finally people are complaining about us
3/6/2015 – Michigan 4, Penn State 6 – 19-12, 11-6 Big Ten
3/7/2015 – Michigan 3, Penn State 4 – 19-13, 11-7 Big Ten
twilight (not that twilight) [Patrick Barron]
A few years back I wrote something about a pivotal series against Miami that felt both correct and histrionic simultaneously. Michigan was swept 4-2 and 3-0, dumb penalties piled up like Lions mistakes with the Suh contract, and it felt like there was something gone from the program:
So this is definitely an overreaction: that kind of felt like the beginning of the end of the Red Berenson era. I know what the instant reaction to that thought is because I had it too, but after I recoiled at the thing it sat there leering and never scoring any goals it appeared to mean. It's still there. It's horned and pitchforked. It's eating all my cheese dip. I hate it. It knows this, does not care, and refuses to leave.
Michigan proceeded to advance to the national championship game, so I may have pulled the trigger slightly early. But that feeling turned out to be correct, give or take a year. The next year one-seed Michigan was unceremoniously bounced from the tourney by Cornell in the first round; they have not been back since.
Their absence has grown more dispiriting and infuriating as it's lengthened. When Michigan started their slippery slope, they finished seventh in the CCHA only to storm through the tourney, beating #1 Miami on the way, before falling to those same Redhawks when every Michigan fan's "rule most likely to lead to homicide"—a goal waved off because the referee can't see the puck—came to fruition in overtime.
A couple years later they turned around a dismal season about halfway through, reaching the CCHA finals. There they found a very good Notre Dame team that beat them comprehensively in terms of attack time and chances, with the usual vagaries of hockey holding Michigan in it.
Last year all they had to do was beat Penn State, nascent, fledgling Penn State, in the Big Ten tournament to all but guarantee themselves an at-large berth. They lost in two overtimes to a team that was 8-25-2 on the year, allowing 65 shots—44 in regulation. This year they approached Happy Valley in first place in the league, an at-large bid within their grasp, and they blew it. They were down 3-0 and 4-2 in games they'd lose, and this is now their situation:
Gross weekend. Per http://t.co/9RVMXcI80e, chances of making tourney now 25%, 1% without winning B1G Tournament. Just 45% to get a bye.
— Yost Built (@YostBuilt) March 8, 2015
On the one hand you can't be surprised. Michigan has been playing with fire with sloppy goaltending and guys wandering through the slot unchecked all year. It's tough to get points when you give up five goals per game.
On the other… how the hell did we get here? Michigan had a 22-year (22 year!) tourney streak during which it was mostly impervious to these sorts of wobbles. We should be grateful for that. Minnesota, BC, North Dakota—every one of these programs had a year or three in which they were inexplicably bad. Michigan avoided that for an astoundingly long period of time.
No longer, and there's a pretty easy proximate cause to point to:
|YEAR||M RECORD||M TOURNEY||MEL||TECH RECORD||TECH TOURNEY|
|2015||19-13||must win BTT||Tech||26-8-2||#5 PWR|
Mel Pearson left for Michigan Tech after the 2010-11 season and immediately made them competitive; this year they're damn good. The above chart probably sells it short since it only goes back four years before the change. That middling year from the Huskies is a major outlier amongst even more seasons with 4, 5, 6 wins. Meanwhile, Michigan was rampant.
Even when Michigan beat Tech in the GLI, they were under siege for most of it, getting outshot 41-21. The series in Houghton was simply not competitive. Michigan was at ful strength; goals were 10-3 Tech. The inverse of that used to be the expectation for a Michigan versus Tech series.
Berenson's contract has one more year on it, and when it was signed he said it was almost certainly his last. I can't see any way that's not the case, and if Hackett has the stones to make a change now (I cannot believe I am saying this…) it might be time. In another situation with an unclear candidate pool, the argument for waiting would be stronger. With Pearson available and acting out the best-case scenario for Tech hockey, if you can get it done now that's a move you have to make.
Maybe Michigan wins the Big Ten tourney; maybe they outscore their mistakes for a bit in the tournament. The direction the arrow is pointing is clear enough even in that hypothetical scenario.
Disappointing lack of calves on the jersey plaque. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
Max Bielfeldt recorded his first career double-double. Aubrey Dawkins nearly tied the single-game school record for three-pointers. Michigan's game-ending lineup featured Austin Hatch, two walk-ons, and two student managers turned practice players.
Needless to say, the game wasn't nearly as close as the final score would indicate. Save for a 19-0 Rutgers run to close a contest that had long been decided, Michigan maintained a death grip from start to... well, almost-finish.
On his Senior Day, Bielfeldt opened the proceedings with a hook shot before going on to score 14 points (6/10 FG), pull down 11 boards, and even hand out three assists. Bielfeldt earned a couple ovations on the day, including a "double double" chant when he grabbed his tenth rebound.
While it was Bieldfeld's day, Aubrey Dawkins stole much of the spotlight. Setting a career high in points for the second consecutive game, Dawkins rained in eight of his 11 three-point attempts—finishing one make short of Garde Thompson's school record—on his way to a game-high 31. He also provided the highlight of the afternoon with a forceful two-handed finish of a Spike Albrecht lob.
Albrecht generated much of Michigan's offense despite scoring just seven points on eight shots. He repeatedly found open shooters after lulling Rutgers to sleep with his patented forays along the baseline, ultimately dishing out nine assists, tying a career high.
As a result, the Wolverines literally shot until the lights went out. After Dawkins knocked down his first four three-pointers, Kameron Chatman added one of his own to give Michigan an early ten-point lead; the lights in Crisler Center promply shut off, causing a brief delay in the action. It didn't seem to affect Michigan, which continued its assault right up to the halftime buzzer, when Chatman drilled another triple from the corner to boost the lead to 19.
Chatman would finish with 13 points on 4/5 shooting. Zak Irvin had an off day, knocking down just 5/15 shots on his way to 12 points, but it was barely noticable with all the offensive fireworks going off around him.
The second half mostly featured both teams playing out the string—or canning more threes, in Dawkins' case—until the late Rutgers run. While the final few minutes provided John Beilein with some teachable moments, it didn't threaten to change the final outcome. Bielfeldt gave himself a proper sendoff, while Dawkins continued a hot streak that should have Michigan fans very excited about his future.
Michigan is now locked in to the #9 seed in next weekend's Big Ten Tournament. Their opponent will be either a reeling Indiana squad or, if they lose to Purdue this afternoon, Illinois. Either way, the Wolverines managed to build a little momentum for themselves after a heartbreaker earlier this week at Northwestern.
Michigan (14-15, 7-10 B1G) vs.
Rutgers (10-20, 2-15)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
|WHEN||2:15 pm ET, Saturday|
|LINE||Michigan -10 (KenPom)|
PBP: Joe Davis
Analyst: Shon Morris
Right: Goodnight, sweet calves. [Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog]
Crisler will host Senior Day festivities for Max Bielfeldt tomorrow before tipoff, which should end any speculation Michigan will bring him back for a fifth year in 2015-16. Bielfeldt became an unexpectedly critical contributor this season after there years spent mostly on the bench. His calves have been, remain, and presumably always will be magnificent.
UPDATE: As it turns out, Bielfeldt will start tomorrow:
Beilein says Max Bielfeldt will start tomorrow for Senior Day. Ricky Doyle has not practiced b/c of an intestinal problem.
— Brendan F. Quinn (@BFQuinn) March 6, 2015
As for Derrick Walton, there's less and less optimism he'll make it back onto the court this season:
"We're running out of time," U-M coach John Beilein said Wednesday night on his weekly radio show. "We're guaranteed at least two more games, but he has not been able to do anything close to going at full speed. When he pushes off in certain ways, it bothers him. His (practices) with us are usually very short -- 10 or 15 minutes."
To sum it up, Walton is still not pain-free.
