3/18/2011 – Michigan 2, Western Michigan 5 – 25-10-4
3/19/2011 – Michigan 4, Notre Dame 2 - 26-10-4, third place
So… hockey. I went down to the Joe on Friday, sat directly behind the goal where Michigan shot twice, and saw Western Michigan score four goals in the (a?) second as Michigan got thumped embarrassingly. They went out and won the next afternoon against Notre Dame but even that win over a solid team seemed to bode unwell—Michigan was outshot 44-23. It was only Shawn Hunwick going ape that prevented an 0-2 weekend that would have provided a sad counterpoint to the basketball team's overachieving.
Depending on the events of this weekend we'll look back at the CCHA finals as a hiccup or the omen that spelled doom, and since our bracket is a team we split with earlier in the season and almost definitely BC it's probably going to be the latter. Getting outshot 2-1 and surviving on a goal from Jeff Rohrkemper of all people does not seem like a recipe for tournament success. Right now I find it very hard to believe Michigan will get to the Frozen Four unless Hunwick is as insane as he was against ND.
Deblois runs train. Derek Deblois was extremely fortunate not to get kicked out of the Western game after taking two dumb boarding penalties. I wouldn't have complained if he got the boot on the first one, and I think he was saved on the second by the fact that he was boarding the opponent into a linesman, not the actual boards. If the linesman wasn't in the way that could have been extremely ugly. Western scored on both power plays; Deblois justly sat out the ND game.
Penalty kill debacle. WMU was 3/6 on the PP and Michigan is now 25th nationally on the PK. I have no idea why. Michigan returned the entirety of what was a top five PK last year and now they're turrible. I think Hunwick's size is a major factor, as he's just not going to block nearly as many open shots he can't see as a big guy, but last year a lot of opponent power plays were spent trying to dig the puck out of their own end.
If Michigan's going to do anything in the tourney they're going to have to stay out of the box. A penalty filled game will not be to their benefit. Maybe not so much against UNO's meh PP, but BC is sixth and will gut Michigan like a fish if they take dumb penalties.
Goodbye, fourth line? Now is the time—last week might have been the time—to consign Michigan's dodgy fourth line to the bench except in select situations. I'd throw Winnett down there and use Lynch as the defensive responsibility on the midget line of Treais-Sparks-Someone, but Red has always given Winnett more time than it seems he warrants with his play so I don't think we'll see that. I'm guessing if we do see a short bench it won't be until the second round as M tries to keep players fresh.
Atmosphere. Kudos to the Western fans for turning out en masse at the Joe. The Friday game featured student sections chanting at each other*, and while I wished things were a little more clever there was more atmosphere for College Hockey at the Joe than there had been since the Chris Kunitz-led Ferris State team played Michigan for the CCHA title in a packed building. It's too bad for the league that the two new powers are fan-deficient ND and Miami; if Ferris and Western were making the Joe on the regular the CCHA finals would be far less depressing.
*[I wish the Michigan students had responded to the "why so quiet" chant with "we are losing," and followed that with "this is why you go to Western," though I'm not sure how you chant-ify the last bit.]
Please don't go full Roy. I'm a little worried about Shawn Hunwick's tendency to get punchy when things aren't going well. He took a critical penalty earlier in the year and could have gotten one in a scrum midway through the second. When he's on he's very good; against Western it seemed like the Broncos got in his head and affected his performance.
Big Ten Section
In case you were wondering about other Big Ten teams adding hockey, Illinois says no, Nebraska says no, Iowa says no (sort of, no quote), and I'm pretty sure you don't even have to bother asking Northwestern, Indiana, or Purdue. If you're wondering about CCHA teams packing it in, they seem pretty sanguine about it:
Are the non-Big Ten teams worried about their future? Let’s see: Miami: Nope. Bowling Green: Not at all. Lake Superior State and Ferris State: Nah (Great quotes from LSSU coach Jim Roque). Western Michigan: Not really. Minnesota State Mankato: Not entirely. Notre Dame: Maybe just a tiny bit. Alabama-Huntsville: Cautiously optimistic? Northern Michigan: Not “crying” about it. Nebraska-Omaha: Not worried, just not too happy. (Pretty much everybody is saying the same things. I’d imagine (hope?) we’ll have a much better idea about a plan after the American Hockey Coaches Association meetings over the summer.)
That ND article also has quotes from Jeff Jackson about trying to get scheduling arrangements with the Big Ten teams. Michigan "has obviously become a rival" and Michigan State "is also an option." LSSU's Jim Roque points out that they're talking about one home series a year they won't draw as well for since no one turns out to see OSU, something Playing For Stuff would entirely replace. I cannot emphasize enough how awesome Playing For Stuff would be.
The Big Ten Network is committing to "at least 40" hockey games as part of the new arrangement. That's a third of the conference schedule and approximately two per week over the course of the season, which is way less than I'd like but way more than they're doing now. The 40 number suggests they won't be moving start times for TV.
Unexpectedly Long Recruiting Section
Feel free to file this under "I'll believe it when I see it," but highly touted forward Max Domi (yes that Domi) is apparently headed for the USHL and then college:
“I played junior but (Max’s mother) Leanne and I want our kid to go to college,” said Tie Domi, Max’s celebrity father. “It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but for us, it was the right decision.”
