- 3-pointer from Sims. Huge shot. With Manny out, the scoring load falls squarely on him, and it looks like he's ready to put this team on his shoulders. He knows how it feels.

13:10- Blake Griffin just put on a padded-elbow sleeve. Supposedly to make sure his elbow isn't injured when he throws it against DeShawn Sims' jaw. Somebody needs to tell him to watch out for that.

12:11- Anthony Wright sighting! Actually, he played kind of a lot during the game against Clemson, but he actually just nailed a nice mid-range jumper. We need whatever we can get, to be honest.

10:35- Oh, man I just saw a replay of Laval Lucas-Perry getting dunked on by one of those Griffin boys. Disgusting. Definitely a balls-in-face situation. Oh, well. Michigan's hanging in there, and they just had a great defensive possession. It looks like Oklahoma is going to have a tough time defending us as long as we're hitting shots. What's worrisome is the prospect of, in turn, defending them. So far, I'd say the Wolverines are off to a good start.

9:53- I don't know what has been possessing CJ Lee to throw away the ball as of late, but whatever it is, please stop. He just threw a pass, like, three feet over LLP's head. What are you thinking? Not a good time to choke. But then again, is it ever?

8:27- After Anthony Wright turns the ball over (it's ok, he has eight points, including a 3-pointer), he gets a very nice block inside on Oklahoma's ensuing possession. So far, for how undersized Michigan is, their interior defense has been very, very good.

7:54- Oklahoma 22, Michigan 21. Just realized I hadn't given all you loyal readers out there the score yet. My bad. So far, you really can't complain about the way Michigan is playing. They look poised, active and determined. Really, they look like they've been here before. Hopefully, they can keep it up.

7:35- Consecutive foul calls on CJ Lee trying to defend Blake Griffin. The first call was justified, but the second was ridiculous. There's a reason 6'5" guys playing pickup don't call fouls on guys half their size. It's because they really don't alter their shot that much. This ref doesn't seem to understand that principle.

6:46- Immediately after getting blocked from behind, Stu Douglass picks the ball back up and hits a mid-range jumper. Way to stay with it.

4:45- Big bucket from Anthony Wright, followed by a nice hook by Sims to put Michigan up 3. A couple of huge plays, and we are surprising everyone. Last night, Digger, Hubert Davis, and Dickie V all took Oklahoma (because you know how much those guys love going out on a limb), and they said it would be Blake Griffn dominating down low. So far, Michigan has kept him at bay. They can't do it forever, but they may be able to do it long enough to win. We shall see.

3:03- I don't understand how boxing someone out so well that they are moved out of bounds is a foul. Apparently, the ref is seeing something I'm not, and he just pinned the second foul on Sims. Thank God this half is almost over. Michigan is playing this well without Manny! Think about that!

1:13- GREAT rebound by Zach Gibson leading to an Oklahoma foul on Wright. I seriously make a living ripping on Gibson, but he has stepped it up so big in this tournament. And there's another tap-out! He's doing it all right now.

0:14- Timeout by Michigan they have the last shot of the half and they're down, 30-29. If they can pull ahead on this last possession, I know a one-point lead at halftime doesn't sound like much, but psychologically, it is so huge. They are more than just in this game, they seem to be the team controlling the ebb and flow. Michigan fans could not have asked for a better half from the Wolverines.

HALFTIME- The last shot of the half was a fallaway 3-pointer by David Merritt, perhaps the most useless player on the team? Really? I'm sure that wasn't what was drawn up. Unfortunate, but still a very good half. Hopefully, they can continue playing this way. If they do, it's gonna be a loooong drive back to Norman. I'll be back at the beginning of the second half.

19:36- Putback by Sims just misses in the post. Manny and Sims are both back.

17:46- So far, Michigan doesn't look as good as they did in the first half, but it's very early. I have to say, I am amazed at ho strong Blake Griffin is inside. He kind of reminds me of Kevin Love, both in that he's a great college player and a so-so NBA prospect. Right now, he's having his way with us down low, and Manny's taking ill-advised almost 3-pointers. He needs to attack the paint and hopefully get a few fouls on Griffin.

17:24- Sims picks up his third foul. That SUCKS.

16:26- Great pass by Manny to Lee on the fast break for a layup. In Zach Gibson news, after an ill-advised 3-pointer, he is officially back in my doghouse.

