Hoops season rapidly approaches so next up on eBay Watch we’ve got a beautiful wire photo from 1957 featuring multi-sport letterman Ron Kramer trying to block a shot against Purdue:
It’s a wonderful shot and offers a view of basketball inside Yost Field House in the 1950s, with digital scoring?. Michigan defeated the Boilers 66-54 on this February day thanks in large part to captain Kramer’s 17 points. And those hops are not just the result of the camera angle: Kramer was a high jumper on the track team and was known to trot over from the football practice field and smoke fools at the high jump in meets. He finished that basketball season as Michigan’s all time leading scorer.
Kramer is best known for his exploits on the gridiron of course, but I’ve heard that he had an unbelievable gift as a cager. His exploits on and off the field/court/track are chronicled in the book, That’s Just Kramer!
Speaking of old Yost, coincidentally there’s another wire photo for auction, this one featuring halfback Tom Kuzma along with a great view of the old structure in the background from 1942:
Kuzma followed Michigan legend Tom Harmon to Michigan from Gary, Indiana, and it looks like he had a fine career cut short by World War II. The kick for the press above wasn’t just for fun, Kuzma was a formidable punter, some say the best since Harry Kipke performed the duty for Yost in the 1920s.
After the Penn State loss, I’m guessing most M fans would say a NCAA tourney bid is not going to happen in 2009. That’s of course a 180 from just over a week ago, but we were warned by a few folks this season might go this way. Shots aren’t falling and the team is struggling, Coach Beilein talked with Sam Webb and Andy Evans this morning on WTKA about where the team is at, what he’s doing to get things back on track, and how he & Pittsnogle faced a similar slump one year at West Virginia:
Moving forward, the last two games have blown whatever margin of error Michigan had in their effort to make the tournament. Even if you assume wins home and away against Northwestern and away against Iowa—potentially dodgy but absolutely necessary to make the tourney—you have to find three wins in these games to get Michigan to .500 in conference:
Yikes. One of those assumed games is Saturday’s tilt against Kevin Coble and the bomb-dropping Northwestern Wildcats who showed Michigan State a little something called style last night at Breslin. A few highlights from the action, you’ve got to see these guys:
Just posted on YouTube, a quick interview with Ohio State center B.J. Mullens this week on the upcoming Michigan game.
Interviewer: Let’s be honest, give me your thoughts on the University of Michigan. Mullens: They suck. I mean come on. We’re going to go up there and beat them pretty bad. That’s a rival and that’s how it’s going to be. Interviewer: Do you give a damn for that whole state? Mullens: No. Not at all.
So that’s fine, I don’t have an issue with a Buckeye trashing Michigan or vice versa, even dropping a “sucks” here and there. But the final question inadvertently produces a great moment in the history of this rivalry:
Interviewer: In as many S.A.T vocabulary words as you can, your opinion of Michigan. Mullens: Boo.
Isn’t that grounds for an NCAA investigation? A cow could have scored as well on that question. I love it because you know the interviewer is a Buckeye grad, yet he inadvertently delivers a perfect Stuttering John question.
Update 1/17: Good question from Biggie Munn, ‘what in the hell sport did this raj cat play that he did not lose to um in 4 years?‘. Midway through the interview Raj offers that he “went four years and never lost to Michigan”.
Best I can tell Raj was in the homecoming class and his bio reveals he’s a super huge Buckeye fan. Beyond that, I doubt Raj was raining down threes or delivering touchdown dances on old Mich during his time in Columbus.
As for BJM, I consulted some folks at the Princeton Review and they confirmed that the S.A.T would give zero points for that answer. Had the question been, “What do ghosts say?” or “Who’s your favorite golfer?” or, “Name a key character in To Kill a Mockingbird?” or even, “What’s a common urban term for one’s ladyfriend?”, BJ would have been offered some credit.
