Tuesday, December 30, 2008

UM vs.Wisco: The Measuring Stick Game

Hope everyone had a good holiday. After spending time with family, friends, and getting chastized for showing up unannounced to a women's basketball game (more to come on the next post), I feel refreshed and ready to get back to blogging.

The title says it all. This next game is the measuring stick for how the Wolverines have progressed since the Duke game. Wisconsin might not have shot out to the start some people thought they would back in November, but Bo Ryan always puts out a disciplined team. As many people have written (including our friend Brian from MGoBlog), the Wolverines have not played any significant teams in the last 3 weeks. Teams like EMU, Oakland, and FGCU have allowed Michigan's RPI to gradually slide, putting them in an interesting position if the start to their conference season isn't good. If UM gets off to a rocky start, the game against UConn late in the season could become crucial.

Speaking of UConn, the Huskies committed the one huge mistake I was hoping wouldn't take place until AFTER the Wolverines traveled to Storrs: getting blown out at home by a quality team. In last night's game against Georgetown, Greg Monroe introduced himself to NBA Lottery teams by making 7-ft UConn center Hasheem Thabeet look like Manute Bol. Thabeet looked slow and out of place all game as Monroe showcased some nice low post moves and took Thabeet away from the hoop in order to drain 15-ft jumpers at will. Expect Thabeet's draft status to drop like a rock while Monroe just shot himself into the conversation of potential Top 5 picks.

What's this mean for UM? Michigan now doesn't have the element of surprise of being able to go in and hit UConn in the mouth unexpectedly. UConn is a talented and deep team and seemed to underestimate the Hoyas. Jim Calhoun is too good a coach to let that happen again this season. So, the road trip to Storrs might've just got a little harder. The silver lining: Hasheem Thabeet is an awful defender when forced to guard a man outside the paint. All I could think of while watching Monroe hit jumper after jumper was how reminiscent this was of DeShawn Sims against Brian Zoubek of Duke. If Sims can consistently hit the 15-17 ft jumper from the wing, Michigan might not need to worry too much about its RPI after this game.

OK. Back to Wisconsin...

"The Badgers are not who we thought they were"... to say the least. The Badgers come in at 9-3 having lost to every quality team they scheduled (Marquette, Texas, and UConn). Their best win came against Va Tech on a last second hanging-runner to beat the Hookies by 2. While this team is lead by some experienced players (Trevon Hughes, Joe Krabbenhoft, and Marcus Landry) they haven't lived up to their billing as a top 3 team).

"And if ya don't know, now ya know:" DeShawn Sims was named B10 POW this week. Sims hasn't gotten a lot of recognition so far by the mainstream media. I'll assume it's because he is undersized at the center position and the conference has some legitimate centers putting up decent numbers already this season (i.e. Suton of MSU). However, Sims is averaging almost a double-double (17 pts and 9 rebs) while being the first Wolverine in 30 years to post a 20-20 game earlier this month against FGCU. Sims has been nothing short of spectacular for a team who desperately needs a consistent rebounder. While they've shot double digit three point totals in the past couple games (the record setting performance of 16 vs EMU followed by 14 against OU), if those shots don't fall consistantly, Sims' work on the glass becomes far more essential. Look for him to have a distinct advantage in quickness over the lead-footed Krabbenhoft.

Long Distance Defense: This could ultimately decide the game. While Sims and Gibson will try to establish a low-post presence, Michigan needs to do a better job of defending the 3-pt shot against a team that likes the long-line almost as much Beilein. Wisconsin G Jason Bohannon torched Texas for 4-7 beyond the arch in a loss in Madison last week. Bohannon is a lot like Michigan's Douglass and Novak: A young, country boy that can go on a tear if given time and space. Michigan did a good job of defending OU's Eric Kangas (another deep threat) in the first half at the Palace last week, but lost track of him in the 2nd half and Kangas was able to get OU within 6 points in a hurry. Kangas and Blake Cushingberry (aka the Lost Gotti brother...Google it) were able to get wide open looks at ease once Michigan eased up. That can't happen or all five players (yes, even Krabbenhoft) could get on a run from deep.

"It feels good to be back": Michigan finally gained some mainstream media love after Memphis fell out of the Top-25, allowing Michigan to sneak in at 24 (they currently reside at 23 according to the AP poll). ESPN's bracketologist Joe Lunardi put the Wolverines in the field of 64 last week, giving them an 8-seed and facing Maryland in the 1st round. Also, Dana O'Neil wrote a nice piece on the Manny Harris-John Beilein relationship for ESPN.

Myself, Stu, and Rushi will have the call live from Crisler Arena at 2 pm. Click here to listen for what should be a great game. Post-game wrap to follow the game.

MLB Network Launches January 1st

It was only a matter of time, wasn't it?  The MLB becomes the last of the major pro sports leagues to create its own channel. For the most part, unlike what was seen with the NFL Network and the Big Ten Network, the MLB Network will be widely available, as it will appear in more than 50 million homes when it launches.  To Bud Selig's credit, he elected for the cable companies to have a sizable ownership stake in the MLB Network, allowing the channel to be shown on basic cable on Comcast, DirecTV, Time Warner, Cox, etc.  The only cable holdouts are AT&T U-Verse and Dish Network.  I happen to think MLB Network will be the most successful of the television speciality channels because of the daily aspect of the game.

On Jan. 1st at 6pm, MLB Network launches with "Hot Stove", featuring special guest World Champion Jimmy Rollins.  The one-hour offseason staple show will be followed by a re-air of the famous Game 5 of the 1956 World Series, where Don Larsen threw a perfect game. Additional programming features 16 World Baseball Classic games in March, 26 Thursday night MLB "Game of the Week" telecasts during the course of the season, and "MLB Tonight" from April-October.  "MLB Tonight" (similar to ESPN's "Baseball Tonight") will air from 6pm until 2am from Monday-Saturday and include live-look ins, analysis and highlights.

On-air personalities include: Matt Vasgersian, Harold Reynolds, Al Leiter, Barry Larkin, Mitch Williams, Dan Plesac, Tom Verducci, Jon Heyman
*There is strong speculation that Bob Costas (NBC/HBO) will join MLB Network in an on-air role. Costas will conduct an interview with Yogi Berra & Don Larsen after the Jan. 1 air of the 1956 World Series.

Michigan 77 NC Central 57: Not Worth It

As expected, Michigan defeated North Carolina Central rather comfortably on Monday night. Manny Harris had 29 points and 16 rebounds, while DeShawn Sims added 17 and LLP 10 points.  NC Central is honestly the worst basketball team I have watched on TV this year.  Still, Michigan led by less than 10 at the half.  Let's not worry about who starts, but Beilein needs to play Grady, LLP, Manny, Novak, and Sims the majority of the minutes.  The 20 point win was the 10th of the season for Michigan, as many as they had for the entire season a year ago.  Remember: at one point Michigan was 5-17 last year; this season the Wolverines are 10-2.  19 games remain on the schedule, eighteen in conference play and one at UConn in February.

Why was the win not worth it?  Despite improving the win total to double digits, Michigan's RPI and SOS plummeted.  The Wolverines RPI is presently 37 and SOS is 89.  Prior to the NC Central game, Michigan had a RPI inside the top 20 and SOS in the top 40.  The NC Central game caused the two numbers to drop due to their own 0-14 record and RPI of 333 (out of 343 Division I teams).  While the strength of the Big Ten and UCLA's continued improvement should enable Michigan's SOS to improve overtime, this one game took a significant toll. There is no question the Wolverines would be better off today with 9 wins and a RPI of 17 than their current ranking.  With Michigan likely to be a NCAA tournament bubble team, their RPI and SOS will have a much greater emphasis than their ranking in the polls (#23 in AP this week). Furthermore, Michigan plays 3 games this week vs. NC Central, Wisconsin and Illinois. Why was there the need to play NC Central on Monday, just 36 hours before a very important and difficult game against Bo Ryan and the Badgers.  Add to that the chance of injury (DeShawn Sims nearly) and you have to question the scheduling of the NC Central game.

What If Scenario: If Michigan goes .500 in Big Ten play (9-9), which is easier said than done, along with a loss at #2 UConn, the Wolverines would be at 19-12.  Add one win and one loss in the Big Ten Conference Tournament and Michigan finishes the year at 20-13.  Assuming their RPI remains inside the top 40, Michigan plays well in their final 10 games, and adds 2 more high-profile wins (either Michigan State, Purdue, UConn, Minnesota, and/or Wisconsin), it is hard for me to imagine Michigan would be left out of the tournament. No other bubble team is going to have 2 non-conference wins (UCLA and Duke) as strong as Michigan.

Up Next: Big Ten opener vs Wisconsin- Wednesday at 2pm 

Monday, December 29, 2008

Michigan vs North Carolina Central

Michigan will host NCCU tonight with tip scheduled for 7:06. To listen to WCBN's coverage of the game click here. The broadcast will also be archived and available for on-demand listening at the same link.

NCCU comes to Crisler sporting an 0-14 record in their second season competing in Division I. With a win tonight, Michigan will equal their total wins from last season (10).

Monday, December 22, 2008

Michigan Ranked #24

It probably took a week or two longer than it should have, but Michigan is ranked 24th in the AP Poll that was released earlier this afternoon.  I continue to disregard the Coaches Poll, where Michigan is 28th, receiving 38 votes.  Believe it or not, five Big Ten teams are ranked: Purdue 10th, Michigan State 11th, Ohio State 15th, Minnesota 23rd and Michigan 24th.  With Wisconsin, Penn State, Northwestern and Illinois also off to good starts in non-conference play, the Big Ten will likely send 5 or 6 teams to the Tournament, an afterthought when the season began.  More importantly, UCLA and Duke (2 teams that Michigan beat) are playing very well right now.  Also, Michigan's RPI has been holding steady at #15 earlier today (12/22).  

Frankly, Michigan has played a pretty uninspired 2nd half tonight against Florida Gulf Coast. After leading by 20 at the half (a half in which DeShawn Sims had 13 rebounds), Michigan managed just 15 points in the first 15 minutes of the 2nd half.  A win is a win, I guess, but this was ugly.  To say Michigan relied on the three-point shot is quite an understatement, as they attempted 42 in the game. The Wolverines shot just 23-64 for 35.9% as a team from the field. DeShawn led the way with 20, Grady had 14, LLP 10 and Manny managed just 6 points.  In his much-anticipated return, Reed Baker was 4/12 from the field for 16 points for FGC. 
Final Score: Michigan 76 -Florida Gulf Coast 59

Next up: Michigan vs NC Central on December 29th at 7pm.  A great chance to start 10-2 in what is the final tune-up before Big Ten conference play. 

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Just a reminder that we will have the Michigan-OU game LIVE on our YouCastr site.  Matt Boyer and Mike Silverman will have the call from the Palace of Auburn Hills at 4PM.  To access the game, click on our YouCastr link on the right hand margin of our page.  We hope you'll tune in for what should be a great game.

Friday, December 19, 2008

UM-Oakland Preview: Mid-Major Trap?

Due to the massive amounts of snow that were dumped on Southeast Michigan (and much of the Midwest), I spent most of the day digging my car out from underneath all the powder.  The roads sucked and getting to Crisler on time for the Women's bball match-up was not happening.  However, props to Stu and Kyle or giving us our first Women's Bball experience of the season (To hear this game: Click on the YouCastr link to the right and find the UM-Cincy match-up for all the highlights).

On to the Preview... Oakland University, out of the Summit League, is located in Rochester, MI.  This is their 10th season as a Division 1-A program, making the jump in 1998.  Largely a commuter school, Oakland has employed only one head coach the last quarter century. OU's coach Greg Kampe has been an institution for their Men's Basketball program.  He's been the head man for 24 years and received his 400th victory this season.  While many notable mid-majors have pretty loyal fan bases, Kampe has never able to establish a big following during his tenure. 

Fun Fact: Kampe's father was a O-lineman for the Wolverines 1947 Rose Bowl and National Championship squad.

The Grizzlies' Peak:  Oakland is 7-5 coming off an OT road win against Wisconsin Green-Bay and will begin the 1st of what looks to be their toughest three week stretch of the season. The Grizz are riding a four game win streak, but will need all the momentum they can get for their upcoming slate of games. They will play Michigan, Eastern Mich, and Michigan State next week, with both the Spartans and Wolverines traveling to the Palace for the match-up.  Oakland's biggest win came against Oregon in Eugene earlier this year.  However, this mercurial team has also sustained miserable loses to teams like Iowa and Southern Utah.

Rise and Shine:  The Wolverines are well rested, having had the past week off for final exams.  They beat a weak EMU in a battle in which neither team had their head coach.  However, John Beilein returned to practice this week and looks to pick-up right where his team left off in a 30 point drubbing of the Eagles.  Beilein's team looked good without him, so don't expect the time without their coach to affect the Wolverines too much.

OOOOOOOOO CAN-A-DA!: Well, it took 3 years and 9 games to see the Jevohn Shepard be the player everyone thought he would eventually become.  Shepard played a complete game on both ends of the court.  And his timing couldn't be better: OU's leading scorer, Eric Kangas, is a perimeter scoring threat who can find his own shot coming off screens.  Shepard's defense, length, and athleticism could be used as a shut-down option on Kangas.

Speaking of Shepard: We need to STOP calling this guy Air Canada.  Vince Carter? Sure.  He is Air (Fill in the city name).  That's fine.  Brent Petway? OK.  Air Georgia is fine, because that guy 
did nothing else but dunk.  But let's find a better nickname for Shepard.  Yes, he is athletic and has good jumping ability... but the kid has not dunked on ANYONE yet.  Nor does he have a career defining dunk.  When people are able to say "Oh yeah... that was the game where Shepard dunked on (insert team name here)" we can then bring it back.  

The Twine Twins:  The freshman sharp shooters have been making gradual progress, so I have decided to graduate them to their next nick name. Why? Because at times, it seems like these kids never hit the rim.  While both have played well individually, Zack Novak and Stu Douglass haven't both played well in the same game yet.  When Douglass seems to have played big in games, Novak seems to have disappeared.  Same with Novak (playing well against MD, and Duke) and Douglass vanished.  Could this be the game where we see both come together to play well instead of being interchangeable parts?  If so, Michigan will see their three-point total hit the teens for the second straight game.

Super Sims:  No one has been able to stop DeShawn Sims this season.  He has been the biggest player in the biggest spots or this team.  Manny Harris might be the one with the better scoring average, but Sims has hit the biggest shots (Savannah State) and been the best player in a career defining game (Duke).  He has had to play the 5 spot, and has faced much larger front lines.  OU's front line boasts the 6'10 Dan Waterstadt  and 6'11 Kieth Benson.  Benson leads all Grizzlies with 6 boards a game.  While neither team seems to
emphasize crashing the boards, Michigan will need Sims to stay out of foul trouble early in order to keep OU of the boards. 

Faces in the Crowd:  Expect Michigan fans to show up nicely to this game. While the game is only 5 minutes away from Oakland's Rochester campus, expect alumni and students alike to show up in droves for the Maize and Blue.  

For those not able to make it: FSN will carry the game at 4pm.  Mario Impemba (the Tiger's play-by-play man and Rod Allen's better half on the FSN's baseball coverage) will have the call and does an excellent job in basketball as well.  I'm actually kind of surprised the BTN didn't call Impemba's number as one of their broadcasters for basketball coverage.  I think he'd be a great guy to have as like a B or C team guy behind guys like Gus Johnson and Mike Reghi.

UPDATE:  One big story-line not mentioned in the original post is the primere of Laval Lucas Perry in the Beilein offense.  The reason I haven't written much about it is due to the fact that I don't buy what people are selling about this kid. There is a lot of hype surrounding this guard and there has been for a while.  UMHoops.com has been carrying the storyline for the better part of a week now.  While I think LLP will play a part in the offense, I'm not buying the hype of this kid being a perennial scorer.  Not yet anyway.  I watched him in person when he played at Flint Powers and wasn't overly impressed.  And that was against Catholic School League Teams!  Not to mention, LLP had the benefit of sitting out on the perimeter to hit open jumpers while teams doubled Powers' 7-ft Center Tom Herzog (now with MSU).  While his jump shot was smoothe, I question his ability to get his own shot.  Tomorrow should give people a lot of insight into the type of player he will be and how far he has come in just over a year.

HOWEVER: FSN carries the game on a slight delay.  For unfiltered, LIVE coverage, click the YouCastr link to the right at game time because we will be carrying this game right HERE.  Special Guest broadcaster Mike Silverman (broadcaster for the Daytona Cubs of the Chicago Cubs Single A affiliate) will join me on the call.   

Like the Blog? Got A Comment? E-mail us at goblue232@gmail.com 

Listen: Michigan Women's Basketball LIVE Tonight

Listen to Carly Benson and the Michigan Wolverines take on the Cincinnati Bearcats tonight with WCBN's Stu Zaas on YouCastr.com.

Week 16: NFL Playoffs Scenarios

Week 16 kicked off last night with a comeback win by MVP-to-be Peyton Manning and the Colts over Jacksonville, and while that game cemented the Colts as a playoff team in the AFCs, seven of the 12 playoff spots in the NFL are still up for grabs.

...it'll be six playoff spots available if denver beats buffalo in denver or san diego falls in tampa bay...

With that having been said, Yahoo! has created a "Playoff Scenario Generator" that allows you to pick the winner of each game in Week 16 and Week 17. Click the link above to check out what your team has to do to reach the promised land.

...the saturday night ravens-cowboys game will set a lot of things in motion. the cowboys need to win to hold off the bucs another week before the 'boys-eagles game in a week. a ravens win would allow them to hold off the remnants of the afc east in the race for the final wild card spot in the afc until week 17. and, to make a long story short, the loser of the jets-dolphins game in week 17 will need a ton of help to make the playoffs in the afc, regardless of what happens this week, and the bucs will need to win out and hope that the cowboys lose a game, while the eagles hope that the bucs or falcons slip up, allowing the eagles to control their own destiny. buckle up, folks...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Michigan Defensive Coordinator Shafer Resigns

According to the Detroit Free Press, Scott Shafer has resigned from his post as Michigan defensive coordinator.

...here comes the clamor that rich rodriguez forced shafer out. click the above line to the detroit free press article to read the quotations from both rodriguez and shafer on the split...

Shafer, much maligned in the media throughout the season, led one of the worst Michigan defenses in the school's history. They allowed 28.9 points per game, over 5 points per game more than any Michigan team had in a season since statistics were kept in college football (1936).

Shafer, who had served as a coordinator at Stanford, Western Michigan, and Northern Illinois, was billed as an aggressive strategist, but Michigan finished the season with a porous 29 sacks. Many attribute Shafer's poor, and often absent, blitz packages as a primary reason for the 366.92 yards per game allowed by Michigan, who ranked 68th in the nation in total defense.

The 2008 campaign was made worse by the fact that Michigan's defense entered with high expectations, and was projected as the unit which could carry a team running a new offensive system under head coach Rich Rodriguez. The Michigan defensive line returned in full from 2007, alon with Donovan Warren and Morgan Trent at corner back and Obi Ezeh at middle linebacker.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

UM-EMU: School's Out

Well, classes aren't out just yet, but with some kids already making the trek home for the holidays, it is time for Wolverine Basketball to start their holiday schedule. First Up: The Ypsilanti Eagles from just down Washtenaw Ave. Eastern Michigan comes in off a 20-pt win over Wayne State at EMU. They are 2-6 with one of those losses coming against Purdue to the tune of a 30 pt drubbing. Purdue beat EMU by 30, but lost to Duke by almost as much. Michigan beat that same Duke team last week. Do the math.

Not good at math? OK, Michigan will win. Easy. Think Ben Cronin, except for the entire second half. Seeing as he is about to be res-shirted, might as well get him 3 months worth of minutes.

(Sidenote: a friend of mine mentioned that Ben Cronin is easily at the top of Beilein's "Wait! Don't Shoot!!!" list. Seeing as he is about to be redshirted, Anthony Wright will go back to taking his rightful place atop this throne).

Flying Dangerously Low: EMU is going through a tough season. Last week, they lost their coach to a school imposed 3 game suspension after he allegedly punched a fan after a loss to UDM. I guess if i realized my team was awful and I lived in Ypsilanti, I'd want to hit someone too. But in all seriousness, what possess a grown man to hit a student? The shame in all this is that it was not captured on film. It would've been the most viral video clip out of Washtenaw Co. since Kevin Borseth's rant.

Bueller....Bueller....Bueller: With everyone going home, the cold weather, and the competition being really poor, I'm interested to see how many people show up to these next four games. Earlier tonight on Game of the Week (every Friday 7-10pm on wcbn.org), I agreed that the Wolverines could come out of this stretch being 10-2 heading into the Big Ten season. If they can do that, they are setting themselves up very nicely for a possible Big Dance invite. Beat UConn on the road and this team could make the tourney by just showing up to each Big Ten game from then on. A big part of the process is getting fans to show up in droves. These next four games are free, but will it be enough for kids to show up? And how many people would you expect to show up to these games, much less the Women's Bball games over break?

I already referenced Borseth and I just referenced his team again so its time to show them some love: Michigan Women's Basketball is cruising right now! Already beaten a couple of ranked teams and putting together a pretty solid season. Carly (Benson) and Co. did pretty well last year and are looking to improve on the NIT run they made last year. Myself and Stu will be broadcasting next Friday's home game vs Cincy and we'll have something up on the state of Women's Basketball shortly after the game).

...Whoa. What just happened? I passed out. Wait, did I just talk about women's hoops on the blog? I need to stop blogging at 3 am.....

Anyways, back to Beilein's team. Michigan should be expected to cruise through these next four games, as none of these teams are expected to be competitive or make the tournament (Oakland, being the only team with an outside chance if they carry the Summit league). Oakland at the Palace might be tough because it is 5 minutes away from their campus. Still, expect the crowd to be 75-25 in Michigan's favor.

To all the students: Good luck with exams, and check back here over the break as we will be giving you recaps and previews to all the games you might miss while on holiday. That's right: We don't have a life so you can enjoy yours by reading Maize and Blog.

If all goes according to plan, each of those games can be heard HERE through the WCBN sports stream or through our YouCastr link to the right.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

JJ Putz on the Move

Former Michigan pitcher J.J. Putz is the centerpiece of a three-team, 12-player trade announced late last night. Putz joins the New York Mets, presumably as a set-up man for the recently signed Francisco Rodriguez. Putz, an All-Star in 2007 with 40 saves, missed time last season due to elbow and ribcage injuries, but finished the year 6-5 with a 3.88 ERA and 15 saves. Putz figures to be a major part of the Mets revamped bullpen after Mets GM Omar Minaya sent RHP Aaron Heilman to Seattle and RHP Joe Smith to Cleveland in last night's deal.

...i'd imagine mets owner and michigan graduate fred wilpon will be pleased that his team is trading a heilman, a notre dame standout, for putz, a trenton, michigan native...

Putz was 7-4 with a 3.71 ERA as a starter for Michigan in 1999 before joining the Mariners organization later that year.

Monday, December 8, 2008

College Basketball Scores

Quick break from studying... 2 interesting scores from tonight.

(1) Georgetown 100-Savannah State 38.  Whoa.  Man, thank god Michigan won that game.

(2) Eastern Michigan 67-Wayne State 47.  Win #2 for EMU on the year.  Brandon Bowdry had 19 points and 7 rebounds.  I don't see win #3 coming Saturday at Crisler.

*** Thoughts on Michigan not being ranked: What's the big deal? Only 2 teams from 20-25 in the polls lost this past week. Even if polls mattered (which they don't), 64 teams make the tourney, not 25 right?  Unlike college football, where the polls make up two-thirds of the BCS, the college basketball polls (AP and Coaches) have no bearing... I repeat ZERO INFLUENCE on the NCAA tournament selections. The only ranking that matters is RPI, where Michigan is currently 15th.  Also, Michigan has a SOS of 5.  Warren Nolan explains well.  Finally, how is Evansville's RPI #4, with the #1 SOS?  They are 3-1 vs. division one teams and have played Austin Peay, Buffalo, Ball State and Butler.  Huh?

UPDATE: Michigan's RPI is now #13 and SOS is #3 (as of 12/11)

Michigan vs Duke Highlight

The much anticipated Michigan/Duke highlight has finally arrived. Click here to relive the monumental upset!

Final WCBN College Picks Standings after Week 15

Congrats to Rushi and Seid with 5-0 weeks (if only Hawaii held on Rushi).  Stu wins the regular season championship, we'll start from scratch for the bowl picks this Friday.  Here's the final standings:

1 Stu         (31-18-1):  45 pts
2 Rob        (34-26-1): 42 pts
3 Rushi     (30-20-1): 41 pts
4 Seid       (28-25-1):  31 pts
5 JK           (24-25-1): 23 pts
6 Wiggles (20-25-1): 15 pts
7 Tobin     (21-28-1): 14 pts
8 Matt      (10-9):       11 pts
9 Bill         (16-23-1):  9 pts
10 Jeremy (17-27):     7 pts
Christian (4-1): 7 pts
Nick (3-2): 4 pts
Andrew (6-9): 3 pts
Kevin (2-3): 1 pt
Mike (1-4): negative 2 pts 

Saturday, December 6, 2008

UM/Duke Recap: Everyone On The Bandwagon!

A packed house at Crisler. Top 5 opponent. National TV.

In a type of game that they routinely struggled with in the past, the Wolverines rose to the occasion as they beat Duke at home for the first time since 1997.  This was their second time beating the 4th ranked team this year (UCLA @ MSG last month) and now boast one of the best non-conference resumes in the country.  It was the type of win that teams wish they had when they are one of the last few teams left out of the Big Dance in March.

