Sunday, February 25, 2007

Just Another Saturday in Columbus

The hockey team managed a split with Ohio State this weekend down in Columbus. It was a back-and-forth weekend the whole way. Michigan's 4-3 win on Friday night was earned with only 1:08 left in regulation when Tim Miller fed Naurato from behind the goal. OSU broke a third-period tie on Saturday with 90 seconds left when Beaudoin gave them their 6-5 victory. Red described the game as "a coach's nightmare."

It also ended in the sort of melee you don't see in college hockey very often. Jack Johnson put a big hit on Tommy Goebel on Friday night, which took him out of that game and this one. OSU's Zach Pelletier didn't take kindly to that and apparently started a fight on Saturday after the game was over. Some Buckeye there put it up on YouTube, so I recommend listening to it with the sound off.

You can see it's mostly just a lot of pushing and shoving, not a lot of punches being thrown (Kevin Porter excepted). But Tim Miller manages to find himself in the middle of a crowd of Buckeyes who jump him after he gives one of them a shove, probably in response to some intemperate remark.

Elsewhere, Miami split their series with Northern, letting Michigan finish the regular season as #2 in the CCHA, a long way behind league leaders Notre Dame. Michigan sits out the the first weekend of the CCHA playoffs with a bye. By the way, OSU finishes seventh in the league and will take on Northern in the first round of the playoffs at Columbus's 1000-seat "OSU Ice Rink", because the Schottenstein Center is busy hosting the state wrestling tournament.

USCHO articles Friday, Saturday

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Delusions Alive For Three More Days!

Nice win by the basketball team today, and so their tournament hopes remain on life support. The plug won't get pulled until Tuesday night at the earliest.

The Good: Jerret Smith played his best basketball today. He was determined to go to the rim, and made quality shots when he got there. If he didn't, he'd find a way to get fouled. He only had one truly maddening turnover, and that was on the first possession of the game. He, at least, took good care of the ball today.

Ekpe Udoh was all over the place, in a good way. Tough, dogged defense without picking up unnecessary fouls combined with some decent shooting on the other end of the floor. His four blocks vs. one foul is a nice statistic to have, and he poured in 14 points as well.

Dion Harris somehow managed to be our leading scorer, almost invisibly. He spent a lot of time without a field goal in the first half, but found his way to the line a few times. His three-point shot started heating up, and there it goes. He played good defense, making Lawrence McKenzie's life miserable. Minnesota's leading scorer didn't have a single point today. Lester Abram broke out his slump too, tying with Udoh as the second leading scorer on a 14-point effort.

The Bad: Well, we were playing Minnesota. Any positive lessons should be taken with a grain of salt.

DeShawn Sims is playing like a less-athletic Petway right now, missing shots he shouldn't and looking shaky at best on the line. He managed to pick up 4 fouls in 6 minutes of work, so...yeah. Michigan also used essentially a six-man rotation the entire game. The starters plus Courtney Sims played 177 minutes vs. 23 minutes for everyone else. Foul trouble could've killed us, since no one on the bench but D. Sims looked even remotely awake.

The Bottom Line: This game doesn't mean much when Michigan State and the Buckeyes come to town. It's reassuring to know that we can decisively beat a team that's worse than us, but that's a long way from winning out, and 1/2 won't really cut it.

Basketball Live-Blog: Documenting the Futility

Michigan wins the tip. Smith controls it. Petway give and go almost works, but Petway doesn't shoot well from the block.

Minnesota immediately runs back down the floor and launches a bad (but open) three.

Jerret Smith turns the ball over, but the Gophers don't capitalize.

Udoh takes the rebound, and makes the bucket on the other end, an 8-footer.

Udoh, all over the place, gets an authoritative block that turns into a quick layup by Jerret Smith. 4-0.

Nice ball movement by the Gophers and overly aggressive defense leaves Abu-Shamala (sp?) wide open, and he hits the three

Abram's half-hearted attempt at dribble penetration goes nowhere and he kicks it out to Jerret Smith, who surprisingly goes right at the basket and draws a foul on the floor. All for nought, though. The Gophers push it back up the floor and Abu-Shamala nails a looong three. 4-6.

Bah. Quick trip up the floor gives us nothing. ANOTHER WIDE OPEN ABU-SHAMALA THREE. GAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH. 4-9.

Abram 3 no good. Minnesota's frosh point guard gets trapped in the corner and launches a pass to Tacopants, who's made the trip up to the Twin Cities. TV time out.

Jerret Smith curls off a screen and makes the bucket. 6-9, 15:21 left in the first.

Gophers get nothing. On the other end, they knock the ball out of bounds. Deshawn Sims somehow DOESN'T get the foul called when he goes up under the basket. Coleman tries to go up, but is blanketed. Jump ball, arrow favors Minnesota.

Again, nothing for the Gophers. Michigan's attempt is blocked. Back down to the other end, where the Gophers lose it out of bounds. Sims gets the basket for the boys in blue. 8-9.

Exchange of possessions, the Gophers eventually get it over to Abu-Shamala for a long two. 8-11.

On the other end, Courtney Sims draws a foul. His strongest point is probably his free throw shooting and he hits both. 9-`11, 12:53 left.

Good defense, the Gophers drain the shot clock before finally taking an awkward shot that Udoh gets a piece of. Michigan converts into a layup. 12-11.

Abu-Shamala gets another long two, he has all of Minnie's points. 12-13.

Abram answers with a layup on the other end 14-13. Minnesota's Coleman decides that maybe he should score too. 14-15.

Ball out of bounds, Michigan. 10:45 remaining, TV time-out. The in-bounds play results in a scrum and Dion Harris at the line. He makes both. 16-15, 10:10 left.

Steal by Udoh! Deshawn Sims goes up inside, but falling away from the basket. It's a tough shot, and he can't convert.

One of Minnesota's guards gets blanketed by a pair of our guys. It's like one of those situations you'd get into in elementary school leagues, with the panicked kid looking for any outlet. He finds one, out near half-court, who in turn finds a wide-open Webster down on the block. He's fouled and hits both. 16-17.

Michigan can't get anything. Minnesota's spending a lot of time nowhere near the basket, which is nice. Sims and Webster are halfway to the sideline when Webster's desparation shot goes up. Airball right to one of our guys underneath.

Up the floor, I think it's Deshawn Sims who gets hacked, but on the floor. Jevohn Shepherd, as the clock winds down, tries to drive the lane...right through a Gopher. Offensive foul.

Bah. Bad defense when Abu-Shamala starts making a move down the lane. Turns into an easy pass and a Gopher dunk. 16-19.

Hey, nice job finding a wide open man out on the wing. Problem: It's Petway. By the time he gives it to Ron Coleman, Coleman's double-teamed. Freakily, as he makes the outlet pass, someone's been hanging around long enough to draw a three-seconds call.

Short possession by the Gophers, and Abram's having a decent game so far. He draws the and-one on his bucket and sinks it. Tie game, 19-19.

Minnesota also draws a foul on the other end, but they miss the front end. 19-20.

Quick whistle on the other end of the floor. No one bothers to say what for. Gophers' long three attempt goes off the front of the iron. Dion Harris hilariously misses the rebound, allowing the Gophers to reset and get two. 19-22.

Another turnover for Michigan leads to nothing but my annoyance, thankfully. Abram's comparatively on fire and hits a big, arcing three to tie it up. 22-22.

Lots of guys at the top of the arc leaves an open man under the rim. His unnecessary pump-fake gives Petway enough time to come flying in to make a sweet, clean block.

The announcing team is confused when Ekpe Udoh draws the foul. He hits both to retake the lead. 24-22. Just over 4:00 left in the first.

Minnesota's Dan Coleman catches Udoh out at the arc, forces him to get his feet moving, makes his shot, and draws the foul. He hits the extra one. 24-25.

Minnesota comes back down the floor and commits a charging foul. 3:19 left. Jerret Smith is committed to driving the lane today and he draws a foul, but misses a makeable basket. He goes 1/2 at the line. 25-25.

Lot's of ball movement by Minnesota. Big-time overcommitment by Abram leaves Abu-Shamala an open look at a three, which he knocks down. 25-28.

On the other end, Dion Harris gets to go to the line. He hits both. 27-28.

