Why else would people keep leaving the Micigan (sucks!) program?
I'm enjoying the tears with an Allagash White. Join us, wont you?
3/28/2008 - Michigan 5, Niagara 1
3/29/2008 - Michigan 2, Clarkson 0
Frozen Four berth
What happened? The last two years Michigan hockey seemed in the early stages of a Michigan State basketball-like gradual decline into boring super-mediocrity. Two straight first-round matchups with North Dakota resulted in two straight first-round exits. Said first round exits were the first Michigan had ever experienced since the tournament moved to twelve teams. Michigan State added insult to injury by clutchigrabbing themselves the national title.
Then out the door went the shoulda-Hobey winner TJ Hensick, God himself Jack Johnson, and dynamic sophomore center Andrew Cogliano. Johnson and Cogliano spent the entire year in the NHL; Hensick got in 31 games. Three other defensemen, including captain Matt Hunwick, graduated, as did useful forward David Rohlfs. The media and coaches picked Michigan an apocalypse-inducing fourth in the CCHA.
Fast forward through a bunch of goals for, not many against, and you get this year's inexplicable finish: the top overall seed, 33-5-4, and favored to beat Notre Dame, make the NCAA championship game, and win Michigan's tenth national title.
Uh... what? What the hell happened here? And how can we make it happen to everything else? An exploration below.
But first, one thing that's not the cause:
TJ and Jack say seeya. Michigan looks like a quintessential Ewing theory team: lose the big stars, instantly much better. I am here to say bunko, pal. Bunko. The problem with last year's team was not the nation's leading scorer, his 45 assists, his +24, or his 19% shooting percentage. Nor was it Jack Johnson, his 16 goals and better than PPG scoring pace, and his 30-35 minutes a night.
Sometimes I read things on the internet and they often claim that one or both of the above guys was somehow selfish or lazy or was not properly leader-y, and I don't get it. Hensick killed penalties as a senior, was tied for third in shots despite having more ice time than any other forward, and had the highest plus minus on the team. Jack reigned in his wild freshman year, saw his PMs halve, and was just generally the best player -- period -- I've ever seen at Yost.
It wasn't them.
It was this:
Sauer. Obviously. When you go from a .896 save percentage to a .927, you have significantly increased your team's chance of victory.
How much of this is an improvement in Sauer himself and how much of it is a more committed team defensive effort? It's obviously a mix of both; Sauer has a hand in it. Check last year's stats:
With the same same roster -- I guess Michigan did lose the most statistically ineffective hockey player they've had in a decade when Jason Bailey left at midseason -- and only a modest drop in shots faced, Sauer went from eye-wrenchingly horrible (a save % of .884 would have been good for 66th of 73 goalies who registered enough minutes to qualify last year) to average (.914 would have been 27th, just ahead of Jeff Lerg). This was a quantum leap in performance largely obscured by Sauer's first-half performance. It's hard to say "hey, this guy is playing pretty well" when the statistics still have that ugly "8" after the decimal point.
When people did notice this they kept it under their breath in case, say, most of the way through the best game of his career he went for a stupid poke check and let in an ugly goal that cost Michigan the CCHA playoff championship and the ensuing mental trauma resulted in seven North Dakota goals in something like four minutes in the NCAA tournament. Hypothetically.
And this year?
Hey, good job Billy. And look at that, a significant drop in shots against. Hmmm...
The freshmen defensemen are outplaying last year's senior counterparts. I can tell because there is always at least one defenseman in my personal doghouse at all times. Said defenseman is responsible for all turnovers, goals, and undesirable global climactic
changes until such time as someone else enters the doghouse, they graduate, or -- in the case of Jeff Jillson -- a hockey team that drafted you way too high throws a bunch of money at you.
In that light, three enduring memories from the 2006 and 2007 teams:
Aside from a couple groan-worthy Langlais moments that were, IMO, not nearly enough to erase his consistently excellent play, has anything like this occurred this year? No. I literally cannot remember Scooter Vaughn or Tristin Llewellyn doing anything important all year. That's fantastic when you're freshmen defensemen on the #1 team in the country.
Do the stats back me up here? I think they do, at least slightly.
Dest last year: 1-10-11, +6. Cook: 0-4-4, +11. Hunwick: 6-20-26, +24
Vaughn: 0-4-4, +10. Llewellyn: 0-5-5, +9, Langlais 0-19-19, +20, "Other" (Quick): 2-2-4, +8.
That's about the same number of points and the same +/- (albeit in about 16 extra games between the four freshman) from four freshmen as the three seniors from last year. I know points and +/- are not great metrics -- if I had schmanzy stats like some of the NHL bloggers I would use them -- but there is also the lack of on-ice hatred for any of these guys.
Even if they're not actually better than the seniors, Chris Summers is better than he was as a freshman and so is Kampfer and so is Mitera.
