There is a game going on this Saturday that normally I look forward to, but this year I am completely dreading it. The M & M Game was long dominated by Michigan, with Michigan State sometimes overcoming with better effort, a standout star going unstoppable, or maybe it was a tight game that a bad call made the difference.
For the record, the "Clock-gate" game was NOT gift-wrapped by the refs. Michigan lost that game because they got ran over by TJ Duckett (211 yards rushing). Similarly in the 1999 game, Plaxico Burress was uncoverable (10 catches for 255 yards, plus a large number of pass interference penalties drawn), and State was able to drive down at the end and get a TD. The main "bad call" game that comes to mind is the 1990 game when Desmond Howard was knocked down on what would have been the game-winning 2pt conversion and no pass interference was called. These days that gets called 11 times out of 10, and twice that on Sunday.
This year I dread the game because Michigan is severely out-classed. Their new offense looks abysmal (excluding the Miami of Ohio & App State games, they average 272 yards per game and 13.2 points per game). Michigan State's defense isn't nearly the force it was last year, but believe me it is more than capable of keeping Michigan off the scoreboard. Michigan's defense is acceptable, but they don't have the stones to stop MSU if Connor Cook is at least average. Plus, they probably will be on the field a lot because Michigan's offense turns the ball over A LOT. I'll watch the game, but I'm preparing myself for a painful afternoon. To quote Clubber Lang, "Prediction? Pain."
The Pistons won their final preseason game last night against a Philly team that is probably still tanking, since the NBA somehow failed to pass some anti-tanking legislation. Anyway, check all the DNPs on that box score:
Backup C Aaron Gray is out indefinitely after having some kind of heart murmur, Meeks is out for several weeks due to a broken tailbone, and now Jennings is being rested with a sore achilles. KCP is probably ok to go after spraining his knee but they're taking it slow, and Greg Monroe has to serve a 2-game suspension for an off-season DUI. This resulted in a really weird starting lineup of a center, 3 forwards and a PG.
The way things are going, it looks like the starting SF will likely be Cartier Martin (who for some stupid reason is listed as a PF on ESPN), although it's tough to say for certain yet with out. Van Gundy says he doesn't know who his starters are yet, and because of the injuries I almost believe that. As it stands, I see 2 different possibilities for the starting 5:
- PG - Jennings, SG - KCP, SF - Cartier Martin, PF - Josh Smith, C Drummond
- PG - Jennings, SG - KCP, SF - Cartier Martin, PF - Greg Monroe, C - Drummond
- PG - Jennings, SG - Jodie Meeks, SF - KCP, PF - Josh Smith, C Drummond
One guy who shouldn't be shooting a ton of threes is J-Smoove. He managed to convert 1 out of 2 this game, but he also shot a lot of mid-range shots and long 2s. He finished 6-14 shooting, which isn't good, and that was mainly due to his shot selection (as per usual):
He was 2-7 on shots taken outside of 8 feet, and this is not an anomaly. Now Smith did nearly log a triple-double, with a 17-10-7 line. This is his value - he's a really good defender. who rebounds and passes well, and he can score it if he's in the paint. As long as he takes over half of his shots from inside, I don't have a problem with it. He also does things like this a couple of times a game (Noel has my sympathy. He was totally out of depth here, coming back from an injury season off, facing a vicious lefty dunker like Smith).
Spencer Dinwiddie made his Pistons debut. He's their lone rookie this year, a big combo-PG with a nice shot. His minutes were limited because he's coming back from a torn ACL that cut his junior season short. He bears watching. KCP should be back for the season opener next week, Monroe and Meeks will miss it for reasons previously mentioned. This looks to be an interesting season.
Lastly, the Wings added to their points total by topping the Penguins in OT last night. Kronwall netted 2 goals & an assist (including this game tying goal, playing with the extra skater & goalie Howard on the bench), but the hero was Justin Abdelkader with the OT winner:
Zetterberg is the Wings' points leader with 10 (tied for 2nd in the NHL), Nyquist still has the goals lead with 4, but Pavel Datsyuk is making his presence felt, despite only just getting back from a separated shoulder injury. Through 7 games (just 75 more to go) the Wings are tied with the Islanders for 2nd in the East, behind Montreal. It's a long grind, but with the contributions the younger players made last year, this team is better equipped to go for the long haul than they have in a while.