Quick offensive foul by Westbrook. Weird stiff-arm. Oh, beautiful. The Gophers left Dion Harris wide open on the wing and he drains the three-ball for his first field goal of the day. 30-28.

The ball movement has Michigan jumping all over the place. Abu-Shamala gets fouled on the floor, but it's a one-and-one situation. Of course, he hits both. 30-30.

Macro: Oh, beautiful. Harris hits another three. 33-30.

Exchange of high-tempo, quick possessions. :50 seconds left and Minny wants a timeout.

Tipped out on the in-bounds. Reset goes easier. Slight block on the shot, which is a dying, mid-range quail that flops out of bounds. Sims can't hit a fall-away shot with an arm in his face (duh), so the half ends 33-30.

My sister, a Michigan State student (Hee! Oh, what a concept.), went to Game Day at the Breslin Center this morning. She says there was a kid there dressed head-to-toe in maize Michigan gear. Izzo reportedly went up to him and gave him a State jersey to replace it, with ESPN at least taping the whole thing. Does anyone know if it actually aired?

Well, we start the second half by trying to force a pass through Abu-Shamala. As he remains composed of matter, this does not work. Foul on the other end, Payton(?) hits one of two. 33-31.

Udoh wastes no time in answering. 35-31. Dan Coleman says, "I can do that." 35-33.

Exchange of possessions. HILARIOUS flailing shot by the Gophers. Udoh starts another half quickly. 37-33.

Lester Abram is wide freakin' open, but doesn't land his three. Foul on the floor by Petway, his third. Courtney Sims comes in to replace him. Sims is a shot-blocker? OK. Reed Baker is also in the game now. There's Sims' shot-blocking ability fouling. Spencer Tollackson looks like a native Minnesotan. He makes one of two. 37-34.

Harris makes a nice, low bounce pass right into Sims and he cashes in. 39-34. Tollackson answers. 39-36.

Udoh rocks, from outside this time. 41-36.

Abu-Shamala had been under wraps for the first four minutes, but bombs in another three. 41-39. Just as quickly, we answer with our own. 44-39.

Injury timeout, as Tollackson gets whacked across the nose. Oh, nice. The Minnesota band is playing some P-Funk. "Give Up The Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)"

Nothing much happens on the next pair of possessions. Michigan again forces Minnesota to burn a lot of the shot clock, but this time Sims commits another foul on Coleman. He makes both, easily. 44-41.

Reed Baker looks a little jumpy. A nice, strong drive to the rim comes AGAIN from Jerret Smith. He hits the runner and draws the foul. With the and-one, it's 47-41. He's having a heck of a game.

Minnesota's time with the ball is brief. Michigan keeps it longer, but has no more to show.

Abu-Shamala finally misses a shot from three, but we fail to get the rebound. The offensive rebounder sets him up perfectly for a lay-up. 47-43.

Reed Baker hasn't looked great away from the ball. His 3 attempt bounces on the rim forever before falling off. Sims fouls Williams from behind on the rebound attempt. He returns the favor in a nearly identical situation on the other end.

Damn. Harris makes a probably unnecessary pass to Petway. A foul on the floor is called before Petway can sink his shot. Dion Harris gets run over by Westbrook for another foul. After the in-bounds pass, he takes an awkward quasi-layup that nearly falls, but just won't drop. Somehow Minnesota fetches it out of the pile.

Lots more fouls this half than the previous one. There's 11:30 left to go, but we've got to be near the one-and-one for both teams. There's just a cliff between Michigan (6-7) and Minnesota (3-11) in the Big Ten standings, but only one place.

We switch to zone for some reason, which may or may not have something to do with Minnesota missing their shot. Deshawn Sims draws a foul under the basket, but it's on the floor. Petway hits a nice shot halfway to the free throw line, drawing a foul and ending the scoring drought both teams had been experiencing. He converts the three-point play. 50-43.

Sweetness. Petway breaks up a telegraphed pass and Jerret Smith, with some nice hustle, saves it right back to him from out of bounds. Too bad we can't get a shot to drop. A block gives us a second chance. We run the floor and Deshawn Sims winds up on the line (Minnesota's 7th foul!). 51-43.

WTF? We're taling about golf domes now? Whatever, ESPN+. Petway collects another block. D. Sims gets the ball just a little too far under the basket to make it easy.

Decent defense and some cold shooting are hurting Minnesota. We come back down the floor and pad the lead just a little. 53-43.

Well, duh. If we beat Minnesota on the road and MSU and Ohio State on our home floor, we absolutely deserve a tournament berth. Doesn't mean we're good enough to pull off that performance.

We're starting to drag out our possessions. Sims underneath can't throw it down. Minnesota is scoreless in the last 5:43. C. Sims again isn't doing much underneath, but he manages to uselessly foul Abu-Shamala after he grabs a rebound. Yes, give the cold team you're playing an opportunity to shoot a free one-and-one. Great plan, thanks Napoleon!

Missouri must be a very bad team. They just lost to the same Nebraska team that was better than doubled-up by Kansas earlier this week.

Abu-Shamala hits both. 53-45. Minnesota decides to foul Courtney Sims even when he's out of his comfort zone. Sims rattles the first one out, but makes the second. 54-45.

Shot block fiesta underneath on the other end. About four Wolverines get blocks. Dion Harris gets another layup opportunity, and he's quietly had a pretty good day. 56-45.

Foul on the floor, and Minnesota can't make the front half. Rebound goes our way. Lester Abram drives the lane and Minnesota just looks out of sorts now. 58-45, 5:30 left as Minnesota bricks another shot. Timeout.

Udoh passes up a three-point opportunity, but Harris doesn't. Meanwhile, Udoh has taken up station under the glass. Big offensive rebound and we get another two. 60-45. 4:16 left.

Tollackson gets a much-needed basket for the Gophers, one of their few from the paint today. 60-47.

Minnesota's not really battling anymore. Dion Harris picks McKenzie's pocket on a lazy pass. Lester Abram finishes off the glass. 62-47.

Even with a win all but assured, we're still scrapping under the rim. Harris didn't have a shot at getting that rebound away from McKenzie, but he flew in there and slapped it out of bounds. On the other end, three blue jerseys are under the rim. Petway gets it, and now we're eating clock with only 1:00 left. Jevohn Shepherd's shot is short.

ESPN+: If Michigan can play defense like they did today, they'll do great in their last two games. Some might claim, however, that there's a big difference between Drew Neitzel, Greg Oden, and any of these Minnesota schmoes. 62-49.

Abu-Shamala gets to the line with 23.3 seconds left in the game and gets another pair of meaningless points. 62-51, and that's how it ends.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Whatever This Is: Inside the Mind of Tommy Amaker

