Saturday, January 28, 2006

Back to Back in Pictures

The last time Michigan beat consecutive ranked opponents was in 1994. Yep, back when Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson were juniors and they went to the elite 8 before losing a tough contest to eventual champ Arkansas. Anyways, thought I'd just throw up some excellent photos from of the 2 wins.


Thursday, January 26, 2006

Well now that certainly was nice

Pardon my excitment, but hot damn, the Wolverines are back!

Now none of this should be news as most intelligent observers saw it coming months ago. Yep. OK, enough with the back patting.

Michigan took care of business at home against the #11 ranked MSU Spartans last night. Yes, they did. When's the last time you could say that? God, I'm mortified to even try to imagine the last time we defeated a team ranked as highly as MSU is. 1997 upset of #1 Duke? Might be, but I'm not sure. It's safe to say it has been a really long time since Michigan looked like they belonged on the court with a very good opponent and got the win in that game. Screw moral victories. The close losses in Champaign and Bloomington helped prove Michigan was a good team. This win helps prove they are a good team that can get the job done in crunch time.

Critics of Tommy Amaker? You better have more ammo then the fact that he was incapable of having a good season when his team had something like 100 games lost due to injury on the season last year. Also, please come with a little more than a single collapse by a young Seton Hall team. You better recognize that the last 3 healthy Michigan teams Amaker has had have gone 10-6, 8-8, and so far 4-2 in Big Ten play. And he's just now getting a full roster to work with coming off NCAA sanctions.

And to anybody that mentions the 34-10 free throw disparity, please reference the Michigan game in Bloomington this year. I have zero sympathy for a road team that gets homered by the refs in Crisler. None. Nada.

And now it's on to face the team alone at the top of the Big Ten: Wisconsin. The Badgers are a little short handed after losing both Greg Stiemsma and Marcus Landry for the rest of the season. And they also lost to North Dakota State for crying out loud. But rest assured, this will not be a cake walk. The Badgers are a very difficult matchup and I'd hate for Michigan to come out flat after a big victory. Then again, Wisconsin lost by 10 in Columbus and road teams aren't looking so hot thus far in conference play.

Excellent showing by the boys in Maize and Blue!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Countdown to the Showdown

T-minus 76 hours and counting until Michigan State and Michigan tip it up in Crisler Arena on Wednesday. The Spartans sit at 15-4 (3-2) and are fresh off a 30 pt pounding of Iowa at the Breslin Center. They are 1-2 on the road in conference play with losses by a combined 29 points at Wisconsin and Illinois and a double OT thrilling win in Columbus. The Wolverines are 13-3 (3-2) coming off back to back easy victories at Minnesota and against Northwestern following a nailbiter loss at Illinois. They are 2-0 at home with a close win over Purdue and an easy W over Northwestern.

The bad news for Michigan is that Lester Abram sprained his ankle in the win over Minnesota and his status is uncertain for Wednesday. I heard it didn't look pretty and I'm not holding my breath when the phrase "high ankle sprain" is tossed around. If Michigan was full strength, I think they are favored to win. But without Abram they will need to step up if they want to have a chance at victory.

3 keys to victory for Michigan?

1) Limit turnovers. MSU is dynamite in the open court and we don't need to give their offense any free help.

2) Win the rebounding battle. Along with the TOs, pounding the glass will help give us more possessions and more chances to win.

3) Hit the open shots. We will get open looks on the wing, but if we aren't hitting it will be a long day. Horton, Harris, Coleman, Smith,whoever...needs to be hitting those shots.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Midseason All Big Ten

Without further ado....

PG: Daniel Horton (Michigan) - 16.0 ppg, 5.6 apg, 2.6 rpg, 1.9 spg, 47.0% fgs, 39.4% 3s, 87.0% fts. He has elevated his game to another level as a senior at Michigan and is helping carry the team thus far. Still has moments where he reverts to poor shot selection, but his near 2/1 asst/to ratio is light years ahead of his first 3 years. And don't forget he still plays great on the ball defense.

SG: Dee Brown (Illinois) - 15.6 ppg, 5.3 apg, 2.9 rbg, 1.6 spg, 37.2% fgs, 35.3% 3s, 76.7% fts. Got off to a horrible start shooting the rock, but he is carrying Illinois right now. Percentages are all down this year from last, but he is drawing tons of attention from the other team which opens up things for everybody else. And no, he's not really a point guard, more of a scorer. So I'm sticking him at the 2.

SF: Maurice Ager (Michigan State) - 19.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.2 apg, 45.5% fgs, 37.3% 3s, 79.4% fts. He is a high flying wing that can score from anywhere on the court.

