The first weekend of the NCAAs is almost over. Some quick thoughts: Watching Patrick Beverly (Arkansas), Tory Jackson (ND), and Scottie Reynolds ('Nova) has been especially painful. Having just one of the three in Maize and Blue would have helped the team greatly. Either Grady or Harris wouldn't have started or Beilein could have gone three guard, moving Harris to the three. Most importantly, Michigan would have had a more experienced guard in the rotation and another scorer to ease the burden on Harris and Sims.
Damn you Pittsburgh! I had the Panthers in my final 2. Michigan State played a terrific game defensively and, for the most part, shut down Pitt in the half court. I don't understand why Dixon didn't order Fields and Ramon to push the ball up off of Michigan State misses.
Stanford, the perenially great regular season, post season flameout team actually made the Sweet 16. Another game in which the strategy was questionable. At the end of overtime, with Marquette up 1, I would have doubled Brook Lopez.
Duke is overrated and shouldn't have received a two seed. The NY Times had a great reaction piece on yesterday's game against WVU.
Speaking of WVU, although the Mountaineers are now running Huggins' scheme, as a Michigan fan, its exciting to see the talent he had to work with. Hopefully, Beilein will be able to get similar quality players, if not better, to come to Ann Arbor. I guess we'll see with Cronin, Douglass, and Novak.
Watching Miami v. Texas right now. I think Miami has the potential to become a top tier program in the ACC. Frank Haith, in just four years, has taken the Hurricanes to the NCAAs. The added exposure can only help and what recruit wouldn't want to play in the Bank United Center (the new basketball facility on campus) and live in Miami/Coral Gables for a few years?
Finally, its frustrating to watch yet another tournament without Michigan in it. I'm tried of waiting. Sigh.
Came across this while gathering evidence to dispel Jay Bilas' whining about how Michigan treated Tommy Amaker unfairly. Apparently "surplus" is an euphemism "outdated, outmoded, and virtually useless," adjectives that could also describe Michigan's old S&C Program.
I'm always on the lookout for good affordable places to eat in Miami. It's hard enough to find such places and adding the adjective "ethic" to the prior sentence makes my search even more difficult. Luckily, last Friday I ate at a place that was ethnic, affordable, and most importantly good - Loco Taqueria.
Name: Loco Taqueria Location: 235 14th Street, Miami Beach 33139 (between Collins and Washington, across from Bar Deuce) Food: Mexican Website: www.san-loco.com
Loco Taqueria (former San Loco Taqueria) is definitely a hole in the wall. So small that the Editor and I almost walked past it. The only reason we found it was because of Anthony Bourdain (of No Reservations fame). Just like he said in the Miami episode of his show that details his culinary journeys, Loco Tacqueria is located right across the street from Bar Deuce. No fancy ambiance. You walk into a single room with functional tables and chairs and an ATM. Few decorations on the wall but nothing sexy. Upon seeing the place, I had a good feeling about the food.
Fiesta! Fiesta! Loco has an menu with just the right amount of options. In additional to standard Mexican fare like tacos, burritos, nachos (available in beef, chicken, beans and rice, or fish), Loco also has salads, taco burgers , and breakfast burritos. Oh yeah, I almost forgot - the signature item is the Stupid Sauce. No item is over ten bucks making the place affordable to almost anyone living on the beach.
Aye Chihuahua! I had been contemplating what to order all day but when the time came, I went with the Burrito Loco (beef) with Stupid Sauce. The Editor opted for the fish taco (soft shell). We each ordered a Pacifica and shared a side of guacamole. Both items were excellent. The fish was battered and gently fried and came with cheese, lettuce, and tomato. The guacamole on the side added a little something to the taco, but the taco could have also stood alone just fine. As far as the burrito goes, I can easily say it was the best burrito I've had in Miami. It reminded me of the burritos I drunkenly ate in LA a few years back but was better. Topped with chili, the burrito was both filling and tasty. The Stupid Sauce was perfect. Initially, it didn't feel so spicy but by the time I was finished my tongue was on fire and, had I been a cartoon, smoke would have been coming out of my ears. The Editor opted for the medium hot sauce and found it sufficiently spicy. I'd recommend the Stupid Sauce if your stomach can handle it.
On December 2nd the Presidents of the Big Ten Universities approved extending the conference's football schedule by one week, ensuring that teams will be playing on the weekend after Thanksgiving. The change will take place in 2009 and presumably put Big Ten teams on equal footing with teams from the other major conferences.
