Monday, December 31, 2012

Shameless Self-Promotion Time: South Carolina Preview

My game preview for tomorrow's Outback Bowl against South Carolina went up a little while ago over at Maize n Brew. If anyone has any extra canisters of blind optimism just lying around, send 'em my way.

27 hours to kickoff.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Shameless Self-Promotion Time: CHIPSAGEDDON

Hello. Michigan is playing a basketball game against the Central Michigan Chippewas tomorrow night at the Crisler Arena Center Building (7 ET, BTN).

Here's my preview over at Maize n Brew of the third installment of "The Wolverines take on Michigan directional schools" this season. I'm not the biggest advanced stats guy in the world yet, but beating three directional schools is probably good for Michigan's ISDSO+ ranking*, which is always good to see.

Unfortunately, this is the last Michigan sporting event that is separating me from it officially being "hey let's think about Jadeveon Clowney" time. Savor this moment, because that reality will become very clear the closer we get to kickoff on NYD.

*In-State Directional School Ownage

Shameless Self-Promotion Time: South Carolina D

I took a brief look at the South Carolina defense early on in the Clemson game over at Maize n Brew.

The Tigers scored 14 points in the first quarter but only scored 3 the rest of the way. However, the Tigers did have success early on through some creative, diverse playcalling, some individual excellence from Tajh Boyd and a gameplan designed to minimize Jadeveon Clowney's effect on the game as much as possible.

It worked on Clemson's second drive, and the Tigers were able to hit USC with a a 2-play drive of back-to-back big plays, the latter a 43-yard score by DeAndre Hopkins. Michigan doesn't quite have the skill position talent that Clemson have, especially at receiver, but if Denard and Devin are used in the right way, Michigan can potentially scrape together enough offense to make this a game.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Bulls-Pacers Postponed, Will Campbell Says Great Things

In case you didn't already know, tonight's game has been postponed due to the unfortunate weather in the Midwest. Thank you, weather; I really enjoyed writing that preview earlier, and definitely didn't mind wasting my time doing it. Hamburgers.

In other news, the pre-bowl game dead period continues to produce tremendous material. Here's a video featuring Will Campbell trying and approximately 99.9% failing to get on a banana boat:

Campbell sums up the day:
It's hard out here. I done fought two sharks, wrassled a sting ray, ate two crabs--had butter out there. It's hard out here but you know how we do it, I'm from Detroit. You know, it was nothing. Two great whites, punched a whale in the face... easy day. Go Blue.
William Campbell fought and defeated numerous sea creatures of all sorts. As such, the interior of South Carolina's line shouldn't provide much of a challenge to Campbell, who rules the Tampa Bay just so long as he does not have to get on a banana boat.

Game No. 28 Preview, Bulls-Pacers: Take Me There

Chicago Bulls (15-12) @ Indiana Pacers (16-12)

The Opponent 

I don't remember the reason, but I didn't actually get to watch the first Bulls-Pacers matchup back on Dec. 4. It's probably better that I didn't, because it was uglier than Ronnie Brewer's jumper.

The Pacers edged the Bulls 80-76 in a defensive struggle worthy of Big Ten basketball lore. Despite the solid defensive effort from the Bulls, Paul George dropped 34 points on 14-25 shooting. Meanwhile, Luol Deng scored 17 on 5-15 shooting and Boozer pitched in 14 on 7-13 from the field.

Needless to say, the Bulls cannot allow another similarly heroic effort from George if they hope to snag a win on the road (which would be nice, as the Pacers are a half game ahead of the Bulls in the Central division).

The same dramatis personae will take the floor for the Pacers. Roy Hibbert mans the middle, averaging 9.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg and 2.86 blocks per game. No, Hibbert is not the flashiest or most athletic big man, but he is a serious shot blocking force and can hit the glass with impunity (5th in the league in offensive rebounds).

David West leads the way for Indiana in points, averaging 17.4 per from the power forward spot, also pitching in 8.1 boards per game. The aforementioned Paul George pitches in 16.3 ppg and 7.1 rpg; Kirk Hinrich has gotten torn up by Jeff Teague and Jeremy Lin in back-to-back games, so he'll need to play a solid defensive game this time around if the Bulls are to have a chance.

Rounding out the rest of the rotation, the Pacers also feature such frontcourt pieces as SF Gerald Green, PF Tyler Hansbrough, SF Sam Young and C Ian Mahinmi. The Pacers are obviously a frontcourt-oriented team, with only George, 3-point shooter Lance Stephenson and backup PG D.J. Augustin the only Pacer guards getting meaningful minutes.

If you like low-scoring frontcourt battles, this is the game for you. Here's the player comparison for Noah and Hibbert based on the 2011-12 season numbers:

Again, these comparisons are far from perfect without the context of each individual game situation in mind, but it does provide a general sketch of what went on when both Noah and Hibbert were on the floor at the same time last season.

Points of Concern 

Simply put, fatigue is a concern. The Bulls are of course short-handed, what with the absences of Derrick Rose and Rip Hamilton, and when I watch the Bulls there is always a morbid, pervading sense that this is a team that is hanging by a thread at all times, an awkward Noah ankle twist or a hard knock to a Deng shoulder away from oblivion (i.e. major minutes for RADMAN).

Other points (isn't Bulls basketball one giant monolithic concern anyway?):
  • Can the Bulls stop Paul George from experiencing an offensive supernova redux?
  • Bulls guards (and bigs) finishing at the basket in the face of Hibbert's shot-blocking presence
  • With the Pacers' rebounding prowess essentially neutralizing the Bulls' biggest asset, can Nate Robinson, Kirk Hinrich and Marco Belinelli give the Bulls a semblance of consistent scoring? Was the game in Madison Square Garden a mere outlier for Kirk Hinrich? 
  • Can Nate Robinson score in parts of games that actually matter?
What Needs To Happen 
  • Strong first. The Bulls can't afford to fall behind early like they did last night against Houston. If you're looking for a college football equivalent, the Bulls are a triple option team: good with the lead (if you ignore the Milwaukee game), not good at playing from behind. 
  • Guard play. Just like the Memphis game, this is one that will probably be determined by guard play. Kirk Hinrich absolutely needs to bounce back and find some sort of confidence in his shot. 
  • Turnovers. In a game like this, each possession is precious. On average, the Bulls and Pacers are just about equally careless, with the two teams averaging 15.5 and 15.4 turnovers per game, respectively. This won't be a speedy game with lots of transition opportunities, so the Bulls can't afford to pointlessly throw it into the stands too often.
Useless Prediction Time 
  • Neither team hits 90. 
  • Carlos Boozer gets at least three shots blocked and produces the audible sounds to prove it (i.e. AYYYYYY).
  • Double-doubles for both Hibbert and Noah. 
  • Bulls 82, Pacers 87.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Game 27 Recap, Bulls-Rockets: The Wet Bandits

Bulls (15-12) 120, Rockets 97 (15-12)

On Christmas Day, the Rockets came into the United Center, knocked everything off the shelves and mantle and left the water running on their way out. 

