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Posts Tagged ‘Florida’

Inside the Numbers: Ready for the rough road ahead

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014


Beilein vs Wisconsin(Mike McGinnis, Getty Images)

Even though “Inside the Numbers” had been claiming for weeks that Michigan was a Big Ten contender, it was not until Michigan’s fifth straight victory to open Big Ten play that the rest of the nation realized the same. Last Saturday, Michigan walked into the Kohl Center—a place where U-M had not won since 1999—and beat the Wisconsin Badgers, 77-70, in one of the most aesthetically-pleasing college basketball games thus far this season.

The Wolverines were in command almost the entire contest. They led Wisconsin—last week’s No.3 team in the Associated Press poll—for all but one minute and 25 seconds and owned a 15-point lead midway through the second half. Wisconsin enhanced the drama by cutting U-M’s lead to one with two minutes left. But, in those final two minutes, UW never had possession of the basketball with the opportunity to reclaim the lead. That is because Nik Stauskas buried the Badgers with this “cold-blooded,” step-back three-pointer.

Stauskas 3 vs Wisconsin

Nik Stauskas took over down the stretch to help Michigan top Wisconsin (Mike McGinnis, Getty Images)

Not only did Michigan earn what advanced metrics considered at the time to be the toughest Big Ten contest a team could win this season, it was a historic victory for the program from Ann Arbor. It was Michigan’s first win against an AP Top 3 team in the seven years John Beilein has served as the Wolverines’ head coach. It also was the first road win against an AP Top 3 team in the 98 years of Michigan basketball.

But Michigan has no time to celebrate. The path to a Big Ten championship will not become any less bumpy, especially in the next few days. What is the Wolverines’ reward for beating Wisconsin in Madison? It is the opportunity to play No.10 Iowa at home tonight and No.3 Michigan State in East Lansing just three days thereafter.

This will be the second time that Michigan has played three straight regular-season games against AP Top 10 schools in program history. The first time the Wolverines endured such a challenge was in December of 1963. Michigan cruised to a 16-point win against No.5 Duke, defeated No.10 NYU by nine points, and lost to No.4 UCLA, 98-80, in the span of seven days that December.

However, this will not be the first time in 51 years that Michigan has faced such a difficult stretch of games. In actuality, the Wolverines have become quite accustomed to playing some of the nation’s best teams in three or more consecutive games, having done so each of the past three seasons. Since the 2010-11 season, the Wolverines have played at least three consecutive contests against opponents ranked in the Top 15 of Ken Pomeroy’s rankings—which are formulated by an advanced algorithm—at least once each season. Those challenges have prepared Michigan for the obstacles it will face not only this week, but in February, too.

During the 2010-11 season, the Maize and Blue were scheduled to play Wisconsin, Kansas, and Ohio State in three consecutive contests from January 5 to January 12, 2011. The Badgers were outside the AP Top 25, but Pomeroy’s algorithm—which is a much better evaluator of a college basketball teams’ ability—ranked them at No.15. There was no such discrepancy with regards to Kansas and Ohio State as both rankings listed the Jayhawks and Buckeyes in the Top 3.

Michigan’s Most Difficult Three-Game Stretch in 2010-11

Date

Opponent

Site

Opp. AP Rank

Opp. Pomeroy Rank

Pomeroy Win Odds

Result

Jan. 5, 2011

Wisconsin

Away

NR

#15

23%

L, 50-66

Jan. 9, 2011

Kansas

Home

#3

#3

43%

L, 60-67 (OT)

Jan. 12, 2011

Ohio St.

Home

#2

#2

32%

L, 64-68

Table 1Pomeroy’s algorithm gave Michigan a 70.2 percent chance to win at least once. Further, the most likely scenario was that U-M would finish escape this brutal run with a 1-2 record, having a 45.4 percent chance of doing so. Yet the Wolverines lost all three games. Michigan fought hard against Kansas and Ohio State at home, pushing each to the brink, but U-M could not muster the few extra points needed to give the students a reason to storm the court at the then-named Crisler Arena. It was a disappointing stretch for the Wolverines—especially since it was the first half of what would be a six-game losing streak—but not completely unexpected for a team ranked outside Pomeroy’s Top 50.

However, it was a learning experience for Michigan and gave U-M a taste of what the Big Ten schedule would be like the next few years. In 2011-12, the Wolverines were a much better team. U-M was 16-5, 6-2 in the Big Ten, and No.33 in Pomeroy’s rankings. But Ohio State, Indiana, and Michigan State were the next three Big Ten teams with which Michigan was getting into the ring. Almost midway through the conference season, the Wolverines were eyeing a Big Ten championship and could not afford to be shut out during their toughest three-game stretch for the second straight year.

Michigan’s Most Difficult Three-Game Stretch in 2011-12

Date

Opponent

Site

Opp. AP Rank

Opp. Pomeroy Rank

Pomeroy Win Odds

Result

Jan. 29, 2012

Ohio St.

Away

#4

#1

6%

L, 49-64

Feb. 1, 2012

Indiana

Home

#20

#10

45%

W, 68-56

Feb. 5, 2012

Michigan St.