First, extending the schedule by a week assures that any Big Ten team with National Championship hopes will not be "out of sight, out of mind" like Michigan during the 2006 season. Quick reminder: After losing to Ohio State, most of media and fans, me included, believed that Michigan was still the second best team in the country and deserved to play in the National Championship game, rematch be damned. Benefiting from playing 2 games after Michigan had completed its season, Florida was able to convince voters it was the second best team in the country. Michigan had its hands tied, could only watch from the sidelines, leaving the voters with a memory of a loss. Arguably, had Michigan had the opportunity to play another game, the Wolverines may have been able to maintain the #2 ranking and a berth in the National Championship game.
Oddly enough, this year Ohio State benefited from not playing after Thanksgiving. During the two weeks after the Big Ten season ended, LSU lost to Arkansas at home, West Virginia lost to Pittsburgh at home, and Mizzou lost to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship game. With the shakeup, Ohio State was able to move up to #2, securing a trip to New Orleans.
In the long run, the added week should help Big Ten teams, like it helped Florida last year and LSU this year. Remember, LSU was able to regain the #1 ranking even though it suffered a late season loss. A win in the SEC Championship Game coupled with other teams losing propelled LSU to the top spot. Although LSU needed other teams to lose, it had the opportunity to make one last argument and leave the voters with a good impression rather than an OT loss to an underdog Arkansas team at Death Valley. Yes, ultimately LSU needed to win its last game but at least it had the opportunity to do so unlike Michigan last year.
The second problem solved by adding an extra week directly targets rest. After the NCAA approved a 12 game regular season, Big Ten teams were forced to play an entire season without a bye. No time to rest and recover during the season. No time just to stay at home for one week and do nothing. Any Michigan fan will tell you that he is in favor of the change after the midseason injuries to Chad Henne and Mike Hart. Although the bye would not have allowed either to completely heal, it would have lessened the impact of their injuries. Who knows what would have happened against Ohio State if Henne and Hart had a week to rest sometime before the game.
It took long enough for the Presidents to approve the change, but its a signal that the Big Ten is slowly plodding into the 21st century of college football. Hopefully, more positive changes like this are to come.
Even Charles Woodson recognizes that Michigan needs to change it's philosophy on offense. If it's true, too bad Bill Martin has not. At worst, Michigan will hire someone who will teach players how to tackle.
All the speculation of Les Miles having to coach LSU in the National Championship Game while fending off questions about the Michigan job is now moot. No two loss team has ever played for the National Championship and it's highly unlikely that one will this year. Although Bill Martin can now call Miles after the SEC Championship game next Saturday, should he?
The anti-Miles crowd had plenty of evidence in its favor after yesterday: Miles' giving the Razorbacks bulletin board material after mispronouncing "Arkansas," his questionable clock management at the end of regulation, and his failure to recognize an unfavorable defensive alignment in overtime. The missteps, combined with the perception that LSU has underachieved this year, were reason enough to pass on Miles. Even Ivan Maisel thought so.
Whatever happened yesterday should not change anything. It's been reported that Miles is top candidate for the Michigan job, and if he isn't, he should be. While I can't comment to the former, I agree with the latter. Yesterday wasn't Miles' finest moment, but it wasn't so egregious at the eliminate him from being a candidate.
I read the message board over at MGoBlog after the game and I came away with the feeling that people are looking for a candidate that just doesn't exist - the perfect one who doesn't make mistakes. At some point, whoever comes to Michigan is going to make a bad playcall, burn a timeout unnecessarily, and lose games. The key is whether Michigan's next head coach makes those same mistakes over and over.
The fans' confirmation hearing of Miles has turned into a which-conference-is-best debate. Evidence used in favor of Miles can be used against him. The close wins against Alabama and Florida show that Miles is not conservative and aggressive. On the other hand, these games show that LSU has wasted its talent and has underpeformed - thus, Miles is Lloyd Carr all over again. People need to realize that the truth is probably somewhere in between and, like I've said before, no matter who comes to Ann Arbor, Michigan isn't going to win every game.
