a terrible blight on our fine country
1/16/2010 – Michigan 6, Alaska 0 – 13-10, 8-7 CCHA
1/17/2010 – Michigan 3, Alaska 3 (Alaska 1-0 shootout), 13-10-1, 8-7-0-1 CCHA
Hockey doesn't have grand narrative arc of a 12-game football season so usually I'm at a loss when trying to come up with a column-type substance. Instead, this is mostly items.
With about five minutes left in Saturday's third period I was stewing. After two periods of near-total domination interspersed with a terrible turnover from Chad Langlais, a terrible penalty from Tristin Llewellyn, and the goals that resulted from them, Michigan trailed 3-2 but looked like they'd come storming back in the third. Instead, Alaska kept them penned in their own end with help from a series of dumb or questionable penalties. Michigan had one scoring chance.
It was the exact same script they'd followed all year: own territorially, fail to generate goals off that dominance, make enough undisciplined plays to get behind. It was the same script they'd kicked the year off with in a 2-0 loss against the Nanooks in which they outshot the opponent by more than two to one. It threatened to undo the good from the Friday night shellacking. It was very annoying.
Then Langlais dashed into the slot to pick up a loose puck and fired it through the goaltender and outshot Alaska 6-1 in OT—though the Nanooks didn't get credit for a shot that zinged off the inside of the post—and everything seemed okay. Michigan is 3-0-1 after the break and moving towards the NCAA bubble. They're showing some fight, at least, and it seems plausible that they do something this weekend against tourney-bound Ferris.
The shootout doesn't really matter. It matters a little for CCHA standings but in the eyes of the NCAA it's a tie. For the PWR, Michigan picked up a three-point weekend against a pretty good opponent.
As far as the CCHA goes, Michigan is now within striking distance of that fourth place spot that gets the last first-round bye. They're tied for sixth with Notre Dame, four back of fifth place Alaska, and five back of fourth place Lake State, but they've got two games in hand on all those teams. If you believe in goal differential, Michigan should be able to distance themselves from those two teams over the final stretch: Michigan is +11 in conference while Alaska is –4 and Lake State is +1.
Bork! You know a player has developed into a star when your reaction to his line hitting the ice is "oh thank God," and Carl Hagelin has officially reached this level with me. I've been touting him for a while now but never had that visceral relief until this weekend. He's like a version of Jed Ortmeyer with little rockets in his skates.
Depending on what happens the rest of this season and next, he'll challenge Ortmeyer for champion of my personal Michigan hockey Valhalla. I fully approve of some intrepid students deploying a Swedish flag big enough to use on a battleship this weekend:
Speaking of students. Giant Swedish flag plus responsible vuvuzela guys* plus far more newspapers than usual plus general liveliness equals one of—if not the—best student sections I've seen at Yost. They've even added a few things to the rich panoply of things people say at Yost. "Moose, sieve" is a fantastic addition to the selection of "noun, sieve" chants and this is the year the bizarre muppet-esque hooting that goes on when an opponent is trying to break out of its zone on the power play went from fringe weirdness to actual thing. I'm impressed given the crappy year and the crappy football year that preceded it.
HOWEVA, it is extremely bad form to give the opponent a "warm up the bus/sled/sorority" chant on Friday. One, it doesn't make any sense since they're not going anywhere. Two, it is jinxtastic. Also, a request: someone needs to have their cell phone ring be an incredibly loud plain ringtone as if from a, you know, landline, and they need to have their buddies call four or five times a game so the "Hey, [goalie], it's your mom" cheer can continue.
That is all. Carry on with all other things.
*(Another friend suggested everyone get them because they were "awesome" and I was all "with great power to annoy comes great responsibility." The current amount of crazy plastic horn noise is excellent; more would probably be a disaster.)
So to belabor a point. I don't want to be a creepy mean guy about a kid playing hockey but I do think this sequence was sort of amazing: someone with a 4 as the second number on their jersey runs in for a check on an Alaska player and gets an extremely dubious elbowing call. I turn to my friend and say "I give Llewellyn a lot of crap but that was a terrible call," and then it turns out the guy heading to the box is Brian Lebler. Seven seconds—seven seconds!—later, Llewellyn blatantly grabs a guy to prevent him from getting to a Michigan forward attempting to clear the puck and Michigan goes down two guys for almost the full two. Alaska scores twice. Argh.