Early on, the matchup of the shooting guards, James Harden and Marco Belinelli, was the dominant storyline of the first quarter. As expected, Belinelli couldn't do much to stifle Harden's offensive game; Belinelli was pulled about 7 minutes into the game for Jimmy Butler. Harden was 2-for-3 from the field (4-for-4 from the line) for 8 points by the 2:55 mark. 

Luckily, despite looking a little worn down Saturday night in Atlanta, Luol Deng was on his game early, with 8 points on 4-for-6 shooting in the first period. It was a swift first quarter, featuring exactly zero turnovers. The Bulls took a 5-point deficit (27-22) into the second despite shooting 0% from beyond the arc (0-for-5), featuring one pretty macabre airball from Kirk Hinrich. 

However, with Noah on the bench in the second, Omer Asik was able to pick up some baskets at the rim. The Bulls offense also slowed down with the reserves in the game, allowing the Rockets to build a sizable 49-32 lead almost eight minutes into the second. 

This isn't exactly news, but without Deng and Noah doing their typical iron man act, the Bulls have trouble both scoring and, to a lesser extent, defending. People will continue to complain about the minutes Thibodeau gives these two, but I'm not too sure that an alternative exists.

Jeremy Lin drove by everyone en route to a layup that extended the Houston lead to 21, forcing a Chicago timeout. At this point, Lin was 6-for-8 from the field with 12 points; unlike the last meeting, Lin was not being shut down this time around. 

Simply put, when you lose the transition battle (Houston-16 pts, Chicago-4 pts) and allow the opponent to shoot 60% from the field, you probably won't be in the game. The 58 first half points the Bulls allowed in this one tied for the highest total thus far this season (the first being the 58 given up to Boston on Nov. 12).

Halftime Stats (Rockets 58, Bulls 41)
Bulls: 0.89 PPP
  • Deng: 4-11, 10 pts
  • Noah: 3-3, 6 pts, 6 rebounds
  • Gibson: 3-4, 8 pts
Rockets: 1.31 PPP
  • Lin: 6-8, 12 pts, 5 assists
  • Harden: 3-5, 13 pts, 5 rebounds, 3 assists
  • Asik: 4-6, 9 pts, 10 rebounds

Al Borges Reads "'Twas The Night Before Christmas"

Here is a video (via mgovideo) of Al Borges reading "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," exactly as the title above indicates.

I hereby grant Al Borges a lifetime contract (this is legally binding).

Game No. 27 Preview, Bulls-Rockets: Been A Long Time Gone

Chicago Bulls (15-11) vs. Houston Rockets (14-12)
The Opponent 

The Bulls faced the Rockets once before this season, a 93-89 loss in Houston that continued what was already a rough mid-late November for Chicago. 

In the loss, their third in a row at the time, the Bulls shot a measly 40% from the field. Nonetheless, the Bulls took an 84-79 lead into the home stretch after Nate Robinson hit a three at the 4:41 mark in the fourth quarter. In what was many quintessential "this is what happens when Derrick Rose is absent" games, the Bulls did not score again until there were 7 seconds left in the game, just over four and a half minutes of being shut out on offense in the most important portion of the game. 

Since that defeat in Houston, the Rockets have rattled off a nice stretch of play, going 9-5 and picking up wins against the Knicks (twice), Memphis and the Lakers (if that means anything right now). In any case, the Rockets are definitely trending upward. 

PF Patrick Patterson, who really hurt the Bulls last time around (20 pts, 8 rebounds), continues to be out with a foot injury; Marcus Morris (8.9 ppg) takes his place in the starting lineup. As always, the brunt of the offensive burden will fall on James Harden (25.6 ppg, 22.9 PER) and Chandler Parsons (14.7 ppg). Parsons can get up and down the floor, so if Deng is still looking as banged up as he did Saturday night against Atlanta, he might be able to have a game against the Bulls tonight. 

Likewise, Belinelli on Harden is another frightening matchup, albeit for different reasons. On the bright side, these are the numbers from last year when Belinelli and Harden were on the floor at the same time (with Belinelli in New Orleans, obviously): 

Small sample size, so who knows. Like the Knicks game, I imagine we'll get liberal amounts of Jimmy Butler in this one. Carmelo Anthony and James Harden are different players, obviously, but Butler has proven himself equal to the challenge. 

Otherwise, our old friend Omer Asik is busy averaging 10.6 ppg, which is kind of irritating after everyone spent his stint in Chicago bemoaning his lack of any sort of offensive ability. Thanks, Omer! 

 "you're welcome"

Also, the Rockets have this guy named Jeremy Lin, who you may have heard of; it has been a somewhat up and down season offensively for the former Knick, but he has been playing very weel of late. The month of November has seen a pretty sizable uptick in all the relevant numbers: 13.5 ppg, up from 10.2 in October; 48% from the field, up from 35%; and 35% from 3, up from 26%.

Lin was 2-for-9 for 4 points the last time around, with five turnovers to just three assists; the Bulls' guards will need to duplicate this sort of defensive performance if the Bulls are going to keep pace.

Points of Concern 

As always, James Harden provides an offensive threat that is often impossible to defend. The odds of Belinelli being able to hang with Harden with any sort of consistency are not good, which means that the Bulls will have to go with Butler, who doesn't provide much offense himself. Managing this spot in the lineup is kind of like plugging a hole in a dam; another leak will always spring up. 

As a team, the Rockets lead the league in points per game (105.4 per).  Luckily, they're second to last in points allowed (103.4 per), making them pretty much the complete antithesis of the Bulls. Regardless, a potent offensive attack against this Bulls team, one that can go silent for stretches of four or five minutes at a time, is a little worrisome.

Asik, as we know, is a staunch presence in the middle, and even blocked Joakim Noah dunk attempts twice the last time around. Noah and the rest of the frontcourt will need to finish around the basket against the Turkish Tower.

