At press time, Harbaugh had sent Michigan’s athletic department an envelope containing a heavily annotated seating chart, a list of the 63,000 seat views he had found unsatisfactory, and a glowing 70-page report on section 25, row 12, seat 9, which he claimed is “exactly what the great sport of football is all about.”
Baby, please don't go. The looming terror hovering over Michigan's basketball season is the potential departure of Manny Harris, and looming terror two is the potential departure of Deshawn Sims. So let's see what Chad Ford has to say in his year-end "naughty and nice" list. Sims checks in on the nice list, (un?)fortunately:
DeShawn Sims, F, Michigan
Sims is a tough player to project. Many scouts question whether he's a 3 or a 4, and much dreaded "tweener" talk is out there. But his production of late has been undeniable. He scored 28 and 12 points in two contests against Duke and an impressive 20 points and 20 rebounds Monday night versus Florida Gulf Coast. If Sims can answer questions about whom he'll guard in the NBA (offensively, he can play both positions well), he could become a late first-round pick.
(The answer to "who can he guard," of course, is NO ONE. Not even Adam Morrison. I talked to Joe Dumars and Jerry West and God about this, I swear.)
"Could become a late first-round pick" sounds like a guy who's likely to return for his senior year in an attempt to guarantee himself that first round cheddar. Ford currently ranks him #46 on his top 100, safely in the return-to-school zone.
Meanwhile, Manny actually checks in below Sims at #48, which seems wildly improbable and totally awesome if it actually represents the opinion of NBA general managers. It might. After all, they continue to trade for Allen Iverson and could well be totally bats. Personally, I don't believe it and am bracing for a departure.
Tempo-free. Excellent chart from Spartans Weblog as we enter the Big Ten basketball season:
Teams to the right are good at offense, teams towards the top are good at defense, and vice versa. These are opposition-adjusted numbers, FWIW, so you can't plead schedule strength: Michigan has by far the best offense in the Big Ten. And, uh, the worst defense.
This comes as little surprise. Michigan's killer weakness in the post results in a lot of faulty man-to-man defending, an over-reliance on the not quite ready for prime time 1-3-1, and poor defensive rebounding. But it affects Michigan's perimeter-oriented offense not at all. Yeah, verily, Michigan is the platonic ideal of the Perimeter Oriented Team, so post guys can get bent. On offense anyway.
BTW: I watched yesterday's Purdue-Illinois game and I'm concerned about UI's skilled, 7'1" center, especially given Michigan's issues with the 1-3-1 of late. The only guys on the team who remotely match up with that guy are redshirting or stupidly at Baylor; I think the Illini are a bad matchup for us. Hopefully Alex Legion takes a zillion stupid shots with 30 seconds on the shot clock. This has a 50-50 chance of happening.
(Note that there's an entire Big Ten Wonk homage blog, a now-annual reprise of the Big Ten Wonk tempo-free aerial (above), and you can see terms like POT pop up on any half-decent blog covering Big Ten Basketball. Wonk is dead, long live Wonk.)
Physician, heal thyself. I read a lot about the decline of newspaper because it's a business interest—and, yes, I relish the day when I get off the freeway and see Drew Sharp holding a sign that says "will annoy for food"—and one of the most common complaints from the old guard is about how darn unreliable those blogs are in comparison to newspapers. This is sort of true, but it's sort of true in the way "average quality" goes down whenever barriers to media contribution are lowered. Any whippersnapper with an e-blog can post whatever they want, sure, but if it's crap the reader will move on, never to return. When there is a panoply of sources the average quality of items written goes down; the average quality of items read goes up.
Anyway, if you're trying to make the case newspapers are more reliable you probably shouldn't do this:
Departed defensive coordinator sworn to not rip Michigan
That's the title of a Mark Snyder post on the Free Press' website that details the verrrry suspicious clause in Scott Shafer's contract that says he can't disparage the university in public and keep his moneys. People contacted for blog post: 0. Disclaimer-type verbiage that would indicate uncertainty about how significant this is, as you would find on many of the "this is speculation!" sort of posts here and elsewhere in the blogosphere: 0. Blog posts that completely blow this out of the water: 1.