Away

#9

#5

15%

L, 54-64

Table 2Despite being a better team in 2011-12 than the previous season, Michigan’s toughest three-game stretch in 2011-12 was more difficult because U-M played two of those three games on the road rather than in Ann Arbor. As a result, Pomeroy believed the Wolverines had only a 56.1 percent chance to record at least one victory. The most likely outcome was that U-M would finish with a 1-2 record, but finishing with a 0-3 record was less than three percentage points away from being just as likely. But, unlike 2010-11, Michigan lived up to its expectations and snatched one win, defeating Indiana by 12 points at home.

This was an improvement from Michigan’s three-game stretch the prior season. The Wolverines learned just how valuable it is to protect home court during Big Ten play. By doing so against the Hoosiers, U-M stayed amidst the Big Ten race. Following this treacherous three-game stretch, Michigan won six of its final seven games and captured its first share of a Big Ten regular season championship since 1986. Without that victory against Indiana, U-M’s Big Ten-championship drought would be at 27 years.

Last season, Michigan fielded its best team in two decades. Coincidentally, Big Ten officials decided that scheduling three straight games against Pomeroy Top 15 opponents was too easy for the Wolverines, so they decided to schedule four straight instead. And to make matters worse, three of those would be played in Big Ten cities not named Ann Arbor. Nonetheless, many expected the Wolverines to maneuver past these roadblocks because U-M endured these rough patches in the schedule the past two years and was one of the nation’s best teams.

Michigan’s Most Difficult Four-Game Stretch in 2012-13

Date

Opponent

Site

Opp. AP Rank

Opp. Pomeroy Rank

Pomeroy Win Odds

Result

Feb. 2, 2013

Indiana

Away

#3

#2

32%

L, 73-81

Feb. 5, 2013

Ohio St.

Home

#10

#11

76%

W, 76-74 (OT)

Feb. 9, 2013

Wisconsin

Away

NR

#14

56%

L, 62-65 (OT)

Feb. 12, 2013

Michigan St.

Away

#8

#14

55%

L, 52-75

Table 3Even though Michigan was going to play three of these four games on the road, Pomeroy’s algorithm still gave U-M a 77 percent chance to win at least two games. And the most likely outcome was that the Wolverines would finish with a 2-2 record. The Wolverines did remember their lesson from 2011-12 and protected their home court, edging Ohio State by two points in overtime.

But what Michigan needed to learn was how to win road contests during these tough stretches. U-M’s best shot was in Madison against Wisconsin when Tim Hardaway, Jr. broke a tie with a three-pointer with about two seconds left. But Wisconsin guard Ben Brust miraculously converted a buzzer-beating, half-court prayer to send the game to overtime where the Badgers would escape with a win. The heartbreaking loss sucked the wind out of U-M’s sails, and the Wolverines ultimately were unable to win any of those three road games. Thus, Michigan finished with a 1-3 record, below Pomeroy’s expectations for U-M.

Those three brutal stretches of games—in three consecutive seasons, no less—would take their toll on every team in NCAA D-1 basketball. The odds of even the best college basketball team escaping all three of those stretches unscathed would be slim to none. But Michigan posted only a 2-8 record during those three stretches combined. None of those wins were outside Ann Arbor. Given the expectations set by Pomeroy, U-M underwhelmed. And there were questions about whether Michigan could beat elite teams away from the Crisler Center.

But, then, everything clicked. Michigan became acclimated to these brutal conditions, and U-M’s experiences from those difficult stretches of games finally began to pay off. Proof? See Michigan’s magical run through the 2013 NCAA Tournament. In the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, and Final Four, the Wolverines matched up against Kansas, Florida, and Syracuse, respectively, on neutral sites. All three opponents were ranked in Pomeroy’s Top 10. Pomeroy thought that Michigan had only a 7.4 percent chance to beat all three and advance to the national championship game. And, yet, the Wolverines did just that and were seven points shy of winning the program’s second national title.

Now, in the 2013-14 season, the Wolverines have begun to show that it can win contests not just at neutral sites, but also in true road games during these difficult stretches. Michigan proved that with its aforementioned upset win against Wisconsin four days ago. The Wolverines need to continue to show the nation that they can survive these stretches, starting with the one they are amid right now.

Michigan’s Difficult Three-Game Stretch from Jan. 18, 2014 to Jan. 25, 2014

Date

Opponent

Site

Opp. AP Rank

Opp. Pomeroy Rank

Pomeroy Win Odds

Result

Jan. 18

Wisconsin

Away

#3

#4

22%

W, 77-70

Jan. 22

Iowa

Home

#10

#5

57%

TBD

Jan. 25

Michigan St.

Away

#3

#6

31%

TBD

Table 4Before Michigan played Wisconsin in the Kohl Center, Pomeroy gave U-M a 23.1 percent chance that it would be winless during this stretch. Yet U-M already eliminated that possibility. So, with one win in the bank, Michigan already has matched its expectations and needs just one win against Iowa or Michigan State this week to surpass them. The odds that the Maize and Blue do just that: 70.3 percent.

