Monday, March 10, 2014

Is It Possible to Feel Happy and "BLUE" at the Same Time? YES!!!

First, I have to come clean and admit that a LOT of what you read in the MMPG on Monday doesn’t necessarily get written by the MMPG on Monday.  A lot of what I put together is at lunch during the week or after hours in the office.  I then sort of compile it all and then spit it out on Monday.  The MMQ, OTOH, is more or less all written on Monday Morning.  So, that’s out there.

However, this AM’s installment is not only from the heart, but it is being penned on Monday Morning.  I’m still agog with what the Michigan Wolverines were able to pull off in the last 4 games, sweeping the Hoosiers, Illini, Minnesota, and Purdue.  The probability associated with that accomplishment was somewhere between 10-15%.  For the odds people reading, that more or less translates to an event that should only happen once every 8 to 9 times you attempt it.  In other words….It shouldn’t happen, at least not that often.  Especially when the Hoosiers shoot 60% from the field???!!!???  Come on!  How does Michigan keep DOING it?  Can anyone explain?
And for all of you that were PANICING Saturday (You know who you are – I have your texts and I am going to keep them as proof!) please remember that this team simply is never out of it.  They are stronger mentally than their fans (thankfully) and seem to rise to the occasion in the face of every adversity that has been presented to them this season.  You just need to believe and be patient!  But it still doesn’t answer the question:  How are they doing it? (Besides being 3-point oriented, not turning the ball over and making free throws?  What, BESIDES all that?  Because, clearly, that’s not a formula for winning, is it?)

Sparty couldn’t win their last three, even though they were 20-25% likely to do so.  Wiscy was also higher percentage wise to win out…And they couldn’t do it losing at Nebraska last night....  What does it mean?  It just means that Michigan is a team that may not look great on the defensive stat sheet…but they hang around long enough and more importantly, they aren’t afraid to score.  And they DEFINITELY aren’t “afraid” to Win!  I’ve watched a lot of basketball lately, and I see a lot of teams lacking confidence which directly results in an inability to score.  (Please see last 2 minutes of Suckeyes – Sparty game on Sunday afternoon...  Suckeyes couldn’t buy a free throw even though the refs kept handing out fouls like candy and Sparty was allergic to the basket  on their end missing all 5 of their last attempts!).
This Wolverine team is special.  More so than last year and even the Novak year two seasons ago…And they are led by some very special individuals.  I’m not saying that you should have 4th and 5th year seniors on a team, but it was pretty apparent that having Jordan Morgan on the floor on Saturday is a huge factor.  He is the patient older brother.  He might not be the best player on the floor, but he is wise and he is going to keep you from completely losing your head when things get tight.  And that’s why Michigan has a tremendous chance to go a long way in this year’s NCAA’s.  It’s WHY Michigan has been able to overcome the loss of Burke, Hardaway and McGary. 


Leaders and the Best….are not just words in a song….
Why so sentimental on a Monday?  Dunno….Just hard to believe the regular season is over.  I’ve watched this team and this core for a long time and it’s going to be a different group next year.  At least, we’re not going to have Morgan.  And GRIII is probably gone…Stauskas?  Well, who could blame him if he wants to test the NBA waters?

Let’s get this B1G Tourney rolling and see where the seeding falls in the NCAA’s!
Great Morgan wrap over at

Speaking of the NCAA’s

I’m an NCAA Tournament Nut.  That’s obvious.  I can’t seem to get enough to read or see enough research that might give me that little bit of edge when it comes to picking the 64 games that we are going to have to pick in just 1 WEEK'S TIME!  I want to be prepared and put together the best bracket(s) that I can.  Yes, I’ll probably do more than 1 this year…More on that this week and next week.  But in the meantime, do yourself a lunchtime favor and start clicking on and reading the above links - “Bracket Science” and “Get Smart About Sports Betting” for some really good tourney information….You can thank the MMPG by sending a small appreciation in the form of cash or check after you win the office pool!
In reviewing last year’s road to the 2013 NCAA Championship Game, Michigan had literally choked away the B1G title by losing to Penn State late in the season at HOME (remember that?) and then also losing at home to the Hoosier’s on a last second shot….Then, there were two rather non-memorable games in the B1G Tourney (more on conference tourney theory in a minute) and no one - I mean NO ONE- had Michigan doing much in the NCAA’s…Except for one slappy who shall remain nameless... 