Instead of speculating on this I shot a quick note to local attorney Nick Roumel whose firm (Nick Roumel and Associates) handles sports and entertainment contracts. I asked for his take on these terms and in particular, whether this language prohibiting Shafer to “demean or disparage” the football program is unusual.
Roumel responds that the terms sleuthed out by the FIOA experts at the Free Press are "typical for most employment separation agreements"; MVictors then notes that's just one lawyer's opinion—see what I'm saying about proper framing of information?—but that "it's one more attorney than was asked to comment on the Snyder post."
Owned picture goes here.
Meanwhile, the New York Times just published an article in which an Oklahoma commit—five-star DT Jamarcus McFarland—claimed he visited a wild Texas-sponsored coke orgy with naked women "romancing each other" and painted Mack Brown—perhaps the country's most successful recruiter not named Pete Carroll—as a self-centered jerkass more concerned about his flatscreen TVs than this kid and didn't bother to ask Brown for comment. The author of this hit job used to work for Oklahoma's Scout site! McFarland himself admitted the passages in his school paper about the Studio 54 scene were "spiced up" when Scout/Rivals reporters asked him about it, which this Thayer Evans didn't think to do before he published his gullible article in the New York Times(!).
One: though blogs traffic in information far less certain than do mainstream newspapers, they do a much a better job giving you a certainty level for that information and do a much, much better job of swiftly punishing idiots.
Two: your content is as good as the people writing it, and when it comes to sports my money is on nuclear engineers and bored lawyers over journalists who other journalists scorn for playing in the kiddie pool.
Never punt. So there's this insane high school coach in Arkansas who never punts. "Never" as in twice last year, once because they were trying not to run up the score. This insane guy just won the Arkansas state championship. Insane like a fox!
As you might expect, Kevin Kelley—the coach in question—was inspired by one paper in particular:
Kelley had tinkered with eschewing the punting game since winning his first state championship in 2003. He became further emboldened after reading several studies, including "Do Firms Maximize? Evidence from Pro Football," by University of California-Berkeley economics professor David Romer.
The Romer paper put together a statistical model of a football field and concluded that NFL head coaches were way too conservative when it came to going on fourth down, but not even "Do Firms Maximize?" does away with the punt entirely. The only place I've seen that suggested was at Football Outsiders, which published a guest article about eschewing the punt a couple years ago. The idea was so weird that FO took pains to clarify their editorial stance on the matter:
There are many writers at Football Outsiders, and sometimes its hard to convince people that an article on our site represents "the author says X" rather than "Football Outsiders says X." This is extra true for guest columns. This article should not be taken to mean "Football Outsiders says never punt."
That out of the way, the article launches into a discussion of "actual turnover ratio" that counts punts and successful onside kicks and etc etc. It's very dense, and I don't agree some of the lot of assumptions made, but at the very least it's interesting.
My off-the-cuff stance: this strategy works well enough in high school, but that's a land where kickers are often dire and so are defenses. High-level college stuff is much closer to the NFL than high school, and the Romer paper, which suggested you punt on fourth and long yardage, as much better argued. I don't think this applicable past high school.
This is not a column, but I did take in most of the North Carolina Central game and should share some impressions:
Eh. The team looked sloppy, and I'm torn as to whether that's just disinterest or if it's an indication this team is not quite a top-25 squad—which would be a 6 seed—and is more of an 8-10 or, shudder, a #1 in the NIT. At this point we know they're going to get killed on the boards and struggle defending big teams man-to-man. They can survive this with good three-point shooting and low turnovers. Those two items led to a blowout over Eastern and a comfortable win over a pretty decent Oakland team; the lack of them made for a couple of uninspiring games in which Michigan probably would have lost if it wasn't playing a truly horrific team.
You hear that "anything can happen" in all sports at all times, but Michigan will be more random than most given their predilection for three pointers. When they go in, Michigan can beat anyone. When they don't, they can lose to anyone, especially in this year's Big Ten, where everyone save Indiana and Iowa have quality wins.