Geoff:  Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends.  This week: Scheduling, hockey, and basketball.
Steve:  Scintilating stuff.
Craig:  Let's do this thing.
Geoff:  Steve, you were there when I found out about Appalachian State.  How would you characterize my response?
Steve:  Hmm, well, for the first time in your life you categorically refused to go to a Michigan sporting event
Geoff:  Yes.  That was overly hasty.
Steve:  Quite simply, you were pissed off.  You weren't yelling or throwing things, but you looked on the verge of boiling over.
Craig:  May I make a devil's advocate argument?
Geoff:  Sure.
Craig:  I don't think this is as bad as I thought it was on first blush.  I am still unhappy about it, but I think this is the NCAA's fault
Geoff:  Agreed.
Geoff:  From an AD's perspective, it's perfect.  We get $4M per home game, so Bill Martin would be a financial idiot if he didn't try to maximize that revenue.  And you know we'll still hit at least 107,501.
Steve:  Although we may have to count the tow-plane pilots
Craig:  Tickets sold.
Craig:  And it looks like App State may actually help our SoS? Which just seems weird, but whatever.
Geoff:  Yeah.  It's bizarre that it might help with the computers a little, but whatever.
Steve:  I don't pretend to even begin to understand the system.
Craig:  So the thing is, I'm not sure about what to think, but it will make the first game of the year a little less exciting, and that is a downer
Geoff:  Eh.  The first game is exciting enough just to be on campus again, soaking in the atmosphere.  And if it wasn't Appy Slappy, it was going to be Eastern.
Craig:  True, and let's be fair, it may be the price I have to pay to see OSU.  Which brings me to a second topic:  The conversation that the Big Ten may have about moving the end of the season to after Thanksgiving.
Geoff:  It's a good idea.  You can't have the 12-game schedule without a bye, and nobody's on campus until Labor Day weekend anyway.
Steve:  If they have to play in the snow to stay fresh in the minds of the voters, then so be it.
Craig:  I do think that not having that first game on Labor Day weekend is a good thing.  Pushing back is not the worst thing.
Craig:  Although, I still think that maybe a full Big Ten round-robin may be in the best interests of everyone.
Geoff:  It would be mathematically wonderful, but practically it could kill out-of-conference scheduling.
Craig:  Agreed, but it would avoid the "lucky" Big Ten scheduling issue...  But for now, it's just talk.  So let's move on
Geoff:  OK.  Hockey? Little bit of a hiccup in the Soo.
Craig:  Yes, but thankfully Sparty had an even bigger hiccup at home
Geoff:  Yeah.  Schizophrenic in the CCHA.
Craig:  Indeed.
Steve:  To use a cliche, that's why they play the games.
Craig:  But then I saw them play some excellent hockey on Sunday at the Joe.  They looked crisp and focused.
Craig:  I am beginning to wonder if the lack of a true February home game is hurting things.  Even though they are in a top four slot, they really want to hold on to #2.  Because you'll get the cold team...I believe ND/BGSU is locked in
Geoff:  I think so.  The ND/Miami series decided that one.
Geoff:  It's DEFINITELY locked in.  BGSU has 9 points, 10 below Fairbanks and Northern.  ND has 43 pts, 8 above Michigan.
Craig:  You gonna enjoy the Irish at Van Andel?
Geoff:  "Enjoy" may be too strong a word for it.
Craig:  I forgot the snark tag.  My bad.
Geoff:  They're a good team, but not that exciting to watch.
Craig:  So basically, Michigan needs two points this weekend, I think....[3 would guarantee it] because we hold the tiebreaker
Geoff:  OK.
Craig:  We have third for sure.  State cannot catch us
Geoff:  I just hope that we keep that 3rd seed at Van Andel in the NCAA tournament.
Craig:  The wins would be very helpful in that regard.
Geoff:  On to basketball?
Craig:  Sadly.  Let us not dwell.
Geoff:  Barring a miracle, we're headed for the NIT we all sorta knew we'd end up in all along.
Craig:  Yep, it's strange to end up with the fate that seemed pre-ordained.
Geoff:  Do you ever wonder what goes on in Tommy Amaker's head at halftime?
Geoff:  "I should buy some more turtlenecks."
Geoff:  "The floor out there is awfully shiny."
Geoff:  "Jerret Smith.  Now that's a point guard's name!"
Craig:  How does a former point guard not develop a current point guard?
Geoff:  "I went to Duke!"
Craig:  "I'm untouchable!"
Geoff:  Maybe he thinks they'll give him another year of eligibility if he asks nicely.
Steve:  Anyway.
Craig:  What's left in this misery?
Geoff:  Same thing as always: Next year.
Craig:  Ahh, yes.  That seems right, except next year, we don't have four seniors.
Geoff:  We didn't really have four seniors most of this year.
Craig:  This is true as well.
Geoff:  Sims and Abram regressed so badly (although Sims has come around somewhat).  Dion Harris has been shoehorned into an unfmaliar point guard role, etc.
Craig:  It's just a nightmare all over
Geoff:  I think next year will be Amaker's last, unless he makes the tournament.  They won't be able to ignore the attendance figures any longer.
Craig:  I hope you're right
Geoff:  Any final thoughts we want to share?
Geoff:  I will say this: I loved that Jack Johnson article in the LA Times.  Here's hoping he sticks around.
Craig:  That was exceptional.
Craig:  I'm good, if tired...until next time.
Steve:  Same here, till next week
Geoff:  OK, guys.  Thanks for hanging out again.
Craig:  Happy to do it.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Michigan Books $400K Punching Bag

Appalachian State has been signed to fill the open September 1 slot on Michigan’s schedule, and I’m none too happy about it. Yes, the Mountaineers have won the 1-AA national championship the last two years and would give your average MAC team fits, but they're still a 1-AA team. As of now Michigan is still part of the tiny group of programs never to play a 1-AA (AKA “Football Championship Subdivision”) opponent. The other members of this club are USC, UCLA, Notre Dame, and Ohio State, and the Buckeyes will also be leaving the fraternity when they play Youngstown State this season. I’m disappointed that Michigan would ever settle for this. There’s no way to get the distinction of "never" back, and it's one I'm proud of, even if the distinction between a bad MAC team and a good 1-AA one is marginal. I hate this.

Bill Martin spoke to the Free Press about it, saying “"It wasn't because of the money, I can tell you that," a statement I’d call disingenuous at best. Of course it’s because of the money. It might not be about squeezing your cupcake opponent for a bigger percentage of the gate, but it is about getting that eighth home game on the schedule without having to pencil in a reciprocal visit in the future. That open date provides for a future home game, allowing the athletic department to fill its coffers in the future. And you know it’ll be filled with whoever will agree to the same terms, since Martin has also said "We need eight home games in order to pay the bills." When you have that kind of debt looming, you tend to take the cash whenever you can.

These issues of scheduling 1-AA opponents and ridiculous numbers of home games deserve to be kicked upstairs to the NCAA, or would if the NCAA weren’t so toothless and gun-shy. Member institutions’ athletic directors have a vested interest in maximizing revenue at their institutions. At big schools, it means scheduling every home game possible. For what it’s worth, Michigan clears a good $4 million from every home game. Appalachian State will also walk away with a guaranteed $400K, demonstrating that it’s also in the best financial interests of a small school to take the paycheck and the pounding. It’s a win-win from an AD’s perspective, but the loser is college football. The NFL long ago recognized that selling the league as a whole was more important than any one team. Obviously, there are many ways in which the NFL model is incompatible with the college game, but the NCAA needs to recognize that real competition is integral to growing the brand. That isn’t helped by 8-home-game seasons and 1-AA opponents. Simply capping the number of home games at seven would be a good start. In a better world, 1-A teams would be banned from putting 1-AA cannon fodder on the schedule, but – barring that – wins over 1-AA opponents shouldn’t count for the BCS or towards bowl eligibility.

I also want a pony.

Despite my complaining, I’ll almost certainly still go to the game. My season ticket doesn’t allow for leaving games off, so I can’t make any principled stand on that front. I guess I’ll just have to refuse to buy any concessions. That’ll show them…or at least Domino’s.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Whatever This Is: The Rule is Dead and the Fab Five

Craig: Gentlemen...
Steve: Behold!
Geoff: And welcome to yet another edition of "Whatever This Is"
Craig: Where tonight we come with reason to celebrate
Geoff: The hated Rule 3-2-5-e has been overcome.
Craig: Ding dong, that rule is gone
Steve: Pardon? Are we talking about the new clock rules from last season?
Geoff: Yes we are.
Craig: And the now late clock rules
Craig: But here's the amazing thing of it all…the rules they will use to keep the game shorter actually make sense to me.
Craig: Kicking off from the 30, The shorter play clock coming back from TV timeouts, Limiting reviews to 2 minutes (Which really should have been there in the first place)…All of these are good ideas
Geoff: All kicking penalties can be enforced from the end of the kick.
Steve: Wow, the NCAA made rule changes that make sense?!?
Craig: Which prevents what Bielema did against PSU, no?
Geoff: Right.
Craig: It's just amazing, they listened to the coaches, they came up with alternatives, and everyone is a winner
Craig: It especially hurt the cause when CBS' broadcasts were not shorter in relationship to the shorter games
Geoff: Very much agreed.
Geoff: Since play begins again when the ball is kicked off, you can only run so much time off the clock before it becomes really to your disadvantage to take another offsides penalty.
Geoff: And the 30-yard-line kickoffs make it that much harder, as well.
Craig: Which means the return game is so much more important
Craig: As is the kicking game
Craig: Special teams become all the more special
Geoff: Hopefully our new kicker has better distance than Rivas.
Craig: Only time, and the name of our new kicker, will tell
Steve: Speaking of our next kicker, are we looking at a true freshman or someone who's been in the system
Geoff: Red-shirt, I believe.
Craig: Concur with GZ
Geoff: We should direct any readers over to EDSBS's run-down of the new new clock rules.
Geoff: It's very good, as you'd expect.