15:34- Another strong move in the post by Griffin. It really doesn't mater what you do, he is just going to put the ball in the basket if his in the paint. He's just that strong. It's weird--usually I end up hating every player on th team Michigan is playing, but I can't see myself hating Griffin. For some reason, he seems really likable.

14:31- Just what Michigan needed: a Manny dunk. Griffin is manhandling us down low, and we have suddenly gone ice-cold, which means the white boys can't make anything, specifically Stuey. Random question: why does it seem like CJ Lee is guarding Blake Griffin all the time?

12:48- I'm getting tired of saying it, but it must be said again: we cannot stop Blake Griffin with the guys currently on our roster.

12:30- WHAT HAPPENED?! Did our bench just get called for a technical? This is a ridiculous call! Thanks refs I hate you.

11:24- HUGE 3-pointer by Gibson. It was definitely a "NO-no-no-no...yes! Yes!" situation. We still have found no answer for the Griffin duo down low, and we need to score a whole lot more and a whole lot faster if we want to have a chance. Where are you, DeShawn? Oh yeah, on the bench as a result of reffing incompetency.

10:33- Why does Gibson suddenly think he's a 3-point shooting specialist?

9:54- Very nice, very strong inside move by Sims, who just got back in the game. Imagine if we had had his inside presence the whole game.

9:23- After getting dunked on that savagely, Zach Novak may want to consider quitting basketball. That's all I'll say. Big 3-pointer by Lee to bring the deficit to within 10.

7:56- Anthony Wright hits by far the biggest bucket of his career, right in between the Brothers Griffin, to cut the lead to eight. He has proved a lot of people wrong tonight, including me.

6:55- Oh My God amazingly clutch 3-pointer by someone who isn't exactly known as Mr. Clutch, CJ Lee. Huge shot. The lead is now just five. The Wolverines are getting help from everywhere right now. It's actually really cool to watch everyone contribute. This is about as much of a team effort Michigan has had all year. These guys should be proud no matter what happens from here.

6:02- Following a great steal by Wright, a nice bucket inside by Sims. This is big.

3:09- Sorry I had to let my brother in the building. I'm back now, and Michigan is trailing by seven, 64-57. Beilein had better be drawing up something great in that huddle.

2:35- Backbreaking and-1 by Griffin. Perfect possession by Oklahoma: they ran down the clock to one second and got a big score. That really, really hurts. Oh! He missed the free throw! Nice. Doesn't hurt quite as much.

2:07- Terrible call once again by the refs, calling a charge on Manny Harris when the man guarding him, who happens to be wearing long sleeves (gay) clearly did not have his feet set. These refs haven't been terrible, but they definitely haven't been good.

1:12- Well, Oklahoma is up 12 and here come the fouls. It looks like this one is just about in the books. By the way, Anthony Wright is the Chevrolet player of the game. If someone had told me that yesterday, I would have been insulted that they thought I was so stupid I would take them seriously.

FINAL- Michigan is eliminated, and they're coming back home to Ann Arbor. It seems weird that this season is over. It was so...full. You know? So much progress was made, the last half of the season was spent speculating about whether or not they had what it took to get to the tournament, and they surprised a lot of people when they finally made it and won their first round game. Overall, it was an exceedingly satisfying season, the best, without a doubt, in 11 years. When this team comes back, they can hold their head high. This school is extremely proud of every man.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Poetic Justice

As soon as it happened, I thought, "This is the type of stuff that would happen to Michigan." We were the young team that hadn't been there before, with a couple of notorious elbow-related incidents already under our belt this season. Everyone wondered if Michigan could keep their composure in a game of such magnitude. By and large, we did, while Terrence Oglesby let the frustrations of a poor shooting night manifest themselves in a cheap elbow to Stu Douglass' face.

Yes, we almost let it slip away. C.J. Lee, who had done a solid job of breaking Clemson's press all game, chucked the ball out of bounds at the worst possible time, and the Wolverines' offense went stagnant for five excruciating minutes.

Then, Manny Harris did what great players are supposed to do: he took the game into his own hands. Maybe he should have let the clock run a little, but standing on the wing with nobody guarding him, his team nursing a quickly-disappearing one-point lead, Harris took it straight to the rim. All year, Michigan fans have decried the criminal lack of calls Manny has drawn when taking the ball to the hoop. Last night, the refs nailed the call, Manny nailed the and-one, and 37 seconds later Michigan put the final nail in Clemson's coffin.