Rumeal Robinson’s comments this week (which imply that many members of the 1989 championship team had a little extra help) provide an opportunity to take a look back at enigmatic former coach Bill Frieder. I was a young lad in the 1980s but there always a sense that Frieder was an odd bird for sure, perhaps even the kind of guy that would bend the rules. That’s that alpha and omega of my recollection, so thankfully I have a copy Craig Ross’s tome, Obscene Diaries of a Michigan Fan, published in 2006.
If you enjoy the tone, feel and prose of blogs like mgoblog and even this site, I suggest you get a copy of this book. I had a chance to meet Ross, a local attorney, author and raconteur, for lunch in December. I’m a good way through it and it’s fabulous. Ross takes a good portion of chapter four in discussing cheating in college hoops in general, and takes a look at Johnny Orr, Bill Frieder, Ed Martin and Steve Fisher through this lens.
Here’s a few selections from chapter four when he examines Bill Frieder. [Ed note: To avoid a full reprint of several pages I’ve omitted some of the work, so I risk not fully conveying Ross’s story or point, so I encourage you to get a copy]:
Until Frieder, I am fairly confident Michigan ran an honest program. Or perhaps more accurately, according to people who were around the program and show know, there seemed to be nothing or very little untoward going on. Once Frieder became the head coach, Michigan started to win it share of recruiting wars, and there was always some vague anxiety among Michigan fans that maybe things were not all they should have been. [Ross goes into a variety of recruits that Frieder lured to U-M]
About a page later:
Many people have connected Frieder’s oddball brilliance–his analytical ability, his claimed success at the gaming tables, the fact that he was a night owl and looked like a complete slob–with a lack of ethics. With the above conditions as underpinnings, the well-publicized rift between Schembechler and Frieder was an impetus toward believing the worst about Bill. While Don Canham always liked Frieder, Bo made it plain he thought the guy was a flake and, in his dress and demeanor, not a “Michigan man.” (Clue: This is ironic, since Bill has an undergraduate degree and an MBA from Michigan. Bo’s degree is from Miami of Ohio…)
Later, next page:
I have talked to Frieder on a few occasions. More significantly, I have talked to those who knew Frieder quite well, and were around the program on a day-to-day basis when Frieder was the coach. Everyone I spoke to agrees that Frieder would take full advantage of the rules. And the vast majority agree he was paranoid about not crossing the line. It is true that others are not so sure, and this includes certain friends.
[Former legendary AD Don] Canham, for certain, saw nothing untoward in Frieder’s regime as coach. But when Frieder took the Arizona State job, I believe there was a collective sigh of relief from many Michigan fans, since there was a general, public distrust of Frieder. And when the Steve Fisher-led Wolverines won their first NCAA championship with Frieder’s team, the relief turned to exaltation.
This week I sat down with Pete Tiernan, founder of bracketscience.com, a website with a comprehensive database that allows subscribers to slice and dice historical NCAA tournament data. Tiernan also provides statistical trends, charts, tips and strategies for busting up your pools. Over the past several years he’s contributed a column to ESPN.com insider$ and in 2009 will be featured at CBSSports.com.
Tiernan holds two degrees from Michigan and taught for a while within the English department. His ties to the M basketball program run deep as his dad, ‘Boom Boom’ Tom Tiernan, laced them up for the Maize & Blue back when they played at Yost Field House in the early 1950s.
We met in downtown Saline at the excellent Brecon Grille and over a few pints, he was kind enough to answer questions about Beilein, Michigan, tourney trends, the selection committee and more. We close with a cool story about his son who played for the Grand Valley State team that shocked Michigan State at Breslin last year. Enjoy:
MVictors: Michigan basketball is becoming relevant again thanks to John Beilein. Let’s cut right to it, how does Beilein’s tournament coaching record stack up? Tiernan: Michigan made a very good choice. John Beilein is the top overperforming active coach of the modern tournament era. There’s a statistic that I have called PASE (Performance Against Seed Expectation) which compares what a coach or team or conference should win based on their seed, versus how many games that actually do win.