Young Domi, 15, was expected to be one of the top choices in the OHL draft, and has informed junior teams in the province to pass on him. The decision by Domi shouldn’t be considered a shot at junior hockey… The real shot in all this is that Domi is bypassing tier-two junior hockey in Ontario to play next season in the United States Hockey League, where he will finish his last year of high school.
Absolutely no one believes this is actually going to happen, but if Domi doesn't go to Kingston or one of the don't-draft-me-whoops-I'll-report spots (Kitchener, London, Windsor) then maybe it's not a front. Domi visited Michigan about a month ago, FWIW, and is supposed to be highly interested. If Domi actually goes to college and actually picks Michigan he'd be a 2012 recruit.
Insert link to rabble-rousing article about how messed up the major junior draft system is here. Also wonder why the hell USA Hockey would agree to this:
Hockey Canada and USA Hockey have an agreement that borders on the obscene when it comes to restricting the rights of young people. Fearful it will lose its best prospects to college hockey, the Canadian League has convinced Hockey Canada to prohibit any 16-year-old Canadian player, in conjunction with USA Hockey, from playing in the USHL unless they appeal to the National Appeals Committee and demonstrate "special circumstances" or move there with a parent. What makes it so obscene is the CHL opens its arms to American-born 16-year-olds and has no problem with doing it, but insists on making it a one-way street.
Canada forces their players who want to play college to play in Junior A—the iffy circuit that Burlon, Caporusso, and most other Canadian players in college toiled in—instead of the vastly higher quality USHL. I'm confused as to what their leverage is here. If USA Hockey welcomed them, what recourse would Canada have? They've already set their phasers to maximum predation.
Why is this a one-way street? I have no idea, but I emailed USA Hockey in case they do.
(HT: Western College Hockey)
BONUS random scouting report: AmericanDream is probably the most connected and reliable poster on HFBoards when it comes to exceedingly young American hockey players (tallest midget jokes apply but "reliable message board poster" is about as good as it gets when we're talking about 16 year old hockey players), and he provided a scouting report on recent Michigan commit Alex Talcott. Talcott is the only '95 commit Michigan has who isn't trying out for (or has already made) the NTDP but it's not for a lack of talent:
Kind of shocked that Alex Talcott did not get an invite as well. extremely gifted player who should go very high for this years OHL draft. The kid is a fire ball on skates, absolutely electric and physical. Some say he will go in the OHL draft's first round along with Compher (both University of Michigan star recruits).
Not sure if Talcott said he is going to the OHL so dont even bother, but if I could make a list of the top 5 forward eligible for this group it would be: Compher, Fasching, Shea, Brian Williams, and Talcott as the top 5 imo with Hayden, Guertler, and Allen right there as well.
Bold mine; those guys are current commits. I doubt that Talcott is already set on the OHL since he just committed two weeks ago, but stranger things have happened and as mentioned Michigan is already forward-heavy in the 2013 class.
California OT prospect Erik Magnuson has recently seen his recruitment take off with offers from Arizona, Miami, Michigan, Oregon, Stanford, and UCLA among others. The La Costa Canyon High offensive lineman's stature lives up to his last name standing at 6-foot-6, and 275-pounds. Here's a look at his film and what he had to say about Michigan.
TOM: For anyone that hasn't seen you play can you describe yourself and your game?
ERIK: I'm quick, athletic, big, and aggressive. I just love to compete no matter who my opponent is.
TOM: Since you're from California how interested are you in Michigan, and how much do you know about Michigan?
ERIK: I'm really interested. I've never been there, but I know the coaches from before and I love them.
TOM: You knew them from when they were at San Diego State?
ERIK: Yeah, I know them from there. I feel like Coach Funk is a great coach and really knows a lot about the offensive line. I know him the best, and talk to him a lot. Coach Hoke is just the man. He took me in when I was a sophomore and just really treated me well. He was always true with me and never fed me any BS.
TOM: Again to go back to the California thing, is distance going to be an issue for you?
ERIK: I'm not sure yet, because I've only visited west coast schools, but I don't really think so. I know my family will still come to games no matter where I go. Also, I've spent a lot of time in Canada so I know what cold weather is all about. The weather doesn't affect me at all; I prefer it actually.
TOM: Does that mean that you're going to try to get out to Michigan any time soon?
ERIK: I'm not really sure about any time soon because I'm really busy with AAU basketball and football training and camps. It's hard to find time, but I'm for sure going to use one of my official visits to Michigan.
TOM: To use an official that means you have to wait until the season starts. Are you planning on waiting until signing day to make your decision, or do you want to get it done sooner?
ERIK: I haven't decided yet if I want to wait until signing day, but I'm definitely going to wait until I'm comfortable and 100% sure. I just have to weigh out all my options and do what is best for me in the end.
TOM: With that being said, and I know it's early, but do you have a top list yet?
ERIK: My list of top five changes about every week with new offers coming and what not, but Michigan is always in it. Right now it's Oregon, USC, Michigan, Miami, and Oklahoma.
TOM: When you go to evaluate these schools to make your final decision what are you looking for?
