Monday, February 27, 2006

Oops, Guess I Was Wrong

Taking a glance at the current Big Ten standings, one comes across the following:

t6) Indiana 7-7
t6) Michigan State 7-7

Yep, with only 2 games remaining in their season the Michigan State Spartans are tied for 6th in the Big Ten conference. This was a preseason top 5 team. This is a team that I said was "the best team in the Big Ten".

Apparently I was wrong. I saw the first round NBA talent in Paul Davis, Mo Ager, and Shannon Brown along with a quality point guard in Drew Neitzel and assumed they would be a powerhouse this year. What I didn't realize was that the rest of their team sucked. I figured that amongst all the good recruits (Gray, Naymick, Trannon, etc) Izzo had brought in over the years, that some of them would be quality players. But they aren't. They are horrible. They have zero post presence outside of Davis. They have zero capable guards off the bench. They just stink. And if they don't close out strong against Wisconsin and Illinois (neither game is a gimme) they will be at .500 or worse in conference play this year.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Blog Writing

One of the nice things about the explosion of sports related blogs (and damn Michigan fans can represent in the blog-o-sphere), is the explosion of sports related content on the internet. And a lot of it is unique and original and opens your eyes far more than reading the same AP wire story in 24 different places.

However, not all blog content is created equal. Anybody with a computer and an internet connection can publish pretty much anything they want. That's not good. But, there are some shining stars that I have noticed.

MGoBlog is easily the standard bearer for Michigan blogs. Not only does Brian crank out new stuff day after day and dig up links to everything under the sun, he can actually write. He does a very good job of making you feel the emotion behind what he writes. Here's a snippet from his recent Tommy Amaker rant...
What's followed in the last two years has been a epidemic of smiting from above that makes Angry Michigan-Safety-Hating God look like a rank amateur. Michigan fans spent most of last year watching Daniel Horton and Lester Abram watch two walk-ons watch Dion Harris attempt to get a shot, any shot. This year it's Abram and Harris watching Horton. Throw in some extended absences from Brent Petway (both years), Graham Brown (last year), Jerrett Smith (this year), Courtney Sims (about every other game, mentally), and Chris Hunter (both years, including the latest blow: a partially torn MCL that will probably end his career) and you have a nigh-insurmountable pile of bodies worthy of Pol Pot. Game, set, match to Angry Michigan-Basketball-Hating God.
And he's got his own set of blogging ethics for crying out loud. Well done!

Another fine recent addition to the world of Michigan blogs is Johnny at Ronald Bellamy's Underacheiving All Stars. He can flat out write and I have no idea what his career aspirations are, but I hope that putting words on paper (or on the net) is there somewhere.
I don’t imagine Michigan cares what I think of their chances in this game, just like I don’t think they should have to worry about kids from Connecticut trying to listen to the game on the radio. Because if somehow they manage to win this – beneath the noise and the radio transmissions we can’t quite hear – the heart will be beating, and that is all that will matter.
Somebody get this kid a column somewhere! I'm serious. I can't even do it justice. Many of his entries are wonderfully written.

On a somewhat related note, the comedy stylings at Every Day Should Be Saturday are simply phenomenal. Here's a slice of their recent note about the UGA offensive lineman found passed out on the shitter in a bar...
Depends on the verve and aggression of the ass pickle Smith was trying to steer in, we argue. We know that farmers have suffocated due to the fumes of pig shit in an enclosed space; why wouldn’t a burly offensive lineman struggling with a 32 gauge cheek-ripper forged from chicken wings and stuffed crust pizza in a poorly ventilated space be in danger, as well? We think the police acted responsibly here, since a turd of that magnitude could have easily killed a man.
They seriously have me rolling at least once a week with their quantity and quality of work.

And then there is the other side of blogging. I think anybody that nominates themself as the "most important college football blog" is just proclaiming their own idiocy, but hey that's just me. And there is always the chance of good blogs dropping by the wayside for long periods of time. Hello, anybody home?

All in all, I think this explosion in sports related blogs is a very good thing. You just have to figure out how to navigate the vast realm to get what you are looking for. And no, this blog doesn't harbor much of anything other than some ramblings and a place to put up little statistical queries of mine. But that's all it has ever been for anyway. Besides, I'm pretty damn good at linking to quality content!