Nope – Can’t do it.  I had Michigan winning the whole thing!  Yep!  Guard play, offensive production (PPP’s), low turnover rate and making them from the Charity Stripe were all stats I couldn’t ignore and let’s face it: I’m a slappy!  But, does this 2013-14 team have that same chemistry?  And can the Guards carry them through? 
In all honesty, I dunno’.  I know that the progress of Walton and LeVert have been nothing short of spectacular.  The prognosticators said there would be “No way” Michigan could maintain the offensive production that the 2012-13 team, especially from the guard position.  WRONG!  Michigan is actually out-scoring last year’s team (still) and has a higher offensive efficiency.  And high OE teams usually win the NCAA tournament over high DE teams (HT:  Bracket Science).

Stauskas is, well….Stuaskas.  Irvin has come along and Morgan and Horford are more than serviceable.  We have THE secret weapon in “Spike” and if RGIII shows up, yeah, this could be a team that gets to the 2nd weekend and then, who knows?  Anyone who believes that they’re automatically in the Final 4 just making it to a 1 seed this season is delusional….. You could have a last minute shot that beats Kansas and a nice romp over an over-rated Gator team….but I digress.   Or am I re-living last year?  Maybe a little of both.  Whatever the case, it’s a wide open tourney for anyone that can slap six wins together…but that is never an easy task.
However, I do think this team “Deserves” a better seed than it will probably get.  I feel that way for a couple of reasons:  The B1G champion should be an auto 1 or 2 seed, period, regardless of non-con record, along with the ACC, PAC12, Big 12, and SEC.  You take the top 4 out of that group and give ‘em the 1 seed (No offense Witchy State).  If you have the weakest record out of the 5, you get the first 2 seed.  Then start seeding everybody else.  I also think Michigan’s “eye” test is one that shows they are a team that can beat anyone and deserve the nod.   And lastly, but with a lot less logic behind it, because I didn’t think Michigan deserved the 4 seed they got last year, even though that ALMOST worked out okay.

The 1988 Kansas Jayhawks received a Number 1 seed with 7, yes, count ‘em, 7 losses in the regular season, but won their conference championship and Conference Tournament. That was back when the committee truly relied on the “eye” test and the RPI (Really Poopy Index) was just coming into vogue – and of course, well, Kansas.  No 8 loss team has ever had a 1 Seed.  Now, it’s a whole lot more difficult to get to the 1 seed with more than 5-6 losses.  There has to be an extremely compelling reason due to the fact that your RPI/BPI (Bigger Poopy Index) will start looking ugly with more than 6 losses and the early losses count the same as later losses…But Michigan might just be able to make that case.  23-7 looks good and if they win 2 (or 3??!!!??) in the B1G Tourney, well, 25-8 or 26-7 is a legit 1 Seed, easy.  However, all this leads to a question:  is the 1 Seed all it’s cracked up to be?
The Rest of the B1G – The B1G Tourney is Set

Your Big Tourney Bracket presented without comment.  Check the game times and basically glue yourself to the remote starting Thursday at noon.

Conference Tourneys are truly a playground of sorts for coaches that are “NCAA LOCKS” in seeding and especially after their team has won the regular season Championship (Michigan).  In this case, JB will be thinking, “Six wins in March and April” and nothing else really matters by the time Friday’s Noon B1G Tourney Game rolls around –against either the Illini or Hoosiers.  I mean, yeah, it’d be nice to win the B1G Tourney, but at this point, I’m believing that Michigan has the 2 Seed locked up.  It would take a lot of explaining if they would drop to a 3 seed, even though I don’t have it that way below right now…(I’m expecting an early tourney exit from a different 2 seed, dropping that team down and moving Michigan up)  So, the thought of three games in three days for his starting line-up will be too much to bear for JB and I wouldn’t be surprised if you see a LOT of Albrecht and the rest of the back-ups in the game early on Friday (regardless of opponent) and possibly a tight game Saturday with the same bunch against either a fully focused Husker (?) squad, but a B1G Tourney Saturday exit is indeed a possibility none-the-less.  Again, having to potentially play at noon the following Thursday makes the extra day off that much more important.  Not saying the back-ups can’t win the thing…Just don’t get upset if JB and the Wolverines don’t put out a “Full Effort.”

