"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
…the big boys and their ESPN propagandists got the results they needed from the land of mid-majors this weekend. Neither Siena nor Utah St. could handle their road trips to angry league rivals who have probably had the date circled on their proverbial calendars for weeks. Creighton didn't get the help they needed from Evansville to declare an outright title in the MoVal. Butler sealed up homecourt throughout the Horizon tourney, making it more likely the HL will stay a one-bid league. More than ever, it looks like it really is the "down year" for mid-major at-larges we've been hearing about since December.
Tentative woo. While it's the rare major-conference result that definitively reduces the number of bids a league will get—thanks, Notre Dame—every failed attempt at a mid-major at-large increases the pool of available slots for Michigan.
They're still not getting in without a win over Minnesota on Saturday, but there was always a chance that an unpleasant assemblage of results outside of Michigan's control could see the "9-9 w/ first round BTT win" scenario fail to yield a bid. That chance is slimming.
Skatin'. Defenseman and member of Michigan's sick 2010 hockey recruiting class Mac Bennett was recently profiled by his local news:
So, good news and bad news in there. Good news: Bennett seems like the kind of kid who will go high-ish in this year's NHL draft—he was rated a third-round pick (-ish) by the CSB. Bad news: his quotes on Michigan don't indicate the sort of kid who's likely to stick around all four years. Eh, that's life as a Michigan hockey fan.
Berenson back. We may be nearing the end of Red Berenson's tenure as Michigan's coach, but it's not quite over. Berenson just agreed to a one-year extension of his contract.
Berenson gives a typically blunt quote about the situation:
"I know that my time is coming," Berenson said. "...I just didn't want to make a five-year commitment and say, 'Geez, I'm gonna be here until I'm 75 or something.' I don't think that's fair to the team, to the program. And recruits might come in and say, '... this guy is gonna be our coach?'
"Right now I'm fine, and I'm good for a year. So we'll go from there."
Oh, no reason. (via Black Heart, Gold Pants)
Berenson did state he wasn't planning on retiring this year even if Michigan wins the national title. As for what happens when Berenson steps down: the chance of an internal promotion is very high. Billy Powers and Mel Pearson already do all of the recruiting and plenty of the coaching; Michigan will promote one and hope to hang on to the other.
Bashin'. An erratic weekend for Michigan baseball saw them lose to Wisconsin-Milwaukee in a game featuring 30 runs, split a doubleheader with Jacksonville by the improbable scores of 21-3 (W) and 10-2 (L), and finally pull another late-innings rabbit out of their hat against Akron. Formerly Anonymous has your recap. Michigan stands at 7-2 on the year and is looking a little wobbly.
A three-game series against Siena is up next, followed by the annual Mets exhibition and then then what's probably the most critical series of the year if Michigan's going to get any at-large consideration at the end of the year: three games at Arizona.
Sign there is something deeply wrong with me #4,540. So I read the epically long Wright Thompson thing about Ole Miss's 1962 integration riots and so on and so forth. As I was doing this, I kept thinking about Derek Pegues and Dennis Thames and Josh Boyd: how the hell can it be hard to get kids out of Mississippi? Argh!
Also, a there is a Michigan tangent. The week after James Meredith enrolls and Oxford turns into Beruit, Ole Miss plays Houston:
Vaught almost never gives pregame speeches, thinks they are silly. But this ... well, he needs to say something. Vaught feels like the entire university is riding on the backs of his team. Vanity? Sure. True? Probably. He needs them to understand, these young guys. He needs them to see. "It is very important that we play this game, boys," Vaught says, "and we have to win it."
The team roars in response and rushes out of the locker room onto the field. Vaught gets chills watching them. The Rebels dominate undefeated Houston 40-7, with Griffing throwing three touchdown passes to Guy. But the most emotional two ovations of the day have nothing to do with the game.
One comes at the beginning, when Barnett enters his box. The other comes when the public address man announces other scores from around the country. Michigan, he tells them, has beaten Army, hated invader of Ole Miss 17-0.