What Needs To Happen 

The Bulls didn't really do anything egregious the last time around other than completely faltering offensively in the last five minutes of the first contest in Houston. Other than that, the Bulls had held Lin in check, took care of the ball relatively well and didn't let Houston shoot an exceptional percentage.

In short, shut down the Lin pick and roll game again with Morris/Asik. Don't let the Rockets get into transition; as always, this means good shots and fewer long rebounds on the offensive end. If this becomes the proverbial track meet, the Bulls will be like that one sad guy trailing in the back of an Olympic 100-meter run.

Useless Prediction Time 
  • Jeremy Lin once again struggles from the field against the Bulls. 
  • The Bulls rebounded 28% of their misses last time against Houston, with Patterson out this time around, I expect that number to go up to about 33-35%. 
  • Jimmy Butler is averaging over 2 minutes per game more than his season average in his last ten games. He logged 30 minutes against Houston the first time around, and I'd imagine that he'll get close to or exceed that number tonight. 
  • Playing at home, the Bulls do just enough to pick off a rising Houston team (I have nothing to based this feeling off of save holiday cheer). Bulls 96, Rockets 94.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Game 25 Recap, Bulls-Knicks: The Second City Misnomers

Chicago Bulls (15-10) 110, New York Knicks 106 (19-7)

Despite my pregame fears, the Bulls were clearly ready to play tonight, jumping out to a 14-2 lead in the game's opening minutes, silencing what has the potential to be a raucous MSG crowd.

In the first half, everything was turning up Milhouse for the Bulls. Outside shots fell with regularity (even Kirk Hinrich was 2-for-2 from beyond the arc) and the defense clamped down on Carmelo Anthony early while Felton bricked shot after shot, continuing his shooting struggles.

But, as they say, "remember remember the 26th of November." I know they don't say that, but they should. Large leads will always feel like fleeting, ephemeral things for this team after that defeat, but the Bulls showed no signs of this being the case in the first half. The Bulls went into the locker room up 54-39, taking advantage of a Knicks defense that has steadily gotten worse since the first couple of weeks of the season while also harassing Carmelo with a combo of Deng and Butler.

Once again, a hat tip has to go to Jimmy Butler, who played some solid D on Carmelo Anthony once again. I'm not sure why or how, but Butler seems to have Melo figured out.

The Knicks weren't really getting much offense in the half court, unless isolation dribbling counts as "offense," which I suppose it does. Regardless, the Bulls kept the potent Knicks offense in check, just like the did during the first matchup in Chicago.

Halftime Stats
-Bulls PPP: 1.14
  • Deng: 6-12, 14 pts, 8 rebounds
  • Noah: 4-9, 11 pts, 6 rebounds
  • Hinrich: 3-3, 8 pts, 7 rebounds, 5 assists

-Knicks PPP: 0.82
  • Anthony: 6-15, 13 pts
  • Smith: 5-12, 13 pts, 7 rebounds
  • Felton: 3-9, 7 pts, 3 turnovers, 0 assists

Game #25 Preview, Bulls-Knicks: King of the Hill, Top of the Heap

Let's. Play. Ball.
Chicago Bulls (14-10) @ New York Knicks (19-6)

 (HT: not sure who created this thing, but I saw it via this
tweet...whoever you are, you are awesome)

The Opponent 
After a tumultuous offseason, the 2012-13 season began and Jeremy Lin was not a New York Knick. Instead, the Knicks plunged headlong into the season with 39-year-old Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton, fresh off a catastrophic season in Portland (where he couldn't seem to get back in shape post-lockout), as their top point guards. 

And, wouldn't you know it, things have worked out just fine for the Knicks, who are still wanting the services of Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert. The Knicks appear to be a legitimate title contender for the first time since 1999, when they last appeared in the finals against San Antonio. It's been such a charmed season for the Knicks that they have even managed to unearth Rasheed Wallace and put him to good use. Unfortunately for Sheed, a left foot injury has sidelined him for the last three games, and I wouldn't bet on him playing tonight. Laugh if you must, but the Knicks' frontcourt is already sort of thin, so losing Sheed is not an insignificant blow. I guess you could say there's a...need for Sheed. I'll show myself out now.

Despite what at the time seemed like a potentially foolish decision to let Lin walk, the Knicks have soldiered on, playing an exciting and effective brand of ball. Carmelo Anthony has missed a little bit of time due to injury, but he has otherwise been having a MVP-worthy season thus far (28.0 ppg, 26.4 PER).

However, the Knicks haven't gotten to 19-6 by virtue of Anthony's play alone; the Knicks have been at or near the top of the league in 3-point shooting all season, which should provide a depressingly stark contrast with the Bulls' own horrific shooting from beyond the arc. The Knicks are currently third in the league, shooting 40.4% from downtown as a team. Anthony is shooting a sterling 46%, while Jason Kidd, who hasn't exactly been known for his outside shooting throughout his career, is hitting 45% on about 5 attempts per game. 

Of course, leading gunner Steve Novak is shooting 44% and is a classic FIND THE SHOOTER guy. The Bulls cannot afford to let him settle into that corner spot he likes so much, or he will kill the Bulls all night. Novak was out the other night against Brooklyn with flu-like symptoms, but I would imagine that he'll be ready to go tonight.

Raymond Felton, who I've always kind of liked for some reason, is having a very nice bounceback season (15.9 ppg, 6.6 apg). Unlike Rajon Rondo, Felton does have an outside shot to threaten his defender with, and so Kirk et al will have to respect that while also keeping the former Tar Heel in front of them.

The Knicks started out the season playing lights out defense, allowing less than 90 points in six of their first nine games. Since the, the Knicks D has loosened up a bit, giving up over 90 in 11 of its last 16 games (100+ in six of those games). New York is currently 10th in the league, giving up 96.2 points per game.

The Knicks were not able to handle Jeremy Lin on Monday and Deron Williams had a solid double-double on Wednesday in a Brooklyn loss (16 pts, 10 assists); unfortunately, the Bulls do not have a point guard of the caliber of either of those guys. Well, they do have a guy better than Lin, Felton and Kidd combined times infinity, but he is busy rehabbing his knee.
Points of Concern 

Defensively, it all starts up top for a number of reasons. Penetration by Knicks guards might as well be an actual bell, tolling for thee. With Novak chilling in the corners waiting to blow dart 3-pointers into your neck like a ninja and Tyson Chandler hanging around the basket for lobs, the Bulls cannot afford to let Felton --and, fergodsakes, Kidd-- get into the lane with regularity. Anybody that watched the New York-Brooklyn game the other night saw what a dunkfest it was for Chandler. It wasn't much different for the Bulls against the Clippers, when Lob City reigned supreme in the UC

Carmelo has been pretty much unstoppable all season, and the Bulls will need Deng/Butler to really bring it. Butler had some success against Carmelo that one time, when Butler basically shut Carmelo down in the fourth quarter in what became a 3-point win. This probably sounds like I'm entering Uncle Rico territory here, but unlike unlike Uncle Rico we have visual proof of Butler being good at something. Just stay with him, don't fly out of the picture when he jabs and challenge the shot as best you can and hope he misses. After going to the game at the Garden this past April, I still have nightmares of Carmelo nailing shots over the outstretched hands of Bulls defenders.