With a 5-0 conference record and more than a seven-tenths chance to defeat at least one of the two Big Ten schools it will be competing with in the Big Ten race, Michigan has set itself up to make a run at a conference championship. However, it is not all cupcakes and ice cream once Michigan finishes this current test. In February, the Wolverines will endure a similarly difficult four-game stretch that likely will determine whether they have a legitimate shot at winning their second Big Ten title in three years.

Michigan’s Difficult Four-Game Stretch from Feb. 8, 2014 to Feb. 23, 2014

Date

Opponent

Site

Opp. AP Rank

Opp. Pomeroy Rank

Pomeroy Win Odds

Result

Feb. 8

Iowa

Away

#10

#5

27%

TBD

Feb. 11

Ohio St.

Away

#17

#16

36%

TBD

Feb. 16

Wisconsin

Home

#9

#7

62%

TBD

Feb. 23

Michigan St.

Home

#3

#6

62%

TBD

Table 5Pomeroy believes that the most likely outcome for Michigan during this second brutal stretch is a 2-2 record, with a 40 percent chance to do so. Pomeroy also thinks that Michigan has a 65 percent chance to grab at least two wins. Therefore, in Michigan’s seven games against the best of the Big Ten this season, Pomeroy’s algorithm gives the Wolverines almost a 50 percent chance to have no worse than a 4-3 record.

That is not a typo. Advanced metrics give Michigan almost a 50-50 shot to finish with at least a 4-3 record against Michigan State, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Ohio State in 2013-14. If the Wolverines can land on the right side of that coin flip, they likely will finish with no worse than a 14-4 Big Ten record assuming U-M loses a game or two it should win. That will likely result in a earning a share of the Big Ten championship and maybe even the whole thing.

Michigan is a Big Ten contender. Not only is U-M a Big Ten contender, it is a Big Ten contender whose conference season will be decided in two treacherous stretches that would break most teams. But Michigan has learned how to handle these rough sections of the road in the Big Ten, improving each of the past three seasons. The Wolverines now know how to maneuver through them whether they are at home or on the road.

Michigan did it on Saturday in Madison against Wisconsin. Tune into the Big Ten Network tonight at 7 p.m. EST to see if the Wolverines can do it for the second straight game against Iowa at the Crisler Center.

(4) Michigan 79 – (3) Florida 59: Stauskas’ hot hand leads confident Wolverines into Final Four

Sunday, March 31st, 2013


Michigan is headed to its first Final Four since 1993 (Ronald Martinez, Getty Images)

Final 1st 2nd Total
#10 Michigan (30-7) 47 32 79
#14 Florida (29-8) 30 29 59

Two weeks ago, Michigan was left for dead. Limping into the NCAA Tournament with a 6-6 record over the previous 12 games, the Wolverines were the sexy pick to be upset in the first round by South Dakota State. Now, John Belien’s squad is one of only four teams still standing and is headed to Atlanta next weekend for the Final Four.

Ask any Michigan fan before the season started what result they would be happy with and Sweet 16 would probably be just fine. Even two weeks ago, simply reaching the Sweet 16 seemed a lofty goal. But now, the Wolverines may be playing better than any team in the tournament with two 20-plus-point victories in four games.

Nik Stauskas stole the show against the Gators (Tom Pennington, Getty Images)

After a gritty and heroic comeback on Friday night, Michigan carried its momentum into Sunday’s matchup with SEC regular season champion Florida. The Maize and Blue raced out to a 13-0 lead before the Gators could even blink. When Florida finally did get on the board, Michigan answered with a Trey Burke three. The onslaught continued as Michigan held a 25-8 lead 10 minutes in.

Despite a three-minute cold spell by Michigan, Florida was unable to capitalize, scoring just two baskets of their own during the span. By the under-four timeout, Michigan had grabbed its largest lead of the game at 41-17 thanks to Nik Stauskas’ five first half three-pointers. Florida was able to close the half on a 13-6 run to narrow Michigan’s halftime lead to 47-30.

In the second, Florida threatened to make a game of it, scoring the first six points of the stanza and pulling within 11. But after nearly four scoreless minutes, it was Stauskas once again drained a three to get Michigan back in business. Florida would never seriously challenge again and Michigan kept the foot on the gas pedal for the remaining 16 minutes to win convincingly, 79-59.

Stauskas led all scorers with 22 points, connecting on all six three-point attempts. Burke scored 15 and dished out seven assits, while Mitch McGary continued his impressive tournament play, scoring 11 points and grabbing nine rebounds, narrowly missing a third straight double-double. The performances by both Stauskas and McGary were good enough to earn them a spot on the all-region team for the South Regional, which was headlined by most outstanding player, Burke.

As a team, Michigan shot a blistering 51.4 percent in the first half to race out to the big lead, and while it cooled down in the second, the Wolverines still finished the game with a 46.2 clip – well above what Florida’s defense has allowed all season. Michigan also hit 10-of-19 three-pointers.

Michigan now has a few days off before facing 4-seed Syracuse for a spot in the national championship game. Saturday night’s game will be the Wolverines’ first Final Four since the days of the Fab 5 in 1993.