ERIK: A winning program where I feel like I will have a good chance to get a lot of playing time. And like I said I want someone that I feel comfortable with, it's going to be a lot of how I feel.
Meta. Here's a screenshot of a blog taking a screenshot of itself:
I wish I had thought of that. That's UMHoops. After a season of coverage they're gently prodding people to click the donate button. I did, then checked my email to find that I had received a donation exactly the same size as the one I'd just made. I promise this will happen to you if you chip in.
If you promise to be gentle, I will gingerly shake your hand. Congratulations to wrestler Kellen Russell, who won the national championship at 141 pounds and was the primary reason Michigan finished 15th at the national championships. He beat Boris Novachkov—no doubt sent by a Russian oligarch to destroy democracy—of Cal in the final.
Russell went 38-0 against an insane gauntlet of opponents. The Big Ten featured five of the top six wrestlers in his weight class. Russell beat all of them, beat a bunch of them again in the conference tourney, beat a bunch of them again again in the national tournament, and finally defeated Russia's nefarious plans in the final. Statistically it's the best season in Michigan wrestling history even if it came by the slimmest of margins:
It didn’t matter when he heard his ankle pop while he was tied, midway through the championship match and couldn’t put pressure on his leg.
It didn’t matter that it took Russell a combined four overtimes to advance through the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, or that both wins came from the slimmest of margins — a meager 21 seconds of combined riding time, earned by being on top of your opponent.
Russell returns for another go-around next year.
We are talking about practice. Normally the start of spring practice would get banner headlines around here, but something something basketball something so here's this:
I was slightly disturbed by the bit where they run through the dong forest:
Whatever happened to family values? /boren'd
Draft tea leaves. Michigan had their pro day, during which Jonas Mouton showed relatively well and Martell Webb showed at 274(!) pounds. Commence retroactive Greg Frey assault, though:
G Stephen Schilling did pretty much what everyone expected in Ann Arbor. His athleticism, quick feet and pulling speed continue to entice NFL teams. He looked solid in positional drills, showing he can physically do what he will be called upon to do.
The one issue that showed up during his workout, something not unexpected from watching Schilling on film, was his shaky technique. He often bent at the waist and leaned rather than keeping his feet under him.
I'm not even mad. The Tennessee game was a crazy outlier, a 30-point blowout in which the winning team made no free throws and only attempted one. Surely you cannot find one Tennessee fan on the planet who is complaining about the refereeing in the aftermath. Surely this is the one game ever played in which everyone agrees that—
Tennessee is better than Michigan.
Yeah, I said it. Tennessee is better. It was obvious at the outset that Michigan could not guard Tennessee. They were too slow. They were guarding with their hands and fouling. We were getting past their defenders at will.
Then, about 10 minutes in, we were only up about 5 and we had completely outplayed them. I began to think we may have problems.
Then the refs took over. They called charges if Michigan's players even thought about moving their feet to establish position...which they never did. After four bogus charges (and one legitimate one on them that went uncalled), Tennessee changed its offense. UT no longer drove the ball. They settled or outside shots and pull ups. They missed. A lot. The refs had accomplished their mission. They single-handedly took Tennessee out of its offense. Then Michigan started hitting from outside.
Thanks to the above elements, Michigan went on a run. Tennessee got down. Then Tennessee quit. I'm not excusing that, but given the recent events of the past few days and given that it was abundantly clear from the officiating that UT would not be allowed to win this game, it's understandable. So a loss turned into a blowout loss.
Thank God college basketball is over. I won't watch another game in this tournament because it's ridiculously subjective and corrupt. I just don't know if I'll care enough to watch any of it next year. It's like scripted reality TV. Can't wait for football.
That is amazing. I love this man for posting this thing on the Tennessee message board that had the nice story about Beilein. He has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that there is no possible game in which fans of the loser will not blame the refs.
Exit Pearl. Bruce Pearl has been fired at Tennessee for lying to NCAA investigators. There were some minor recruiting violations and one extremely minor violation of the bump rule, too, but if Pearl just says "my bad" in the room he gets away with a minor suspension a la Izzo/Calhoun. Instead he lies and then fails to report the bump violation and he's out.
Is this Tennessee doing a 180 from earlier in the year when they seemed determined to hold on to Pearl at all costs? It doesn't look like it. Fans are apoplectic. Wes Rucker tweeted that anyone who thinks Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton wants a new coach "is wrong"; that link contains one of those impossibly long and plausible-seeming emails that get batted around the internet but can never be confirmed suggesting the same. Meanwhile, FOX's Jeff Goodman says that UT's hand was forced:
Hamilton — according to sources — was recently informed that the NCAA would be coming down hard on Pearl and he opted to cut ties.
Add another notch on Bylaw 10.1's belt.
The obvious comparison is to Tressel, who voluntarily extended his suspension to five games as if his violation is on par with those of his players. Media still isn't buying this, especially if the suspension only applies to gameday. In Tressel's corner: he didn't lie to anyone's face and he didn't follow up his transgression with an otherwise minor violation that proved he'd learned nothing, then score another violation in March—ie, now. Not so much in his corner: Pearl's troubles stem from a minor recruiting violation acquired in the pursuit of a player he didn't actually get; Tressel covered up violations that made five important players ineligible through an entire season, failed to disclose the problem four separate times, and duped the NCAA into making them eligible for the Sugar Bowl. I think Tressel's violation is considerably worse than Pearl's but that could just be a zillion losses talking.
