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.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Burn the Ships!

From the Detroit News:
Burn the ships?

Michigan coach John Beilein turned to an unlikely source Saturday -- 16th century Aztec conqueror Hernando Cortez -- to inspire his players.

Cortez directed his Spanish troops in 1519 to burn their ships before the siege of the now-Mexican coast, as an overt act of confidence that they would win and then take their enemies' vessels as prizes.

The Wolverines warmed up in Williams Arena wearing shooting shirts saying "Quemar los barcos" -- Cortez's famous quote in Spanish.

Beilein went so far as to give the players a PowerPoint presentation on Cortez's tactics the night before the game. Clearly the players were inspired. Just ask Lavel Lucas-Perry.

"We were all about burning the ships, all about it," said Lucas-Perry, who scored a season-high 19 points. "Coach just got us going."

"Burn the ships" it is. Cue my crappy Photoshop skills:


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Friday, March 6, 2009

Michigan @ Minnesota Live Blog

I'll be co-hosting a liveblog with JB of starting at tipoff tomorrow. Come join the action for the biggest game for Michigan hoops in recent memory:

"In this case my enemy is a varmint, and a varmint will never quit, ever. They're like the Viet Cong. Varmint Cong. What you gotta do is you gotta fall back with superior firepower and superior intelligence."

Burstin' Bubbles: March 6

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As you all know by now, Michigan sits firmly on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament, and probably needs at least two more victories (@MINN on Saturday, 1st round of the BTT) to secure a spot in the Big Dance. Burstin' Bubbles will run down the relevant bubble games of the day leading up to the tourney. Jamiemac over at mgoblog has been doing a tremendous job of this, but it never hurts to spread the love a bit:

Michigan's Resume (for comparison's sake ... updated every day, as the RPI numbers tend to bounce around):
18-12 (8-9 Big Ten)
ESPN InsideRPI: 45 (up two from yesterday)
SOS: 11
3-4 vs. RPI 1-25
2-5 vs. RPI 26-50
4-2 vs. RPI 51-100
Signature win(s): Duke (home), UCLA (neutral-site)
Bracket Matrix: Fifth team out; made 16 of 62 brackets.

Yesterday's Bubble Scores:

Villanova 97, Providence 80 (good)
Tennessee 86, South Carolina 70 (good)
Penn State 64, No. 23 Illinois 63 (bad)
Cal 83, Arizona 77 (good)

If not for Talor Battle's game-winning bucket with 0.3 seconds left against Illinois, Wolverine bubble-watcher would've enjoyed a clean sweep last night. Still, it seems like nobody wants to make the tournament this year ... if Michigan takes care of business tomorrow, they're pretty much a lock.

Just one game to keep an eye on tonight:

Creighton (25-6, 14-4 MVC; RPI: 38) vs. Wichita State (16-15, 8-10 MVC): Creighton has a pretty strong resume, including a ten-game winning streak and an 8-4 road record. However, they're second in the Missouri Valley Conference, and may need another victory to wrap up an at-large bid if they can't take the conference tournament title.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Burstin' Bubbles: March 5 (Georgia On My Mind Edition)


(Theme song for today: "Georgia On My Mind" performed by the late, great David "Fathead" Newman)

As you all know by now, Michigan sits firmly on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament, and probably needs at least two more victories (@MINN on Saturday, 1st round of the BTT) to secure a spot in the Big Dance. Burstin' Bubbles will run down the relevant bubble games of the day leading up to the tourney. Jamiemac over at mgoblog has been doing a tremendous job of this, but it never hurts to spread the love a bit:

Michigan's Resume (for comparison's sake ... updated every day, as the RPI numbers tend to bounce around):
18-12 (8-9 Big Ten)
ESPN InsideRPI: 47 (up one from yesterday)
SOS: 11
2-4 vs. RPI 1-25
3-5 vs. RPI 26-50
4-2 vs. RPI 51-100
Signature win(s): Duke (home), UCLA (neutral-site)
Bracket Matrix: Fifth team out; made 13 of 60 brackets.

Yesterday's bubble scores:

North Carolina State 74, Boston College 69 (Good)
North Carolina 86, Virginia Tech 78 (Good)
Georgia Tech 78, Miami (FL) 68 (Stunningly Good)
Georgia 90, Kentucky 85 (Ditto)
Mississippi State 80, Florida 71 (Good)
Minnesota 51, Wisconsin 46 (No Idea)
Texas A&M 72, Colorado 66 (Bad)
UNLV 46, Air Force 43 (Bad)

First of all, Michigan gets a huge boost thanks to Georgia Tech (previously 1-13 in ACC play) knocking off Miami and Georgia (heading into last night at 2-12 in the SEC) upsetting Kentucky (!) in Rupp Arena (!!) on Senior Night (!!!). Ladies and gentlemen, your word of the day is 'choke'.

What's crazy is that there were almost two more near-unfathomable upsets, with Colorado (1-14 Big 12) holding an eight-point lead with under six minutes to play against A&M and Air Force (0-15 MWC) giving UNLV all they could handle on their home floor.

The chips seem to be falling Michigan's way, with Georgetown, Cincinnati, Kansas State, Kentucky, Miami and Virginia Tech all either getting knocked off the bubble completely or getting dealt a near-death blow in the last two days.

On to tonight's slate, which features four games, all televised for your viewing pleasure (ESPN lists five bubble games, but Dayton, who boasts an RPI of 27, is a near-lock, and will only be on the bubble if they lose to Xavier and Duquense). Again, bubble team of note listed first:

Providence (18-11, 10-7 Big East; RPI: 69) @ No. 16 Villanova (24-6, 12-5 Big East) [7:00, ESPN2]: In all likelihood, Providence is going to become the eighth Big East team to make the tournament. They have as good a win as any team in the country (beating No. 1 Pitt on Feb. 24) and have won four of their last six games. Beating 'Nova puts them in the field. The Friars would probably have to lose this game and their first round game in the Big East Tournament to be in danger of missing the Big Dance. However, other than the victory over Pitt they are lacking in quality wins (2-5 vs. RPI 1-25, 1-2 vs. RPI 26-50) and the Bracket Matrix has them as the first team out, so it never hurts to root for a Providence loss here.

