Will Jim Harbaugh Return to Michigan in 2019?

In his head coaching career, current Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has yet to exceed a four-season tenure.

Prior jobs at San Diego, Stanford, San Francisco, and now Michigan have all lasted just four or less seasons. Harbaugh is now going into his fourth season at his alma mater with a lot of weight on his and his team’s shoulders. The pressure to win is imminent.

One question that comes to mind for Michigan fans: is this job special to Jim? Is this any different from his previous stops? Does he see Ann Arbor as him and his family’s permanent home?

NFL teams have and will continue to offer head coaching positions to the former Michigan quarterback. The rumors spiral, the Twitter bloggers with “sources” claim it’s a done deal time and time again.

Harbaugh has addressed these rumors in the past. Following the 2016 regular season, the talk of his departure was atop many headlines. At Michigan’s annual football bust, he was blunt in his words.

“I can speak for myself,” Harbaugh said. “I’m not leaving Michigan, I’m not even considering it.”

Harbaugh continued to refer to the rumors as lies that were made up by their enemies.

At that point in time, Michigan had been coming off a 10-2 regular season getting ready to play Florida State in a NY6 bowl game. Since those comments, Michigan has gone 8-6, beating just one team with an above .500 record.

We can talk about how disastrous the 2017-18 football season was for Harbaugh and Michigan. However I believe that by now everyone, especially Michigan fans, have heard about it more than they want to. Time to win.

Which brings us to today, Harbaugh is 28-11, 1-2 in bowl games, 1-5 against chief rivals. Does a specific outcome for the 2018 season decide whether or not Harbaugh leaves?

Michigan has a tendency to run coaches out of town if they fail to win, Harbaugh should get no special treatment. If he loses to two or even all three of his rivals this season, does he survive the criticism and return with a potential 1-8 rivalry record? Or does he finally bite some onto of the NFL job offers?

What if the 2018-19 season is a major success for Michigan in every category? Beating their rivals, winning the Big Ten, and cracking the playoffs? Does Harbaugh dust his hands off, consider it a job well done and take off to his next head coaching stop?

Or has Harbaugh had his taste of the NFL and now prefers coaching at the college level? His situation with 49ers GM Jed York was likely a frustrating one for a head coach that resurrected a dead franchise.

At Michigan, Harbaugh has an opportunity to be worshiped if he is able to bring home a national championship. His salary is about as good as it gets, making nine million annually which makes him one of the highest paid coaches in all of football.

Harbaugh is something of a wildcard, no one really knows what he’ll do following the 2018-19 season. His relationship with the University of Michigan, his players, the community, and the fans for the most part is seemingly good.

Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel has recently said that he wants both Jim Harbaugh and basketball head coach John Beilein to coach in Ann Arbor until they both retire. Despite all of the criticism from the public eye, Manuel still believes that Harbaugh is a lifer.

The ex-49ers head coach turns 55 years old in December, still relatively young in the world of coaching. It’ll be interesting to see if his tenure at Michigan will become his longest one to date.

One last question is if results are still scarce by the end of the 2018-19 season, will NFL teams still be willing to pay an arm and a leg for Harbaugh? The bottom line is that no matter what his intentions beyond this season are, it is in the Michigan head coach’s best interest to win and win something meaningful this season.

Michigan fans would like to believe that this is a special place for Harbaugh, he is in control of his legacy at his alma mater.

 

 

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Would more be better for the CFP format?

On Monday afternoon in Chicago at Big Ten Media Days, Jim Harbaugh was asked regarding his thoughts on the current CFP format.

“More would be better,” Harbaugh said. “Let’s go to eight, and eventually get to 16.”

Would more be better? The Michigan head coach was not the only one who gave opinions on the topic Monday.

Former UCF head coach, current Nebraska head coach Scott Frost is also in favor of expansion. Likely due to his experience with his 2017-18 UCF team who Frost felt was worthy of a shot at a national championship.

