Friday, February 27, 2009

Dancing in the Aisle

Last night after Michigan’s final home game, the usher that always sits at the end of my row in the media area shook my hand and told me, “Well, its been a great season. Hopefully, I’ll see you next year.” He then turned to the rest of our broadcast crew and did the same to each member. No one had the heart to tell this elderly gentleman, “Apparently, you haven’t worked here many years. Don’t miss us too much because we’ll probably see you in two weeks for the NIT.”

This was the sentiment we all briefly thought about. Michigan just won its biggest home game since the Duke win in Decemeber. DeShawn Sims played his best in the biggest game of the season (again) and Manny Harris showed what kind of player he intends on being (obviously, Manny Fresh reads the blog). But was it enough to get Michigan back on track for the Big Dance? Michigan has been here before (i.e. 2004) where the bottom falls out on the season with the NCAA Tournament only a few wins away. Here are just a few of the questions that were raised last night as I headed for the arena exit:

Are we in?

Are we still on the bubble?

Is Wisconsin a “Must-Win?”

Does Joe Lundari take checks or cash?

Apparently, Lunardi saw something he liked from the Wolverines last night…either from the play of the Wolverines or anonymous cash donation. Lunardi now has the Wolverines as an 11 seed in the East Region of the NCAA Tournament. They would play LSU 1st round, and presumably Duke in the 2nd Round in Greensboro, N.C. (Uh-oh). That puts PSU and Michigan as the 6th and 7th teams from the Big Ten that are potentially in the tourney. The ACC gets 8 teams in, with the Big Ten and Big East tied with 7.

As a fan of the Maize and Blue, this is great news. I haven’t seen Michigan in a NCAA tournament since I was in grade school and was wielding a Jurassic Park: Lost World lunch box (old-school thermos with picture of Velociraptor included) . However, take Michigan’s tourney news with a grain of salt.

Three of the four teams behind Michigan right now (according to Lunardi) are Minnesota, Providence, and Maryland. Maryland already beat the Wolverines this season and will get a chance to beat a top 25 team in the early rounds of the ACC Tournament. Providence is coming off a win over Pittsburgh, which is arguably the best team in the country. An early round upset in the Big East tourney would almost certainly put them in the field of 65. As for Minnesota, Michigan will play them at The Barn for their season finale. A loss here (and at Wisconsin), and Michigan would kill their tournament hopes. Each of these scenarios could bounce U of M from the bracket.

The real thing Wolverine fans should take away from this is that there is still too much basketball to be played to know anything for sure. Me, Stu, and a few friends debated this for about a half hour in traffic and for another hour at the bar while celebrating the win. After arguing over who was “in” or “out” (and also attempting to wager beers on who could guess the name of Michigan Basketball’s strength and conditioning coach… Mike Curtis), one conclusion was finally reached: We have no #*$*&%^ clue. There are too many variables left in play. We all thought Michigan still had to win two more games to even get back on solid ground with the tournament committee. But even that turned out to be slightly off.

Michigan is back in the tourney hunt that will come down to the very last game. I just hope yesterday was the last time I see our friend, the old Crisler usher, until next year.

I Have Seen the Future, and it is Amazing

Over break I got the chance to watch the University of Missouri take on Kansas State in person. Missouri routed a talented K-State squad in a very exciting game. K-State was within 4 midway through the first half, then Missouri exploded and jumped out to a 23 point halftime lead, and never looked back. The game was a great experiences, and I walked away with two things on my mind. First, Missouri is a legit top 10 team, and they can give any tournament team fits with their style of play, while also keeping the crowd entertained. Second, and of more concern to fans up here, throughout the game I noticed several similarities between Missouri and Michigan, and some of them were almost spooky. (I would put up pictures, but I don't think anyone really wants to see a picture of Amaker here).
  • Both teams replaced a former Duke assistant who left in controversy. Missouri fared better than Michigan, making 6 straight postseasons (4 NCAAs), but was placed on probation by the NCAA and in 2003 went from the #3 team in the country to losing in the first round of the NIT.
  • Both teams hired a somewhat unconventional coach who rely on a system to get the most out of their players. Michigan got Beilein in 2007, and Missouri hired Mike Anderson from UAB in 2006. Beilein is known for his 1-3-1 defense and 3 point shooting, Anderson counters with "40 minutes of hell," where the team runs a full court press the entire game, then mixes tight man-to-man with a variety of zone looks (including the occasional 1-3-1 look).
  • Both schools struggled in their coaches first season. Missouri wasn't as bad in Anderson's 1st year as Michigan was last year, but they missed the postseason.
  • Both schools are technically U of M, and have similar colors (black/gold v maize/blue), Missouri even uses a block M. Still, no one should be confusing the two schools.
Anderson is now in his 3rd year at Missouri, and almost all the player's on the team were recruited by Anderson. The result has been a great season, a top-10 ranking, and a return to the NCAA tourney. One thing that kept popping into my head as I walked away from Mizzou Arena was if Anderson can do this in three years, I can't wait to watch Michigan next year.
**UPDATE - After watching Michigan handle Purdue, I can wait for next year.**

In other news, as Matt alluded to earlier this week, Rob, Jeremy, and I traveled down to Tampa this past weekend to cover Michigan baseball as the Wolverines opened the 2009 season with the inaugural Big East-Big Ten Challenge. The broadcast facilities were interesting for a couple of the games (read table at field level behind home plate), but I can't complain because it was Florida, and I was watching baseball. The team looked very good, going 4-0 over the weekend. For a recap that redefines the word thorough, check our the post by FormerlyAnonymous on Varsity Blue. The baseball team remains in Florida for a tournament in Jacksonville, and will return next weekend (March 6-8) to play Sienna and the New York Mets in an exhibition game.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Michigan 87 #16 Purdue 78: Quick Thoughts