Last season, Carmelo shot 55% from the field and 63% from three with Luol Deng on the floor*. If that happens tonight, well, hamburgers. 

With Jimmy Butler on the floor at the same time** as Melo (i.e. ostensibly matched up on him), Melo only shot 29% from the field (sample size caveats, yada yada yada). Butler obviously doesn't give you even a sliver of the offensive capability that Deng does, but maybe Thibs ought to consider playing the youngster a little bit more in this one.

*22-for-41 from 2, 5-for-8 from 3.
**I'm not sure why Marquis Teague's picture is there instead of Butler's on that player comparison generator, but whatever.

What Needs To Happen 
  •  Kirk Hinrich needs to exist. Please. We need something, anything from our starting point guard. It's getting to the point where I'd suffer Nate Robinson's terrible defense and make him the starter if it were up to me. Of course, this will never happen. 
  • Offensive glass. Simply put, the Bulls probably won't be able to keep up if the Knicks are even somewhat on from outside. The best shot they have is turning this into an ugly Big Ten-esque slugfest. Limiting possessions and more importantly winning battles on the offensive glass will give the Bulls the buckets they won't otherwise get in first chance half court sets. The Knicks are not a good offensive rebounding team but are one of the best in the league on the other end, only allowing 10 offensive rebounds per game and maintaining a defensive rebounding percentage of 74.5% (6th in the league). In short, Joakim Noah needs to win more battles than he loses against Chandler or the Bulls are toast. 
  • FIND. THE. SHOOTER. As always, pace and perimeter defense go a long way toward preventing an opponent's top gunner from getting good lucks. If the Bulls take good shots and don't turn it over, the Knicks won't have many shots at finding Novak for open transition treys. Likewise, Bulls guards need to keep Felton out of the lane, as the lob to Chandler is always an option for them at that juncture of a play.
Useless Prediction Time 
  • The Bulls are better off letting Nate Robinson do his thing; Hinrich simply does not possess the playmaking ability to be an asset, even against a relatively unathletic PG duo like Felton and Kidd. I guess this isn't so much a prediction as it is a hope, dream, aspiration, a raising withering in the sun-like glance of Tom Thibodeau. 
  • Tyson Chandler doesn't quite get 16 boards like he did the last time the Bulls went to MSG, but he will do enough to keep Noah from truly killing the Knicks. 
  • Tyson Chandler will eye laser at least two Bulls players, with Vladimir Radmanovic probably being one of those guys...poor RadMan :(. 
  • It will be close entering the fourth, but if the game is close down the stretch, I don't see this Bulls team outdueling Carmelo in the Garden. Knicks 95, Bulls 86.

Shameless Self-Promotion Time: Eastern Michigan Recap

Despite some very minuscule worries that Michigan might meander through this game on a wave of apathy after a relatively long layoff, the Wolverines smashed those concerns. Michigan rained threes and transition buckets on the hapless Eagles like fiery apocalyptic comets (okay, I promise that's the last one). The Wolverines came out the victors in the BATTLE FOR WASHTENAW COUNTY, which is totally a rivalry because

In case you missed it, I put my recap up night over at Maize n Brew. One day, the following will be the official trophy awarded for this game:

Until that day, we'll just have to accept the 39-point victory and pretend.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Shameless Self-Promotion Time: EMU Preview

 I should probably try to make it to a game at the Crisler Arena Center Building so I don't have to keep using this picture

I haven't put anything up over at Maize n Brew since The Game, so I figured I would get back into the swing of things over there:
After handling West Virginia with relative ease in Brooklyn on Saturday, Michigan enjoyed a nice long break, which ends tonight as the Wolverines take on their intra-county friends, the Eastern Michigan Eagles.
Michigan enters the contest at 11-0 and ranked No. 2 in the country; to say that the season has been a success thus far would is like gently intimating that everyone involved in the NHL lockout negotiations is engaged in an act of extended self-flagellation. No, yeah, that's an understatement.
Anyway, the Wolverines have swagged their way through the requisite slate of awful teams while generally handling the teams with a pulse (N.C. State, Pitt, Kansas State). The underlying concern through it all has been thus: What happens when the shots stop falling and the freshman --namely Stauskas-- start to play like freshmen?
You can read the rest here. Let the mythical Washtenaw County Cup trophy be ours! This trophy is definitely not just  replica of this made out of hamburger meat:

p.s. Miss you that Big Boy that used to be by the Meijer on Ann Arbor-Saline. This win's for you.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Miscellaneous Minutiae, 12/19/12

So, it's been of a bit of a slow time, hence all the Bulls stuff. Bowl season has only just started and Michigan basketball only plays two more times before the new year. Here are some links to tide you over. 

Oh, they mad. I'm not sure what to say about this fairly insane brawl footage from the Pioneer-Huron game on Oct. 12, released yesterday (HT:

If this story is new to you, you should know that each team's head coach resigned as a result.

Ain't got time for this. This was a thing that somebody asked Barrett Jones, apparently: 

I'm sorry, reporter guy, but Nick Saban does not have time for your theological conflicts of interest. Besides, moran, why would the Bear mind if Nick Saban brought the Tide another title? Do you even lift do any research?

Speaking of's only a matter of time before Saban and the rest of the SEC takes advantage of this technology:
Creating implants that improve cognitive capabilities, such as an enhanced vision “gadget” that can be taken from a shelf and plugged into our brain, or implants that can restore or enhance brain function is understandably a much tougher task. But some research groups are being to make some inroads.

Dear science, please don't let this fall into the wrong person's hands, and by "wrong person" I definitely don't not mean Nick Saban.

From Logan to Madison. I admittedly have not been paying too much attention to the Wisconsin head coaching search, but after reading rumblings about Mike Riley last week, I was surprised to see that Wisconsin had ultimately tapped Utah State's Gary Andersen.

