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Things could be going less bad. We talk mostly about the future, including Beilein hotseat talk (that we largely reject) and where the improvement comes from net year.
Ace's Hockey Podcast
starts at 19:50
This weekend was not a good weekend. It was a bad weekend. Still in, and this time we're in favor of plinko. More Hire Mel Pearson chatter.
Gimmicky Top Five: Predicting Future WTF Offseason Takes
starts at 32:43
After last year's collection of rumors that did not come to fruition we take our swings at the things insiders say about the 2016 team that will look most bizarre in retrospect.
Spring Football Stuff
Starts at 48:42
Early (very early) takeaways. Ian Bunting, Ahmir Mitchell, Drake Harris, Tyrone Wheatley Jr all come in for discussion along with the QBs, of course.
THE USUAL LINKS
Johnson pictured before he was immolated by 73-degree temperatures [Patrick Barron]
The humanity. Michigan's Florida trip was just another step towards the destruction of collegiate athletics:
"It's been wonderful," running back Drake Johnson said. "I think the team bonding aspect was the best. Obviously, we're here to learn football, but I think being together this whole time, sometimes being on campus can kind of spread you away from your team because you're caught up in school life. Being here has allowed us to accelerate the process of learning."
They will never recover. I will play the world's tiniest violin for them.
Soon, but not yet. Harbaugh on one Brandon Peters:
"It's impressive what he did (this week), as young as he is, being out here for the first time, he's got some real coolness about him," Harbaugh said unprompted Friday evening after the team's final practice at IMG Academy. "It showed up over and over in each of the four days.
"He's not a guy that panics. He's a natural in a lot of ways."
I mean, that sounds like "very soon" but some of the praise on offer here is definitely of the "for a freshman" variety:
"A lot of times with freshman quarterbacks, let alone someone who is coming in at mid-year, you expect fumbled snaps or they can't get out of the huddle. But he was out of the huddle on every snap, every call."
So maybe we can pump the brakes on the inevitable Brandon Peters Is A Real Challenger chatter. Here's hoping he goes redshirt, backup, really good redshirt sophomore. If someone else doesn't pip him in two years.
Linebacker group taking shape. Harbaugh called Ben Gedeon a "stud" after four spring practices, so let's hang on to that when we're squeezing our worry balls about the linebacking corps over the offseason. Also:
“I think Noah Furbush is going to contribute,” Harbaugh said. “Devin Bush Jr. is going to be good (too). So we got some real good players in there. I feel much better about our linebacker situation after four days.”
On the one hand, awesome. On the other, four mostly unpadded days. Harbaugh also praised McCray but noted his injury history. He can hang out with Drake Harris in his dorm room made entirely from bubble wrap and soothing whale song.
Satellite camps are on. Michigan's got one scheduled in Alabama for June 6th, so those haven't been banned yet.
MAAR profiled. Or Rahk or whatevs man. Brendan Quinn talks to his dad about the origin of the name:
"Oh!" the 58-year-old booms. "I tell you, man, to this day, it was the most magnificent thing I've ever seen in my life."
It's a Saturday morning in Manhattan and Dawud Abdur-Rahkman — the former David Cody — is rolling. The busy coffee shop disappears as he smiles and squints, telling the story of how he met Muhammad Ali in 1978. His voice crackles like old vinyl.
Every memory is vivid: Ali's sweat flying as he sparred. Ali looking 10-feet tall. Ali taunting the kids in jest, "I told you chumps I'm the greatest!" He remembers meeting Ali one-on-one and only being able to muster, with a tremble, "How you doing, Champ?"
Hey, I remember getting blitzed by that dude. The New York Times has an article on Keith Frazier, former SMU player and walking academic red flag who serves as a poster child for the ridiculousness of the one-and-done rule imposed on the NCAA by the NBA:
Frazier’s educational track record was pockmarked with failure. His high school grades mysteriously and quickly improved whenever his eligibility to play was at stake. He most likely had too many absences and failing grades to graduate from high school. And top officials at S.M.U. ignored their own professors, who recommended that Frazier not be admitted to S.M.U., an academically tough university.
Frazier took an online summer course before enrolling in freshman classes. An S.M.U. team assistant secretly completed Frazier’s work, an N.C.A.A. report found.
Frazier played against Michigan, helped SMU torch us, and has since left school. He would have been better off in the NBA from the drop… and in this case, SMU would have been better off as well. But guys like Frazier are all over college basketball, because they have to be.
This isn't a situation like football where there is a legitimate safety concern for recent high schoolers being put in the shark tank against guys like JJ Watt; it's solely the NBA using the NCAA as a marketing arm. Unfortunately I don't see a solution since the NFL's rule was challenged in court and stood because it was part of a CBA. Jim Delany proposing the return of freshman ineligibility is the nuclear option that will never happen… and really seems like the only option, period.
See also: Ben Simmons, who was left off the Wooden list because of his GPA in his only semester of college.
NOPE. If you're wondering who secured an interview with Tom Anastos and managed to turn it into a sympathetic piece for a guy who has MSU hockey 42nd in RPI in year five, well, it's Graham Couch because of course it is. MSU is so bad at hockey that it makes me, a Michigan fan, upset. And it's worse when Anastos's solution to MSU's problems is to bring in overage players:
Q: What’s the timeline now for the turnaround, to be closer to what North Dakota and other elite programs are on the ice, where there’s a noticeable difference? You’ve got a heralded class coming in but those guys will be young next year.
