"Rodrick Williams Jr.'s 10-month old, 2-foot-long savannah monitor named "Kill" gets the RB some strange looks when they go for walks together."
Step two to world domination. The hockey team is in action tonight at Ferris State. For a preview, Yost Built interviews a Ferris fan about the direction the program's taken this year (I'm having some trouble with the individual post pages, but the homepage is working).
Mark Mitera will play:
"He's as ready as he's going to be from practice so we're going to get him in a game and get him back in the saddle," Berenson said. "Unless there is a reason not to play him Saturday I'm expecting him to go both nights.
"I'm expecting that he'll come in and play solid. Obviously as he gets feeling confident we'll put him into bigger roles. He shouldn't play 20 minutes unless there's no risk, no cost of him hurting the team. But if we're planning on playing him back-to-back I just want to get him into the game, get him some shifts. If he can play 12-18 minutes that might be good."
Much of Yost will probably be watching every second of every Mitera shift, hoping to see Michigan's captain and best defender looking smooth. With a month yet before the NCAA tournament, chances he gets up to speed seem good.
Unfortunately, there's no TV for a game Michigan needs if it's going to stay in contention for a berth in Grand Rapids. However, the Michigan State-Notre Dame game is on CBS College Sports if you get that. Yes, you are pulling for Michigan State. No, it probably won't matter.
Also of interest is the NTDP joining the USHL. In addition to their usual slate of international tournaments and college exhibitions, the NTDP will now play a full 60-game USHL schedule and participate in the playoffs. This should boost the NTDP's level of competition and may lure a few more recruits to the program, and having kids already in Ann Arbor never hurts recruiting. It also might make for a couple of highly scoutable games next year when Michigan's whopping five U17 recruits (Moffatt, Fallon, Clare, Merrill, and Campbell) take on USHL teams featuring M recruits. Uh… of which there currently are none, but the Hotchkiss guys have mentioned possible moves and Michigan might add a recruit or two depending on how NHL defection season goes.
Update: oh, yeah, forgot about the nearly-official announcement that Michigan and Wisconsin will play at Camp Randall next year.
2/26/2009 – Michigan 87, Purdue 78 – 17-10, 8-8 Big Ten
Beat UCLA, nearly lose to Savannah State. Beat Duke, nearly lose to Indiana. Beat Illinois, nearly lose to Northwestern. Actually gack it up against Iowa with Manny Harris on the bench for pissing off the coach, finally killing all hope of making the tourney and…
|DeShawn Sims, F||34||13-16||1-2||2-3||2||5||2||1||2||0||1||29|
|Zack Novak, G||34||1-2||0-1||2-4||1||4||3||0||0||3||3||4|
|Stu Douglass, G||31||2-4||2-3||1-3||0||1||4||3||0||0||2||7|
|C.J. Lee, G||14||2-2||1-1||1-4||0||2||0||1||0||0||3||6|
|Manny Harris, G||35||8-15||3-5||8-11||1||8||4||1||0||4||2||27|
Holy hopscotching hell. Even if the numbers say Michigan is middle of the pack when it comes to inconsistency, it certainly feels like they drank a mysterious serum of their own concoction in November and have since been oscillating wildly between the states of "fresh" and "chuck."
This game was a microcosm. It went from tight but promising at the half—that's what she said—to a ten point lead, at which point the teams traded seven point runs. Purdue went first and the lead careened sickeningly down to three points before Michigan pushed it back out and eventually turned into a laugher. Several minutes of OH GOD MAKE YOUR FREE THROWS later I felt as ill as you can possibly feel with a six point lead and under a minute remaining, but the bleeding stopped: we're back, baby! For now!
The way they did it didn't help my feelings of disorientation. Harris and Sims put on an absolute clinic—with an assist from Stu Douglass, who you'll note above had four assists, no turnovers, and seven points on four shots—against the #5 defensive team in the country. And they did it by hoisting just 16 threes against 30 twos. And when Manny was fouled on drives there were whistles. And Crisler was nominally sold out.
If I'm a little bit inconsistent with my opinion of the team, so is the team.
Here we are again. The freshmen from Indiana are less floppy-haired but the kids from Detroit are still inexplicably faithful and sometimes brilliant. Michigan has an opportunity here, has two cracks at ending its decade wandering in the desert. At some point last night when Michigan led big I remembered that Raftery and company were doing the game and thoughts wandered to what it would be like to hear CBS' fey but iconic "this is college basketball" music and see Michigan and its double-digit seed show up and hear Raftery and Gus Johnson say something along the lines of "this is Michigan's first tourney appearance in ten years."
I have concluded this would feel good no matter what follows, and wish for Michigan to win one of their next two. Come on, kids.
- I don't actually believe that MGoLiveblogs of Michigan basketball games are causing crushing losses, no matter how much evidence piles up, and since these last two games are pretty important we'll brave fate and deploy CILs for both. God help me if they lose both.
- Wooooo assistant technical foul! Did it help? I sort of seemed like it. I don't go in for theories that badgering the referees like you're thinking about killing them helps you with the calls, but Michigan got a lot of calls they don't normally get after Mahoney got T-ed up.
- Do you think the spate of early calls against Michigan—all on obvious fouls—actually helped in the long run? It certainly seemed like that game was called way tighter than most of these Big Ten slugfests are, which undoubtedly had something to do with Michigan's increased presence inside the three point line, and Manny's continued, successful attempts at driving. There was none of that getting lazy or fearful and jacking up poor jumpers. (Ok, there was some of that but the proportion was appropriate.)
- Crisler did not like the Manny Harris charge + assistant coach technical combo. I haven't seen the arena that totally pissed about a call in a long time. And with good reason. I actually thought the Zach Novak blocking foul late where Hummel plowed him after getting his own rebound was way worse, but I didn't have the benefit of replay.
- OTOH, Chris Kramer got absolutely jacked up a few times and could not get a call. LLP (I think) gave him a flying hack as he attempted to dunk that looked like an intentional foul to stop an easy two, but there was no call. There was at least one other instance where he was obviously hacked and didn't get the call, and a couple borderline incidents.
However, I did enjoy Manny Harris driving, dishing, and then clobbering Kramer—who had set up literally under the basket—without getting a whistle. Not because I bear any ill will towards Kramer specifically, just because I hate that crap.
- Did anyone else have a twinge of regret about Grady choosing basketball when he flew back down court and helped slow up a Purdue fastbreak late?
Thank you for not posting a live blog for tonight's game. Good night.
And you can't have one without the other…
One more, kids, come on, one more.
Do or die. So, good news about the game tonight: MGoBlog will not be hosting a liveblog. Therefore, Michigan has a chance. Bad news: gimpy Purdue star Robbie Hummel is a go.
I've laid it out before and I believe the equation still holds: Michigan needs two of its final three games and then one win in the Big Ten Tournament to feel pretty good about getting in. Gacking it up against Iowa has cut their margin of error down greatly, and I'm expecting the NIT. But if homoerotic hobbits on a trek into Mordor teach us anything, it's that short pasty white guys with curly hair can do anything. So rock on.
One of Cook’s insiders revealed that Rodriguez met with Steve Threet and basically told him he’s decided frosh Tate Forcier is getting all the snaps this spring. Thus Threet bolted. If this was posted on mgoblog I missed it (and maybe the info wasn’t solid enough to post).
Some clarification: I've heard this from a few different people, all of them on the Threet side of things. I didn't post anything on it because it didn't seem quite strong enough, but when I was LIVE it just sort of came out and there it is. The details are still fuzzy but Threet clearly felt he was not going to have a full opportunity to win the job and, not wanting to be David Cone, decided to go elsewhere.
It's a risk on Rodriguez's part to be sure; the upside is that Forcier gets all the snaps and will be as ready as he possibly can be when Western Michigan rolls into town. Which may not be particularly ready, but he's all we've got.
Risk and expectation and so forth and so on. Braves and Birds notes a Smart Football post on the appropriate amount of risk to take in a football game. This has long been a topic of interest here, too, as it was my longstanding opinion that Lloyd Carr's answer to that ("almost none unless we're playing Ohio State") was way too conservative. However, conservative strategy has its place. Smart Football:
Is it always "optimal" to set your strategy to maximize points scored?
In the NFL -- which is what Brian [not me, this Brian –ed] focuses on -- this is likely true and the assumption holds. NFL teams are almost all competitive with each other, and even the worst teams can beat the best in a given game. So any reduction in expected points is likely to hurt a team's chances of winning because they need to maximize that out to get wins.
But is that true in college? Or in high school? Think about when Florida plays the Citadel. The Gators have a massive talent advantage compared with the Bulldogs. As a result, what is the only way they can lose? You guessed it: by blowing it. They can really only lose if they go out and throw lots of interceptions, gamble on defense and give up unnecessary big plays, or just stink it up.
My theory as to why Michigan got so stagnant under Carr was an extension of the Florida-vs-Citadel mindset. Bo Schembechler pretty much believed everyone was the Citadel—or, more likely, never gave a whole lot of thought about the appropriate level of risk in a football game past the Woody Hayes maxim that "only three things can happen when you throw the football and two of them are bad." This worked out fine for him because everyone in the Big Ten other than Ohio State pretty much was the Citadel: it would take some seriously freak occurrences for Michigan to lose to them.