Elsewhere in guys who I think had bad weekends: Langlais did score the game-tying goal Saturday but before that he was having a really rough weekend. Alaska's first goal on Saturday was the direct result of a Langlais turnover and he made a series of other mistakes, none of which remain so clear in my mind, before the great redemption.
Lebler, meanwhile, had a really weird weekend. On Saturday he scored on two absolute lasers Brett Hull would have been proud of and zinged a potential hat trick off the post. I've never seen Lebler do anything of the sort before. Then on Saturday he picked up four minors, one of them the aforementioned weak elbowing call but the others were dumb stuff that you have to call.
Good things. Lee Moffie has established himself as an up-and-comer. He's not very physical but is steady, doesn't make a lot of mistakes—though he did fall down and create a two-on-one—and has an excellent shot. It's not heavy but it's seriously accurate; when he dove in from the point to pick up a great Hagelin centering pass it went top shelf, no mistake.
Lindsay Sparks, meanwhile, has gone from healthy scratch to third (second?) liner and kept up his hot recent play with a sweet powerplay goal on which he walked out of the corner and slid it five-hole. Sparks is sixth on the team in PPG and has as many points as Kevin Lynch and one more than AJ Treais despite the latter two having played twice as many games.
Michigan is moving on up. The last two weekends have had a huge positive effect on Michigan's numbers. They're currently 19th in RPI. Two weeks ago they were 29th, not even a Team Under Consideration (TUC). Caveat: it's a lot easier to move from mediocre to pretty decent than to move from pretty decent to tourney bubble. When you're 29th in RPI, the teams around you will go about .500. When you're 19th, they'll be doing better than that.
Even so, that's a big leap in just two weekends; if Michigan continues playing well they have time to break into the top 14 in PWR. Right now Michigan is 19th, exactly what their RPI rank is. Despite Michigan's ugly overall record, their peripherals aren't that terrible. They're 6-6-1 against other TUCs, though that's shaky since they've played three of the last six teams in and are 3-1-1 against them.
Root for Alaska and Minnesota the rest of the way out (not that it's a revelation that you'd like Michigan's nonconference opponents to play well). The other team on the TUC bubble is Notre Dame. Michigan split with them earlier in the year and plays them again the final weekend of the regular season; the desirability of the Irish as a TUC is yet to be determined.
Demon bear. Mandatory. We're using this one from now on because the Demon Bear superfluously blows up Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Michigan State before annihilating the planet.
Michigan 68 UConn 63, Michigan 10-7 (3-2 Big Ten)
At some point during the game, I tweeted something to the effect of, "In a game like this, I have a really hard time not bursting out in cheers." This may have confused some people, who didn't realize that press row is supposed to be a fully non-partisan portion of the arena. By the time there were just a couple minutes left in the game, I didn't have to hide my excitement, because most of the journalists right around me were drawn into the excitement as well.
The Indiana game was a sloppy, unappealing contest for the viewer. A lot of people said afterwards that they wished it hadn't even been a nationally-televised game. To me, a win on national TV is a win on national TV, especially when it comes by 24 points, but that's not my point here. The game against UConn, to me, seemed to be redemption for the national audience, and a chance to see what Good Michigan can look like when the Wolverines actually play well.
Against a huge team like UConn, Michigan isn't supposed to stand a chance. The Huskies are supposed to bang it down low, get Michigan in foul trouble, and come away with a comfortable win, even on the road. Michigan didn't get the memo, as they harassed men much bigger than them into missed shots and turnovers down low, and barely lost the rebounding battle to a squad much bigger than them at nearly every single position.
This is the Michigan team we saw last year. It may have showed up too late into the year to make it to the tournament again, but they weren't going down without a fight. This UConn team isn't what their top-15 ranking would imply (and after dropping their last three game, they can kiss that ranking goodbye), but the Huskies are no pushover. This might be the Wolverines' best win of the year, and though it probably won't be enough to get them into the tournament without an insane run through the Big Ten, it certainly re-opens the NIT as a possibility, even likelihood.