RPI disaster. Michigan would have been better off if it had never played NCCU. Dylan noted the huge drop in Michigan's shiny RPI number immediately after the game went off:
The final thing that’s frustrating about tonight’s game was that our RPI fell from the mid teens all the way to 37th. Our strength of schedule also took a huge fall down to 87. The Big Ten season will help the numbers but a game like this shows why it is so important to play teams that are going to fall in the 100-200 RPI range rather than the 300+.
Cosigned. That's a major flaw in the RPI, BTW: the chances of NCCU beating Michigan were essentially zero and Michigan should be punished for that, but the team at #183 or whatever would also have an essentially zero chance of beating Michigan. If M had played that random team they'd be considerably better off today. Also, Michigan's got a Big Ten opener in two days.
Slight trend. I complained about the PG minute distribution yesterday just in time for Grady to get 27 minutes to Merritt's 13, a significant shift towards Grady. He rewarded Beilein's faith by going 0-4 from the floor (all threes) and missing his only free throw. Sigh. (He did have four assists and zero turnovers, FWIW.)
PA guy. Remains an abomination. WHO WANTS SOME FREE PIIIIIIIZZAAAAAA?
Someone make this movie. Apparently one of the Beastie Boys has a documentary out about some high-profile high school game at Rucker Park. I think a more interesting documentary is about North Carolina Central, kind of a Hoop Dreams II that follows the guy who ended up at some horrific JUCO named "Arkansas State Mining College"* in my head, except in this case it's the worst team in D-I. Who are these guys? How did they get where they are? What do they think about their futures? Is that point guard actually smaller than Avery Queen? Etc.
*(He ended up doing okay.)
Wisconsin/Illinois. Michigan starts off the Big Ten season with two winnable home games that will set the tone for the rest of the Big Ten season. Are they legit, or were those games flukes? Can they rebound well enough against Actual Teams? Are Harris and Sims going to keep up the ridiculous production against a steady diet of non-cupcakes? Much will be answered in the next week.
Meanwhile, articles on FL WR Jeremy Gallon (and OH CB Justin Turner), LA LB Barkevious Mingo, another on Gallon, FL QB Denard Robinson, LA DT DeQuinta Jones, CA QB Tate Forcier, PA WR Je'Ron Stokes, OH RB Fitzgerald Toussaint.
AL CB Dre Kirkpatrick might visit Michigan, though he remains a huge longshot. I'll put him on the board if he actually visits.
Removed MD DE Jason Ankrah (Nebraska), JUCO DE Pernell McPhee (not M).
As always, some links from Varsity Blue.
Editorial Opinion: Recruiting board lives here. MI panic machine Will Campbell is discussed here and here; don't ask me, I don't know. Other items follow; it's a busy week with the Army All-American game practices in full swing and most of content flowing freely. On with the show.
Gentlemen of a committed persuasion
OH CB Justin Turner, FL WR Jeremy Gallon, FL K Brendan Gibbons, and NJ DE Anthony LaLota are all on the East team; I haven't heard much about Gibbons or LaLota—some of the kids don't get down until later—but the other two have been impressive.
Gallon tore it up the last couple days, catching a number of touchdowns and generally appearing to be the best receiver on his team:
"He's electric," East coach Terry Smith said. "He's very shifty, very athletic. We're trying to get some plays to get some space for him to let him do what he does best."
Michigan recruit and probable Tennessee decommit Je'Ron Stokes echoes the praise:
"He's good," wide receiver Je'Ron Stokes said. "They have him in the slot and the way our offense is run I might want to go to the slot. He's getting a lot of passes thrown his way. He's doing a great job. The thing is they have a receiver lined up on the linebacker. That's a mismatch right there."
Gallon reaffirmed his Michigan commitment recently for those (understandably) spooked about decommits.
Meanwhile, Turner—a safety in high school—is getting reps at corner, where Michigan wants to move him when he gets to campus. He's playing opposite onetime Michigan recruit Darius Winston and living up to his rating (same article):
Michigan commit Justin Turner was at cornerback and even surprised himself with his strong performance after not stepping on the field since his Massillon (Ohio) Washington team lost in the playoffs on Nov. 1. Turner is rated as the third-best safety in the 2009 class but moved to corner because of the missing players.