Best Blog Name Ever

The Wayne Fontes Experience

I don't know why I didn't find it sooner, but if that's not a damn awesome name for a Detroit sports related blog, I don't know what is. Apologies to Brian at MGoBlog who's brilliance is probably lost on many visitors that do not frequent Michigan's athletic website.

I'm going to have to remind myself to add it to the links on the right, because anybody that can think up that name is sure to come up with some good content.

Dynamic Duo

Ken Rosenthal from FoxSports.comm has a nice article up on Jim Leyland and the Tigers. In my humble opinion, the day to day decisions of managers are mostly meaningless. Not meaningless in the sense that they don't matter, but meaningless in the sense that all MLB managers are the same. This isn't football where you run a different offense and a different defense and somebody blitzes all the time on 3rd and long and this and that... Baseball is a series of individual matchups between pitchers and hitters. The most important job of the manager is to get the players to believe in him and each other. Leyland seems to have the confidence of the Tigers right now and that's a good thing. Alan Trammell lost them last year. And while the Tigers aren't going to the playoffs this year, they will have a good team and they will be competitive in the AL Central.

The Baseball Analysts have their 2006 AL Central Preview up. A touch of an anti-Detroit bias to it as they include a Twins and White Sox writer in the discussion, but the consensus seems to peg the Tigs around .500 this year which is in line with most opinions.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A quick thought on the Tigs pitching rotation

I'll be disappointed if Justin Verlander doesn't get the #5 spot to start the year. He's ready now and is just too dominating to waste his time pitching to minor leaguers. A quick couple comments on the likely rotation of:

1) Kenny Rogers
2) Jeremy Bonderman
3) Mike Maroth
4) Nate Robertson
5) Justin Verlander

Can you imagine how tough it is going to be on opposing lineups to go from facing triple digit flame throwing RHP Justin Verlander to soft tossing LHP Kenny Rogers back to flame throwing RHP Jeremy Bonderman back to soft tossing LHP Mike Maroth? I mean damn, that is some serious variety in the pitching staff that is bound to help keep opponents off balance.

With a healthy lineup and a solid pitching staff, things are shaping up nicely. Unfortunately we might be in the toughest division in the majors.


Spring is in the air

Hope springs eternal in Arizona and Florida this time of year. Dreams of watching the Tigers restore the roar this summer are sure to abound in metro Detroit right now.

Billfer is definitely getting into the swing of things.

Here's another link to add to your bookmarks for use every February and March: The Ledger. It's Lakeland's daily newspaper and usually has a Tigers article every day during spring training. Here's a quote from Jim Leyland in
today's article
"I'm not going to mention names, but from what I've seen out there on the mounds -- I know they haven't faced any hitters and I don't know if they can get an out -- but not many teams have as many guys who flip it up there like I've seen the last few days."

So Leyland's not naming names? I will. Justin Verlander, Joel Zumaya, Jeremy Bonderman, Fernando Rodney, Roman Colon, etc. The Tigers have some absolute flamethrowers on the 40 man roster.

Here are some more articles from the Ledger.

And a bunch of articles from the Detroit News:
The lineup is finally healthy
Rogers to start opener
Healthy Guillen, skinny Dmitri

And the Tigers weblog on Mlive from Danny Knobler which contains the following bombshell:

The word from Venezuela continues to be ultra-positive about Carlos Guillen. Someone said today that he's now considered THE BEST player in the country. That's high praise in that country. I look forward to seeing him.

Yeah, Venezuela is home to such players as Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, and Bobby Abreu. And Carlos Guillen might be the best? I'll believe it when I see it, but it's good to see he's rounding back into 2004 form when he was the best shortstop in the majors instead of injury riddled 2005 season.

Yep, spring is in the air.


Saturday, February 18, 2006

Big Ten Basketball and National Champions

Did you know the Big Ten has only won a single national title in men's basketball over the past 15 years? Michigan State in 2000. Here's a rundown of national champs by current conference since 1980.

ACC (8) - 2005 UNC, 2002 Maryland, 2001 Duke, 1993 UNC, 1992 Duke, 1991 Duke, 1983 NC State, 1982 UNC

Big East (7) - 2004 UConn, 2003 Syracuse, 1999 UConn, 1986 Louisville, 1985 Villanova, 1984 Georgetown, 1980 Louisville

Big Ten (4) - 2000 Michigan State, 1989 Michigan, 1987 Indiana, 1981 Indiana

Big Twelve (1) - 1988 Kansas

Pac Ten (2) - 1997 Arizona, 1995 UCLA

SEC (3) - 1998 Kentucky, 1996 Kentucky, 1994 Arkansas

The lone national title from outside the 6 football power conferences was UNLV in 1990. And yes, I realize that schools like Louisville were not in their current conference when they won the national title.

But anyways, back to the Big Ten. Only 3 national titles in the past 25 years. How about # of final four participants over that time stretch (including champs)?

ACC - 26
Big East - 20
Big Ten - 18 (including 2 later vacated by Michigan)
Big Twelve - 11
Pac Ten - 7
SEC - 14

Big Ten stacks up pretty well, but the number of national champs is just lagging a big too much for my taste, especially recently. 1 title since 1989? That's pretty weak. No Big Ten team is looking like a title contender this year, but with the sheer volume of mega-talent en route to the Big Ten I expect it should pick up in the near future.

Michigan Basketball Scholarships

By position and class...(most recent update: Ben Cronin)


1) C - Zach Gibson (RS - Soph)
2) PF/C - Ekpe Udoh (Soph)
3) PF/SF - DeShawn Sims (Soph)
4) PF/SF - Kendric Price (RS - Soph)
5) SF - Ron Coleman (Sr)
6) SF - Anthony Wright (Soph)
7) SG/SF - Jevohn Shepherd (Jr)
8) SG/SF/PG? - K'len Morris (RS - Fr)
9) PG/SG - Manny Harris (Fr)
10) PG - Jerret Smith (Jr)
11) PG - Kelvin Grady (Fr)
12) OPEN
13) OPEN


1) C - Zach Gibson (RS - Jr)
2) C - Ben Cronin (Fr)
3) PF/C - Ekpe Udoh (Jr)
4) PF/SF - DeShawn Sims (Jr)
5) PF/SF - Kendric Price (RS - Jr)
6) SF - Anthony Wright (Jr)
7) SG/SF - Jevohn Shepherd (Sr)
8) SG/SF/PG? - K'len Morris (RS - Soph)
9) PG/SG - Manny Harris (Soph)
10) PG - Jerret Smith (Sr)
11) PG - Kelvin Grady (Soph)
12) OPEN
13) OPEN


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Out with the Old, In with the Bold?

Plan on plenty of Captain Ron movie references this summer

Looks like the dance known as the Michigan Football Coaching Shuffle has pretty much come to an end today with the announcement today of Steve Szabo as LB coach and Ron Lee as CB coach. I've held my comments for a while now as I waited for things to shake out following a horrific 7-5 season. All I can say is kudos to Lloyd Carr for having the balls to make a major overhaul to his coaching staff when the team needed it the most.

In case you alseep at the wheel (or just simply a sane person), you may have missed the up and downs of the Michigan internet world as people twisted in the wind as coaching changes didn't happen the day after signing day (OMG!), then Malone and English both took NFL jobs, then Jim Hermann appeared to be staying, then Mike DeBord got the OC job (double OMG!), then Ron English returned (Hallelujah!), then Jim Hermann got an NFL job (double Hallelujah!). It's been a crazy ride for those people with too short of an attention span to sit back and let it all play out.

But anyways, this is by far the most turnover Michigan has had in their coaching staff in a LONG time. Is that a good thing? Let's look at each individual move.

Defensive coordinator: Ron English replaces Jim Hermann. Hermann was the 1997 national assistant coach of the year and consistently had pretty good defenses, but his D collapsed down the stretch of way too many games the last few years including repeated 4th quarter comebacks by opponents this year. English is promising a more agressive scheme that certainly sounds nice. Then again this is his first ever gig beyond a position coach so we shall have to wait and see how he delivers on that promise.