Damn, this is fun.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Michigan-Clemson Live Blog

What's up everybody I hope everyone is ready for the biggest game for the Michigan basketball program in 11 years.  If you doubt the importance of this game, just look at the post below.  Michigan fans have been waiting for this for a long time, so let's get it.

Unofficially, I have recieved information from a reliable source that Ben Cronin said the team is "extra hype" today.  They'd better be.

19:34- Easy bucket for clemson followed by an airball.  Not a good start.

16:44- WAY TOO EASY dunk from Clemson.  You would think Michigan has mastered defending the pick-and-roll by now, but it's obvious they still have a few kinks to work out.

15:34-Not looking very good right now.  The team's body language is saying they're a little overwhelmed by the stage, which is understandable.  One thing they don't want is for this game to turn into a 3-point contest; their shooting is too inconsistent for that.  7-3, Clemson.

14:14- Huge 3 from Stu Douglass.  Hey, if we're hitting, there's nothing wrong with making it a 3-point contest.  You just wonder if they can keep it going the whole game.  Whoop, CJ Lee just made a 3.  I may be eating my words soon.  Hopefully. 

13:00- Michigan is having some serious trouble corralling rebounds.  Clemson just finished a possession in which they got at least 3 offensive rebounds.  That will be a problem as long as Zach Novak is guarding a power forward.

11:35- Terrible foul call on a clean Stu block.  How many of those is he really going to get?  And you take it away?  Way to be a collossal dick, ref.

10:13- Clemson is on a major shooting drought.  If I'm them, I take the ball inside instead of shoot a bunch of 3's; it seems like they're kind of playing into our hands.  Hope nobody on their coaching staff is reading this site as the game is going on... c'mon, it could happen.

8:03- Manny is looking great right now, specifically his 3-point shot.  If he stays hot the reast of the game, we're in business.  But really, Mich needs to get Sims involved.  He has been a non-entity so far.

6:28- Sims' first bucket, also his first non-airball.  Called that shit.  They need to keep him involved.

4:31- Wow.  Manny just got about as high as you possibly can without dunking.  He is officially pumped up, which says very good things.  Mich has definitley shed the initial bewilderment and they look very good.  Need to shore up their defense, though.  

3:02- Kelvin Grady, other than an airball 3, has played very well while he's been in.  Just drew a charge, so nice.

2:18- Manny Harris has officially stayed hot so far.  The dude is unconcious from 3 right now.  I really, really, really hope it continues.

0:28- In an attempt to draw contact, Novak just hit a horrendous bank shot.  I will take that any day of the week.  

HALF- Michigan is leading, 27-24.  Honestly, the game is going great.  Michigan is hitting its shots and Clemson, other than the first few minutes, has been missing.  Hopefully it continues, but if Clemson wanted to, they could go inside on Novak almost every time.  Our 1-3-1 is doing ok, but once Clemson crosses that threshold, it's pretty much been an automatic two points.  There isn't much Michigan can do because of their height (or lack thereof), but they still need to challenge their big men.  If Michigan is going to win this game, Sims needs to be more involved in the offense.  Manny is doing great, but he can't do it all himself.  Actually, maybe he can.  We'll see in the second half.  BREAK! 

19:16- OH!  Sick alley from Novack and a powerful oop from Sims!  Huge play out of halftime, big for Sims especially.  Sometimes getting an easy bucket can jump-start players.  We can only hope.

17:49- Dunk from Sims followed by a Stu Douglass dunk after a steal.  You don't see that very often, but when you do, it's something special.  Right now, we got all the momentum and we're up eight.  Let's keep it going.

17:20- Terrible foul call on this Clemson player, leading to a technical on Clemson's coach.  Awesome.  Also, the replay shows the player intentionally elbowed Stu Douglass.  Oh, wow, they're ejecting him.  Whoa.  Didn't think it warranted that, but I'll take it.  And a 3-pointer by Lee!  Let's get it! 

16:16- 16-2 run by Michigan.  Manny just got a fast-break dunk.  Clemson is in complete disarray.  We are better than these guys.  We are up, 43-29.

14:36- 3 by Novak.  We're up by 16.  Give us another five minutes with this lead, and the game could be over, for all intents and purposes.