Geoff: Let's move on
Craig: I was just going to say
Craig: Basketball on tap
Steve: What's the word?
Geoff: They lost to Michigan State on the road
Steve: Can't say that I was. I was surprised that they were tied 29-29
Geoff: I've moved on from this season already, spiritually.
Craig: As have I
Geoff: It started with the UCLA loss and ended with the Iowa one.
Craig: The season should be buried in a shallow grave then shot repeatedly
Steve: I think you have those in reverse
Craig: No, Steve, I don't…
Geoff: Stake through the heart, cut off its head, fill the mouth with garlic…
Craig: Throw it in the Neva River…
Geoff: "I don't have a lot of experience with vampires, but I have hunted a werewolf."
Steve: So you actually feel the need to torture it before killing it
Craig: Turnabout is fair play…
Steve: Okay, but we're not making the stake out of a mop handle
Craig: No, we can draw the line there

Craig: But I would like to talk about another ghost of the past.
Geoff: On Saturday the Associated Press ran a story about the ultimate cause of the situation we find ourselves in: The Fab Five.
Craig: It's a fascinating article on several levels
Geoff: It really is.
Craig: Not the least of which is the seeming lack of remorse by all involved
Geoff: It's the thing that most jumped out at me.
Craig: I can understand the all for one, one for all aspect of it
Craig: But to be arguing that Chris Webber is the one being wronged by the system
Craig: And to seemingly mean it
Craig: I mean, he did take something in the neighborhood of 600,000 dollars, correct? (Ed note: My bad, it was roughly $280,000) and then he LIED about it.
Steve: I believe that it was between Webber and 3 other non-fab five players
Geoff: We obviously can't the players interviewed didn't at least show some token contrition that didn't make it into the article, but seriously? Nothing?
Steve: Personally, if I were one four who didn't take money I'd be pissed at Webber for soiling my accomplishment
Craig: OK, but large sums of cash were taken by Webber among others
Geoff: Webber was the only one who took enough to get the 10-year ban (of the Fab Five).
Craig: And ye he's gone all "McGwire" about it, "I not here to talk about the past"
Geoff: Yeah. You could understand the silence, but only until the legal aspects were all satisfied.
Craig: Agreed
Craig: But now, everything has been sorted out, how hard would a "mistakes were made" statement be for him to make?
Geoff: We just want some acknowledgment that he knows that a bad thing was done to the University and that he played a big part in that.
Steve: I honestly think he believes he did nothing wrong
Craig: And that in doing that bad thing to the University, he hurt the University, the program, the alumni, and the fans, and that that wrong, though 15 years old, still haunts the program to this day
Steve: Is there another case out there of a single player causing a program so much harm?
Geoff: He may well believe that. He's said he thinks it's wrong that players don't get paid royalties on jersey sales. But that's not the issue. Ed Martin's money burned the basketball program to the ground.
Geoff: Webber's not the only one, just the most famous. Bullock, Traylor, and (Taylor, I think)
Geoff: They also took money.
Craig: I believe you have the other three
Craig: And the thing is, I think a lot of people could be forgiving if Webber admitted that what he did was wrong, he knows it, and it was a mistake
Craig: But what gets me about those three is that those three demonstrate the lack of institutional control
Craig: Because they were TOLD not to associate with Martin
Craig: They had been warned!
Geoff: Yeah. And that's why Steve Fisher is persona non grata.
Craig: I just wish I could make sense of any or all of this
Geoff: Fisher and his coaching staff viewed Ed Martin as the kind of guy they had to keep around to get the recruits in.
Steve: One of the things that upsets me the most about this thing was the culture of enabling.
Geoff: Despite the fact that he couldn't have been more obviously dirty if he'd had bells and a siren.
Steve: One of the things I take the most pride in about Michigan is how we are one of the cleaner programs, or at least that's my perception, and then a small circle of people bring the whole thing down
Geoff: The football program has been as clean as you can get at a big-time D-1A program. So has hockey.
Craig: But the basketball thing just kills us. No tournament since 1998, and every time that comes up, the ghost of Ed Martin rises up once again.
Geoff: It's the reason Ellerbee was allowed to stick around. It's the reason Amaker still has a job.
Steve: Like we previously discussed, one of the keys to getting the program back on track is to identify a talented young couch
Steve: Start winning some more games, attract better recruits, repeat
Craig: In order to do that, you have to be willing to admit there is a problem
Geoff: And according to recent reports, Mary Sue Coleman doesn't think there is one.
Craig: Exactly, and if the boss of bosses thinks there's no problem, well, then you have to wait it out
Steve: True, but I really can't press her on that one. Her primary responsibility is academics
Craig: I disagree… Her primary responsibility is the public image of the university.
Geoff: Her responsibility is the University at large.
Craig: And the basketball team, right, wrong, or indifferent, is a part of that public image
Geoff: She likes that Amaker looks to be squeaky clean and a good representative of Michigan. She doesn't see that losing makes us look like a joke.
Steve: We may talking about different problems, the problem I'm referring to is the basketball team losing.
Steve: I stand corrected
Craig: It's like a reverse version of the Flutie Effect.
Geoff: How often have you heard our football recruits talk about the Fab Five? It still comes up all the time.
Craig: And thus, if President Coleman does not see that losing in a highly visible sport means discussions of "what's wrong with Michigan" ad nauseum, in dozens of media and fora, then she will not make a move.
Craig: I'm just saying
Steve: As the AP article stated "[a school and a community where] football [is] the first, second and third priorities". If this were the football team instead it would be a whole different story
Geoff: Absolutely.
Craig: Well, yes, because money talks
Geoff: It's harder to ignore 110,000 than 13,000.
Geoff: But the exposure from March Madness is disproportionate to the actual revenue ticket sales generate.
Geoff: And that in turn shows up in merchandise sales. I haven't seen a whole lot of those maize basketball jerseys, have you?
Craig: And the hockey team doesn't get the face time on sports talk radio
Craig: The basketball team does
Geoff: [Note: Ringing the 5-minute bell here]
Craig: And it's always in a negative light vis-à-vis Michigan State
Craig: Which I don't blame State for, since they have done a good job
Geoff: Absolutely. As much as we love college hockey, it's still only a notch above curling on the national radar.
Craig: If basketball is a must, I'd like to have the kind that wins.
Geoff: Detroit talent has been in a bit of a downturn for basketball lately, but there should be enough prospects in this state to support two competitive programs.
Craig: This whole thing comes down to, if there was a simple solution, we'd already be pursuing it
Craig: And frankly, I just don't see it.
Geoff: There's no overnight correction to be made, but it demands a commitment from the athletic department over the long term.
Craig: Agreed
Geoff: It keeps coming back to basketball being seen as the embarrassing screw up kid.
Steve: Take a page out of Stalin's book and come up with a five year plan?
Geoff: Hopefully without so many dead peasants and kulaks.
Craig: and fewer revisions
Steve: Kulaks, but they're the arch enemy of the proletariat!
Craig: Does Godwin's Law also apply to Stalin?
Geoff: Not yet. Because Stalin jokes can still be funny.
Craig: Fair enough
Craig: But on that note, I hear the marching band playing us off for this week
Geoff: And I say that as a descendant of Poles.
Geoff: Sounds that way from here too.
Craig: So until next time, I'm CDB
Geoff: And I'm Geoff Somethingunpronouncable.
Steve: And I'm Harvey the Wonder Hamster
Craig: and that's all for this week's edition of "Whatever this is." Good night.
Geoff: See you next time.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Whatever This Is: LIVE!

Tonight Craig and I will be hosting another edition of Whatever This Is, to commence at 10:00PM EST. We'll be discussing basketball, mostly. One of the topics will be this article from the Associated Press about the continuing shadow the Fab Five cast in Ann Arbor.