Bill Raftery of ESPN said at the end of the broadcast tonight that 9 teams out of the Big Ten would make the NCAA Tournament... yes, not 7, not 8, but 9.  Remember there are only 11 teams in the league. I guess Raftery thinks Michigan and Northwestern will get in. Who knows? Anyway, Michigan made its case tonight to be the 8th team from the Big Ten into the tournament. The Wolverines were in a must-win situation and delivered, adding a third signature win to their resume (UCLA, Duke & Purdue).  Frankly, both teams slept walk through the first half and Michigan should have had a larger lead, especially with JaJuan Johnson on the bench with three fouls.  The Wolverines came out much more inspired in the 2nd half.  In an earlier post, Matt made an excellent point about how Manny Harris has been quiet in big games this year.  Tonight, Manny responded to his benching scoring 27 points.  Similar to the Duke game, DeShawn Sims was the best player on the floor, as he had a career-high 29 points. Michigan is not going to lose many games that Manny and DeShawn score 56 combined. Sure, the game had its moments where you will scratch your head (all the missed free throws, Kelvin Grady and Zach Gibson's turnovers), but when the Wolverines shoot close to 80% from the field in the 2nd half, you can't complain too much. Overall, while I give credit to Michigan for the victory, Purdue missed a golden opportunity to overtake Michigan State for the Big Ten regular season championship.  Outside of Robbie Hummel, the Boilers were asleep at the wheel tonight.

Michigan has been a prototypical bubble team all season long, exemplified in their last two games, losing to Iowa and defeating Purdue. Now, only 2 games remain before the Big Ten Tournament for Michigan, at Wisconsin and at Minnesota. Find a way to steal one and defeat Northwestern for a third time this year in Indianapolis and you're in.  Could the Committee really leave out a team that plays in the #2 conference (RPI) with 20 overall wins (3 over top 15 teams & 5 wins over top 50 RPI teams) and a .500 record in the league? Don't think so.  Still, I'd like to have the final minute of the Iowa game to play again.

Judgement Day For Harris

Today is the day we find out who Manny Harris truly is.

You can’t judge a kid by how he plays in one game, I agree. But tonight’s game against Purdue will tell us what kind of player Manny Harris has become up to this point.

Yes, he’s been immature at times. He basically took himself out of the Wisconsin game New Year’s Eve after repeatedly driving to the hole and not getting the calls he wanted. Bo Ryan was showing Manny that all Harris could do was shot jumpshots that night, and Manny didn’t try to show him otherwise.

Against Iowa and against Purdue, Harris wasn’t as assertive as he needed to be. The Purdue defense extended themselves and forced him to take some bad shots before getting tossed by the refs. At Iowa, it was his own coach who took him out of the game, but not before Harris had a dismal night from the field and didn’t run the last play of regulation (allegedly).

Harris will probably be named All-Big Ten 1st team based on his stats and reputation. But in big games, and in big scenarios, Harris has continued to disappear. Duke, UConn, and MSU were the three biggest games Michigan played this season, and can anyone recall Harris’ numbers in any of those games? Didn’t think so. Those are the games big players show up for, and those are the games people remember how many points the star player went for. People will remember how DeShawn Sims dropped 28 on Duke at Crisler. Harris has yet to have his memorable moment.

There’s a scene from the first season of The Wire, where the gangster “Omar” tells a detective that “Either you play the game, or the game plays you.” Manny has let “the game” play him plenty of times this season, content to be a bystander. On the other hand, Harris has played the game brilliantly, with flashes of brilliance in big games (18, 8, and 5 against Iowa at home).

Tonight, Harris gets one last shot to show the committee that he is done letting the game play him. This is his chance to show the tournament committee that Michigan still has some life.

This is his chance at a memorable moment.

For more on Harris, UM basketball, and a baseball update...check back tomorrow.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Spring Break Cabin Fever

Blogging has been a bit slow since Michigan is now on Spring Break... everyone is either in Florida doing Baseball/Softball for or stuck back here in MI. I stayed back to get some work done and get some interviews taken care of.... considering there is two inches of snow on the ground, I regret the decision.

Make sure to keep up with all the Michigan Baseball coverage this week on MGoBlue (if you are not lucky enough to get to FL yourselves). Baseball is off to a quick 4-0 start and looks real good for such a team with so many new faces. The blogging might be a little light due to everyone being gone, but keep an eye out for a Mixer on Wednesday and we'll have the Purdue/Michigan Basketball game this Thursday.

OK, the Fab Five story has been up for almost a week and I'm sick of looking at it. I don't like posting back-to-back, but screw it. I got so much free time, I'm going nuts. Here are some things to keep you busy and keep you reading on this Spring Break 09:

Most people don't like Michigan's early Spring Break. I actually enjoy it. It gives kids a chance to work on applications for internships that are due in late February, as well allow kids the unique opportunity to enjoy New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Whether you are at home in front of the computer entering your name, address, and past work experience OR out on an RV headed to the French Quarter, this break comes early enough for students to get away from Ann Arbor right before the weather breaks. Ann Arbor is great in good weather, so I'm a big fan of anything that gives me more time to enjoy Ann Arbor in the sun.

