This is not a muppets post. I'm not even sure what this is since I don't think Michigan's had a team like this most recent edition of basketball since the blog's existed, and probably not since the 1997 football team went from "M stands for mediocre" to a national championship.
Expectations this year were on the floor, like "I hope they win ten games" on the floor, and they end it watching a runner to tie the defending national champions clang off the back rim. They swept Michigan State for the first time since 1997, breached Tennessee's reactor core, reached the second round of the NCAA tournament, and didn't bother to have a senior day. A friend kept saying he just wanted to keep seeing them play basketball, and that's about right, and when's the last time you could say that about Michigan anything?
The team is hereby awarded the above image of slightly silly looking Vikings charging headlong to glory. Denouement Monday.
I know you're all busy sticking needles into your Coach K voodoo dolls—for safety's sake make sure your doll is not actually Coach K before inserting—but about an hour ago Michigan's hockey fate was determined. Drumroll, please:
1. Boston College
4. Colorado College
Michigan plays at 5:30 on Friday on ESPN3, with ESPNU replaying the game at 11:30.
Yeah, so to get to a hypothetical final Michigan probably has to beat Boston College and North Dakota, but that's why you show up on Friday against Western Michigan instead of whatever that was. Michigan split with UNO at Yost earlier this year, losing 4-2 on Friday and winning 6-1 the next night. Shots were 35-25 Michigan on Friday and about even Saturday.
Let me take this opportunity to urge anyone considering going: don't. You'll notice that the CCHA is the only conference not to have a region, you know, within hundreds of miles of it. A couple years ago there were regionals in Wisconsin and Colorado. The CCHA is the only conference to get so regularly screwed. I don't think the committee actually cares—if they did we'd have home regionals for top seeds—but on the off chance a St. Louis regional featuring 50 people in an NHL building is the hockey equivalent of Houston Nutt signing 37 kids you should save your money.
You may resume poking K right in the eye.
So I'm back from my honeymoon in Greece, and rollin' a 101 degree fever (much appreciated Delta passenger in Seat 12A). Getting the bed sentence for an American male this week basically means lots of college basketball that you can't really follow because you keep drifting off then waking up to either a.) Charles Barkley talking, b.) a guy who looks like your ex-girlfriend's father screaming at you to buy $1,000 TVs, or c.) a radically different score.
At one point Friday afternoon, after a close half where Michigan's best two players ate bench for early foul trouble, I drifted off again and had a fever dream in which Beilein went to his backups and found only ghosts. These apparitions, though by rights having no call to be influencing the corporeal plane, floated onto the court and proceeded to shut down Tobias Harris (who in my dream is 8 feet tall and can't spell "cat") and nail 3-pointers; Michigan won by 30.
Somewhere on my DVR remains a record of what really happened but I'm a man in a room full of used kleenex and the last time I looked on the internet it said hockey lost to Western Michigan 5-2, so until someone tells me different I'm going with the fever dream.
If the dream were true Michigan faces Duke this afternoon at 2:30. You'll get a full preview (update: scroll down to Tim's preview below), but the gist is that Michigan is baby Duke. The Devils' point differential scares the living hell out of me. Then again, I literally need to get some living hell out of me so let's ball.
Diaries: Hoops Edition
It was late January and a 10-2 non-conference schedule against nobodies became a brutal 1-7 mark against the league's toughest conference. The turning point came against little brother, who in basketball has spent the bulk of two decades as a national power. That team which aneurism-ed in Breslin wasn't the same that dominated a first-round 8-9 game in the NCAA Tournament. The squad in January was but an upset special, something that might pull off a miracle using guts and bloody white guys. When Michigan faced that same MSU team again – in Ann Arbor – it had become the Tim Hardaway show, and a ho-hum victory for the better team. The Wolverines finished fourth in the Big Ten, behind only the consensus No. 1 team in the nation and two popular Final Four picks.
How did we come so far? Leave it to bronxblue to tell it as it only can be told, with basketball movie posters:
This was still a dangerously-shallow crew, but it played like a team and bought into Beilein’s system in a way no other team had. And nobody grew more as a player than Hardaway, who scored in double figures in every game and was the catalyst for wins over Iowa, Indiana, and Minnesota, playing and being absolutely unconscious at times from beyond the arc.
In a confluence of events that has left dozens of columnists misusing the word "ironic," ESPN aired its Fab Five documentary just as Michigan was sealing its most astounding in-season turnaround in memory. The documentary led to long threads hashing over Michigan basketball's gilded age, but also this fan perspective from Coach Schiano of the '93 Finals run.
The team didn't seem to have their legs that infamous Monday night against UNC. I think Kentucky took a lot out of them. Watching UNC breeze by a lousy Kansas team on Saturday, I was convinced we had the tougher road, and during the last game it showed.
As for the man whose star-birth turned Michigan from plucky guys who might beat the worst MSU team in recent memory to potential bracket busters, Blazefire does a comparison of Tim Hardaway Jr.'s freshman season against his father's four years at UTEP. The younger Hardaway isn't quite the shooter or setup man but otherwise stacks up well against his dad…as a junior.
I also bumped lfj75's Historical Performance of NCAA Seeds to a diary – it basically says 8-seeds don't often win NCAA tourneys. Then again 8-seeds don't usually blow out 9-seeds using spectral bench players.
And though it's now moot, credit jamiemac (of Just Cover Blog) for his Feb 28 bracket matrix, which did a better job explaining which chalk to trust in seeding (and in building a bracket) than about anywhere on the internet.
Diaries: Football Edition
It's official spring tomorrow but it's been football spring for a few weeks. With two other big money sports to hold blue attentions the football information flow has slowed to a trickle. However, lurking user FlyRy4 managed to get us some inside dope from Mattison while attending the Nike Coach of the Year Clinic, and DamnYankee performed a great service by reposting as a diary. FlyRy has received an admin points bump so he can bring things like this to us again. Bullets:
- 4-3 under defense that will look like a 5-2 to some – similar to what they ran in Baltimore.
- Mike Martin supposedly will get single-teams and chances to disrupt.
- Big Will is is winning the group competitions at 3-tech (over Q-Wash, Talbott, Ash et al.)
- Cam Gordon's an SLB, not a safety.
- "Inability of players to watch film correctly." Don't quite know what this means, but I'm all for proper video watching.
There's more in there from Mattison, so click.
The Rivals 250 is out, and Bodogblog broke them down by regions. Unsurprisingly there's a lot more talent in the SEC footprint than anywhere else. I'd like to see somebody do a comparison by year of Rivals 250 versus who gets drafted by the NFL; I have a feeling you'd find suggestive evidence that players in the South are more likely to get a 4-star.
And that maniacal laughter you hear in the background is THE_KNOWLEDGE, who points out the Tressel thing is something even the trolliest troll wouldn't dare dream up.
Diaries: Hockey Edition
As I'm writing this (11:30 a.m. Sunday) I'm watching the tournament announcement show, but if there's few surprises it's thanks to the excellent work of mfan_in_ohio, who has been keeping us updated with the pairwisii. You can go back to the March 13 and March 6 updates to feel out the whole process. Denver lost a nailbiter last night to North Dakota and ended up the 2 seed in that bracket, but mfan says Miami (NTM)'s CCHA championship will give them the last 1-seed, putting Mich in St. Louis with BC, CC and Nebraska-Omaha. And lo and behold, he's right. Michigan will play Nebraska-Omaha then face the winner of Boston College and Colorado College in St. Louis.
For his tireless effort and The_Knowledge-like prognosticative powers, this is your Diarist of the Week.
Diaries: Wrestling Edition
Enfin, I just wanted to share a little love for the all the Greco-Michigan fans I met. Yes, I can be the kind of tourist douche who wears Michigan gear when in Europe, but apparently there are a lot of Greeks who know the block M. Greek Michigan fans, we salute you, and not just because you built the Parthenon just to rub in a victory over Spartans.
|WHAT||8 Michigan v. 1 Duke|
KenPom: Michigan +11 (13% win)
"More like Puke." "More like White Devils." etc.
Shock the World.
If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy:
|Michigan v. Duke: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Duke Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. Duke Def eFG%||44||7||D|
|Mich Def eFG% v. Duke eFG%||145||18||DD|
|Mich TO% v. Duke Def TO%||16||98||M|
|Mich Def TO% v. Duke TO%||242||30||DDD|
|Mich OReb% v. Duke DReb%||323||192||DD|
|Mich DReb% v. Duke OReb%||62||80||M|
|Mich FTR v. Duke Opp FTR||343||34||DDDD|
|Mich Opp FTR v. Duke FTR||36||195||MM|
|Mich AdjO v. Duke AdjD||37||2||D|
|Mich AdjD v. Duke AdjO||28||4||D|
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.
Have I made the "hide ya kids, hide ya wife" joke too many times yet? Yes? Darn. Well anyway, Duke is really good at the basket-ed ball.
Guard Nolan Smith has been their most-frequently deployed player this year, but with the return of the nation's #2 freshman (as a recruit) Kyrie Irving, the guard play may be less of a Smith monopoly. He's an efficient shooter and a very good assist man.
In the frontcourt, Kyle Singler and the Plumlees are all over 6-8, and they're the main reason Duke is 6th in the nation in effective height. Despite that height, Duke is a good-not-great rebounding team. Deploy the VOGRIT.
Unlike Tennessee, Duke has no obvious weaknesses. Which, duh, that's why they're a 1-seed instead of the worst 9-seed in history. Michigan is going to have to shoot the lights out, and hope Duke doesn't do a great job of same. Without playing a near-perfect defensive game (and getting a bit of luck), Michigan probably can't win.
Michigan is as hot as any team in the country, but Duke is Duke. As noted above, this is going to require a near-perfect performance or a very healthy dose of luck for the Wolverines to emerge victorious. I think Matt Vogrich plays double-digit minutes and gets a fair number of MANBOUNDs, and that Darius Morris finishes with a more impressive statistical day than either of Duke's star guards. HOWEVA, Michigan's bigs have trouble staying out of foul... uh... trouble, and Duke pulls away late in the game. The Blue Devils win it, 75-62.
Prove me wrong, Blue.
PLAYOFF TIME IS HOCKEY BEAR TIME
HOCKEYBEAR IS GO
Western vs Michigan
Miami/ND vs Michigan
Joe Louis Arena
8:05 PM Fri
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
Friday: FSD Plus
Not much has changed since Michigan took on Western in the second-to-last weekend of the regular season, so the previous Puck Preview stands. Since Western suffered the wrath of Senior Night Hagelin they split with Notre Dame, for which they get a tip of the hat when Michigan raises its conference championship banner, and won a home series against Ferris in three games.
That's been good enough to raise Western to 12th in the Pairwise, but not good enough to assure them a bid. They will be hair on fire this weekend trying to lock that down. A split should do it.
A brief reminder of Western's strengths: they get fairly diverse scoring and have a PPG-ish star in senior Max Campbell, who has 18-17-35. Freshman Chase Balisy is moving up NHL draft boards and has 12-17-29. Western splits those two up so the checking-plus-Scooter-domination line can't shut down both, and their scoring depth is such that the third line is going to have to play some D if they're going to outscore.
Goalie Jerry Kuhn was awful against Michigan earlier in the year but has a .915 save percentage overall. He's about average.
I don't know what was with the Redhawks earlier in the year but they're a death machine now. They haven't lost since an inexplicable 7-4 defeat to Michigan State on January 21st, and though they have three ties in that stretch they're still 8-0-3 since Enrico Blasi peeled the paint after whatever that was. That includes series against the other three finalists: a two tie split at ND, a home sweep of Michigan that caused me to PANIC, and what used to be a three-point weekend against WMU. In their last five they've outscored opponents 23-5, failing to give up more than one goal in any of those games. Despite coming in a distant third in the CCHA I bet if jamiemac (of Just Cover) was to dig up offshore college hockey lines from Venezuela or whatever they'd be a solid favorite this weekend.
As a result they've moved from the PWR danger zone (they were actually 18th(!) and well out of the tournament before the Michigan series) to the verge of a one-seed—Michigan's one seed. A hypothetical title game matchup will be for that one seed and the right to not play any of the top five teams in the country until hypothetically reaching the Frozen Four, and will be a BFD.