After 35 years of coaching, John Beilein is headed to his first Final Four (David J. Phillip, AP)

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
01 Glenn Robinson III* 3-7 0-1 0-0 1 1 2 1 6 0 1 2 1 34
04 Mitch McGary* 5-8 0-0 1-2 2 7 9 4 11 0 1 2 5 25
03 Trey Burke* 5-16 1-5 4-4 2 6 8 2 15 7 1 0 3 35
10 Tim Hardaway Jr.* 3-13 1-5 2-3 0 4 4 1 9 5 2 0 0 35
11 Nik Stauskas* 7-8 6-6 2-3 0 0 0 0 22 3 2 0 0 31
02 Spike Albrecht 3-4 1-1 0-0 0 1 1 1 7 1 0 0 3 14
05 Eso Akunne 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
13 Matt Vogrich 1-1 1-1 0-0 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 1 1
15 John Horford 3-3 0-0 1-1 1 3 4 3 6 0 1 0 0 8
20 Josh Bartelstein 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
22 Blake McLimans 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
23 Caris LeVert 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 2
32 Corey Person 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
44 Max Bielfeldt 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
52 Jordan Morgan 0-1 0-0 0-0 2 3 5 1 0 1 0 0 0 6
Totals 30-65 10-19 9-13 9 26 35 13 79 18 11 5 13 200
Florida 23-56 2-10 11-17 9 27 36 11 59 13 15 3 7 200

Michigan vs Florida quick thoughts

Sunday, March 31st, 2013


#10 Michigan (4) vs #14 Florida (3) | ELITE 8
Sunday, Mar. 31 | 2:20pm ET | CBS
29-7 (12-6) Record 29-7 (14-4)
Slippery Rock 100-62
IUPUI 91-54
Cleveland State 77-47
Pittsburgh 67-62
Kansas State 71-57
NC State 79-72
Bradley 74-66
W. Michigan 73-41
Arkansas 80-67
Binghamton 67-39
West Virginia 81-66
E. Michigan 93-54
C. Michigan 88-73
Northwestern 94-66
Iowa 95-67
Nebraska 62-47
#9 Minnesota 83-75
Purdue 68-53
Illinois 74-60
Northwestern 68-46
#10 Ohio St. 76-74 OT
Penn State 79-71
Illinois 71-58
#9 Michigan St. 58-57
Purdue 80-75
Penn State 83-66
S. Dakota State 71-56
VCU 78-53
#3 Kansas 87-85 OT
Wins Alabama State 84-35
#22 Wisconsin 74-56
Middle Tenn. St. 66-45
Savannah State 58-40
UCF 79-66
Marquette 82-49
Florida State 72-47
SE Louisiana 82-43
Air Force 78-61
Yale 79-58
Georgia 77-44
LSU 74-52
Texas A&M 68-47
#17 Missouri 83-52
Georgia 64-47
Mississippi State 82-47
South Carolina 75-36
#16 Mississippi 78-64
Mississippi State 83-58
#25 Kentucky 69-52
Auburn 83-52
Arkansas 71-54
Alabama 64-52
Vanderbilt 66-40
LSU 80-58
Alabama 61-51
Northwestern St. 79-47
Minnesota 78-64
FGCU 62-50
#15 Ohio State 56-53
#3 Indiana 73-81
Wisconsin 62-65 OT
#8 Michigan St. 52-75
Penn State 78-84
#2 Indiana 71-72
#22 Wisconsin 59-68
Losses #8 Arizona 64-65
Kansas State 61-67
Arkansas 69-80
Missouri 60-63
Tennessee 58-64
Kentucky 57-61
Mississippi 63-66
75.4 Points Per Game 72.0
63.1 Scoring Defense 53.8
1,017-for-2,094 (48.6%) Field Goal % 915-for-1,897 (48.2%)
867-for-2,049 (42.3%) Def. Field Goal % 675-for-1,788 (37.8%)
270-for-708 (38.1%) 3-point % 294-for-769 (38.2%)
229-for-705 (32.5%) Def. 3-point % 179-for-593 (30.2%)
412-for-584 (70.5%) Free Throw % 397-for-583 (68.1%)
11.4 FT Made/Game 11.3
35.2 Rebounds Per Game 35.0
31.9 Opp. Reb. Per Game 30.1
14.4 Assists Per Game 14.7
9.3 Turnovers Per Game 11.1
6.1 Steals Per Game 7.1
2.7 Blocks Per Game 3.3
G – Trey Burke (18.9)
G – Tim Hardaway Jr. (14.8)
Leading Scorer F – Erik Murphy (12.6)
G – Kenny Boynton (13.7)
F – Mitch McGary (6.1)
F – Glenn Robinson III (5.6)
Leading Rebounder C – Patric Young (6.3)
F – Will Yeguete (5.8)

Call them the comeback kids, call them what you will, but the Michigan Wolverines, by far the youngest team in the tournament from the very beginning, simply will not give up. Two nights ago, the Maize and Blue found themselves trailing by 14 points to Kansas with fewer than 10 minutes to go and by double digits within the final three minutes. Computer predictors were giving Michigan a slightly-less-than 2 percent chance of winning the game before Trey Burke and Glenn Robinson III willed the game into overtime where the Wolverines seemed just a bit hungrier than the Jayhawks.

Today, at 2:20pm on CBS, Michigan takes on a Florida team that has just missed out on the Final Four two seasons in a row, and with five upperclassmen starting, the Gators are certainly not going to roll over and die.