12:25- That's six fouls on Clemson, Michigan is in the double-bonus the rest of the game.  Huge.  Our lead has been cut to 12.  Michigan needs to make sure they keep playing to win--not playing not to lose.

10:43- Clemson is seriously banged up right now.  We just took out our third Tiger of the game.  This reminds me of the football game a few years ago where Mich took out, like, three Penn State quarterbacks.  The more, the better.  Also, apparently Sims does not need to get involved.  We're doing fine, and he hasn't even broken double digits.

9:20- Big-time swing by Clemson, they're only down seven.  They just had a 5-point possession. not good.

8:04- Zach Gibson has kept this Michigan possession going for about three minutes.  He gets razzed a lot by a lot of people (including me), but he has really stepped up this game.  Good for him.

6:13- HUGE 3 by Sims to put us up by 13.  Everyone is stepping it up right now, very cool to see.  We are THIS CLOSE to putting this away.

3:33- 58-52, Michigan.  And in the blink of an eye, it's a tight game.  This sucks.  Michigan cannot give this game away.  It's their game to lose right now, and it's because Michigan has been playing not to lose on offense.  Defensively, the Wolverines can't do much about them hitting 3's.  They gotta buckle down right now.

1:20- 58-54.  If Michigan loses, it is all their fault. 

0:59- 58-55.  CJ Lee just threw the ball away.  He especially is experiencing a total meltdown.  Inexcusable.

0:37- MANNY HARRIS AND 1!!!!!  HUGE play by Manny, biggest maybe of his career.  He is looking very confident.  It's cool because it's like he's growing up before our eyes.  61-59, Mich.

0:13- Novak goes 1-1 on free throws, Mich up 3.

FINAL- Michigan Wins!  They almost gave it away, but they got it done.  Bring on (probably) Oklahoma.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I Remember Dani Wohl

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I remember Baron Davis tearing apart the Michigan defense in the 1998 NCAA Tournament, but only vaguely. I was ten at the time.

I remember going to the Breslin Center and watching Michigan commit LaVell Blanchard lead Pioneer High School to a state title over Saginaw Arthur Hill, who featured a future Spartan named Jason Richardson.

I remember the brief but spectacular careers of Jamal Crawford and Kevin Gaines.

I remember wondering what the hell happened to Gaines, and why a 5-7 guy with a propensity for underage drinking had taken over at point guard.

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I tried to forget those jerseys.

I remember when Josh Moore was the next big thing.

I remember the Ed Martin trial, and looking in vain for the missing banners.

I remember the class of Horton, Abram, Brown and Hunter, and being excited for the future while feeling sad that LaVell would not make the tournament with those four.

I remember Bernard Robinson's name being in the papers for all the wrong reasons.

I remember Dion Harris: Michigan Mr. Basketball, and Courtney Sims: four-star center.

I remember watching Brent Petway do a series of spectacular dunks at the Michigan open scrimmage in Crisler after watching Michigan beat Purdue in football.

I remember that being the highlight of Petway's career.

I remember going to every 2004 NIT home game, beating Rutgers in the Garden, and being confident that Tommy Amaker would lead us to the promised land soon.

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I remember Ronald Coleman: recruiting class of 2004.

I remember when Daniel Horton pushed and choked his girlfriend.

I remember Dani Wohl.

I remember Horton playing like a man possessed in 2006, beating Michigan State and Illinois at home, and being a near-lock for the Big Dance.

I remember Dion Harris crumpling to the ground against Ohio State, losing to Indiana, and rushing home from school to catch the end of the Minnesota game.

I remember the 2006-07 team being the worst 20-win team in the history of college basketball.

I remember rejoicing when Tommy was fired.

I remember losing to Harvard.

Tomorrow, all is forgotten.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Harris and Sims named All-Big Ten

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Manny Harris was named first team All-Big Ten today by both the coaches and the media, and DeShawn Sims was named second team by the media and third team by the coaches. Congratulations to Manny and DeShawn for their great seasons, and it goes without saying that Michigan wouldn't be close to being in the position they're in without the contributions of each player.

The first team was the same for both the media and the coaches, with Harris being joined by Kalin Lucas (MSU), Evan Turner (OSU), Talor Battle (PSU) and JaJuan Johnson (Purdue).

Full list of the teams can be found here.