While I don't think Michigan should be married to Miles or hand him the job because of his Michigan ties, I do think the anti-Miles crowd is being overly critical. Simply, out of all the other coaches people want Martin to consider, none is flawless. I'll even go out on a limb and say that none is head and shoulders better than Miles:
"Uncle Pete" Carroll: Although he's won 2 National Championships and regularly pulls in top recruiting classes, he isn't without flaws with the most obvious being the Reggie Bush situation. Carroll, from what I've been told by a friend who loves SC, isn't the greatest at strategery. It's been said that USC isn't the force it used to be after losing Ed Orgeron, Norm Chow, and Lane Kiffin. Thus, it appears that Carroll relies heavily on his coordinators and assistants, just like Miles is perceived to do. You can't knock Miles for this while not recognizing that Carroll does the same. Also, let's not forget that SC was criticized for sleepwalking through games and playing only when it had to as it went for its third consecutive National Championship. Finally, based on these comments by Chow, Carroll could be difficult to work with.
Bob Stoops: Also has a National Championship to his credit but has also had problems with players getting into trouble off the field. Has had, considerably, three average years after losing to SC in the National Championship game. Lost to Texas Tech and Colorado this year.
Greg Schiano: Although he is a defensive minded coach (he's also the defensive coordinator) who turned around a terrible Rutgers program, his coaching leaves something to be desired. I went to the Rutgers-West Virginia game this year and saw a vanilla offense. Didn't like Schiano's decision to stick with Mike Teel even though Teel's injury prevented him from throwing downfield. Also didn't like the predictability of the offense - when Rutger's backup quarterback, Lovelace, came in, it was an obvious run. Even with the game out of hand in the fourth quarter, Schiano opted to go with Teel instead of giving Lovelace an opportunity to get game experience with the entire offensive playbook. Sound familiar?
Jeff Tedford: Brought Cal football back to prominence. Can be argued that his teams have consistently underperformed ranging from getting worked over by Texas in the 2004 Holiday Bowl to losing to Oregon State at home this year. Has only two ten win seasons. Also, there is a perception that Tedford's teams are defensively deficient and finesse.
Brian Kelly: Had tremendous success at Grand Valley State and Central Michigan (although it was with Mike DeBord's players...DeBord has to get some credit for recruiting guys that someone else would coach up, right?). Because he's only coached in the MAC and Big East, his detractors point to lack of big game experience. Also, there were the racially insensitive comments about the murder at CMU.
Chris Petersen: I really don't know much about Petersen, so I looked at his bio. Argument can be made that he's relatively green, like Kelly. Also, his success, minus the Oklahoma game, has come in the WAC.
I could keep the list going, but I think the point is made - every possible candidate has a question mark, or worse, a cause for concern. Simply, an argument against a specific candidate can be made very easily and that brings me back to my original point - the perfect candidate does not exist. Unless someone has mystic powers like Parvati, the option of sculpting a coach from dirt and bringing him to life is not an option. If we, as a fan base, keep focusing on the negatives, we're never going to agree on a coach (thank God this isn't a popularity contest with everyone getting a vote). Instead, it's important, in my opinion, to focus on the positives of each candidate and when that's done, Miles is my choice.
This is a guy who wants to be at Michigan and loves the school like he loves his family. He's coached in Ann Arbor and has ties to the Midwest. He's had success at Oklahoma State and LSU. He's coached in the NFL. He's wise enough to see his weakness and hire coaches who minimize them. He's an aggressive playcaller. He cares about his players.
I think we can all agree that we want someone in the mold of Lloyd Carr, at least, off the field. Miles is that guy. I think we can all agree that we want someone not in the mold of Lloyd Carr, at least, on gamedays. Miles is that guy.
Ask Not What Michigan Basketball Can Do For You, but What You Can Do For Michigan Basketball
A quick follow up post to my in game blog of Michigan's loss to Butler in the Great Alaskan Shootout. After having a day to review my observations, here's what I think.
Positives Like I said during the game, the difference between this year's team and last year's is telling. Although last year's team had more talent and more experience, I prefer the way this year's team plays:
- Players hustle the entire game. I remember one sequence where Michigan made a solid defensive play under Butler's goal. A Butler player managed to get the loose ball near the basket and the Michigan defender was out of position. Still, DeShawn Sims came over and played help-side defense which resulted in a block. As the ball was going out of bounds, Kelvin Grady chased it and saved it to a teammate. Michigan ball.
- Confidence. In the first half when Butler went up 28-11 and Michigan's offense went cold, the players still looked confident. They managed to make a few baskets, get a couple of offensive rebounds and stops at the defensive end. Halftime score: Butler 40 Michigan 32. Last year, the team would have fallen apart and the halftime differential would have been close to 20.