For coaches with at least four tournament appearances, John Beilein’s expected number of wins was just 2 ½ and he achieved 6. And he’s exceeded seed expectation in three of his four tournaments. He’s consistently overachieved.
MVictors: Are there any regular season characteristics that indicate a team will excel/overachieve in the tournament? Tiernan: I did an analysis last year looking at the attributes [of teams coming into the tournament] that lead to overperformance in the tournament. By far the biggest one was scoring margin. If you had a team that beats its opponents by an average of 15 points a game, their PASE is +.5, meaning that they on average, overachieve by half a game in the tournament.
MVictors: Once in the tournament, are there statistical tendencies of teams that overachieve in tournament play? Tiernan: Last year I looked at a bunch of different numbers, from rebounding margin, to turnovers, shooting percentage, free throw percentage and more. The stat led to the most overachievement was not three point shooting percentage, but the amount of three point shots you take compared to overall field goals. Of course Beilein is huge on that. It didn’t matter what their shooting percentage was. What mattered was that they took the shots.
MVictors: Speaking of Beilein’s style, you’ve watched a lot of Michigan this season, what are your impressions?
Tiernan: When you think about the Beilein style, it’s very unorthodox. His teams always get out-rebounded. Always. You watch Michigan play and it just drives me crazy. They give up so many offensive rebounds. You’d think intuitively, ‘This can’t work! Why is this working?’.
I think it has a lot to do the fact that he’s going for offense, he’s going for turnovers. They are not going to get beat on fast breaks and they’re going to try to generate as many fast breaks as they can. His whole thing defensively is ‘We’re not going to give you an easy basket.’ And the offense. I’ve never seen a Michigan team get up the court as fast as these guys. Maybe with Ricky Green or Phil Hubbard. This team is pretty fast.
MVictors: As of January 12, Joe Lunardi of ESPN currently projects Michigan as a #9 seed playing in the South. Is getting an 8 or 9 seed a bad break because of the inevitable game against a top seed in the next round? Tiernan: It’s actually better to be a 10 seed than an eight or a nine. I’ve studied every seed match-up and the nine’s hold a 52-44 edge over eight seeds since 1985, when the tournament expanded to 64 teams. In round two, 9 seeds are 3-49 (against #1 seeds). Seven seeds beat 10’s by a 60-36 margin, but in the second round, they are just 18-42 against 2 seeds. But look at 10 seeds: they are 18-18 in the second round. If I were Michigan I’d rather fall to a 10 or even an 11.
MVictors: Is Michigan historically/statistically at a disadvantage for completely lacking recent tournament experience? Tiernan: There’s only one team that won without being in the previous years’ tournament—that was Syracuse in 2003. There are actually six characteristics of 17 of the last 19 winners:
* They score 77+ points/game
* Their scoring margin is +10
* They’re from the big 6 conferences
* They went to the previous year’s tournament
* Their coach has at least five years of tournament experience
* They’re seeded 1-4
There’s only one coach who won the championship in his first year, and that was Steve Fisher of course. If you take those six statistics you can see who’s most likely to be in the championship. I did the analysis last night, and there’s seven teams that have those characteristics. I don’t have the seeds, of course, so I looked at the current top 20:
* Pitt (barely, based on scoring margin)
* Michigan State (also barely based on scoring margin)
* North Carolina
* Notre Dame
MVictors: If Michigan or more likely Michigan State find themselves in the Final Four in Detroit, is there notable advantage for teams playing at or near their campus? Tiernan: I’ve looked at proximity to home, within 100 miles. Overall, there is a slight advantage, about an eighth of a game advantage or about 12 percent.
MVictors: Talking about seedings, if you had an audience with the selection committee what would you tell them, what do they consistently miss? Tiernan: When you ask yourself, ‘What does the selection committee want?’ I guess they’d want that they seeded so correctly that the high seed always won, and that we’d end up with four #1 seeds in the Final Four.