Anastos: “Yeah, but we have some older kids coming in. We’re not getting to the point where we’re starting to be able to be more patient (in when we bring in a recruit). … To answer your question about North Dakota, I thought it would take a good eight or nine years to be able to get ourselves in a position where you’re competing for those most elite prospects, and you can build the depth in your roster."
Dude was supposed to be connected to every junior program in the state and he cannot compete for the same recruits Michigan does. I'll admit that I don't know a ton about MSU's incoming class but it doesn't seem "heralded" by anyone. It has zero NTDP players. Only one of their guys was even ranked in the midterm CSB rankings. It's not even that old, five years in. North Dakota mostly recruits like Michigan and BC do; the old dudes strategy is one that second-tier programs use to offset the fact they're not bringing in the Kyle Connors of the world.
Why Anastos thinks it would take twice as long as a player is eligible to turn around a program is obvious: it's the only possible justification for the guy keeping his job. Fire this dude, fire Mike Eaves, go to home series in the playoffs, Make the Big Ten Great for the First Time.
Also hire Mel Pearson, Michigan.
Etc.: This is a tradition I could do without. Further reminding us of the Amaker era, Michigan is the 8 seed in the Big Ten tourney and will play Northwestern at noon on Thursday. Big Ten hockey guy who isn't a hockey guy tries to defend league's sneaky rules ploy, fails. Calls removing eligibility from 21-year-old freshman a "modest proposal," unironically.
Ball screens not so much this year.
Friday, March 4th, 2016
#6 Michigan 4, Ohio State 7
COMPHER GOAL, MICHIGAN
UM 1 OSU 0 PPG 03:41 Assists: Motte & Connor
Connor picks up a loose puck along the boards and gets hit. Both players spin for the puck, with their blades connecting at the same time. The puck rolls ahead, and Connor gains possession again.
Connor somehow pulls the puck across the defender’s face in the tightest of spaces, and he then throws a backhanded pass to Motte.
Motte catches it on his backhand and stickhandles for a few seconds to buy time. With only one defender low, he just has to wait for someone to head toward the net to create a 2-on-1. He sees Compher skating in, and the defender seems to as well: he drops his stick to take away the passing lane and seems to do a pretty good job until Motte fires a pass that somehow gets under the stick.
The puck’s already off Compher’s stick and Frey’s halfway to getting across to square to Compher. That’s not going to work.
Frey sees that the puck’s rising and going away from the direction that he is, so he tries to jump off his right leg and stick out his left pad and glove. He misses, but when you’re already sliding across the crease and the puck’s headed to the far side, might as well try a Karate Kid stop on the off chance one of the flailing limbs gets a piece of the puck.
[After THE JUMP: It kind of felt like a four-goal shutout]
Same. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
Surprise! Getting four cracks at a fourth top-100 victory only to fall short in all of them is bad for a team's NCAA Tournament chances. Michigan was already in a precarious spot heading into the weekend; after falling to Iowa, they need at least two wins in the Big Ten Tournament to avoid missing the dance for the second straight season.
Michigan's resumé as it currently stands:
Record: 20-11 (19-11 vs. D-I), 10-8 Big Ten
RPI Strength of Schedule: 69
KP SOS: 54
RPI Top-50: 3-9
RPI 51-100: 0-2
RPI 101+: 16-0
Unless Penn State (#114) pulls some upsets in the BTT—they draw Ohio State in the second round for the right to play Michigan State—Michigan isn't going to pick up any more RPI top-100 victories without an upset over Indiana; that, of course, would require the Wolverines to beat Northwestern on Thursday, which KenPom projects has a 57% chance of happening.
Of the 89 brackets currently comprising the Bracket Matrix, Michigan makes only 46 of them, and the more recently updated brackets almost all omit the Wolverines; they're the second team left out of the field in the consensus. After updating his bracket last night, CBS's Jerry Palm placed M as one of the first four teams out, citing the lack of quality wins as the primary reason they're not in:
Michigan has fallen off the bracket for now. The Wolverines lost at home to Iowa 71-61 on Saturday to fall to 3-9 against the top 50, 3-11 against the top 100 and 10-11 against the top 200.
Those are all bad numbers. Michigan will have a lot of work to do in Indianapolis at the Big Ten tournament.
Michigan fell off the Yahoo big board. They're the fourth team out to ESPN's Joe Lunardi. Notably, Michigan is projected to miss the tourney before accounting for the inevitable bid-stealers that will arise from the conference tournaments this week. Even if the Wolverines get a lot of help from other bubble teams, it's difficult to see a path to the tournament that doesn't involve a victory against Indiana.
I guess I'll post a rooting guide anyway. Teams you want are in bold, bubble teams are in italics.
- Monmouth vs. Iona (MAAC championship) (tonight, 7 pm, ESPN)
- Green Bay vs. Valparaiso (Horizon semifinal) (tonight, 7 pm, ESPNU)
- Pepperdine vs. St. Mary's (WCC semifinal) (tonight, 9 pm, ESPN)
- BYU vs. Gonzaga (WCC semifinal) (tonight, 11:30 pm, ESPN2)*
- