to play football, not to play trumpet
12/11/2009 – Michigan 4, Notre Dame 1 – 9-8, 5-6 CCHA
12/13/2009 – Michigan 0, Notre Dame 2 – 9-9, 5-7 CCHA
It's a sign of the raging apathy I've got going over here that the first I heard about Notre Dame's struggles to date—they, like Michigan, are a hugely disappointing .500—was in a game preview on Friday. I haven't looked at the CCHA standings all year. It turns out that Ferris State is really good (13-3-2) this year and Michigan is in 10th place. Hurrah. (They do have two games in hand, but those games in hand are against Ferris.)
Even so, it was a surprise to see the team totally dominate the Irish en route to a 4-1 victory that was probably their best game of the year. And then it was not a surprise when Michigan fell limply on Sunday, losing 2-0 despite outshooting the opponent 38-20.
Sunday was the seventh game this season in which Michigan has had close to a 2-1 advantage in shots but lost anyway because they can't put the puck in the net:
- Michigan outshot Alaska 23-13 in the opener and lost 2-0.
- They outshot BU 35-22, losing because Hogan wandered out of his net and gave the other team an Osgood-type goal.
- They outshot Miami 28-13 in one of the most frustrating games I've ever seen at Yost, losing 3-1.
- They outshot Michigan State 31-19 in a 2-0 loss at Munn.
- They outshot Bowling Green 31-21 in a 4-2 loss.
- And most spectacularly, Michigan lost to OSU 5-3 despite putting 45 shots on Cal Heeter and facing just 19.
That's seven of their nine losses. They only trailed in shots in the second game against Miami and the first against Michigan State. The Daily says Michigan was "unlucky" on Sunday, but it's hard to look at that pattern and not find something systemic.
If the games had gone according to script, this would be a freakin' awesome team. It's not, obviously, for reasons that remain mysterious to me. Some guesses:
There is an obvious deficiency in top-tier offensive talent. Caporusso occasionally does something reminiscent of Michigan's traditional magic midgets, but he's a far cry from Comrie or Camalleri or Tambellini or Hensick or Cogliano. Mostly he just ends up giving the puck away because he's trying to go 1-on-3. And the rest of the team is not there. Wohlberg's regressed (two goals), Czarnik left, Langlais and Burlon and Kampfer haven't provided the offensive pop they were expected to, and there's no one on the team who is a lock for a long NHL career despite not being able to go on all the rides at Cedar Point.
This was the case last year to some extent, too, but Wohlberg and Caporusso were scoring like mad. The two combined for 39 goals last year without much help from Aaron Palushaj, who spent almost the entire year playing on other lines. This year they have seven between them. They're on pace to score well less than half of last season's output, which is a drop in production you can't weather when your freshmen are anything less than epic.
The defense has been sloppy. The thing about some of those games, primarily that Miami game, is that even though Hogan didn't face a whole lot of shots I don't know if there was anything he could have done to stop the goals he let in, which resulted from massive defensive breakdowns that left Miami players totally uncovered in dangerous scoring areas.
It's not that they've been bad, necessarily, it's that they don't do a good job covering high-value areas of the ice and too often leave guys wide open in bad spots.
Hogan: meh. Bryan Hogan's save percentage is .905, which is 44th nationally. It's not far away from 30th, and given the weird tendency of Michigan to give up small numbers of high-quality shots it's harsh on him. But it's about right, right? Hogan has been basically average. He hasn't given up many (any?) really soft goals, but he's given up some questionable ones and rarely makes a "wow" save.
Results? Another weird item from the year's first foray into accumulated statistics: AJ Treais has only three points. Treais certainly looks like he's doing stuff right out there. His dangles are increasingly dirty as the season goes along and he gets more comfortable trying stuff against college competition. He certainly seems like a more effective offensive player than Luke Glendening or Brian Lebler, but the numbers aren't there for him. And he's playing on a line with Caporusso, so it's not like they've put him there to die with the grinders. He didn't have much in the way of points with the national team, either. Hopefully this is just a slow burn to effectiveness like an Andrew Ebbett or John Shouneyia.
