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Thursday Morning Brews: Youth and Vigor

Football recruiting rolls along, Jim Harbaugh faces challenges in 2017, and the B1G Tournament starts this afternoon.

NCAA Football: Michigan-Spring Game Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Thursday, folks. Yesterday’s opening games in the B1G Tournament saw Penn. State top Nebraska in Game 1 by a score of 76-67. Nebraska trailed the entire game until they hit a late three to send it to overtime. Alas, the Nittany Lions proved to be too much for the Huskers, and Penn. State pulled away for the victory. In Game 2, Rutgers bested Ohio St. by a score of 66-57. Penn. State will now move on to face Michigan State this afternoon and Rutgers will face Northwestern later tonight. In this morning’s Brews, we have a quick look at Michigan’s match-up with Illinois that is supposed to get underway at Noon today (BTN). We also have recruiting news and a look ahead at what Jim Harbaugh needs to do when the 2017 season gets underway.

Let’s hit the links:

Michigan and Illinois are scheduled to tip off in a couple hours (12 PM, BTN) in what will be the first game of the B1G Tournament for both teams. Michigan comes in having won six of their last eight, and look to potentially improve their seeding before Selection Sunday. The Wolverines are currently an 8 seed, according to bracket aggregator Illinois has won five of their last eight, and are coming off a narrow loss to Rutgers on the road, but the Illini have work to do if they want to make the NCAA Tournament. currently projects them in the First Four Out. The Wolverines and Illini split the season series, with both teams winning the games taking place on their home courts. Illinois bested Michigan 85-69 on January 11th (in what appears to have been the nadir of Michigan’s season). Michigan returned the favor just ten days later, topping the Illini 66-57 in what was a gritty game at Crisler. The winner of today’s match-up will face Purdue tomorrow at Noon (ESPN).

Alston Orji, a 2018 LB recruit, recently received an offer from Michigan and expects to take a hard look at the Wolverines, reports Josh Newkirk at Scout ($). The 6’2” 225lbs prospect is a Top-150 recruit in the 247 Composite and holds offers from the likes of LSU, Arkansas, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, and Texas - among others. Orji tells Newkirk that academics will play a big role in his college decision, and he also offered high praise of Michigan’s business school. Orji expects to make a visit “soon” and calls Michigan a “standout school.” Newkirk reports that Orji doesn’t have a set timeline for making his commitment.

Brice Marich recently interviewed ($) four star 2018 prospect, and future best-name bracket finalist, Talanoa Hufanga. Hufanga says that Michigan’s scholarship offer, which was extended back in November, blew his mind. He further said that he was excited to be recruited by a high-level program like Michigan. According to 247Sports, Hufanga is the #30 prospect in the 2018 class and he comes in at #126 in the 247 Composite. It doesn’t appear that he has yet scheduled a visit to Ann Arbor.

Nick Baumgardner recently examined what Michigan is losing to the NFL Draft, and the challenges that Jim Harbaugh faces next season because of it. Continuing success is often hard to achieve in college football, because it necessarily means losing leaders from your roster which forces younger, less experienced players to step up. This will be the reality for Michigan next year, as the program loses 17 players from the 2016 roster - all of whom played important roles on the field last season. Though, as Baumgardner points out, all is not lost. Harbaugh’s recent recruiting success means that there is plenty of talent on the roster, ready to fill the spots vacated by the 17 players lost to graduation and the NFL.

Women’s gymnastics heads to the Big Five Meet at the University of Iowa this weekend. The outcome of the meet will determine the regular season B1G champion. Michigan comes into the meet with two regular season conference championships (2013 & 2015), and will have to best host Iowa in order to make it three. Penn. State, Rutgers, and Minnesota are the other schools that will be represented at the meet. The Wolverines head to Iowa City looking to bounce back from a narrow defeat (.050) at the hands of #1 Oklahoma last weekend. The meet will be broadcast on a tape delay by BTN.

John Beilein remains in second place by a slim margin in the Coaches for Charity Challenge. Matt Painter of Purdue currently leads. The challenge runs through Saturday and people can vote once per day. The winning coach will see $100,000 donated to the charity of their choice. Beilein is competing for the ChadTough Foundation. The other finalists will receive $15,000 for their charities. Keep voting, folks! Go Blue.