Like Dave Brandon re: Hoke, Athletic Director Barry Alvarez says that Anderson was his top choice. Is that true? Who knows, but I don't think it matters much.

This is an interesting hire to say the least. Andersen was 27-24 in four seasons in Logan, Utah; the Aggies recently finished up an 11-2 season with a drubbing of Toledo in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Saturday.

At 48, Andersen is six years Bielema's senior. All of his prior coaching stops in the last 15 years have been in the state of Utah. Standard "can he recruit the type of guy that goes to Wisconsin" point goes here.

USU runs a spread, which is what makes this a seemingly incongruent hire. Then again, the Badgers did hire Matt Canada as their offensive coordinator to take Paul Chryst's place; Canada is also a spread guy, formerly at Northern Illinois. With that said, I'm not sure what difference Canada made vis-a-vis Wisconsin's playcalling, and hiring a head coach who will run the show is far different than hiring a coordinator who may or may not even be calling the plays that end up being executed.

As always, quarterback will be an issue. Sophomore USU QB Chuckie Keeton passed for 3,373 yards (27 TDs, 9 INTs) and rushed for 619 on 4.9 YPC (8 TDs) this season. He was the team's second-leading rusher. Keeton led the Aggies to that almost-upset of Auburn last season on opening weekend. With Keeton only becoming a junior next season, it would have been interesting to see if Utah State would have had a shot at supplanting Boise State and Utah (although not so much them now that they're in a major conference) as the team that challenges for a BCS spot from the ranks of the forgotten non-AQ conferences.

Curt Phillips is a senior and Joel Stave, who broke his collar bone in October after taking the reins from the ineffective Danny O'Brien, does not seem to fit the mold of a run-based spread QB. With that said, it is a run-based spread, which should put Wisconsin fans at ease. Some opinions on the hire, starting with Dave Miller of the National Football Post:
While his offense will change at Wisconsin, as the run-oriented Power O will remain in Madison, Andersen helped develop dynamic dual-threat signal-caller Chuckie Keeton over the last two seasons at Utah State. He also oversaw a stout defense that helped the Aggies to their 11 wins. And keep in mind that Andersen, who posted a 26-24 mark in four seasons in Logan, was the defensive coordinator at Utah under Kyle Whittingham when the Utes knocked off Alabama in the Sugar Bowl following the 2008 season.
While the brands of football may differ a bit, Utah State has played a physical style of football like Wisconsin, ranking No. 25 in the nation in rushing in 2012 while the defense ranked No. 15 in the nation in yards per game.
 Land-Grant Holy Land:
While some might be inclined to think this wasn't the sexy, splashy hire they would've assumed Alvarez would've targeted, Andersen's done great work and has been coveted from fan bases ranging from Texas to USC. By going 18-8 in two seasons in Logan, Utah, where previously wins were certainly hard to come by, Andersen's shown he's game for stout rebuilding jobs.
 Tom Fornelli at CBS's Eye on College Football
Considering that Wisconsin was somewhat late to the game thanks to Bielema's sudden departure, this is a solid hire by the Badgers. Andersen took over a Utah State program that hadn't accomplished much in the past and after only four seasons he not only led the Aggies to that 11-2 record and first conference title since it won the Big West in 1997, but into both the AP and Coaches polls. 

 Bucky's 5th Quarter is also compiling a running list of reactions from all over.

Personally, my gut feeling is that this is a good hire. Andersen has proven that he can when at places where winning isn't the norm, like Hoke, and Utah State ended the year with the #15 total defense and the #25 rushing offense, two quick and easy facts that should assuage any oh my gawd spread offense concerns.

More? Michigan basketball takes on EMU Thursday (I'll have a preview up over at Maize n Brew)...for now, I just want to note how there are almost as many suited up folks in their team picture as there are players. I guess Embracing the Process also involves JoS. A. Bank.

If you want a cool vintage Michigan calendar, go to Maize n Brew and relate a Christmas shopping story (remember that one time? oh man! definitely tell that story).

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Game 24 Recap, Bulls-Celtics: Strange Things Happening

Bulls 100 (14-10), Celtics 89 (12-12)

Last night's performance in Memphis was one that makes players and fans alike eager for the playing of the next game. Fortunately, that next game was just 24 hours away. The Celtics, not exactly at their championship form of four years ago, visited the United Center for the second time this season; things went a little differently this time.

Play in the first quarter did not feature the most imposing defense, which in a way was a nice change of pace after last night's abomination of a game. The Bulls managed 6 layups through 7 or 8 minutes of play. Belinelli even passed up an open three to take it to the rim, where his shot was goaltended. The Celtics weren't exactly playing vigilant defense, but it was encouraging to see the Bulls picking up some easy buckets in the early stages of the game.

The later stages of the first eventually turned into a Luol Deng free throw-palooza; Deng attempted --and made-- 8 free throws in the first quarter alone. That is certainly one way to get your offense.

After scoring 71 against Memphis, the Bulls dropped 28 in the first quarter alone, albeit largely on the back of free throws and layups. There was still room for serious concern about what would happen once the Bulls had to start hitting jump shots. 

In an M. Night Shyamalan-esque twist of a coaching maneuver, Thibodeau opted to start the second quarter with both Nate Robinson and Marquis Teague out on the floor. During this 4-minute stint, Teague pitched in 2 assists and a block (0-for-1 from the field, though). I'll take that. While this analogy doesn't work since the Bulls don't have a Trey Burke at the point, but if Teague can be the Bulls' Spike Albrecht, I'd be just fine with that. 

The Bulls went into a Boston timeout with a 40-29 lead almost halfway through the second quarter.It almost felt as if the Bulls had decided to save all of their offense for the back end of the back-to-back. Well, guys, I'm not sure that's how this works. 

Nonetheless, it was a tremendous half of basketball. The Bulls went into the break up 55-48; if you're keeping track, that means they had more points at the half than they did through three quarters in Memphis. Okay, that's enough "remember how bad the Memphis game was?" points. 

Halftime Stats (Bulls 55, Celtics 48)
-Bulls: 1.31 PPP
  • Deng: 4-for-7, 16 pts (8-for-8 from the line)
  • Boozer: 6-for-10, 12 pts
  • Noah:3-for-5, 7 pts, 7 rebounds

-Celtics: 1.14 PPP
  • Rondo: 5-for-8, 13 pts, 5 assists
  • Pierce:  5-for-7, 11 pts, 4 assists
  • Garnett: 5-for-5*, 10 pts, 7 rebounds
*Q: Kevin he a cyborg? A: Probably.