Here's one bet on supplemental. Notre Dame terrorbeast Michael Floyd got hit with something between a garden-variety and Kevin Grady "Mickey Mouse is a dog" frightening DUI, getting pulled over with a .19 BAC after running a stop sign. That would warrant a game or two suspension at most places. At Notre Dame they have some jackbooted bureaucrats called the Office of Residence Life who are like every evil movie dean ever, though. Pot possession? Gone for the year… or out for the Purdue game*. Drankin'? No big deal or season-long suspension.
Which will it be? Well, that last link may be the most relevant: TE Will Yeatman got booted for a year for being one of 37 underage ND students ticketed at a house party. He had picked up a DUI in January for driving down the sidewalk with a .11 BAC. Floyd has not one but two underage drinking citations in his past and by exceeding .15 BAC has been charged with a more serious version of drunk driving. If precedent holds Brian Kelly is going to watch his best player get suspended by the dread Office and head to the NFL's supplemental draft.
*[I could not for the life of me find definitive word on what Ragone got hit with, but the NCAA says he played in every game except ND's opener.]
Just screwin' around for pi day. It turns out Zack Novak doesn't know 62 digits of pi:
He does know more than you do.
Etc.: Jalen Rose makes it very clear for anyone who still has trouble parsing Jalen Rose's very clear sentences. Ohio State rabble-rouser Bruce Hooley gets insta-fired for his comments about Tressel, and my reaction is admiration—people in Ann Arbor itself still have to deal with miserable schticky losers, let alone Detroit. Eamonn Brennan says Michigan fans have a lot to look forward to. Boston College fans shipped to St. Louis as four seed UNH gets to play at home are on-board with ditching the current regional format. The Bylaw Blog argues that anyone with a problem with the NCAA should really look at the NBA and NFL for providing zero alternatives. Nebraska won't add hockey even though they've got a multipurpose arena opening in 2013. The culprit is the usual: Title IX, a law made in a different world. In this one 57% of college students are women.
As expected, the Big Ten was all like "yoink," announcing it will begin play in 2013 when Penn State moves into its new arena. I laid out the reasons I think this is a good move for college hockey as a whole (as long as measures to prevent smaller CCHA teams from folding are taken) in an earlier post, but there are still a ton of variables to work out.
Western college hockey schools will probably look like this in 2013:
- North Dakota
- St. Cloud
- Bemidji State
- Colorado College
- Michigan Tech
With three of college hockey's premiere schools and another three or four regular tourney contenders the WCHA will be fine. The two Big Ten schools finished fifth and seventh this year and were swept out of the playoffs in the first round. As far as the product on the ice goes, they'll be fine.
- Notre Dame
- Western Michigan
- Ferris State
- Lake Superior State
- Northern Michigan
As long as ND and Miami stick around it's a viable conference with at least two bids every year and possibly a third when WMU/Ferris/Northern are having a good year. Finances might be tighter but I'm not sure how much of a difference it will make—it's not like anyone in the CCHA was getting more than peanuts from FSD.
Bowling Green, FWIW, seems to be past the bit where they threaten their lone national championship program:
"Our member schools have a commitment to hockey, so we'll figure this out."
Christopher was quick to reiterate that the news does not shake Bowling Green's commitment to its hockey program.
"When we went through the process a couple of years ago, we put our stake in the ground that we were going to sponsor a strong hockey program," he said. "I'm not concerned about this news affecting the future of hockey at Bowling Green.
With eight teams everyone in the league can play four against each other and still maintain 28-game conference schedules, or they can cut it back a bit.
- Michigan State
- Ohio State
- Penn State
The Big Ten has announced teams will play four games against the other five opponents, leaving 14-16 nonconference games available depending on whether or not the Big Ten takes advantage of exemptions for travelling to Alaska.
Despite small school fans wailing about how they're doomed, Michigan is the only(!) Big Ten school to make the tournament the last two years. The year before that Ohio State was the only addition, squeezing into the last at large slot and getting clunked by BU. You have to go back to 2008 to find more than two Big Ten teams in the tourney*.
*[Michigan was a 1 and made the Frozen Four; Minnesota, MSU, and Wisconsin were all threes. Minnesota went out right away, and the other two made it to the second round.]
Conference tourney: how does it do?
WCHA teams currently play in St. Paul. CCHA teams currently play in Detroit. Big Ten teams would probably do neither. They could alternate between the X, the Joe, and… uh… Pittsburgh I guess. Or they could put it in Chicago, a location that's as close to central as you can get and features throngs of Big Ten grads.
Or… you know… the thing is… right now the CCHA tourney is a three week affair. With six teams you could play three best two-of-three series on home ice. That provides 10-15 probably-sold-out games. A four-team tourney after a first round provides 8-10 games, four of which are going to be at a neutral-ish site hosting doubleheaders. It seems like abandoning the neutral ice would provide more money and a better championship structure.