Two weeks ago, Michigan wasn’t supposed to make it out of the first weekend, and even today, fans still cannot believe where the team has made it. But here they are, battling for a spot in the Final Four for the first time in nearly two decades. Let’s take a quick look at three keys if Michigan should advance:

1. Contain Erik Murphy: Billy Donovan’s squad is loaded with talent across the board, and all five of his starters can score the ball – each averages at least 9.3 points per game and four score in double digits. Erik Murphy, the Gators’ 6’10″, 238-pound stretch-four senior, however, is the best of the bunch in my opinion. The South Kingstown, Rhode Island native takes just over half of his shots from behind the three-point line and makes 45.9 percent of them. Inside the arc he is just as deadly, making 63 percnet of his looks from lay-ups to mid-rangers. If Murphy were four inches shorter, he would be a great player, but nothing unheard of. Unfortunately for Michigan, he’s not. Glenn Robinson III will be tasked with guarding Murphy from the beginning and needs to make sure he is constantly hounding him around the court.

Murphy is such a good shooter that Robinson needs to always be aware of his position on the floor and never help off. Obviously Michigan has some depth in the big man department, but Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan are much more accustomed to defending the classic post position, not a guy who is running around more like Nik Stauskas than Mitch McGary. Murphy’s 12.6 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game don’t wow, but this is the type of matchup that he will be looking to exploit. If Michigan is able to limit Murphy like they did with Jeff Withey in the second half, they should feel very confident about their chances.

2. Defend the perimeter: Michigan needs to primarily be concerned with keeping Murphy in check, but he is far from the only Gator capable of filling it up from deep. As a team, Florida takes about 40 percent of their shots from distance and makes them at a very good 38.1 percent clip. The Gators three starting guards, Kenny Boynton, Scottie Wilbekin, and Mike Rosario, all love the long ball, and all three can get hot at any particular time. Boynton’s shooting numbers are down from the past two seasons, and while he takes more than six threes a game, accounting for 60.6 percent of his shots, he has made just 32 percent of them on the year.

Wilbekin and Rosario, on the other hand, are a little more capable of penetrating and take just under half their attempts from downtown, but make 37 percent of their three-point looks. Michael Frazier, a talented 6’4″ freshman, will come off the bench primarily looking to snipe as well, and he has hit a team-high 46.8% of his threes, which account for a whopping 80.4 percent of his shots.

Kenny Boynton will be tasked with stopping Trey Burke today

Michigan needs to know the scouting report front and back and close out hard on all these shooters that Billy Donovan will throw out on the court. Going over screens will probably be a good idea when the pick involves one of the five Gators that has attempted more than 100 threes this season. Michigan’s help defense has been pretty shoddy all year long, but they cannot afford to go under screens like they were against Kansas. Do that against Murphy, Rosario, and Frazier, and chances are the Wolverines would get torched. What makes knowing the number on the front of the jersey from the scouting report even more important is the fact that the three remaining Florida players that will see on-court action rarely look to shoot from deep. Casey Prather, a one-time Michigan recruit, Patric Young, and Will Yeguete have combined to attempt only 11 threes all year long, and they’ve made only three of them. Michigan must be able to differentiate between the five guys that will shoot when open and the three that wouldn’t throw a bomb if they were fighting in a war.

3. Keep it Close: Florida was the king of the weak SEC this season, and their efficiency numbers are off the charts due in large part to a lack of strong competition throughout the year. Looking through their statistical profile and game log, one thing will jump out  – if the Gators are not winning big, they are not winning at all. All 29 of Florida’s wins, including their three tournament victories, have come by double digits. Their seven losses, however, were by an average of 5.7 points. Certainly this is more likely to be more coincidental than anything else, and I’m not trying to say that Florida is simply not able to win games that come down to the wire, but there is something to be said when not one win has come by single digits and all but one loss has been by six or fewer points.

It’s pretty clear that teams that give themselves a chance and stick in it until the end have fared well against Florida so far. That’s good news for Michigan, a team that has found itself trailing by double digits on multiple occasions before coming back and at least making a game out of it. Perhaps the Gators will collapse under pressure if Michigan controls the game throughout, but at the very least, the Maize and Blue will look to keep the Gators within striking distance. In the end, the chance will be there.

Prediction: I have a confession to make. In my master bracket this year, I correctly picked Michigan and Florida to both make it to this point (which isn’t to say that the rest of my bracket is still intact…anything but), but when it came time to pick the best of the best, the elite of the Elite, I went with the computers and my head and picked the Gators to advance out of the South. Opinions change over the course of the Tournament, however, and the grit, toughness, heart, and team play of Michigan have won me over. Trey Burke simply does not want his career to end before reaching Atlanta, and Mitch McGary looks like he had a switch turned on in his closet that turns him into an animal starting with the first game of the Big Dance. Throw in a little Stauskas, a lot of Tim Hardaway, Jr., and a defensive effort from Glenn Robinson III and I think Michigan will find itself headed to Atlanta later this week after beating Florida, 67-63.