Next time just punch the ref, please. Berenson did end up yanking senior defenseman Tristin Llewellyn for a couple games after his now-usual assortment of stupid roughing penalties and irresponsible defensive play, but he returned for the Notre Dame series, where he proved he'd learned his lesson by taking the world's dumbest crosschecking call on Friday.
I mean, I get that he's not that fast and sometimes he's going to get spectacularly walked by Drew Palmisano. That's life sometimes. It's the incessant penalties that get me. Llewellyn has five more than anyone on the team despite missing two games and most of them are boarding, slashing, roughing, that sort of thing. The penalties aren't from excessive defensive zeal, they're unnecessary, potentially dangerous plays that don't do anything except put Michigan a man down. This is not a new trend: Llewellyn lead the team in penalties last year with 25, five more than Travis Turnbull.
With Lee Moffie playing very well, I'd scratch Llewellyn again.
Tourney. Unlikely at this point unless Michigan goes on a rampage. Michigan did have the good fortune to do well in the nonconference portion of the schedule (4-1 against teams outside the CCHA, with a nonconference loss to Alaska), which will be disproportionately helpful at the end of the year, but they are currently 28th in RPI—not even a team under consideration—and going 12-6 the rest of the way only gets them to around 20th.
They'll have to win something like 13-15 of their final 18 games to be on the bubble when the conference tourney rolls around. That's probably not going to happen.
Michigan 75, Detroit 64. Michigan 5-4 (0-0 Big Ten)
At halftime, this game was looking like it might be just the latest in a series of disappointments in this young basketball season. Detroit led the Wolverines 36-33, and Michigan couldn't make a defensive stop to save their lives. If you had told me that it would be Michigan's defense that would carry the second half, I would have laughed in your face. The team put in a great defensive effort in the second half though, and the Wolverines were able to capitalize and get the 11-point victory.
Zack Novak, despite a poor day offensively, came away with a huge block on a transition play for the Titans. Manny Harris and Deshawn Sims carried the offensive torch for Michigan, and it was the first game in a while that they were both able to really get going at once. Manny finished with 27 points, and was a single rebound away from the double-double.
The outside shooting is still not where it should be, but 33% from behind the arc was a definite improvement over the past few weeks. If the defensive intensity can continue over the rest of the season, Michigan may have turned an important corner today. When opponents don't score, Michigan can keep games close and the shooting will come around eventually.
- Deshawn Sims was spectacular today. He scored 23 points on just 12 shots. Defensively, he was a little weak in the first half, but he was one of the guys who really turned it on after halftime.
- Rough day for freshmen. Darius Morris and Matt Vogrich both get very little run. Vogrich was in for just a minute, and still managed to commit a turnover. Eso Akunne was the best freshman on the court.
- The rotation was really small today. 5 players played 30 minutes or more, and only two other guys (Morris and Zack Gibson) had double-digit minutes.
- As mentioned above, the shooting was much better than it has been lately, but there's still some room for improvement. Stu Douglass and Zack Novak are just going to tear up the nets at some point.
- Michigan outrebounded the opponent(!) but didn't force too many turnovers (7). Bizarre day, given the style that the Wolverines usually play.
- How in the world did Detroit land two transfers from Indiana? That should be a pretty good team in the near future.
"He knows we need him. That's something we talked about, and he just picked it up." Manny Harris, on Deshawn Sims's defensive effort in the second half.
"I think we're just a step slow right now... We've gotta be a little bit quicker." Zack Novak, on the team's defensive struggles this season.
"I just timed it up. You didn't know I could do that, I bet." Zack Novak, on his shot block in the second half.
"We've kinda been trying to play out of what we're capable of. Just stay solid. Stay solid on defense, don't gamble, run the offense. Just do what we've been practicing for the last 2 months." Stu Douglass, on how the team can improve its play.
