Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Spring Game Wrap - 12 Expectations/Observations/Predictions for 2017

Spring – the time of college football renewal!  That spring rite of passage that’s similar to the Masters and lets you know that the snow shovels can be put away and we can safely take the shorts out of winter storage. Also the time when you get the E-mail that you only have until April 28th to renew your Season Tickets!!!  
Also makes me wonder why they can’t do a “scrimmage” against other local teams in the area, but then I guess things would get a little too out of hand…so scratch that.  Why risk injury any more than they already are.  Urban Meyer charged suckeye fans to $5 to watch OSU play a game of two-hand touch….
No – I didn’t make the Spring game.  Simply too much to do around the house.  55,000 fans did attend, however.  I have seen it twice on the BTN at this point and if you haven’t seen it, I think there’s a couple of things you need to know:
1.     I’m not saying there’s a QB controversy brewing in A2, but I will say that Speight was fortunate to lead one of the best offenses last season both in terms of efficiency and points scored.  He didn’t look very good on Saturday and Brandon Peters looked like a seasoned veteran.  In other words, if Speight gets a boo-boo, Michigan should be in capable hands under center.
2.    While I get that defenses get a chance to see the same players day in – day out, week after week in the spring and can “plan” things ahead of time, I was surprised that the defenses looked “as good” as they did.  The defensive line will be fine this season and I’m not sure how much Peppers will be missed with a couple of different players looking effective in the SAM position. 
3.    Evans got 3 carries and was yanked because, well, we know who the starting tailback will be.
4.    Did I mention that Speight didn’t look great?
5.    Brandon Peters’ passing performance was especially remarkable as the announcers mentioned the wind swirling several times.
6.    The CB play wasn’t great, but I saw things I liked.  Over-pursuit (read:  SPEED) was apparent and once these guys learn their assignments, I don’t think we’re gonna’ miss Stribling or Lewis….

And I guess that’s about it….

I never get overly excited about the Spring Game, even though it’s nice to see Michigan actually back to having a Spring Game vs. a spring practice where everyone just runs around in practice mode.  

Now it’s off to Rome to see the sights.  