The Michigan Medley analyzes Michigan’s bowl outlook

Thursday, November 29th, 2012


With an 8-4 record and a second place finish in the Big Ten Legends Division, Michigan is obviously headed to a bowl game. Since Ohio State and Penn State are both ineligible for postseason play, Michigan’s bowl destination will be better than it would have been had the 12-0 (8-0) Buckeyes and 8-4 (6-2) Nittany Lions been able to go bowling.

Games to watch on Saturday
Atlanta, Ga. Indianapolis, Ind.
#2 Alabama #3 Georgia #12 Nebraska Wisconsin
11-1 11-1 10-2 7-5
4pm on CBS 8:17pm on FOX

Michigan will fill the Big Ten’s second or third bowl slot behind the winner of Saturday’s Big Ten Championship game between Nebraska and Wisconsin. The winner will get the conference’s guaranteed BCS bid, while the loser is unlikely to receive a BCS at-large due to the conference’s weak showing all season. There is a chance Nebraska could still get one if it loses, but the bowl committees won’t look to kindly on an end-of-season loss to a 7-5 team.

If Nebraska wins and heads to the Rose Bowl, the Capital One Bowl will choose between Michigan, Northwestern, and Wisconsin. A 7-6 Wisconsin squad is likely the odd man out despite playing in the Big Ten title game because the Badgers wouldn’t have been there if Ohio State was eligible. Michigan will travel far better than Northwestern will, and a matchup between the Wolverines and a top-tier SEC school is far more appealing than one involving the Wildcats.

If Wisconsin beats Nebraska and goes to Pasadena, Nebraska will likely get slotted into the Capital One Bowl, pushing Michigan down to the Outback Bowl in Tampa. In the previous two decades, Tampa was a familiar sight for Michigan, but the Wolverines haven’t been there since beating Florida in 2003. The bowl committee would love to get a Michigan vs. SEC matchup in Raymond James Stadium. So who will Michigan face? Depending on the outcome of the Big Ten title game as well as the other conference championships, Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M, and LSU are most likely. Let’s take a look at each team.

Likely Bowl Opponent Comparison
Points/Game 38.0 26.8 44.8 30.2
Scoring Defense 17.7 12.9 22.5 16.9
Rush Avg 190.1 194.5 235.1 179.9
Rush Def. Avg 163.4 97.0 140.9 101.8
Pass Avg 273.6 143.9 317.2 207.2
Pass Def. Avg 174.4 186.4 248.4 194.3
Total Yds Avg 463.7 338.4 552.3 387.2
Total Def. Avg 337.8 283.4 389.3 296.2
Turnovers 16 12 20 16
Takeaways 25 29 15 31
Time of Poss 28:39 33:07 28:33 31:09
3rd Down Conv. 69/150 (46%) 62/168 (37%) 102/184 (55%) 75/181 (41%)
3rd Down Def. 64/180 (36%) 49/173 (28%) 58/189 (31%) 51/167 (31%)
Sacks by/allowed 24/22 25/36 30/23 30/26
Field Goals 8-for-12 23-for-28 13-for-22 20-for-28
PATs 54-for-58 34-for-35 64-for-71 41-for-41
Red Zone pct. 35/41 (85%) 35/42 (83%) 56/64 (88%) 42/50 (84%)
Red Zone Def. 25/35 (71%) 23/32 (72%) 31/40 (77%) 24/31 (77%)
Red Zone TD pct. 30/41 (73%) 22/42 (52%) 47/64 (73%) 25/50 (50%)
Red Zone TD Def. 18/35 (51%) 15/32 (47%) 24/40 (60%) 19/31 (61%)

Georgia faces Alabama in the SEC Championship game on Saturday in what is essentially the BCS National Championship play-in game. Notre Dame awaits the winner. The loser will still probably get a BCS at-large bid because of the strength of the conference, especially if Alabama is on the losing end. But there’s a slight chance that if Georgia is blown out by the Crimson Tide, the Dawgs would fall to the Capital One Bowl and Florida will gain a BCS at-large bid.

Georgia has quietly put together an impressive season, beating then-No. 2 Florida in Athens, and outscoring opponents by an average of 38-17. But if there is a knock on the Dawgs it is the fact that the SEC scheduling allowed them to skirt playing LSU and Texas A&M and they didn’t play anybody of note in the non-conference. The only loss was a 35-7 thrashing by South Carolina on Oct. 6. The Gamecocks were the only other ranked team Georgia played all season. We will find out on Saturday whether they are for real or merely benefited from a favorable schedule.

Florida and Georgia would both present stern tests for Michigan (Sam Greenwood, Getty Images)

Florida won’t get to play in the SEC Championship game because of a 17-9 loss to Georgia. It was the Gators’ only loss of the season, although they had several close wins. Thanks to the SEC’s wacky scheduling, Florida got to face Texas A&M in Week 2, before super freshman Johnny Manziel took off, and beat the Aggies 20-17. They beat LSU 14-6, hung on against Missouri 14-7, and needed some late magic to hold off Louisiana-Lafayette 27-20. Like Georgia, the Gators didn’t play much of a non-conference schedule save the annual matchup with rival Florida State. Bowling Green, Jacksonville State, and Louisiana-Lafayette were the other opponents. If both Alabama and Georgia earn BCS bowl bids, Florida will likely be slotted into the Capital One Bowl.