Wiscy:  Has moved up to the NCAA 2 seed line in most of the predictor sites.  I don’t think (THINK) losing at Nebraska will take them out of that spot.  Once Lunardi has you in a spot, especially the top 2 seeds in all the brackets, it’s usually pretty reliable.  Again, expect Ryan to pull the same “Back-up” stunt in the tourney.   He can’t get a 1 seed, and it’s probably not that important to win the B1G Tourney at this time.
Sparty:  Wow…I dunno.  What is the excuse du-jour at this point?  Ahhh – here it is:  It seems the Izzo-Troll is infuriated with the REFS regarding the Suckeye game…A 31-10 Free Throw Attempt Advantage to ohio, but the suckeyes couldn’t make them or sparty would have been toast a lot sooner (And sparty was trying to lengthen game anyway so take about 6-7 fouls off). And aren’t Izzo-Troll teams defensive minded and therefor “Foul” prone to begin with?  I have a new name for Sparty:  The MSU Lame Excuses!  Let’s just call them the LE’s for short.  This team was a pre-season top 5 and got as high as #1 before the wheels came off.

However, I’ve said earlier and in previous years that no matter HOW BAD sparty looks going into the tourney, you can never underestimate the power of the Izzo-Troll…In fact, I am more concerned with sparty this year due to the ever increasing size of the chip on their shoulder.  Wherever they end up, there’s going to be higher seeds that will say, “Crap...Izzo” But, again, this could be a one and done in the making, too.  WAY TOO MANY TURNOVERS IN KEY MOMENTS!  Let’s see how they fair in the B1G Tourney and decide next week about the NCAA fate…BTW, would it be a “priceless” moment if somehow Sparty and Michigan met up for a 3rd time this season and we crushed them again in the B1G Tourney(with back-ups)?  I THINK SO!!!!  Even getting another shot at the Suckeyes or Wiscy will be fun…but sparty would make it extra special.  Expect Sparty to take a completely different approach in the B1G Tourney.  Playing the starters the entire time and trying to improve their NCAA Seed line in the process while building up some much needed mo-mo will be the mantra.  If I was a betting man….
Nebraska: Locked up a bye in the B1G tourney.  That speaks volumes and beating Indiana twice in one season is huge and taking care of Wiscy on Senior Night solidified their spot in the NCAA.  And Miles has just made EVERY COACH’S SEAT who’s team finished in the 5 thru 12 spot in the B1G a little hotter right now…I’m talking Matta hot, if you believe the blogs.  The suckeyes are an unhappy group right now.  It’s a race between Miles and Beilien for COY…and I wouldn’t be too upset if Miles got it.
ohio:  Stumbling, bumbling in.  Please recall Suckeyes at Sparty in January…I believe that was a #3 vs. a #5 National match-up….And now the suckeyes are out of the top 25!  However, Matta’s group could still make a run.  Aaron Craft could get hot shooting…but the suckeyes offense is kind of a mess right now.  A projected NCAA 6 seed if there ever was one…And only like one 6 seed has ever made the FF…Not saying the suckeyes can’t, just sayin’ so all those suckeye fans can bemoan THAT little fact…Is Matta’s job secure or are the “Matta-Vest” rumors true?  See Sparty for the B1G Tourney approach.
Iowa:  I commend Iowa’s coaching staff for shutting down Hawkeye players’ Twitter accounts.  Bravo.  If they are not mature enough to handle it, get rid of it altogether.  Perhaps this should have been Izzo-Troll’s strategy vs. coming out and ranting about it openly to the press (as noted by the MMPG!)  Other than that, however, Iowa is going to slide sideways into the Tourney and will probably end up as an 8 or a 9 seed….So much potential, but not on the road to a Championship.  HOWEVA’, if they get a “First out 1 Seed” in the 2nd game that’s beatable….look out!
Minnesota:  Did they play themselves out of the NCAA tourney with too many in conference losses?  They will be playing at full speed in the B1G Tourney for the NCAA autobid….
NCAA Tournament Locks:  Michigan, Sparty, Wiscy, ohio, Iowa, NEBRASKA (yep – I’m calling them a LOCK.  IF they don’t make it, call the President.)
MAYBE In Dayton and needing a couple of B1G Tourney wins:  Minnesota  

Last B1G Teams In:  NONE
Wishing they had two or three more victories right now or hoping for a B1G Tournament run:  NO ONE!!!