Miami's team was also covered in a Puck Preview that remains largely accurate. Andy Miele is a Hobey Candidate and the country's leading scorer with (sigh) 21-44-65. Carter Camper would be a Hobey Candidate if he wasn't on the same team as Miele—he's fourth nationally with 17-35-42. Sophomore Reilly Smith is also in the top ten in PPG with 26-22-48, and then they've got two more guys with double-digit goals. They score like whoah.
Of late they've also defended like whoah. Alaska managed a total of 31 shots in two games last weekend, and while Lake State wasn't quite as inept when it came to vaguely testing Miami's two-headed goalie they were equally incapable of getting the puck in the net. You're probably remembering that Saturday game in Oxford when Michigan had maybe three crappy scoring chances the entire game. Yeah.
Miami's rotated their goalies all year, including last weekend. They have nearly identical stats so it won't matter much who gets the call. One possible silver lining for Redhawk opponents: both have taken major steps back from last year, when they were amongst the national leaders in save percentage.
The Irish lost the CCHA title in agonizing fashion by losing on the last day thanks to three disallowed goals. They suffered something of a hangover two weeks later as they struggled to put away a pretty bad LSSU team. An OT win Friday was followed by a loss and ND didn't show their quality until the final game when they jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead and almost doubled up LSSU in shots in a comfortable 4-2 win.
Michigan's lone series against ND came during football season, before pucks start getting previewed. It was a split in which the games seemed fairly even. Notre Dame got some bounces Friday and then Michigan's Saturday win was the deflectingest game I ever dang saw, with the primary attraction a goal from Chad Langlais that came when Langlais was literally the only guy on the ice who knew where the puck was.
Since that weekend the two rivals spent the year neck-and-neck at the top of the CCHA standings. ND got there thanks largely to two (sigh) awesome freshmen: TJ Tynan (21-28-49) and Anders Lee (22-21-41) are 1—2 in team scoring. A couple of senior assist machines come next and then there's a smattering of guys with Wohlberg-like statlines and a couple of defensemen with pop in their stick, most prominently sophomore Sam Calabrese (not that Calabrese).
Notre Dame's issue has been iffy goaltending. Backup Steve Summerhays has a .859 in ten games and starter Mike Johnson's .907 is just 41st (of 71 qualifiers) nationally.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Well… no bullet points as I try to find something not tautological to say. Michigan played well last weekend against the hockey equivalent of Hampton and before that did enough to scratch out a CCHA championship despite at no point seeming like the sort of team that would end up winning the league or earning a one-seed.
I wouldn't be surprised with anything this weekend. Michigan could have a couple bounces go against them against Western and then close out a disappointing weekend with a loss to a very good ND or Miami team, or they could deflect their way to glory in a series of tight games featuring lots of offense from the blue line.
There's a lot on the line; let's hope it's the latter.
The Big Picture
If you would like to be the committee go ahead: you are the committee. I was wrong on one important point earlier: Michigan's destiny is not entirely in its own hands. If Merrimack wins HE they will take their comparison against Michigan and slip into the last #1 seed. That requires them to beat New Hampshire and presumably BC back-to-back and seems pretty unlikely, but it is a possibility.
I've fiddled with YATC a bit and can't find any other scenario that doesn't result in a #1 for Michigan if they win the CCHA. I do find things like a hypothetical Western-ND consolation game being the difference between the Broncos finishing 17th in the PWR—well out of the tourney—and tied with ND for tenth.
Michigan can still get the last #1 if they lose to ND instead of Miami and favorites win other conference tourneys but that's a 50-50 shot that relies on the hottest team in the country going down against ND in a couple hours. Win and very likely a #1, lose and very likely a #2.
Root against Denver, Miami, and Merrimack this weekend.
Michigan Hockey Net catches up with the Honeybaked coach. He makes latest commit Evan Allen sound like Andy Hilbert, but compares him to Kevin Porter.
I probably could have posted this with eight minutes left but I didn't want to tempt the jinx gods. That was awesome from the instant Michigan started going zone. Big ups to Matt Vogrich—the Vogrinch saved Christmas—CAM TATUM(!!!), Zack Novak, and… uh… everyone. Even Blake McLimans played well.
And you can't have one without the other…
We just threw a team into a volcano in the NCAA tournament. A volcano is what Tennessee is in.