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