This isn’t the first time Frost felt he was robbed of an outright national title, or at least a shot at one. The Nebraska head coach was the team’s starting quarterback in 1997-98 who had to split a championship with Lloyd Carr’s Michigan team who was named the AP national champion.

“Four was an improvement,” Frost said. “But it’s hard to look at last year’s college football season and not feel like an eight-team playoff isn’t where we should go. I think that’s my opinion. I think it should be five conference champions and three at-large teams. That would give a surprise conference champion that plays well at the end of the season a shot. It might give a team like we had at UCF last year a shot.”

Harbaugh wants a 16-team playoff, but for this topic in particular I personally have to agree with the former Nebraska quarterback. The argument against 16 teams is allowing several teams with a potentially an unworthy resume to have a chance they simply don’t deserve. Eight teams are perfect, in my opinion.

Eight teams that consist of five conference champions, and then three bubble teams with well worthy resumes. This limits the committee debate to just three teams, and yes much like the current format, there would still be an angry fan-base or two.

This would, as Frost said, allow for a team like 2017 UCF to have a shot in which they deserve. Going undefeated is impressive, even if it’s not in a power five conference schedule. However, with just four teams it’s close to impossible to let every worthy team have a chance to win it all.

Last season, it was a coin-flip decision between the Big Ten champion Ohio State and one-loss divisional runner-up Alabama for the four seed in the playoff. The committee had to have a debate in this scenario, and they concluded with selecting Alabama. Ohio State’s loss to an unranked Iowa team was their “deciding factor”, which is fair depending on who you ask.

Is it fair though? Did Ohio State not win the arguably most competitive division in college football and also beat an undefeated Wisconsin team in the conference title game? Did they not deserve a chance? They did deserve a chance, but this system will always have issues like this until it is resolved with an expansion.

This is what the 2017-18 season would’ve looked like had it been an eight-team format.

  1. Clemson (ACC champions)
  2. Oklahoma (Big 12 champions)
  3. Georgia (SEC champions)
  4. Ohio State (Big Ten champions)
  5. USC (PAC-12 champions)
  6. UCF (12-0)
  7. Wisconsin (12-1)
  8. Alabama (11-1)

This is what round one would look like:

  • Clemson vs Alabama
  • Ohio State vs USC
  • Georgia vs UCF
  • Oklahoma vs Wisconsin

As I said earlier, this is just my opinion. I believe this gives everyone who is truly worthy a real shot. Winning a power five conference is impressive, and teams who do so should be rewarded with this opportunity. Besides, an extra week of college football is something I think we can all get behind. We need expansion, or the debate will continue.

How Important is Week One for Michigan?

For the second season in a row, Michigan will open up their regular season with what will be a top 25 match-up.

Two major criticisms that head coach Jim Harbaugh and Michigan have been dealing with are losing rivalry games, and losing to ranked opponents on the road. September 1st will present a golden opportunity to take down both a rival and a ranked team on the road for the first time since the 2006 season.

Michigan and Notre Dame both will be ranked, possible that both end up in the top ten to start the season. College Gameday will likely consider South Bend for their week one destination. This is a game of early season national relevance and will be played in prime time.

When you’re Michigan, coming off a three game losing skid from the 2017-18 season, is this really a must-win game? The obvious answer is a resounding yes, in college football every game matters. But what are the consequences of maybe losing this game?

  • 0-1 to start the season
  • Harbaugh 1-6 against rivals at Michigan
  • Likely fall out of the top ten rankings
  • Harbaugh hot seat???

It is very possible to lose in week one and still meet your team goals come November. The CFB playoff committee is usually willing to forgive an early September loss to a potentially solid team in Notre Dame given that they bounce back in domineering fashion.

Later in the season, they’ll have plentiful chances to gain national attention with trips to East Lansing and Columbus, along with hosting both Penn State and Wisconsin.

But can this Michigan team mentally handle the adversity and the criticism that will come with yet another loss to a rival? They’ve spent this entire off-season listening to critics who absolutely trash their team and make a mockery of their coach. It’s safe to assume that this team is desperately looking forward to September 1st to silence their doubters.