To get in on the action, join our AIM chat room. First, add yourself to your own Buddy List. Right click on your screen name, then select Chat --> Buddy Chat. Change the chat room name to "hooverstreet" and click SEND. Then you too will be in on all the hot blogging action.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Hockey Weekend in (or near) Michigan

Michigan had a pair of games this weekend in the CCHA. Having watched both of them, one on Comcast Local and the second live and in person, allow me a brief recap.

Friday Night: @Bowling Green 3, Michigan 2

Friday night's away tilt against the Falcons of Bowling Green was the kind of game that, in retrospect, was a perfect Admiral Ackbar game. It was, in fact, a trap. Michigan was riding a six game winning streak into the game and was playing the worst team in the CCHA this season. Experts will tell you that you have to get up for every road game, and statistically, the home team will hold serve in most cases, but if Michigan wanted any chance of unseating Notre Dame in the top spot, they had to have this one.

Michigan jumped out early, like 74 seconds in, on Chad Kolarik's 15th of the season, another shortie no less, but the scrappy Falcons rallied to make it a 1-1 tie after 20. The pace was solid, but I felt that Michigan was just sort of laying back, waiting for Bowling Green to remember who they were, and the flurry of Michigan goals would commence.

In the second, Michigan made it 2-1 on a goal from Rohlfs, with assists from Hensick and Porter. It was the kind of thing we have come to expect from the top line, and I must make a little mea culpa on this: I still think of TJ Hensick as a that freshman puckhog who would rather shoot than pass, or really do anything but pass, but clearly, when you lead the NCAA in assists, well, the joke is no longer accurate, just funny as an ironic call back. It would be 2-1 after 40, but I still felt like Michigan needed to be doing something more, because they should be destroying this BG team (who apparently have a new logo, of which I was not aware until the Comcast Local graphic used it.)

Michigan looked, in my opinion, a little lethargic in the third as they were just trying to hold the lead, and playing not to lose for 20 minutes rarely works. Sure enough, BG scored to tie it up, and Michigan could never find the gear to get that third goal.

And then they did something utterly silly...Jack Johnson broke his stick with under 90 second left and went to the bench looking for a new stick. Unfortunately, someone, I think it may have been Turnbull, jumped on instead of someone just handing Johnson, you know, your best defenseman a new stick, and Michigan was called for a too many men on the ice penalty. It would not have been a major problem until Bowling Green decided to make Michigan pay, getting a goal with 35 seconds left to steal a 3-2 win.

Really frustrating, especially because Michigan State, who is also still lurking around the top of the CCHA, salvaged a 2-1 overtime win against Ferris up at Munn. This setup...

Hockey Day in Michigan (Saturday Night): Michigan 3, Michigan State 3 (at Joe Louis Arena, Detroit)

The Michigan/Michigan State game at the Joe is an annual tradition and usually has a solid split of Sparties and the Maize and Blue faithful alike. I was joining the proceedings for another go round, but sadly, my ticket purchase would have been great in the sense of the seats in general, but we were also stuck in the middle of the Michigan State section, so we felt more than a little overpowered, especially by the Spartan Brass. (It's worth noting that the Spartan Brass "cheat" since they have an electric bass, so not only are they not all Brass, they also are using electricity.)

There was a good flow to this game early on, and you could feel Michigan was clearly up for the game. They had a lot of great chances early, but sadly, too many of them were right on Jeff Lerg. It looked like it was going to be one of those nights, especially since Michigan State put a pair past Billy Sauer in just 64 seconds time. It looked like State was going to win the day, because they were converting their chances when Michigan wasn't. The second period looked to be more of the same, especially when Abdelkader got his second of the night on the shortie (Michigan, we love short handed goals so much, we'll happily give them up as well!) and you couldn't blame Michigan fans if they were convinced that this would be a lost weekend.

But wait, a ray of hope, less than a minute after the shortie! Chris Summers...(Wait, CHRIS SUMMERS???) a feed from Kampfer and, boom, Michigan's right back into it. Based on my impression, that goal really lit a fire under Michigan. They seemed to tighten up on their defensive responsibilities and were playing harder at both ends of the rink. That said, they were still down a pair after 40 minutes. It was also one of those things was when you looked at the shot board, and you realized that Michigan was outshooting the Sparties by 15.

The third period saw Michigan really turning it on in the period split power play, but Lerg continued to really stand up (see, I passed on the obvious short joke here) and stop Michigan, until Chris Summers...(Wait, CHRIS SUMMERS, again???) got his second of the evening just 101 seconds into the third period. The entire mood of the building shifted at that point. The Spartan fans got much more uptight, but so did Michigan fans, because you wondered if the maize and blue could come all the way back. The energy level picked up in the stands, but on the ice, it was definitely noticed that, with about 10 minutes to go, Michigan State looked absolutely gassed (the shots bear this out, Michigan holding a 17-3 lead on that front in the third.)

For all of Michigan's intensity, all was seeming lost, you don't get points for effort. You do get points for putting the puck in the back of the net. All of the sudden, that is exactly what happened. Andrew Cogliano made an exceptional effort (thanks to a pass by Chris Summers...(Wait, CHRIS SUMMERS, again, really???)...and beat Lerg to knot the affair at three.

The overtime was uneventful, but one really got the impression that if it had been five minutes longer, Michigan could have taken it because Michigan State looked ready to go home. They were being forced off the puck with relative ease and were playing a great deal of dump and chase. Michigan looked to still have plenty of legs left, on the other hand. In the end, a 3-3 tie and Michigan salvages a point from this weekend.

I think the Saturday night game was, in many ways, a microcosm of the season for Michigan. A less than organized or interested first half met with a much higher level of intensity and skill in the second half. The question is, how will these last few games play out and how will Michigan go into March? Only time will tell.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Whatever This Is: Whip-Around