- 1-3-1 Zone. Kept Butler from easy baskets inside the three point line. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs made a record setting 17 three pointers. The zone keeps the defenders active and pushes the opponent's offense away from the basket.
- Rebounding. On defense, when Butler missed a shot, at least 3 guys were on the glass. On offense, Udoh and Sims were terrific at using their height to get rebounds and tip-ins.
- Three point shooting. Last year, there were maybe 2 guys I wanted taking shots from the perimeter. Epke Udoh was not one of them. Not this year. Udoh looked confident from the perimeter and his shot looked fundamentally sound. When was the last time you heard a sentence about Michigan basketball with the words "fundamentally sound" in it?
- Player development. Yeah, it's early but Sims and Udoh look a lot better than they did last year. Sims looks confident with this back to the basket and has developed a nice little turnaround move. The easiest way to describe "player development" is this: When guys are out on the floor, they look like they know what they are doing and what their roles are as opposed to last year where Michigan basketball looked like a bunch of five year olds playing organized basketball for the first time in their lives.
- Depth. Very little depth on the team but that was to be expected. I will say that Beilein is getting the most out of the guys who do play. Depth will be an issue during the Big 10 season and I'm interested to see how Beilein manages the game when the starters get into foul trouble
- Offense. It's obvious that not everyone has grasped the offense and that its a work in progress. This was expected and we've heard stories about how some players at WVU took at least 2 years to fully understand Beilein's offense. The big problem Michigan had against Butler was getting the ball inside (when Butler was playing a zone). I think part of the problem was that the players are young and the other part was that players aren't completely comfortable in the offense. Right now, in the half court, the offense looks good when it leads to open threes. Otherwise, Michigan looked tentative. Bottom line is that this team needs to really make use of the fast break to compensate for the stretches where the offense goes cold.
- Turnovers. Not a good showing. Eight turnovers at the half. Once again, I think it was a function of the unfamiliarity with the offense. I'm hoping as the season progresses, the offense will look sharper and the execution will be better. Seeing the improvement in this team under Beilein, I would not be surprised if the offense looks 100% better than it did today as Michigan heads to the Big Ten Tournament.
For those of you who gave up on Michigan basketball after Ellerbe and Amaker, I don't blame you. I don't blame you if you don't want to watch this team for another year as this year is going to have its ups and downs. Still, I urge you to watch and even see a game at Crisler. Even if Michigan doesn't win, I guarantee you will be impressed with the way this team plays.
On a personal note, Michigan basketball was what got me to Michigan. It was the Fab 5. Until then, I cheered for Michigan and State. To see the basketball program hit rock bottom was disappointing. Now, under Beilein, I'm very excited and have great hope for the future. Be patient. I know it's hard after waiting for a winner for so long. But most of all, go support Michigan basketball. I promise, it will be worth it.
11:29 EST Michigan coming up next on ESPN 2 against Butler in the Great Alaskan Shootout. It's great to see Michigan playing in a Thanksgiving week tournament. I can't remember the last time this happened.
11:36 EST Debating whether to make a cup of coffee. When I was in college, staying up to 1:30 to watch a game wasn't a problem. Now that I'm working, it is.
11:38 EST Wow! The Great Alaskan Shootout is having its 30th anniversary this year! Manny Harris is Michigan's star for Star Watch. Um, probably not good when you're star is a freshman.
11:40 EST All of Butler's starters are seniors. Definitely not good. I need a program for the Michigan team.
11:42 EST Day-shawn Sims hits a 3! First Michigan turnover comes at the 18:10 mark.
11:43 EST Third time the picture has cut out. Apparently its also the 30th anniversary of ESPN's video technology.
11:45 EST 10-5 Butler. Goddamn picture keeps cutting out. Grady, Sims, Udoh, Harris, and Coleman for Michigan. Grady hits a 3. Michigan 2-2 from 3.
11:50 EST Butler can't get the ball inside because of the 1-3-1. Unfortunately, Butler is hot from 3. Campbell is 3-5 from 3 for Butler.
11:51 EST 3 Turnovers now for Michigan. 13:52 to go in the half.
11:54 EST 2nd "carry" call against Michigan. Butler with a quick screen and roll. Michigan can't get the ball inside. So far, the only close range attempt was on a missed fastbreak layup.
00:00 EST 26-11 Butler. Offense is colder than Alaska in November. Aaand another turnover.