12 Expectations/Observations/Predictions for Michigan and College Football in 2017

I hate to get ahead of myself, because I like to leave a little something for the Pre-Season Spectacular, but what are the expectations of the Wolverines and other teams for 2017?
In no particular order:
1.    I expect Coach Harbaugh to coach better in close games and come up with plays/scenarios so when you NEED a first down, you GET a first down.  Review the Iowa and Suckeye games that were very winnable with a first down and running out the clock.  As good as he seems to coach in most games, Jimmy and OC Drevno sometimes get a little group-think going on between them in tight games.  Drevno needs to step up and be a little more creative or stand up to Jimmy when the time comes to deliver the last nail in the coffin or the knife to the jugular – whichever analogy you prefer.  They need, together, to develop a “tight game killer instinct”. 
2.    A quick review of the Michigan schedule: 
a.    @Florida – SEC East Champ in Arlington, Texas
b.    Cincinnati – Luke Fickell revenge for that loss when he was interim?
c.    Air Force – Always a nightmare with that offense
d.    @ Purdue – the New Cocktail Patio will be OPEN!  Road Trip?
e.    Sparty – Rivalry game…
f.     @ Indiana – New Head Coach….
g.    @ Penn State – REVENGE for Embarrassment…Night Whites, too..
h.    Rutgers – Yawn…Hanging 80 on them last season makes me yawn
i.      Minnesota – The uppity Gophers will be rowing the boat to A2
j.      @Maryland – I hate that Michigan plays Maryland so late in the season
k.    @Wiscy – Classic Trap game.  After emotional Terp game aginst Derkin and before
l.      OSU – glad this is home this season. 
With a lot of the tough games at home (OSU, Minnesota and MSU) not that the latter should be all that hard, but rivalry to them, a share of the B1G Title, barring horrendous injury, of course, should be the floor.  There are some tough road games and Penn State has announced the Night White Out Game and will want a lot of revenge for the 50 they got hung on them in Ann Arbor (Jim – Word of advice – Bring back the Maize Pants for that Road Game – PLEASE!!!).  Not to mention that Wiscy is always a tough place to play and is the trap game right after Maryland and right before the Suckeyes.  It’s Jimmy’s 3rd season, he’s been close, and there’s no more excuses.  Not that he was making any last season.  Well, maybe a couple that were justified from the OSU game, but still…  In review, last year was a great opportunity squandered.  And I do believe the Wolverines would have at least scored on Clemson unlike the suckeyes completely and utterly embarrassing themselves….
3.    Speaking of which:  the CFP, logically, is kind of a must, also.  I would say that it’s a given if you win the B1G, but when you look at what happened to Penn State last season (winning the B1G with 2 losses) and the huge loss up in Ann Arbor resulting in them getting overlooked for the CFP after beating the suckeye team that DID GET IN, well, you can understand now how it’s possible to have one without the other.  And that’s frustrating and I get PSU-Fan and why they were so angry last year.  Conference Championships should mean SOMETHING!!!!
4.    Which means the ceiling for Michigan is (at least) getting to the National Title Game with the floor being an either/or with the B1G Championship/CFP spot..  Now, I know that’s asking a lot.  But, Michigan is paying the guy to win B1G Championships and National Titles.  So, please go do it. 
5.    Who will be in the title hunt this season?  Well, Bama, for sure, as they didn’t lose anyone (relatively speaking) and the SEC is undeniably weak at this point.  The SEC East will probably have a 3rd year champion in Florida as I don’t see anyone else in the East figuring out how to beat McElwain’s Defense.  I’m not falling into the Tennessee hype or the Georgia hype.  They both lost key players and will be re-building.  So, that leaves Bama and nobody else from the SEC.  From the ACC I kind of like Clemson or Miami, but I’m not sure either of them goes through this season unscathed meaning that there could be a 2-loss ACC champion on the outside looking in.  FSU lost a lot of talent last season so while they’ll be an odds on favorite, look for them to be more of a spoiler in the ACC.  I like/love USC coming out of the Pac12, even though Washington will be right there.  The BigiiX will eat their own and miss the CFP altogether, leaving the potential for two qualified B1G teams to crash the CFP party.  Don’t be surprised…it’ll happen sooner rather than later and two conferences will get left out of the CFP party whilst one conference reaps the spoils…
6.    How does the B1G play out?  Great question.  The Champion, once again, should come out of the East Division.  The West, while improving, just isn’t there yet.  I know, I know, PJ Fleck in Gopherland, Purdue getting Jeff Brohm, not to mention that the Huskers should be feeling the 3rd year vibe of Riley.  And Wiscy is Wiscy.  Kind of like Iowa.  But none of them are “dominating” yet.  Noticed I said yet. But they aren’t sitting still, either…that much is clear.   I truly believe Michigan finally breaks the cherry for Jim, but they’re might be a blemish on the record.   
7.    Can Michigan win the whole thing?  Answer:  Why not?  The Odds as of February 6th:
  The Analysis:  I’m not sure from where or why FSU is getting such love in Vegas as they lost a lot of personnel.  And Michigan nearly beat them in the bowl game.  I would have FSU closer to 15 or 20 to 1.  Oklahoma won’t go undefeated, eliminating them from the discussion with a weaker SOS due to Big iiX malaise.  Yes, the suckeyes.  They need to be defeated, but Michigan has them at homeUSC is going to be interesting and if they do make it, I’d rather not have to play the Trojans in the semi-final and rather see them play Bama.  Which, leaves us with Michigan.  So, yes.  The Vegas Final 4 projection (with assumptions that Michigan wins B1G regular season) is:  Bama, FSU, USC and Michigan.  Kind of like I said in point number 5….but without FSU and maybe a B1G runner up….suckeyes – Michigan Rematch????
8.    Is there another darkhorse in the NCAA we’re not seeing right now?  Maybe…And Michigan plays one of them.  Florida will be better this season and will present a VERY DIFFICULT opening game challenge.  There will be a lot of talk about both of those teams and how far the winner can go.  UCLA will be in the 2nd year of their new, revamped offense and could be a thorn in everyone’s side in the Pac12, but I sort of say that every season about UCLA and I have lost some faith in Coach Mora ever getting it done.  2nd season coach Fuente at Va-Tech may make noise in the ACC with close to a full roster returning.  I also refuse to leave Washington out of any discussion as I believe Petersen will win a National Title while he’s coaching there, and don’t forget that Washington made the CFP Last season.   Miami has players coming back and Richt will be in season 2 as well, but I see Miami as spoilers and not ready for Prime time…yet.  So, yeah, there’s some dark and not so darkhorses that could make things interesting.
9.    Will the Domers and Sparty recover from embarrassing seasons?  In a word: NOBut when has the MMQ ever stopped at just a word?  The Domers probably should have won (and would have won if Kelly wasn’t so bull-headedly stubborn/stupid – you decide or use both) 7 games last season vs. just 4.  And they simply have too much talent coming back and coming into the program to not win 9 games (floor). But in Domerland, that still a disaster and no CFP berth.  Sparty, OTOH, is a disaster and you’re probably not going to find too many Sparty fans that are going to argue with you.  They’d all rather talk about basketball for Bridges reasons.  Football:  Depleted roster.  Unexpected players leaving the team and Sexual Assualt Title IX investigations may further deplete the depth chart.  Sparty could repeat at 3-9 or maybe get to 4-8/5-7 and it wouldn’t surprise me.  That’s not bouncing back…That’s getting ready for Basketball season early.
10. Who will be “The Greatest Coaching Hire Ever” that everyone is talking about at the end of the 2017 season?  Texas should be better this season as Charlie Strong didn’t leave a bare cupboard.  The question is:  Will Hermann pay attention to the defense and make them better?  I already mentioned PJ Fleck rowing the boat in Minneapolis, and the Gophers are only 2 seasons removed from winning 10 games under former coach Kill.  Fleck should be able to take a non-disaster situation and surprise some people this season and at least make a decent bowl game.  If Willie Taggart gets Oregon back to 9-10 wins, or even somehow beats Washington and gets to the Pac 12 Championship, that hire will look brilliant. Conference USA has two big names both coaching Florida schools in Butch Davis (FIU) and Lane Kiffin (FAU) that may be able to mix it up early with the powers in that conference. 
11. And because you can’t have one without the other, what hires are we going to look at and say, “Meh….Coulda’ done better myself”?  I still can’t figure out the Brohm hire at Purdue.  He might work out, but I think that’s a disaster and it’ll take someone special to fix Purdue football.  Tom Allen hiring Mike DeBord at Indiana convinced me that Allen might not know what he’s doing either…or what he has to work with from a personnel standpoint.  That’s an offense built for speed and DeBord is a manball kind of coach.  IMHO, Matt Rhule landing at Baylor is going to be an unmitigated disaster.  Baylor is Texas, Briles was Texas….Rhule isn’t a fit.  Plus who knows what pending Title IX disasters await. 
12. Hottest of the Hottest Seats starting out this season?  Without question, Sumlin has worn out his welcome at Texas A&M.  Butch Jones at Tennessee desperately needs to do something in the SEC East.  Rich Rod has Arizona diehards pulling their hair out with lack of defense…sound familiar?  Kelly will need at least 9 wins or he and $warbuck$ will both be in a very precarious position. Malzhan is living on grace time at Auburn and the winningest LSU Head Coach EVER is still looking for a job  - Les Miles.   