"I just don't wanna be part of the losing side of that conversation." Deshawn Sims, on playing in-state opponents.
"Down three at the half, I think the guys felt a sense of urgency." John Beilein, on the defensive renaissance in the second half.
"Usually the last thing that comes to young players is defense, not just individually, but also off the ball." John Beilein, on giving freshmen onl limited playing time.
The Wolverines have this week off to take their exams, and then have a date with Kansas on Saturday. The Jayhawks are the consensus #1 team in the nation, and Michigan will need a small miracle to come home from Lawrence with a win.
|WHAT||Michigan v. Detroit|
|WHERE||Ann Arbor, MI|
December 13th, 2009
|THE LINE||Michigan -13.5*|
|TELEVISION||Big Ten Network|
*Line provided by online sports betting site Sportsbetting.com.
We're all-too-familiar with the Wolverines' deficiencies by now: They can't shoot and can't rebound. That has led to a lot of trouble, mostly against teams with very athletic guards (Marquette) or good size inside (Boston College, Utah).
Can the team finally snap out of the shooting slump at home against Detroit? They'd better hope so, because the problems have to be worked out in a hurry for the team to even have a chance to keep it respectable against the Jayhawks of Kansas next weekend.
If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Detroit: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Detroit Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. Detroit Def eFG%||269||128||DD|
|Mich Def eFG% v. Detroit eFG%||241||146||D|
|Mich TO% v. Detroit Def TO%||2||62||M|
|Mich Def TO% v. Detroit TO%||12||248||MMM|
|Mich OReb% v. Detroit DReb%||259||152||DD|
|Mich DReb% v. Detroit OReb%||324||135||DDD|
|Mich FTR v. Detroit Opp FTR||292||214||DD|
|Mich Opp FTR v. Detroit FTR||3||14||M|
|Mich AdjO v. Detroit AdjD||207||167||D|
|Mich AdjD v. Detroit AdjO||116||188||M|
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.
This is what it has come to? Michigan appears to be at a definite statistical disadvantage to... University of Detroit? The only areas in which Michigan appears to be better are holding onto the ball and getting opponents to give it away. HOWEVA, there's something to be said for strength of schedule (Detroit's has been crap so far, outside of a game at Cal). Michigan hasn't put away any teams that are remotely as talented, or those that have looked nearly as good statistically, but Detroit's rankings are something of a scam so far.
The Titans are far better at rebounding, which is something Michigan fans have gotten used to and have no reason to believe will change ever this year. They also draw a good number of fouls, which is a product of playing teams that have no chance of stacking up in the paint. Michigan should be (a little) more able to do that without fouling.
It's hard to tell exactly how good the Titans are, due to their schedule, but it skews toward quite bad, with a loss to Kenpom's #280 team, Tennessee State. Michigan hasn't convinced anyone that they're actually good this year, but being not bad should be enough to put away Detroit i the second half.
Well, damn. BREAKING NEWS(!!!): Brian Kelly is indeed the guy at Notre Dame. Notre Dame fans of the insane variety are hilariously opposed to the move on the grounds that Kelly isn't Bob Stoops, Bill Belichick, or one of the ND Nation moderators; everyone else is terrified that Notre Dame has now acquired a coach with a track record of doing anything at all.
This is probably going to go poorly. Kelly is the most competent coach Notre Dame has hired since Holtz and at the very least should turn Weis's excellent recruiting classes into a genuinely good team in short order. Smart Football says so.
Next year might be meh since his one option at quarterback is going to miss spring practice and large chunks of summer conditioning with an ACL tear, but expecting an implosion similar to the Michigan one is foolhardy: for one he'll have a five-star quarterback throwing to Michael Floyd and plenty of talent on defense if he can get a defensive coordinator to manage it. Something thematically similar to Michigan's 2004 Rose Bowl season might go down. Michigan had to get clutch drives from a freshman quarterback and an onside kick to get to 9-4 that year. A Gator Bowl or something with incredible expectations in 2011 seems the most likely outcome.
This makes the next two years against Notre Dame pivotal for Rich Rodriguez. If Michigan loses to Notre Dame next year against Kelly when he's finally got a quarterback experience edge over someone, anyone, it'll look like a rough year and possibly the end of everything.
There are some minor plusses in the hire: I assume Kelly won't keep Corwin Brown around, which should help Michigan recruit against ND. Also for whatever reason Weis just killed Michigan head-to-head and Kelly can't possibly do better. I've heard conflicting things about what high school coaches in the state think about him, FWIW. I imagine that's something you could say about any coach.
We are so terrible. The basketball… it is not good anymore. I don't really know why, but holy crap:
- Michigan’s defensive rebounding percentage of 60.7% ranks last among all Division 1 major conference teams.
- Michigan’s three point percentage of 28.3% is better than only two major conference teams (Oregon St. and UCLA) yet only two major conference teams (Iowa and Northwestern) shoot more threes than Michigan (3FGA/FGA).
- Michigan is allowing opponents to shoot 52.2% on 2 point field goal attempts, the worst percentage allowed by any major conference program.
Dylan has a few more numbers that look more like Indiana last year than a team with any tourney aspirations. They add up to "ugh."
This season is even worse than what went down in football. Everyone knew this wasn't the #15 team in the country but it shouldn't be a team that will be lucky to make the NIT. (No, seriously. You have to get to .500 and Michigan is going to come out of the nonconference 6-6 unless they beat UConn or Kansas, so then they have to go 9-9 in the Big Ten despite showing no ability to hang with mediocre teams from mid-major-ish conferences.) This is stunning underachievement. And what happens next year when Manny is gone and the only big guys on the roster are Ben Cronin, who may or may not still be broken, Blake McLimans, and Jordan Morgan? Morgan and McLimans are redshirting; Cronin almost literally can't jump.
I know I shouldn't be surprised about anything nasty happening to Michigan sports these days, but seriously… what the hell. There can be no place underachieving expectations across the board like Michigan is these days.
PREWB! Also BREAKING(!!!) is that nine MSU players got tagged with multiple misdemeanor charges based on the video evidence of the frat beat-down. Three more kids ended up suspended, including the other Chris Rucker on the team. Don't recruit guys named Chris Rucker no matter what their middle initial is.
I only mention was seems like a formality because the crack MSU reporters at the Free Press immediately came out with an article arguing that most of the charges would get dropped as various members of the team agree to testify against the ex-members of the team.
Meanwhile, the News gets clarification from Winston's initial victim on what, exactly, happened…
Montgomery, a student at Schoolcraft College, was hanging with friends near the Michigan State campus on Oct. 19, 2008, when Winston approached him and MSU hockey player A.J. Sturges and dropped them both, each with one punch, police said. Montgomery's fractured jaw was wired for six weeks, and Sturges' skull was fractured. …
"I was attacked for no reason. I was not in a fight. I was with a friend, and Glenn Winston came and hit me for no reason at all."
…in a story that has the fantastic lead "Ian Montgomery has an intimate familiarity with Glenn Winston's fist." They also reveal that Jenrette's mysterious redshirt was because of a robbery that happened August 1st of 2008, literally days before Jenrette arrived on Michigan State's campus. Jenrette was already sporting a 2005 offense. Michael Rosenberg's column awaits him.
Again, this is not really about Dantonio, whose public image has taken a hit but will recover in time as long as these things don't keep happening, but the rampant bias at the Free Press that would be funnier every day if it wasn't having a material impact on the local/national perception of Michigan.
Etc.: WVU fans, prompted by bubble pipe professor Matt Zemek's assertion that he'd rather have "integrity and humanity" in the form of Bill Stewart instead of whatever Rodriguez is, debate whether they'd rather have their current coach or our current coach. Opinion is split. CATS 4 GOLD. Sun-Times asserts that Harbaugh actually met with ND officials; tomorrow they announce that Bob Stoops is back in the picture!
The is a sports blog version of the Heisman again, which I'm participating in because goddammit Ndamukong Suh needs something.