Following the trip to South Bend, there are just two weeks of games that should be decided before halftime against Western Michigan and SMU. They’ll dive into conference play on the fourth Saturday of September against a highly motivated, Scott Frost coached Nebraska team in the Big House.

Much like Michigan, Notre Dame is a defensive-minded team with question marks on offense. QB Shea Patterson could kick off his Heisman trophy campaign with a solid day that results in a win for the Wolverines against a quality team. A loss that features sloppy quarterback play could cause headaches for fans, and a blow to the team’s confidence.

The three game losing skid from a season ago that I’d mentioned earlier consisted of losses to Wisconsin, Ohio State, and South Carolina. All three losses stung in a unique way, two of which can be pinned on poor quarterback play. The bottom line is that there is still a very sour taste in the mouths of the fans, the players, the coaches, and the program overall

This is most definitely a must-win game, a revenge game (from losing 31-0 to Notre Dame in 2014), and a statement game. Michigan needs a confidence boost, they need a signature win. There is a lot to prove on the field for Harbaugh’s fourth Michigan team, and it all starts with a big game in South Bend, Indiana on September 1st.

Right Decision for Charles Matthews

Charles Matthews decided to return to school for his redshirt junior season at the University of Michigan on Wednesday. This, in my opinion, was the best choice he could’ve made for himself.

Don’t get me wrong, Matthews had a solid season with the Wolverines in 2017-18. But I don’t think he was ready to make the jump to the pros. Neither did the NBA or pro scouts as he wasn’t invited to the NBA Combine held a couple of weeks ago. He was projected to go undrafted in most mock drafts and was a late second round choice, at best, in some mocks.

First off, I think it was a wise choice for Matthews to return because he needs more seasoning along with more than just one solid season of college hoops to solidify himself as an NBA draft prospect.

Matthews started off his college career as a highly touted recruit out of Chicago as a lengthy, athletic swing-man. He chose the Kentucky Wildcats as his first team and averaged 1.7 points per game in just over 10 minutes a game as a freshman for John Calipari’s squad. After his first year, he decided to transfer to U of M and sat out the 2016-2017 season.

In his first season for John Beilein and the Wolverines, Matthews showed why he was the 42nd best recruit by ESPN in the class of 2015. He averaged 13 PPG, 5.5 rebounds per game, 2.4 assists per game and shot 49.5% from the field in 2017-18. He was second on the team in points and rebounds behind Moe Wagner (who could be a late first round, early second round draft selection in this years draft) and second in minutes played behind Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman.

He also was crucial to Michigan’s run to the championship game in the NCAA tournament. He bested some season averages in the tourney by averaging 14.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG and shooting over 50% from the field.

But for all the positives Matthews had, there was a negative to accompany it.

His shooting (although he had a solid field goal percentage) was horrendous. He shot 31.8% from behind the 3-point line in the regular season and 55.8% from the free throw line. Those percentages actually got worse during the NCAA tournament as he shot 21% (4-19) from behind the line and 54.2% (13-24) from the charity stripe. Those are numbers that would not bode well in today’s NBA for a 6’6 shooting guard/small forward.

He is also not the best passer or decision maker out there and doesn’t have the best court vision. He only averaged 2.4 APG during the regular season and had only 7 assists in 6 games in the tournament. Another year of college basketball could allow him to hone this skill before he goes pro.

While most top end players are “one and dones” in today’s world of college basketball, that was just not in the cards for Matthews. After barely playing for Calipari as a freshman at Kentucky, he transferred to Ann Arbor to get more playing time and hone/improve his skills, and he did just that.

He had solid stats during his first year as a Wolverine and with Wagner leaving for the NBA and the graduation of seniors Abdur-Rahkman and Duncan Robinson, I believe this could be Matthews’ team next season. He, along with Zavier Simpson, should be the leaders for this U of M squad for 2018-19.