Craig: Welcome to "Whatever This Is", a new semi-regular feature of The Hoover Street Rag
Steve: Hoorah!
Geoff: So. Where to begin?
Steve: D-1A coaches as Deadwood characters?
Geoff: Hold on to that one, Steve.
Steve: Aye aye.
Craig: Thank you, I wouldn't have anything to contribute.
Geoff: Want to do a little on our signees, a little on hockey, and a little on basketball?
Craig: Yes, but not too much on signees, because signing day to me is America's evil little holiday.
Steve: So many predictions made off of so little info?
Craig: No, being obsessive about 18 year old kids as potential messiahs.
Steve: Alright, who do you think is our best recruit?
Geoff: Ryan Mallett.
Craig: Vince Helmuth.
Geoff: Mallett's the QB of the future, regarded as #2 in the country by most services, and it's a position we need desperately after Henne's gone.
Craig: Geoff, I don't disagree with you, I just needed to say someone different in order to have more of a discussion.
Geoff: The recruit we most needed was Donovan Warren, because the secondary is...well, a bunch of dudes who aren't Leon Hall.
Craig: Mallett is a huge prospect, literally, he's bigger than Navarre.
Geoff: Ah, the Water Buffalo.
Steve: Never heard that nickname before.
Geoff: It's an MGoBlogism.
Geoff: Two biggest [signing day] non-surprises: RoJo and Finch land elsewhere. Shockers, both [/sarcasm].
Craig: You know, the verbal commitment game is such an odd thing. How many people committed to Florida like, you know, yesterday?
Geoff: Yeah, really. With Finch, it sounds like Meyer just went out to show he can order off the menu any time he likes.
Craig: But Mallet is like what, 8'4", laser/rocket arm?
Geoff: He's Voltron.
Steve: No, Voltron had a flaming sword and no lasers.
Geoff: Is he Optimus Prime?
Craig: My argument for Vince Helmuth is that while fullback is not an ultra-important position, a great fullback can make a major difference
Geoff: Fullbacks are awesome. Obi Oluigbo had a breakout year this season.
Steve: Where would Mike Hart be without him? The guy created some big holes.
Craig: Plus, goalline stands and decoying.
Geoff: He caught a couple passes too.
Craig: But Helmuth is seen as the #1 true fullback in the country, and is a Saline boy, so like, you know, it's almost in the name, he's just down the road!
Geoff: I like the guys who you know are Michigan men.
Craig: Plus, early enrollee, which might mean playing time next year
Steve: My only concern with Helmuth is how tempted the ESPN guys are going to be to make professional poker references when talking about him.
Craig: I also agree with Brian et al that he will become a fan favorite at the Big House. Fullbacks tend to get the cult.
Geoff: Fullback is the archetypical workhorse who doesn't get the highlight reel material, but is instrumental in making the team better. Unless he's Mike Alstott and grabs the 1-yd TD run every time.
Craig: So, I didn't see the consensus, did Michigan get the best in conference class, or was it Illinois?
Geoff: I think Illinois was up there.
Steve: I believe that ESPN gave it to Mr. Zook
Geoff: We're a borderline top-10 class across the board.
Craig: OK, did anyone find it weird that it had no Ohioans, but it did have Californians and Texans?
Geoff: Yeah. That's strange.
Steve: Oh, if I might correct myself. ESPN gave us #10 and Illinois #12
Geoff: We've got at least 4 Californians this year, I think. And the depressing trend of top Michigan products going elsewhere.
Steve: Exactly 4.
Geoff: At least this time around they're turning more towards non-Big Ten schools.
Craig: The California thing I have heard attributed to Mr. English. By the way, may I just make the point that Illinois should not be a big surprise, Zook is known as a recruiter, and as recently as 2001, they were in a BCS bowl
Geoff: Yeah. [NAME REDACTED] always had great classes at Florida, as EDSBS points out.
Steve: 22 of 24 starters on this year's national championship team were his recruits. Although John L. thinks there be goin's on.
Geoff: ESPN also had an article on Zook and it paints him as a recruiting junkie. I think John L. Slappyface just has sour grapes.
Craig: Agreed.
Steve: That seems to be the consensus among the sports media as well.
Craig: John L. is still upset about the losing streak.
Steve: There's also the fact that he's never appeared to be playing with a full deck.
Craig: Motion to move on?
Steve: Seconded.
Geoff: Carried unanimously.
Geoff: Basketball? To get it out of the way?
Craig: Yes, it's like the second story on a Simpsons trilogy, the weak one goes in the middle
Geoff: In a word: Ugh. In a longer word: Ugggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhh.
Craig: Yes, in another word, craptacular!
Geoff: The OSU game was predictable, and it wasn't an embarrassment.
Craig: Well, it is hard to beat Greg Oden, a/k/a Wise LeBron for the commercials.
Geoff: Yeah. Sigh.
Geoff: The ones that kill me are games like Iowa.
Craig: Where we had a big lead and dropped it like it was hot.
Geoff: Letting the Hawks go on a 20-1 run won't win you a lot of ballgames.
Steve: Yep. But with the Ohio State game I'm dissapointed that we lost by 13 when were only down by 4 a couple of minutes into the second half.
Geoff: Bah. That one got away from us late.
Craig: I have to ask, did any Michigan fan truly not see this coming?
Steve: Which part?
Craig: The idea that Michigan would have this kind of meltdown as we moved through February
Geoff: Oh, no. Especially not with the schedule we've been looking at. We knew when we were 11-1 that it was an absurdly soft 11-1.
Craig: What gets me, deeply, is I begin to wonder how much Michigan fans truly are upset by this?
Steve: In my case not very. I've come to expect nothing of Michigan basketball.
Geoff: Ones that grew up on the '89 title and the Fab Five are weeping. Ones that better remember the Ed Martin affair or the time when Michigan was nothing aren't that moved.
Craig: Geoff, that's a good call
Geoff: It's a good call, it's a right call.
Craig: Thank you.
Steve: As someone born in 1984 I can say that '89 and the Fab 5 are in the far reaches of my memory.
Craig: Who is next on the hit parade? For men's hoops. Or Tommy's Tragic Circus.
Geoff: Minnesota at home. It's a trap game.
Craig: Oh, the Ackbar Special
Geoff: The Gophers suck, but the next game up after them is MSU in East Lansing.
Steve: Followed by a home game against Indiana.
Craig: Awesome, the greatest of all Futurama episodes is on
Geoff: Deep South?
Steve: Heck yeah
Craig: Yessir
Craig: Hail Atlanta!
Steve: "Oww, my small intestine!"
Geoff: Arrgh, the laws of science be a harsh mistress!
Craig: Anyway, sorry
Steve: Topic?
Geoff: Tournament hopes.
Steve: Slim to none?
Geoff: [Laughs until the laughing turns to weeping]
Craig: Is there something that is lower than the NIT?


Geoff: Yeah. That's what I thought.
Craig: If we end up there again, can we bring signs to the NIT games calling Tommy a NITWIT?
Geoff: I would not oppose such a measure.
Craig: This is what bothers me. I want to like Tommy, I really do. But at some point, being a nice guy is not enough, no?
Steve: With a school of this size, you're expected to win occasionally.
Geoff: Tommy, from all accounts, is a good guy. He did well to bring the program back from the days when Ellerbee still had the scandal hanging over us
Steve: Agreed
Geoff: But at some point you have to start winning for real.
Craig: I know the popular call is for Rudy T, but I am going to start calling for Cazzie. I mean, I hear he's doing good things down at SCAD.
Geoff: Rudy T wouldn't take it, I don't think. Health problems.
Craig: That was my thinking
Geoff: I'm not sold on the need for a personal connection to the Michigan program. I don't care if it's a guy looking for his step up the ladder.
Craig: I'm also down with that as well
Geoff: We want a kickstart back into the ranks of nationally-prominent programs. If some guy hangs around for a couple years, gets us to win a tournament game, and then bolts for some perpetual power, that's good enough. Because after that you can get a guy more willing to stay.
Steve: And that brings in better recruits. Along with the better record.
Craig: True, because then you have the Michigan name and the recent history
Geoff: OK. Next: Hockey
Craig: Woot
Geoff: We ended up with a nice January there.
Craig: Yes we did, and I'd like to make an observation about last Saturday's game, which I watched in its entirity. Before watching Bubba Ho-Tep.
Geoff: Please do.
Craig: It was the first time this season where I felt I saw Michigan not only trying to do the little things, but succeeding. First to the puck, winning board battles, blocking shots, making the extra pass. And while it was only a 3-1 win against a middling CCHA team at Yost, it looked like they were playing with some heart and vigor.
Geoff: That's the sort of thing you really want to see. When we had ND at home, it was just the opposite.
Craig: And for the first time all year, I felt a little confidence about the team's prospects in the tournament, should we get there
Geoff: I should go buy my regionals tickets to Van Andel and go regardless of which teams they put there.
Craig: Again, good call, right call
Geoff: Anyone else in for it?
Craig: Which weekend?
Craig: Is it March 24?
Steve: I'm game.
Geoff: March 23 and 24.
Craig: I'll let you know
Geoff: Cool.
Craig: What I also like is that I think that the defense is playing better in front of Sauer.
Geoff: OK. So the next game on the docket is MSU at the Joe. It's a big game.
Craig: It is. And I will be there for it.
Steve: Excellent
Craig: I think it's a big game on a number of levels
Geoff: We will demand appropriate reportage.
Craig: I shall.
Steve: Craig, how did Sauer look to you?
Craig: Oh, I don't know. He had three exceptional saves where he finally looked like a goalie who was following the puck like a dog follows a laser pointer.
Geoff: We won 3-1. That's good enough for me when it comes to Sauer.
Craig: I think he's like a Beatles song...he's getting better all the time. But i will be interested to see him on Hockey Day in Michigan.
Geoff: You were saying before that you think this MSU tilt is a big game on a number of levels, Craig?
Craig: Yes, as much as winning the last six games has been big (and I fully expect that to be seven by Saturday), they have been against the teams which currently sit 9, 11, 8, and (12) in the CCHA standings. MSU is a rivalry game on neutral ice against a team only four points back with a game in hand, so if Michigan wants to hold on to second place in the league, they need this one. At least a tie.
Geoff: You mean "neutral" ice. And, yeah. It's a biggie.
Craig: I don't know, as much as I liked thinking of JLA as Yost East, it really hasn't been in recent years.
Geoff: Oh, I meant the opposite.
Craig: Oh, OK, that makes sense. And the Sparties are very boisterous, and they bring the bass guitar, which is totally cheating
Steve: There's no electricity in pep band!
Geoff: The last few times I've been there it's been wall-to-wall green and white, except for the CCHA championship where we beat OSU. Ok, not really. But there have been a lot of them.
Craig: Well, I'll have the maize jersey on. By the way, MSU's game in hand will even out on Tuesday when they play Ferris to finish out the home and home starting on Friday.
Craig: I don't see Michigan catching the Domers, but holding on to #2 and potentially drawing Miami at the Joe would be big. So they really need this one
Geoff: You know it. And with that, I think our Hour of Power draws near closing.
Craig: Indeed, the old hand on the wall is pointing to 11, and that means, that's all for this week's edition of "Whatever This Is"
Geoff: See you next time, folks.
Steve: I enjoyed it
Craig: Please feel free to comment on this, contribute, or suggest topics to discuss next time
Geoff: Thanks guys.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Whatever This Is: Scheduling

On Tuesday, Craig and I talked about the athletic department's plans for new and renovated facilities down on South Campus. Last night, the topic was scheduling. Steve, who happens to be my brother, also weighed in. Full disclosure: This isn't a verbatim transcript. Grammar and spelling errors have been corrected if I caught them, in a lot of cases I've stitched consecutive messages into one, and I've flipped the order on very few. All of this has been in the service of better readability; nothing of an editorial slant has been applied.