3. CJ Spiller, Clemson
I followed Spiller's recruitment as Michigan was briefly involved because Spiller's apparently one and only criteria for choosing a school was immediate playing time. This eventually sent him to Clemson in a shock upset over local favorite Florida State.
Spiller immediately proved that his criteria were silly. Here is a list of schools at which CJ Spiller would not have found immediate playing time:
The end. Clemson over the last few years has been intermittent top-ten brilliance from Spiller interspersed with the overwhelming Clemson-ness of the whole thing. Why Spiller instead of Ingram or Gerhart? Spiller was also a special teams destroyer—a preposterous five return touchdowns on the year—and threat in the passing game. Those guys are both close; I tend to value guys who regularly turn in huge plays over those who grind out gains by running over opponents.
2. Brandon Graham, Michigan
Okay, okay, since this is the only vote I'm sure Graham will receive this is by definition a homer vote, but I did watch every snap of his year about four times and have done so with NFL beast Lamarr Woodley, too, and Graham graded out better than Woodley despite being the only player on the defense more intimidating than a six-year-old girl.
He hits harder than Glen Winston:
He did this a lot:
On that last one he turned Brian Bulaga, projected first rounder, into horsemeat.
He's the most impressive defensive lineman I've seen since…
1. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
Last weekend. This award shouldn't be about stats, it should be about the most ridiculously good player to play college football in any given year. But if it is about stats, uh… 82 tackles (leading the team), 25 TFLs, 12 sacks, and ten(!!!) PBUs from a defensive tackle. I had this crazy idea to promote Brandon Graham for the Heisman that I dropped about a quarter into the Big 12 championship game. Tim's got a whole diary on this, though he's way harsh on Rittenberg IME. I'm going to be so pissed when Suh comes in second because 10% of the voters turned in their ballots before the games were over.
Michigan 4-4 (0-0 Big Ten)
Perhaps the most frustrating part of the game against Utah is that the team looked, at times, as competent as it's been all year. The rest of the game though, not so much. The shooting woes continued, with the team shooting a collective 34% from the field and a horrendous 55% from the free throw line.
Zack Novak didn't play against the Utes, missing the game with the flu. It's impossible to know whether he would have been the difference in the game, especially since a 6-5 power forward is probably unlikely to see tons of success guarding guys a half-foot taller than him.
The depth is so bad that Ben Cronin actually got first-half minutes, as did walk-on Eso Akunne... and the team might have played better with them in the game than it did without. This whole post is turning out to be really bullet-y, and the heart's not in it, so I might as well get right to the...
- This might sound like a pretty mean-spirited thing to say, but at one point Paul said to me "Why didn't Anthony Wright go on paternity leave or something?" I totally agree. I fail to see why he continues getting minutes, when he's such a liability on both ends of the court. I'm sure he's a great guy, but he's not producing for this team.
- Manny and Deshawn both got going in this game, though they were the only two Wolverines in double digits. Sims only scored 10, but that's not too bad against such a tall lineup. You'd like to see him get enough to keep the defense afraid and open up the outside for the shooters, but...
- AAARGH SHOOTING. It has to get better sometime, right?
- I don't intend to accuse the referees of bias, because I would even guess that Michigan got the better end of more calls last night. Still, holy crap is the officiating in NCAA basketball horrible. Seriously, make me the head of officiating and it will get better in a snap.
- Hats off to Eso Akunne. Dude's a freshman walk-on and he played his ass off.
- I kept waiting for Gibby to break out and do a couple awesome things, but he never did. I guess more playing time wasn't what he needed, one-game sample against a very tall team noted.
- Michigan actually seemed to be forcing a good number of turnovers, both from man and the zone. Unfortunately, they were pretty generous with the ball themselves, and didn't come down with many rebounds.
Detroit comes to Crisler Arena at Noon ET on Sunday. The game will be available on the Big Ten Network. After that, the Wolverines will sacrifice themselves to Kansas the following Saturday.