I think there is one outstanding statistical anomaly that proves 1) it warn't Jack's fault, and 2) whatever the second and third defensive pairings were doing was messed up. This is it: Cogs last year: 23-25-48, +7. Kolarik: 18-27-45 +13.
Those two were the second line, basically. A rotating cast of Turnbull, Naurato, Miller, and others filled the other wing. Kolarik is awesome this year and was pretty darn good a year ago; Cogs has 45 points in the NHL thi
s year. Usually Jack came out with TJ and the first line, IIRC, and then saw another shift when the second or third line was out there. The second line was prime Dest-Cook territory, and those plus/minus results speak for themselves.
Kevin Porter was not a creation of TJ Hensick. One of the occupational hazards of putting your opinions on sports on the internet is that sometimes you write stuff like this:
We're about to find out if Kevin Porter, top five scorer, was entirely a creation of TJ Hensick. Survey says: hell yes. He's still probably the team's best player, but is uninspiring as those go.
Ha-HA! I suck.
Porter is the nation's leading scorer and since he hasn't taken any misconduct penalties will win the Hobey Baker on Friday. What's more, Red credits him with the work ethic and discipline shown by the entire team. When he missed practice Wednesday with a flu something or other, Michigan had what may have been its worst practice of the year.
And Chad Kolarik is just as good. Porter's going to win the Hobey, as he should, but Kolarik is the #6 scorer in the country and has transformed himself from a second-line offense-only forward (just +13 last year on 45 points) into a premiere penalty killer and effort guy. When he popped his hamstring against Lake State he new something was very wrong, but it was a five on three so he got to a knee and made himself a nuisance. Lake State did not score.
In both these guys, Michigan finally has a pair of senior top-liners on a par with the monster combos like Sertich and Sterling and all those guys from like UMD or Miami who are pretty good hockey players for a while until something finally clicks and they lay waste like McBain.
Virtually every freshman met or exceeded expectations. The jury is still out on Brian Hogan and Kevin Quick is an ex-Wolverine. I've discussed the defensemen. The forwards:
Everyone of these guys was a significant contributor save Winnett, and there are no Fardig-Bailey-Brown-Miller-MacVoy sorts in the bunch; every one is a potential scoring line player with offensive skill to spare.
The key to this recruiting class is the success of Hagelin, Langlais and Vaughn. All were relatively late pickups, which usually nets you questionable third or fourth line sorts and last pairing defensemen. Each of these guys showed up ready to play and will be mainstays for the next four years unless Hagelin gets really, really good and the Rangers sign him.
There are just a lot more good players. Okay, out went three excellent players: Jack, TJ, and Cogs. Out went two more good to average players, depending on how much you think of Matt Hunwick: Hunwick and Rohlfs. Out went three bad players: Dest, Cook, and Bailey.
I am of the opinion that Michigan picked up three excellent players -- Patch, Hagelin, Palushaj -- five good players -- Langlais, Rust, Caporusso, Llewellyn, Vaughn -- and one average one -- Winnett. Combine that with the slow and steady morph of Billy Sauer from an awful player to a good, maybe great one, and wham:
No, seriously. Flights out of Chicago are around 220 now -- yesterday there were in the 170s. Tickets will be available at face or below in Denver with both local schools knocked out. Hell, Notre Dame fans, it's your first Frozen Four ever. Go! Taste the sting of defeat, but go!
1) After a tense first period last night, Michigan blew the doors off Niagara and faces Clarkson (7 PM, ESPNU) in the regional final tonight.
2) Justin Turner, an Ohio DB from Massillion, Shawn Crable's old school, committed yesterday. Turner's currently in the top 50 at Rivals.
3) Teric Jones, a lightning-quick MI RB who turned in the fastest 40 at the Army All-American combine, just committed.
I'll have google-stalks of the new commits early next week; am in full-on-hockey mode.
Things to know as Michigan prepares to take on Niagara (7:30, ESPNU, if you're in AA best bet probably the Arena).
It might get messy. Mike Spath has some dispiriting news about the team's preparation:
Been a bad week of practice, largely because guys have come down with the 24-hour flu. Porter missed yesterday's skate and Red said the execution and effort was terrible. Scooter also has a bum shoulder. Everybody should be good to go for the weekend, but you're just forewarned.
Grudge. Mark Hartigan might be a little bitter about the infamous Molly game:
Told the Huskies were in the same regional as top-ranked Michigan this year, Hartigan bristled.
"Shocker," he said. "When we were in St. Cloud, we were rated higher than Michigan and were supposed to play Michigan at a neutral site, and it was at the Yost Arena."
The Huskies lost, 4-2, to the Wolverines, and Hartigan apparently hasn't gotten over it.
"Last college team I played against," he said. "I hope they lose, 8-0."