South Carolina (20-7, 9-5 SEC; RPI: 41) vs. Tennessee (18-10, 9-5 SEC) [7:00, ESPN]: Caught me off guard by looking at the records, but yes, the Gamecocks are the team on the bubble in this matchup, thanks to a 0-3 record against RPI top-50 foes. Tennessee is currently a lock for the tourney, and South Carolina is a near-lock (named in 55 of 60 Bracket Matrix brackets). A win here and USC is a lock. A victory Saturday at Georgia (no longer the lock it seemed to be, I guess) and they're in as well.

Penn State (20-9, 9-7 Big Ten; RPI: 66) vs. No. 23 Illinois (23-7, 11-6 Big Ten) [9:00, ESPN]: Brian over at mgoblog breaks down all the reasons why a Penn State team that finishes 10-8 in the Big Ten should not make the tournament over a 9-9 Michigan team. A win over a ranked Illinois team on the road would go a long way towards making that argument moot. However, the Nittany Lions boast the country's 314th-ranked non-conference schedule, which goes a long way towards explaining the 19-place RPI gap between them and the Wolverines. A win here and a victory at Iowa on Saturday probably puts Penn State in the tournament. Anything less, and they're precariously positioned on the bubble.

Arizona (18-11, 8-8 Pac-10; RPI: 45) vs. California (21-8, 10-6 Pac-10; RPI: 39) [10:30, FSN]: Both teams are technically on the bubble, though Cal could probably drop their last two regular-season games and still be in as long as they win a Pac-10 tournament game. Arizona, on the other hand, looked like a lock until it dropped its last three games. Their SOS (33) and quality wins (five over RPI top-50 teams) still make them a strong bet to make the tournament, but they have a 2-9 road record and aren't a "hot" team right now. Pull for the Golden Bears for this one.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Michigan/Michigan State Outdoor Hockey Game Confirmed

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Mark your calenders: On December 11, 2010 Michigan will host Michigan State in an outdoor hockey game at Michigan Stadium. The renovations on the stadium will be done by that time, and the projected capacity of 108,000 leads one to believe that the game will smash the current world-record outdoor hockey crowd of 74,554 (set during the "Cold War" game at Spartan Stadium in 2001).

Please note: my birthday is December 7th. Anyone planning way far ahead should note the date, note what is going on four days later, and consider keeping an eye out for some tickets.

Just sayin'.

Burstin' Bubbles: March 4

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As you all know by now, Michigan sits firmly on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament, and probably needs at least two more victories (@MINN on Saturday, 1st round of the BTT) to secure a spot in the Big Dance. Burstin' Bubbles will run down the relevant bubble games of the day leading up to the tourney. Jamiemac over at mgoblog has been doing a tremendous job of this, but it never hurts to spread the love a bit:

Michigan's Resume (for comparison's sake):
18-12 (8-9 Big Ten)
ESPN InsideRPI: 48 (up one from yesterday)
SOS: 11 (down one from yesterday)
4-5 vs. RPI 1-25
1-4 vs. RPI 26-50
4-2 vs. RPI 51-100
Signature win(s): Duke (home), UCLA (neutral-site)
Bracket Matrix: Fifth team out (up one); made 11 of 62 brackets.

Yesterday's bubble scores:

South Florida 70, Cincinnati 59 (Good)
Oklahoma State 77, Kansas State 71 (Good)
St. John's 59, Georgetown 56 (OT) (Good)
Wake Forest 65, Maryland 63 (Good)
New Mexico 77, Utah 71 (Bad)
Ohio State 60, Iowa 58 (Bad)

All in all, the bubble was good to Michigan last night. Georgetown's loss will remove them from consideration for the Tourney field, as will Cincinnati's choke job against USF. Oklahoma State probably won their way into the tournament, while at the same time putting Kansas State (and their horrendous non-conference schedule) on life support. Maryland is still alive (losing to a top-10 team is by two points is rarely cause to eliminate a team from contention), but they will probably have to win on the road at Virginia on Saturday to firm up a bid.

As for tonight's slate of bubblicious-ness (TV listings where appropriate; bubble team of note listed first):

Boston College (20-9, 8-6 ACC; RPI: 49) @ North Carolina State (15-12, 5-9 ACC): This one is pretty simple: BC wins and they're in. It's tough to keep a 20+ win team with a winning record in the ACC out of the NCAA Tournament.

Virginia Tech (17-11, 7-7 ACC; RPI: 59) vs. No. 2 North Carolina (25-3, 11-3 ACC) [7:00, ESPN]: The Hokies currently sit as the second team out in the Bracket Matrix, and are named in 22 of 59 current brackets. Beating UNC would put be the kind of signature victory that takes a team off the bubble and into the field of 65. However, a loss here would leave VT scrambling to lock up a .500 record in the ACC with a tough road tilt at Florida State on Saturday.

Miami (FL) (17-10, 6-8 ACC; RPI: 44) @ Georgia Tech (10-17, 1-13 ACC): Barring an epic meltdown, Miami should win this game. However, they sit as the third team out on the Bracket Matrix, so I figured I would throw this game on the list. The real game to watch for here is the 'Canes game against NC State on Saturday, one which they will likely need to win to get an at-large bid.

Kentucky (19-10, 8-6 SEC; RPI: 67) vs. Georgia (11-18, 2-12 SEC): Same deal as above, except Kentucky would probably make the tournament if the field was set today. A win here is a must, however, as the Wildcats are coming off of two straight losses, including a pasting at the hands of South Carolina. The SEC is seriously weak this season, and a 9-7 record (UK finishes the regular season @ Florida on Saturday) in conference may not be enough to make the field.

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[Insert half-assed booing of Ashley Judd here]

Florida (21-8, 8-6 SEC; RPI: 50) @ Mississippi State (17-12, 7-7 SEC): Speak of the devil. Florida is only 2-6 in SEC road games, so a win for them at Miss State would be huge for them. Again, the SEC is a pretty weak conference this season ... the game against Kentucky could essentially be a play-in game for both teams.