This seems destined to be a regular feature (Converting an AIM chat to a post is way easier than just writing one yourself!). We'll tentatively schedule the next round for Thursday, February 8, at 10:00PM EST in the hooverstreet AIM chat room.

Geoff:  OK, so here we are again. Maybe we don't need to go 3700+ words this time.

Craig:  Well, I mean, the "building boom" did require a lot

Craig:  Plus, Futurama's on in 30 minutes

Geoff:  Both good points.

Geoff:  So: Scheduling.

Craig:  Or as I have called it "Eight Games a Week"

Geoff:  Yeah.

Craig:  But before that Geoff, may we unbury the lede? If this is going to be a continuing feature, we'd happily take Michigan-related topic suggestions and a name for this. Please leave them in the comments.

Craig:  That said...Roll.

Geoff:  OK. Bill Martin says that we need 8 home games to pay the bills.

Craig:  Yes, he said this, and this scares me.

Geoff:  It's absurd to play 2/3's of your schedule on your home field. And if you insist on it, you end up playing NOT ONE non-conference game on the road.

Craig:  Yeah, I mean, look, I love going to Michigan football games, but that is a lot to ask of the stakeholders

Geoff:  They'll wring that extra cash out somehow, no matter what.

Craig:  There has to be some team whom would love to have Michigan in. And why not perhaps a neutral site game?

Geoff:  Oh, absolutely. Some team with a big stadium so that we don't lose too badly on the gate receipts.

Craig:  Those were way more prevelant in the past. You find an NFL stadium that labor day weekend and fill it up.

Geoff:  Right. Why not play at Soldier Field against a cross-country team?

Craig:  Like the Georgia Dome for UGA as I have suggested. Michigan always brags on the amount of alumni that they have around the country, I am sure the Southeast, West, South, would love to see the Wolverines live. Heck, even North Texas in Irving.

Geoff:  You just can't pull a quality opponent unless you're willing to go home-and-home or to a true neutral site.

Craig:  And I think Michigan is being way too stubborn on this one.

Steve:  Given how poorly they've done on the road early in the season I can certainly see why

Craig:  But how much of that early season fatigue is because they won't get out there and play someone middling on the road?

Steve:  I assume we're just going to assume that Notre Dame is cursed then?

Craig:  No longer. I think the echoes of that were silenced this year, at least for a while.

Geoff:  One thing's certain: We aren't going to the Pacific time zone.

Craig:  And yet, we probably should

Geoff:  For recruiting?

Steve:  For preserving Willingham's job with the Huskies?

Craig:  No, to get used to playing out there in case we need to make an end of season trip to the Arroyo Seco

Geoff:  Let's turn the conversation to this coming season, for the moment.

Craig:  Yes, let's. And by the way, that Washington game in Seattle was a fiasco that we tend to forget because of what happened next

Geoff:  The extra game is almost certainly going to be at home, given everything circulating.

Craig:  Yes...

Geoff:  And Vanderbilt has already declined the option to come north again.

Craig:  Yes they have

Geoff:  Word on the ebays is that Bowling Green is the likely opponent. Or at least a Bowling Green-caliber team.

Craig:  Bowling Green...

Geoff:  Yeah. I think this actually sounds worse than it is.

Craig:  Ok, wait, so that's a guaranteed MAC-rifice, the Echoes, and Crimes Against the Eyeball. And then MAC-rifice II

Steve:  Just how badly are we trying to end our streak of sell-outs?

Craig:  OK, if you're going to do that, why not move the Eastern game to Ford Field and let them call it an EMU home game?

Geoff:  Because that's what Northwestern is doing already?

Craig:  Oh.

Steve:  And I don't think the Athletic department would really go for that much loss of capacity.

Craig:  I did not realize that Northwestern is coming to Ford Field. If only I had some chance to see Northwestern play in southeastern Michigan...

Geoff:  For one year, I'm not that pissed about an 8-game schedule. For one thing, we get to reclaim the season attendance record (PSU and OSU both had 8-game homestands before).

Craig:  Oh, good point. But if it becomes a pattern...

Geoff:  I would like an NCAA mandate of a maximum of 7 home games.

Craig:  Neutral site games not counting toward that total?

Geoff:  Correct.

Craig:  I'd really like to see that. And you know what, that would be win win, because then athletic departments could howl at the NCAA and blame them, but also smile that they don't have to worry about the eighth game.

Craig:  By the way, this expansion of the schedule was poorly thought out in terms of scheduling. There's a reason these things lock in years in advance

Geoff:  Seriously.

Craig:  But, again, money is the driving factor here

Steve:  As for the theoretical neutral site games, at least for the first couple of years ESPN would salivate over the marketing opportunity.

Craig:  You know, it's funny you bring that up, you would think ESPN would be working to try and play matchmaker here. They do it, behind the scenes, for men's hoops. Especially now with those Saturday night games. You get some big "name" schools together early in the year and see what happens.

Geoff:  Playing a big-time game at Ford Field would also obviate the need for lighting at Michigan Stadium without giving up much of the home field advantage.

Craig:  And, I am sorry, the missed opportunity here is that there are TONS of Michigan football fans in SE Michigan who can never get into the Big House and who would love a shot at those tickets to see Michigan live. And that isn't even counting season ticket holders who would ALSO buy those tickets. You wouldn't need much of a marketing effort at all to sell out Ford Field

Geoff:  Plus you could sell the tickets at NFL prices, too. And alcohol.

Craig:  Ooh, the cause of and solution to all of life's problems

Geoff:  And the most tremendous markup in all the land.

Steve:  Is the alcohol ban an NCAA rule or a Michigan Staduim rule?

Craig:  Michigan Stadium rule as I understand it

Geoff:  It's definitely a University-wide policy.

Steve:  The more this gets discussed the better the neutral site games sound. Especially for the universities if the game is held in a venue where the increased ticket prices surpass the the loss of capacity. Law of supply and demand after all.

Craig:  Ooh, even better point. No student tickets, which means that you can get full value on every seat.

Geoff:  Soldier Field, I think, would be a nice place to go. It's got big capacity, it's a 4-hour drive from Ann Arbor, and there are a ton of Michigan fans in Chicago.

Steve:  Lets not forget the larger number of luxury boxes you get with professional sports arenas .

Craig:  All good points Geoff, but doesn't Michigan have a game in Chicagoland this season anyway?

Geoff:  That's true. Maybe not this year, but when the 'Cats are off the schedule or are a home game. It would probably have to be an inter-sectional matchup to be worth putting it there.

Craig:  That one I'll get behind... Boise State?

Geoff:  Sure would be an interesting game. Let's use that to segue into talking about opponents.

Craig:  Just don't fall off the segue.

Steve:  And make sure it's charged.

Geoff:  I have my initials embroidered on the front of my Segway's bag.

Geoff:  I've stated before that I think every BCS program in the country should schedule at least two other BCS teams as part of their non-conference schedule.