Speaking of Mardi Gras, my roomates and friends are headed there right now... some by air, and some by RV. From just asking around, this seems like to be the place to be at Spring Break 09. However, I was also shocked the amount of students doing alternative spring break. Props to the ASB kids... and props to those willing to drive to Mardi Gras. Both are things I don't think I'd sign up for.

...Ok, maybe I'd do ASB.... if it was someplace warm... on a beach....and, I need to stop thinking about this. It will only depress me.

One great thing about Spring Break at home is the time you have to read for fun: Here are three books worth checking out that I've read so far this year:

Born Standing Up
- Steve Martin's Autobiography. Pretty short and it has some great stuff from his days on Leno and SNL.

Playing for Pizza- John Grisham's attempt at writing sports fiction. If you can set aside the inaccuracies and his skimpiness on the lack of football knowledge, the story itself is pretty good. Think NFL Europe meets The Replacements.

The Last Lecture - This is the much publicized book by Randy Pausch, the Carnegie-Mellon professor diagnosed with cancer who gave his last lecture on life to his students before it was turned into a book. After he passed away, I bought the book and it was definitely worth shelling out the 15 bucks. Here is the 10 minute version, but it really doesn't do the book justice.

Honorable Mention: Dreams of My Father, Now I Can Die in Peace, and Moneyball

BUT, if you are at home, you can only take reading for so long. Here are three television series to check out while at home with nothing to do:

*Appologies to all those who think Lost should be on this list. I just don't have the time or the patience to watch a series that should only have lasted one season.

Friday Night Lights: Greatest drama on network TV. If you are a sports fan, watch it. If you don't like sports, watch it. Season 1 on DVD is the best TV on DVD season I own. If I can't convince you, I'll let Bill Simmons do it.

The Wire: My buddy Shaak has been talking about the Wire for the last four years, so I finally gave in once a professor of mine said it'd help with understanding the subject matter in his class. Season 1 is awesome, and its short (13 episodes), so it'll be easy to get through during the break.

The Office: Best Comedy on TV. Season 1 sets things up, but it's only 6 episodes and not that great. Season 2 is classic so I would go straight to Season 2, and then watch Season 1 if you like what you see.

And if THAT doesn't tide you over, here are three must see games to catch this week:

Michigan vs. Purdue: 9pm Thursday - Michigan's tourney life hangs in the balance. I'm of the opinion that they need to win out before the B10 Tourney them to have a shot at the NCCA Tournament. Can they do it? Stranger things have happened as we head towards the best sports month of the year...

Spurs vs. Cavaliers: 9:30pm Friday - A possible Finals preview? Everyone has been talking about the Cavs and Lakers, but don't be surprised if SA sneaks into the Finals. I hope to God this doesn't happen in order to avoid a replay of the 2007 NBA Finals (aka the worst NBA Finals EVER on TV). I think the Cavs would actually make it a series if this were to happen, but nothing would beat Kobe vs. Lebron in June.

Clemson vs. FSU: 2pm Saturday - A battle of two ACC Cinderellas. When you mention the ACC, these two teams aren't the ones that immeadiately come to mind. But, both these teams are top 25 teams (13 and 25, respectively) and could make some noise come March. At the very least, I want to see what these teams have so I know if they have what it takes to make it to the second weekend of the Big Dance.

Always good to have a little break from sports and enjoy ourselves. Hope everyone is enjoying their break. However, we will get back to our Michigan sports coverage very soon, and will have a baseball and basketball update up by mid week.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Fab Five Reunion

Last month at Mock Rock, Jimmy King said that the Fab Five are "coming back, man." He made a couple references to the team and casually talked about the their return. I mentioned it briefly in my Mock Rock X recap two weeks ago. No one really thought much of it at the time.

Turns out, the reunion tour is coming to Michigan sooner than everyone expected.

As reported by the Associated Press, the Fab Five will reunite on April 4 at a Final Four charity event hosted by the Motor City Casino. The event will benefit the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. The Motor City Casino is just down the road from Ford Field, site of the 2009 NCAA Championship Game. The final game will take place two days after the event.

This is story will pick up more steam as we get closer to tourney time here in S.E. Michigan. But the fact that all five guys have agreed to appear at the same time under the "Fab Five" moniker has to be a step in the right direction for their return to Michigan's campus.

It'll be interesting to see what kind of comment Bill Martin will have about this event, as well as what the guys themselves will say about a possible return to Ann Arbor and Crisler Arena.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A-Rod Injected by his Cousin

Let the search begin...

By the way, I learned today that Alex Rodriguez was "stupid," "naive," "irresponsible," "young," "24," and "a kid." This is all breaking news.

In all seriousness, how does a world-class athlete inject himself over 70 times (approximately twice a month for three years) with a performance enhancing drug and get to blame it on youth, stupidity, and naivety?

Does he really expect us to believe that the best baseball player in the world was willing to inject a drug into his body without determining what he was putting into his body?

And if he really didn't know what he was doing and he really didn't see a noticeable difference in his performance and energy, why did he do it twice a month for three years?

Most importantly, if he didn't know that what he was doing was wrong, why did he go about it in a covert manner? Why not ask around about this drug? Why use this "cousin" and not a doctor?

Sorry Alex, but this story did not die today... it has just begun.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Mixer

Last week, I took the LSAT exam and so in preparation for that test, I was not able to get around to getting up last week's Mixer. And just in case you are wondering why I took the LSAT... well, let's just say blogging doesn't pay the bills.

Valentine's Day: With Valentine's Day coming up, I thought we'd throw in a special V-day video. I have a soft spot for WOLV TV, having done some work with this group myself. Here is the Average Joe's take on Valentine's Day:

I've known Joe for longer than I can remember and really like the work he's done in a short time at WOLV. Unethical to use your friends in the Mixer, you ask? Hey, if it works for Bill Simmons, it can't hurt.