The next few games no longer look like a curse, but rather an opportunity.
- To those clamoring for a third scorer to emerge from the team, I think you got your answer today: It's not necessary to have a 1-2-3 (Manny/DeShawn and another go-to guy) as long as there are several guys scoring. Sims was only the 4th leading scorer, but Michigan pull off a win against a ranked squad.
- Matt Vogrich almost became a member of Club Trillion, but played two minutes without accruing any other stats, which I guess makes him a member of Club Two Trillion.
- Michigan... has... bench? Zack Gibson and Anthony Wright came up big today, when the team really needed them because of foul trouble for Novak and Sims. I've been hard in Wright in the past, but I'll also give him props when he earns them. Hats off to both of those guys.
- Also from the bench, Darius Morris comes in for a round of praise after the past couple games, and practically disappears. 0/4 with 1 turnover, 1 steal, and 1 assist. Can't blame him too much as these are probably some of the best opposing guards he's faced, but he has to play up to the competition if Michigan wants to continue having success.
- Zack Novak is capable, more than almost any basketball player I've ever seen, of turning in a mediocre statistical performance, but looking like one of the biggest factors to his team's success. The 3-ball at the end was huge.
- The shooting performance was mediocre, but UConn is also a pretty good defensive squad, with a ton of quickness on the perimeter. I'll take 44.9 eFG% against them, with hopes it'll continue improving.
- Dude, a UConn player airballed a free throw. I haven't seen that since the first time Ben Wallace played for the Pistons.
- I really liked the presentation for BRandon Graham at halftime. It was a shame there was some booing directed at Rich Rodriguez. I would have loved to see the students respond with a chant in support. Next Tuesday is another opportunity, I guess.
Additional important photo from the Detroit News.
"I don't care about nothin' else but the win." DeShawn Sims, on having a quiet day on the statsheet.
"That's the whole joke, I just chill on the rest of the games, and just play whenever it's a big game." Anthony Wright, comparing his performance to the NCAA tournament loss against Oklahoma last year, in which he led the team with 14 points.
"This is just the first game of a big four-game series we have coming up, and it's always great to get that first win." Anthony Wright, on looking to the Wisconsin game.
"It's cool, its cool. Just to have that support from the football team and Coach Rich Rod, you know, kind of a Michigan family atmosphere type of thing." Stu Douglass, on having the football team in the stands.
"It's definitely a step in the season, and it could be a turning point, I don't know. But I know from here on out, the team's gonna come out with a lot more hunger." Manny Harris, on whether this game should be considered a turning point for the team.
"The crowd was big for us today, I think a sellout. The Maize Rage was awesome, even our other fans, everyone was into it." Zack Novak, on the crowd support.
"Especially from a defensive standpoint right now, we're really learning a lot more of what it takes to do this." John Beilein, on the team's improved defense and overall play over the past few games.
Michigan begins (or continues, if you count the UConn game) a brutal stretch, traveling to Madison to take on the Badgers Wednesday, then turning right back around to face Purdue in West Lafayette. Following that road swing they'll return to Crisler Arena to take on in-state rivals Michigan State in another Maize Out game.
Per Go Blue Wolverine, Michigan has gained a class of 2011 commitment from MI CB Delonte Hollowell, which should come as no surprise to those who remember he said at the US Army Combine that he was planning on committing to Michigan soon. Informative portion below:
|3*, NR CB||NR DB||NR, 150 Watch List|
First things first, Hollowell is one little dude, bigger than Dior Mathis, but comparable in size to Boubacar Cissoko. Somewhere in Detroit, there is a factory producing tiny corners and sending them to Cass Tech. Delonte measured in at 5-8.125 at the Army Combine. There's always the chance he's still growing, as he's 16 or 17 years old, but I wouldn't count on it. The National Underclassmen Combine Blog evaluates him thusly:
PERFORMANCE: Kind of a quiet day, but not in a bad way, in a blowout loss to Detroit Southeastern.