This is so tangential that I don't have anything to say about it other than "funny old world," so: funny old world.
2/27/2009 – Michigan 6, Ferris State 1 – 25-10, 19-8 CCHA
2/28/2009 – Michigan 4, Ferris State 0 – 26-10, 20-8 CCHA
Everyone held serve this weekend, with Michigan and Notre Dame both sweeping inferior opponents. The critical comparison remains as grim as it was last week (PWR rankings from Sioux Sports, as usual):
I could break every category down in detail, or I could just give you the upshot: Notre Dame basically has a two-game lead on Michigan. If they bomb out of the CCHA playoffs in the second round Michigan can pass them. That's unlikely. The best team they could face in the second round is UNO, which has a –14 goal differential compared to ND's +43. The other option is for ND to lose twice at the Joe while Michigan wins the CCHA, which is more plausible but still a slim window.
So it's best to just accept the fact that Michigan is either a 2-seed or getting shipped.
Compounding the bad vibes is Denver's flight up into a tie with Michigan despite 1) being way back in RPI and 2) splitting this weekend. DU got a lot of fortunate results around the TUC cliff and now owns that point along with common opponents, which overrules the, you know, season. So they win that comparison with Michigan and are currently the #3 overall seed with Michigan slipping to #4. With nine relevant games sitting in the last four RPI slots, this comparison is going to be hugely unstable until the end of the season.
Slipping to the last #1 seed doesn't really matter, as any spot behind ND results in getting shipped and PWR's just going to throw up some random stuff at the end when it comes to the brackets.
The Whole Situation
Michigan's PWR status by category (some "lock win" teams may not be TUCs at the end of the season but Michigan will win the comparison with whoever replaces them):
- Lock Wins: Air Force, Alaska, BC, Cornell, Lowell, CC, Minnesota, UMD, Mankato, UNH, North Dakota, OSU, Princeton, RIT, SCSU, St Lawrence, Wisconsin, Yale
- Lean Michigan: Miami, Northeastern, Vermont
- Tossup: Denver
- Lean Opponent: ND
- Lock Losses: BU
Okay, that's a pretty good situation. Michigan is guaranteed to be at least a #2 seed and it'll take some doing to not be a #1:
- Miami has basically lost the M comparison if Michigan sweeps its first-round playoff opponent; even a head-to-head victory wouldn't be enough to move things since H2H games don't count in either of the other categories. This is a near-lock.
- Vermont has COP but is well back in TUC and about a game and a half back in RPI.
- Northeastern loses COP and it would take some fortunate playoff matchups for any chance of that changing; they'd have to sweep BC to take TUC and that would remain precarious depending on the results of conference tourneys.
The upshot: unless Michigan fails to make or gets swept at the Joe, the only thing that can prevent M from being a one-seed is sustained hot streaks from Northeastern and Denver coupled with unfavorable results near the TUC cliff. They have a one-game lead, basically, with few opportunities to lose it.
Things That Aren't Math
It's worth noting that since Michigan finished trundling to a 9-7 start, they've caught fire. They're 17-3 since, and two of the losses were one goal games featuring not one but two obviously incorrect decisions on goals. Michigan dominated those games, outshooting ND 38-22 and Ohio State 37-25. The only game that Michigan has just straight-up lost since November was, bizarrely, a home game against last-place Bowling Green.
And they did all that without Mark Mitera, the captain and last year's INCH defenseman of the year. Mitera returned to the ice this weekend and put up two points. Even if he was rusty—and though I didn't see the game @ Ferris most commenters at USCHO said he was to blame for the lone Bulldog goal of the weekend—he's got three weeks to round into shape before the NCAA tournament arrives.