I actually think they are getting more statistically savvy. I bet you they are looking at things like Ken Pomeroy’s possession-based statistics. Otherwise it’s very hard to take a Memphis for instance, look at their performance in their conference which is a soft conference and compare it to playing in the Big East.
I never really have a lot of problems [with the seedings]. Every year there are teams that seem to be criminally omitted, and other teams that get in that probably shouldn’t. I would say that certain coaches get overseeded, which I think usually to those coaches detriment than anything else. Bobby Knight for years used to get overseeded. If you look at the statistics for his team, you’d say they should have been a 7 or 8 seed, and damned if they didn’t get a 5 or a 6 seed. You almost wish you could take names off of the teams, look at the numbers, look at who they beat. If there was some way of doing that I think you’d see a lot more surprises in the seedings.
MVictors: You’ve written for ESPN.com on the insider site in the past couple years, I understand you are moving to CBS sports this spring. When will we see your first columns? Tiernan: They’ll start running three weeks from selection Sunday, then they double up the week of Selection Sunday, and the week after. I was behind the “Insiders” [pay] site at ESPN. I look at ESPN vs. CBS and I’m sure that ESPN dwarfs CBS in traffic, but CBS seems to handle things like commenting much better. On top of that, my columns will be available to anyone not just subscribers.
MVictors: Ultimately pools are a form of gambling, and you’re not promoting that aspect at all. But are a large number of your subscribers looking for a gambling edge? Tiernan: As much as I try to downplay it, I do get subscribers for that reason. I don’t bet. I do enter pools and I run a pool on my site. For me it’s a friendly way to get involved in the tournament. I’ve won my share of pools but it’s not like I’m going to win the ESPN tournament challenge. [laughter]
I’d say about half of the subscribers are just passionate about it like I am. Then, there are the guys cramming for the test on Selection Sunday night or Monday, all they want is the answer. They say, ‘Pete, what are your models?’ I put up eight statistical models. And they want them because they want to bet them. I try to caveat the hell out of the models. I say, ‘Use the statistics for guidance but don’t use it as gospel’.
The tournament is maddeningly unpredictable. Even when it’s predictable it’s unpredictable. Two years ago who’d of thought we’d only have three upsets? I put together a thing I call the Madometer, which is a measure of tournament madness:
MVictors: Your son plays hoops at Grand Valley State, and was part of the team that upset Michigan State in East Lansing in an exhibition last season, correct? That must have been a proud moment for your family. Tiernan: [big smile]. That was… [pauses]. I’ll never forget it. I mean, I’ll get emotional talking about it.
Bobby was 5’ 9” as a freshman [at Saline] and as a senior he was 6’ 5”. In his sophomore season he was the starting point guard in the beginning of the year, at the end, he was the center. That’s how much he grew.
He went up to Grand Valley on a football scholarship. Like any other kid, he’s up there and he thinks his shit doesn’t stink. He goes to football practice and realizes, ‘holy cow. There’s a lot of good football players here.’ So he quits and we were disappointed. Then he decides that he’s going to walk on the Grand Valley basketball team and he makes team.
Going into the year t hey thought they could beat Michigan State. They were so sure. So we go to Breslin and it was unbelievable. If you’ve ever been to Breslin you know it’s a lot different from Crisler. Half of the court is surrounded by rabid students and fans. And they went in there and they beat ‘em. And it wasn’t a bullshit game. It went into [double] overtime. We had a guard who was the best defensive guard I’ve ever seen, and he could hound Neitzel. All the guys on the frontline basically negated Suton, Gray, Morgan and Naymick. And they beat ‘em.
My dad was there and he hates Michigan State. Just hates them, like any good Michigan man. Just can’t stand them. It was just the proudest moment for him. He was beaming after the game.