STRENGTHS: Does a good job of turning and running with receivers down the field, and appears to be an aggressive tackler. He is quite strong for a kid his size.
WEAKNESSES: Not as quick as his teammate, Dior Mathis, but few are. But like Mathis, Hollowell will be vulnerable in covering taller receivers. - G.L.
Scouts Inc's Craig Haubert gives a (brief) take on Hollowell following the Army Combine:
A player who caught my eye this fall when I attended one of his games was Delonte Hollowell (Detroit, Mich./Cass Tech). He lacks ideal size, but is a good athlete and once again put forth a good performance.
"Caught my eye" means that Haubert's impression is a good one. It seems that, outside of the height issue, he has good tools to become a productive player.
From his video (which you can see below), I would say he's a little slow in play recognition, but has good physical skills to play in the defensive backfield. It's often a little tough to judge high school DBs, as they're given the responsibility of "Stay back there, and don't ever let anything behind you. Ever." Hollowell is no exception, which may explain his hesitance to come up in run support.
It certainly isn't a physical attitude that's the problem. His highlights show a willingness to lay the wood as frequently as he can. He still has a lot of physical developing to do before he can actually lay big hits, but God bless him for trying now, as small as he is. As with all kids from Detroit's PSL, his technique is not at a college-ready level yet.
He made the Detroit News' All-Metro Second Team as a junior, though the first team only had 3 DBs. He's far from a lock, but his impressive performance at the Army Combine may get him an invite to next year's game.
Besides Michigan and Central Michigan, Hollowell is also receiving recruiting interest from Iowa, Illinois, Michigan State, LSU and UCLA.
Through five games, Hollowell had three interceptions and more than 25 tackles. No word on how he finished the year. Cass Tech finished the season 6-4, including two losses to Detroit Southeastern.
FAKE 40 TIME
Hollowell ran a laser-timed 4.66 second 40 yard dash at the 2009 Army Combine. For a corner, this gets 0 FAKEs out of 5. Don't worry too much about speed, though, as the testing track in San Antonio is notoriously slow, and that time was as a mere sophomore. Times from this year's combine should be available soon. In track, he ran a 7.65 60-meter dash (to Dior Mathis's 6.95), one of the less impressive times at that meet.
Hollowell appears to be a highlight video producing fiend, an here's what he has uploaded to Youtube at this point:
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
As mentioned above, Hollowell has some physical development to do, as well as a lot of technique to learn. Unlike Boubacar Cissoko before him, he'll have a chance to sit for a while and learn from the starters ahead of him, due to Michigan's big DB haul in 2010. Hollowell is basically a sure-shot redshirt for his freshman year.
Following the inevitable redshirt, Hollowell will probably play on some special teams for a season, as long as he's bulked up enough to not get handled in punt coverage, and if he's got the skill to do it, he could even be tabbed for return duty a bit. He might get a bit of work on defense in blowouts.
In year 3, he could get rotated into defenses, getting time in nickel packages, and potentially getting significant time as a substitute. Long-term, he'll always be a bit limited by his diminutive stature, and if he is able to nab a role as a starting corner, might get pulled off the field when he would otherwise face the Michael Floyds of the world.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Hollowell is Michigan's second commitment in the class, joining fellow defensive back Greg Brown. Both play corner in high school, though Brown will play free safety as a high school senior, and there's a chance that will be his eventual position in college.
Still, Michigan projects to have a bunch of defensive backs in the class of 2010, so they won't be nearly as necessary in 2011. After getting these first two commits, Expect Michigan to hold off on defensive backs until later in the class, unless they are able to convince some more highly-rated ones (in their eyes, not necessarily the recruiting sites) to join the class.
Rivals is reporting that OH DE Davion Rogers, a teammate of DJ Williamson at Warren G. Harding High School, has committed to the Wolverines. Informative update coming later (perhaps tomorrow, what with the basketball game and all).
Apologies for the delay, Denard happened.
|WHAT||Michigan v. Connecticut|
|WHERE||Ann Arbor, MI|
January 16th, 2010
*Line provided by online sports betting site Sportsbetting.com.