PF: Marco Killingsworth (Indiana) - 20.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.2 apg, 62.3% fgs, 56.8% fts. If it wasn't for the eye-popping 4.5 turnovers per game that he averages, he'd be in the running for B10 POY and perhaps first team All American. A force down low who can score against anybody, but still coughs it up way too much.

C: Paul Davis (Michigan State) - 18.5 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 1.7 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.9 bpg, 58.0% fgs, 89.9% fts. He is one of the best post players in the country and the key to MSU's success in any particular game. His dynamite FT shooting makes him a tough cover as you can't just hack him to take him out of the game.

Apologies to other top notch players that didn't make the cut. We've still got a full 2 months to go, though, before the final rankings are made.


Michigan v. Georgia

Dawg blogger Kyle King advocates an OOC series between Georgia and Michigan. Not a bad idea if you ask me. Two big name programs from different areas of the country that haven't met in a long time, despite each playing plenty of bowl game against the other's conference. Now I'm not going to get into the whole college BCS/bowl system/playoff possiblities and what they mean to scheduling varying levels of OOC competition to maximize your team's chances of postseason success. But I will say that a Michigan-Georgia matchup in September would get the juices going.

But if I have to hear one more idiot rant on about "southern speed" I think might lose it.

Sorry, back on topic now. Let's get UM and UGA lined up for battle. Michigan has faced plenty of big name OOC opponents over the past 10-20 years, but none from the SEC. Notre Dame, Florida State, Miami, UCLA, Colorado, Virginia, Boston College, Oregon, Washington, etc. have all been featured OOC opponents at one time. But the only time we face big name SEC schools is in bowl games. Let's change that and have an entire summer of hype leading up to what would be one of the biggest early season tilts across the country. Plus, Athens isn't a far drive for me so it'd be awesome to watch the Wolverines play at Sanford Stadium. And I doubt any Georgia fans would whine about coming to Ann Arbor for a beautiful fall day and some football watching in the Big House.

And mucho thanks go out to MGoBlog for bringing this to my attention!

The 1984 Tigers and the Ray Lankford Wing of the Hall of Fame

The folks at Beyond the Boxscore have cobbled together a list of the members of the Ray Lankford Wing of the Hall of Fame. In short, it's those players that had really great careers but aren't quite HOF worthy. And my, oh my, are the 1984 Tigers well represented amongst the 246 members.

C - Lance Parrish (listed as #3 at catcher)
1B - Darrell Evans ( listed as #2 at 3rd base for his career)
2B - Lou Whitaker (#2)
SS - Alan Trammell (#1)
CF - Chet Lemon (#6)
SP - Frank Tanana (#2), Jack Morris (#15)
RP - Willie Hernandez (#29)

And they don't even list Kirk Gibson or Howard Johnson who both have to be damn close with well over 200 career HRs and steals apiece. That's a hell of a lot of great players on 1 team that didn't quite make the Hall. And yes, it's a travesty that Tram isn't in the Hall. It's a travesty that Whitaker couldn't even stay on the ballot. And Jack Morris deserves a little more consideration then he ever receives.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Apparently I touched a nerve

I was unaware that a post completely filled with facts (and obvious questions relating to those facts) was able to strike such a nerve with people who have apparently completely obliterated from their mind the tremendous hype surrounding Notre Dame football after the 2002 season. My last entry in no way denigrated anything Charlie Weis did this year. But apparently pointing out what was going on in Willingham's first year is blasphemy around an Irish fan.

Here are some facts comparing 2002 with 2005:
1) 2002 was a more difficult schedule
2) 2002 team beat better teams
3) both Ty and Charlie were taking over for what was considered the worst coach in ND's modern era
4) 2002 had a better record

Far be it from me to take a team with a better record against better competition and somehow deem them to be a better team. Those are just facts and I'm putting 2 and 2 together here.

As for leaving out facts, seems the only fact that the responders wish I included was a way of measuring # of blowouts in any given direction. Well, how about this fact? Baseball stat heads keep track of pythagorean winning percentage. If you are familiar with the method, ND 2002 had an estimated winning percentage of 64% and ND 2005 clocked in at 69%. Considering it's a sample size of 13 and 12 games respectively, it isn't even statistically significant.

So no, I don't really have an opinion of Weis other than he appeared to be very good at scoring points against teams that turned out to not be very good. The easy schedule wasn't his fault. But it will be interesting to see how he does when he happens to face a tough schedule. And no, bringing up the near victory against USC isn't proof of anything. Fresno State had them on the ropes in LA late in the 4th quarter and they trailed in numerous games this year. They were very good, but almost beating them at home is, as Charlie himself would say, the same as any other loss.