That night they were on the top 10 on ESPN. Bobby did a chest bump with the guy that hit the winning shot. I think they really knew they could beat them. And for Bobby, he’ll always have that. It’s one of those things I try to tell my son, ‘You’ll always have that’. Yes, life is more than sports and it’s more than what you did in high school or college, but damned if it isn’t satisfying. He’ll always have that.
[A little taste:]
[Ed: Definitely look out for Pete Tiernan in a couple months on the radio, on CBS Sports and anytime on bracketscience.com. I may try to get with him a little closer to the tournament if Michigan looks like they are going to sneak in.]
Come on Rumeal! The star guard on Steve Fisher’s 1989 NCAA champions basically confirms that guys on the team were paid, from Mark Snyder’s post (with a surprisingly tame headline!):
“You got nine pros and none of them left school early? If you’re taking care of players the right way, you understand the process to make it work. Otherwise, a player’s got to go out and look for help, it’s going to happen” like with the Martin scandal.
OK – so he doesn’t specifically say what that means but [cough, clear throat] maybe by “taking care of players the right way” he means furnishing them with Cottage Inn vouchers. Later:
“Coaches have a lot of pressure to recruit the best players, and they have to turn to alumni for help. Alumni can’t help their school? I guess you’ve got to draw the line somewhere.”
Robinson said he thinks they should call his team, with nine players that went to the pros, the Fab Nine.
Some caller into WTKA this morning said it was a like a guy at an anniversary celebration toasting his wife on their long marriage, but adding that he cheated on her in the first five years. Dude. It’ll be interesting this weekend when they honor the team at Crisler. More interesting will be Rumeal spinning down his comments which I expect soon.
Add this to a list of other great Michigan achievements or legends that have been fractured, not even including any feelings you have about Rich Rodriguez, the severed bowl streak, the athademics scandal/Jim Harbaugh‘s comments:
1. Winged helmet. Yes, you knew that one already. From the Bentley Library:
In fact, Crisler had introduced a helmet at Princeton in 1935 that should look remarkably familiar to Wolverine fans. The winged design simply took advantage of features of a helmet the Spalding sporting goods company and advertised in the 1937 edition the Official Intercollegiate Football Guide. Crisler’s 1938 innovation at Michigan was to paint the helmet maize and blue.
2. ‘The Fab Five. I think this has been sufficiently covered in the past, banners taken down, wins and statistics removed from the books. A sad side effect of this, depending on how big it gets, is that I wonder if this will push out a Fab Five reunion that seems to have gained some footing especially after the Jalen Rose Day.
3. ‘The Victors’. Yikes, from earlier this year, a revelation to me that still stings. The great Louis Elbel was clearly inspired by ‘The Spirit of Liberty‘, a tune by a gent named George Rosey. Warning: Don’t click this if you’re near a Ming vase:
4. Those Who Stay Will Be Champions. Certainly we thought that our great departed general Bo Schembechler crafted those legendary words in the face a mass defections on his first Michigan team. From HBO’s The Rivarly:
As posted earlier this year on mgoblog, from Bear Bryant’s book published in 1960, chapter 12:
Another great win this weekend for Beilein and crew, and if things keep falling as expected it’s very likely the Wolverines will find themselves somewhere inside the bracket this March. ESPN bracket guru Joe Lunardi projects Michigan as a 9th seed right now with obviously a lot of schedule to be played.
I checked out a couple sports betting sites to see if any future odds were posted on the tournament. Sure enough, they’ve released the futures on the 2009 NCAA tournament here. I can’t tell when it was last updated, at the top it reads January 31, 2009 – so I’m not sure what that means.
The goods: Michigan is a +10,000 moneyline longshot to cut down the nets in Detroit, meaning your $100 college basketball bet would win you $10,000. So you’re saying there’s a chance. Let’s say the team improves and they end up a 6 or 7 seed-who’s to say they can get hot and get through? They’ll then be playing practically at home at Ford Field.