00:03 EST Ron Coleman hits a three to snap the Bulldogs' 10-0 run. The offense looks terrible - players just don't look sure of what they are supposed to do. John Beilein said that at the beginning of practices there was a 3 second delay on offense and now its a 2 second delay. It shows.
00:07 EST Dane Fife is a head coach at the D-1 Level? I'm going to have to investigate this. Another turnover for Michigan.
00:08 EST Some guy named CJ Lee hits a 3 for Michigan. Udoh for three?!! No. It's a 2. 19-28 Butler.
00:09 EST Great box out by Day-Shawn Sims on the offensive glass. Tip in!
00:10 EST Coleman pulls up in transition for 3. 24-31 Butler. 5:13 in the half.
00:12 EST It seems that any time Michigan tries to do anything inside the three point line, it results in a turnover.
00:16 EST Not only is it Day-shawn its now Day-shawn Simpson. Good job ESPN, good job.
00:18 EST 7-11 from 3 for Michigan. 27-37 Butler after an Adam Graves 3.
00:19 EST Kelvin Grady looks nothing like Kevin Grady. First free throws for Michigan with 1:56 in the half.
00:24 EST Great defense by Michigan. Grady came from the dribbler's blindside and almost stole the ball. Scramble for the ball, double dribble call against Butler.
00:25 EST Halftime. Michigan 32 Butler 40. Positives: Shooting is a lot better than last year, but that's not saying much. The defense is aggressive and there are always 2-3 guys hitting the defensive glass. Negatives: the offense is clearly a work in progress. Unless there is a open three, Michigan has struggled. Until about 2:00 in the first half, Michigan did nothing inside the three point line. Oh, one more complaint - too many turnovers. The zone is preventing anything inside but Michigan isn't taking advantage of its height. Let's see how Beilein adjusts at the half. Honestly, this team looks completely different, in the way it plays, from last year. It's not just the strategy, its the way the team carries itself. Even when Butler looked like it was going to turn the game into a blowout, Michigan played tough and cut the lead. Had the offense not gone cold in the middle of the first half, the difference would be 4 points, maximum. I wouldn't be surprised if Michigan were to pull this one out and win.
00:36 EST Yep, Dane Fife the head coach at Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne. He got the job at 25 and his blog can be found at www.danefife.com. Of all the Fifes, I prefer Dugan. I think Dugan played football too...or could have.
00:40 EST Michigan fans in Alaska have signs re: Les Miles. I still think we should go with Kirk Ferentz.
00:41 EST 8 Michigan turnovers in the 1st half. And now is Duh-shawn Sims.
00:43 EST 2 consecutive turnovers for Butler. Defensive is very active early in the 2nd half.
00:44 EST Harris drives....And 1?!!! No. At least two free throws coming up for Harris. 39-40 Butler.
00:45 EST Campbell for 3 again. Guard him. Now.
00:49 EST DeShawn Sims is going to be good. He looks confident playing with his back to the basket.
00:50 EST Fucking guard Pete Campbell!
00:51 EST Campbell gets the 3 off but misses and picks up a blocking foul on defensive end. Oh, Shaun Alexander is out for Sunday. What a waste of an early fantasy pick.
oo:52 EST I'm hate the Bud Light commercials. They are just stupid. Well, except for the Opera one. It's kind of funny.
00:54 EST Great defensive recovery. Blown play on offense but Sims with help that leads to a block. Save by Grady.
00:55 EST Grady misses in transition...Butler with the rebound...Michigan ties it up! Jump ball. Well, possession arrow...and it goes to...Butler and Graves hits a 3.
00:57 EST Pete Campbell game MVP. Graves hits a another 3. 48-60 Butler. This after Michigan had cut the lead to 48-54.
01:00 EST What the hell was that mascot? Looked like Chewbacca.
01:01 EST Really liking how Michigan is attacking the boards on both offense and defense
01:05 EST Flipping to another channel. I'm tired of the Nissan Rogue labyrinth commercial. And the stupid song in it.
01:07 EST Michigan just dominating on the glass. Too bad they are leaving guys open for 3s which Butler is making with ease. 50-66 Butler.
01:08 EST Another 3 for Butler. The ball movement is killing Michigan. 16 made 3s for Butler.
01:11 EST Butler up 72-50. That's the 20 point rule. Good night. Wrap up thoughts coming either later today or Friday.