Wisconsin (18-10, 9-7 Big Ten; RPI: 31) @ Minnesota (20-8, 8-8 Big Ten; RPI: 39) [8:30, Big Ten Network]: Both teams sit on the bubble, but I can't see Michigan getting in over Wisconsin, who swept the Wolverines in the season series and will likely finish with at least a 10-8 record after their season finale against a pathetic Indiana team. Then again, Michigan plays Minnesota on Saturday, and if we beat them we'll certianly make the field over the Gophers. So, um, I guess Go Gophers?

Texas A&M (21-8, 7-7 Big 12; RPI: 34) @ Colorado (9-19, 1-13 Big 12): This is a gimme for A&M, who currently sit in the tourney field in a solid 38 of 59 brackets on the Bracket Matrix. So yeah, probably in. Damn. Any chance Chauncey has leftover eligibility for the Buffs?

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UNLV (20-8, 8-6 MWC; RPI: 51) vs. Air Force (9-18, 0-14 MWC): Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Burstin' Bubbles: March 3

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As you all know by now, Michigan sits firmly on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament, and probably needs at least two more victories (@MINN on Saturday, 1st round of the BTT) to secure a spot in the Big Dance. Burstin' Bubbles will run down the relevant bubble games of the day leading up to the tourney. Jamiemac over at mgoblog has been doing a tremendous job of this, but it never hurts to spread the love a bit:

Michigan's Resume (for comparison's sake):
18-12 (8-9 Big Ten)
ESPN InsideRPI: 49
SOS: 10
3-5 vs. RPI 1-25
2-4 vs. RPI 26-50
4-2 vs. RPI 51-100
Signature win(s): Duke (home), UCLA (neutral-site)
Bracket Matrix: Sixth team out; made 11 of 62 brackets.

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Tonight's games of note:

Cincinnati (18-11, 8-8 Big East; RPI: 53) @ South Florida (8-20, 3-13) [ESPNU, 7:00]: The Bearcats sit one spot above the Wolverines in the Bracket Project's Bracket Matrix. Even though we're sitting behind them, I think U-M has the better tournament resume. Cinci is 1-8 against the RPI top 25, with their signature victory coming against West Virginia, who sits 20th in the RPI but is currently unranked in the major polls. However, if Cinci wins out, it's going to be tough to keep a 20-win Big East team with a 10-8 conference record out of the tourney. An upset here is quite unlikely, but an outsider would have said the same about the Michigan/Iowa game last week.

Kansas State (20-9, 8-6 Big 12; RPI: 72) @ Oklahoma State (19-9, 8-6 Big 12; RPI: 32) [ESPN2, 7:30]: A quick glance at the records might make you think that it doesn't matter who wins this, but OK State sits pretty firmly in the tournament field thanks to the 11th-toughest schedule in the country and Saturday's victory over Texas, while K-State's creampuff schedule (SOS: 99, nonconference SOS of 311) puts them on the outside looking in. A Cowboy victory probably locks up a spot for OK State and deals a huge blow to K State's tourney hopes.

Georgetown (15-12, 6-10 Big East; RPI: 40) @ St. John's (14-15, 5-11): The Hoyas boast the country's No. 1 SOS, which is the only think keeping their heads above the water right now. They have to win their last two games to garner even a sideways glance from the tournament committee. They're 3-9 in their last 12 games, but just had a huge road W at Villanova on Saturday. If they win their last two and make a little noise in the Big East Tourney, it might be tough to keep a team that played this tough a schedule out. Hopefully the Johnnies will take care of that.

No. 10 Wake Forest (22-5, 9-5 ACC) @ Maryland (18-10, 7-7 ACC; RPI: 52): Maryland in all likelihood needs to at least split its last two games to guarantee a spot in the tourney field. They have two huge victories (North Carolina at home in OT, pasting Michigan State on a neutral court) and also beat Michigan at home earlier this season. I don't really see us jumping the Terps unless they drop their last two. According to the Bracket Matrix, they sit as a 12-seed, making 36 of 62 brackets.

Utah (20-8, 11-3 MWC) @ New Mexico (19-10, 10-4 MWC; RPI: 70): Utah is going to make the tourney, and the Mountain West Conference will in all likelihood send three teams, with Brigham Young likely in and UNLV in solid shape to get a bid. That leaves the Lobos on the outside looking in unless they can upset Utah and get some help the rest of the way. If Utah takes this one, New Mexico should be out of the picture completely barring a huge run in the conference tournament.

Ohio State (18-9, 8-8 Big Ten; RPI: 42) @ Iowa (14-15, 4-12 Big Ten; RPI: 105) [Big Ten Network, 9:00]: This game has twofold importance for Michigan. Ohio State would currently get a bid over U-M, thanks to a better record, a higher RPI, and two head-to-head wins, so a loss here and against Northwestern to close the season would be helpful. Also, a victory for Iowa would probably vault them back in the RPI top 100, which would make Michigan's loss to them no longer fall under the "bad loss" category. Not like you need any more reasons to root against the Buckeyes anyway.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Ryan Mallett Drunk, Probably High, Enjoys Smell Of Own Farts

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Former Michigan quarterback of the future Ryan Mallett was arrested in Arkansas and charged with Public Intoxication after the 20-year-old attempted to get into a bar. This arrest gives Michigan fans another excuse to say "good riddance" and the opportunity to marvel at the incredible mugshot of Mallett post-arrest. After one second of looking at that, I knew what the picture reminded me of:

Some highlights from the arrest report:
Club security alerted police after an underage white male believed to be Mallett was attempting to enter the establishment. Police officers patrolling Dickson Street on foot approached Mallett, who they thought “appeared to be already intoxicated.”

Officers observed Mallett “visibly swaying” when attempting to walk. Mallett, according to the arrest report, smelled of a “heavy odor of intoxicants” and his eyes appeared to be “watery and bloodshot.”

The “faint odor of burnt marijuana coming from Mallett” was also detected by officers. When asked if he had been been smoking marijuana, Mallett denied he had, but later admitted to being around people who had.
Watery and bloodshot eyes, faint odor of the ganja ... but you never inhaled? Can we just rename this "The Arkansas Defense"?

Actually, maybe Mallett is telling the truth. He probably fumbled the exchange, and Mike Hart wasn't there to pick up the pieces.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Michigan @ Wisconsin Live Blog (UPDATE: Never Mind)

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MGoBlog is hosting today ... didn't get that memo until I woke up. Head on over there to get your liveblog fix.