If you’ve got a few bucks and a few stones, you could be laughing all they way to the bank in these hard times.
I always love the IU vs. Michigan game because of the hoops tradition at the two schools and probably more so because I attended IU for a couple years at the end of the Knight era. I’ve seen a couple dozen games at Assembly Hall including a few real beauties. What a classic.
I actually missed the first half due to the early start. When I tuned on BTN, they were flashing the first half stats. All brutal obviously; everything in IU’s favor and Michigan was shooting horribly. After the first few minutes of the second I saw Michigan firing (and firing, and firing) and missing. A disappointing, two-steps back loss seemed imminent and I chalked this up to one of the drawbacks of Beilein’s system: we’re going to win some we probably shouldn’t and vice versa.
But those M men grinded away, never stopped firing, stepped up the defense and seemed to constantly get open looks. Crean’s brutal inaugural season continues. Obviously a lot of this is on Indiana. While Michigan hit some clutch shots (Sims turnaround jumper in overtime was money), the Hoosiers couldn’t seem to get a hand in the face of most of the threes and rest assured they will be shooting some free throws tomorrow after failing to convert when Michigan nearly collapsed at the end of OT.
Trying to find new labels for these wins is growing tiresome–was this a “landmark”, “breakthrough”, or “career-defining” victory? I think all those have been used up. These cats are on their way.
Postscript 1/8 – I see a lot of Michigan fans are talking about how sloppy the game was, how we’re playing to the level of our opponents, how we almost gave it a way. All true! But dudes—we don’t have Larry Johnson and Stacey Augmon out there, we’re not the Harlem Globetrotters just b/c we won a couple big games. Take the good with the good
What a classic basketball game today as Beilein and hoops recover from the tough Wisconsin loss to get their first conference win, 74-64 over Illinois. It certainly wasn’t a must win, but losing the first two Big Ten games at home would have caused a bit of a shiver.
On hand for the game was once again coaches Carr and Rodriguez, each with their wives. BTN color man and Buckeye Jimmy Jackson couldn’t help but admit that he was sorry that Lloyd Carr hung up his whistle, saying as a Buck, Carr was his favorite coach. Some forget that Carr crushed the Buckeyes early in his coaching career and despite the struggles against Tressel was 6-7 lifetime. But he certainly finished on a down note and Jackson’s comment would be excusable if Carr and his wife Laurie weren’t sitting right next to him on the end of the press table. Come on man.
But I thought Jackson did a good job for BTN and today, and man, was he awesome at Ohio State. When they panned over to Fab Fiver Jimmy King chilling in the tunnel JJ talked about some of their battles (Ohio State won two during the regular season with Michigan winning in the NCAA tournament). I was at the game at Crisler his senior year and Jackson was unbelievable. Here’s a shot of King looking fresh with his tight beard:
Check this out from Sports Illustrated this week [12/29/08 issue]. On the Dan Patrick ‘Just My Type‘ page, Chris Webber talks about his time on the practice squad for the 1992 Olympic Dream Team while he was at Michigan.
IT’S NICE to know that even stars get nervous around their idols. Before the 1992 Olympics, Chris Webber was one of the players on a practice squad that provided opposition for the Dream Team. He shared a limo from the airport in Barcelona with Larry Bird. “I was shaking, calling him Mr. Bird,” Webber said. “He was very nice. It was a 10-minute car ride. I said, ‘It was nice meeting you.’ He was like, ‘Yeah, you can grab my bag.'” Webber left with more than just memories: “I got autographs, I stole socks out of their bags, I took everything, even jockstraps. I took one of Charles Barkley’s shoes. I was just a kid in a wonderland.”
That’s good stuff (as long as we’re way outside the statutory limit) and you can’t blame him for grabbing everything in sight. I remember reading about C-Webb working out with the team but I didn’t know he actually traveled to Spain. And how big of a pisser is Bird? I wonder if it was just a little reminder to Webber not to get too cocky.