Those two, along with the development of young players like Jordan Poole and Isaiah Livers, and a strong incoming recruiting class, that includes 4 star forward Ignas Brazdeikis out of Canada, could lead this Michigan team to heights they haven’t seen since 1989 when they last won a national championship.

Returning to school for Matthews allows him another year to grow both mentally and physically. While he stands 6’6, he only weighs around 200 pounds. Another year of college will allow him to get stronger and be able to bang with bigger bodies that come with playing in the NBA.

It will also allow him to try to improve his shooting stroke. He has no problem getting to the rim and scoring, but he also needs to develop a mid-range and outside shooting touch if he wants to make it at the next level. And while getting to the rim is nice, converting and-one’s after a foul is even nicer.

I believe, in the long run, Matthews will appreciate his decision to return to the maize and blue. Coach Beilein is a fantastic coach and will do all in his power to help him reach his ultimate potential, not only as a player but as a person as well. I think after another solid campaign in college, Matthews could become a late first rounder/early second rounder if he progresses well enough over the course of next season.

So overall, I think it was probably an easy choice for Matthews to make. While it may be his dream to one day play in the NBA, I think he realized that this year was not for him. It’s a stacked draft and he has many weaknesses that he can improve on with another year of college hoops. He was a good player this year but I think can become a great player next year.

Welcome back and good luck, Charles.

 

Michigan Championship Game Preview and Prediction

March has come and gone and, in the blink of an eye, we’re now in April. The NCAA Men’s championship game is here and the matchup is set.

The game features a 1-seed in Villanova that many picked to get here and many chose to win it all. Their opponent is the 3-seeded Michigan Wolverines, who once sat at 19-7 after a loss to Northwestern in early February.

But that was their most recent loss, U of M is arguably the hottest team in college hoops at the moment. They are on a 14 game winning streak and that has led them to a Big 10 tournament championship and their spot in the championship game tonight. But it will be a mighty tough task if they want to keep that streak alive.

While Michigan might be the hottest team in the country, the team they are facing just may be the best squad in the nation. Villanova is on a ten game winning streak of their own and have annihilated their competition in the tournament. They’ve won every game of the tourney by double-digits, with their smallest margin of victory being 12 against West Virginia and Texas Tech and their biggest margin being 26 against Radford.

Oh, and the Wildcats just might have the best player in college basketball in Jalen Brunson. The AP Player of the Year and Wooden Award finalist has averaged 17.6 points per game in the five game of the tournament. That is slightly under his season average of 19.2, but he is still a fantastic player who is tough to stop.

He also has a teammate, Mikal Bridges, who is most likely a lottery pick in this years NBA draft. He has averaged 14.8 PPG during the tournament, which is also under his season average of 17.6, but these two are a dynamic duo who are tough to contain.

But the Wolverines have a dynamite combination of their own. Moritz Wagner and Charles Matthews have played great during Michigan’s tourney run and are going to be huge keys in this game. Wagner has averaged 14.8 PPG game during the tournament, a little above his 14.6 season average. He also went off in U of M’s Final Four matchup against Loyola-Chicago, and scored 24 points and had 15 rebounds.

But Matthews has been the key cog in the Maize and Blue’s offense all tournament long. He has averaged 16.6 PPG in the five games, which is well above his 13.1 season average. He has played more aggressively and been the spark this offense needs when its leading scorer, Wagner, hasn’t played up to par.

This game is a clash of two teams who are polar opposites. Villanova has been an offensive juggernaut all year and deadly from deep. They’ve averaged 84.8 points per game and they’ve shot 42% from behind the 3-point line during the tournament. That percentage from deep is actually a little better than their already great 40% on the year.

Michigan, on the other hand, has shot poorly from beyond the arc during the tournament. They are shooting an abysmal 31.7% from 3 and that is largely bolstered by a 14-24 showing against Texas A&M. They are also only averaging 70.2 PPG in their five games, which is also inflated thanks to the 99 they scored against A&M.