Carr's mindset was formed in this era, but he coached in an era of greatly increased parity. This was bad. When you give away expectation against the Citadel, you just win by less. When you give it away against a competitive but slightly inferior team you are going to find yourself in a lot of late-game dogfights and some of those are going to slip away. Carr started moving away from this philosophy, but it was a halting process, and I could write about this sort of thing forever. It's a digression.
Not a digression: no, it's not always optimal to maximize your points scored. It's pretty easy to set up a situation where it's not (you have the ball on the opponent's five yard line with thirty seconds left and you're down two, etc etc). While a lot of these things are specific situations they illuminate a larger issue: most of the measures, even the advanced measures we have at Football Outsiders and places like that, don't take variance into account.
Smart Football's got a theory that teams should strive for run-pass equilibrium in a different fashion than you hear about it on TV. Instead of running half the time or getting half of your yards on the ground, you should seek to have your passing plays and running plays gain the same number of yards. Just about no one does this except real weirdo offenses like Texas Tech. One possibility is coaches are just doing it wrong. The other possibility is that there's an institutional wisdom there.
What would that wisdom be? Well, gaining big hunks of yards a portion of the time and getting zero a lot is a different way of doing things than gaining small hunks of yards a lot and not getting zero very often. Is second and seven better than second and two half the time and second and ten the other half? That's an unanswered question.
[okay, /extremedorkmode, returning to standarddorkmode]
|Massillon, Ohio - 6'2" 186
|Scout||5*, #3 CB, #26 overall, #1 Ohio|
|Rivals||4*, #3 S, #35 overall, #1 Ohio|
|ESPN||80, #21 ATH|
|Other Suitors||Ohio State|
|Hello: Justin Turner; roundup of Army game scouting.|
|Notes||Massillon (Shawn Crable). Photo source: the Massillon Independent.|
If you're measuring by delusional expectations of internet denizens, Justin Turner may be the #1 recruit in the universe. You've got to have an avalanche of hype for some guy to write an article saying you're Charles Woodson and get this response:
Good article, but i see justin turner being faster then charles woodson. I also see turner being a better saftey the woodson was but woodson will be a better return man.
IE: "Good article about some high school senior being the reincarnation of the only defensive player to ever win the Heisman, but don't you think you're selling him a little short? Also I have no recollection of Charles Woodson's return abilities, which were pretty much crap aside from one white hot moment." (Yes, this exchange happened on Bleacher Report. Where else could it?)
So, yeah, people expect Justin Turner to be good. There are many reasons why. After all the practices and oh incidentally an actual, if incredibly hard to watch, game at the Army All American Bowl, Rivals sat down and got out their thinking caps and put together lists of who was the best at various things. Turner was rated a safety:
3. Justin Turner, Massillon (Ohio) Washington
BUZZ: He played corner during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and really excelled.
BEST BALL SKILLS
1. Justin Turner, Massillon (Ohio) Washington
BUZZ: He was like a Venus Flytrap during ball drills at the U.S. Army All-American practices.
BEST COVERAGE SKILLS
1. Justin Turner, Massillon (Ohio) Washington
BUZZ: He may end up a cornerback at the next level.
He did not place in "biggest hitter," probably out of a desire to mention someone, anyone else.
It's safe to say Turner impressed. Rivals' Jeremy Crabtree on Turner:
“He played his way up the charts. We knew he was good. Everyone knew what a tremendous player he was before his senior year in high school, but he separated himself in the U.S. Army game. He was arguably the best player on the field, not just in the game, but in practices as well. ... It’s exciting to see how big he’s gonna be for the Wolverines."
Scout's Bob Lichtenfels:
"Turner has always been known as a versatile athlete, but he showed us in San Antonio that just because he is big, it doesn't mean that he has to be a safety. Turner showed that his hips and closing speed are as good as any cover guy in the country. So we have moved the talented athlete to cornerback and elevated him to five stars. J.T. is a stud. Every coach in the country wants a guy that’s six-foot two and can cover.”
Rivals' Barry Every:
He basically can play either safety positions, and someone like that is not limited. If he plays strong safety, he's not afraid to hit and if he's going to be a free safety, he's a ball hawk. For one thing, if he can play corner, he is a coveted commodity because he is well over 6-foot. No. 2, he has excellent ball skills It's always these guys who play two ways in high school and they look good, but they don't look great. "Then, when you get them in an atmosphere where they are only working at one position, those two-way starters at big schools always end up being studs. I saw him in drills and he looked phenomenal, but you didn't get to see his ball skills at Massillon because he was mainly carrying the ball.
(Turner was a running back on offense.) There's more, more, more, all in the same vein: this man appears to be a 6'2" cover corner. Who can tackle. When reservations are expressed, they come off as "I know I just said this guy can be a corner, but I can scarcely believe it so maybe I'm wrong." ESPN didn't budge on Turner's all star performance because, in typical ESPN fashion, they wholly focused on the UA game and ignored the Army one. Turner flew up the boards of Scout and Rivals because they were paying attention; ESPN couldn't be bothered.