"I haven't touched the field since we lost in the playoffs so I'm very surprised with what I did," Turner said. "All the great athletes and coaches out there watching, you can't get beat. You don't want to get beat. That was my first time on the field since we lost. I've been lifting. I feel good."
Elsewhere, "Worldofx"—mentioned as a reliable source in the day's earlier Will Campbell post—relates these items on Michigan commits in attendance:
WR: Gallon messed with the secondary most of the day. Stokes had some big plays. Thomas way too stiff to be playing receiver.
CB: Winston was a lot better than everyone here. Turner moved to corner and adjusted fairly well.
Ah, Darius Winston, why did you decommit only to recommit?
Speaking of Stokes
That guy praising Jeremy Gallon up there, PA WR Je'Ron Stokes, appears to be Michigan's best shot at another outside wide receiver in the class, which may or may not be a need depending on the final positions of commits Dewayne Peace (a potential defensive back) and Cameron Gordon (a potential linebacker). Stokes' commitment to Tennessee is flimsy at best:
Philadelphia (Pa.) Northeast wide receiver Je'Ron Stokes is only 50/50 about sticking to his commitment to Tennessee according to good sources. Stokes committed to Tennessee back in April but waivered a bit when new head coach Lane Kiffin decided against keeping Tajh Boyd and Bryce Petty in the 2009 recruiting class. Stokes wants to visit Illinois and Michigan in January and is also looking at Florida and Georgia. His younger brother, 2010 quarterback Malik Stokes, had an offer from the old staff but is being re-evaluated by Kiffin. Stokes has been told that Tennessee will not be taking a quarterback in this class and will go after a big name in 2010.
Far be it from me to question Lane Kiffin's decision to boot a top 100 QB prospect in favor of nobody whatsoever, but some lucky school is going to send him a thank-you note later, and it sounds like either Illinois or Michigan has an excellent shot at following that up with a boquet of flowers.
Mingo the Merciless
There are a thousand reasons to desperately want LA LB Barkevious Mingo, at least 400 of which relate to his name, but it he's unlikely to sign with M despite Michigan being his only scheduled visit:
Though the Wolverines are set for his first visit, Mingo confirmed that does not mean that they're one of his top schools. In fact, they have some ground to make up as the 6-foot-5, 209-pounder currently lists a top three of USC, Alabama and LSU, in no particular order.
If he visits there's a chance and etc etc etc.
Unfortunately, Michigan hasn't materialized on the lists of any quarterbacks that weren't already listing them. This leaves FL QB Denard Robinson as the only potential accompaniment for Tate Forcier in this year's class. The latest on him:
"I like Michigan because the old coaches from West Virginia are there," he said. "Coach Rich Rodriguez is trying to install his system there and I think I'd be a good fit. They need a good dual-threat quarterback like me."
Robinson has already visited Georgia and Florida and plans to go to Michigan, Kansas State, and UCF.
Tate Forcier, meanwhile, was on the radio a few days ago and said things. A brief example:
LL: Is there a quarterback that is in college or the pros that you think your game might remind people of a little bit?
TF: My goal is to be a little bit like Colt McCoy. I'm almost nearly the same size and speed. It’s possible I may have a stronger arm than him. That’s kind of a lot to say, but I think if I worked hard I could maybe follow in his footsteps and be the type of quarterback that he is.
More at the link.
Praise for Jones
The best defensive lineman in the state that no one ever talks about is Bastrop's Dequinta Jones (6'3 275), who runs a 4.8 forty and can play the game as well as any in the country. Jones is committed to Michigan, and I predict he will start after one year and play as a true freshman for the Wolverines.
LSU got a commitment from teammate Josh Downs, who is 6'1 280 and is more of a true nose guard. I really think Jones is the best defensive tackle on the team and could be as good one day as former Bastrop defensive tackle Claude Wroten as well as current LSU and former Bastrop player Kantravious Aubrey.