Hartigan's wrong, by the way. Michigan was the #4 seed; St. Cloud was #5. Top-seeded Denver might have a complaint.
How to win. Niagara has the #3 scoring offense in the country, though those numbers came against a schedule KRACH ranks 49th of 59 teams. As explored earlier, Niagara's results against teams from the Big 3.5 were middling at best, representative of a team that would finish somewhere in the middle of the CCHA.
By the second Yost regional the NCAA tournament had expanded to 16 teams and allowed a CHA autobid for the first time; in the first game CC took on CHA champ Wayne State. Wayne lined five guys up across the blue line and iced the puck 20 times a period, but managed to stay in the game by getting a couple power play goals. I mention it because 1) Michigan is #10 in penalty minutes and 2) Niagara is #3 in power play efficiency at over 23%.
Staying out of the penalty box is always a good way to win a hockey game; here its importance is magnified.
Danger men. Ted Cook is Niagara's big gun, though he's taken a significant step backwards from a Hobey finalist 2007 when he scored 32 goals and had 42 points. This year he's fallen off to 18, 12 of which are on the power play. It bears repeating: Niagara's best offensive player has scored seven goals at even strength this year. STAY OUT THE BOX.
Cook's also a blogger; in related news I might play never-ever hockey this fall. Suck on that, Ted!
Cook's got three years of big production that mark him as the #1 opposition forward but is actually getting out-pointed this year by the guys I presume are his two linemates: Vince Rocco has 14-31-45 and Matt Caruna has 16-22-38. (Side note: Niagara has some great names. Rocco is one, then there's an Egor and a guy named ...
It's hard to tell how much bonafide offensive talent the Purple Eagles have with that wonky schedule. Their GFA takes a hit if you only consider Big 3.5 games but remains respectable: 28 in 9 games or 3.1 per, significantly down from 3.53 but still hypothetically good for 13th in the country. Two wins over Quinnipiac both saw five goals scored; two against Cornell saw a shutout and then three. GAA increases slightly from their overall average of 2.58 (24th nationally) to 2.77 (hypothetically 35th).
I reiterate: Niagara is a team Michigan should beat but absolutely can lose to.
Are you there? It's me, Brian. Look. I know things between you and Michigan haven't been so good lately -- I'm sure all those safeties deserved your divine wrath -- but could we maybe see to it that Michigan doesn't get humiliatingly dispatched by Niagara tonight? I can take a second round loss, I think. But I have to warn you that if Michigan goes out in the first round again, I'm going to have to start believing in Ryan Seacrest.
Brian @ MGoBlog
PS: Love what you're doing with Notre Dame. Fabulous work.
Since every email I've gotten in the last few days is titled "Boren" or "Justin Boren"...
Not really. Well, maybe. I don't know, really. But certain things become clear as Borens continue to talk to people in the paper. One: dad isn't that bright.
"We wanted to have this go away quietly..."
This is best accomplished by publicly bemoaning the erosion of family values in the program. (Insiders indicate that Rodriguez had an odd policy where a player could not practice unless he brought a used, preferably fur-covered condom to Oosterban.)
Two: they're looking out for number one.
"...but we didn't want people to think he's a quitter or couldn't handle the system."
So there you go. Sell out the program because you're worried about the public perception. Congratulations. The public perception has changed from "that's weird and disturbing" to "oh, they're just assholes." (Perception, mind you. I have no evidence to suggest that Justin Boren is an asshole except for the fact that he's enormous and plays football. His dad, on the other hand... I think it's clear that all the stuff in the media is the product of the supposed adult; Justin probably just wants to go somewhere and play.)
It sucks that Boren hated the new staff so much he wanted to transfer, and that's his prerogative. A multi-day campaign of offense against the University when the only statement it issued on the matter was a factual "Boren has left the program" is grounds for excommunication. Stone the witches!
The difference. This, from a Notre Dame blog, is too perfect:
Clearly, Rich Rodriguez is an Unmitigated Jerk
Why else would people keep leaving the Micigan (sucks!) program?
I'm enjoying the tears with an Allagash White. Join us, wont you?
In three brief lines they've encapsulated everything about internet Notre Dame fandom that is hilarious and deranged. You've got the juvenile name alteration, the "I am drinking, this is what I am drinking, I am so cool" name drop, and, of course, the walleyed inability to perceive anything wrong with a 3-9 program. Clearly, one player who bothered to stay for spring practice deciding he's going to leave is unshakable evidence. It's way better evidence than, say, four midseason transfers of kids you recruited during your third year with the program. Keep on reachin' for the stars.
There is one point incidentally made here that troubles: the looming specter of Weis-like incompetence hovers over the departure, blotting out the sun. True sophomore starting guards do not generally transfer away from what one presumes is a short jaunt to the NFL.