Craig:  And I agree with this wholeheartedly

Geoff:  Even if we end up with two MACrifices this year, we'll still play Oregon and ND

Craig:  I think it's good for the game and good for seeing who is what with what. Which is good

Geoff:  It's a respectable slate. And no I-AA nonsense.

Craig:  I think that if you play a I-AA team, you need seven wins to be bowl eligible

Geoff:  Yeah. I-AA wins and losses shouldn't count.

Craig:  But Geoff, are all BCS teams created equal?

Geoff:  No, they aren't. There's a difference between Baylor and Texas, of course. We should play one elite team and one middling one.

Craig:  or between Florida State and Duke

Steve:  And Boise State and USC

Geoff:  Boise State is a tricky case.

Craig:  Yes it is. Is it Gonzaga? Or is it a one hit wonder? Though I do wonder if this is one of those on-the-map games, where they can bring in lots of second tier chip-on-the-shoulder guys who want to be "a part of something".

Geoff:  With a program that fresh on the scene, you can't tell if they're going to be Boise State 2006 or Boise State "We Invented the Humanitarian Bowl Just So We Didn't Get Left Out".

Steve:  That is the problem with a team that doesn't play anyone

Craig:  To their credit, they do have that Georgia game in between the hedges. They have tried

Geoff:  They proved it in the Fiesta Bowl this year. Oklahoma wasn't a crap team. They were real. ANYWAY.

Craig:  Sorry, yes. Damn you hook and ladder!

Geoff:  We should play an elite team, a middling team, and maybe a BCS doormat for good measure.

Craig:  Where do we put Notre Dame on that?

Geoff:  You'd have to put them still up there with the elite.

Craig:  It is a name game, even when it's not worthwhile.

Steve:  That is why I would classify them as middling

Craig:  But does that prevent Michigan from scheduling say, a Georgia, because they're thinking, dude, Irish already there?

Geoff:  Re: ND. You can put them on the schedule and expect them to be good. When they turn out to be crap, that's unexpected.

Steve:  Sorry, had it the wrong way 'round.

Geoff:  Long-term scheduling is tough, and so much of it has to do with being able to count on how good a team will be.

Steve:  Just throwing this out there, what is your opinion on dumping a traditional rivalry for a year in hopes of creating a new one?

Craig:  I know WDFN's Mike Stone has thrown it out there for years that Michigan should not play Notre Dame every year unless they join the Big Ten. Which would allow Michigan to do what you're suggesting there, Herr Oberst.

Geoff:  You shouldn't dump a rivalry to create a new one. But [suspending it for] a one-off or a home-and-home against a big name school, well that's one to think on.

Craig:  Texas A&M. I will keep pushing for that.

Geoff:  See, that's one I've been on the edge of saying. Kyle Field is a big stadium, so the payday's going to be good.

Craig:  Steeped in Tradition. Usually solid, but rarely a power

Geoff:  They've been an average Big XII team, so you don't run yourself through just by putting them on the schedule.

Craig:  Does Bill Martin have a suggestion box?

Steve:  This is another argument to add to the neutral site idea, it's a great way to get big name schools together who wouldn't normally play each other

Geoff:  You also get yourself down to the fertile recruiting ground of Texas.

Steve:  Where I hear the stars glow big and bright

Geoff:  *clap* *clap* *clap* DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS!

Craig:  Sorry, I had to go to the basement of the Alamo.

Steve:  For a program like Michigan, does playing far afield really help recruiting that much?

Craig:  I really think it does. Because it shows that you might come back there. You play a national schedule

Geoff:  And thus get national attention. USC's scheduling has been pretty awe-inspiring at times. They schedule who they want, wherever their opponents choose to play, and go down and knock them out.

Craig:  IT'S IN!!!Well we've sat on it long enough. GoBlueWolverine received word this morning from Long Beach (CA) Poly standout Donovan Warren that he had officially committed to Michigan. [Thanks to TAB over on the comments at MGoBlog]

Geoff:  Huzzah!

Craig:  The Arkansas thing this year was amazing.

Steve:  That is a very good way to impress people.

Craig:  That is confirmed on Scout, by the way.

Steve:  Craig, you're closest to Mexico. Go out and get us some Tijuana firecrackers

Geoff:  The reason why this Donovan Warren announcement (WHICH IS T3H AW3SUM) is so surprising is that USC practically gets right of refusal on so much of the top talent around.

Craig:  And that's backyard talent

Craig:  We should note, by the way, that this is not recruiting talk. Once committed, we may discuss openly. Though we still feel a little dirty about it

Geoff:  So noted (And not the good kind of dirty).

Steve:  "Signing Day" is tomorrow, is it not?

Geoff:  Next week, I think. Next Wednesday? But it's a public commitment he's very unlikely to back out of.

Craig:  It would have a very WWE feel to it. WAIT, THAT'S PETE CAROLL'S MUSIC

Geoff:  Not him, not The Humanitarian!

Steve:  You think you know a guy.

Craig:  Anyway, back to the schedule. I am sorry for that.

Geoff:  OK. So, I'd say that playing a national schedule and establishing yourself as more than just the king of your backyard can help you land the five-star talent. And, more than that, you may get the next level of guy.

Craig:  And in this day and age, when recruiting is well, what Orson et al said, you need to draw the attention.

Steve:  Yes, beating top schools in a bowl game is one thing, beating them at in their own stadium...well, that's hard to top

Geoff:  We've had luck with pulling big-time QBs out of other states (Brady, Henne, Mallett) and some elite WR talent, but maybe we can get your four-star linebacker too.

Craig:  Or DB?

Geoff:  Exactly.

Steve:  I was about to say, especially this year.

Steve:  The Ducks are going to be a home game for us, correct?

Geoff:  So how would this theoretical non-conference slate sit with you guys: Lead off with Western Michigan at home, go on the road to South Bend, home for Miami (Ohio), and then A&M in College Station

Steve:  I think that would do wonders for our strength of schedule

Craig:  I like it. I like it a lot

Craig:  Is this your 2008 sked?

Geoff:  No, just spitballing. Though I wouldn't mind it. The only issue is that it puts your two toughest games on the road. One solution would be to play the Miami game at a neutral site.

Steve:  And we'd be playing Ohio State on the road as well in 2008

Geoff:  Yeah. That would be rough.

Craig:  TAMU is locked in. They've already got Arkansas State, Miami, USAFA, and Army.

Steve:  I'd try to have A&M as the neutral site

Craig:  No, Kyle Field, you want to play there. It's 80K. That's a good gate.

Steve:  Point taken

Geoff:  The idea should be to schedule one good BCS program at home and one on the road.

Craig:  Agreed. Agreed.

Geoff:  Now, if we make one of our remaining two games a lousy BCS school, they should still have an adequate-sized stadium on campus or go to an NFL joint for a "neutral site".

Craig:  Also agreed.

Geoff:  So, to the bottom line:

Craig:  Only fittingly.

Geoff:  Eight games is too many to play at home.

Steve:  Yes.

Craig:  Agreed

Geoff:  It asks a lot of your ticket-buyers and it's ridiculous from a competition standpoint, because you know that last game is just going to be from some crap school who'll take the lie-down.

Craig:  Agreed.

Geoff:  Michigan should do its utmost to schedule two good BCS opponents for its non-conference schedule. It'll play one more game against a MAC team, leaving that 12th game to be decided.

Craig:  Agreed.

Geoff:  And that's fine. They can do what they will with that, but try to get a decent gate on it without hanging that price tag on your ticket-holders without their say-so.

Craig:  There really should be some input from the stakeholders on this. It's a big deal

Geoff:  Seriously. If you've got a block of four tickets, you're talking a good $240 or so, right?

Craig:  Absolutely

Geoff:  Anyway.

Geoff:  It's been good talking to you guys, but I'm going to have to fight my way through the lake-effect tomorrow, so it's time to pack it in.

Craig:  It's Winterfest tomorrow, so I need to be ready for '09 Chaos

Geoff:  And general disarray.

Craig:  So let's call it a night

Craig:  Until another installment of "Whatever this is"

Steve:  Take it easy, and my Wisonsin ticket was priced at $59 so I concur on the $240

Craig:  Fire Team Alpha already in position, Geoff.

Geoff:  Lock and load.

Steve:  So that's what that red dot on my chest is.