Now Michigan just needs to hold onto him; Jones is something of a soft commit and has tentative plans to visit Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
Etc.: OH RB commit Fitzgerald Toussaint reaffirms commit, is interviewed by the Vindicator.
The William Campbell recruitment is the reason the letters W, T, and F were invented. A couple days ago, Campbell publicly eliminates (or near-eliminates) Michigan after months of foregone conclusion-hood. WTF?!?!?
Numerous sources have confirmed that Michigan is still in the picture for Campbell and will be one of the candidates for his pledge on Saturday. One source went as far as saying that he felt Campbell would certainly re-commit to Michigan, noting the big defensive tackle's sense of humor and tendency to joke around.
Meanwhile, the inbox says this:
Friend at Miami says his sources tell him they think Will is all theirs.
Source at USC says TJ McDonald reported to the USC staff (who have been absolutely confused by Will during their recruitment of him) that Will Campbell was making up all the dropping Michigan stuff. After I relayed this to my friend at Miami he was very unconfident about the Will to Miami report, so that probably isn’t a strong rumor.
He [Campbell] told TJ [McDonald] he was just f---ing around.
Who is this? Read on. –ed.]
Worldofx is a legitimate contact for recruiting and has consistent dialogue with USC staff and works at the USC and Rivals SoCal combines. I recommend you join the message board for his recruiting information (www.fvsports.com)
What is known is this: Will Campbell was an unofficial visitor to every Michigan home game, even though he de-committed after the Utah game. Cissoko, Gordon, and Jones are all Cass Tech team mates and there was talk during the season of Will “joining his team mates.” And that there is a Will Campbell on the winter enrollment list.
And on yesterday's WTKA recruiting roundup, Andre Barthwell of GBW said he's still going to Michigan. WTF, and hurray.
But wait. What if the failure of Campbell's hypothetically attempted ruse drives him mad with anger and he actually does pick somewhere else just to prove you can't predict what William Campbell is going to do? Arrrrgh!
Here's a picture of an otter with a beer.
Under no circumstances should Will Campbell be informed he is mentioned in this post, which is about otters.
Things other than aigh Will Campbell that happened over the break.
Basketball failed to implode spectacularly.
…probably. They've got winless North Carolina Central (Kenpom rank: #344 of 344) tonight. Kenpom predicts a final score of 96-49 and gives NCC a 0% chance of victory. It does not appear to be the height of hubris to predict a win.
The opponents since the watershed Duke game:
EMU and Oakland. These games were very similar to each other: Michigan plays a significant amount of uninspired basketball but is bailed out by smoking hot three-point shooting. It was 16 of 33 against Eastern and 13 of 29 against Oakland. Neither opponent could keep up with Michigan once the threes started falling (and, in Oakland's case, theirs stopped falling).
Of note in both these games: Michigan went to the 1-3-1 for brief periods in the first half, got torn apart, and spent the rest of the game in man-to-man. In the Oakland game the 1-3-1 was a very brief cameo indeed, as it was present for all of one possession—an Oakland layup—and was quickly shelved. Theory: there's some adjustment that prevents the layup line the 1-3-1 became against EMU but Beilein's vertigo-induced absence prevented that from being applied and Michigan just went to a standard defense against generally overmatched foes.
Oakland center Keith Benson used the man-to-man to go crazy, hitting nine of eleven shots and having a career game. It wasn't necessarily that the defense was bad, either; often times Benson was well defended only to hit a tough shot.
Reed Baker and the Rainmakers. Due to holiday travel I missed this one and it sounds like I should be glad I did. Michigan shot very poorly, but forced a zillion FGCU turnovers and limped to an ugly victory over a bad team.
And notes for the future:
Minutes what? Laval Lucas-Perry becomes eligible, looks a lot like Bernie Mac, and hits a lot of threes. He's played 36 minutes in two games. Where are these minutes coming from? One obvious location: Anthony Wright has gotten two DNP-CDs since LLP shed his suit. But the other obvious location—walk-ons—not so much. Merritt and Lee have combined to average 25 minutes per game.