Basketball Live Blog Tomorrow

Hi everyone. I'm back from vacation. Since I haven't been blogging in a week (blame my computer dying and the beauty of Colorado for that) I've decided to come back with a bang: I'll be doing a live blog of Michigan @ Wisconsin starting tomorrow at 1:30 pm. Go Blue, and hopefully I'll catch you tomorrow for the live blog.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Vacation Update


Sorry about the light posting recently ... I just finished my last midterm, and I'm flying out of town tomorrow. I'm going to the hoops game tonight, and hopefully I'll find time while packing to throw up a game summary of some sort.

I'll be bringing my laptop with me to Colorado (yes, the above picture does not accurately represent my spring break whatsoever), so if there's something major going on I'll try to throw a post up, or at least link to somebody else. However, posting will most certainly be sparse at best over the next week.

Shameless plug: If you're in the state of Michigan, check your local newsstand for the new issue of The Wolverine. It has an incredibly detailed rundown of this year's recruiting class, as well as a look ahead to the Class of 2010. Also, I have articles on pages 12 and 82, which is where the shameless plug part applies.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Reactions to the Threet Transfer


The blogosphere has now had sufficient time to react to the news that dropped late last night: Steven Threet will no longer be a Wolverine. Here's a roundup of the reactions from several Michigan and national blogs (I urge you to click the links to get the full picture from each of these blogs ... I'm obviously not going to copy and paste their entire articles):
MGoBlog: This is obviously not good for anything except my prediction that Tate Forcier would be the opening-day starter. For all Threet's faults he looked competent at times last year and could have been passable as a sophomore; Michigan is basically down to the two freshmen and then it's time to close your eyes, pick a walk-on, and pray.

Maize n Brew: While we at Maize n Brew respect Steven's decision to transfer and wish him the best in his future endevours, we're a little perplexed by his decisions. Watching Threet play this year, he's not really that bad a fit for the offense. He's got a live arm and decent speed for a gigantic honky. While he's not a prototypical "spread" quarterback, I can really name only protoytpical spread quarterback in college football. I'll give you a hint. His last name is Pryor. So if you're running the spread, chances are you're imporvising a tad with a quarterback that is spread deficient in some manner or another.

Varsity Blue: The Threet transfer probably does mean one positive thing for Michigan fans: that Tate Forcier has looked good enough in the training program and volunatary QB-WR workouts as to pose a significant threat to Threet’s starting position. Of course, it also means bad things, like “Michigan only has 2 quarterbacks between safety and Nick Sheridan.” The QB depth situation becomes almost as bad as it was last year, though the second option (likely to be Denard Robinson) is a step up from either Sheridan or Justin Feagin.

Michigan Sports Center: Aside from the effect Threet's decision to leave has on the team, this is yet another negative publicity type of moment for the Michigan football program. There have been plenty since Rich Rodriguez was hired, and until he starts winning, there will be plenty more. It's never usually good for a team's image when players leave the program, but when a quarterback leaves, that negative publicity is even worse.

The Diag: Of course, it's not like Threet lit the world up when he started last year (he won just one game as the starter), so to assume that there will be some gigantic drop-off is sort of silly. What Forcier and Robinson lack in game experience, they may make up for in versatility. All those QB running plays that went for naught in 2008 may prove very valuable in 2009 -- if nothing else, the playbook can open up.

More than that, this lets Rodriguez stop dancing around his QB issue. He does not have to force Threet, a drop-back style guy, to fit into his spread offense. With Forcier and Robinson he has more prototypical spread guys, so the pieces may simply come together better.

Dr. Saturday: The Wolverines hotly pursued and had commitments from a pair of primetime, athletic quarterback prospects last year, Shavodrick Beaver and Kevin Newsome, and lost both during the subsequent on-field collapse. Now their loss becomes clear: Threet's departure all but guarantees the offense is doomed to another rebuilding year, and that's only if Forcier is enough of a revelation to hit the ground running in 2010. If not, the spread 'n shred is stuck in the starter's block for the foreseeable future.

The general tenor of Michigan fans seems to fall somewhere between proclaiming doom and seeing the opportunity for Forcier or Robinson to open up the offense next year (with the caveat of AHHHHSHERIDANOOOOOOOOOOOO). This seems about right. U-M might have some early struggles with a true freshman quarterback, and those struggles may very well extend to the end of the season, so it would obviously be nice to have a competent guy under center who has some experience. However, it may be better for the long-term development of Forcier and/or Robinson to have the ball in their hands from day one. They'll almost certainly get the lion's share of practice snaps in the fall, and Forcier is already on campus and will get a ton of spring reps.

Threet's departure obviously doesn't bode well for Michigan. However, I'm not ready to jump off a bridge or anything. Remember, he struggled mightily last season, and there was no guarantee that he was going to be much better in 2009 (or even the starter, or even the backup if Robinson came on strong in the fall). The lack of depth and experience (besides Sheridan, but that doesn't really count) scares me a lot, but the prospect of Forcier getting even more time with the first team makes me more confident that he can have a solid freshman campaign, and the team can be back in the Big Ten title hunt in 2010.

Steven Threet Will Transfer


According to the Detroit News, sophomore quarterback Steven Threet will transfer from the University of Michigan, confirming rumors that had swirled around last season's starter during the past week.
"I've decided to transfer from the University of Michigan," Threet said, reciting from a prepared statement during a telephone conversation Sunday. "I have requested and received my release. I do not yet know where I will continue my collegiate career and will have no further comment until that decision is made."
This puts a tremendous amount of pressure on freshmen Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson to step up and grab the starting quarterback job in 2009. I'm sure Michigan fans will not want to see junior Nick Sheridan under center again, and David Cone, who fans can only assume is nowhere close to being a viable option to play, is the only other quarterback on the roster.

Threet will transfer for the second time in his career. He enrolled early at Georgia Tech in the spring of 2007, but transferred to Michigan before the season started. He is a former Elite11 prospect and was rated the #9 pro-style QB by Rivals coming out of high school. However, it was clear that he didn't fit the spread-option system that coach Rich Rodriguez was implementing, and fans were clamoring for Forcier, an early enrollee, to start from day one.

