Bleach: A defense – yes, a defense – of Bielema

first_imgSaturday, in Ann Arbor, will be a wonderful clash of contrasts.Good vs. Evil. Power vs. Speed. Stud vs. Whore.But most importantly, we have the polar-opposite battle of the minds that is Bret Bielema versus Rich Rodriguez. Not to use too much hyperbole, but as the Badgers and Wolverines do battle, two different breeds of coaching will be duking it out for conference supremacy as well.First, there is the obvious opposition in playing styles.The Badgers subscribe to the five yards and a spray of FieldTurf method. The Wolverines prefer to spread the field as far as possible and hit defenses with speed from all angles. Wisconsin moves the ball between 320-pound behemoths on the line, who allow running backs like James White to play peek-a-boo with defenders. Michigan prefers quicker, smaller – relatively speaking of course – O-lineman who probably aren’t even familiar with their teammates, they split so wide at the line. Denard Robinson is instructed to run whenever he sees a lane. Scott Tolzien’s 40-yard dash might not even register on a stopwatch.Yes, it will be highly amusing to see the old school versus new-fangled offense, but the differences between Bielema and Rodriguez run even deeper.When he first took the job, Rodriguez did little to temper expectations decreeing: “Our goal is to be the best program in the nation.” While there have been worse promises and goals to set – we are looking at you, Tim Brewster – it seems like the better move would have been to say something like: “We are trying to get better every day.”Which is exactly what Bielema would say. (Or you know, something about going 1-0, but it is the same difference.)Even this week, some of Rodriguez’s players were talking about Ohio State when Wisconsin was on the docket.“We need this Ohio State win bigger than anything,” senior cornerback James Rogers said this week to the Detroit Free Press. “That’s something we’ve been waiting on, and I guarantee that’s where our focus is going to be at real soon.”It’s not a crime certainly, to talk about the biggest rivalry of the year, but when you have the No. 6 team in the nation up next, it is a little peculiar. And it is certainly something Bielema would never allow. Trust me, you can’t get the Badgers to look past Austin Peay (or Indiana) in interviews.Then there are the simple ethics of each coach.No one will accuse Bielema of being a saint. He is as arrogant and audacious as football coaches come.But Bielema has never had any major violations levied against the program or an NCAA investigation into his practice hours. To an outsider, Bielema has handled every disciplinary problem with aplomb. He has kicked talented players off the team (Kraig Appleton) and likely starters (Aubrey Pleasant and Shane Carter).Rodriguez has simply decided football was more important than studying for his student-athletes.The differences in coaching styles reflect in the attitudes of their teams.The Badgers have turned the ball over the fewest times in the Big Ten and are the least penalized team in the conference. Michigan has turned the ball over more than any other Big Ten team – and three times as much as Wisconsin – and ranks in the bottom half of the conference in penalties taken.Disciplined vs. undisciplined can probably be added to the list, too.The ultimate job of the coach is to win games, so perhaps most of this is simple background noise. Very few Alabama fans or Kentucky supporters care that Nick Saban and John Calipari are more disgusting than the cast of the Jersey Shore.On the other hand, Bielema’s career record is 47-15, while Rodriguez has gone 15-19 at Michigan and will be heading to just his first bowl game this season.As any good English professor knows, there might be something to learn from these contrasts.Michael is a senior majoring in journalism and is the co-author of “Paulbunyansaxe.com.” Think RichRod is a nice guy? Let him know at bleach.michael@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @michaelbleach.last_img read more

