spoiler alert: i linked this
Rivals is reporting that OH DE Davion Rogers, a teammate of DJ Williamson at Warren G. Harding High School, has committed to the Wolverines. Informative update coming later (perhaps tomorrow, what with the basketball game and all).
Apologies for the delay, Denard happened.
|WHAT||Michigan v. Connecticut|
|WHERE||Ann Arbor, MI|
January 16th, 2010
*Line provided by online sports betting site Sportsbetting.com.
The Wolverines have been inconsistent all year, but from this (admittedly optimistic) observer's point of view, they are really improving as the year goes on. Part of that is the maturation of Darius Morris and the Stu Douglass comfort level at point guard, and part of it is improving leadership. Hell, part of it might just be a mirage that I'm fooling myself into believing. The Wolverines are the 4th most efficient Big Ten team overall since conference play began, so maybe I'm not crazy after all.
Part of the improvement from Michigan's end has been production on the inside (or the mid-range) from DeShawn Sims, with Manny Harris providing the slashing to the bucket, allowing the role players to be just that - role players. The improvement on the defensive end has been notable as well, with Darius Morris coming into his own as a college player.
This game is a big deal for the Wolverines. They limped through the non-conference season during December, and could use a big win outside the league to salvage what has looked like a major regression on the court.
The Huskies come into Crisler Arena with a #15 ranking (sure to drop next week, as they're on a 2-game slide), and an 11-5 record (1-4 away from home). Their losses have come to Duke and Kentucky (in Madison Square Garden), at Cincinnati and Georgetown, and home against Pittsburgh. That last one may be relevant because, according to AnnArbor.com's Mike Rothstein, UConn coach Jim Calhoun said Michigan is a similar team to the Panthers.
Key players for UConn include guards Jerome Dyson (the scorer) and Kemba Walker (the distributor). They're also key defensive players, and Michigan has had trouble this year when facing athletic guards on the opposing team. The defensive tone is also set by shot blocks, as the 6-9 trio of Stanley Robinson, Gavin Edwards, and Alex Oriakhi are all in the nation's top 300 in block %.
UConn hasn't proven itself as much as you'd think, and Michigan might have a decent chance for a win. This isn't last year's team. The tempo-free profiles bear out that MIchigan isn't too far behind the Huskies.
If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Connecticut: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||UConn Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. Conn Def eFG%||169||11||CC|
|Mich Def eFG% v. Conn eFG%||197||123||C|
|Mich TO% v. Conn Def TO%||20||307||MMM|
|Mich Def TO% v. Conn TO%||37||101||M|
|Mich OReb% v. Conn DReb%||239||182||C|
|Mich DReb% v. Conn OReb%||246||72||CC|
|Mich FTR v. Conn Opp FTR||330||4||CCCC|
|Mich Opp FTR v. Conn FTR||13||41||M|
|Mich AdjO v. Conn AdjD||79||29||C|
|Mich AdjD v. Conn AdjO||68||69||-|
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.
That matchup, on paper, certainly doesn't look like the difference between a top-15 squad and one that has already been written off as an NIT contender, at best. UConn is a pretty good team, but Michigan has been progressing pretty well statistically since the year's rough start. If they can hammer out the inconsistencies, the Wolverines stand a decent chance against UConn.
Still, it's hard to see Michigan standing even with the Huskies in this game, despite the fact that they hung tough last year on the road. The home fans will be a big factor, and a bit of luck will be required. If Michigan can keep the game close until the end, they stand a chance to pull the upset. Otherwise, I see this as a comfortable 10-15 point win for the men from Storrs. Surprisingly, Kenpom disagrees, saying Michigan should emerge as 1-point victors.
Fans, this is important: tomorrow is an official maize out, so wear your maize, and come early, as the first 7,000 fans will get a "rally spinner," whatever that is. Also, UConn has been shaky away from their home arena, ,so bring some serious noise and cheer the Wolverines on to victory.
Also: water wet.
One Denard Xavier Robinson is not only a quarterback for the University of Michigan football team, but a scary-fast dude who runs track for the Wolverines as well. Today (seriously, less than an hour ago), Denard raced in the 60 meter dash against Ohio State WITH HIS SHOES UNTIED OMG. I'll let the video speak for itself:
He's the be-dreadlocked dude in the 4th lane, winning the race in a time of 6.81 seconds.
The meet was packed, and I'm sure much of the excitement was about Denard's performance this afternoon. Nearly every Michigan football coach and about half the team was in attendance, along with some football recruits, in addition to members of various other Michigan teams (shout out to women's basketball, who stood right near me). Paul also got some pics:
Sorry if some of them are blurry, he's just too fast for any shutter speed.
Um, so Little Bro posted it in the Alaska preview comments. It has fewer than a thousand views on the Youtube so it must be under the radar still. This lack of aggression will not stand.
So… yeah… the bear video came into our lives and was fantastic. There is another. I know what you're thinking: this can only be a disappointment. That's what I thought. I was so very wrong.