College hockey is addicted to hypothetically neutral ice, but will it be enough to overcome doubling your playoff revenue?
TV: Yes, please
Hockey loves HD and I'm betting most Michigan hockey fans used to cameras from the 70s that make everything look underwater almost gasped the first time they saw a BTN hockey production. I remember it myself—a road game against OSU with a picture so sharp it could skate. The main asset from the fan's perspective is the prospect of ten road games on BTN.
Getting to ten road games is kind of a hike, though. Basketball teams rarely play on Friday, so you can televise a Friday game of the week, but what happens on Saturday at 8:00? What do you do when two teams are playing simultaneously? There are three options:
- Many games are not televised on BTN.
- BTN deploys its bonus feeds.
- Games move for TV.
#2 seems ideal but probably costs more money than it brings in. #1 could make the TV situation worse than it is right now.
#3 would be weird but I think it's manageable. They can probably massage the schedule such that there are rarely three conference series on the same weekend. Unfortunately, getting two games on Friday would require one starting at 7:30 Eastern, and the other at 9 Central. That's going to hurt attendance.
We might start seeing a fair number of series that go Saturday-Sunday—a quick look at the basketball schedule doesn't show anything pressing most Sundays and even most Saturdays could hypothetically squeeze two hockey games in. If you have at least two teams playing nonconference series every week you could hypothetically broadcast every conference game if the only overlap is on Saturday.
The conferences above seem viable to me, but they might not be done shuffling. I'm not sure how much credence to put in rumors that the WCHA will seek to poach Miami and ND since those teams are very far away from the WCHA core (Miami's shortest road trip would be 681 miles to Michigan Tech, longer than Miami's longest current conference trip) and travel costs would seem to eat up more money than either team would get from increased attendance at their nice, new, very small arenas.
I don't think the CCHA is going to take another look at Huntsville since the same ruthless cost-benefit equation that saw UAH denied when UNO left still applies, but when Niagara left the CHA they wanted to get into the CCHA and only grudgingly accepted entrance into Atlantic Hockey. AH has a cap on the number of scholarships you can award significantly below the NCAA's max of 18, and as a result a Niagara program good enough to twice get NCAA at-large consideration has fallen off the national radar. Niagara would bolt for the CCHA in a hot second if the conference would take them. If the CCHA wanted another team, Robert Morris would be the most likely candidate. They're located in Pittsburgh.
The most likely outcome seems to be the status quo above, but I'd watch those AH schools.
If we don't get that AH move, college hockey finally has some spots for new teams to come in. I'm not sure any Big Ten teams would add hockey without a crazy rich guy donation similar to Penn State's but there's been a steady stream of smaller schools that start up, find that there's nowhere to go, and then evaporate. Now you might see a Wayne State stick in the CCHA.
Let's play for stuff
The FA Cup
One of the most exciting aspects for Michigan hockey is the prospect of getting 14-16 nonconference games, allowing Michigan to play BC, BU, North Dakota, and other teams they have a history with on the regular. On the other hand, I've played too much Football Manager to not look on that massive schedule gap as an opportunity to add silverware to college hockey. This seems like a fantastic opportunity to add a cup competition for Michigan-ish schools.
Unfortunately, NCAA scheduling regulations mean that everyone always tries to play the maximum number of games and that makes structuring a competition between seven teams awkward, as does the geography, as does the presumably very large CCHA conference schedule. We can either add BGSU or Notre Dame, or both and boot Tech since Tech has the GLI and is always terrible.
Assuming the latter:
1. Create groups of four by splitting the Big Ten teams and the UP teams and dividing the other four up randomly. Example group: Michigan, Lake Superior, Ferris State, BGSU.
2. Michigan and MSU play home and home series against the non-UP teams early in the season and alternate home and away with whichever UP team is in their bracket yearly.
3. The CCHA teams set up their scheduling such that teams in the same group play an early conference series. In the example above, LSSU-FSU, LSSU-BG, and FSU-BG would all take place before Christmas.
4. At the end of this process you have four teams having played each other round-robin twice. Pick the top two teams World Cup-style. These teams move on to the Joe to play a traditional college hockey tournament that probably replaces the GLI. (Issue: what about teams not selected? They wouldn't want to leave two games on the table but the only teams that would have an opening are the other teams in the tourney, most of which are other teams in their conference. Maybe you could get the NCAA to exempt the finals? This would lead to more of these tourneys, which would be cool.)
- Assuming no more GLI, Michigan and MSU spend six nonconference games playing old conference foes.
- Noncon-restricted CCHA teams spend two games each against MSU and UM, which helps mitigate losing those old rivalries.
- The GLI gets way more interesting.
- You're creating a banner that means something.
I know Tech started the GLI in the 50s and they think it's really important but they've been so, so terrible for so long that the tournament's way less than it should be.
3/20/2011 – Michigan 71, Duke 73 – 21-14, 9-9 Big Ten, season over
This is the point where the author is obliged to disclaim any belief in moral victories, whatever that means.