Offensive coordinator: Mike DeBord replaces Terry Malone. I used to be quite the Terry Malone fan. He implemented a varied offense that could beat you on the ground and in the air and was usually dynamite on 3rd down. But as his tenure went along, his offenses gradually seemd to lose any identity. Sure, they COULD beat you running or throwing the ball, but they could also totally go into a shell for long periods of time with nothing to fall back on when the going got tough. Mike DeBord? He's sort of an ignominious figure in Wolverine football. He was the OC from 1997-1999 when Michigan racked up a 32-5 record and perhaps our most dominant stretch of football in decades. Then again, our D was dynamite back then and DeBord took a lot of flack for being too conservative on offense. But he knew what the offense needed to do and they did it. He now knows he needs to put points on the board and that requires a different strategy. He can certainly talk the talk, but again we will have to wait and see how muching of the walking he can do.

Linebacker coach: Steve Szabo replaces Jim Hermann. Hermann is off to the NFL to coach LBs for the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets in a move that has most Michigan fans scratching their heads. Szabo has a long resume most recently coaching DBs for the Buffalo Bills and a long stint as LB coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He's also a former Ohio State assistant which will probably get plenty of mention between now and November. He's certainly got the pedigree to be an upgrade over Hermann and his experience on the staff can't hurt with such a young DC.

Cornerbacks coach: Ron Lee is taking over CBs while Ron English is still going to coach the safeties. I really don't know what to make of this move. Lee has been at Wisconsin in the same capacity the past 3 years and they haven't had the most talent to work with in this area.

QB coach: Scott Loefler is not being replaced by anybody. He's certainly the hottest young coach on the staff and the fact that he turned down the NFL again is certainly very promising. Recruits and QBs both love him and considering Michigan is going after the biggest QB fish in the land again this year it is good to have him still on board.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with how things ended up. Carr did a good job of getting some new blood into the staff and shaking things up enough to keep people on their toes. Hopefully the end result on the field this year is similar to the last time we changed both coordinators in the same offseason.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Worst. Super. Bowl. Ever.

  • worst refs
  • horribly played game
  • horrible half time show
  • horrible advertisements

I mean what the hell was that? The only saving grace was it seemed to be the fastest Super Bowl I can remember in quite some time as this one was done in what seemed to be safely under 4 hours. But it just sucked all around. The ads were just brutal when compared to Super Bowls of the past. The Strolling Bones are really getting too old for this. And the refs??? Holy damn did they screw the Seahawks (and I didn't even care who won).

There really isn't much more to say about it. At least the city of Detroit put on a nice show. I'm just hoping that the city can continue to build on it for the next 5-10 years.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Double Thud

That giant thud you heard yesterday was Michigan falling flat on it's face in Iowa City. So yeah, pencil Michigan back in as your run of the mill Big Ten team that looks awesome at home and not so much on the road. Should've been the story of the day, right? One Big Ten co-leader getting smoked by another Big Ten co-leader. Well, it would've been if Illinois didn't screw the pooch in Champaign against Penn State. That's right, #6 Illinois riding a 33 game winning streak at home against perennial laughing stock Penn State blew a 16 pt lead in the 2nd half. Ouch.

So where do we go from here? Iowa sits alone in first place, but will that last past their next road game? Michigan State is feeling mighty nice right now, that's for sure.

Friday, February 03, 2006

I-O-W-A is going D-O-W-N

Huge game for the Wolverines this weekend as they take on fellow Big Ten co-leader Iowa at Carver Hawkeye Arena. Both clubs sit at 6-2 in conference play and are tied with Illinois for first place. What does this game offer to Michigan? A chance to go out and beat a top contender on the road and cement themselves as a true contender for the Big Ten title. A loss? Sticks us back in the status quo of Big Ten teams this year by winning the games we are supposed to and struggling on the road.

Also, some brief thoughts on the relative power ratings of the top 7 teams in the Big Ten:

1) Illinois - they got an easy W in Madison and have been the most consistent Big Ten team this year

2) Michigan State - struggled on the road, but have played very well at home. They've still got the most talent in the conference and I look for them to turn it up a notch down the stretch.

3) Michigan - this may be a touch premature, but the Wolverines are really playing well right now

4) Iowa - I still can't shake them image of them getting hammered in East Lansing. But they are undefeated at home this year

5) Indiana - if DJ White was healthy, they'd be ranked a lot higher. But he's out for the year and so are their hopes of winning the Big Ten.

6) Ohio State - nobody expected them to be this good before Greg Oden showed up. Nice job coaching by Thad Matta.