The move certainly hurts Michigan's depth and experience at quarterback next year, and many expected Threet to at the very least start the season as the number one signal-caller next year. However, I'm not holding any ill will against Threet, and I hope he finds success wherever he ends up. By all accounts, he was a great guy and a true "Michigan Man", and he was caught in a tough situation in Ann Arbor. I wish him the best, and hopefully he'll find the kind of success that Matt Gutierrez achieved after leaving the Wolverines.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Quick Note

Looking for a recap of last night's Michigan hockey game? Check out The Wolverine for a cover of the game written by yours truly.

Notes on UM/Northwestern


HUGE victory for the Wolverines, as they pull out a 70-67 overtime win at Northwestern to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive. Manny Harris carried the team to victory, scoring 25 of his 26 points in the second half and overtime, going 8-15 from the field and 9-10 from the line. Some thoughts from the game:
  • Manny was on his best taking the ball to the hoop. He went 7-9 on his two point shots, most from in close, and his ability to get to the line (and convert his free throws) was a huge reason why Michigan pulled out this game. After battling foul trouble in the first half, he played the best 25 minutes of basketball I've seen him play all season.
  • Michigan played a ton of man-to-man this game, and Stu Douglass did a great job of shutting down Wildcat sharpshooter Craig Moore. Moore finished with only six points, going 2-10 from the field, after averaging 15 a game this season.
  • I spent much of the second half screaming for a Kelvin Grady appearance. Watching C.J. Lee and Douglass attempt to beat a full-court press is not for the faint of heart. Lee is also developing the nasty habit of dribbling into the middle of a zone without knowing what he is going to do with the ball, which led to a couple bad turnovers. Douglass turned the ball over four times and went scoreless on 0-4 shooting.
  • However, Grady finally entered the game late in the overtime period, and possibly showed us why John Beilein has cut back his minutes. With the Wolverines clinging to a three-point lead with six seconds left, Grady got caught up on a screen and allowed Moore, a 42% shooter from downtown, to get an open look for the tie. Luckily, his shot caught iron and Zack Gibson pulled down the rebound, but Grady has got to play better defense in such a critical situation.
  • Laval Lucas-Perry had an up-and-down eight minutes of play. He broke double digits for the first time since January 7th, scoring 10 on 2-3 shooting and going 5-5 from the line. However, he also turned the ball over three times, and it was clear Beilein didn't trust having him in the game down the stretch.
  • The officiating was awful, but didn't seem to favor either team. The teams combined to shoot 50 free throws (Michigan with 27, NW with 23), with the officials calling a ton of ticky-tack fouls. They also blew a couple potentially game-changing calls, allowing Northwestern to get away with murder on Gibson on an offensive rebound (leading to a fast break on the other end) and calling a phantom shooting foul on DeShawn Sims on a three-point attempt for Sims' fifth foul in overtime.
Michigan improves to 16-10 overall, and 6-7 in the Big Ten. They host Minnesota on Thursday at 7 pm, and presumably needs three more victories over their next five games (MINN, @IOWA, PSU, @WISC, @MINN) to secure a spot in the Big Dance.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Forbes Tells Us What Michigan Fans Already Know


Forbes named Ann Arbor the best college sports town in the country, edging out Palo Alto (Stanford) and Madison (Wisconsin) for the honor. The list took into account the school's standings in the Director's Cup (which measure athletic achievement across the board) as well as the town's quality of life, crime rate, and public school quality.

As a person privileged enough to grow up and go to school in Ann Arbor, I couldn't agree more with the list. Most of my favorite childhood memories involve walking to a Michigan football game with my dad on a fall Saturday, or going to see a hockey game at Yost with a couple of friends, or bumming a couple of tickets to a basketball game at Crisler. It's hard to grow up in Ann Arbor and not have some Michigan sports experience; the school is woven into the town in a way that makes being an Ann Arbor resident synonymous with a passion for the Wolverines.


I can't image a better place to have grown up in. The town is beautiful (just walk down Main Street around Christmas and you'll agree), has the safety of a much smaller town (Ann Arbor had the fourth-lowest crime rate of any town on Forbes' list), and the schools are great (I'm proud to say I took advantage of the educational opportunities at both Pioneer and Community high schools).

Forbes' list justifies what I've felt for most of my life: It's great to be a Michigan Wolverine, and a resident of the City of Ann Arbor.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

On Michigan Basketball and Schizophrenia


After starting the season with two upset victories over top-5 teams, a couple appearances in the top-25, and being recognized as one of the most surprising teams in the nation, the Michigan basketball team has dropped seven of their last nine and is perilously close to becoming irrelevant in the NCAA Tournament picture. Obviously, scheduling had a large part to do with Michigan's slide ... the Big Ten is tough top-to-bottom this season. However, I had the privilege of attending John Beilein's press conference before Feb. 5 victory over Penn State, and this quote really stuck out to me:
"As a team we've got to find different combinations on the floor that will flow better right now. There are just these little things – a defensive assignment and an offensive assignment – that we're mixing. We're going to continue to try different rotations. Having Zack [Novak] out one game and Manny [Harris] out a game, it showed some things, positively and negatively, on what we've got to do."
This wouldn't have much cause for concern if that quote came from, say, November or December, as the team tries to set a constant rotation before the Big Ten season. However, this is February, and the Wolverines need to make a run down the stretch to avoid another NIT appearance. I realize that missing Novak and Harris over the course of two games affected the regular rotation, except that there has been no regular rotation to speak of.

Kelvin Grady went from a 25-minute per game guy to playing eight minutes combined over the last three games (including a DNP-CD against UConn). Jevohn Shepherd started the season as a benchwarmer, played 32 minutes in the victory over Duke, fell out of the lineup completely, and now gets anywhere from 3-18 minutes per game. Besides Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims (and possibly Zack Novak), it doesn't seem like any player is sure how many minutes they're going to play during any given game.