Game #24 Preview, Bulls-Celtics: Take Two

Chicago Bulls (13-10) vs. Boston Celtics (12-11)

The Opponent

After going to Memphis and apparently playing a basketball game while under the influence of Southern BBQ, the ever-prescient schedule makers allowed the Bulls a chance to avenge themselves tonight against Boston. 

The Bulls have faced Boston once before, a 101-95 loss on Nov. 12 at the UC. During that game, the Bulls took a 12-point deficit into the halftime break and heading into the fourth quarter. They cut the Boston lead to as low as two after a Luol Deng layup made it 95-93 with 49 seconds left in the game. Unfortunately, the Bulls could not get a stop thereafter, and the requisite free throw-fest went as it usually does. 

Even without Ray Allen, the Celtics are still a formidable team. However, they're only 12-11, and are coming off two straight defeats in the state of Texas (a 12-point loss at Houston on Friday and a 15-point loss at San Antonio on Saturday). The Celtics couldn't handle Houston's transition game on Friday (not unlike the Knicks last night), giving up 25 fast break points compared with only 11 of their own, which just about accounts for the difference in the final score. 

On Saturday in San Antonio, the Celtics only allowed four fast break points but couldn't defend the 3-point line, where the Spurs shot 48% (12-for-25), good for a team eFG% of 54%. This point does not benefit the Bulls, as they are: a) not the Spurs and b) still an atrocious 3-point shooting team, even with Belinelli sort of starting to pick it up a bit. 

The lineup is the same as it has been: Garnett-Rondo-Pierce-Lee-Bass. It's not as if the Bulls are playing the Bobcats or something; you know who all of these guys are. Rondo is averaging almost quite literally the same number of assists per game as he is points (12.9 ppg, 12.7 apg). 

The Celtics got their standard amount of scoring from their three big name players, but Brandon Bass, who is averaging a shade under 9 ppg, only scored two points in each of the aforementioned games in the Lone Star State. He had a key dunk late in the first matchup against the Bulls that helped to seal the win for Boston; if the Bulls limit Bass, they should be able to keep the Celtics within striking distance. Bass scored 16 points on 5-for-6 shooting the last time these two teams met.   

Points of Concern 
As always, Rondo doing Rondo things against the creaky, unathletic Bulls roster remains a concern. For all of his faults, Kirk Hinrich is supposedly a solid defensive player, but Mike Conley, typically offensive option No. 4 for Memphis, scored 17 points on 6-for-12 shooting last night, with 4 assists and 2 turnovers. Hinrich looked completely out of sorts, and who knows if he is even 100% from whatever the injury du jour happens to be.

Basically, the Bulls guards (Hinrich and Robinson) vs. Rondo translates to:

Also, as already stated: don't let Brandon Bass scored almost double his season average on you. You will not win if you do that.

What Needs To Happen 
  • SURVIVAL.  At this point, I'm not sure there are many point guard matchups in the league that I can look at on paper and say that the Bulls have any sort of advantage. Am I being hyperbolic? Maybe, but also maybe not. In any case, the Bulls guards can mitigate the Rondo Factor by, as always, getting the Bulls into solid halfcourt sets, avoiding long rebounds (which to Rondo is sort of like getting the golden mushroom item in Mario Kart) and pushing the ball only when it is completely obvious to do so. This might not sound like "fun" basketball to a lot of people, but you would be surprised how fun this thing called "winning" can be. 
  • Something's gotta give. On the bright side, Boston is an absolutely atrocious offensive rebounding team. With an offensive rebounding percentage of 19.1%, the Celtics are literally the worst in the league. On the other hand, the Celtics clean up on the defensive boards better than the Bulls do, with a percentage of 74.5% to the Bulls' 72.7%. So, both teams clean up their own boards pretty well but only the Bulls excel on the offensive glass. The Bulls can mitigate the terrifying Rondo Factor by getting tons of second chance opportunities. By the same token, if the Bulls let a team like this offensive rebound on them, well, they're just not going to win this game.
  • Teague? Many were calling for Teague last night, which is fine even though I doubt he would have been a net positive for the Bulls. However, he did play 18 minutes the last time the Bulls faced the Celtics (with Hinrich out with a right hip injury). He was 1-for-4 from the field, scoring 5 points and notching 2 assists in a +9 night for the rookie. Simply put, if Hinrich cannot get it done once again, Thibodeau needs to have a much shorter leash in going from him to Robinson and then to Teague. If Teague gets another DNP, I'd be a little disappointed. Teague showed some frustrating hesitancy with the ball in his hands late in the shot clock last time against Boston, but I think everyone will agree that he's grown a decent bit as a player since then. In the end, however, the sad thing is that this bullet speaks more to the state of the Bulls' point guard depth chart at the top than it does Teague.
Useless Prediction Time
  • The Bulls gave up 58 first half points against the Celtics in the first meeting over a month ago, which I believe still stands as a season high for the Bulls. I envision a much grittier defensive effort from Chicago this time around. The Bulls will hold Boston under 100
  • The Booze cruise sailed across choppy waters last time against Boston; he went 7-for-14 for 16 points, but was as mercurially inconsistent as he's ever been. Also of note, he was not on the floor when the Bulls made their fourth quarter push to make it a game. Actually, I think neither Evil Boozer nor Good Boozer shows it up in this one; the forgotten family member, Just Fine Boozer will take the stage tonight. It will be just fine. 
  •  Kevin Garnett will glower at somebody at some point for no particular reason. 
  • Bulls 90, Celtics 88. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Game 23 Recap, Bulls-Grizzlies: Sound and Fury

Bulls 71 (13-10), Grizzlies 80 (16-6)

The Bulls took a trip down south for the front end of a back-to-back (they play Boston tomorrow night at the UC) against one of the league's best teams. I'm not much for moral victories, but a close result, even in a losing effort, would have constituted a decent performance given the Bulls ongoing Rose-less-ness and the fact that the Grizzlies are pretty good. 

I remember watching the Jordan Bulls dominate the then Vancouver Grizzlies as a good, who then had the 7 foot tall Bryant "Big Country" Reeves. Now, the Grizzlies traded British Columbia for West Tennessee but now boast two very good frontcourt threats in Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol (three if you include SF Rudy Gay). 