Wha? Well, Michigan is using Perry at the 2 and 3 and giving all point guard minutes to either Merritt or Grady. The two have combined for 79 minutes in the last two games: one or the other is always on the floor. Everyone was selling LLP as a combo guard or a scoring point; Michigan isn't even giving him a chance to be the best point guard since Magic Johnson.
The two possibilities here are
- LLP isn't actually any sort of point and Michigan will never play him there.
- Michigan's trying to work LLP in slowly and will start giving him point guard minutes as he gets more comfortable actually being on the floor.
I really hope it's #2; no offense to Merritt but he's a walk-on for a reason.
Minutes what part two. Okay, so LLP isn't taking Merritt's minutes. Fine. Question: why isn't Kelvin Grady? There is nothing Grady isn't statistically superior to Merritt in except a couple of things with extremely low sample sizes:
|Player||ARate||TORate||Usage||2PT FG%||3PT FG%|
Merritt's superior two point FG percentage is based on ten shots, and that usage rate is insanely low—way lower than even CJ Lee—so those should be almost entirely easy shots.
Unless Merritt's just way, way better on defense, which I concede may be true, there's no reasonable case he should be playing anything more than 5-10 minutes a game when Grady needs a breather.
Side note: how about that 43% on three pointers from Grady? We're still subject to a small sample size disclaimer, but dang, man. That's a seven-point jump from last year's meh 36%, and it makes him someone you have to get out on, which is dangerous because he's ninja-quick. If only he could make a layup.
Manny! I'm going to be the last person on earth to note how freakin' good Manny Harris is, but this, I think, is the key number: 33.2. Oh, and 31.6. And 17.3. These items are:
- 33.2. Harris's assist rate, which is insane for a small forward, 13 points higher than last year's, by far the best on the team, and 62nd nationally. Also helping out: Harris' TO rate has dropped from 22.0 to 18.6.
- 31.6. Harris's usage rate, which is insane for anyone—26th nationally—and actually higher than his very high usage from a year ago.
- 17.3. Harris' defensive rebound rate, which is easily second-best on the team and a major reason the rebounding numbers are not worse than they are.
Before the season I sounded a note of caution on expectations for Harris as his freshman year had the distinct whiff of Bracey Wright to it. (I've done this twice, actually.) That whiff is gone. Harris has been maniacally efficient despite sporting an enormous usage rate. This was my hope before the season:
I hope in March we're here looking at scoring average going down a little bit but those field goal numbers going up a lot; we'll see.
Harris said "how about more usage and more efficiency" and I said "I wish to clone you every four years if that is okay with you sir." That is stardom, and it's a quantum leap forward from his freshman year.
Things other than aigh Will Campbell that happened over the break.
Hockey won the GLI.
Yay, divers alarums and all that but unlike most years, when a GLI win would entail a victory over at least one tourney-bound opponent, Michigan beat the last place team in the WCHA and the last place team in the CCHA. It's good they did so, and did so in dominating fashion, but this was a must-win situation for a team currently flirting with missing the tourney more than a big step forward.
Some items on the State game (yrs truly was sleeping in a car during the Tech game):
This is the third game I've seen Michigan play State and it's still stunning just how bad they are. There were three separate shifts where State got stuck in its own end for a minute and a half against Ciraulo, Glendening, and Fardig. The fourth line. The fourth line when two of Michigan's forwards are at the WJC. It's not surprising that Lerg faced more than 100 shots on the weekend.
Could this be it for Comley? He's two years removed from a national championship, which no matter how fluky it was remains a national championship. On the other hand, State is beyond terrible. Their recruiting must have fallen off a cliff, though it's hard to tell in college hockey. They did bring in a first-round draft pick in Daultan Leveille this year (and Leveille is third on the team with… eight points) but Leveille was from the lightly-scouted and lightly-recruited GOJHL, a junior B league a level below the BCHL or OPJHL. While this is a triumph of scouting for State to get on this kid early, it's not exactly a battle won against Michigan, North Dakota, etc etc etc. Just look at the NTDP recruiting: Michigan has eight guys coming in over the next two years and State has two, one of whom is the backup to M recruit Jeff Campbell and the other is Austin Czarnik, the 5'8" cousin of Robbie. Czarnik's doing well this year (8-6-14, tied for 3rd on the team in scoring) but Michigan has Merrill, Moffatt, Jacob Fallon, and Kevin Clare plus Campbell lined up from that year's team.