Until he is, he won't play.
Today, Beilein confirmed Walton is out for Rutgers and said he's "doubtful" for the Big Ten Tournament. I don't see much reason to push it at this point.
THE LAST TIME
In the first game after Caris LeVert went down for the year with a broken foot, an illness-ravaged Michigan squad edged past Rutgers, 54-50. The then-novelty of seeing freshmen and walk-ons stepping into bigger roles helped make up for the game's lack of aesthetic appeal.
A loss to Rutgers probably dooms Michigan's NIT hopes unless they make a solid run in the Big Ten Tournament. There are also potential BTT seeding ramifications: Michigan should be the #9 seed (facing off against either Illinois or Indiana) unless they lose to Rutgers, Northwestern beats Iowa, and Wisconsin beats Ohio State—then M would be the #10 seed.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||4||Myles Mack||Sr.||5'10, 175||88||23||Not really|
|Scoring and assist leader is RU's only player with ORtg above 100.|
|G||2||Bishop Daniels||Jr.||6'3, 185||66||23||Kinda|
|Not very efficient but draws a lot of fouls. Very turnover-prone.|
|F||10||Junior Etou||So.||6'7, 230||70||14||Kinda|
|Team's best defensive rebounder. Not a good shooter. Draws lots of fouls.|
|F||11||Kadeem Jack||Sr.||6'9, 235||77||27||Yes|
|43% on twos and 31% on threes, so naturally takes a crapton of shots.|
|C||35||Greg Lewis||Jr.||6'9, 245||58||15||Very|
|Okay rim protector, mediocre rebounder and finisher.|
|G||6||Mike Williams||Fr.||6'2, 190||38||19||Yes|
|Spot-up shooter who can't knock down shots (22% 3P).|
|F||22||DJ Foreman||Fr.||6'8, 230||37||20||Yes|
|Poor finisher, decent rebounder, especially on offense.|
|C||40||Shaquille Doorson||Fr.||6'11, 275||25||11||Very|
|Low usage, solid off. rebounder and shot-blocker, TO- and foul-prone.|
Rutgers has lost 13 in a row, which dates back to two games before their first matchup against Michigan. This is likely the last time their résumé will be discussed in any capacity.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
|WHAT||Michigan (19-11, 11-5 B10)
PSU (16-12-4, 8-7-1 B10)
|WHERE||Pegula Ice Arena,
State College PA
|WHEN||7 PM Friday
3 PM Saturday
|TV||BTN plus (ie: no)|
[@ right: Bill Rapai]
It says something that Penn State's farm-fresh program has become instantly competitive in the Big Ten. Half of that is Penn State, which is regularly selling out and has an attractive hockey-specific arena to offer.
The other half is the worrisome state of the league.
Things seemed a bit more worrisome three weeks ago, when Penn State was 7-2-1 in the Big Ten and had vague at-large hopes. Since they've been in a tailspin, losing five of their last six.
THE GENTLEMEN OF NOTE
Taylor Holstrom, Casey Bailey, and David Goodwin. Addressed as a group because they are a group. Penn State has a very legit top line. You can see it in the plus-minus: these guys range from +12 to +14; there's a second-ish line that's just above even, and then you get into minuses.
Bailey leads PSU in scoring with a 21-16-37 line. 1) that production has continued in the Big Ten (10-10-20), and 2) a lot of that production is even strength, with just 4 PP goals.
Holstrom is the setup man with a 7-22-33 line.
Goodwin is a highly productive third wheel at 13-16-29.
PSU has another three or four guys who are somewhat productive depending on whether you're looking at the season as a whole or just the Big Ten. Scoring threat drops off relatively swiftly after that.
Michigan would be advised to try to line-match the Copp line against the Penn State gunners, but that'll be more difficult on the road.
All three Penn State goalies have seen significant time this year. Over the last month the competition has narrowed to juniors Matthew Skoff and PJ Musico. Musico has a solid .923 save percentage but has struggled somewhat lately; Skoff is at .905. Despite that disparity, Skoff has seen twice as much time as Musico.
