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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Big Ten fretwork. A helpful commenter pointed out an interesting thread on the Big Ten Network taking place at USCHO. There are conflicting accounts about how well channel availability is going. One guy claims to be an insider...

Had a meeting with Big Ten Network President Mark Silverman last night.
...and says things are going swimmingly...
You'll be surprised as to how widespread the network is going to be. Their affiliate sales are going really well, and MANY cable systems are picking up the channel. With over 4 million Big Ten alumni in the country, there is an actual demand for this channel.
though they're on the down low at the moment:
And to answer your questions...

1. None have announced, MANY have agreed. (Thank Fox for pre-existing distribution channels and relationships)
2. Most likely digital for the time being, with a possibility of Big Ten markets having it on basic. (for example, digital in New York City and basic in Lafayette, Indiana)
Unfortunately, someone called up the Big Ten Network and got cold water thrown on them:
I had a long talk with a person at the BTN yesterday. She even went as far as to get some more information and call me back.

None of what I heard was very good. I can't have a dish where I live -- her answer was go to a sports bar when you want to watch something! I have over $5000 invested in my TV system and I am supposed to go to a smoky sports bar

I have been told by TW of SC that they have no interest in putting the BTN on its service.

She told me that a non league football game might be on ESPN Game Plan, but it would have to be an away game for the BT team. She said that ABC will still do splint regional broadcasts and the BT game SHOULD be on ESPN or the Duce. However the Big 12 just got an agreement with ESPN to show football on Saturday nights. Same deal for basketball as it pertains to Full court.
... She inferred to me that TW really has no interest in the BTN unless it is in the BT "footprint"
TW = Time Warner. SC = ??? Southern California? South Carolina?

The initial thought in my head is that the guy who's meeting with the network president gets told a lot of cheerful things to keep morale up that may or may not be true. Given the struggles ESPNU, CSTV, and the NFL Network have had I can't imagine a regional sports network with little in the way of compelling programming (wooo Indiana-Minnesota!) demanding 50% more than the freakin' NFL is going to get anywhere. The only question is how viciously the network plays hardball and how badly out of market fans get jacked up. Michigan is unlikely to be affected since even their games against conference dregs usually end up somewhere on the ABC sports hydra; State, on the other hand...

Public opinion, if the internet is any indication, is quickly turning against the BTN. When it was announced I had a chat with Orson about it; in said chat Orson put on his Oliver Stone hat and envisioned the Big Ten cutting off national access to Big Ten sports in favor of a regional ghetto high in the 200s no one gets or watches. I haughtily dismissed his concerns as far fetched. No one would be that stupid, right? Well, we are talking about a conference whose commissioner thought it a good idea to call SEC teams unscrupulous puppy killers in public after his two premiere teams had just been waxed unmercifully. So, yeah. The Big Ten might be that stupid. All I know is that if I am wandering into a sports bar this year to watch anything other than hockey, the conference has gotten too big for its britches and Jim Delaney should be shot into the sun.

Three three three. Beilein must have had a press conference or something, because a week after the proposed change in the three point line became public knowledge the Ann Arbor News, Free Press, Detroit News, and Daily all have articles on it. The News breaks out a useful graphic:

Why was the international line not judged sufficient? Odd.

I've been in favor of moving the line back for a long time. See this post from last February:
A quick glance at Big Ten Wonk's statistics reveals that over a third (34.3%) of all shots launched in the Big Ten are (high-variance, probably ill-chosen) threes. By comparison, fewer than 20% of shots in the NBA are three-pointers. No doubt there are a multitude of reasons for this--lack of dudes like Lebron or Kobe who can drive with impunity, the tendency of college teams to pack the lane--but foremost among them is the three point line, which is almost close enough to make any two-point shot a bad one. Let's leave the kiddie line in high schools and obsolete the term "NBA three." Please.
So I'm happy about the change, though I'm less happy than I would be if we hadn't just hired a coach who loves to shoot the three. Beilein was tacitly against the change when asked:
"I'm an if it's not broken, don't fix it type of guy," Beilein said. "But most of my contemporaries felt this was a good move, and it wasn't a battle that I needed to win. ... We can adapt -- there is no question about it."

Many of Beilein's drills already involve shooting from a variety of distances, so the likely change may not be a major disruption. He also insisted Wednesday that the perception that his team relies primarily on the three-pointer is overblown.

"Absolutely," he said. "We've had games where we didn't shoot that many threes and we drove the ball and back-doored and scored most of our baskets inside -- far more baskets inside the arc.

"We mix it up pretty much. We try and do what the best way to win would be."
Though I am so totally in love with him, this is spin. It's clear the college three-point line was broken. When over a third of your shots are threes, something's wrong. Also, though Beilein attempts to downplay the importance of the three in his offense, Kenpom calls him a liar. (Perhaps this is not fair to Kenpom. Fine: reality calls him a liar.)


The last two years approximately half of West Virginia's field goal attempts have been threes. Michigan will be hurt more than most other teams by the change; Beilein will either have to adapt his style to take fewer or live with lower percentages. I think there's evidence he's willing to do the former. In discussions of the 1-3-1 zone he's implied strongly that he's not married to any one particular style of play. As a guy who's dragged himself up through the coaching ranks he's had to be flexible and innovative; one way to do this was to attack a failing in the rules by jacking up all sorts of threes. If that's less broken he'll exploit it less.

To be fair, Beilein does have a point about the sorts of threes his team takes: many aren't exactly toes on the line. He has his kids practice from the NBA line and in the game many of the shots from the outside are from the outside, a foot or three behind the existing line. The Daily:
Beilein said he didn't think the new line would make much of a difference anyway, even when first implemented. He said many players already shoot from the new distance, and some even shoot better from farther out because they have a better follow through on those shots.

Beilein already uses the NBA 3-point line in practices to help ensure his players don't get locked into shooting from only a few spots. And he said he would gradually adjust to using the new distance, but won't worry about it until after next season.
Bottom line: expect a negative effect but I don't think it will be pronounced.

Etc.: Jerome Jackson got signed by the Browns(!). Good for him; wonder why it took the coaches so long to break him out during the Year of Infinite Pain. Baseball still swatting.