Texas A&M finished the season 10-2 and 6-2 in the SEC with losses to Florida (20-17) and LSU (24-19). The Aggies feature one of the best players in college football, likely Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. They rank fourth nationally in points per game (44.8) and shook up the BCS standings by beating Alabama on Nov. 10 (29-24). Since they were in the SEC West, they didn’t have to face Georgia or South Carolina, and their non-conference schedule featured SMU, South Carolina State, Louisiana Tech, and Sam Houston State. The Aggies will likely go to the Cotton Bowl, but bowl committees would love to get a matchup of two of college football’s most exciting players, Manziel and Denard Robinson.

LSU put together a good season, going 10-2 with losses to Florida (14-6) and Alabama (21-17). In the game against Alabama, LSU moved the ball with relative ease and led the Tide 17-14 late in the fourth before A.J. McCarron hooked up with T.J. Yeldon on a screen pass that went 28 yards for a touchdown with 51 seconds left. The Tigers beat Texas A&M 24-19 on the road and South Carolina 23-21. Like the Florida and Georgia, LSU didn’t play much of an out-of-conference schedule of North Texas, Washington, Idaho State, and Towson. LSU is probably the most unlikely opponent among the group, but if Wisconsin beats Nebraska and Michigan slides to the Outback, it’s possible.

Florida and Georgia are probably the most likely, depending on the outcome of the SEC title game, which will be played Saturday at 4pm on CBS and the Big Ten title game, which will be played Saturday at 8:17pm on FOX. I would much rather face Florida than Georgia or Texas A&M. While A&M doesn’t quite have the defense the other two feature, Florida’s offense is not very good. The Gators are pretty comparable to Notre Dame with a really good defense and a lackluster offense, and Michigan hung with Notre Dame for most of the game, falling due to a cacophony of turnovers. Regardless of the opponent, it will be a tough bowl game to win for Michigan this season since they will essentially be playing up a slot or two. If Ohio State and Penn State were eligible, Michigan would probably be playing in the Gator Bowl against someone like Mississippi State.

Michigan-Ohio State: Is This the Most Important Game Ever for Michigan?

Monday, November 16th, 2009


With the calls for Rich Rodriguez’s firing growing louder each week, and the threat of a second straight losing season, Michigan enters Ohio State week in what could be the most important game for the Wolverines in the history of the rivalry.

*Michigan and Ohio State square off on Saturday for the 106th time, photo taken from tiltyourhead.com

*Michigan and Ohio State square off on Saturday for the 106th time, photo taken from tiltyourhead.com

Sure, there was the “Game of the Century” in 2006 when both teams entered the game undefeated and ranked 1st and 2nd in the nation.

Sure, there was 1997 when Michigan needed a win to advance to the National Championship game.

Sure, there was the huge upset of No. 1 Ohio State in Bo Schembechler’s first season in 1969, a year after Ohio State drubbed Michigan 50-14, to claim a share of the Big Ten title.

But Saturday could be more important for the future of the Michigan football program than any of those.

No, there isn’t a Big Ten title on the line or a BCS berth to play for.

But for a young Michigan team struggling to find its identity in the midst of the most dramatic change to the program in decades, a win over Ohio State on Saturday would have huge ramifications for the future.

First and foremost, a win would make Michigan bowl-eligible. Though not guaranteed a bowl invitation with a 6-6 record, Michigan is almost certain to get one given its prestige and fan following.

*The goal for Michigan on Saturday, photo taken from logoshak.com

*The goal for Michigan on Saturday, photo taken from logoshak.com

Even if it is the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl (formerly known as the Motor City Bowl) it would be a tremendous boost to the program for the extra practice time and national exposure.

The regular season ends this Saturday, Nov. 22. The Little Caesars Pizza Bowl is held on Dec. 26, so Michigan would essentially have an extra month of practice. For a young and developing team, that extra practice time would be invaluable.

Many of the freshmen only had a month of practice time before the season started. Tate Forcier and a few others left high school early to enroll in January and participate in spring practice.

But most, including quarterback Denard Robinson, arrived just in time for fall camp on Aug. 10 and opened the season against Western Michigan on Sept. 5.

During the season, there isn’t much the team can work on as it prepares for each opponent week-to-week. Much of Rodriguez’s system was installed in fall practice to get ready for the season.

During game weeks, the practices are spent working on getting ready for that week’s opponent and fine-tuning certain details. Various players miss practices every week because of injury, stinting their learning ability and practice time.

New wrinkles may be installed or specific plays that the coaching staff thinks can exploit the opponent can be put in, but the vast majority of what the players learn (the schemes, the playbook, the fundamentals) is learned during fall practice.

That’s why many times a team can look quite different in a bowl game than it did during the regular season, because that month of practice serves as another fall camp.

Injured players get healthy, new plays and schemes are installed and practiced until they become second nature, and confidence is gained while the losses of the season are forgotten.

Look no further than Michigan in 2007, for example. The team, in Lloyd Carr’s final season, sputtered to an 8-4 regular season record. It endured a humiliating home loss to Appalachian State, a blowout at the hands of Oregon, and got shut down by Ohio State.