Skoff and Musico both gave up five goals last weekend to Ohio State, so your guess is as good as any. Whoever gets the Friday start will see playing time Saturday contingent on his performance.
THE SPECIAL TEAMS
Penn State's power play is effective at 22%; their penalty kill is weak at 80%. Similar to Michigan except slightly worse in both categories.
THE LAST TIME
PSU and Michigan split a series at Yost back in November. Penn State scraped out a frustrating-for-M 3-2 win in a game they got outshot 40-28. The next night Michigan bombed 'em 8-1 in a game where shots were a lot closer. Hockey is weird.
Michigan has a three point (ie: one game) lead on Minnesota for the Big Ten title, with MSU and PSU lurking around .500 further back. A sweep guarantees Michigan a piece of the title if they get at least a split from the MSU home and home finale; drop points, as Michigan has been wont to do of late, and they'll be relying on Meh Minnesota to help 'em out. (They've done that, splitting their last two series.)
Even more importantly, Michigan is the definition of a bubble team in the pairwise. They have four games left against .500-ish teams, and three are on the road—going 3-1 in this stretch should see them enter the Big Ten Tourney with a good shot at an at-large bid even if they don't get the auto. Anything worse and things start to look dicey.
If Michigan does end up hunting an auto-bid they would very much like to do so from one of the bye spots in the Big Ten tournament. Two games in two days is much easier than three in three.
Penn State's got a decent record but they've got a very bad SOS number so they're definitely on the outside looking in when it comes to an at-large. They are five points back of second place in the league and the second bye, so that's likely their goal.
If Michigan can keep the top line contained with the Copp line and use Hyman and Larkin to strike at the relatively soft underbelly of the Penn State roster… they could still be undone by randos unchecked in the slot and bad goaltending. But this does look like a relatively good matchup for Michigan: a team that's been scuffling that doesn't punish mistakes much save for the guys everyone needs to be alert for.
Here's hoping they can get 1-0-1 or better.
Offered: Mighty Mighty Boss T.
FIRE UP THE NOTY SIREN. Michigan has offered top-100 CA DT Boss Tagaloa, per 247's Steve Lorenz ($):
"It's really a surreal feeling to get the opportunity to play for [Harbaugh]," Tagaloa said. "When I got the offer, I guess I couldn't really put it into words how I felt. It's just been a really great blessing to have all of these opportunities. Not that long ago, I was watching Coach Harbaugh coach my favorite team and now I could possibly play for him in college. That's a really cool feeling."
Tagaloa is a longtime teammate of top TE target Devin Asiasi, who he says is "like a brother" to him; they plan to take their official visits together and could very well end up at the same school. Both plan to take most of their official visits after the season and commit on Signing Day, so this recruitment will play out over the long haul.
Because this is how Michigan operates now, that wasn't the end of offers going out to California prospects last week. Top-100 CB Trevon Sidney told GBW's Josh Newkirk he'd like to visit Ann Arbor this summer after adding an offer ($). He said USC, UCLA, Washington, and Notre Dame are the schools going after him the hardest.
Three-star CA WDE Bryson Young only had three offers heading into the week—Colorado State, Fresno State, and Oregon State—before Michigan jumped into the fray and made a major impression, per Sam Webb ($):
“I was not expecting Michigan to look at me. They’re a great school and I never would have thought that they looked over here for players. It was a complete shock.” ...
“(Talking to Harbaugh) was one of those (things) I’ll never forget. That was amazing. I did not expect that at all. Talking to a coach from Michigan is fantastic enough, and talking to Harbaugh that was just unexpected. I’ll never forget that. That was great.”
Young said he's "definitely" considering Michigan now and he's looking to set up a visit. He may still be a tough pull from California—UCLA offered yesterday, and Young called USC his "dream school" while discussing the Michigan offer. The Trojans haven't offered yet, but if they do—which seems likely—they'll be the prohibitive favorite.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]