With odds stacked against it, Syracuse’s Final Four run impressive

first_img Published on April 9, 2013 at 12:35 am Contact Chris: cjiseman@syr.edu | @chris_iseman ATLANTA — Jim Boeheim spoke in a softened tone, just feet away from where his players sat stunned — some teary-eyed — as the realization that their season ended sank in. The Syracuse head coach admitted the loss was tough. He said it always hurts to lose.Even if the odds were always against the Orange.Here was a team that lost three starters from last season, had a point guard playing meaningful minutes for the first time, a forward who was ineligible for six games, two centers who struggled offensively for much of the year and lost four of the final five games of the regular season.Despite all of that, the Orange made a run to the Final Four.“I hope every team we have can go to the Final Four, but we’ve had 20 teams out of 37 that should’ve gotten there instead of this team, at least,” Boeheim said. “They’ve just done an incredible job.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textWith a defense that looked unbeatable and an offense that clicked at the right time, Syracuse rolled over its opponents in the NCAA Tournament to earn a trip to the Final Four in Atlanta. Despite all of the challenges the Orange faced during the course of the season, it ended up in the Georgia Dome, one win away from playing in the national championship for the first time in 10 years. Syracuse came up short, but after a season like this, making it this far was an unexpected accomplishment.After the Orange’s semifinal loss to Michigan, Boeheim said Syracuse had “limitations.” The Orange only had one guard off of the bench. Its centers, Baye Moussa Keita and Rakeem Christmas, struggled offensively. Syracuse’s better offensive center, DaJuan Coleman, is a freshman who needed the season to adjust to the college level, and missed eight games after having knee surgery.Adding to all of that was James Southerland’s eligibility issue. The six games he missed left the Orange without its best shooter. Boeheim said Saturday that Syracuse has “one guy” who can shoot from the arc.“We had ups and downs like a lot of teams do, but I think ours were a little crazier than other teams’,” guard Trevor Cooney said.The Orange also didn’t have much veteran leadership, aside from senior Brandon Triche. Syracuse had a new point guard in Michael Carter-Williams, who had a tumultuous year of his own.Carter-Williams, who played in 26 games and averaged 10.3 minutes last season, became Syracuse’s starting point guard this season. The 6-foot-6 Carter-Williams struggled to take care of the basketball at times, particularly against smaller guards. He finished the year with an average of 3.4 turnovers per game. He also had some forgettable matches, like when he missed eight free throws against Temple or scored only two points in SU’s loss to Michigan on Saturday.But at times, Carter-Williams was spectacular. In Syracuse’s 61-50 win over Indiana in the Sweet 16, he scored 24 points on 9-of-19 shooting. For the whole NCAA Tournament, Carter-Williams shot 44.4 percent from the field.Carter-Williams improved as the season wore on. And the more he improved, the more success Syracuse had.“It’ll be a month that I’ll never forget,” Carter-Williams said. “I think we accomplished some really great things. A lot of people didn’t think we’d make it this far. We had high expectations for ourselves. We’re just real disappointed.”Lasting through the entire season, though, was the inconsistency of Syracuse’s offense. While the Orange’s defense was always strong, its offense could never quite catch up.In Syracuse’s 10 losses, the Orange shot 38.4 percent from the field and 26.4 percent from the arc. In Syracuse’s 30 wins, though, it shot 45.7 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from the perimeter.“Our offense struggled this year,” Boeheim said. “The only game we lost where we played well on offense was at Marquette. That was the only game we lost where we played pretty well on offense.”While Syracuse’s offense struggled, its defense was dominant, especially in the NCAA Tournament. Some of the best teams in the country, including Indiana and Marquette, looked completely lost against the Orange’s 2-3 zone defense — which became the hot topic of the NCAA Tournament.Syracuse’s opponents in the tournament shot only 31.1 percent from the field and 19.1 percent from the arc. But the Orange’s defense could only carry it so far before Michigan’s offense scored eight 3-pointers on Saturday — six in the first half — allow the Wolverines to move on to the national championship and send Syracuse home.Still, the Orange made it to the Final Four after finishing the regular season 1-4 with a lackluster offense.“Everybody kind of counted us out,” Cooney said. “We came together as a group and really believed in ourselves. No one picked us to be here, but we got here. It shows a lot about our team and the character we have.”As he spoke quietly in a room off of the locker room Saturday, Boeheim said he didn’t discuss his team’s “limitations” during the season because he didn’t want it to look like he was giving himself credit. He said his players were the ones who made an improbable run to the Final Four possible.With all of the challenges Syracuse encountered, the Orange’s season ended in a place few expected it to.Said Boeheim: “What they’ve done, I think, is incredible.” Comments Related Stories Waiting Games: Three things to look for in Syracuse’s offseasonLOST IN THE MOMENT: Familiar poor shooting dooms Orange 61-56 in Final Four loss to MichiganCohen: Triche, Southerland leave Syracuse with mixed legaciesFair provides Syracuse with another remarkable performance in season-ending loss to MichiganDespite size advantage, Syracuse dominated on glass in loss to Michigancenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more