Wikipedia's article on the concept is a poorly-written stub that goes right to the sports definition before making a couple of flaccid thrusts in the direction of applicability outside of sportswriting disclaimers. Those thrusts are getting crushed to death by rocks but keeping the land in the family, dying at the Alamo, or dying at Thermopylae and seem to indicate the anonymous author has never heard of a Pyrrhic victory. That last link goes to a much, much better article that indirectly confirms that "moral victory" has no currency amongst the sort of people—scientists, historians, television fans—that make for good wikipedia articles. Moral victories, and disclaiming them, appear to be the exclusive domain of people who have just watched their sport-ball team exceed expectations just enough to suffer an agonizing loss.
After disclaiming the moral victory, the author then explains why he feels better about the sport-ball team in question than he did before the sport-ball match in which his team was defeated agonizingly, which kind of seems like exactly what a moral victory is. This makes the disclaimer the equivalent of "I'm not a racist, but…": a lie meant to deflect criticism.
I hate the concept of moral victories and denounce anyone who accepts them. Truly, the only thing worth striving for is numerical superiority, and claiming mitigating factors when you have not achieved numerical superiority is indicative of a diseased mind and probably communism. Love it or leave it.
That said, we totally just beat Duke.
Not, like, you know, when it comes to numbers or anything, but definitely when it comes to not embodying class privilege and being able to parse sentences about Grant Hill's family. Also almost in the numbers. In fact, if Evan Smotrycz was allowed to exist within three feet of a Duke player on a basketball court, we totally won. I will see you all in the Moral Sweet Sixteen, where we will play Butler despite the fact they're in the actual Sweet Sixteen—that's how crazy that Butler game was.
John Beilein had Michigan sing the Victors after the Duke game. I renounce my renouncing of moral victories. We are moral national champs.
I think that last bit might actually be true: in an "exceeded expectations" tournament Michigan is a one-seed. A quick glance at the Sweet Sixteen reveals chalk, the occasional mid-major expected to be good in-conference that pulled out a couple wins at the right time, the eleventh Big East qualifier, Florida State, and a couple of powers bouncing off down years. The only competition comes from the two MWC teams, San Diego State and BYU, and Ohio State, and none of those teams were responding to a victory over a hated rival by saying "too bad this isn't likely to help score an NIT bid."
I've been searching for a Michigan equivalent and in my memory can only come up with the '97 national title team. Unless there was a basketball team that outdid this year's—unlikely—I think you have to go back to 1969 to pull another team that so wildly exceeded what was expected of them*.
So no one's mad. No one's thinking about the other places in which the sun shines and the band plays and men laugh, because though Michigan's Casey struck out on a last-ditch floater no one expected to get anything out of this season other than yet another test of how much grim tolerance you can squeeze out of your pores.
We got much more than that: wins over Michigan State, a tourney bid, a grisly human sacrifice in the first round, and something that was most definitely not a moral victory in the second. We got an Aneurysm Of Leadership, a triple double, Drunken Sailor Assault Basketball, epic Smotrycz wallpaper, a genocidal campaign against backboards, Zack Novak alternate universe posterization, "Get off my court," Tim Hardaway mouthpiece thousand words, Hardaway fighting Harris for efficiency supremacy in context (and eventually winning!), Hardaway engaging killswitch, Matt Vogrich elevating himself into a photoshoppable entity (right), Zack Novak fouling out on five attempts to take a charge, and possibly more muppets than the last three football seasons combined.
We got a season, even if numerical superiority was not acquired against Duke. Next year they threaten to create a program here. If people are naturally leery of an '09 repeat, remember this time around slackers will be bled on by Zack Novak.
*[There was probably a point at which a hockey observer went "whoah," but they were so few and far between then that I'm not even sure that counts. The other main candidate is the '06 football team but in the end they were just another Rose Bowl losing team, so I think that puts them in a second tier.]
The engoodening. How does it do? That question is worthy of a post, or a series of posts, but here's a paragraph or two off the cuff anyway.
Engoodening #1: getting Smotrycz most of his minutes at the four. This would be a combination of development from Smotrycz and Horford. This year the only thing worse than having 6'4" Zack Novak guarding enormous leaping machines like Trevor Mbakwe was having Smotrycz do it, so he ended up at the four and Michigan's defense had a hard cap on how good it could be. Michigan was above average in rebounding nationally but click that conference-only box on Kenpom and Michigan turns red and ends up eighth. They're worse (ninth) at defending two-pointers. Getting Horford significant minutes seems like it will improve both numbers since he's easily Michigan's most athletic big. Insert tallest midget joke here.
Engoodening #2: vicious competition at the guard spots. Adding Burke and Brundidge and getting another year of development from floppy-haired assassin Matt Vogrich will put Douglass's minutes under threat and give Michigan an option other than panic when Morris is on the bench. Though I'm not as down on Douglass as the rest of the internet—he consistently draws the other team's top perimeter scorer, though Michigan's propensity to switch screens makes this not quite as impressive as it would be on other teams—he's an obvious target for opposing teams playing pressure defense and very rarely does anything good happen when he attempts to create a shot. Either he'll get better or someone will take his minutes.
Other bits: Jordan Morgan becomes less of a foul machine, Hardaway shoots like he did over the latter half of the season, Darius Morris develops a corner three a-la Richard Hamilton, leaning a bit more on the bench—for perspective, Michigan is actually more starter-dependent(337th in bench minutes*) than they are young(335th)—makes the starters more effective.