I know – what’ll be left for the Pre-Season Spectacular, right?  I’ll find something to write about!!!!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Dantonio Breaks His Silence - Is This The End of Sparty?

Requiem – (noun) Definition:    an act or token of remembrance.

I’d like to tell you a story about a group of people that, collectively, seem to lack any respect for their said rivals.  A group of people that I’m not totally sure how to describe in a way that can make them seem “likeable”.  Granted, there’s always an individual or two that when you can talk to them one on one seem like reasonable, intelligent people that you could hang out with.  I’m not including those individuals, but rather the collective that cheers disrespect and makes their haters hate them back even more.  They talk of pride and “doing it right”; and then they fall and fail due to their own hubris and get caught more often than not, “Doing it wrong…”

This group is called “Spartans”.

In an effort to educate you and to help you understand the nature of Sparty Fan and their hatred of Michigan, you need a little history.  As you are aware, I will often times dismiss Sparty and their ilk as not being a true rival to the University of Michigan (this statement alone creates tension).  And there’s plenty of reasons:  The Football record supports that claim with an overall ratio of 3:1 victory margin going to MichiganBasketball is closer to a true rivalry with Michigan leading there as well at 91-81.   Other sports (Baseball, Track and Field, Swimming, etc.) all have Michigan well in the lead.  If there is a sport where Sparty has a lead, I’m not aware of it and feel free to message, e-mail or comment about it and I will acknowledge it accordingly.