So… yeah. It appears this team is in position almost as good as last year's team to make the Frozen Four and, hopefully, break the painful streak of semifinal exits. Though they don't have the elite All-American sorts on the top line they did last year, they're fast and tough defensively and almost unbelievably deep on the blueline. My excitement levels are getting dangerously high. I worry about what happens if Michigan goes down a goal without a Hensick sort on the team, but 17-3 with an asterisk is 17-3 with an asterisk. One team in twenty has outplayed Michigan. One.
Jamiemac has beaten me to it, so the 1,000-foot summary:
The Wolverines probably had the most neutral week of any of the bubble contenders, evening out a great win over Purdue with a good-looking loss to Wisconsin. They did not surge like Providence, nor did they crater a la Kentucky and Florida.
A total of 36 brackets on the Bracket Matrix have been updated since Michigan’s win last Thursday night over Purdue. The good news: Half of those brackets include Michigan. The bad news: Most have not updated yet to include yesterday’s loss at Wisconsin. In fact, only five brackets have been updated since last night and the Wisconsin loss. None of those include the Wolverines.
All of the updated ones have Michigan on the cusp of the field; you have to think that a road win over a Minnesota team that either is in the tourney or will barely miss it would move Michigan up enough to grab a bid. It looks like the conventional wisdom that solidified at the beginning of the conference season—.500 will do it—should hold as long as 1) Michigan doesn't gack a first-round Big Ten tourney game and 2) there are not extensive hijinks in conference tourneys. With vanishingly few mid-majors looking like candidates for at-large bids scenario 2 doesn't have a high probability of coming to fruition. Still, you're in favor of Butler, Gonzaga, Siena, and the two leading A-10 schools until the moment they're knocked out of their conference tournaments, at which point they become FRAUDS(!).
As for the Wisconsin game: Periods of zero defense at the beginning of the first half and zero offense at the beginning of the second doomed them. They got crushed on the boards. Manny was very, very good but could have been a tiny bit more efficient. I let out a frustrated f-bomb when Sims missed an open, potentially tying three, and that was that.
I'm not upset or anything, just frustrated. Everything pointed to the team Michigan's had the entire year, one that intersperses moments of brilliance with things like that Amaker-like possession with around two minutes left. Michigan aimlessly chucked it around the perimeter for 25 seconds and ended up airballing a three as the shot clock expire. That reminded me of the good old days, and by "good old days" I mean "I am poking my eyes out with a stick." OTOH, Sims was making NBA-style turnaround jumpers and Manny was rebounding like a rebounding champion and they clawed themselves out of a hole that seemed surely fatal to actually lead at the half. I am remarkably serene about the team's fate and the program's future; that seems to directly correlate with walk-ons at the point and the only scholarship senior getting stapled to the bench.
I still don't get the rotation. Anthony Wright was dusted off and inserted for periods in both halves and did nothing in particular; Jevohn Shepherd couldn't get off the bench, etc etc etc. I've made this observation/complaint before. It probably doesn't matter nearly as much as I talk about it. It's just odd, is all.
Insert complaint about inconsistency of refereeing here. CJ Lee getting a foul for obstructing some Wisconsin guy's path when Wisconsin guys have been doing that all game immediately followed by a Manny Harris drive on which he is pawed at twice without a call is this game's shining WTF moment.
Many people are unfamiliar with the rules of causality. …But who am I to defy many people? I have been urged by multiple folks to forgo a Minnesota liveblog because of The Liveblog Curse. This is a transparently silly thing to believe in and a transparently silly thing to accede to, but the chorus of complaints is strong and I'm not in the business of intentionally pissing off readers. So the best thing to do is to wash my hands of the decision and leave it up to the readership at large.
Determine our fate, O Reader:
Torn between some stunning evidence and a desire not to annoy people planning their Sunday around this—of which there are probably thousands—we forge ahead. With something that is most certainly not a Wisconsin liveblog. In fact, it is the precise opposite of a Wisconsin liveblog. We are going to talk about 1950s-era Sri Lankan newspapers, and any other discussion is specifically against my wishes.
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?