Side note: Give the Men's Basketball program a lot of credit for going back to the yellow jerseys with black shoes/socks.  It was as close a respectful nod to the Fab Five as we have seen in quite some time, and the closest thing Michigan has with regards to a throw-back look.  We might not see the Fab Five prominently displayed in the arena, the move was a great idea that a lot of fans enjoyed.  It showed this program had not forgotten its rich history and storied rivalry with another historic program.

A couple things to take away from the win:

Brick by Brick: Duke shot 2-18 from 3pt range in the first half and, at one point were 4-28 from beyond the arc.  Kyle Singler went 1 for 9 BY HIMSELF!  Even Anthony Wright was telling him "Man, your shot selection really needs to be better." Duke is notorious for establishing a low-post presence and kicking it back out to the wings for a 3-pt shot.  Beilein's quirky 1-3-1 completely shut down the wings, and Duke was forced to take outside shots from well beyond the arc.  While they were able to find their rhythm down the stretch, it was "too little too late" for the Blue Devils.  Couple that with the fact Michigan shot 44% from long-range and Duke was doomed.

Also, Michigan did a terrific job on the glass.  They managed to out-rebound Duke 35-34 and limited 2nd chance opportunities to only 10 the entire game.  Keep in mind, this is a team that couldn't out-rebound a GLIAC team a few weeks ago.   Michigan has done a great job in adjusting their game week-to-week and Coach Beilein deserves a lot of credit for this.  The system is working.

Calm, Collected and..."Oh, @#$&!!!! We are down by 7"... It was interesting to watch Duke's demeanor change from the beginning of the game and how they reacted in the second half.  For much of the first half, Duke  looked poised and calm running their offensive sets ( Coach K remained in his seat until the 9 minute mark in the 1st half).  However, in the second half, Duke looked rushed after Michigan made a run coming out of a timeout late in the second half with about 6 minutes left.  The knock against Duke (as it has been with storied programs, like Michigan football) is that they show up and sometimes expect teams to wilt because of their reputation.  It's this lack of focus that cripples them when their opponent hits them in the mouth.  Consider this game the "round-house righthand" to Duke's jaw.

However, I have a lot more respect for Coach K after today than I did before.   I know people hate on him and Duke the same way people hate on the Yankees, but I have a new found respect for him. In hearing him speak to the media afterwords, he talked about how great the Crisler fans were and how proud Michigan should be for boasting not only a great team, but also a great academic program.  He's a class act and is definitely deserving of his place as one of the greats of all-time.

The 3rd Shooter:  One of Michigan's biggest problems this season has been their inability to find scoring from Sims and Harris.  Today, that issue was solved by Zack Novak's 14 pts and 4-7 3pt off the bench.  At times, Novak showed signs of brilliance by hitting bomb after bomb whether it was coming off a screen or in transition.  Novak played well and he needed to, especially after Stu Douglass got two quick fouls, definantly pouted to Coach Beilein,  and decided to mail-in the rest of the game.  It'll be interesting to see how Douglass responds after his 2nd straight sub-par game and whether or not Novak's performance, and recent play, warrants a starting spot against EMU.  

Speaking of starters, I really liked Beilein's decision to start Senior Jevohn Shepard instead of Wright.  Wright's on-the-ball defense was great, but Shepard's athleticism and ability to rebound was a real advantage against Duke.  It also eliminated any chance of Wright getting trigger happy and "heat-checking" five times before he realizes he has totally taken his team out of the game. Shepard gave Michigan another athletic body to throw at Gerald Henderson, who had one spectacular put-back in the first half and then disappeared.  Credit Shepard for kidnapping Henderson's game (and, at times, doing the same to Singler).

Sims' Meteoric Rise:  I still can't figure out whether John Beilein was trying to motivate Sims by bringing him off the bench to start the season, or if Sims was really that bad in the pre-season as to warrant playing under Zach Gibson for 5 games.  Either way, Sims played one of the best big game performances I have seen in a long time.  Duke had no answer for this guy.  They threw Zoubek at him, and Sims hit the jumper he was given.  If it was Singler or Thomas, he used a variety of nice low-post moves (including a nice lefty hook that could be a weapon if developed properly).  Sims had a swagger in his step, and at one point, looked like he was about to flash the famous "I don't know what's going on" shrug that Jordan used on the Blazers in the early 90's.  A career day, a big win, and a statement to all those who thought Manny Harris was the only All-Conference player on this team.

Here they come... :  It was a sold out crowd of over 13,000 people at Crisler, many of whom hadn't been there since the last time Michigan beat Duke.  In talking with an alum I happened to be sitting next to during the game, he told me about how today's crowd was nothing compared to how crowded Crisler would get when the Fab Five would play.  It didn't matter if it was Duke or Little Sisters of the Poor, he talked about how students would look forward to basketball just as much as football season and how much fun the games were.  This made me feel sorry for student fans who have come and gone in the past ten years without having experienced what that feels like.  While today's crowd was great, I'm not sure how many people will be back until Michigan meets MSU in a few months.  However, a ranking will certainly help their chances at consistently filling Crisler.  This, plus the fact that students are now aware they can experience the rest these games for free (sans MSU), should help the Wolverines get a healthy student turn-out each week.

I've previously said that Crisler's crowd could help Michigan account for a few big wins this season if enough people and students showed up.  I'm not sure wins get any bigger than the one we saw today.

Friday, December 5, 2008


For the 2nd time in a little more than 2 weeks, Michigan Basketball is set to face #4 and unbeaten Duke. Our LIVE coverage from sold-out Crisler Arena begins at 3:20pm, with the tip-off slated for 3:32pm. Rob Salaman, Andrew Seid, Rushi Vyas and Matt Boyer will be on hand for the call. Click on the link below and then the WCBN Sports Stream. GO BLUE!!!

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Well, much closer than I thought.  The ACC wins it for a 10th straight year, 6-5... let's recap.

Game #1: Wisconsin 74 Virginia Tech 72
The only game on Monday night saw Virginia Tech make a valiant comeback that fell just short in the final few minutes at home versus the Badgers. Trevon Hughes made a floater in the lane with less than a second to go to break a 72-72 tie.  As usual, Wisconsin is very well-coached by Bo Ryan and should be a top 3 Big 10 team by the end of the season.  Va Tech, meanwhile, is likely the 6th or 7th best team in the ACC, putting itself squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble.  The favored Badgers gave the Big 10 a 1-0 lead in the challenge after night one.

Game #2: Boston College 57 Iowa 55
Wouldn't the Big Ten like to have the final few seconds of this game back? With Iowa down by 2 on the final possession of the game, Andrew Brommer of Iowa was fouled with 0.4 seconds remaining. However, Brommer, just a 21% free-throw shooter missed the front end of a one-and-one, allowing BC to secure the 2 point win. Both Iowa and BC will be non-factors this year and finish towards the bottom of their respective conferences.  We're now tied 1-1.

Game #3: Ohio State 73 Miami 68
This was the biggest surprise of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.  Miami's best player Jack McClinton was ejected from the game in the first half due to a questionable slap to the face.  In turn, Jon Diebler and Evan Turner led the Buckeyes back from a 14-point deficit to a 5 point win. Miami nearly took out Texas in the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament last year and I expect them to return to the dance this season.  I'm still not quite sure what to make of the Buckeyes, probably a bubble team with about five other Big Ten schools. Big Ten 2- ACC 1.

Game #4: Clemson 76 Illinois 74
Stitt and Booker combined for 34 points to hold off Illinois by 2 points on the road.  In yet another game that went down to the final seconds, the Illini were unable to get a shot off as time expired. Like they showed in reaching the ACC tournament final a year ago, Clemson is very dangerous and is a NCAA tournament-lock.  Illinois, like Ohio State is young and more than likely a NIT team. Big Ten 2- ACC 2.

Game #5: Duke 76 Purdue 60
Man, was this game similar to the Michigan-Duke game at MSG or what?  Like Michigan 2 weeks ago, Purdue was down 8 at the half and anywhere from 10 to 20 in the 2nd half. In what was called the most important game at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette since the Glenn Robinson days, Purdue struggled to find any sort of offensive rhythm against the tough man-to-man defense of Duke. Purdue may really miss Scott Martin (transferred to Notre Dame) off their bench this year.  Still, Purdue will finish at the top of the league with MSU and Wisconsin, while Duke will likely be a #2 seed in the NCAA tournament. ACC 3-Big Ten 2.

Game #6: Minnesota 66 Virginia 56
No surprises here, as this score was expected. Virginia is not very good and will finish towards the bottom of the ACC. Minnesota remains unbeaten, but still has not played a legitimate opponent. ACC 3-Big Ten 3.

Game #7: Wake Forest 83 Indiana 58
The largest mismatch on paper heading into the challenge. Indiana is, well, terrible... nothing more to say there.  They'll finish 11th in the Big Ten.  Wake Forest, meanwhile, is awfully dangerous, led by a big front-court and a terrific freshman guard Aminu. ACC 4- Big Ten 3.