Yes, the team is young, and the team's lack of size also means having to adjust the lineup based on the opponent. Still, I'm becoming a bit disturbed by the lack of a set rotation on Beilein's squad. I trust his judgment, and he has done an incredible job of turning around the program in less than two years. However, one has to think that the lack of consistency by the team has to stem in part from a lack of consistent playing time. I hope Beilein is able to figure out the right rotation before the team digs itself too deep a hole to climb out of.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Michigan 2, LSSU 1

Carl Hagelin (photo from MGoBlue)

I covered the Michigan/Lake Superior State hockey game on Saturday for The Wolverine, but because of a mixup the story wasn't posted on their site. Here's my recap in full, for your reading enjoyment:

Michigan bounced back from a sloppy start to earn a 2-1 victory over Lake Superior State and clinch a home sweep. Carl Hagelin’s first period goal, coming just 19 seconds after the Lakers took a 1-0 lead, ignited the team and Brian Lebler provided the game-winning tally in the second.

Brian Hogan faced a barrage of shots in the first period, stopping 12 Laker chances before former Wolverine Zac MacVoy knocked home a rebound chance with 47 seconds to go in the period. LSSU could not maintain their early momentum, as just seconds later Hagelin found space between the circles and snapped a wrist shot past goaltender Pat Inglis for his ninth goal of the season.

“That was a huge goal that Carl got,” head coach Red Berenson said. “It was kind of like [Matt] Rust’s goal last night to get us back in the game in the first period.”

The Wolverines struck again 6:25 into the second period, as Brian Lebler netted a rebound opportunity of his own after Aaron Palushaj’s slapshot handcuffed Inglis. It was Lebler’s fourth goal of the season, and the assist was Palushaj’s second of the night and 26th on the season.

From there, Michigan was able to shut down Lake State and control the puck, thanks in large part to 14 Laker penalty minutes over the final two periods. Hogan finished the game with 26 saves, only 14 coming after the first stanza.

The victory moved the Wolverines (21-9-0, 15-7-0-0 CCHA) into sole possession of third place in the CCHA, breaking a tie with Alaska-Fairbanks. Michigan is now just two points behind second-place Miami with six games to go in the regular season.

“As [Detroit Red Wings coach] Mike Babcock would say, it was an ugly win,” Berenson quipped afterwards. “But, we got through it. It was just one of those games. We weren’t in sync and we had to battle the whole way.”

“The games were important. It was an important weekend and we got the wins we needed.”

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Michigan Adds Delaware State to 2009 Schedule


The red and teal eyesores you see above are the Delaware State Hornets, a I-AA (screw that FCS/FBS bull) squad that went 5-6 last season. Yesterday Michigan announced that the football team will host the Hornets on October 17 at the Big House, filling in the last gap in the Wolverines' 2009 schedule.

Tim from Varsity Blue has a full rundown of Delaware State over at MGoBlog. This one should be a laugher, and if it isn't, cue the burning of the internets.

Projecting Michigan's 2009 Recruiting Class

Tate Forcier, 2009 starter? (photo from Varsity Blue)

Signing day has come and gone, and Michigan has the seventh-rated recruiting class in the country (based on Rivals' rankings). Last offseason, I spent way too much time combing through ten years of recruiting data to come up with a way to project the success of players in each recruiting class. A quick recap of that post:
I will be looking at Michigan's classes as a whole, so every player given a scholarship will be counted. This may be flawed, but it's the data I have to work with. My query is, out of every player Michigan gives a scholarship to, what are the chances the player:
  • Plays out his full eligibility
  • Sees significant playing time
  • Is an All-Big Ten/All-American performer
  • Gets drafted
  • Leaves early (and why they leave early, when that data is available)
For this, I used Mike DeSimone's incredible database of Michigan recruiting classes, which covers every player in every class from 1993 through 2008, and the Bentley Historical Library for data on starts and All-American and All-Conference performers. I will be looking at the classes from 1993 to 2003 (the last class in which every player has played out his eligibility or left the team). Tomorrow, I will be taking this data and doing my best to guess which players from Michigan's recruiting class of 2008 will fall into which category.

Overall, Michigan handed out 220 scholarships from 1993-2003. Of those players:
  • 106 (48%) started at least twelve games for Michigan
  • 48 (22%) were taken in the NFL Draft
  • 10 (4.5%) were taken in the first round of the NFL Draft
  • 50 (23%) were selected All-Big Ten at least once
  • 19 (9%) made an All-American team
  • Charles Woodson (.45%) won a Heisman Trophy
I made sure for the All-Conference and All-American players to not count the same players twice if they made the teams in multiple years. Even though Charles Woodson was All-Big Ten all three years he played at Michigan, he still counts as one.
Using that data, I projected the outcome for each player in the Class of '08. Things already hilariously wrong with those projections include expecting Sam McGuffie to become an All-American (Kool-Aid, anyone?), subsequently expecting Michael Shaw to transfer down the road, and placing Martavious Odoms in the "career backup" category. Did I get anything right? Well, I do like my placement of Boubacar Cissoko as a future All-Big Ten player, as well as guessing that Justin Feagin and Mike Cox will eventually transfer (Cox almost did already). It's not a lot to hang my hat on, but it's something.

Anyways, despite it being far too early to guess these things (who knows, we might still add some players), here's my rundown of this year's recruiting class. First, the numbers, adjusted for our 22-man class:
  • 14 play out their eligibility
  • 10.5 start at least 12 games(that half-player's fate will be decided later)
  • 5 players get drafted
  • 1 player gets taken in the first round
  • 5 players make at least one All-Big Ten team
  • 2 become All-Americans
I'm going to stick to the numbers, despite my optimism that every recruit Michigan ever hauls in will become the next Tom Brady/Charles Woodson/LaMarr Woodley etc. Realism sucks sometimes. Without further ado, let's start the show:

Does not play out eligibility, All-American (1):
  • DT Will Campbell (Rivals 5*, No. 26 overall): Consider me fully on the Big Will bandwagon. Thanks to a complete lack of depth at DT, he's going to see significant time (and probably start) from day one. He enrolled early, so he is already off to a head start. He is a prototype DT, at 6-5, 317 lbs. My guess is he'll be solid as a freshman, All-Big Ten as a sophomore, All-American as a junior, and a first round NFL draft pick after leaving a year early. No pressure.
Will Campbell (photo courtesy of the Detroit News)