Michigan Clip of the Week: In honor of a fellow blogger, I'm going to show Veronica Hicks some love and put her B10 PSA as the winner. An engineering student from just outside Chicago, her story is an interesting one. The blog is a cool idea to give her team some exposure, and she's been a consistent contributor to Women's Bball the entire season...and she killed it at Mock Rock X! Keep up the good work and writing!

Tiger's Cub: Congrats to Tiger Woods on the birth of his second child, Charlie Axel Woods. I'll be interested to see what kind of childhood this kid receives with a high-profile father, and with the way Tiger was brought-up himself by Earl Woods. Only time will tell. Until then, enjoy what I consider to be one of the greatest commercials of all time:

Whenever I'm out on a golf course, I always try to re-create this commercial when I am on the tee waiting for the group in front of me to finish. The most I've gotten to is 11. When this first came out, every kid with a set of sticks immediately went out into his/her yard to mimic Tiger. The fact Tiger did this without digital effects is absurd.

Top Stories:

Kwame gets a job: If this man can get a job after publicly stealing 8 million dollars from Detroit, AND getting caught cheating on his wife, theoretically we should all be getting jobs with no problem. Thanks, Peter Karmanos.

Miracle on Ice: The Sequel?: A look inside the possible roster for the '10 USA Hockey team. Former Wolverine stand-out Jack Johnson is among those mentioned.

Great Journalism Lives Here: Dan Wetzel gives a great account of Billy Joe Johnson's tragic story. I'm a big fan of Wetzel, a local guy from S.E. Michigan, and I'm glad this story has gotten some much-deserved recognition.

103: The Names Which Must Stay Secret

Performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) have given an era of baseball a black eye.

George Mitchell provided the knock-out blow.

And, now, Alex Rodriguez's name has been released as one of 104 players who tested positive for PEDs in 2003 during an anonymous drug test for the purpose of determining if mandatory drug tests were necessary.

Cue the clamors for a public release of the other 103 names.

"It's unfair to A-Rod!" "The rest of the players are innocent and we should know who they are!" "Because the people -- baseball fans -- deserve to know!"

Here's my request: stop telling me who did steroids in the past and work on eliminating steroid use in the future.

The Mitchell Report has forever legitimized the practice of investigating PEDs for the purpose of exposing the "cheaters."

A 409-page report which detailed Major League Baseball's failure to adequately respond to the problem of steroids has been boiled down to a he-said, he-said court battle between Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee.

A 409-page report which proposed substantive changes in the infrastructure of Major League Baseball is remembered for 87 names.

A 409-page report which was supposed to prove that a problem exists across the entire league relied on two sources. And they are both criminals.

However, the primary issue with the Mitchell Report is that it came with the implicit message that the list of players mentioned was exhaustive -- that players not on the list are innocent. And now we learn that, in 2003, 104 players tested positive for PED use.

Where does it stop? How many lists of names need to come out before we take a page out of Mark McGwire's book and stop talking about the past?

Let's look past the "fairness" issue as it pertains to Alex Rodriguez. He cheated, and he admitted it. He lost the right to "fairness" a long time ago.

Let's also ignore the plea from baseball fans that they have some inherent right to see who cheated. This list of 104 players was supposed to be kept secret, and everyone was willing to turn a blind eye when Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire rescued the game from "The Strike Era."

And let's be honest: people want to see the list because they are interested in tabloid news.

The best argument for releasing the other 103 names is that the presence of the anonymous list casts a shadow of doubt over the rest of the league; fans and media sources will continuously speculate on whom that list contains.

The problem with this argument is that the speculation never stops. We are entrenched in an era of baseball that has been forever tarnished by cheaters, and we have been taught to trust nobody.

We can stop guessing the other 103 names once this list is released, but will anyone believe that every other baseball player is clean? Will anyone believe that this list is the exhaustive one?

And why should they? From Barry Bonds to Roger Clemens to Alex Rodriguez, our imaginations have been stretched to include the unthinkable. We are prone to expect the next headline to include a new allegation of steroid use.

Stop. While we can still save the game, let's move forward.

Clearly, the status quo is not working. Major League Baseball has mandatory drug testing in place, and players are still stupid enough to use PEDs. Shame on them.

Let's get serious about moving past "The Steroid Era." Let's focus on what the current game has to offer: speed, defense, and youth. Oh, and the stories.

This offseason has been spent discussing steroids, Manny Ramirez, and Joe Torre. Remember when a 10,000-loss team won the World Series against a team that finished the year with a record above .500 for the first time in franchise history?

Baseball has given its fans plenty to talk about.

Now, it's time to move on.

Nonstop Bias from Jay Bilas

In the UNC-Duke game last night, Kyle Singler threw an elbow to Tyler Hansbrough. No surprise that Jay Bilas, working in the studio for ESPN last night, didn't call for Coach K to get his program under control.


Joaquin Phoenix Disaster On Letterman

We have been chronicling the bizarre story of former actor, now rapper Joaquin Phoenix over the last month.  The story that keeps on giving took another strange turn on Letterman tonight.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pitchers & Catchers To Report

With Spring Training now upon us, a chance to re-live how I waxed poetic on the 2008 Phillies World Championship.  Click below to listen to my monologue on the 10/31/08 Game of the Week. Good memories, let's do it again!