*[This is impressively low in a pool of 345 but isn't good for last in the league. It's not even good for second-to-last: OSU and PSU are both lower. If Sullinger and Buford leave OSU could be in for an ugly year; Penn State is going to be atrocious.]
A rocket to Kenpom. If you're wondering what a 30-point bludgeoning and a two point loss at a "semi-away" venue against the #2 team in the country does to your computer rankings, it makes for an implausibly huge leap. Michigan is now #23 on Kenpom, up from 44th before the tournament IIRC. Tennessee lost ten spots in a single game-type substance.
That's still only good for fifth in the league (Purdue, Wisconsin, and OSU are all top ten and Illinois is 17th) but everyone in front of them is getting smashed by graduation and possibly early draft entry. It's still amazing that if you take every possession Michigan played this year, and adjust it for the strength of schedule only 22 teams would expect to do better.
His Old Kentucky Home. I hope this is the last thing I have to say about people who obviously didn't bother watching the Fab Five documentary, but I bet you a dollar Jim Nantz has done this at some point:
It must be awkward for Clark Kellogg to sit next to Nantz as he goes on his righteous crusade without having even the vaguest grasp of the facts. Nantz managed to indict four people who didn't do anything wrong in the eyes of the NCAA and repeat the canard that Rose said anything at all negative about Grant Hill's family, something Grant Hill, Michael Wilbon ("Calvin and Janet Hill were left hanging out there, depicted as anything other than the model parents that they are"), and now Nantz have asserted.
This is literally everything Rose said about Hill's family:
"I was jealous of Grant Hill. He came from a great black family. Congratulations. Your mom went to college and was roommates with Hillary Clinton. Your dad played in the NFL and was a very well-spoken and successful man. I was upset and bitter that my mom had to bust her hump for 20-plus years. I was bitter that I had a professional athlete that was my father that I didn't know. I resented that moreso than I resented him."
In the end this just confirms everything Jalen Rose thought as an 18-year-old—Hill is still the person the world accepts, and asshats like Jim Nantz can't see through the red mist to see that literally the only things Rose said about Hill's family were they were "great," mom went to college, and dad was "well-spoken and successful."
The charitable interpretation is that Nantz is too stupid to parse the above quote, but I don't think that's true.
Morris return reiteration. Just in case:
“Yep,” Morris said when he was asked if he was definitely returning next season.
This echoes what Morris said a week ago, when he said “yeah, I’m here man. I’m not going anywhere.”
Chantel Jennings in the Daily. Matt Vogrich had his car covered in post-its. He cleared off enough to see and left the rest there. Surprise! No one who was zero years old in 1993 wants to talk about the Fab Five. Stu Douglass epic throwdown vs Tennessee. Also more evidence that taking a picture of Tim Hardaway, Jr., is always a good idea:
This past weekend had a few visitors to take in the first spring practice. Moving forward, this coming weekend will be even bigger as Michigan is expecting double digit visitors. Here's a look at how those visits went and who's planning on making it in next weekend. As always you can follow me on Twitter for more updates @TomVH, and email me with any tips or questions at [email protected].
6'6", 220 lbs.
This was Brown's first time up to Ann Arbor so this was a big visit for him to get to know the coaches and environment.
We got up there and went straight to the academic center, we watched practice, and then we got to see the facilities and the Big House. I watched some film and talked about how I would fit in to the defense.
Outside of the facilities, meeting the coaches is usually the biggest part of a first visit and that was the case for Pharaoh.
Coach Mattison was talking about the Ravens and the scheme. He said I would be a rush defensive end, or I could be rushing and dropping back some too. Coach Hoke talked more about academics and the overview of the whole thing. He and my uncle were talking about college life and how to help people transition. I think they're pretty good guys, I feel comfortable with all of them now seeing them in person.
It's still early in the process but this visit did a lot to help Michigan with their recruitment of Brown.
I think I could fit in perfectly with what they were telling me, it was good. I'll probably make my decision in the middle of my season and I might take a few official visits. This visit moved them up on my list though; my interest level went up tremendously. They are at the top of my list for now.
Pharaoh might make it back up to Michigan for the spring game or a game during the season. His top list may end up changing, but this helped move Michigan forward with Brown.
6'6", 315 lbs.
[ed: epic shirt.]
This was also the first time seeing the Michigan facilities up close for Kyle Dodson. Michigan has been making up ground with Kyle for some time, and he was excited to make this trip.
I saw the football facilities and the Big House. We talked with basically all the coaches, and we really got a feel for the place and the surroundings. Coach Funk talked to me about how I would fit in and that they only really have one left tackle right now. They were saying there's a good chance I could play early depending on my work ethic.
Dodson also got a chance to talk to Coach Hoke, but the Big House was what stuck out most to the big lineman.
Coach Hoke is a really nice guy. He talked to me about the tradition and about all the players he coached. But the Big House was the most impressive. I walked in there and it was just amazing. I stood on the M and was thinking I could definitely see myself playing there. When I walked out onto the field I had some hype music that I was singing in my head and it felt good, it was magical.
A lot of what Kyle is looking for comes with comfortability and feeling like he fits in.