Play out eligibility, All-American (1):
  • DB Justin "J.T." Turner (Rivals 4*, No. 3 Safety): Turner can play either corner or safety (he played corner in the Army All-America Bowl) and Michigan has a huge need for someone to step up at both positions. He can see the field as early as this year, and has tremendous talent. His size (6-2, 185) projects very well to any position in the defensive backfield, and he'll be a playmaker wherever he ends up.
J.T. Turner

Play out eligibility, All-Big Ten (3, assuming All-Americans will also make All-Conference, because duh):
  • QB Tate Forcier (Rivals 4*, No. 5 dual-threat QB): I have really high expectations for Forcier. If you watch his highlight tapes, you'll see a guy who makes plays, often out of nothing. He makes things happen with his arm and his legs. He is tremendously accurate (completing around 70% of his passes his last two years in high school) and seems like a perfect fit for the spread. It certainly won't hurt that he'll likely have four years of starting experience under his belt by the time he leaves Ann Arbor.
  • OG Quinton Washington (Rivals 4*, No. 8 offensive guard): Even with the big offensive line class of '08, Michigan is still pretty thin in the interior of the offensive line. Q fits a huge need, by all accounts has a ton of talent, and should be an anchor on the interior of the line down the road.
  • DE Craig Roh (Rivals 4*, No. 7 weakside defensive end): Roh needs to add weight (right now he clocks in at 6-5, 230), but when he does, I think he's going to be an absloute monster off the edge. This is exactly why we employ Mike Barwis. He is a great pass rusher, and with Mike Martin and Campbell eating space in the middle for the next few years, he should have ample opportunity to get to opposing quarterbacks.

    Craig Roh (photo courtesy of Rivals)
Play out eligibility, start at least 12 games (7 -- I cheated, but you'll see why):
  • RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (4* Rivals, No. 8 all-purpose back): Toussaint put up ridiculous numbers his senior year, amassing over 2000 rushing yards. He makes people look absolutely silly in his highlight tapes. Most importantly, he has an awesome name. This guy is destined for big things.
  • OT Taylor Lewan (Rivals 4*, No. 16 offensive tackle): Lewan was a relative latecomer to the national recruiting picture, but quickly worked his way up the recruiting rankings and onto the offer lists of prominent national programs (including Nebraska, Miami and Oregon). He only started focusing on the offensive side of the ball as a junior, and has the potential and frame (6-7, 272) to be another in the long line of great Michigan tackles.
  • WR Je'Ron Stokes (Rivals 4*, No. 14 wide receiver): Michigan needs outside receivers. Stokes, at 6-1, 180 with 4.4 speed, can play outside or in the slot. With the overabundance of tiny, fast slot guys (Odoms, T-Rob, Gallon, Teric Jones, Vincent Smith) he'll end up on the outside and have a chance to compete for playing time right away.
  • WR Jeremy Gallon (Rivals 4*, No. 11 athlete): The major caveat here is that Gallon has yet to qualify academically, which poses concern for his present and future. However, if he makes it on campus (and stays there), Gallon could be one of the most electrifying players Michigan has seen in a long, long time. He'll get playing time in the slot and possibly on returns as soon as this season, because there's just no way you can keep someone of his athletic talents off the field.
  • DE Anthony LaLota (Rivals 4*, No. 11 strongside defensive end): Faces little depth at DE, is enrolled early, and has the size (6-6, 260) to play right away. LaLota is raw, having not played varsity football until his junior season, but because of that inexperience has a ton of upside. He complements the smaller Roh quite well, and I could see Roh, Campbell, Martin, and LaLota being one of the best d-lines in the country in a few years.
  • S Thomas Gordon (Rivals 3*, No. 24 player in Michigan): I like the combination of Gordon's physical abilities (5-11, 200, runs a 4.6 40-yard dash) and his football knowledge (he played quarterback at Cass Tech). At safety, he'll be able to utilize his physical and mental abilities to their fullest extent, and the Wolverines need that kind of size, speed and skill at defensive back.
  • K Brendan Gibbons (Rivals 2*, No. 8 kicker): This is why I fudged the numbers ... I hated to knock off another guy so I could say the incredibly obvious: Gibbons quite possibly has the best shot of any recruit to start from day one. Let's hope he works out better than Bryan Wright. My guess is he will.
Fitzgerald Toussaint (photo by Cyle Nunemaker, via Rivals)

Play out eligibility, backup (3):
  • OT Michael Schofield (Rivals 4*, No. 18 offensive tackle): This is based on my guess that Lewan will be the best tackle in this class, and that Dann O'Neill will be a monster down the road (in last year's edition, I picked him as one of the future All-Americans). Assuming we pick up more 4-5 star OT's in the next couple classes, Schofield could get lost in the shuffle.
  • LB Brandin Hawthorne (Rivals 3*, No. 35 outside linebacker): He is only 6-0, 197 pounds, but he does run a 4.5. This seems like a guy destined to be an impact special teams player and a solid situational pass rusher, but his size might keep him from ever finding a permanent position on the field. If he fills out, this pick could make me look very, very dumb (who am I kidding, all these picks could/probably will make me look dumb).
  • RB Teric Jones (Rivals 3*, No. 37 running back): Jones looks like a guy who will end up playing in the slot, where Michigan is quickly becoming stacked. He can also play running back, obviously, but I'm he doesn't have the size (5-9, 191) desirable for a future every-down back. With 4.4 speed, he'll see the field somewhere, but I don't know if he'll find a place to start on the field.
This leaves seven guys who won't play out their eligibility (not including Campbell):
  • S Vladimir Emilien (Rivals 4*, No. 14 safety) and CB Adrian Witty (Rivals 2*): Both these players have a history of serious knee injuries, and in a list like this, that throws up a big red flag. I want, as much as anyone, for Michigan to have a strong safety named "Vlad the Impaler," so here's hoping that this pick is incredibly wrong.
  • WR Cameron Gordon (Rivals 4*, No. 36 wide receiver): Gordon will either play wide receiver or linebacker for Michigan. I'm sorry, but that combination sounds incredibly strange to me. For all I know, he could be a huge freak at either position, but I'm playing the odds here and guessing he has a hard time finding a position that he can outperform more traditional recruits at.
  • ATH Denard Robinson (Rivals 4*, No. 14 athlete): I REALLY hope I'm wrong with this pick, because I would love to see a guy with 4.4 speed taking snaps for the Maize and Blue. However, I'm guessing Forcier beats him out at QB, he sees spot duty taking snaps for a while, and then switches to the defensive backfield and gets buried behind guys with more experience at the position.
  • S Isaiah Bell (Rivals 3*, No. 26 outside linebacker) and S Mike Jones (Rivals 3*, No. 2 safety): Both these guys will come in as safeties, although Bell seems destined for a move to outside linebacker. Michigan is stockpiling guys at both safety and outside linebacker, and these guys might get lost in the shuffle.
  • RB Vincent Smith (Rivals 3*, No. 36 running back): I love watching little guys dominate college football, but 5-7, 159 is downright tiny. We all saw what the pounding of a Big Ten season did to Sam McGuffie, so there's no way Smith stays in the backfield. For the umpteenth time, I'll point out our tremendous depth at slot receiver, and guess that Smith doesn't see the field in any major capacity.
That's all for this year's opportunity to make myself look like a complete fool. Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Content Update