ID: wcbn
Password: wcbnfm

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Michigan State @ Michigan Archive

Really, Manny, really??? Re-live loss #10 in its entirety by clicking below.


WCBN will have LIVE coverage of Michigan-Michigan State from sold out Crisler Arena tonight starting at 6:45pm ET.  LISTEN ON THE WCBN SPORTS STREAM!!!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Renewal of a Rivalry: #9 Michigan State @ Michigan

As they'll all be heading down the stretch, tomorrow night's game is of great importance for Michigan and their NCAA Tournament chances. Michigan (15-9, 5-6) plays host to #9 Michigan State (19-4, 9-2) at 7pm from Crisler Arena. MSU is a 4.5 point favorite.

Programming Info: The game is on ESPN at 7pm with Brent (much younger and working for CBS in the picture to the right) and Steve Lavin on the call, with Erin Andrews as the sideline reporter. WCBN will have a preview of the game on the Tuesday DSR (5:15) and LIVE coverage of the game on the WCBN Sports Stream starting with an expanded pregame at 6:45.

Michigan-UConn Recap: An encouraging performance against the #1 team in the country on the road. Michigan led by as much as eight in the first half and had a genuine chance to pull off the upset going down the stretch. The game seemed to turn between four and six minutes left in the 2nd half when the Wolverines failed on three consecutive possesions to score down 57-53. Stu Douglass was terrific yet again, scoring a career-high 20 points (6-8 from 3). If Sims, Novak or LLP gave you a bit more offensively, Michigan would have had their third top five upset this year. I think the parallels to the Maryland game (ACC-Big Ten Challenge) are fair, as in both games Michigan led at the half, played with the road favorite for 35 minutes, before being unable to make a few plays in the end. After the Maryland loss, Michigan beat Duke later that week, a potential forerunner of what could come against MSU this Tuesday.

Why Michigan Will Win: #1-Stu Douglass: As has been rightly pointed out by others, Michigan seems to perform best when the team has a viable and consistent scoring option outside of Manny Harris. Douglass has been red hot in the last two games (12-19 from 3) and adds a different dimension to the Wolverines offense. #2-Raymar Morgan's health: The junior for MSU averages more than twelve points a game, but missed the Spartans last two games due to an illness, specifically mono. Without Morgan or even with Morgan playing at less than 100%, the Spartans are forced to go deeper into their bench and depend on Marquise Gray and Draymond Green to play more minutes and provide more production offensively. #3-Crisler crowd: The third sellout of the season at Crisler Arena is expected on Tuesday night with an attendance of close to 14,000. Due to the unbalanced Big Ten schedule, the Michigan-MSU game on Tuesday night will be the only meeting of the season this year between the two in-state rivals. The Wolverines are 12-2 at home this year and should use the home crowd to their advantage.

Why Michigan Will Lose: #1-Rebounding: As expected, Michigan was soundly out-rebounded by UConn (a 2-1 margin) on Saturday in Storrs and will likely face the same fate in that department on Tuesday. Tom Izzo's teams always take pride in beating their opponents on the glass and this MSU team is no different, leading the nation with a rebounding margin of better than +10. #2-Kalin Lucas: The 2nd team Preseason All-American has a remarkable turnover-assist ratio this year and is averaging 17 points a game in MSU's last twelve. Lucas will be among those in the discussion for Big Ten Player of the Year, with Talor Battle of Penn State and Manny Harris of Michigan. #3-Tired Legs: The MSU game will be Michigan's 3rd in just a seven day span, two of which have been played against top ten teams. Add to that the freshmen wall that LLP & Zach Novak seem to have hit and there is good reason for concern. For MSU, the game at Michigan will be their fifth in the last thirteen days.  It seems pretty simplistic, but the fresher team has a huge edge.

Final 7: Well, it doesn't seem that long ago that I was preparing to call the Michigan-SVSU exhibition game back in November. Now, all that Michigan has gone through this year: their early season success featuring wins over UCLA and Northeastern and a split with Duke to the adversity of losing five of six games in conference where Novak and Manny were ejected in consecutive games comes down to the final seven games of the season. If Michigan wants to assure itself a position on the bracket come Selection Sunday, four wins are necessary to finish the year at 9-9 in the Big Ten. Just three wins and a 8-10 Big Ten record certainly would put Michigan in the conversation, but the Wolverines would have a hard time arguing their case if they were left out. Winning four of the remaining seven will be difficult, as four games are on the road and Wisconsin and Minnesota are practically not winnable. That means, even if Michigan (currently 1-6 on the road) wins at Iowa and Northwestern, it will still have to win two of their three remaining home games (MSU, Minnesota, Purdue), which is easier said than done. Again, if I were putting money on it right now, I'd say Michigan gets two at home and one on the road, leaving them with eight conference wins and squarely on the bubble. I won't even get into the Big Ten Tournament or other teams in the Big Ten (Wisconsin & Penn State) that will be battling with Michigan for the sixth bid out the league. I'll leave that discussion for a later time.

Prediction: While I forecasted a loss in this game a few weeks ago, I firmly believe Michigan has hit their stride and is due for a big win. Heading back to the 2nd half of the Ohio State game two weeks ago, the Wolverines have been playing much better on both ends of the floor. I was genuinely discouraged by the performance of MSU at home against Indiana on Saturday and am concerned about their health and fatigue. I still believe MSU will win the Big Ten, but they can afford a few more losses. Manny goes for 25, DeShawn scores 18 and Zach Gibson (yes, Zach Gibson) scores in double figures.

Michigan 68 Michigan State 63

Saturday, February 7, 2009


A-Rod interview on steroids w/ Katie Couric... WATCH HERE!!!