Not to mention that Michigan has always traditionally been the harder school to get accepted to and often times, when you can’t get into Michigan, MSU becomes the go-to back-up plan if you want to stay in state and go to a large, D-1 public institution.
All that being said from a sports and academic perspective, it’s easy to see why Sparty has a chip on their shoulder.  The chip grew when Michigan single handedly kept the Michigan Agricultural College (MAC) out of the Big 10 for decades, but finally allowed them to join in 1953 when a vacancy was created by an exiting University of Chicago in 1946.  Which means that the MAC had to struggle for 7 years to meet the academic requirements needed to be a Big 10 member but finally got over the hurdle, so to speak…and according to some have been struggling to stay academically qualified ever since.

The chip grew larger when Daryl Rogers quipped, “They truly are arrogant asses in Ann Arbor.”  While Michigan fans laughed at the rebuke, we often wondered why the Sparty collective just couldn’t enjoy their accomplishments and not try to measure themselves against a University that had more history, tradition and national status than MSU could ever hope to have, simply based on the origins of the schools.
But to see a neighbor proudly wave success and excellence in your face can be considered a “micro-aggression” and the chip on the shoulder grows…

And Michigan is successful, in many areas!  Academically rated in the Top 10 annually, Hospital and Healthcare breakthroughs via research on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, and of course, also in the athletic arena.

It’s easy to see that if you identify with Michigan, others may view you as arrogant for being proud of everything that’s been accomplished. That you can be part of ANY and ALL conversations regarding the recognition of Excellence and continuing accomplishments in all walks of life.   As my oldest daughter likes to say to anyone that wants to argue about the most famous alumni list, “Michigan has Darth Vader.  Who’ve you got???”   (I’ve tried to get her to use President Ford, but that hasn’t quite caught on with her yet….)

Not to mention that Tom Brady being the Greatest NFL QB Of All Time immediately comes to mind…

In an office discussion that was the original motivation for this post, (A secondary motivation was when a different Sparty stated that “Michigan is a One and Done Team” in the NCAA this season – more on that in a minute). I was proclaiming the Brady Accolades and a Sparty countered with just about every argument you ever hear when it comes to Brady.  “He’s a System QB, Belechik is a way better coach than anyone else, if he had played anywhere else he would have been average or gone from the league by now”…name it.  And this was not presented in the usual matter of fact tone, but spewed with venom and hatred.*   I asked him why he was so angry and why can’t he simply be happy for a guy that’s working harder than anyone to accomplish something that’s never been done?  Why didn’t he want to pull for a guy that could possibly win 6 Superbowls?  I also asked if he would respect Brady’s accomplishments more if he hadn’t gone to Michigan…

My co-worker’s response:   “I hate that Brady went to Michigan and I hate that every time somebody starts to talk about this I have to think about Michigan.  Yeah, I hate Brady, but I hate him even more because he went to Michigan.”
*Is there a website or something out there with “I hate Tom Brady” as its title?  Turns out a LOT of people have written about why we hate Tom Brady.  And get this – Michigan IS one of the reasons!!!


That got me to thinking.  I “hate” the DomersBut that developed on my own over time.  My parents didn’t (initially) hate Notre Dame, but once I began pointing out all the faults, failures, the utter hypocrisy of University and, specifically, Domer fans and their pure hatred of Michigan, well, I think they have come around to hating the Domers, too. 
So, I have multiple reasons that I think, on the surface, make Notre Dame, its officials, coaches and all their ilk easy to hate. 

But I only hate Sparty because there’s simply no mutual respect from Sparty for Michigan.  Because, and I just realized this, Sparty has never liked or respected themselves very much.  It’s always been and always will be a contest against Michigan.  That’s the measuring stick. Even when Sparty has been successful.  The Statement “Spartan Pride” was just that.  A statement, not a belief. 

Even one of sparty’s football promotions had to use Michigan’s Locker Room Motivation placard, “Those Who Stay Will Be Champions!”