This visit really made me know that all those coaches are there for my well being, and they're definitely going to be on my side through my time there. I know for a fact that they all care for me. I kind of want to decide before my season so it won't be a distraction. I'll probably come out with my top list soon, but Michigan is definitely in heavy consideration. They definitely moved up in my mind.
Dodson also said that he will only consider schools that have offered him, and doesn't want to wait for schools to come through past a certain point. Michigan is in really good position with Kyle and he's an outstanding prospect for Michigan's needs.
6'2", 215 lbs
This wasn't the first trip for Royce Jenkins-Stone, but it was an important one. He came up with his friends LB James Ross and DB Terry Richardson. All three were hoping to see more from the new coaches and saw just that.
This visit helped me see how they coach and how the environment changes. I talked to some of the players and asked them what these coaches were like. They said that there's not much yelling and they really treat you like their sons. They help you with your personal stuff more than just football. I think I feel comfortable with them, and I know my mom likes it a lot. She thinks it's a great place for me.
Royce has seen his offer list blow up and has become a national recruit. He plans on taking his time with everything, but this visit definitely helped Michigan.
Yeah, this visit helped Michigan a lot. I didn't think it was that family centered up there. Everyone felt like they were at home, and I know for a fact that none of those coaches are leaving. If I go there none of them are leaving for the three or four years I'm there. I know Terry [Richardson] and James [Ross] felt the same way. I don't know where they're at with everything, but I know they liked it.
Those three recruits, Jenkins-Stone, Ross, and Richardson have seemed to become an area of focus for these coaches and they expressed that on this visit.
Coach Mattison went over film with us and what positions we would be playing. He said they see Biggs [James Ross] as a WILL and they see me at MIKE. They said we're the dream team, me, Terry, and James, and that they really want us.
Like I said Royce has offers from almost everywhere and he plans on checking those schools out. He'll most likely use official visits for the schools that aren't within driving distance and unofficials for the closer schools. He plans on coming out with a top ten before the season, a top five mid season, and then a top three before he decides towards the end of the season. He was also nominated for the US Army All American game, so he may decide then if he gets chosen.
March 24-26th Visitors
These are the names that I have confirmed so far. This list will change as the date gets closer and I confirm more people.
- Kentucky QB Zeke Pike (6'5", 220 lbs): Pike told me he's visiting Michigan this week and will probably be up on Thursday. It's not set in stone yet.
- OL Sid Anvoots (6'4", 285 lbs) Indiana: Visiting this weekend
- OL Chase Deback (6'8", 308 lbs) Michigan: Hoping for an offer from Michigan.
- LB Joe Bolden (6'2", 225 lbs) Ohio: Recently offered by Michigan
- OL Jonah Pirsig (6'9", 300 lbs) Minnesota: Also has a Michigan offer
- TE Pierre Aka (6'4", 250 lbs) Indiana: If Michigan offers he might make his decision on the spot. He's very high on Michigan.
- WR Aloyis Gray (6'3", 165 lbs) Indiana: Teammates with Pierre Aka, he's hoping to get an offer.
- OL DeAndre Herron (6'6", 300 lbs) Indiana: Has offers from Louisville and Toledo, will probably have more soon.
- OL Daron Brown (6'5", 312 lbs) Michigan: Has been up to Michigan before, and is hoping for an offer.
- DB Wayne Morgan (5'11", 188 lbs) New York: Rutgers leads because he's familiar with their program. This visit could be big for Michigan.
- DB Allen Gant (6'1", 182 lbs) Ohio: Recently took a trip up to Ann Arbor and plans on camping this summer.
- DE Mario Ojemudia (6'3", 215 lbs) Michigan: Plans on taking his time with his recruitment, has a Michigan offer.
- TE Devin Funchess (6'5", 205 lbs) MIchigan: Teammates with Ojemudia.
- TE Ron Thompson (6'4", 210 lbs) MIchigan: Very high on Michigan, plans on waiting a little while longer to make his decision.
- TE AJ Williams (6'6", 260 lbs) Ohio: He'll be up either Tuesday or Friday, he isn't sure of the date yet.
- LB Royce Jenkins-Stone (6'2", 215 lbs) Michigan: Said he wants to get back up to see them practice in pads.
- DE Alex Pace (6'2", 255 lbs) Glenville
- MAYBE DT Greg Kuhar (6'3", 265 lbs) Ohio: Talking to his parents about making the trip.
- MAYBE ATH David Perkins (6'2", 209 lbs) Indiana: Not 100% sure if he's coming, but he's leaning towards it.
- MAYBE LB Vin Ascolese (6'2", 205 lbs) New Jersey: Not sure if he'll make it.
- MAYBE RB Auctavius Bennett (5'7", 180 lbs) Maryland
- MAYBE WR Monty Madaris (6'2", 175 lbs) Ohio: Not sure of his ride situation, but is trying to make it up.
Massachusetts LB Camren Williams and Armani Reeves both took in Michigan this weekend. Williams had excellent things to say about the trip.
Ohio OL Caleb Stacey was offered while visiting Michigan. Stacey thoroughly enjoyed the visit, and it probably vaulted Michigan to the top. We'll see if he decides to make a decision soon.