Game #8: Maryland 75 Michigan 70
A game Michigan very easily could have (and probably needed to have) won. The Wolverines outplayed Maryland in the 1st half and should have had greater than a 5-point lead at halftime. Rebounding was a large story (as usual) in the 2nd half, as the Terps got an offensive rebound on half of their shots. Remember: Maryland came into the game ranked dead last (12th) in the ACC in rebounding. Unimpressive: Gibson and Wright.  Impressive: Sims (in 1st half), Shepherd and Novak. Both teams are very similar and will probably win about 16-19 games. With Duke (for a 2nd time) and UConn still on the horizon in non-conference play, the best Michigan can hope for is a 9-4 non-conference record. The most likely scenario: 9-9 in Big Ten play, puts you at 18-13. Add 1 Big Ten Conference tournament win and the Wolverines finish 19-13, probably just a little short of the Tournament.  Hopefully, LLP will make a huge difference starting on December 2oth. Perry really needs to be the 3rd option scoring-wise for Michigan, allowing Harris and Simis to get more rest and Novak, Douglass, etc. to be 4th and 5th options, where they should be more comfortable. ACC 5-Big Ten 3. 

Game #9: Penn State 85 Georgia Tech 83
Penn State may very well be the surprise team in the Big Ten this year. With 3 legitimate scorers, in Battle, Pringle and Cornley, Ed DeChellis may have himself a 18+ win NCAA/NIT team this season. For Georgia Tech, see comments on Virginia above. ACC 5- Big Ten 4.

Game #10: North Carolina 98 Michigan State 63
Seemed on TV at least that MSU would have had a better chance at the Breslin Center in East Lansing. A small crowd at Ford Field that became even smaller in the 2nd half, due to a Tuesday 9:15 start, cold weather, the bad economy, etc. Anyway, I actually thought MSU played decently in the 1st half, but still trailed by double digits. Dick Vitale on the ESPN broadcast said UNC could beat 5 NBA teams this year.  I'm not sure if I would go that far, but if the Heels stay healthy... they definitely are looking at a 1 or 2-loss season and the overall #1 seed. UNC does have 3 players, in Lawson, Ellington, and Hansbrough that will be top 10 picks in this year's draft. MSU definitely has a problem with outside shooting and was clearly missing Goran Suton. ACC 6- Big Ten 4.

Game #11: Northwestern 73 Florida State 59
I sure didn't see this one coming. Florida State was 7-0 heading into the game (who did they beat?). NW broke open a close game at halftime and led pretty comfortably for much of the 2nd half. NW head coach, Bill Carmody, formerly of Princeton, is said to be on the hot seat this season. I think he'll keep his job, but both NW and FSU are NIT (or CBI) bound. Did you known NW has never been to the NCAA tournament? FINAL: ACC 6-BIG Ten 5

NC State was the lone ACC team not to participate.  Overall, a much better showing than anticipated for the Big Ten, the closest since 2005.  The ACC has won in dominating fashion recently, 8-3 the last 2 years.  While the ACC is much more top-heavy, with 5 legitimate NCAA Tournament teams (UNC, Duke, Wake Forest, Clemson and Miami) and probably a 6th (either Va Tech or Maryland), the Big Ten is the much deeper league.  The ACC has some weak teams at the bottom of the conference, in Virginia, NC State, BC, Ga Tech and FSU, that UNC and Duke should defeat by 30+ points twice. The Big Ten has 9 teams, excluding Iowa and Indiana, who could find themselves in a postseason tournament (NCAA, NIT, or CBI).  Enjoy the Pac-10/Big 12 Hardwood Series and the BIG East-Sec challenge (yes, that really exists!).

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Programming Schedule

Good news first: Charlie Weis coming back to Notre Dame (really???)

Friday 12/5: Game of the Week
 -Michigan Hockey vs Michigan State: LIVE on 88.3 WCBN and wcbn.org at 7pm

Saturday 12/6
 -Michigan Basketball vs Duke (part II): LIVE on the WCBN Sports Stream, accessed off wcbn.org at 3:20pm

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Michigan Men's Basketball vs. Savannah State

Listen to WCBN's broadcast of the men's basketball team versus Savannah State live on youcastr.com.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Michigan Basketball vs. Norfolk St. LIVE Tonight

Michigan basketball takes on the Norfolk St. Spartans tonight at 8:30 PM from Crisler Arena. We'll be broadcasting the game live; tune in on YouCastr.com.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Game: Michigan vs. Ohio State

We're in MSG getting ready for Michigan Duke. Trek Across America had a great start last night, and anything's possible.

I don't have much of a preview for the game, because it would probably be ugly.

When O-State is on offense, the advantage should be Michigan's D-Line vs. O-State's O-line which has mightily struggled at times this season. They've gotten better though and in the run game, alot will rely on Ezeh and Mouton coming up to help on the run (Oh yeah, we better have 4 down linemen). If Michigan can't slow down Beanie Wells they don't have a shot. But if they do then it depends on if they can keep contain on Pryor and if the coverage can step it up big time when Pryor rolls out of the pocket (eeekk). Remember stopping the running game will involve slowing down Pryor in addition to Wells, its certainly not all Beanie.

O-State hasn't passed much this season meaning they have produced less yardage than Michigan this year. But Pryor is the highest rated passer in passing efficiency since he doesn't have to throw it much when the running game is going. He has thrown some wobbly passes downfield and there should be a couple tomorrow which Michigan HAS to take advantage of.

When Michigan's on offense, Threet and Schilling are out. Without the threat of Threet playing, I actually think it should help Sheridan relax a little bit (see Minnesota game). Schilling out definitely hurts big time, but luckily O-State's D-line is something Michigan should be able to compete with because they have not been great this season. Laurinaitis and Freeman are awesome and versatile linebackers who are the heart of the defense. Throw in a great secondary led by Jenkins and it doesn't look pretty. Michigan will need some breaks and big plays. Minor, Brown, McGuffie, and Shaw are now expected to play. That should help.

On special teams O-State is solid again and Michigan needs to execute and not turn it over.

If you go objectively, Michigan has no shot. Maybe that's how it'll play out. But in this rivalry, you never know.

Up next is something I found myself typing when I started this. It came from the heart I don't care what anyone thinks. I bleed maize and blue and here's what I hope they play for tomorrow:


You guys have no talent. You guys have no confidence. You guys have no heart. Hell you guys would rather be back home sitting on the couch than right here.

Most of the time this is just coach speak, but not for this team, not today.

The damn Buckeyes are saying it. Spielman says you are just terrible, you are playing with no confidence, no pride. Herbstreit says you just have no talent, no heart, no chance, and would rather not even play Ohio State.

Even Desmond, yeah he loves us, but he even says this isn’t Michigan right now, “This is Michigan Tech.”

This season’s been rough and y’all never thought you’d ever have to go through this. 3-8, empty stands on your senior night, and you all have taken more shit than anyone ever should endure.

When will it stop?

Will it stop 5 years from now? Will it stop 3 years from now? Will it stop next year? Or will it stop right here, right now?

When you all run into that tunnel to the loudest chorus of boos you have ever heard, soak it in one last time. Soak in the “you sucks”. Remember all the shit you’ve heard all season and sit there and let it in sink in one last time.

“You suck! You’re worthless! You’re terrible! Go home!” Bathe in it and keep bathing in it til you take the field.

Remember the season and the pain, remember the frustration, remember the anger. Don’t say a word just let it brew inside of you.

Then at 12:07, when the ball is finally kicked into the air, it’s time.

It doesn’t stop next year, in 3 years, in 5 years, it stops now! And as you run down the field for your first hit of the game is when it stops! Let the frustration out and smack the Bucks in the mouth.

From kickoff to the final whistle, this is the last chance you’ll get to win the one thing you all well deserve...silence!

Each snap will be the hardest hitting, toughest blocking, hardest running, most focused moment of your life. Play by play let all the anger and frustration out. Hear all the boos from the year. Hear all the “you sucks!” from the season.

After each hit, you’ll get silence. The more hits we pile on, the more silence we’ll get. And when the final whistle blows you’ll finally get to hear the sweetest sound that you’ve never heard this season....Silence.

Shut them up! Enough is enough! Throw the record out, throw out the troubles of the year, throw out what’s been said, this is STILL MICHIGAN! And I’ll be damned if we don’t go out there and play the hardest damn football game of our lives.

It stops now! From kickoff to the final whistle. Shut them up!

This is Michigan.