Here's a youtube comment:
Is this plot line taken from Scientology scripture?
Now you watch.
Wasn't this the plot of Battlestar Galactica, except awesome?
Michigan 69 Indiana 45. Michigan 9-7 (3-2 Big Ten)
The game was ugly. The teams combined for more turnovers (21) than made field goals in the first half, and Michigan struggled to a 6-point lead. "Classic Big Ten Basketball" is Musbergian one way to describe it, but "One Ugly Game" is at least as accurate. Manny Harris had only 4 points at the half, and hadn't made a single field goal.
After the half, things could have continued on that trajectory, Michigan could have come away with a win, and everybody would have been satisfied but annoyed that they sat through the game. Zack Novak had another idea, though. He gave a speech before the second half began, urging the team to keep their foot on the gas, and asking whether they wanted this game to end up like the Penn State win, or the choke job against Northwestern.
At the beginning of the first half, nothing changed except the Wolverines weren't turning it over quite as much. Manny Harris was unceremoniously benched after another lazy play, and it looked like the Hoosiers had an opening. Matt Vogrich made yet another surprising tip-in of a Darius Morris miss, and Michigan managed to maintain its 7-point lead.
Then Manny came back… and there was no change. The Hoosiers managed to get within 4 points before Harris had enough. He scored 17 second-half points, Michigan was finally able to turn their solid defense into offense on the other end by not turning it right back over. A series of fast break buckets first closed the door, then locked it.
What could have been a real squeaker, or even another disappointing loss, was suddenly a 24-point win. It was far from perfect. Michigan's going to have to play a lot better in the upcoming stretch to come away with any wins, much less a respectable record at the end of it all. Time to learn, and move on.
- Darius Morris is really turning into a good player. His body still moves faster than his mind sometimes, resulting in a couple unforced (or hardly-forced) turnovers per game, but he's not a liability anymore. By the end of the year, he should be a good Big Ten player, and probably a starter.
- Manny Harris starts the game 0-7 shooting, and finishes 7-9 shooting. 7-16 wouldn't look so bad if the shots were distributed otherwise. He slept through the first half, then turned it on.
- What is this... rebounding... you speak of? The Wolverines doubled up the Hoosiers on IU misses, and more impressively, grabbed 41% of available offensive rebounds.
- The final turnovers look bad, with Michigan amassing 16 for the game. That's actually not too bad though, considering 11 of those came in the ugly first half.
- Speaking of the tale of two halves, when was the last time MIchigan was able to put together 40 solid minutes? I guess the Ohio State game went well, but outside of that it's hard to find one against a legit opponent.
- What a wasted opportunity that Northwestern game was (and I guess in the context of tonight, the first Indiana game as well). If Michigan shows up the whole time, the Big Ten record would be stellar-to-unblemished, and the NCAA tournament would be a possibility instead of a pipe dream.
- Man, Tom Crean is annoying as all hell on the sidelines.
- Stu Douglass has been writing quotes on his shoes that are sent to him by a friend (inspired by Stephen Curry's shoes last year). Darius Morris also decorates the back of his shoes. See pictures of both in the photo gallery.
"That was my team growing up, I guess there's just a little bit more to that game for me personally." Zack Novak on playing the Hoosiers.
"We've had some games this year... We very easily could have won 3 or 4 more if we were just tough like today down the stretch." Novak.
"I feel like the defense was really solid. I think it was a real, traditional old-fashioned Big Ten game." Darius Morris.
"In the first half I was running the offense also, but in the second half when I was running the offense, I was getting a little more aggressive, especially toward the end of the second half, because I felt like plays needed to be made." Manny Harris on his offensive explosion.
"Sometimes we were a little lazy, I feel, on some of our cuts... Luckily though, we ran a little bit and got some pretty easy buckets, especially in the second half." Stu Douglass on the ugly performance.
"Some turnovers they forced, some turnovers they didn't force. Our kids persevered through it, and this was one game on the defensive end, both ends, we bought in 100% of what it takes to win." John Beilein.
"That what I'm so proud for us: If we don't guard, we don't win this game." Beilein.
"Manny Harris is a tremendous example for our team, for so many teams... We don't understand the level of force you have to play with. Manny Harris understands the level of force you have to play with." Tom Crean.
Michigan takes on the #15 UConn Huskies Sunday in Crisler Arena at 1:30PM. As of last night, there were some tickets still available, so snap them up. If you can't make it, catch the game on CBS. After that, a tough three-game stretch in the Big Ten see Michigan travel to Wisconsin and Purdue before hosting Michigan State, all in the span of six days.
THEY'RE COMING. ACTUALLY THEY'RE PROBABLY ALREADY HERE.
|WHAT||Michigan v. Alaska|
|WHERE||Yost Ice Arena, Ann Arbor, MI|
January 15/16th, 2010
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
|TELEVISION||Friday on FSN Plus
No TV Saturday
What's this then?
It's a hockey weekend preview. Am I doing this solely because of the bear video? No. Ten percent of the desire to do this results from Yost Built's lamentable "job" that prevents him from posting as fully as he usually does. [Update: so of course he posts a ten things.]
Record. 10-6-4, 7-6-3-3 CCHA. Currently 4th place with 27 points. Michigan is tied for seventh but has two games in hand.
After a hot start during which the Nanooks picked up wins over Michigan and Ferris (twice), Alaska has cooled off significantly. They split with UNO last weekend and split with UNO the last week before the Christmas break. Before that, they got one point out of Western Michigan and tied Northern twice. Before that they had three splits, two of them against Lake State and Bowling Green. They, like Michigan, have been an almost perfectly .500 hockey club since about mid-November.
Road/home splits don't mean much in hockey, IME, but I make an exception when you're coming from Alaska and spend weeks at a time on the road and I've seen you wander into Yost to get hammered 8-0 on Friday only to win the next night. So: Alaska is 7-2-3 in Alaska* and 3-4-1 outside of it.
*(UAF opened up the season with a preseason "tournament"—there were no brackets—in Anchorage where they played Michigan and Mercyhurst, winning both.)
Dangermen. Freshman winger Andy Taranto is Alaska's top scorer with a 9-15-24 line, good enough for 29th nationally. (And better than any Michigan player. Carl "Bork" Hagelin is Michigan's top scorer with 12-13-25 in two more games. When was the last time Michigan's top scorer was outside the top ten in PPG, let along the top… uh… 38?) Taranto is second in freshman scoring; Alaska appears to have picked up a diamond in the rough.
Dion Knelsen is the other big(-ish) gun with 10-9-19; no other Nanook has more than five goals.
As a team, Alaska has a little more pop than usual. They check in slightly below average in scoring at 2.90 goals per game.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. Alaska usually substitutes grit, hard work, and caution for scoring prowess and this year is not much of an exception. After losing Wylie Rogers and his .922 save percentage, in comes sophomore Scott Greenham and his respectable .914. That's 23rd nationally. Bryan Hogan is 54th of 75 eligible at .900.
Alaska is 11th in scoring defense at 2.40 goals per game.
Special teams. As is almost always the case, Michigan goes into this series expecting to take more penalties than the opponent. But it's not usually this stark. Michigan is 9th nationally with 17.3 penalties per game; Alaska is dead last with a measly 172 minutes—8.6 per game—on the season so far. That's somewhat misleading, though. I prefer power play opportunities since that measure washes out things like misconducts and coincidental minors. It allso gives you a sense for how good a team is at forcing penalties out of the opponent:
|PP For / G||5.1||5.6|
|PP Ag / G||4||5.4|
The difference isn't nearly as stark from that perspective, but Alaska does have an advantage.
This is where Alaska makes its hay. They're 22/102 on the power play so far this year and haven't given up a shorthanded goal. They're scoring at a 21.6 percent rate, better than Michigan—though not much better. (Given how much I dislike Michigan's power play I'm surprised it's converting at a respectable 20.2 percent rate.) The penalty kill is just okay at 83.8 percent and zero shorthanded goals. But, again, they don't end up in the box much.
Michigan's Hagelin-led penalty kill (third nationally at 89%) is the best aspect of the team, FWIW.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Obvious: keep out of the box. Alaska has scored 36 even-strength goals in 20 games and will be on the road, where they are vulnerable. Michigan has 43 goals in 22 games at even strength, and while that doesn't seem like a big gap it does get bigger when you account for the two extra power plays that occur in an average Michigan game.
Match Hagelin on Taranto and Knelsen. Alaska's a team that has one main line and Michigan's got the best defensive forward in the CCHA.
Equally obvious: freakin' score. Michigan started the year off in Alaska with a game that foretold this year's incredible frustrations, outshooting the opponent 2-to-1 but failing to put a puck in the net and losing 2-0; Bryan Hogan gave up a soft goal from just inside the blue line.
Michigan had a huge territorial edge in that game and figures to have more of the same this weekend, but the story all year has been failing to make that edge count.
Jump on them early Friday. I've been watching UAF wander into Yost for a decade now and I don't think I've seen them not get bombed in the first period of the Friday game. If Michigan doesn't come out of tonight's first period with a lead that's a major missed opportunity.
The Big Picture
If Michigan sweeps Alaska we can prepare for a critical Ferris series with hope in our hearts, but it just about has to be a sweep. I guess a three-point weekend is theoretically helpful but Michigan hasn't tied a game in almost two years* and at this point Michigan is so far behind the eight-ball that they can't give away home games against average hockey teams.
Can they? It is obviously within the realm of possibility, but it's hard to go back any farther than the sweep against a terrible Western team and have faith in this team's ability to turn its huge advantage in shots and chances into wins. I lean towards a split, but hockey games are even dumber things to predict than football games so will forgo anything on the record.
*(The last one was a 5-5 tie with Miami on February 9th of 2008 that finished a stretch of four ties in five games. Michigan hasn't gone to overtime since the CCHA implemented the shootout.)