I'm working furiously on my recruiting rundown for the Class of '09, which will be up either tonight or tomorrow. I also have a ton of work to do for the upcoming edition of The Wolverine Magazine, and I'm going to the basketball game tonight, but I'm doing my best to get content up on the blog as well. I should have another notes post on the UM/Penn State hoops game tonight or tomorrow as well.

To satisfy your signing day thirst, check out MGoBlog, Varsity Blue, Those Who Stay, Michigan Sports Center, and Maize n Brew.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I'd Like Forde Seconds of My Life Back

Just "Forde" IQ points from making any sense.

That was the time it took to read this passage from Pat Forde's "Forde Minutes" piece on today:

Bad actors: Michigan 'bow-throwers Zack Novak (4) and Manny Harris (5).

Transgression: Wolverines freshman Novak nailed Ohio State guard P.J. Hill with a premeditated, intentional elbow along the free throw lane late in the Buckeyes' 72-54 victory Jan. 28. That earned him an ejection from the game, and then some. The school added a one-game suspension, removing the Chesterton, Ind., product from a semi-homecoming game Saturday at Purdue.

Transgression II: Harris was tossed from Michigan's 18-point loss at Purdue on Saturday when he crumpled Purdue pest Chris Kramer with an overloaded elbow while squaring up into triple-threat position. Wolverines coach John Beilein defended Harris, saying it was not malicious and deserving of an ejection, but that heat-seeking clear-through qualified as excessive force. The Minutes is a Beilein fan, but two ejections in two games is troubling. He's got to get his players to keep their sharp edges away from the faces of Big Ten opponents.

I'll give you Novak, Mr. Forde. But, as pointed out before, Harris should never have been kicked out of the game for swinging through Chris Kramer. Offensive foul, yes. Flagrant foul, no. If Kramer's face doesn't part like the Red Sea this isn't even news. To suggest that these two incidents are related is absurd. Kind of like his next statement:

Role model: Venus de Milo (6). She's never elbowed anybody.

(Florida guard Walter Hodge threw a similar, get-outta-my-grill elbow that dropped Tennessee's Scotty Hopson on Saturday night. That one drew a technical foul but no ejection and less outcry, largely because Hopson was not left in a pool of blood like Kramer -- and because there was no incident involving a Gator throwing a 'bow in their previous game.)

The Venus de Milo joke just hurts. However, we've all come to expect such painful attempts at humor from Forde. The comparison to the Florida/Tennessee incident is an example of the kind of flawed logic that gets Harris booted from the Purdue game. I can't find video of the Hodge elbow, but it seems to be quite similar to what Harris did. Whether or not a play draws blood should not determine the severity of the foul. There is nothing written in the NCAA rulebook saying that a player will automatically receive a flagrant foul if they draw blood. Refs need to be calling these plays based on intent, and not whether a player got opened up on the play. These things happen.

Also, how does Novak's elbow against Ohio State have any bearing on the Harris play? Officials should not allow a team's "reputation" to precede it. I highly doubt this came into consideration when the refs decided to give Manny a flagrant foul, but if it did, shame on them.

Alright, no more complaining about officiating or journalistic incompetence for a while. After signing day tomorrow, I'll be running down the Michigan football recruiting class.

Monday, February 2, 2009

On Elbows and Officiating

Yes, it is officially Bitch About Officiating Week in Ann Arbor. I may be late to the party, but I'll be damned if I'm not going to get whatever is left out of this Keg of Fury.

UM Hoops combed through the NCAA basketball rulebook and emerged with this:
Art. 7. When during the course of play, an individual strikes an opponent with the hand, elbow, arm, foot, knee or leg in a non-confrontational manner but the act is excessive or severe, it shall be ruled as a flagrant foul and not a fighting action. When a defined body part is used to strike an opponent but the contact is not severe or excessive, a judgment shall be made by the official as to whether the contact is intentional.
Watch these two plays, both from recent Big Ten games, and tell me which one constitutes a flagrant foul, as defined above. Hint: intention is very, very key.

1. Enormous white dude, Wisconsin (I'm pretty sure they clone these guys):

2. Manny Harris, Michigan:

Um, what? I expected to see CBS flash a giant "FINISH HIM" graphic after that Krabbenhoft pick/deliberate elbow to the face. Meanwhile, Chris Kramer (the guy who Manny elbowed), had this to say after the game (link via MGoBlog):
"Some people can say there are dirty plays in basketball, but I wouldn't go there and say that definitely was a dirty play," Kramer said. "He might have been frustrated, but it was just a basketball play."
What frustrates me even more than the level of incompetence among Big Ten officials (high) is the fact that the team that gets the calls is totally predictable. Krabbenhoft was at home: pick garners cheers, no foul. Harris was on the road: fans cry bloody murder, obvious personal foul call turns into intentional facial mutilation.

Am I crazy to think there's something very wrong when it is openly acknowledged that a large part of "home-court advantage" is the fact that the refs will give you 80% of the borderline calls? Booing every call against your team is not an obnoxious trait of an ignorant fan; it's a surefire way to help your team win.

[Steps off soap box, grabs lunch before punching hole in apartment wall]