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!!!)  http://www.mlive.com/spartans/index.ssf/2017/03/live_video_mark_dantonio_break.html

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. http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2017/03/27/msu-nassar-sex-abuse-allegations/99701518/

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.  http://www.detroitnews.com/story/sports/college/michigan-state-university/spartans/2017/02/24/linebacker-jon-reschke-leaving-michigan-state/98371232/

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!!!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Who's Doing It Right?

I know most of you have lives and don’t stay glued to either ESPN or the BTN in the wee hours of the night.  However, you have me for that and I can give you my insights into what’s been happening recently. 

Groce and Crean, in that order, got canned as the head basketball coaches from Illinois and Indiana, respectively.  While I kind of get why each school did what they did – Groce’s on court performance just wasn’t cutting it.  He hadn’t sniffed a conference title or an NCAA bid in his time and Illinois and Crean was simply NOT an Indiana (insert “Bobby Knight” here) Man, even though he’d won the B1G twice, been to the Dance several times and also went to a Sweet 16 and an Elite 8.  This season started promising for IU, with wins over Kansas and UNC, but injury to 3 key players (imagine Wilson, Wagner and Walton all going down for Michigan – oh wait, that kind of happened last season!) and you have the inevitable B1G result playing freshmen and not ready for B1G Basketball underclassmen.  Some fan bases would respect the injuries and keep a gut they liked around.  IU cut bait.  In other words, what have you done for me lately and do I like the way you sound in your press conference matters.

But, here’s where things get very different:  Illinois fires their head coach right after the B1G Tourney and tells the assistant to coach the NIT.  Then, RIGHT AFTER OKIE STATE loses to Michigan, the Illini AD (Josh Whitman) gets directly on the phone with Okie State 1-Year coach Underwood (Previous stop Stephen F Austin where he took three teams to the Dance and won a 1st and 2nd round game) and says, “Let’s make a deal.”  Next thing you know, Underwood is at the NIT game that Illinois was playing on Sunday as their next head coach, 2 days after losing to Michigan. 

Now, that’s an extraordinary hire and transition time.  Granted, Underwood was not happy with Okie State’s CYA move of, “We’re gonna hire you at less than comparable Big iiX money, but if you perform, we’ll give you more after your first season.”  Underwood lived up to his part of the bargain getting the Cowboys to the Dance for the first time in a decade, but the Okie Stated AD decided that wasn’t enough and that he couldn’t pay Underwood what he deserved.  Motivation was there and opportunity, in the form of the Illini, knocked.

Indiana, sort of in parallel I thought, pulled an unusual move by firing Crean on the first day of the NCAA Tourney, literally 10 minutes before the first game started!!!  Staying in the Basketball news and letting coaches in the Tourney know that IU was looking.  And by doing that, they owed Crean an additional $3M instead of waiting until July 1st when the buyout would have dropped to $1 (instead of $4M total).  The MMPG looked at that deal and thought:  Well, maybe these two discussed it and Crean said, “I’ll take a little less than what’s owed me and that will give me a chance to land a decent job and Indiana can start talking to their “Ideal Candidates” immediately after they exit the Tourney (just like Illinois) and if their target guy becomes available early (Hot Rumors:  Assistant Sparty Coach Dan Fife who played for IU or Steve Alford, head Coach at UCLA) they can talk to him.  And pretty much everyone is behind those to candidates because they’re former IU players that get how its done in Indiana. 

All Makes Sense…Right???

But THEN Indiana announces they’re hiring a SEARCH FIRM to “Find the Right Guy”. 

 Whiskey – Tango – Foxtrot….

Basketball and the decisions around off season basketball moves fast.  Sometimes the right hire is very apparent and you don’t need a committee to know what the right move and next step is.  If Alford’s your guy and Fife is your next guy, so be it.  Talk to Alford (who’s relationship as UCLA is a little rocky and his son is in his last season) and do the deal.  If that doesn’t happen, then go get Fife.
Indiana shouldn’t need to hire and pay for a search firm to tell them what they already AND SHOULD know if they’re one of the premier Blue Bloods in the land….This reeks and smells a lot like something that would have happened in the “Anti-Christ Period” under BranDictator... 

I dunno.  Sometimes I think people are in charge of stuff just cause someone has to be in charge of stuff.    