Yes, That Did Just Happen

Some start to our trek across America.  Michigan-Duke for the 2K Sports Classic Championship tomorrow night at 7:15pm.  Coverage begins at 7pm tomorrow night as part of our Game of the Week coverage LIVE on 88.3 WCBN FM (wcbn.org).  O boy...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Big Apple, Big Stage: UM vs UCLA Preview

The College Basketball season has finally gotten into full swing starting today, and I have to start by saying I have been very impressed with ESPN’s 24 hrs of College Basketball coverage.  This was an excellent scheduling ploy, and I loved watching basketball at 2 AM with St. Mary’s playing at home (Sidenote: Patty Mills is for real. Gets his own shot very similar to the way Iverson did back in college. He will be a name you hear come tourney time). I went to sleep with St. Mary's on and woke up in time watch the end of Hawaii/Idaho State.  It was a basketball fan's dream.

It reminded me of that first Thursday and Friday of the NCAA Tournament when basketball is on for 12 hours straight and you would always try and skip class/watch the game at work.  I’ve often said on this blog that those two days are the best consecutive sports days of the year, and I think ESPN could run with this “season opener marathon” idea in the coming years.  Put a couple more marquee games on the slate (ESPN scheduled only one game against ranked opponents in Davidson/Oklahoma and UNC/Kentucky is the next closest thing) and this marathon could be a ratings monster.  I'd also like to see more mid-major teams against the big conferences. ( For example, Oakland beat Oregon in OT on the West Coast, and was a much better match-up on paper than some of the other games shown today.)  I would have seriously considered calling-in sick had ESPN shown something other than Iowa/Kansas women's basketball at noon.  No offense to fans of Women’s Bball, but no women’s regular season match-up generates enough excitement worth cutting class for.  Not even Tenn/UConn.  Hopefully ESPN gives me something I can stay home for next year.

Finally, ESPN’s coverage doesn’t receive total praise from me as they dropped the ball in one of the day's final games in Syracuse/Richmond. The new “Interactive Messaging,” where they scroll fan messages across the top of the screen, is just another example of news networks ramming pointless technology down your throat.  This should be banned, along with CNN’s “Hologram Technology” and MSNBC’s “Virtual Pantheon” background from election night. It all needs to go. Now.


OK, back to the Wolverines. Here’s a couple things to watch for on Thursday:


Getting On the Glass:  Michigan has been out rebounded twice: once by a GLIAC team (exhibition) and the other by a CAA that got 20 Offensive rebounds.  Michigan has failed to block out on a consistent basis and will need to shore that up against the Bruins. Bruins F Alfred Aboya is averaging 6.5 boards a game with the team getting 35.3 rpg.  Ben Howland’s teams have always rebounded well (back to his days at Pitt), and the Wolverines will struggle if they don’t get on the glass early.


The Collison Effect:  PG Darren Collison is arguably the best on-the-ball defender in all the land.  He is lightning quick and made Kelvin Grady look like an eighth grader when these two teams played last year.  On Offense, Beilein will be forced to rotate CJ Lee, David Merritt, and Kelvin Grady.  None of these guys can match Collison’s quickness, but fresh legs should help a little bit. The point of interest here is whether or not the Bruins decide to put Collison on Manny Harris or give that assignment to Josh Shipp.  Look for Shipp to start on Harris, but if Manny gets hot don’t be surprised to see Collison start to put pressure on Harris and funnel him toward the help defense.


The One They Call “Fresh”: Manny Harris was named Big Ten Player of the Week last week and rightfully so.  On consecutive points, he put up 56 points and almost dropped a triple-double on a team that just got done giving Providence a reality check.  Harris has been great and could potentially become the first player to average 20 ppg since a guy by the name of Juwan Howard (actually, the last guy to do it was Louis Bullock, but “technically” that never happened…).  Harris needs to get started early in order to give guys like Anthony Wright and Stu Douglass opportunities to play “Beilein Ball” and hit open threes.


Last note on Harris: A lot of fans I’ve talked to have voiced their concern that Harris could go pro at the end of the season.  To them I say this:  Harris making the jump to the pros would be the worst decision since MSU’s Marcus Taylor tried to make the jump early as a Sophmore and was drafted 52nd overall by the Timberwolves. Taylor was promptly cut after camp and was never heard from again.  However, I think Harris is smarter than Taylor and knows the level of skill needed to make the transition.  He has a bright future ahead of him.   However, NBAdraft.net has Harris not even on the board in ’09 and as a late first round pick in 2010. I agree with that assessment and will wait one more season before I seriously talk about his NBA prospects.


The Frontcourt:  I can only hope that Zach Gibson watched the game film from last week and totally changed his outlook of how he needs to approach this game against UCLA.  Hopefully the game film, plus the cold weather this week, has ignited a Rocky-like fire inside him.  Try and picture Gibson running up the steps of the Angell Hall in a gray sweatsuit, knit cap, and Chuck Taylors.  Few things would motivate me to get to Angell Hall before 9 AM in the winter, but witnessing this would be one of them.  While I have trouble seeing it, I think this is the mentality he needs to adopt to rebound from last week’s performance against Northeastern.  Both Gibson and Sims could really be effective against a somewhat undersized front-line of UCLA (Aboya at C is closer to 6’8 than his listed 6’9).  Look for Beilein to go inside early to test Aboya.


Other points of interest: Douglass needs to have a big game to give UM a shot, CJ Lee makes his Big Apple return, Michigan’s first National TV appearance of the year, and UM Bball could have fewer losses than UM Hockey heading into the Christmas break.  Didn’t think I’d be saying that a year ago…

Monday, November 17, 2008

Programming Schedule

Here's our schedule for later this week.  All games are available on the WCBN Sports Stream, accessed off www.wcbn.org

Thursday (11/20): Michigan Basketball vs UCLA @ Madison Square Garden (9:20) LIVE

Friday (11/21): Michigan Basketball vs Southern Illinois/Duke @ MSG (5 or 7:20) LIVE

Saturday (11/22): Michigan Football @ Ohio State (12:00) LIVE

Sunday, November 16, 2008

2 Interesting Final Scores from this Weekend

Both from college basketball...

#1 Duke 82- Rhode Island 79
 -Duke really struggled and barely came back to defeat Rhode Island, out of the A-10, on Sunday night. Greg Paulus is now Duke's 6th man and plays off the ball as a 2 guard (interesting).  With Duke struggling vs Rhode Island, along with UCLA barely beating Miami (Ohio) earlier this week, you have to like Michigan's chances to be at least competitive in NYC on Thursday and Friday.

#2 Northeastern 70- Providence 66
 -Northeastern won on the road Saturday night at Providence.  The Friars are predicted to finish anywhere from 6th-11th in the always difficult 16 team Big East.  As expected, Matt Janing lead the way for Northeastern scoring-wise.  Eugene Spates broke a 66-66 tie with a game winning three-pointer.  This score makes Michigan's 20 point win over Northeastern from this past Wednesday look that much better.

WCBN College Picks Standings after Week 12

Congrats to JK with a 3-1 week.  Here's where we stand:

1 Rob (31-24-1): 38 pts
2 Stu (24-14-1): 35 pts
3 Rushi (25-20-1): 31 pts
4 JK (23-20-1): 26 pts
5 Seid (23-25-1): 21 pts
6 Wiggles (16-18-1): 14 pts
7 Tobin (19-25-1): 13 pts
8 Bill (13-15-1): 11 pts
9 Jeremy (14-25): 3 pts
Christian (4-1): 7 pts
Matt (6-8): 4 pts
Nick (3-2): 4 pts
Andrew (6-9): 3 pts
Kevin (2-3): 1 pt
Mike (1-4): negative 2 pts 

Friday, November 14, 2008

Senior Day: Michigan vs. Northwestern

After how Michigan played last week, I have no logical idea or method on how to pick this week's game. If anyone does have a clear idea please let me know. But Michigan who has looked terribly inconsistent all season had to play last week with Nick Sheridan who had played horribly in every opportunity he had in the season. The result: actually by far and away the best performance a Michigan quarterback has had this season (18-30 201 yards 1 TD and 0 INTs) against a defense that was #1 in the nation in takeaways.

Explanation: I have none I don't know anyone who does. My guess is this is the Nick Sheridan that the coaches picked to start the season. A guy who is actually calm in the pocket, keeps his head downfield when he scrambled, and does not force the ball when there is nothing there. All of those things are complete opposites of what he had done earlier in the year.

My unsubstantiated theory on this is that Michigan players and coaches, prior to the Minnesota game, had been carrying the burden of trying to make a bowl game and keep the streak alive. Because of this, the coaches did not let the players loose as much, and the players themselves were either hesitant at times (defense) or trying to force things too much (quarterbacks).

But with the streak finally out of the question. The coaches, admitted that they finally let them loose on defense, as Shafer took "all the complicated stuff out" as Rodriguez said and just let the guys play the way they know how to in the 4-2-5. On offense, the players, Sheridan especially, did not try to force things and just played relaxed and within themselves. The result: a blowout of a 7-2 team who was ranked a week prior, and Michigan winning a trophy in their last chance to do so in 2005.