But Here’s The Thing:  It’s not about winning any particular championship!!!
The meaning of that statement is lost on many people.  It’s an amalgam of Bo and the Great Fielding H. Yost: 

“What the Mind can Conceive and Believe, the Mind can Achieve…And Those That Stay Will Be Champions!” – Bo Schembechler
“But do let me reiterate the Spirit of Michigan.  It is based on a deathless loyalty to Michigan and all her ways; an enthusiasm that makes it second nature for Michigan Men to spread the gospel of their university to the world’s distant outposts; a conviction that nowhere is there a better university, in any way, than this Michigan of ours!”  - Fielding H. Yost

And I’m going to take the liberty of putting the two together, right here: 


That’s what it’s about.  That’s a belief.  Words to live by.

So many times Sparty could have just enjoyed the moment over the last decade and said, “Hey, were on our way towards achieving permanent excellence!  Spartan Pride!  Instead, they hold up awards and accomplishments to start fights with Michigan fans, stating things like, “We got here first!  We’re the best in the state!  We rule the state!!”

Great.  Have fun with that.

But enjoy it because the school you support accomplished it.  Not because the other guy DIDN’T accomplish it. 

Sparty’s most recent football coach is now famous for saying that “The Pride comes before the fall…” in reference to Michigan senior running back Mike Hart’s “Little Brother” comments.  While there are times I regret (Slightly) the Little Brother comment, it’s out there.  And its truth is difficult to argue.  As is Dantonio’s comment.  There was and still is pride in Michigan and everything about her.  And while our patience with regard to Football was tested mightily in the last 10-15 years, the pride has been restored…Not that it was ever really gone. 

I can’t help but think that Karma has come full circle on Sparty.  For an athletic program that was so prideful less than a year ago it is now on the brink of utter collapse.  Blinded by its own hubris and arrogance, the fall that has come has been quick and painful. 

1.    Making the CFP Final 4 but losing in ugly fashion to Bama in 2016. 

2.    Earning a 2-Seed in the 2016 NCAA Tourney and immediately losing the first round game which had only happened 7 other times in the history of the NCAA’s

3.    Going 3-9 in the 2016 football season and taking pride in “Losing With Dignity!”

4.    Getting hit with the injury bug and barely making the NCAA, only to suffer what I was told is a “One and Done!!!” humiliation at the hands of Kansas

5.    Multiple claims and complaints that have initiated several investigations (MSU Police, Title IX investigators, and an external football law firm) into alleged sexual assaults by three football players and one coach, who has been suspended.  (You don’t need to watch the press conference.  All Dantonio states is he can’t comment n anything!!!)

6.    Not to mention other the woman’s gymnastic coach being dismissed for attempting to protect and covere up Dr. Nassar’s sexual assault of up to 70 female athletes.  It’s so bad, AD Hollis, Chairman of the 2017 Selection Committee had to back out of a 2 week, 12 game tour he planned on taking to manage issues on the home-front.

7.    Starting Offensive Tackle Thiyo Lukusa leaving the team stating, “I’d like to say it’s been fun.  I’d like to say that.  I can’t.”

8.    Leading Defensive Linebacker Reschke leaving after making a derogatory comment to a former teammate.

What’s it All Mean?

Mark Dantonio is 60.  Izzo is 62.  There’s maybe 10-12 years left between them.  Righting the football ship is going to take EVERYTHING Dantonio can muster over the next 5 years.  Last season was not a “fluke”.  It’s going to get harder.  Sparty has real, serious issues.  Depth on offensive line, QB and some other skill position issues.  Not to mention a depleted defense.  Next season could very well be a “read the book, see the movie” scenario for the jolly green giants of the turf.  Dantonio had heart problems before…The stress is only going to get turned up on him and the entire staff.

  While Dantonio has the goodwill with the fan base to whether a couple of losing, bowl-less seasons, the question everyone should be asking is:  Does he want to put himself through that?  Does he want to suffer the health and mental issues going through that (again) will surely bring?

Izzo probably has a better shot of turning things around on the hardwood next season, assuming everyone can come back and play at the same level before they were injured, but that’s a big assumption, too.  How much longer he goes is also in question.  I’ve always felt that Izzo wants to win one more NC.  2014 looked like the season it was going to happen, and if Sparty hadn’t fallen asleep during the 2nd half to U-Conn, well…who knows.  But a comment the Izzo made this season after losing to Kansas is, “I don’t care about winning games.  I care about winning this Tournament.”  Well, if that’s what you’re striving for, this season wasn’t a great template for that success. 