MUST WATCH: Costas interview w/ Selena Roberts (SI)... Full interview available on

The rehearsed admission... CLICK HERE!!!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Penn State @ Michigan Archive

Re-live Michigan's 15th win of the season over Penn State in its entirety by clicking below.

Michigan-Penn State LIVE on YouCastr @ 7pm

It's a 'must-win' tonight.  Our coverage from Crisler Arena begins just prior to 7pm LIVE.  LISTEN HERE!!!

Joe Buck Joins HBO

Earlier this week, word broke that Bob Costas was leaving HBO after 8 years to join MLB Network. HBO moved quickly to replace Costas and today signed Joe Buck of FOX Sports to a multi-year contract. Buck will begin at HBO in May and will host a show in a live town hall format four times a year, similar to "Costas Now" in 2008.  Good hire for HBO.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Mock Rock X

Playing a sport at U of M allows kids to show-off their athletic skills on one of the biggest "stages" in sports... a Big Ten stage. However, tonight was a chance for the student body at Michigan to see student-athlete classmates show off their skills on an actual stage. Mock Rock (the annual variety show put on by Michigan's athletic teams) has been a tradition at Michigan over the past decade, but I was only able to experience my first one this year. There should be highlights and interviews of the event up on MGoBlue and Wolverine Sports Magazine in a couple days. But before then, here was my take on the event.

Initial Impressions:
Having performed in one variety show myself (Greek Week 2007 at Michigan), I know how hard it is to get up on stage and do something out of one's element. While my dancing career was short lived (my team didn't place and I haven't done anything like it since), I enjoyed it and was looking forward to a good show. The night got off to a rocky start when the two co-chairs (Cody Waters of Wrestling and Laura Dunn of Rowing) stumbled through the intro. It was a 15 minute intro that only should have taken 5 minutes. Having covered both these sports (and these two athletes), I knew it'd be an interesting introduction to begin with but I hadn't expected the awkward pauses after each sentence. Both are pretty talkative, and good with a microphone in front of them, so it was a fast recovery. In fairness, it's not easy to throw an event like this so props to them.

The Judges and MC:
Desmond Howard: Howard did much better than I expected him to in hosting the event. He played to the crowd, had some great jokes ("If Bill Martin offered me Rich Rod's salary, I'd leave me wife! To hell with West Virginia! I'd leave my wife!"), and had good chemistry with the judges. One interesting thing to note: Howard had more wardrobe changes than a Madonna concert. Seriously! The guy wore 5 different shirts (not including the leather jacket and hat he wore to begin the show) in just over 2 hours. There has to be a Man-Law written about this if there already isn't one..

Jimmy King
- Fab Five member and color-commentator for U of M Basketball Radio, King was just like he is when he does games: funny, had plenty to say, and was a little awkward at times. Example: After he gave the Women's Swim team their score (7 out of 10), King said they weren't very "loose" and their act might've been better performed after having "a couple drinks." He also said the best thing he liked about the dance team were their 'risque' doll-house outfits. Way to keep it PG, Jimmy.

Interesting side note:
Both Howard and King alluded to the Fab Five a number of times and King said that they would be back at Michigan "this year." I don't know how much truth there is to that as it was said in a off-the-cuff manner, but I wish they would have flashed a split screen of Bill Martin and Mary Sue Coleman on the stage's projection screens when King said this. The pale expressions would've been priceless! However, with King judging a U of M event and Jalen Rose getting his own day last year, it has got to make you wonder about what King said....

Marcia Pankratz:
I attended this event with Stu and not even 15 minutes into the show I turned to him and said, "I can't believe I'm going to graduate and not have a chance to interview this coach!" She was great and rivaled King for some of the best jokes from the judges pannel. Pankratz had a somewhat dry sense of humor, but it really worked well for the event. She took teams to task when she saw a lack-luster act and even poked fun at the performing team's coaches if an act was really outrageous. Her only 10 out of 10 was for her Field Hockey girls, but I guess that was expected. She seems like someone I'd have an easy time playing for. Good luck to her going forward.

Peter Vanderkaay:
The gold medalist from Beijing has always been percieved as having a very professional personality about him and tonight was no different. The Rochester Hills native was pretty critical and even penalized the Men's Soccer team (one of the better acts) for having done an act that he remembered from before most of the soccer players even attended this school! He also didn't bite on the homage to Phelps from Women's Soccer when one of their members dressed in a Michigan swimsuit with 8 gold medals and did the Phelps' "arm flap" that he does before he takes his mark. PVK was also very gracious to the special guest judge (a 12 year old named Katie who is raising money for her own cancer foundation).

The Acts: All-in-all, the acts were about average. With so much time spent practicing their respective sports, I didn't expect a whole lot. But the top acts were all pretty good. Here were my top three:

  1. Marching Band: "Single Larry": This skit was great, but I don't know how to count them amongst the actual teams because the stuff they did with their dance and pre-recorded sound bites were things they do every week for football games...only with instruments in hand. Nevertheless, it was very entertaining and had a lot going on. It was about a geek (Larry) learning dance moves to attract women. The dances and idea were top-notch.
  2. Men's Lacrosse: "Workin' for the Weekend: Look at the non-varsity sport groups taking the top two spots! This team parodied the famous SNL skit where Patrick Swayze and Chris Farley compete for the spot as a Chippendale's dancer. The whole team dressed like the dancers, but the "finalists" nailed the final part of the act. The two guys who performed in the Sawyze/Farley roles were great. It was fantastic, and the guy who played Farley should get the MVP award for the competition.
  3. Men's Soccer: "In Synch": This skit started out with the guys doing synchronized swimming moves behind a blue tarp so as to give the illusion they were really swimming. The second part was a traditional dance routine where four guys dressed like the dancers from the group Jabbawockeez (i.e. the dudes with the masks on the new Gatorade commercials). The routine didn't really have much fluidity to it, and they always depend on Cam Cameron break dancing to get them through their recent skits. But I thought the synchro-swim idea was pure genius and by far, the most creative use of props with the blue tarp, and pink swim caps.
The crowd was mostly comprised of student athletes supporting their teammates, and unenthusiastic fraternity/sorority kids who were attending in order to earn "Greek Week" points for their teams. The crowd energy could have been better, but it was good to see the money spent on tickets going to a good cause. If you like Michigan sports, I'd recommend seeing the show if you get the chance next February if you've never been to one.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Breaking News: Gus Johnson at Crisler Thursday

The Big Ten Network team of Gus Johnson and Jim Jackson with Mike Hall as the sideline reporter will call the Michigan-Penn State game at Crisler Arena on Thursday night at 7pm.  Gus called the Michigan-Penn State game in State College last month. It is the first time I can remember that Gus will broadcast a game from Crisler. Get ready for a ton of "RISE and FIRE's!"

Other Broadcasting News: Bob Costas officially signed with MLB Network today as an on-air contributor and a play-by-play voice for select games. Costas anchored MLB Network's re-broadcast of Don Larsen's perfect game on January 1st. Costas remains in his position with NBC as the Olympics and Football Night in America studio host, but will no longer work for HBO in any capacity. Great hire for MLB Network that gives the channel wide-ranging credibility.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Extra Points Archive: 2/2/09

Topics include a recap of Super Bowl XLIII and poor officiating calls in the Michigan-Notre Dame hockey game and Michigan-Purdue basketball game.

ID: wcbn
Password: wcbnfm

Michigan @ Purdue Archive

Click below to LISTEN to WCBN's call of Michigan basketball at Purdue from West Lafayette, IN on Saturday.

Michigan Hoops: Reason for Optimism

Sure, it doesn't look good.  Michigan is 1-5 in its last six games and two games under .500 in the Big Ten for the first time all year.  That 10-2 start seems like a long time ago. If the Big Ten conference tournament started today, Michigan would face Wisconsin in the opening round with Michigan State looming in the next round.  Yet, in my judgement, Michigan needs ONLY 4 more wins to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in decade.  A 8-10 finish in the Big Ten would put the Wolverines on the bubble, but I project their RPI and non-conference wins would put them in.  With the weakness of other "BCS" conferences (Big 12, Pac 10 and SEC) and mid-major leagues (MVC, A-10), I think the Big Ten will get 7 teams in to the NCAA tournament. Let's dissect the remaining schedule:

2/5: Penn State- A must-win, plain and simple.  Going through multiple scenarios, I failed to find one where Michigan makes the Tournament without first beating PSU.  Like when the Wolverines played Northwestern a couple weeks ago, Michigan gets a Penn State coming off their first ever win in East Lansing on on Sunday. While Penn State has been the surprise team in the Big Ten this year, I think it is too much to ask that they win consecutive games on the road in the state of Michigan.  The Wolverines are the more desperate team and will win, in a similar fashion to the Northwestern game.
Projection: WIN

2/7: @ UConn- The lone non-conference game remaining on the schedule is one in which Michigan has nothing to lose, as their RPI will rise win or loss.  The size of UConn with Thabeet is a major problem and I'd be surprised if Michigan was competitive, especially if now #1 UConn loses to Louisville tonight.
Projection: LOSS

2/10: Michigan State- In the unbalanced Big Ten basketball schedule, rivalry games are not protected and therefore Michigan gets MSU only once and on their home floor.  MSU is a legitimate top ten team and final four contender and will probably out-rebound Michigan by a 2-1 margin.  That being said, I think Michigan will keep it close before MSU pulls away late.
Projection: LOSS

2/15:  @ Northwestern- NW has been playing as well as anyone in the conference since mid-January. NW, OSU, Wisconsin and Michigan are likely battling for 2 NCAA spots.  While I'm still not sold if NW is a tournament team, I expect huge games from Craig Moore and Kevin Coble in this win and a 8 point NW win.
Projection: LOSS

2/19: Minnesota- While the Gophers have size with Ralph Sampson III and Colton Iverson down-low, with the exception of the Wisconsin game, they have been a prototypical Big Ten team, winning big at home and losing by a large margin away from home. Michigan cannot afford any more home losses if they are to make the tournament and I think they'll squeak out a huge win over Tubby Smith and Minnesota right before spring break.
Projection: WIN

2/22: @ Iowa- Like the PSU game this week, this game at Iowa is a must-win for the Wolverines tournament chances. With the backloaded conference schedule and the difficulty of the remaining home games, Michigan has to win at least 1 on the road.  This is certainly their best chance, even though the Wolverines will play a much better and healthier team (with Cyrus Tate) than they saw at Crisler 3 weeks ago.  Michigan by 4 in OT.
Projection: WIN

2/26: Purdue- It won't help that this game is over spring break, but Michigan-Purdue will still attract a large crowd. I think Manny will be fired up to play Purdue again following his ejection in West Lafayette this past weekend. While this win would certainly constitute an upset, Michigan is certainly going to need a few to get into the Tournament. Michigan by 5.
Projection: WIN