What Rodriguez has that Weis does not is a track record of head coaching excellence spanning seven years at West Virginia in which his used, preferably furry condom policy turned a bunch of overlooked recruits into a two-BCS-bowl winning juggernaut of confusion, speed, and knives. Until such time as Rodriguez has failed to reproduce that success at Michigan he has scoreboard against all critics that predict his failure.
There is obviously a chance that Michigan has chosen... poorly and that Rodriguez will see his coaching career end in a brief, damp squeak. This is a nonzero risk, especially with the culture shock he is bringing to the program. There is always a nonzero risk. Michigan has minimized that as much as possible by acquiring a wildly successful college coach.
Ohio State, 2001. This was Jim Tressel's first year, during which they went 7-5, and only got to 7-5 because John Navarre turned in the worst half of football by a Michigan quarterback since... uh... probably 1984 or something. Since them, Tressel has had some modicum of success.
Something good. Brief excerpts from a few different "Boren" titled emails:
Please tell me things are going to get better for UM football.
Can you please write a post about some good news?
Needless to say, I'm terrified. What if Michigan only wins like 3 games next year, a la Weis-e-coyote? The horror (as you would say).
A reader to the rescue:
I just wanted to say something about the whole Justin Boren situation. Now I understand that a lot of "Michigan Men" are freaking out about this, or have turned bitter towards this kid, but let me explain how getting rid of these kids that aren't committed to the "new" Michigan regime will benefit us in the long run.
From 2004-2007 I worked for the BYU football team. Gary Crowton was the head coach at BYU when I started working there. Gary Crowton is a really nice guy and a pretty good offensive coach, but he wasn't a very good head coach. His problem was that he was too much of a "player's coach" meaning that he let the kids run the team. The offense loafed around during practice and didn't work hard. Crowton's DC was a young guy named Bronco Mendenhal who believe that you can compensate for lesser talent by working harder than your opponent. So the team was split, the offensive players were lazy, while the defense was hard working and intense. Not only did the defense work harder, they cared a lot more about the game and team.
After the season ended Gary Crowton was fired and BYU hired Bronco Mendenhal as the new head coach. Within a week of announcing Mendenhal as head coach, a handful of players decided to transfer because they didn't like Bronco's "style". Bronco worked his players harder in the offseason than they had ever worked before. When spring practices began 15 players had either transfered or quit the team...15!!!!! Once again they didn't like how Bronco was working them too hard. Bronco's intent was to get rid of all the players that didn't want to be there. He needed and wanted players who would commit 100% to the program and the system. Once he got rid of those players, the team quickly came together and fought for each other. They all knew that everyone was working just as hard as everyone else.
Now I do understant that there is a huge talent disparity between BYU and Michigan, but the results for BYU has been better than expecte. They have gone 11-2 each of the past two years. I attribute their success to Bronco's hard nosed no-nonsense approach with his players. He did not lose any sleep crying over the transfer of the #1 QB prospect in America Ben Olson (UCLA), but focused on his team and prepared his team no matter who was playing. I see RR doing the exact same thing. Michigan needs players who are going to work hard and be 100% committed to his system and work ethic. This transition has been relatively smooth compaired to other coaching changes around the country. We must remember that Michigan hasn't gone through this process for almost 40 years and we all know how that turned out. Go Blue!!
Carr, for all his positives, had started checking out the past few years. You could tell. More of the burden of leadership fell to the coordinators, one of whom had already proven he can take an above average MAC program and turn it into a zombie gerbil apocalypse. The results were obvious on the field, and off of it. 2008 is going to be a detox year, but things will improve.
Not Maize, but crose enough!
West Virginia is currently in the Sweet Sixteen. Michigan would not have made the Sweet Sixteen in a seventeen team tournament that featured M versus
One team is coached by John Beilein. Correction: John Beilein looks at one team with a visage of perfect exasperation and incredulity. It was recruited and assembled by Tommy Amaker. The other team was recruited and assembled by John Beilein. It is coached by Bob Huggins.
The question for beleaguered Michigan basketball fans: how much of West Virginia's current success can John Beilein take credit for? The answer is somewhere between "all" and "none."
Some context for your consideration:
Why is West Virginia better this year?
|Team||O. Efficiency||Adj. O. Eff||O SOS||D. Efficiency||Adj D. Eff||D SOS|
|2006||112.5 (20th)||118.3 (13th)||66th||97.8 (72nd)||94.0 (57th)||75|
|2007||111.3 (26th)||116.3 (20th)||47th||95.1 (32nd)||89.9 (21st)||39|
(A reminder: these are all Kenpom numbers and are as such adjusted for tempo; the "adj" efficiencies above are also adjusted for quality of competition and cannot be questioned in any way ever.)
The numbers indicate that under Huggins an outstanding offense got slightly less outstanding and a pretty good defense got significantly better.