Izzo knows how hard it is to put it all together for a Final 4 run.  He has some players coming back next season, but he’s also going to have holes to fill.  I’ve also always thought that Izzo wanted to try it in the NBA and if that is still a dream, that window of time is growing very short indeed.

My point is:  Sparty athletics may already be “dead” and the best years are well behind them.  As a fan, you don’t see it happening because you figure your team is always going to get better.  But that’s not always the case. 

Michigan fans have learned that the hard way. 

So am I prematurely throwing dirt on Sparty Athletic’s grave? Perhaps I am. Sparty fans reading this (assuming they’ve made it this far) will claim I’m piling on and there’s absolutely “nothing wrong that Dantonio can’t fix”.  Maybe.  I mean, he did it once.  But it’s hard to change a Zebra’s stripes….The magnitude and scope of the issue(s) surrounding the football team cannot be denied.  Dantonio has locker room and leadership issues.  Not to mention when the words “Title IX investigations” show up in the press, well, it never looks good nor does it appeal to potential recruits (and their parents), especially if there are other schools interested.  Look at what’s happened to Baylor and the time it takes to get something like this behind you.  Plus, the damage is done and it always leaves a scar.  There’s absolutely no getting away from that… 

And while each coach might come close to greatness one more time, the golden age of Sparty is coming to an end.  And it won’t be an easy thing to replace.   Hopefully Sparty recognized what they had when it was happening and took the time to enjoy it.

And for Michigan and the fans of Michigan, it will be back to worrying about the bigger rivalries and championships that life has to offer.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Journey Ends...

Still a Great Read….

I wasn’t ready, as I’m sure you’re not, to write about the “Last Game of the 2017 Season” for the Michigan Men’s Hoops Team

Nope, nope, nope….

Wasn’t going to happen.  Wasn’t supposed to end this way.  Michigan was the feel good favorite that everyone in the country was pulling for and even had non-basketball fans intrigued by their scrappiness and the storyline behind what could be a magical finish to an ordinary season.

Unfortunately, Michigan came out a little flat, a little tight (perhaps?) and statistically played their worst game in their last 12 attempts.  And they were still within 1 point of winning…But the Basketball Gods that decide such things simply said, “Not Tonight, Wolverines.  We’re going to bless someone else in this tourney

In the movie, that shot will go in and Michigan will move on…  In the movie, the Northwestern Miracle is avenged…In the Movie, Trey Burke’s Miracle against Kansas is shown in a dream sequence right before Walton’s shot drops…
Unfortunately…This isn’t the movies.  While many can and will consider this a successful season, I’ll always be left wondering what could have been….

IF Wagner would have hit anything last night
IF Walton would have had more of his shot last night….
IF MAAR would have just let those GD pink shoes take him to the hole a couple of times last night…
IF Wilson would have grabbed one more rebound or made that bunny Lay-up that HE SHOULD HAVE DUNKED
IF Irvin would have taken a step backwards about 3 times and launched for 3 instead of the 2’s he was hitting from just inside the arc…
IF anyone wearing Maize and Blue pulls down that rebound..
IF Walton didn’t hesitate ever so slightly on the last shot…

Yeah, I’ll be wondering a lot.  There were just too many “IFS”…

Still, I enjoyed this season as much as any season I can remember and I’m going to miss these guys.  I have a feeling that everyone who can come back will come back and the NBA will have to wait (for Wagner and Wilson). 

At least we can remember it being close and we can dream that it might have all been different with the exception of a couple of things. 

Perfection was in their grasp.  No one can argue that.

Unlike Purdue

I believed that Purdue had a better than average chance to beat KU last night based on a couple of things:  1.  I thought Purdue would neutralize the KU bigs.  2.  I thought KU was way over rated.  This team lost to TCU in the Big iiX Tourney fergodsakes!!!  And 3.  Sparty didn’t do anything to slow KU down and I felt they simply made KU look good as this is not a classic Izzo team. 

I was extremely wrong on all 3 of those reasons.  If you have Kansas in your bracket winning it all, right now, you have to be a very, EXTREMELY happy person.  I’m not sure what stops that team.  And when it turned into a “Fun Fest Playground Let’s Humiliate Them” Game, well, that’s when I realized I had underestimated Kansas. 