In the bowl game, the Capital One Bowl against a 9-3 Florida team led by Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, Michigan showed a much more dynamic and diverse offense than it had all season, winning 41-35.

It left Michigan fans wondering what could have been had Michigan played that way all season and also excited about the future of that style of offense once Rodriguez was hired.

And while Rodriguez’s offense has shown great promise and flashes of brilliance at times this season, it’s still plagued by inexperience.

A bowl game and the extra month of practice time would do wonders for this young and developing team.

In addition to the extra practice time, making it to a bowl game will give Michigan exposure on a national stage during the holidays at a time when everybody is watching, and a chance to finish on a high note heading into the off-season.

Nobody wants to endure eight months of misery like what followed Michigan’s 3-9 season a year ago. By finishing the season with a win over Ohio State and a bowl game, Michigan fans will be excited about 2010, and the players will be confident heading into the off-season.

*Michigan hopes to secure a commitment from 4* CB Cullen Christian, who will be in attendance on Saturday, photo taken from ESPN.com

*Michigan hopes to secure a commitment from 4* CB Cullen Christian, who will be in attendance on Saturday, photo taken from ESPN.com

The second reason Saturday’s game is so important is that beating Ohio State would help with recruiting. Michigan has quite a few visitors coming to Ann Arbor for official visits.

A chance to see Michigan beat its major rival in the Big House on the final week of the season would go a long way toward helping a recruit tip the scales in Michigan’s favor.

Eight of Michigan’s 24 commitments in the 2007 class were in attendance for the Michigan-Ohio State game in the Big House that year.

And while Michigan didn’t win that game, it wasn’t quite in the dire situation it is in now with a need for talent, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

If Michigan lays an egg against Ohio State and boos rain down from the stands, the attending recruits won’t have as good an experience as if Michigan pulls off the big win.

Some of the visitors expected to be in attendance on Saturday include: Chula Vista, Calif. four-star linebacker/safety Tony Jefferson; Pittsburgh four-star cornerback Cullen Christian; Jacksonville, Fla., four-star safety Rashad Knight; Detroit four-star cornerback Dior Mathis; and Eagle Lake, Fla., four-star safety/linebacker Marvin Robinson.

Robinson is already committed to Michigan, but has talked in the past few months about visiting other schools. A big win and a great experience on Saturday could help solidify his commitment.

Jefferson is currently committed to UCLA, and is visiting Florida next weekend, so showing him what it’s like to beat Ohio State in the Big House could go a long way toward stealing him.

Christian is also a prized recruit, since he’s a cornerback, a position Michigan really needs to fill, due to the dismissal of Boubacar Cissoko and possible departure of Donovan Warren to the NFL.

He has already visited UCLA and West Virginia (and possibly Pittsburgh), so Michigan has a chance wrap up his commitment with a great showing on Saturday.

Michigan needs to make this weekend special with a glimpse of what the future holds for the program and show these kids that despite the recent struggles, the program is heading in the right direction.

The third reason a win over Ohio State on Saturday would be huge for Michigan is for the support of Rodriguez and a reward for the senior class.

*Brandon Graham ranks second all-time in career sacks at Michigan, but has yet to beat Ohio State, photo by MGoBlue.com

*Brandon Graham ranks second all-time in career sacks at Michigan, but has yet to beat Ohio State, photo by MGoBlue.com

A win won’t completely erase the anti-Rodriguez sentiment, but it will at least quiet down until next season and win back some of those who have turned against him.

His 8-15 overall record and 3-12 Big Ten record includes just one win over Michigan’s big three rivals (and that was Notre Dame this season).

That stat alone has caused much of the friction among Michigan fans, since one of their main charges against Carr was that he couldn’t beat Ohio State once Jim Tressel arrived in Columbus in 2001.

Winning on Saturday would make Rodriguez 2-4 in that category, but more importantly, give Michigan its first win over the Buckeyes since 2003.

In addition to helping quell the Rodriguez detractors, a win would give the senior class its first win over Ohio State.

Guys like Brandon Minor, Carlos Brown, Brandon Graham, Stevie Brown, Greg Mathews, and Zoltan Mesko, who hung around through the coaching change, deserve a big win to cap off their careers.

Some of them (Graham and Mesko, at least) have bright futures ahead of them in the NFL and have played hard without complaining all season, despite not being Rodriguez’s recruits.

While “deserve” might not be the right word, since nothing in life is deserved, it would be a major disappointment for those guys to go their entire career without beating Ohio State.

A loss would end Michigan’s season at 5-7 (its second straight losing season) and give Ohio State its sixth straight victory in the rivalry.

It would send Michigan home for the holidays and keep the senior class winless against the Buckeyes.

It would leave feelings of despair and depression among Michigan fans worldwide until next fall.

It could prevent some highly-touted and much-needed recruits from choosing to play football at Michigan, and therefore, stunting the growth process even further.

So while many of the previous 105 games in the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry have featured higher stakes in terms of championships, this Saturday’s game could be the most important game in the history of the rivalry for Michigan.

So let’s hope that everyone is all in for Rodriguez and the senior class when toe meets leather at high noon on Saturday.