Turner's recruitment ended a few weeks after Michigan came through with his first big offer; by that time Illinois and Ohio State had followed suit. And despite all that happened after that commitment, there was never a hint of a waver, probably because his father is a rabid Michigan fan:
Why Marlin Jackson? Jackson and Turner are both big corners who were rated around 25th by the major scouting services; Jackson's bounced from safety to corner in his college and NFL careers. Jackson's run support and tackling from the corner spot were a major asset, too.
Guru Reliability: High. All Star game appearance.
General Excitement Level: Very high, as everyone rushed to shower praise on his performance throughout practice and during the week. (ESPN ignored the Army Bowl to their detriment.)
Projection: Immediate playing time as a nickel corner and a starting role his sophomore year if Donovan Warren leaves early.
From Yost Built and Alnike at the Wolverine's message board comes word of not one but two commits for the hockey team. Both are forwards who will probably be a part of the 2010 class but could be put off to 2011 if Michigan doesn't experience the usual spate of NHL defections, which yeah right.
The first is Alex Guptill, a 6'2" forward from Ontario. Guptill was a sixth-round OHL draft pick but his stock may have been depressed by uncertainty over his signability. Also, kid was apparently rail thin. Brampton's scouting director on Guptill:
“He’s tall and lean but he can really skate. He has very good puck skills. We think he can be a goal scorer, but he needs to fill out. He really needs a year at the junior A or midget level and he needs to add upper-body strength. He needs to mature physically before he can step in and compete for a spot.”
His year at junior A has been impressive: 30-34-64 in 49 games, and the league's rookie of the year award. He was his team's top scorer despite playing with kids up to four years older than him*. He drew a mention from Guy Flaming over at Hockey's Future as a guy on the "beyond tomorrow" radar:
Alex Guptill (2010) of the OJHL Brampton Capitals has been on a tear since the 6’2, 165-pound rookie forward joined the team last Fall. In 47 games, the Newmarket, Ontario native has posted 60 points (28 goals, 32 assists), including 17 points in nine January Junior “A”games.
No indication if he's on anyone's radar for the 2010 draft but this appears to be a guy with scoring line potential.
Guptill's local paper has a commit article in which he politely turns down the OHL, citing education; there are also some interesting quotes from Mel Pearson on the realities of college hockey recruiting.
*(His two linemates were actually scoring at a slightly higher rate than he was until they were traded 3/4ths of the way through the season. But those guys are 20, not 16.)
The other commit is forward Derek Deblois from Hotchkiss Prep, the former home of freshman grinder Luke Glendening and current home of defenseman commit Mac Bennett. Deblois was interviewed by McKeen's early this month, wherein he was described as Hotchkiss' "go-to guy". Deblois on his game:
McKeen's: Describe the type of game you play. What are your strengths? Weaknesses?
Deblois: I play an aggressive game and like to make plays. I think my strengths are seeing the ice and setting up plays. I need to get bigger, faster, stronger, so I guess you could say my jump.
McKeen's: What would you say is the most underrated facet to your game?
Deblois: I would say breaking the puck out. People don't really understand how hard it is to pick a puck off the boards flat footed with a defensemen pinching. I think I do it pretty well.
McKeen's: Which NHL player do you model your game after and why?
Deblois: I would like to say someone like Joe Thornton. He loves playing behind the net and makes great passes. I think I see the ice well.
Stats, size, and Michigan's main competitor:
Deblois, who is 5'11'', 180 pounds, leads Hotchkiss in scoring with 10 goals, 21 assists and 31 points heading into Wednesday's game against Salisbury.
Deblois, who turned 18 last Thursday, reportedly chose Michigan, which plays in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, over Boston University.
He's currently ranked #69 by Central Scouting, which corresponds to a fourth- or fifth-round pick. Deblois kind of an oddity in that he's good enough to get drafted by the NHL but won't arrive on campus for at least a year after he hears a pro team call his name. Usually kids who enter college hockey at 19 or 20 are guys who needed some extra seasoning before they got to the NCAA; the only kid in recent memory to be drafted by the NHL, play a year of junior, and then arrive at Michigan was Kevin Quick.
Given the age of the two prospects here, Deblois is the more likely to be moved into the 2010 class.
A note on an existing recruit. Michigan Hockey Net points out that the leading scorer on the USA U18 team is none other than Michigan recruit AJ Treais. Treais is one of those skilled tiny guys a la Cammalleri and Comrie and Hensick, but prior to this year he was believed to be a step or two below those guys, who range from solid NHLers to fringe All Stars. Leading the U18 in scoring is an encouraging indicator.