Is this what the dance is turning into?  Ignore what the truly great teams do in their conference tourneys or at the end of the season and just go with what you know from mid season?  Kansas has turned it up a notch.  For sure.  If good teams can start doing this…Look out.

I told you about Xavier

Early in February, I watched Xavier play someone and I commented about “Teams to think about taking deep into the NCAA bracket”.  Xavier was one of those teams.  But when they lost their PG and went 7-8 over their last 15 games, well, I wasn’t as impressed anymore.  Nobody was.  The Pre-Season Top 10 team wasn’t the same team. Until last night.  Then Xavier came into their own and the Wildcats of Arizona didn’t know what hit them…

I liked WVU and Huggy Bear…

But the Zags are also proving to be more resilient that previously thought.  Can they take down Xavier?  Time will tell.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Journey Continues...

Okay – The celebration of becoming one of the last 16 is over and it’s time to get back to business.  In a few short hours, the Madness renews itself with the road to the Elite 8 and the subsequently, the March to the Final Four.  Like you need any reminding of that hereMichigan is a 1 point favorite over Oregon, but after watching Oregon and Rhode Island go at each other, I’m not so sure.  As a fan, I think I’m nervous about either one of those teams, but Michigan got the Ducks and Dorsey, the 2017 NCAA Tourney best player through the first two games…

Game Time:        7:09 PM EDT
Line:                   Michigan by 1

My guess is that Oregon is going to have problems with Michigan’s versatility on the offensive side of the ball.  But, a lot like Okie State, Oregon simply won’t give a shit and they’ll be putting it up early and often in an effort to outscore the Wolverines.  So far, that strategy hasn’t worked by anyone willing to try it.  Try to slow the game down and you play right into the Wolverines hands.  I’m really not sure how you game plan for the Wolverines.  Pitino decided that, If the Cardinals were going to lose, it was the “bigs” that were going to beat him.,..and they did.  Walton was covered and more or less taken out of the offense, but it didn’t matter. “Mo Baskets” just kept doing what he does best.  Again, if you’re Oregon, what do you do?  God knows I don’t have an answer for Michigan’s versatility and I’ve been watching them all year.  Oregon coaches should be pulling their hair out about now. 
Managing Oregon defensively will be a task, however.  Granted, there are times when this team will fall asleep (go back to an earlier blog where the ducks only scored 16 – 16!!! – in the 1st half against Oregon State and came back and scored 52 in the 2nd half to win by 1!!!  Yep – this team can score and when they’re on, they’re on.  But they also fall asleep from time to time.
But I have faith in the Beilein….and the Donlon

Re-Seeding NONSENSE!!!

The latest talk, for the last couple of years, is re-seeding the bracket in the Sweet 16 after the early “sins” of the committee have been revealed.  This is stupid, asinine and just plain impossible with respect to how millions of fans would manage their brackets after that re-seeding (tongue slightly in cheek here).  Pools would shut down because pool – coordinators would go nuts, unless they were managing them on line.  But still, I don’t want to re-seed for a couple of other reasons.
1.    Teams that have the resources and opportunity to look ahead at who their 3rd and 4th round match-up might be have already done so (probably the Monday or Tuesday after the brackets come out.)  That gives those teams a little extra edge and time to prepare.
2.    Whatever mistakes the committee made early should be the penance or the reward for those teams that are paying for that error or reaping the rewards of it.  Right now, if you were to re-seed based on Sagarin, KenPom and the other dynamic metrics (updated through the 2nd round of the NCAA Tourney), you’d have, in this order:
a.    Kansas
b.    UNC
c.    Wisconsin
d.    Gonzaga
e.    Michigan
f.     Arizona
g.    UCLA
h.    Florida
i.      WVU
j.      Kentucky
k.    South Carolina
l.      Oregon
m.   Butler
n.    Xavier
o.    Purdue
p.    Baylor

I color coded the current regions to make this easier, but suffice it to say, you want to be HIGH RANKED with more of YOUR color lower on the seeding.  Right now, according to metrics, Purdue and Oregon are the first two teams to show up in any region.  Meaning Kansas and Michigan got lucky.  But I still think Purdue is better than their stats and will give Kansas fits not to mention that Kansas shot way up with its first and 2nd round opponents basically sucking (Thanks Sparty)….If it was re-seeded:  Meaning Michigan would be a 2-Seed in the Kansas Bracket along with WVU as the 3-Seed and Butler as the 4-Seed.  I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, I’m just saying let’s leave it as what did we really change besides making certain, higher seeds roads easier or harder than they are now?
3.    How on earth would you ever make travel plans?  Granted, there’s a boatload of Louisville and Duke fans cancelling reservations, but at least they could make them!
The Biggest Gain:  Teams that endured a difficult first two games as a lower seed that prevailed may be the beneficiary of a better seed draw after the re-seed, and vice versa.  But I say:  Leave it alone….