But John Beilein’s team has prided itself on its defense all year, and that has been the biggest reason they’ve made it this far. Michigan, during its five games in the tourney, has held their opponents to 58.6 PPG and a measly 24% from downtown. They will need to continue this stellar defensive play if they want to stay in this game.

There are also two players, besides Wagner and Matthews, for U of M who need to come up big if they want to come out victorious. Those two guys are Zavier Simpson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman.

Simpson is the floor general for Michigan’s offense and will need to play better than he did against Loyola. He was scoreless and only had three assists in Saturday’s game. He will need to score, at least a few points, for his team to win this one. Simpson is also the leader of this defense, but he will have a tough task in guarding Brunson. He is used to hounding the opposing point guard and had played great all year on that end, but Brunson will be his hardest matchup by far. Slowing him down may be the key to a U of M victory.

As for MAAR, he will need to be a spark for this offense. He went 2-11 from the field for 7 points against the Ramblers on Saturday. He will need to be a lot more effective against Villanova if he wants to end his Michigan career as a champion.

Now for my prediction. While the betting line in Vegas currently sits anywhere between Nova being favored by 6 and 7, I think this game will be closer than most think. Both teams are talented and can be dangerous from deep. But I think Jay Wright ultimately gets his second championship and the Wildcats win 84-79.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Wolverines got hot like they did against Texas A&M and get U of M’s second championship in school history. After all, I predicted this team to get to the Final Four before the tournament started and they exceeded that by reaching the title game.

This team definitely has the talent to leave San Antonio as NCAA champions. Only time will if they will.

Prediction for Michigan’s NCAA Tournament Journey

Selection Sunday has come and gone. The brackets are made up and teams are either happy, upset, or content with where they were/were not seeded and placed.

The Michigan Wolverines coming off a strong 28-7 record and a Big Ten tournament championship were rewarded with the 3 seed in the West Region. While some may have thought they deserved a 2 seed after reaching number 7 in the AP and Coaches Poll, a 3 seed seems pretty fitting to me.

Their first game will be Thursday night at 9:50 p.m. ET against the Grizzlies of Montana. The Griz received a 14 seed after a 26-7 record and winning the Big Sky tournament.

I’ll go through each round for Michigan and predict whether they will win and advance or lose and head back to Ann Arbor. For the sake of making too many predictions, I will just assume the higher seed will win in Michigan’s potential games.

First Round: Michigan’s first round game, as mentioned earlier, will be against the Montana Grizzlies. While the Grizzlies had a nice season and won the Big Sky, I believe the Wolverines will be a tough matchup and handle them rather easily. Their two leading scorers, Ahmaad Rorie and Michael Oguine, make up the backcourt. Michigan has a dynamic defensive duo in their backcourt, Zavier Simpson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, that I think will more than hold their own. Michigan advances with a 76-59 win.

Second Round: Michigan’s second round match-up would come against the Houston Cougars. Houston had a pretty solid season with a 26-6 record and 14-4 in the AAC. They rely heavily on the play of senior guard Rob Gray who averages over 18 points a game. However I think Duncan Robinson and Charles Matthews will carry this squad to a close victory in this one and a second consecutive Sweet 16 berth. Michigan wins 71-65.

Sweet 16: Michigan’s Sweet 16 match-up may be their toughest match-up throughout the entire tournament. They would face the North Carolina Tar Heels, who defeated U of M 86-71 earlier in the season. Michigan was a struggling team back then and hadn’t quite found themselves yet. I think this time around things can and will be different. Zavier Simpson has grown and his battle with Joel Berry II will be a fierce one. I believe Michigan will come out victorious in this one 68-66 and advance to the Elite 8.

Elite 8: The Xavier Musketeers would be the team Michigan would face in the Elite 8 if the seeding held true. They have a high scoring offense and average over 84 points a contest. Senior Trevon Bluiett leads the offensive attack by scoring over 19 points a game. He is a fantastic talent and Michigan will have to work as team to slow this young man down. But I believe the Maize and Blue will come out ready to rock and roll in this one and Moe Wagner will show up and produce a double-double and lead his team to the victory. U of M advances to the Final Four in San Antonio with a 81-74 win.