3/1: @ Wisconsin- As poor as Wisconsin is playing right now (3-6) and as well as Michigan played at the Kohl Center last year (only lost by two), I don't like the matchup for the Wolverines, especially with Jon Leuer coming off the bench.  Easy win for Wisconsin.
Projection: LOSS

3/8: @ Minnesota- This game could have great meaning for Minnesota, in terms of Big Ten tournament seeding.  I would be shocked if Michigan would win at Minnesota on Senior Day. Minnesota by a comfortable dozen.
Projection: LOSS

Overall, through my calculations, I have Michigan going 4-5 in their final nine games and finishing the year at 18-13 (8-10), a record likely good enough to secure a bid for the NCAA Tournament.  The 4 most important remaining games on the schedule are Penn State, Minnesota, @ Iowa and @ Northwestern.  Michigan MUST win 3 of those 4. Certainly, it will be interesting to see how things play out over the final month of the season. Stay tuned...

Sunday, February 1, 2009

UM-Purdue: Hello, Middle-of-Nowhere USA

Here is the incident. I go into detail why this was a terrible call in the previous post. I don't know which is more annoying: Chris Kramer's flop, or the girl from in this video:

Aside from the terrible on-camera open, the fact the incident isn't shown, and the over-all annoying, condescending quality of this girl's voice, notice how Kramer doesn't seem to have a scratch on him. In the press conference, his face looks brand new. Where's the blood? Stitches? Evidence that he was even touched?! This just speaks to the fact that Manny shouldn't have gotten tossed.

Side note: Props to Patrick Beilein these past two games. He has been the guy to usher off both Manny Harris and Zack Novak after they were thrown out in their respective games. Patrick went to put his arm around Harris' waist in the huddle while the officials reviewed the incident. Right then I knew Harris was done. The police escorted Harris off the court with Beilein yesterday, but at OSU Beilein was the only line of defense between Novak and the Buckeye slappies. Leave it to OSU to give no police protection to a Michigan player.

Here are some more notables:

OHHH, CANADA: Jevohn Shepherd was tied as the leading scorer (10 pts.) for U of M in the game. The guy who played virtually no minutes since December FINALLY gets the chance to play after I've been clamoring for this change for weeks...Coach Beilein must read my blog.

The argument is to play the freshman (Novak and Douglass) in place of Shepherd. I disagree with this. Shepherd has just shown he can score, is a very athletic defender, and can provide more size on the glass. Play him. He's given the coaching staff no reason not to (as far as we know).

Air out of the balloon: When Harris left, this team looked like they had just watched their family pet get run over by a car. The Boilermakers went on tear, outscoring the Maize and Blue 42-23 in the second half. To be leading at the half, without Novak, was a great accomplishment. But asking this team to do for another half, without Manny Harris, is asking too much. There was very little offensive production: Sims only getting 10, Shepherd 10, and Puls 6....wait, PULS?!?! Yeah, Eric Puls is your third leading scorer for this game. Just over 3 minutes of playing time, 2 for 3 for 6 points. Excuse me, I have some drinking to do...

Home Court Advantage: If you ever get the chance to see a basketball game at Mackey Arena, I highly suggest you go. This was provided the Boilermakers with a huge advantage. The students are stacked on top of each other in the same way they are at the Big House. The stadium isn't very big, the bleacher seating inside gives off the illusion that the crowd is rising straight toward the ceiling. When Kramer hit the floor, got back up, and then starting waving his arms to the crowd, I swear the stadium was shaking. It was louder than any arena in the Big Ten and these people love their basketball. Having one of the best home courts is one of the reasons why I think Purdue has been able to have so much success of later.

Evidence to this point: Michigan came into the game shooting close to 78% from the free throw line as a team. That led the Big Ten. In the Purdue game, they shot 53%. Why? Most of the free throw attempts came in the second half, when Michigan was shooting at the basket right in front the student section. Putting the black-shirted "Paint Crew" behind the hoop was genius. It was like shooting into a black abyss. Combine that with the fact that the students are right on top of the court (the same way volleyball fans are at Cliff Keen Arena at U of M) and it's a very intimidating place to play.

UM-Purdue: The Flop heard round the World

This was a game that Michigan could have won.
It was a game Michigan needed.
Yet, as the Wolverines were up by three just minutes into the 2nd half, the bottom fell out on the upset bid when Chris Kramer hit the deck on a Manny Harris elbow.

Harris deserved to have a foul called. Swinging your your body with your elbows out is like baiting a ref to call a foul. But clearing space is a legal thing to do. Zack Novak deserved what he got with an obviously intentional elbow and the suspension that came with it vs. OSU. But there is no way Manny should have been thrown out. He made a basketball move. If Kramer hadn't acted like he had be blown away in a Tarantino movie, I don't think Manny would have been tossed.

Calling someone out for faking an injury, or embellishing, is a double edged sword. You want to argue that Kramer took a dive to get Manny tossed? OK. But some could argue that what we saw last weekend with Steve Kampfer (having played this week after the MSU incident) could be something along the same lines. How can a guy act like he was hit by a bus and then come back a week later?

The difference with Kampfer and Kramer was that Kampfer seeked additional medical treatment. He took a stick to the head (twice) after nearly dying from a head injury just a few months back. He wasn't ready to come back out and play and needed further attention after the incident. After lying on the ground for two minutes, Kramer hops up and starts waving his arms to get the crowd fired up. Five minutes after that, he is back on the floor with a mask ready to play. Both these athletes lay prone on the playing surface this past week, but only one had a reason too.

This was a game Michigan needed. And, even more sadly, could be seen as the one that got away come March.