However, the Grizz looked nothing like the top four team in the Western Conference that they are in the first quarter. It was a disjointed, strange period of 12 minutes, in which Grizzlies players jacked up horrible shots and threw the ball out of bounds to no one in particular. Gasol and Randolph started the game 0/9 from the field, and the Grizz were 3-for-16 as a team through about 10 minutes of play. 

It was a lively first quarter for the Bulls, who appeared to be riding high after a big win Saturday night. Most importantly, despite cynically expecting an appearance from Evil Boozer in the preview, Good Boozer showed up in the first. Boozer dropped 8 points on 4-for-5 shooting, beating Gasol in the process. Meanwhile, Randolph was a complete non-factor early, with zero points in the opening period. 

The Bulls went into the second up 20-11 seemingly in spite of Kirk Hinrich, who return from injury seemed to produce no immediately perceptible positive effect. He was 0-for-2 in only six first quarter minutes. 

Unfortunately, the Bulls' lead was perhaps not as sizable as it could have been. The Bulls were up just 22-19 despite Memphis shooting just 28% from the field and having racked up 8 turnovers as of the 8:45 mark in the second. How did the Grizz do this? Of course, by the great equalizer that is the three, in addition to some less than solid defense from Belinelli. Memphis started the game 5-for-7 from three, and former Tar Heel Wayne Ellington was particularly bothersome to the Bulls (3-for-3 from three, on three straight possessions...ALL THE THREES). 

The first half of the second quarter was all Memphis, with the Grizz outscoring the Bulls 20-8 through 6:25 of play. The Bulls offense lost the swaggering verve it seemed to have earlier (if an offense can lay claim to such a thing in lieu of a 20-point quarter) as jumpers from Boozer, Noah and others started not to fall. 

The Bulls went into the half down five despite the Grizzlies' frontcourt trio of Gay-Gasol-Randolph contributing just a combined six points. As has been the case many times before, the Bulls got a bit of their own medicine thrown back their away; after spending the last couple of seasons winning games with its bench, the Bulls are the ones coming out on the negative side of the proceedings once the reserves come in. 

Halftime Stats (Bulls 34, Grizzlies 39)
-Bulls: 0.76 PPP
  • Boozer: 5-9, 12 pts, 8 rebounds
  • Noah: 2-5, 4 pts, 5 rebounds
  • Belinelli: 2-6, 6 pts, 3 turnovers
-Grizzlies: 0.88 PPP
  • Randolph: 1-5, 2 pts, 6 rebounds
  • Gay: 0-6, 0 pts, 1 rebound
  • Ellington: 4-5 (3-3 from 3), 11 pts

Game #23 Preview, Bulls-Grizzlies: Feel So Good

The Opponent 

Even the most cynical Bulls fan needs to take a second to give Thibodeau's Bulls some credit: since the epic collapse against Milwaukee on Nov. 26, the Bulls have gone 7-2, only suffering a Big Ten-esque loss against Indiana and putting up a solid fight against a Clippers team is the Bulls' athletic superior like Usain Bolt is athletically superior to a turtle.

Along the way, the Bulls have picked up nice wins against Philadelphia (x2), the Knicks (albeit 'Melo-less) and the Nets on Saturday night at the UC. The Bulls have not been an attractive team to watch, but even when Rose was around running the show, would you have put the Bulls alongside teams like the Thunder or even the title-winning Mavs vis-a-vis playing "attractive" basketball? I don't think so; it was always more of a singularly consistent ray of exceptionally exciting play than a team-wide characteristic.

The point is, who cares how they win. After the Bulls lost the aforementioned Bucks game --at that point, Chicago had lost four of their last five-- things were not nearly so cheery. The song remains the same with this team. On some nights, they'll manufacture wins against good teams like Brooklyn, and on other nights they'll get out-athleted (e.g. Clippers) or simply put up an aesthetically abominable by (by any standards) clunker like the Pacers B1G-fest.

Anyway, enough about the Bulls. The Memphis Grizzlies come into this contest at 15-6, which would tie them for second in the Eastern Conference with Miami but is good for only fourth place in the West.

Luckily for the Bulls, they appear to be catching the Hollingerized Grizz at the right time. Memphis lost three in a row to Atlanta, Phoenix and Denver before finally getting back on the winning track on Saturday with a 99-86 win at Utah.

Of course, the Grizz have most likely the best frontcourt in the entire NBA, paced by Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay. Gay leads the way with 19.0 ppg, while Gasol pitches in 15.4 and Randolph 17.6.

As far as eFG% goes, Gay is at 45%, Randolph at 51% and Gasol at 50% (and the latter two have managed this with zero treys made between them). The entire stat of eFG% has kind of been completely altered for me due to the existence of Nik Stauskas, but I'm pretty sure an eFG% in the neighborhood of those figures is still pretty good. 

Former Buckeye Mike Conley is no slouch as a fourth option; he's averaging 13.9 ppg and 6.3 assists per game thus far this season. The Grizz are in Chicago's neighborhood with respect to their assist-to-turnover ration; Memphis sits at 1.40 compared to the Bulls' 1.46. Conley has maintained a very nice eFG% of 52%, shooting a freakily similar percentage from in front of and behind the arc (44.4% from 2, 43.6% from 3).

The Grizz are averaging 97.1 ppg (Bulls--93.5) and are giving up the same average as the Bulls on the defensive end (90.0 ppg).

Otherwise, Tony Allen is around for his defense. Backup PG Jerryd Bayless, whom some asked to be signed by Chicago on the heels of the Great Bench Mob Jettisoning,

Points of Concern 
Although the Bulls' advantage in the frontcourt against most teams isn't as strong post-Asik, this Memphis team is definitely one of the teams that can beat the Bulls' frontcourt, straight up. The Grizzlies boast a better offensive rebounding percentage than the Bulls (31.9%) but aren't quite as good as Chicago on the defensive glass (71.9% to Chicago's 73.3%). Regardless, the Grizzlies will give the Bulls arguably their toughest challenge on the glass of any team in the league.

However, for all of the attention that will be given to the frontcourt trimvirate, Mike Conley is a pretty good player. During his one season at Ohio State, he shot just 30% from three; now, he's a pretty real threat from beyond the arc, complementing the rest of his game. He can also get into the lane and hit that little tear drop shot or distribute to one of several Memphis bigs.

Who knows what Kirk Hinrich's status is for tonight, but we all know how lackluster Nate Robinson's defense is. Rookie Marquis Teague came up big late when matched up on Deron Williams, but: a) sample size and b) expecting rookies to do anything consistently well is an exercise in futility. 