Sorry to offend anybody. But if you'd like to compare CVs, I'd be happy to.


Monday, January 09, 2006

Things that make you go hmmmmm

Program A

Unranked - W
Unranked - W
#9 in final poll - W
Unranked - W
Unranked - W
#19 in final poll - W
Unranked - W
#21 in final poll - W
Unranked - L
Unranked - W
Unranked - W
#4 in final poll - L
#12 in final poll - L

This team finished 10-3 on the season, ranked #17 in the final poll, and had a 3-2 record against teams that finished in the top 25. All in all a pretty good season. Let's compare that resume to program B:

Unranked - W
Unranked - W
Unranked - L
Unranked - W
Unranked - W
#2 in final poll - L
Unranked - W
Unranked - W
Unranked - W
Unranked - W
Unranked - W
#4 in final poll - L

Program B finished 9-3, ranked #9 in the final poll, and with an 0-2 record against teams that finished the season in the top 25. But were they really better then Program A? What if I told you that the opponents of Program A finished 94-73 on the season and opponents of Program B finished 71-67 on the season? Would you agree that Program A probably played a tougher schedule? Would you agree that Program A had better victories against better opponents?

Now who the hell am I actually talking about as I try to make this point? How's about 2002 Notre Dame under Ty Willingham and 2005 Notre Dame under Charlie Weis. Seems to me we are hearing a lot of the same smoke and mirrors about a return to glory by Notre Dame right now. Charlie Weis is being portrayed as an even bigger savior then Ty was. And Notre Dame fans will tell you that Ty just got celebrity treatment because the media loved him and he was a high profile minority coach at a big name job who everybody wanted to succeed, etc.

Well, did anybody stop to realize that Ty Willingham had a better debut than Charlie Weis as Notre Dame coach?????????


Thursday, January 05, 2006

Hook 'Em

Wow, what a college football game. Part of me wants to pronounce it the greatest game I've ever seen. It was the season long #1 and #2 meeting in one of the most awaited games ever. It had the two Heisman Trophy winners in the USC backfield and the jilted runner up leading the Longhorns. It was in the greatest setting in all of college football in Pasadena. And it was a hell of a game. But, the first half was pretty bland so I'll just call it the best/most exciting half of college football I've seen.

As for the aftermath of Texas's upset of USC? Well, for all USC's trouble they come out of 34 straight wins the exact same way that Miami did 4 years ago: a single undefeated season. Pretty tough to run the table in CFB, eh? Reggie Bush was the deserving Heisman winner for his season long heroics, but Vince Young came up the biggest last night on the biggest stage. He single handedly dominated the Trojans in a performance that even eclipsed his Rose Bowl heroics from a year ago. 30/40 passing for 267 yds (no TDs or INTs) and 19 carries for 200 yards and 3 TDs. 467 yards and 3 TDs and no TOs in the biggest game of his life and just dominating the 2nd half? Not too shabby if you ask me. The Texas front 7 also deserves a boat load of credit for slowing down Reggie Bush who had 19 touches for 177 yards but never really could get rolling the way Young did.

Might also want to check out Bill Simmons funny running diary during the game as it is a damn good read.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Indiana 70, Michigan 63

Well, unfortunately I didn't get a chance to watch the game. I was so damn busy working all night long and the next day that I didn't even get a chance to watch the highlights of the game today. Working that much and that hard is definitely no fun, but I guess it saved me from watching us come oh-so-close to ending our streak of misery in Bloomington.

The good news? Michigan played without Lester Abram in Bloomington against arguably the most talented team in the Big Ten and lost a close one. This is arguably our toughest game of the year. Memo to the rest of the Big Ten? We're capable of winning every other game on the schedule, including roadies in Champaign and East Lansing. Not saying we will, but in any given game we've got a chance. And it's been a while since you could say that.

The bad? Courtney Sims pulled the old disappearing act in a big game against 2 tough post opponents. From what I've been told, he battled foul trouble all game long and the guards did absolutely no work to try to get him the ball. Then again, he had one of his game where he didn't seem to want the ball either. Sorry Courtney, you've got the skills and we need you to show up in games like this. Will somebody please stick a firecracker up his ass?

Next up? Home games with Purdue and Northwestern sandwiched around a tough roadie to Illinois. Gotta expect 2-1 over those 3 games with a chance at 3-0.

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Pack at #5

As Brett Favre rode off into the sunset, Green Bay ended up with the #5 pick in the draft following their stellar 4-12 season. Effectively removed from the Reggie Bush sweepstakes and definitely not needing a QB with Aaron Rodgers on board, who will they take in the draft? Will they stay at #5 or will they trade down to load up on more picks?

If they stick at #5, I'd look for AJ Hawk or Mario Williams to be the pick. Their 2 biggest areas of need are LB and DL. Hawk is an animal and would instantly improve their rush D. Williams is an all around DE that could dominate games. He has the size, strength, and speed to be an everydown star.

If they trade down? Maybe they'll take a look at Chad Greenway or Rodrique Wright. Gotta load up on defensive talent if they want to make major strides next year.

But what about the offense? For the sake of discussion, let's assume Favre retires and Rodgers gets the job at QB. The RB situation is a mess and they need to decide what to do with Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport. Green is definitely on the downside of his career after a spectacular run with Green Bay. He'll probably command too much $$$ for the Packers to keep him around. Davenport is skilled, but very injury prone. Could be a bargain for a 1000 yard rushing talent, though.

The WR position is pretty well set with Javon Walker, Donald Driver, Terrance Murphy (when he returns from injury), Antonio Chatman, etc. The OL needs some help in the middle but the Tackles are very solid.

Here's my mock Packers draft by position assuming they trade down in the first round to pick up an extra 2nd round pick:

1st - LB
2nd - DL
2nd - interior OL
3rd - DB
4th - LB
5th - TE
6th - LB
7th - DL

Sunday, January 01, 2006

On Point Guards and Posts

Here's a look at how the best point guards and post players in the Big Ten have fared in non-conference play this year. (All tempo-free stats courtesy of Big Ten Wonk and through 12/29 games). And yes, I realize level of competition varies widely in the preseason. If you don't like it, then don't bother reading.

Point guards (Name, School, Points Per Weighted Shot, Assist/100 possession, Turnovers/100 possessions, PPG, APG, FG%)

Daniel Horton (Michigan): 1.22, 10.1, 4.8, 14.6, 5.9, 49.6%
Dee Brown (Illinois): 0.99, 9.6, 5.3, 14.2, 5.6, 36.9%
Jeff Horner (Iowa): 0.99, 11.3, 4.3, 12.5, 6.4, 34.6%
Drew Neitzel (MSU): 1.23, 10.3, 4.1, 8.6, 5.5, 46.7%
Kammron Taylor (Wisconsin): 1.22, 4.2, 4.5, 14.5, 2.3, 42.7%

I think thus far, you've got to give the nod to Daniel Horton as the best in the conference. Drew Neitzel has been slightly more efficient, but he's been asked to do a lot less scoring. Dee Brown and Jeff Horner have both shot horribly so far on the season and Dee is turning the ball over a lot.

How about the post players? (Name, School, PPWS, Reb%, PPG, RPG, BPG)

Paul Davis (MSU): 1.40, 19.1%, 19.9, 10.0, 0.9
Courtney Sims (Michigan): 1.38, 17.9%, 16.2, 7.9, 2.1
Marco Killingsworth (Indiana): 1.32, 16.7%, 19.5, 7.6, 0.8
James Augustine (Illinois): 1.29, 16.9%, 14.4, 9.4, 0.7
Terrance Dials (OSU): 1.16, 14.9%, 14.7, 7.1, 1.0
Greg Brunner (Iowa): 1.07, 16.6%, 14.1, 9.9, 0.4

I think Paul Davis is clearly a cut above everybody else. Then it'd be a toss up between Marco Killingsworth and Courtney Sims. Not exactly what I was expecting, but Sims is a better rebounder, a more efficient scorer, a better shot blocker, and hell Killingsworth turns the ball over almost twice as frequently. But Killingsworth has played a more difficult slate and I'm giving him some benefit of the doubt here.

And I think some of these raw numbers in comparison to tempo-free stats shed some interesting light on old ways of looking at stats. Compare Greg Brunner's and Courtney Sims' rebounding numbers. Brunner gets 9.9/game compared to only 7.9/game for Sims. But why is Sims a better rebounder? It's all about rebounding percentage. Brunner plays 31 minutes per game for Iowa. The average Iowa game has 76 rebounds between the 2 teams. Sims plays 27 minutes per game for Michigan, and there are only about 62 rebounds in an average Michigan game. A lot of this has to do with the pace the game is played at. And a lot has to do with how frequently teams are missing shots. Michigan shoots 51% from the floor and their opponents shoot 41% from the floor. Iowa on the other hand shoots 42% from the floor and their opponents shoot 36% from the floor. Put those 2 together and that is why you get a ton more rebounds in an Iowa game compared to a Michigan game. But hey, Brunner averages 2 boards more per game right?