Praying to go on a MIRACULOUS 4 Game winning streak (In the B1G Tourney):  PSU, NWU, IU, Illinois and Purdue

Getting down to the proverbial “Nitty Gritty” and the chips are getting stacked in front of the big boys and the other little guys are scrambling for spots. 
Right now, the 4 number 1 seeds will be:
  1.  Florida
  2. Wichita State
  3. Arizona
  4. University of U-Decide (Villanova?  Dook? Syracuse?)
I was going to add the statement “First 1 seed to lose" and then I really started to study the 2 SEEDS!  And 3 Seeds….This could be the year of the better teams getting lower seeds and NO 1 SEEDS MAKE IT to the FF….Is that possible? You bet! 
The 2-4 seeds, in particular order because it DOES matter as we get closer:
2 Seeds:        Villanova, Wiscy, dook (by a thread), Kansas, Virginia, (an early out of any conference tourney for any of these teams and Michigan moves up)

Michigan (2.5 Seed if there ever was one!!!)
3 Seeds:        Iowa State, Creighton, Syracuse,
4 Seeds:        Cincinatti, St. Louis, sparty (?),San Diego State
With literally EVERYONE losing recently on the 2 Seed line, Michigan is sitting on a STRONG 3 seed right now.  All the projected 2 seeds have lost in the last 2 games and Michigan sweeping it’s last 4, well, it’s getting interesting.  Even though I do think a B1G Championship in the Tourney would probably ice a 2 seed (maybe a 1?), that’s a tall order for anyone – Michigan’s truly inexplicable loss to Charlotte in Puerto Rico is what is really dragging them down (Remember that?  Feels like a SEASON ago…).  That and 1 win over either dook or Arizona in Ann Arbor and the 2 seed would be a lock – Maybe even a 1 Seed.….Virginia is probably a 2 seed for reasons mentioned before but that loss to Maryland hurt.  Kentucky is out as a 4 (and probably down to a 6 seed) and I’m prepared for the deluge of Wildcat Nation to rain down upon me…but they are not a 4 Seed.  And then there’s little ole sparty…They just cannot be over-looked even though they have CRATERED at the end of the regular season.  I am leaving them as a 4 because they simply have a better RPI than the Wildcats – No other reason.  Syracuse could continue to fall as they have lost 2 games to RPI > 100 in GT and BC…
So, who does Michigan want to see in their bracket?  Believe it or not, I think it’s lining up well for Michigan if they get the nod I think they are going to get and they fall into the East Region which Lunardi and others have them in…So Milwaukee and then New York.  The Midwest, which would also be sweet, could be Raleigh (SUPER FAN!) and then Indianapolis…that would be awesome!
Wichita, Villanova (?), Arizona, Florida – I think the Shockers are the easiest 1 seed draw which is why I would love to see Michigan get the Midwest nod.  Kansas is also beatable – it won’t be easy, but let somebody else have that glory.  Arizona is tough and we didn’t match up well when they played in Ann Arbor – even though we only lost to them by a bucket.  Let somebody else deal with Florida this year – Donovan is a wild card coach and something tells me they are due, but we did handle them soundly last year.

2 Seeds:  Virginia (gulp), dook, – this is tough because I really DON’T think the committee would put the B1G champ and the highest B1G KEMPOM in the same bracket, so I’m leaving Wiscy out as a potential 2-3 match-up.   There really isn’t a preferred 2 seed at this point, but I’ll take Villanova (if they are the 2) and look at the Creighton tape.  I want no part of Virginia (even though Kempom has them quite low – I think they’re on a roll) and I would probably not be terribly upset with dook.
3 seeds – moot. Syracuse could drop a LOT further, but East Coast bias and well, Boeheim. 

4 Seeds – St. Louis, Cincin, SDSU, sparty:  The Bilikens were a bracket favorite last year (by a lot of pickers – but not THIS picker – I had Oregon in that 12-5 upset pick!) and they have improved this year.  My guess is there will be people picking AGAINST the Bilikens and this might be the year you want to stick with them through the round of 32 and maybe even the Sweet16…more on that when the brackets come out!  Cincin would be fine and I would love to get Kentucky, but I doubt that happens.
Yeah, for now, that would probably be the best 1-2-4 combo for Michigan:

1-Wichita (or Villanova?), 2-Villanova, and 4-St. Louis
All will be revealed Next SUNDAY NIGHT!!!

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