7) Wisconsin - they've still got the easiest schedule and could make a run at the title on that basis alone. However, academic casualties have robbed their depth and sent them into a tailspin.


Thursday, February 02, 2006


These are my confessions
Just when I thought I said all I could say
My chick on the side said she got one on the way
These are my confessions
Man I'm thrown and I dont know what to do
I guess I gotta give part 2 of my confessions
If I'm gonna tell it then I gotta tell it all
Damn near cried when I got that phone call
I'm so throwed and I don't know what to do
But to give you part 2 of my confessions

like Usher said, I've got some confessions...

Yesterday was National Signing Day for College Football. There really isn't any point in me even linking anything because it's everywhere. Oh my God. Recruits galore. Future All Americans and saviors of the program! Which ones will even stick around for a full 4 years before heading off to the NFL???? 6'5" receivers that can run a 4.2 forty? 300 lb lineman with nimble feet? Cannon armed QBs? They abound in February every year.

Now you see, the problem is I just don't care. Is there something wrong with me? Am I less of a college football fan? Does it matter if I can quote the stats and standings and scores of every game around the country on any given Saturday afternoon in the fall? I've got more links to CFB related web sites on my browser than almost everything else combined. I've been fortunate enough to attend somewhere north of 60 Michigan football games since the mid 90s. But I just don't give a damn about recruiting for college football.

You're probably asking yourself why. Well, I could spout off the part about nobody knows who the great ones will be which is sort of a standard response that some would give. Braylon Edwards was a 3 star that only had scholarship offers from UM, MSU, and CMU. Mike Hart was a smurf out of upstate NY that Tom Lemming said would never play TB in college. Justin Fargas and Kelly Baraka were as highly touted as it gets in HS winning all sorts of All American honors, but look what that got them. But you know what? That's only part of the reason I don't care. Here are some more:

1) These are just high school kids. If one of them, God forbid, changes his mind about which school he wants to play for it's look out with screaming idiots coming out of the woodwork about honoring commitments and what not.

2) It's just damn hard to project how players will develop at the next level. Let's be serious, there are probably less than 10 or 20 HS players that could've stepped on to the field at the Rose Bowl and looked like anything other than a scrub. They all have to improve to make an impact. How much will they improve? That's hard to guess at. How do you compare them to each other? Even harder. HS football is a wildly varying beast from state to state and conference to conference and even school to school. Some kids play at tiny schools against poor competition. Some kids play for mega powerhouses against the best teams in the nation. Is there any meaningful way to make a comparison between a kid rushing for 2000 yards against nobody compared to 1000 yards against the best?

3) Measureables. If I never read about a hand timed 40 again I will be a happy man. For the love of God, half of Virginia Tech's managers have been clocked under a 4.40 last I checked. Hand timed 40s aren't worth shit (pardon my french). It's a bunch of guys standing around with stop watches who time a kid on successive runs and they generally report the fastest time of the fastest run. When you factor in reaction time and standard error and other such "novelties", it has about the same accuracy as me standing around and guessing how fast it was.

4) Football is a team made up of a large number of players. To get worked up over 1 or 2 particular recruits is just pointless. Some people get way too high or way too low based on the college choices of a few kids. I mean a single recruit may or may not become a starter in the future at your school. Even if they do, their individual impact on the W/L column at the end of the year is just not that big. And with recruiting, you never know how it will work out down the road. Michigan didn't sign Sam Keller Jr, son of the former Wolverine? Well, turns out they got Chad Henne. That didn't work out too bad. Didn't get Jai Eugene this year? Get back to me after next year's class hauls in highly touted CBs.

I could go on, but what's the point. Recruiting in college football is a mega-industry. And the thing is, I do follow it. More for recognition of who will be playing for Michigan in the future than as a particular prognostic indicator of the strength of the program. And I do think that paying attention to the recruiting class as a whole is far more valuable than getting worked up about any individuals.

But football recruiting pales in comparison to basketball recruiting. High school basketball players have been playing against each other on the AAU circuit for years so it is quite easy to see how they stack up to each other. They also are ready to contribute on the court at a much earlier time in their career with many starting as freshmen.

Sorry for the rant, I'll allow you to return to the idol worship of early February... Back to hoops tomorrow with some thoughts about the Big Ten race.