The Wolverines have been inconsistent all year, but from this (admittedly optimistic) observer's point of view, they are really improving as the year goes on. Part of that is the maturation of Darius Morris and the Stu Douglass comfort level at point guard, and part of it is improving leadership. Hell, part of it might just be a mirage that I'm fooling myself into believing. The Wolverines are the 4th most efficient Big Ten team overall since conference play began, so maybe I'm not crazy after all.
Part of the improvement from Michigan's end has been production on the inside (or the mid-range) from DeShawn Sims, with Manny Harris providing the slashing to the bucket, allowing the role players to be just that - role players. The improvement on the defensive end has been notable as well, with Darius Morris coming into his own as a college player.
This game is a big deal for the Wolverines. They limped through the non-conference season during December, and could use a big win outside the league to salvage what has looked like a major regression on the court.
The Huskies come into Crisler Arena with a #15 ranking (sure to drop next week, as they're on a 2-game slide), and an 11-5 record (1-4 away from home). Their losses have come to Duke and Kentucky (in Madison Square Garden), at Cincinnati and Georgetown, and home against Pittsburgh. That last one may be relevant because, according to AnnArbor.com's Mike Rothstein, UConn coach Jim Calhoun said Michigan is a similar team to the Panthers.
Key players for UConn include guards Jerome Dyson (the scorer) and Kemba Walker (the distributor). They're also key defensive players, and Michigan has had trouble this year when facing athletic guards on the opposing team. The defensive tone is also set by shot blocks, as the 6-9 trio of Stanley Robinson, Gavin Edwards, and Alex Oriakhi are all in the nation's top 300 in block %.
UConn hasn't proven itself as much as you'd think, and Michigan might have a decent chance for a win. This isn't last year's team. The tempo-free profiles bear out that MIchigan isn't too far behind the Huskies.
If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Connecticut: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||UConn Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. Conn Def eFG%||169||11||CC|
|Mich Def eFG% v. Conn eFG%||197||123||C|
|Mich TO% v. Conn Def TO%||20||307||MMM|
|Mich Def TO% v. Conn TO%||37||101||M|
|Mich OReb% v. Conn DReb%||239||182||C|
|Mich DReb% v. Conn OReb%||246||72||CC|
|Mich FTR v. Conn Opp FTR||330||4||CCCC|
|Mich Opp FTR v. Conn FTR||13||41||M|
|Mich AdjO v. Conn AdjD||79||29||C|
|Mich AdjD v. Conn AdjO||68||69||-|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.
That matchup, on paper, certainly doesn't look like the difference between a top-15 squad and one that has already been written off as an NIT contender, at best. UConn is a pretty good team, but Michigan has been progressing pretty well statistically since the year's rough start. If they can hammer out the inconsistencies, the Wolverines stand a decent chance against UConn.
Still, it's hard to see Michigan standing even with the Huskies in this game, despite the fact that they hung tough last year on the road. The home fans will be a big factor, and a bit of luck will be required. If Michigan can keep the game close until the end, they stand a chance to pull the upset. Otherwise, I see this as a comfortable 10-15 point win for the men from Storrs. Surprisingly, Kenpom disagrees, saying Michigan should emerge as 1-point victors.
Fans, this is important: tomorrow is an official maize out, so wear your maize, and come early, as the first 7,000 fans will get a "rally spinner," whatever that is. Also, UConn has been shaky away from their home arena, ,so bring some serious noise and cheer the Wolverines on to victory.
Also: water wet.
One Denard Xavier Robinson is not only a quarterback for the University of Michigan football team, but a scary-fast dude who runs track for the Wolverines as well. Today (seriously, less than an hour ago), Denard raced in the 60 meter dash against Ohio State WITH HIS SHOES UNTIED OMG. I'll let the video speak for itself:
He's the be-dreadlocked dude in the 4th lane, winning the race in a time of 6.81 seconds.
The meet was packed, and I'm sure much of the excitement was about Denard's performance this afternoon. Nearly every Michigan football coach and about half the team was in attendance, along with some football recruits, in addition to members of various other Michigan teams (shout out to women's basketball, who stood right near me). Paul also got some pics:
Sorry if some of them are blurry, he's just too fast for any shutter speed.