Of course, the hubris of serious Indiana fans (who I SWEAR TO GOD are Domer Fans that hang up their Green and Gold and put on Candy Stripes once the Domers are out of it for football season) is amazing, and they believe that IU is still the basketball “Valhalla” for all coaches.  Inside The Hall (blog) has the following list of “potential candidates” and why some would be good and others not so hot….

1 .    Steve Alford – UCLA
2.    Dane Fife – Sparty Assistant
3.    Archie Miller - Dayton
4.    Mike White – Florida
5.    Chris Collins – Northwestern
6.    Rick Pitino – Minnesota
7.    Gregg Marshall – Wichita State
8.    Chris Holtman – Butler
9.    Chris Mack  - Xavier
1. Etc

I think you get the idea.  What do all these coaches have in common?  They all made the Dance this season and some are still coaching into the 2nd weekend.  Sure, it’d be nice to snag any of those guys….

IU thinks it can pluck ANYONE IT DESIRES and they’ll gladly drop what they’re doing where they’re at and pick up the sacred whistle at IU and do their bidding…

It’s gonna be fun to watch…

Monday, March 20, 2017

March Madness IS HERE!!!

How “Mad” exactly is March Madness at this point?  Well, SuperSoakers bearing the “M” logo go on sale at all Michigan locations starting on Tuesday!!!

“Say Hello To My Little Friend!!!”

And Consider:

  1. The “weakest” conference in the tourney (per all the pundits that make these statements based on December Non-Conference results) stated that the B1G was WAY DOWN this season and would be lucky to get a team out of the first weekend.  The B1G sits tied with 3 Teams in the Sweet 16.  And if not for an egregious no call on what was clearly basket interference or goal tending (which ever), Northwestern potentially has a shot at shocking the world and making the Sweet 16 in its first appearance in the Dance…
  2. The Pac 12, which only got 4 teams into the dance, was 1 close loss away from having all 4 of those teams in the Sweet 16.  On top of that, Enfield’s USC team WON 2 Games and almost beat Baylor in what would have been another play-in seed reaching the Sweet 16…
  3. The SEC which was supposed to be Kentucky and everybody else, has 3 teams moving on to the Sweet 16 in Kentucky, Florida, and South Carolina, who, in the SEC tournament lost to the worst Alabama team in history and somehow found a way to beat the mighty Duke Blue Devils in Greeneville, essentially a home game for the dookie faithful.
  4. How bad was the officiating?  If you’ve been paying attention, it was pretty bad.  In the games I watched (pretty much all of them), officiating may have played an outcome in up to THREE GAMES down the stretch.  That’s a lot….
  5. Two (2) 7-Seeds defeated over rated ACC 2-Seeds to reach the Sweet 16:  Michigan and South Carolina.  JB stated earlier in the week that he believed South Carolina was the physically “Toughest” team Michigan had faced all season.
  6. Coach Rick Pitino, ever so gracious, commented that Louisville “Beat Themselves” in the final minutes in the loss to Michigan.  Well, Ricky, as someone that’s watched your team all season, it seems to this observer that you “Beat Yourselves” a lot.  And your guys often checked out of games for minutes at a time.  I frankly believed that Louisville didn’t deserve the 2-Seed in the first place.  Perhaps if you were seeded lower you could have beaten someone else???  Maybe next season…
  7. The Seeding in general has proven to be a mess.  Virginia lost in the 2nd round in the most Virginia way possible (only scored 39 points!!!) and Florida State, a team that many considered “Built for the NCAA Tourney” lost by 30+ in the 2nd round.  This again is the mighty ACC.  Okie State would have been a Sweet 16 team if they hadn’t drawn the “Team of Destiny” Wolverines.  I’m not sure what the committee can do based on data, but clearly, even when one conference is having a “down year”, there needs to be a better distribution of higher and lower seeding for all conferences. 
  8. Perhaps the ACC overachieved all season and is simply under-achieving now or does this conference really suck and are we all just being duped in the regular season?  Probably a little of both?  I need to remember that which is why I’m writing all of this down!!!!
  9. The Big Least only has two teams left:  Xavier and Butler, both teams a lot of people thought would be gone by now.  Will this be another season where 1 Beast team survives the remaining 15 and cuts down the nets?


Emotions get pretty jacked up in the tourney and I know certain coaches say things after a loss.  Pitino, Izzo and Wright all had some rather “Rude” things to say in their post game interviews.  To that I say:  coaches should take a little extra time to calm down before making themselves look like asses….