What's completely fascinating is the wholesale makeover the offense made while still maintaining approximately the same level of production. Under Beilein, the offense was a manic exercise in extremes. Under Huggins it's much more conventional. Effective, but conventional:
Raw Efficiency : 112.5 ( 20) 111.3 ( 26)
Adj Efficiency : 118.3 ( 13) 116.3 ( 24)
Effective FG% : 54.7 ( 17) 51.6 (102)
Turnover Pct. : 17.0 ( 10) 16.2 ( 7)
Off. Rebound% : 30.2 (270) 34.4 (107)
Free Throw Rate: 20.1 (306) 25.0 (182)
3-Point FG% : 37.4 ( 62) 36.4 (108)
2-Point FG% : 53.4 ( 22) 50.1 (102)
Free Throw Pct.: 71.3 (108) 68.7 (175)
Block Pct. : 8.6 (133) 6.7 ( 15)
Steal Pct. : 9.2 (111) 8.2 ( 29)
3PA/FGA : 49.0 ( 5) 34.4 (165)
A/FGM : 68.7 ( 3) 58.2 (100)
About the only things that remain constant are an extremely low turnover percentage and , to a lesser extent, three-point and free throw percentages. The rest of it tacks to the center like a presidential candidate after he locks up the nominaiton.
Herein you can see the way a Beilein offense is supposed to work: pass it to the wide open guy, wide open guy shoots. That explains the incredible EFG%, the incredible assist percentage, the incredibly bad free throw rates and offensive rebounding. Huggin's team is pretty good at a lot of things but only great at avoiding turnovers.
Let's look at the six returning players:
Nichols suffered. His usage, eFG%, FTRate, and assist rates all dropped precipitously, as did his shooting. Interestingly, Nichols actually took more threes this year.
The slide could be an effect related to the graduation of Frank Young, WVU's best player in 2007 and the recipient of most of the defensive attention.
Ruoff's usage dipped a bit and his assist rate collapsed, but holy hell: 62% on twos and 40% on threes. Ruoff was the nation's 50th best eFG% shooter and I'm betting half of the guys ahead of him are Brent Petway sorts with usages around 10%. I think we'll see why Ruoff got this bump in a bit.
Butler is the starting small forward and saw himself become more of a slasher and interior player: three point attempts dropped as most everything else remained stable. Note the significant bump in offensive rebounding: Butler was closer to the basket.
Alexander upped his already high usage, held his eFG steady, increased his FTrate enormously, and actually increased his assist rate; three pointers plummeted to 9% of his shots. What this says to me: the WVU offense moved to a heavily Alexander-based isolation-kick game. This killed everyone's assists except Alexander, upped Alexander's usage, and turned Ruoff into Kyle Korver.
Mazzula took so few threes this year that the huge jump in percentage should be dismissed as small sample size.
Smalligan, a Zach Gibson type whose main asset is his outside shooting, got killed and is now a bench guy who hardly sees any time because the offense can't figure out how to use a big man outside the arc.
So what in this is relevant? I think there are two things.
While the "low ceiling" point hasn't exactly been dispelled by the exploits of a seven seed that finished fifth in the Big East, Beilein recruited every player who's seen the floor for WVU this year and is there any one of them that you wouldn't trade for the Michigan player at his position? These guys are talented enough to run Beilein's system one year and then something entirely different the next and finish with a top 25 offense both years. Beilein finds talent that the recruiting services do not. I don't know why, but think it has something to do with an increased focus on guys who just love basketball and would rather shoot 4000 jumpers than play My Little Pony.
The one evident downside: maybe Beilein just can't coach defense? Huggins took the supposedly unathletic group Beilein left him and radically improved their rankings. I'll take a look at the other side of the ball sometime next week.
I disagree with people who think common sense should trump objective methods in tournament selection. My reasoning, though perhaps not all that satisfying, goes something like this:
Arguing about what team is "better" in any sport ever is completely useless whenever the teams are reasonably close. We know for sure that LSU was better than Akron in football last year, but you can never settle the question of whether LSU was better than USC. Even when two teams actually play, it is always possible to argue about the conditions, or about the matchups, because winning is not transitive (otherwise, the best team could only be an undefeated team).
With that in mind, if we want to set up an objective method of determining a champion, it's not all that important that we make absolutely sure that the "best" 16 or 64 teams get into the tournament. That's the whole purpose of having so many teams in the tournament. We already know that Michigan is probably the best team (in hockey), Miami is probably the second best team, and so on. But instead of just giving Michigan the trophy, we allow a bunch of teams in there, just to make sure we haven't actually left the "best" team out. Thus, Mankato doesn't really have that much of a complaint: even if you could argue successfully that they were a hair better than Wisconsin, who cares? They would still only be the worst team in the tournament. The tournament would be rigged against them in order to make it as unlikely as possible that there would be a fluke and they would knock off a team like Michigan, who we already are pretty sure is better.