What Needs To Happen 
  • Tell new Memphis VP of Basketball Operations John Hollinger that a lecture titled "Analytics in Sports: A Terrible Thing By My Calculations" is being held somewhere in Chicago that is not the United Center. Can't have him Inception-ing mind bullets of statistical genius into Lionel Hollins' head throughout the game. 
  • Transition D. As always, the Bulls cannot afford to let teams get easy buckets in transition. Conley can hit the three, as mentioned, so Nate/Kirk/Marquis will need to keep up once the Grizzlies have secured a long rebound on the other end. Speaking of three-point, shooting, another statistic of note: the Grizzlies attempt the second fewest number of threes per game. They are second to only, of course, the Bulls. If the Bulls are going to get beat, let's not let it be because of open looks offered Conley and guys like Quincy Pondexter. 
  • Salsa piccante, Marco (this has been Italian brought to you by Google). With Rip Hamilton out and Hinrich seemingly injuring a different part of his body every other day, the Bulls have relied on Marco Belinelli to provide some offensive pop. Belinelli is averaging just 22 minutes per game this season, but is averaging 39 per in his last six outings. In that span, he's shot a Korver-esque 43% from three and has averaged 19 ppg. No, he is not Kyle Korver, but his play of late has been pretty encouraging, especially after Thibs used him only sparingly earlier in the season. Belinelli will draw a tough matchup in Tony Allen; he'll need to put up at least 13 or 14 if the Bulls are going to have a shot.
Useless Prediction Time  
  •  Evil Boozer shows up in this one. 
  • After averaging just 13.4 mpg for a 4-game stretch, Taj Gibson got 25 against Philadelphia; however, he only got 15 against Brooklyn on Saturday. If Boozer's jumper is not falling early, I expect him to have a much shorter leash this game. Gibson should get 20+ minutes. 
  • Despite Boozer, Gibson and Noah will do a decent job of neutralizing the Memphis frontcourt, and so I think this game will come down to guard play. Can Belinelli get away from the airtight D of Allen and can Nate Robinson stay in front of Conley? I'm leaning toward no on both accounts. 
  • Bulls 81, Grizzlies 93.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Michigan-West Virginia: What More Can I Say

Explicit lyrics (obviously) 

Michigan traveled to play in its second New York borough during this 2012-13 season, this time taking on the West Virginia Mountaineers in the new Barclays Center on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.

The Mountaineers beat what seems to be an okay Virginia Tech team last Saturday only to drop a contest against Duquesne on the road, shooting 33.3% from the field and relinquishing a 15-point second half lead in the process.

In any case, WVU was a tournament team last season. Kevin Jones is no longer around, but the Mountaineers still have the ability to challenge you if you're not on. 

For Michigan, this game mirrored the motion of a pendulum that somehow manages to knock you in the head on each end point of its travels. This team is young but plays like it is older. This team is young and plays like it is young. 

Luckily, the sheer gravity of this team's overall talent almost always pulls the pendulum back from the latter. Michigan ambushed the Mountaineers early, jumping out to a huge lead; naturally, Michigan came out firing from beyond the arc, with THJ missing his first attempt and nailing a second to begin the scoring. At the 15:24 mark, Michigan was up 17-4.

Like many other times, Michigan shot the lights out early, starting 4/5 from three. Michigan followed this up by going 0/8 from beyond the arc between the 13:51 and 3:03 marks. Perhaps not coincidentally WVU was able to cut Michigan's lead from 15 down to 5 in that time. The Wolverines led just 34-29 with 3:24 left in the half. 

This has not been uncommon this season. There are times when Michigan falls in love with the trey and their prior levels of success with that strategy. In a sense, Michigan sort of sets itself up to fail in a way after going on these ridiculous shooting runs. Indeed, guys like Hardaway Jr., Burke and Morgan are veterans, but this is still a team that is largely dependent on the whims of freshmen like Stauskas, who finally had a truly rough night. The Canuck went 3-for-9 from the field (2-for-7 from 3), good for an entirely mortal eFG% of 44.4%.

There's not much point in dissecting the struggles of a guy like Stauskas too much. He had good looks, he just happened to miss tonight. It happens. At least one of those missed threes was more than halfway down before rimming out. Such is the life of a shooter.

With that said, although he drew a technical for this antic, it was nice to see him getting a little FIRED UP WOO after hitting that three in front of the WVU bench. Obviously he needs to not that do that anymore, but it was one of those moments where you're going YEAH on the inside while tsk tsking on the outside. 

Otherwise, forgetting about the threes: six turnovers for the Pride of Mississauga is not good. Matt Vogrich did not play at all once again, so it's not as if Stauskas is in any danger, but if you're going to have an off night from the night you simply cannot compound it by being careless with the ball, which needs to be valued like the richest poutine. 

Michigan's 11-point halftime lead quickly became a 17-point lead in about five minutes of second half play. The Wolverines kept a double-digit lead for the next seven or eight, generally continuing to dominate play as Hardaway Jr. and Burke racked up monstrous stat lines. 

Following the tv timeout just past the 8-minute mark (at this same point, Michigan was only up by four against Arkansas last week), eight points from WVU's Terry Henderson powered the 'Eers to an 11-4 run that cut the deficit to eight. 

Yes, Michigan was only up eight, which in this brave new world is supposedly cause for concern.

Like the Pitt, Kansas State, N.C. State and Arkansas games, even when Michigan wasn't shooting the ball well and the opponent began to challenge, as a viewer it never felt as if the outcome was in doubt. 

Michigan being up by four points with eight minutes to go this season is analogous to a Yankee team in the 8th inning with Mariano Rivera ready to enter the game in the ninth. In the past, it felt like what Cubs fan probably feel like when Carlos Marmol is on the mound; a sweaty, tense and often frustrating affair. Sometimes the shots would not fall, and Michigan would slowly cede ground until the game was lost in some brutally discordant fashion. 

Michigan no longer has to "hope" for shots to go in, because they just do. Even when they don't, the Wolverines are no longer bound by the strictures of heroball. 

Maybe Stauskas' off night is skewing my perception of this performance, but it once again seemed as if Michigan wasn't playing all that well. Yet, you look at the box score and Michigan has shot 56% from the field as a team while holding its opponent to just 38.5%. More importantly, they won by 15.

Thus far, this team has demonstrated a strange yet intriguing combination of showtime and inexperienced talent doing what inexperienced talent does. Michigan is 11-0 and I don't believe that anyone will claim that the Wolverines have played their best ball yet.

Think about that: the best is yet to come. I mean, what more can I say?