This week, I have no idea which Michigan team will show up. I'm going to guess a slightly subdued version of last week, but still better than the rest of the season. Northwestern is without their top two running backs, and maybe without their starting quarterback again. They just got spanked by eeek O-State last week. Still they're receiving votes in top 25 polls (not exactly sure why) and have played better than Michigan this season (like most everyone else).

I don't know, but what the hell. Here's a short preview kind of (again we're going with a slightly less good Michigan team than last week).

Northwestern Offense vs. Michigan Defense:

Michigan's is likely to stay in the four man front with the 4-2-5 Nickel package for much of the game like they played last week. The four man front is obviously needed since that's the strength of the Michigan team. I love taking one linebacker out of there as well. And using Harrison and some other safeties as a nickelback/linebacker, blitzing alot is something I love as well (less of a liability in coverage and quick guys to get pressure). All of these are pretty much what everyone has asked for at some point of the season. A combination of that scheme change and the players finally playing more loose and relaxed is what I think resulted in their complete shut down of Minnesota's offense.

This week, hopefully they do the same scheme-wise and hopefully the players play loose and with the same enthusiasm of last week. Brandon Graham said he knew Michigan was more ready to play after the first hit.

Northwestern is now on their third string running back, #25 5'8" 175 pound So. Stephen Simmons, and will be with a still hurting, but ready to go starting QB in C.J. Bacher, but might split time with backup Mike Kafka.

Northwestern's running game has averaged 160 yards per game this season, but again, they're on the third-string Simmons who has averaged 2.9 yards on just 18 carries this season. If Northwestern can run, we have reverted to our play against Purdue. There is absolutely no reason Northwestern and Simmons should be able to run on Michigan tomorrow. Northwestern's O-line has three redshirt freshman and one sophomore starting and has been able to rely on the talented Sutton and fairly talented backup, Conteh, to make plays. Those two are gone and the running game should be too. But we've seen plenty of the unexpected this season.

Northwestern's passing game, however, could get back on track with Bacher back at the helm for the first time since October 25th. Kafka didn't play poorly the last two weeks and could still see the field, but Bacher is the senior leader of this team and though he's a little less mobile than Kafka, he still has 244 yards on the year averaging 4.2 yards per carry on the ground. If Michigan switches back to the 3-3-5 for some ungodly reason, or stops playing as aggressive in the 4-2-5, this could turn ugly.

Northwestern, however, has mightily struggled with turnovers this season. Bacher has 11 INTs to 10 TDs this season through the air, and Kafka also threw 3 INTs to just 2 TDs. Northwestern has also lost 10 fumbles and with a young running back and bad weather, that could increase.

If Michigan plays anywhere near the way they played against Minnesota defensively, they should contain a banged up Northwestern team. Northwestern will get in the endzone though at least once. Their spread is well-executed enough to give Michigan some trouble. This is a better offense than Minnesota's, but Michigan still should play loose like they did last week.

Advantage: Michigan

Michigan Offense vs. NW Defense:

Nick Sheridan will start. If he doesn't force things this works. If it doesn't work, Steven Threet is available and fully healthy which is great for Michigan. Justin Feagin will come in and bring a change of pace and I predict he will actually throw a pass tomorrow despite the bad weather. A couple of the runs he had were on read plays where Feagin had a throwing option; I say he passes it once and shows the pass just enough to keep running well.

That's the quarterback situation which looks alot better this week. Running back situation not nearly as good with Brandon Minor likely out for the entire game and Michael Shaw getting his first start. Shaw played very well, though, last week against Minnesota and it will be interesting to see how he does taking the majority of the carries. McGuffie should play alot more now with Minor out and he should be healthier. I doubt the run game will be as effective, unless the O-line plays as well as they did last week. Last week was their best performance and if they continue that play, and Shaw gets some big runs early, he could relax a little and make some plays. Still, that is unlikely and the O-line and run game should regress a little bit. Part of the reason for that is Northwestern's run defense is actually pretty good and better than Minnesota's giving up just 120 yards per game.

Greg Matthews played great, Darryl Stonum not so much, but Odoms also played very well last week. Matthews is turning in some awesome catches though and starting to gain momentum to be a very legitimate threat come next season. Northwestern has a terrible pass defense (228 yards per game and 9th in the Big Ten) so if Sheridan and Threet stay within themselves, as Sheridan did last week, Michigan could rip apart NW through the air.

So run game should regress, but NW is terrible in pass defense so if the QBs don't force things, Michigan should have enough success there.

Advantage: Michigan

Special Teams:

Holy K.C. Lopata! Zoltan continues to dominate. The return game is actually looking to be more consistent and improving week to week.

NW is dead last in the Big Ten in punt returns, averaging just 36 yards per punt (and punting should be a major part with the bad weather), but they have a decent kicker in Villareal (17-21).

Michigan's special teams has been better as of late though, and barring a regression to their fumbles of early 2008, they should have an edge here.

Advantage: Michigan


Michigan 29 Northwestern 17

I have no reasoning for this as I find it impossible to predict with this Michigan team. This is a complete gut feeling of what I think will happen. I hope I'm right.

Thank you seniors for working hard despite the terrible year.

Go Blue!

Seniors: Those Who Stayed Weren't Champions, but maybe they Should've been

Tomorrow, the seniors on the worst Michigan team in over 40 years will run through the tunnel into Michigan Stadium for the last time.

Four years ago, this is not exactly what the 6th ranked recruiting class of 2005 (and those left from the 5th ranked recruiting class of 2004) had in mind.

In 2004 and 2005, many had thought Lloyd Carr and company had put together perhaps their best back to back recruiting classes in Lloyd's tenure. Those from the 2004 class whose eligibility ended after 2007 (Chad Henne, Mike Hart, Jake Long, Jamar Adams), despite their disappointing '07 campaign had largely proven their #5 class ranking, producing Michigan's all-time leading passer and rusher, and the #1 overall NFL pick in Jake Long.

Four years ago, those who saw the 2005 incoming class, certainly wouldn't have predicted those seniors to go 3-7 with a loss to Toledo among the seven losses. But nevertheless, that is where they are.

While most point to Rodriguez's transition as the cause for this disappointing end to the '05 classes career, another look at what has happened to the class, prior to Rodriguez even arriving shows that this senior class is only 1/3 of the class that should be on the field.

Here is the list of players from the 2004 and 2005 recruiting classes who would have been eligible for a fifth year this season and their resulting fates leading up to this season. Anyone who is a fourth year junior from that '05 class was removed from the list. In bold are the players who are actually still here.

2004 Recruiting Class-5th in the Nation by Rivals.com
Roger Allison RB/FB 3 stars---Career Ending Neck injury prior to 2005 season
Adrian Arrington WR 4 stars---Entered Draft Early
Keston Cheathem WR 3 stars---TRANSFER to Oregon State prior to 2005 season
Jeremy Ciulla OL 3 stars---Realized he had no future in football and didn’t come back after coaching change
Doug Dutch WR 4 stars---Disappointing Underachieving Career/Special Teams guy
Brett Gallimore OL/DL 4 stars---Never played much---Got Degree in ’07 and moved on with his life
Tim Jamison DE 4 stars---Good Defensive End and Starter
Will Johnson DT 4 stars---Starter
Max Martin RB 4 stars---TRANSFER to Alabama prior to 2006 then to Alabama A&M
Mike Massey DE/TE 4 stars---Mediocre to Bad Tight End
Alex Mitchell OL 4 stars---Didn’t come back for fifth year with coaching change
Chris Rogers LB 4 stars---TRANSFER to Penn State prior to 2006 season
Charles Stewart DB 3 stars---Decent to Not so Good Safety
John Thompson LB 3 stars---Decent to Not so good Linebacker
Morgan Trent WR/DB 4 stars---Good Cornerback (eventually)
Marques Walton DT 2 stars---TRANSFER to Southern Illinois prior to 2007 season
2005 Recruiting Class-6th in the Nation by Rivals.com
Antonio Bass ATH 4 stars---career ending injury
Jason Forcier QB 3 stars---TRANSFER to Stanford
Eugene Germany DE 4 stars---Kicked off Team for Fight incident in 2007-TRANSFER to Arizona State
Brandon Harrison DB 4 stars---Mediocre safety/nickelback
Brandon Logan LB 3 stars---never played significantly
Mario Manningham WR 4 stars---Entered Draft Early
James McKinney DT 4 stars---TRANSFER to Louisville
Chris McLaurin DE/TE 3 stars---Off team prior to this season/injury? staying on Medical Scholarship
Chris Richards ATH 3 stars---Kicked off team after Fight incident in 2007/Never played significantly
Justin Schifano OL 4 stars---Never played-Left Team b/c didn’t enjoy football anymore
Johnny Sears DB 3 stars---Idiot---Kicked off team in 2007
Mister Simpson RB 3 stars---TRANSFER to Cincy
Marques Slocum DT 4 stars---Kicked off team prior to 2008 season
Terrance Taylor DT 4 stars---Great player

30 Players to Start With MINUS:

3 Career Ending Injuries (Bass of course hurts big time)
11 Kicked off the team AND/OR Transfers (All of which happened under Lloyd Carr, except for Slocum)
2 Early Draft Entries
4 Decided to move on with their lives and stop playing football (All O-LINEMEN)

With that we are left with just:
10 SENIORS (eligibility wise) after starting with 30 potential seniors

There are 8 fourth year guys (from the '05 class) with another year of eligibility none of which are good enough for the draft (Carson Butler DE, Andre Criswell DE, Kevin Grady RB, Tim McAvoy OL, Zoltan Mesko P, David Moosman OL, Laterryal Savoy WR, and Cory Zirbel OL).