Every year teams are all upset about not making the big dance, but I have little sympathy. If you're on the bubble, you can be thankful if you get in, and if you don't, that's only because you weren't really in the running for Champion anyway (this means you, Syracuse).
Computer Engineer '03
A clarification before I start to address Anthony's main point: I don't think committees should pick teams based on who is "better", but rather who had a better season. Anthony's right that the former item is inherently unknowable (especially, especially, especially in college football, which is the primary reason a playoff makes so much more sense for it than any other sport). The latter is often significantly clearer.
I do agree that arguing about whether Minnesota State or Wisconsin (or Notre Dame) deserves to be the last team in the tournament is a pretty marginal pursuit. But (but!) I think the rigid adherence to the Pairwise in all things does more than occasionally screw over the 13th or 14th best team in the country. The Pairwise not only selects but seeds the tournament and due to systemic flaws often sets up terribly questionable draws where one or two regions are obvious death regions while a couple ECAC lambs putter around and grease the path of, say, horribly undeserving 2007 Michigan State. The "Team X got screwed," which is something that happens quite frequently, points to weird little flaws that affect the entire tourney. If you think this is a small effect not worth mentioning, let me remind you that there's a huge gap between the #2 seed and the #3 seed because of the autobids.
The common argument against this is that you have to win four games and so forth and so on and real champions are real men and don't need easy draws and all manner of different things that completely ignore the effect of luck in a single-elimination hockey tournament. There's a reason #1 overall seeds hardly ever win the national title. No team enters any game with a 100% chance of victory -- so say the Gophers -- so it's important to reward the teams that have earned the easiest path with the actually easiest path. I think the PWR fails to identify those teams on a regular basis and fails to provide the teams it identifies with the greased skids they deserve.
There's a lot of stuff in PWR that just doesn't make sense, and it's important to point these things out since the committee's formed a cargo cult around it instead of using it as an advisory tool. Are there alternatives? Maybe. In last year's edition of "Annual Complaint Against Obscure Ranking System" I proposed a version of the PWR that would use the RPI as a base number and things like COP and TUC and H2H as modifying factors:
Then take your modifying factors and add them to your RPI starting point to come up with a final modified RPI:
In this hypothetical world, BC's slight advantages in the PWR categories help them run up the RPI ditch they've dug for themselves but not all the way. This system is still fairly intelligible but has enough fine grain to kill 99% of the silly comparison-flipping and volatility that math-inclined college hockey fans know and loathe so well.
(This comparison was based on one of two Michigan lost to HE schools based on one early-season loss to Northeastern despite having huge RPI gaps on said HE schools; the direct result of that was Michigan ending up in the Bracket Of Death in Colorado.)
And then there's KRACH. KRACH is a very clever mathematical doohickey with some cool recursive properties that many people think is a better system even though the current incarnation of KRACH has a much more mathematically rigorous version of the same problem PWR does -- namely, way overrating a scant few nonconference games. While the PWR managed to shake out of its WCHA love affair soon enough to only put 60% of the conference in the tournament, a KRACH-based process would see no fewer than eight WCHA teams in the tourney. In a word: no. I'm intrigued by this idea of "fictional result KRACH," where some number of fake results against an imaginary, perfectly average team are artificially inserted. (Usually a win and a loss.) This reduces KRACH's infatuation with schedule strength and brings it more into line with what the universe outside WCHA campuses perceives as reality.
Anyway, this is yet another long excursion into college hockey's obscure mathematics that I'm sure about 5% of the reading audience doesn't hate, so I'll cut it short: the problem with the PWR does not just impact the bubble teams, and college hockey can do better with a few fairly simple changes if it realizes something is amiss. Whining == morally required.
I really hope the "We're all gonna die" was sarcasm. It's apparent that the new coaching staff is different and basically used to doing more with a lot less. When you have people in the system who don't believe in it, there is no system. It seems quite obvious that this is the kind of attrition we can afford... Football player is lazy on a team that has lost to Ohio State every year he has been there, something needs to change. Another apparent fact is that we cannot afford to lose everyone, but if you are on a team that is physically weak and the team as a whole wants to get stronger, but one member doesn't; I say goodbye. It's not doing anyone any favors to keep people around that don't work. It's harder on the coaching staff and the players around that person. For the last few years at Michigan we have had the "cream of the crop" talent; with poor training and very mediocre results. What is one more season, if it is in fact the season that will allow players and the team to get better even if the record doesn't show that.
Marc R. Burton
Yes, "we're all going to die" was sarcasm. Justin Boren's departure does not shorten the life expectancy of anyone save the poor sap selec
ted as Michigan's quarterback in 2008.