As a Michigan Fan, I didn’t get nearly enough Louisville tears yesterday as Michigan defeated the Cardinals.  I got a few, but would have enjoyed a whole lot more.  We got a lot of nice shots of Duke tears, which, however you pick your bracket, is always nice.

Speaking of Brackets:  It would seem that the more you know, the more you’re cursed in picking brackets.  Had I just picked a bracket where the teams I hate come up against “tough competition”, I might be looking a lot better right now.  Domers, Dookies, Louisville, and others all lost.  Yeah, I might have one or two teams losing that are still in there, but this was a bad season to go with the ACC. 

Let’s dissect each one with some reasoning and reflection on what we possibly could have done better. 

EAST – Chaos…..If you got all 4 teams in the East Bracket correct, you’re either 1.  Extremely talented in reading between the lines and ignoring all the pundit BS that’s out there.  2.  You’re EXTREMELY talented in ignoring recent games and statistics and like to “ignore the odds” or 3.  You’re just picking teams because you like pretty colors.  Wiscy over Nova should have been a pick I considered much more strongly than I did.  Lots of seniors and extreme discipline.  Wiscy as an 8-Seed in any other region (especially Kansas and Gonzaga) and they’re in my Sweet 16.  South Carolina, however, requires you to be a crystal ball gazer…OR you just won’t pick Duke out of the first weekend.  And based on a majority of Coach K’s results, this is quickly becoming a decent strategy….

WEST – Minor chaos with an “extremely weak end of season” Xavier turning their game up a notch to beat FSU.  After reviewing Xavier, I didn’t even have them beating Maryland…..

MIDWEST – Some are claiming that Michigan’s inexplicable win over Louisville (who, BTW, was 12-0 as a 2-Seed all time), was the upset of the day.   Little did they know about what was about to happen in the East, but clearly, over-seeded Louisville didn’t live up to expectations and played 30-35 minutes of good basketball.  Then they did what Louisville does…Fell into a coma and tried to compensate for that lack of offense with full-court pressure and close to fouling defense that is more or less the Pitino Signature, “Well, I can’t beat these guys so I’ll try to smother them….”  With respect to Purdue beating Iowa State (not a popular pick), Swanigan again showed that the POY in the B1G can accomplish a lot.  But Painter is going to need more than Caleb going up against Kansas or it’s Sparty disaster all over again.

South – UNC was nearly an upset victim, but this is the chalkiest bracket left.  If you were going to give me a chance to re-pick what’s left, I think I’d leave everything just about the way it is. 

However, after everything is said and done, I will say that everyone that made the Sweet 16 is pretty deserving and earned it on the court.  Louisville didn’t “Lose”; Michigan earned it.  As did the Gamecocks and everyone else who’s still dancing.  Winning two in March means a lot more than winning 10 in a row in the regular season. 

More on Michigan:  If you’ve been reading me all along, you know there’s things I like in Tourney teams:  Point Guard Play, Low fouls, OFFENSE that is adjustable and will take whatever the other guy is giving, and an ability to Play Defense, but defense ain’t everything.   Michigan has all of that and they are peaking at the right time.  Anyone who says Michigan’s Beilein shouldn’t or can’t be uttered in the same breath as Izzo (hell, I’ll even say Williams, Krzyzewski, and Calipari in that sentence), you’re nuts.  He gets more out of less and gets way more out of them at the end of the season than anybody. And isn’t “building your way towards March” the way good coaches make good things happen this time of year?  Letting teams find themselves…losing tough games in order to regroup and come together with a focused goal in mind?  I’ll take Beilein any day…

When I look at who’s left, right now, there’s only about 4 teams that scare me:  Kansas, and I’m Sorry, Sparty, but you guys made Kansas look REALLY GOOD.  You have to play defense at some point.  Arizona should manage business in the West.  UCLA, just cause I know they can play crappy for a half and suddenly light you up for 5-7 minutes and leave you standing around scratching your nutsack wondering, “Wha’ happn’d??”  And maybe, just maybe, Wiscy.  I think they have what it takes to get by South Carolina.   But at this point, every Sweet 16 team is thinking, why not us?  Even Vegas has the Wolverines (now) in the middle of the pack (18-1) with the current odds to win the Title.


And this guy was smart enough to throw some serious scratch down on Michigan to win the entire thing!!!

Regardless, I can’t remember (well, okay, 2013) when I’ve had this much fun watching Michigan Hoops!  Enjoy the ride cause it can end any time!!!