More Refereeing Idiocy
According to reports, there was an NCAA apology issued for the Gonzaga vs. Northwestern Goal Tend that wasn’t by the NCAA head of officials.  And I have to ask, “Why?”  Why apologize for something after we all know what happened?  Why not instead state, “Hey, this is a problem and we’re looking at a rule change to address the problem.”  Like instant replay on really stupid or non-calls.  I don’t know where you draw the line, but there were way too many games (with Yahoo Sports website listing the worst ones – which didn’t even include some of the garbage Michigan endured!) where the refereeing definitely impacted the game.  That should not happen.  In this day and age, there’s gotta be a better way.  Plays included in the Top 5 were the Gonzaga – NWU, UNC Charge and the Seton Hall flagrant that wasn’t, all of which I witnessed. 
I know that refs are human and referees will make mistakes and that’s just part of the game.  But this level of incompetence should get somebody over at the NCAA off their dead ass and figure out what can be done.  Generate a list of lessons learned and figure out if adding a 4th ref helps things?  I dunno….but fergodsakes, do something.

A Guilty Pleasure
I have to admit, I enjoy reading about the Wolverines locally now as I don’t have to suffer through an article by the now deceased Drew Sharp (RIP), who probably would have written a headline after Sunday’s upset that would have read something like,
“Overachieving Wolverine Squad Wins Again, But It Can’t Last” or
“Wolverine’s Win, But Another Crash Possible!”
“Beilein’s Job Saving Run Continues!!!”, or even,
“Michigan Getting Everything Out of Their Rag-Tag Squad and Catching the Real Elites Off Guard!”
Yep – There’s some guys I don’t miss…And he’s one of ‘em. 

The Best Coach in the State of Michigan?
On Tuesday, there was a great debate on Sirius Channel 84 between Rick Pizzo (BTN announcer), Dan Dakich and one of the clueless tools on Sirius who I was going to leave nameless (Childers) who stated that, you could “Almost” make an argument that Beilein was the better coach in the State of Michigan.  Both Pizzo (who I have a lot of respect for) and Dakich jumped all over Childers with a litany of reasons that they both believed that Beilein could be argued as not only the best coach in the B1G, but maybe even the country!  Part of the reasoning being, “How do you want to measure the success of a coach?”  
The reasons stated:
1.    Michigan rarely gets the “Super AAU Level” top recruits.  Beilein recruits kids like that from time to time, but he generally gets “kids” that can play pretty well and they can also shoot.  A lot of those kids end up making it into the NBA. Michigan actually has just as many players still playing in the NBA as Michigan State over the last 5 seasons.
2.    Measuring a coach by his “success” of National Titles is only one way to measure them.  Nobody expects Michigan to do anything year in and year out with the recruits it gets and Beilein improves players on his watch every single season.  Not only that, but how many times has Michigan started outside the Pre-Season Top 25 and finished inside the Top 25?
3.    If you’re a player that’s looking to play in a system that will develop all your skills and give you the best chance to play at the next level, you would want to play for Beilein.
4.    Pizzo also stated he thought Beilein’s offense was one of the better ones in the country and he would put it up against anyone’s offense.  Michigan’s ability to change from a perimeter to an inside game and still be effective is unique.  They’re going to get you one way or another.  And now with Donlon on board, they’re defense, will probably continue to rank highly in Kenpom and Sagarin for seasons to come.
5.    Dakich stated that if you’re a “big guy” in the Izzo system, for example, you’re going to be relegated to playing a very specific role that won’t give you a chance to develop all your skills. 
Childers made some lame arguments that Izzo was getting just as many players to the NBA, and he had a National Title, but both Pizzo and Dakich fell back on, what criteria do you want to use?  And both stated that a National Title could easily be in Beilein’s future!!!  And if he wins one, well than who IS The Best in the State of Michigan?

Loved every minute of it!!!