And yes, in one sense this is the sort of attrition we can afford, but it's in the "I only want players who want to be at Michigan" sense. With that mindset, every departure and every recruit who goes elsewhere is a positive. Where has "I only want players who want to be at Indiana" gotten the Hoosiers? Eh... not far. Given that Justin Boren is the kind of guy who really doesn't get along with Rodriguez or Frey, this is probably for the best. But I kind of wish Boren wasn't that kind of guy and Michigan had more than three scholarship interior linemen on campus.
As to the point about people who don't want to work and saying goodbye, absolutely. I don't think it's a coincidence that under Andy Moeller Michigan's offensive line hovered somewhere between adequate and awful despite receiving a prototype NFL left tackle from heaven. Something was deeply wrong with either talent identification or development. (The latter is more likely, since offensive line is the position at which you basically take a bunch of big guys and try to mold them.)
Matt Lentz was a three year starter who didn't get a sniff from the NFL, something that would have been unheard of at any point up until his existence. Heck, various uniformed commentators put him on All Big Ten or All-America teams simply because of his status as a long-time Michigan starter. Adam Kraus hasn't had the same misguided boosterism behind him, but he is also a three-year starter who will not get drafted because he is not good. The last couple years Michigan was forced to forgo a Boren redshirt and play a wildly unprepared Steve Schilling because there were no other alternatives. Fat and coddled Alex Mitchell was re-inserted into the starting lineup despite showing no real inclination to block anyone. Highly-touted recruits (Mitchell, Zirbel, Gallimore) were more likely to go bust than actually play -- or, in Mitchell's case, deserve to play. The last Carr recruiting class had two linemen in it, one snatched from the MAC. Now, the "Junction Boys"-ish attrition -- Mitchell, Ciulla, Boren, one other rumored departure that did not come to fruition -- is all coming from one place.
In this environment, is what happened against Ohio State surprising?
I've defended the Athletic Department's tendency to ram through renovation-related things in the past, but this bit of "surprise!" is far less defensible:
I am currently a senior engineering student here at UM. It has come to my attention (being that I have family at UM-Dearborn) that without notification of any kind, the university has changed its student football ticket policy regarding students at the Dearborn and Flint campuses.
For years (including from when my parents were students at Dearborn) the student ticket policy has been the same for them as for the Ann Arbor campus. However, as students are attempting to purchase football tickets during these two weeks, it is just coming out that they now have had 800 (of what was originally 1200) tickets stripped, thus leaving only 400 tickets for both campuses. Also, they will not be able to attempt to purchase these tickets until June / July. These tickets have been removed to make room for more alumni tickets, which of course provide greater monetary funds for stadium renovations.
Also, as usual, this decision was made behind closed doors during a meeting that no one knew about (sounds familiar i.e. stadium renovations). It was not even at the attention of the administration at the Dearborn campus. The athletic director and chancellor were both not made aware of this decision until this week when students began to complain. This is just another example of the problems with decision making at the University, where the Board of Regents and other administrative positions take the power just to themselves, while making decisions without regard to anyone else.
I believe even Ann Arbor students would be upset by this. I have been attending UM games since I was about 5 years old (with my parents, UM-Dearborn alums), and holding season tickets all five years I have been at the university. I am also in the process of applying for alumni season tickets, yet I am still outraged by this. I am confident other Ann Arbor campus students will also be upset by this, 1, because of the decision making process, and 2, because our students section will be made smaller, for more alumni who will not be cheering as loudly as students would be!
Thank you and Go Blue (from no matter what campus you attend),
I had no idea Flint and Dearborn students had the option to buy student tickets and am not sure if they should, but if they're going to take away student seats -- always a bad idea -- it probably shouldn't be from the sorts of people who are willing to drive in from Flint or Dearborn to see the game. How about the sorority/frat goofs that show up after the first quarter?
In re: the St. Cloud game at Yost: I remembered parts of it wrong. A reader picks up the slack:
Just reading through your Hockey tournament preview and have a few tidbits/discrepancies to share. First off, I was volunteering for the Athletic Dept at the time doing stats and stuff up in the press box for the hockey team that year (2001-02), so I was up there for the UM-St. Cloud State game. While the fans were great with their dollar bills and "Jer-sey Cha-sers" chant, and Komisarek was being his usual intimidating self, you might have missed this. The cheerleaders/mascot were taking up the entire blue line-to-blue line portion of center ice and as you
know, UM liked to do their warm up skate by circling around behind the goalie all the way up to the red line. So these cheerleaders are taking up part of their space, but the team is still going out to the red line and then doing a weird roundabout zig zag to avoid the cheerleaders.
We, in the press box, were saying how "if you're going to bring your skating hockey cheerleaders, then stay on your side of the ice" and commenting on how funny(/great) it would be if one of the UM players tripped the cheerleaders as he was skating by. I comment to one of the other guys that "if it's going to be anybody, it's going to be Komisarek" and immediately after saying that, he does just that! He gives a little tug with his stick on one of the girls skates and she almost bites it, but is able to regain her balance, while a few of us had a hearty laugh about it. I'm almost positive this is what led to the mascot being rather "frisky" with the UM team as he saw this happen. When they were doing the starting lineup announcements, the mascot kept getting real close to the UM players as they were skating up and pointing his stick at them (this must have been when Komo slashed his stick, which I don't remember but is very believable).