Because predicting the Final Four match-ups would lead to too much of a guessing game (and picking the highest seed doesn’t seem right as the odds of all the number 1 seeds making it there are highly unlikely) I will just finish up my prediction this way.

I honestly believe this is one of John Beilein’s best teams he’s ever coached and has the potential talent to reach the Final Four. I think when they are on offensively, they can hang with and beat anyone in the country because of the way this team plays on the defensive end. They play as a team and take care of the ball. They also don’t commit many fouls, which will bode well in a one and done style format as well.

Michigan has a legitimate star in Moe Wagner. The others who contribute are no slouches either and they all do their part to lead this team. Simpson, Matthews, Robinson and Abdur-Rahkman have all carried their own weight and had their moments this season. And that also goes without mentioning players such as Isaiah Livers, Jordan Poole and Jon Teske, who have also contributed greatly to this team.

I’ll end with making a final prediction for this squad. I truly believe they will make the Final Four, but will ultimately end up losing to either Virginia or Arizona in their match-up with the South Region winner. Just because I don’t have them winning it all or making it to the championship game, I wouldn’t be shocked if this team did cut the nets down April 2nd.

This team can do it, but will they?

That’s the fun part of March Madness. Everyone thinks they know who will advance, but upsets are awaiting unsuspecting teams and Cinderella’s are waiting to be born.

Let the madness begin.

Back-to-Back

The Michigan Wolverines basketball team won their second consecutive Big Ten tournament. Their journey to this title was a little less dramatic and eventful than just a season ago (plane incident), but still just as sweet and satisfying for fans nonetheless.

They started off by playing Iowa on Thursday at Madison Square Garden. They defeated the Hawkeyes 77-71 in an ugly, overtime thriller. While U of M didn’t play the greatest in their opening game at MSG, their next three games showed what this team is capable when rolling on all cylinders.

Their next game took place on Friday against Nebraska, and the Wolverines routed the Cornhuskers 77-58. This match-up allowed the Maize and Blue to exact some revenge after their 72-52 loss back in mid-January.

The Wolverines then entered the semifinals with a much-anticipated rematch against Michigan State. Michigan had beaten the Spartans 82-72 earlier this season, ultimately came out victorious yet again with a 75-64 score on Saturday. A 2-0 record against your in-state rival is always nice and had to be extra sweet because people strongly believe that this is one of, if not the most, talented teams Tom Izzo has had in East Lansing.

John Beilein’s squad advanced to the finals to battle with the Purdue Boilermakers. The Wolverines played tough against them both times this season but came up empty-handed with an 0-2 record against Matt Painter’s crew. The result was not similar Sunday night when U of M controlled much of the game and came away winners of the game and the Big Ten tournament as well.

This year’s Big Ten Tournament run proved this team can potentially be very dangerous in the NCAA tournament. They saw good games from their stars and upperclassmen like Moe Wagner and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman. But they also saw solid production from lesser used players and unsung heroes like sophomore Jon Teske.

These red-hot Wolverines also proved they can overcome bad games or foul trouble from their star player, Wagner, who fouled out against Iowa and shot 4-14 (0-7 in the first half) against MSU.

This team moved up to no. 7 in the latest AP and Coaches Poll after their four tournament wins. I believe this proves that their ceiling could be a possible no. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, given that everything goes right and some of the big dogs go down early in their respective conference tournaments. Realistically, I think this team ends up being a three-seed come Selection Sunday.

Whatever seeding they receive, they’re primed to be a tough out against whoever they play and will be a dark horse Final Four candidate in my mind. John Beilein is an underrated, amazing coach, and leading this team to back-to-back Big Ten Tournament titles proves just that. After all, Drake said it best when he sang “Back to Back.”…