Usually any recruiting class will see some considerable attrition from signing day to the start of their senior year. But from 30 guys who would be in their last year of eligibility to just 10?

Of the 16 players from the '04 class that would be seniors eligibility wise this season, we are left with just 7, 2 of which are Doug Dutch and Mike Massey who hardly have played this year.
Somehow 9 players from the '04 class, more than half the number of who should be in their final year, are gone.

Of the 14 players from the 2005 class who, barring injuries, would be in their final year of eligibility this season, we are left with 3, one of which has been good/great in Terrance Taylor, one mediocre to bad in Brandon Harrison, and one who never plays in Brandon Logan.
Somehow 11 players from the 2005 class who should be on the field this year, are gone. (There were 22 players in the entire class of 2005 so half the class defected)

Sidenote: Before you morons who are already anti-Rodriguez blame him, if you notice, only one player was kicked off the team by Rodriguez and that was the ever-troubling Marques Slocum. Out of the other four who decided not to come back for a senior season, Brett Gallimore and Justin Schifano were flat out ready to move on with their lives regardless of the coaching situation (neither every played and the latter seemed uninterested during his career). It could be argued that Ciulla and Mitchell didn't like Rodriguez and therefore didn't return. And that is only a possibility as neither have come out dissing on Rodriguez or anything. So out of the 20 potential seniors who are now off the team, only two COULD HAVE been due to a disagreement with RichRod.

Although recruiting rankings are flawed, if you are going to judge whether this senior class under/overperformed base on their ranking as a class (which was 6th for the '05 class according to rivals) we might as well judge the talent of the players by what they were rated out of high school.
11 four-star players who would be seniors this year, were lost to team at some point. That's a lot of talent that never really got a chance to develop.

And now we are left with these guys for the senior class:
Terrance Taylor DT
Brandon Harrison DB
Brandon Logan LB/Special Teams

Adding transfer:
Austin Panter LB
5th Year Seniors:
Morgan Trent DB
John Thompson LB
Charles Stewart DB
Mike Massey TE
Will Johnson DE
Tim Jamison DE
Doug Dutch Special Teams

Adding walk-ons:
Shakir Edwards Special Teams
Jason Gingell K
Sean Griffin LS
K.C. Lopata K

That's fifteen players in their last year of eligibility, five of them walk-ons or transfers, and of the ones who are actually from the recruiting classes, only 3 never developed into a big time contributor (Dutch, Logan, and Massey).

For a senior class of just 10 players who were actively recruited out of high school, seven starters is not bad at all. Sure Charles Stewart and John Thompson have not been very good this year, but you have to wonder if Michigan would have ever had to count on them if 20 players hadn't defected from the class.

While this year has been terrible, the seniors who stayed are not to blame. They were caught up in a class that had more attrition than most teams will ever see in a senior class. If they were still surrounded by even 5-10 of the guys who came in with them but are now gone, this senior class probably would have a couple more wins to their credit and still be in the hunt for a bowl game.

But only 1/3 of those who would be seniors this year have stayed. And when they take the field Saturday, no matter what happens in the game, I'll appreciate the fact that they not only stayed with their final year occurring in transition, but I'll commend them for having to watch 2/3 of the guys they came in with disappear.

The record still stands at a terrible 3-7, but when those 15 seniors run through the tunnel on Saturday, I'll be applauding.

Those who stayed certainly weren't champions. But, had that class not seen the unprecedented amount of attrition they did, they certainly would have had a better shot.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Trek Across America

Join WCBN Sports next week LIVE in New York City and Columbus, Ohio. We have confirmed we will be broadcasting from Madison Square Garden in New York for the semifinals and championship round of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer.  Michigan will play UCLA or Miami (Ohio) on Thursday night at 9:00 and either Duke or Southern Illinois on Friday.  Then Saturday, we will broadcast the final Michigan football game of the season, as Michigan battles their arch-rival Ohio State at high-noon in Columbus.  3 Games... 3 days... 2 cities... all on WCBN.

UM beats Huskies (again), Bruins Up Next

Tonight’s 76-56 Michigan win over the Northeastern Huskies sends the Wolverines to MSG next week in a match-up against UCLA and a possible finals match-up against Duke.  The margin of victory was big and Manny Harris took home tournament MVP honors.  Things were great for the Maize and Blue.  That said… I can’t believe Michigan won this game.  I kept looking up at the scoreboard just to make sure the score I had was correct because I could believe what I had in front of me.  Northeastern was ice cold (FG 29% for the game) and their go-to player Matt Janning decided to mail-in the first half.  This game could have easily gone a different direction had the Huskies not played so poorly.


But, that’s why they play the game.  Here’s more on tonight’s flattening of the Huskies:


Board Wars:  Michigan won the rebounding battle tonight by a 33-31 margin, but allowed 20 Offensive Rebounds in the game.  20 OFFENSIVE REBOUNDS?!? If Tom Izzo was Michigan's coach, he would have taken a timeout just so he could beat Anthony Wright senseless with his white board for refusing to block-out. Michigan has not rebounded well this season and things seemed to have hit rock bottom in this category.  Harris led all Wolverines with 8 rebs, but Michigan struggled to secure the ball and gave up too many deflections and tips that went for easy buckets.  Give up 20 offensive boards at MSG in front of a national TV audience and Michigan can forget about the NCAA Tournament.


Lessons from LeBron:  Manny Harris was everywhere this week. He dropped 30 on Michigan Tech and comes back to put up 26 points, 10 rebs, and 8 assists on Northeastern…just to make sure you didn’t think he was one-dimensional.  Harris would have the triple double had it not been for a missed dunk and lay-up from Sims.


It looks like LeBron’s advice at summer camp has taken root.  


Harris is scary good, will only get better, and is benefiting from open lanes created by his teammates hitting their threes. He is driving to the hoop at will and can probably set another record for trips to the foul line this year. The only thing I worry about is whether or not they start to lean more than they should.  Harris has a tendency to be passive/defer in certain games, but a steady contribution from him will be what this team needs while the young guns (Novak and Douglass) get acclimated.


Microwave off the Bench:  DeShawn Sims had himself another great game, putting up 19 points to go along with 7 boards off the bench. He looked comfortable at the 5 spot, moving to the 4 at times, and seemed to do well in clogging the lane and altering a good number of NU’s put-back attempts.  If he remains on the bench to start, he’ll do exactly what Vinny “The Microwave” Johnson did for the Detroit Pistons in the Bad Boys era: Give them solid point production off the bench and make smart choices with the ball down the stretch. While he doesn’t need 19 pts a night, his presence on the boards needs to be felt in games like tonight where his front court teammates disappear on the glass.  Speaking of which…..

The Gibson ‘wagon has stalled: Zach Gibson faced his first legitimate post-up opponent in NU’s Ojougboh and was not up to the task.  Gibson was in foul trouble for much of the game, finishing with 4 points and 4 rebs in 15 minutes.  He took only two shots and really looked flustered trying to get open.  I’m not expecting him to be Kevin Love, but is 8 points and 7 boards a night too much too ask? I hope not. Otherwise the “Gibson Bandwagon” will be dismantled for parts.


The Crisler Crowd was decent for a 8pm Wednesday tip-off.  Listed attendance was at 6200 (the lower bowl was pretty crowded) with the Maize Rage just about full for the first time this year.  It would only take one win at MSG to see that attendance spike even higher when the Wolverines return from their road trip, even for a game vs. Norfolk State.  


It’ll be interesting to see the reaction Michigan receives from the national media in its first national appearance this year.  A good review is exactly what this team needs to plant the seed of a possible post-season bid for the Big Dance.  ESPN’s Joe Lundardi is giving the Big Ten five bids (at most) for the tournament, so it is crucial to get the post-season campaigning started in the next week.  That said….


Yes, We Can.