You were right in saying that the mascot wasn't done trying to ruffle feathers, but the events you say happened I don't quite remember it that way. I do know the mascot took a while to get off the ice (waiting for the right moment I guess) and he poked his stick at one of the players as he bolted off the ice. Backup goalie Kevin O'Malley goes absolutely Gwen Stefani bananas at this and is foaming at the mouth trying to get at him, while some people (refs, senior citizen volunteers, goal
light guy, not sure who)
are restraining O'Malley. I don't remember that some of the players did actually get a hold of the mascot and pummel him though. But I'm way up in the press box and doing a few things here and there pre game so it could have happened that they got ahold of him. I just remember seeing O'Malley going crazy post-incident.
Here are a couple other tidbits about that game -
1) 2002 was the year Canada won hockey gold and there was the famous loonie that the ice/zamboni guy (who was Canadian) put in the ice as a good luck charm. Well, the UM staff did the same thing by putting a block M in the ice, but word got out before the games and some SCSU player dug it up with his skate and removed it, which obviously did not sit well with UM team.
2) I'm not sure if I remember this correctly, but didn't SCSU force UM to use the visitor's locker room because they had the right to? Thus, also infuriating the UM team. Again, I know this happened but I wasn't sure if it was the SCSU game.
3) Jed Ortmeyer made one of the greatest hockey hits I have ever seen along the boards that broke Ortmeyer's stick....even though he only had one hand on it! The stick was stuck between the two players at the time of impact, but Ortmeyer had his right hand on the top of his stick that was basically above each players shoulder and it broke over his shoulder from the brute force of the hit. We have the privelige of having a TV with the game feed on it in the press box and I must have seen that hit about 10 times over and it ranks up there as one of the top 3 hits I've ever seen. The guy from SCSU needed smelling salts to get off the ice and just sat at the end of the bench for the rest of the game. The cameras kept showing him later in thegame and it looked like he didn't know what century he was in. He ended up being fine thankfully.
4) Mark Hartigan, SCSU's Mr. Everything and Hobey Baker Finalist, biffed it when it mattered most. UM was up by 1 in the 3rd when Hartigan had a breakaway that would have tied it.
There was no one within 20 feet of him, so he had all day to come up with a move and move in as fast or as slow as he wanted. And if you remember the Josh Blackburn era, you know that stopping breakaways was not one of Mr. Blackburn's strong suits. He always bit on the first move the guy made, so of course Hartigan fakes the forehand, making Blackburn flop down into the butterfly, and then goes to the backhand with a gaping wide open net....which he misses because he shoots the puck wide. I was in the press conference and Hartigan was a wreck about it, crying
and barely audible when he responded to reporters' questions.
Definitely one of the greatest UM games I've witnessed and obviously
one I remember well,
Re-remembering based on Jerry's remembrances: I did remember some of the Michigan guys really getting to the mascot, then being separated from him; it was at that point that O'Malley went bats trying to get to him. And, God bless him, the third string goalie is exactly the guy who should be doing that.
I believe that was the year Michigan got booted from their locker room, but I think it was Denver -- the #1 seed -- that did it to them.
I also remember the Hartigan breakaway, and the immense relief as the puck whistled by the net, a foot from the post.
Jed Ortmeyer had not one absolutely crushing open ice hit, but two, both of these early in the game. That pair of hits and the goal he scored the next night against Denver solidified Jed as my favorite Michigan hockey player ever and a challenger for favorite athlete, period. There's so much to love: his name is Jed. He's from Nebraska. He was a two-year captain and managed to anchor the top line despite having no real skill except working like a dog at all times. And in the most electric environment I've ever been at for a sporting event he was nails.
Those regionals also gave me my irrational and abiding affection for Eric Werner, the tiny, swashbuckling defenseman they had at the time. (One time at the GLI Michigan was short on forwards against Tech so Werner skated up; he scored a hat trick.) I don't remember which game it was, but I do remember staring at a one-goal Michigan deficit after the second period and just watching the clock tick down. A few minutes into the third, Werner yo-ho-ho-ed his way down from the point -- incredibly dangerous, no one was coming back to cover him -- and one-timed a slick pass into the top corner of the net. I was directly on-line with the shot and the play and saw every detail as it developed. I think that must have been the Denver game. I continually root for Chad Langlais to do stupidly dangerous things because I miss Werner.
Anyway, moral of the story: Yost is bidding for regionals in 2010 and 2011. Hope like hell they get one and sell a kidney to go.