Comley's old and seems to be flagging; State should probably give him the heave-ho this year or things could seriously slide.
Meanwhile, on Michigan's side of things: If you're looking for a breakout player of the second half it's got to be Brandon Burlon. He was slowed by an ankle injury early, then struggled a bit with rust; of late he's been doing a lot of things that you have to be ridiculously talented to do. In the State game he leapt up into the slot, pounced on a loose puck, and effortlessly labeled one top corner to force a good glove save out of Lerg. In the previous two State games he had a sick end-to-end rush goal and a critical assist when he leapt into the play, created a two on one, and set up an easy, tying tap-in for Hagelin.
Burlon doesn't have Jack Johnson's size or hatred of all living things on skates, but he might have something approximating his puck skills. He's going to blow up in the second half of the season.
Runner-up in this category: Robbie Czarnik, who's either Milan Gajic or Kevin Porter at this point. Both got, and flubbed, a zillion chances as underclassmen. Porter blossomed into the Hobey winner and a surefire NHLer; Gajic squeezed his stick into sawdust and left Michigan the ultimate tease of a hockey player. For Czarnik's sake and mine I hope the pucks start going in.
Louie? I'm still confused about Louie Caporusso, an obviously good hockey player who seemingly has no business leading the nation in goals by four. He's small. He doesn't have the ridiculous dangle of a Hensick or Comrie, nor does he have the ability to teleport from one end of the ice to the other like Tambellini or Cogliano, nor does he have Tambellini's laser wrist shot. He seems pretty good at all these things, just not great. And yet: 18 goals, and a crazy PPG mark as a freshman that was obscured by an injury that held him out a third of the season.
The nearest thing I can figure is that Caporusso is some sort of crazy anticipatory genius who finds open spots on the ice and uses his extremely accurate shot to make the best of things when the puck comes to him. His latest goal (above) against Michigan State, wherein he schooled Leopold Buttery Stotch and came in on Lerg, was perhaps the best example of this to date: Caporusso was travelling at high speed about two inches from Lerg and managed to roof the puck. The angle involved was very narrow. Maybe Caporusso has that Ryan Smyth ability to put himself in open spots and put pucks exactly where he wants them? I will make it my mission to find this out.
Scooter. Scratched with the return of Kampfer. Harsh, man… I thought surely it would be Pateryn or Llewellyn—who is taking a lot of foolish penalties—in the suit. Scooter did make a couple critical errors in the State game at Munn (he was the guy who pinched and yielded the two-on-one that led to State's first goal in that game), I guess. Competition for playing time on D is going to be brutal for the remainder of the season.
Hogan. I guess he's the man, man. I didn't think he was playing any better than Sauer when the two platooned, and the stats back that up. But he's clearly not playing any worse, and when you have these two guys as your options…
- Guy with GAA around 2.0 and save percentage around .910 with no history in NCAA tournament
- Guy with GAA around 2.0 and save percentage around .910 with two consecutive season-killing meltdowns
… you should go with the devil you don't know. No offense to Sauer but I hope we don't see him more than a few times the rest of the year, as that will mean Hogan has continued to play at a high level.
Miami. The upcoming games against Miami—this is hockey, wherein Miami is most definitely not Fake Miami—are the bar-none biggest of the year. Return the sweep Miami inflicted at Goggin and Michigan leaps back into the CCHA race* and gives themselves a significant margin of error as far as making the tourney goes. Get swept again and it will be tooth and nail for a first-round bye in the CCHA playoffs and a tourney bid. Split and eh.
January 9th and 10th: big.
*(Five points back with two games in hand, though Notre Dame remains way far ahead and Michigan would almost definitely have to sweep them in a home-and-home at the end of January to have any chance of winning the league. In all likelihood the regular season title is gone and Michigan is fighting for a first-round bye and secure tourney bid the rest of the way, but sweep the #1 and #2 teams in the country and we're in it, yo!)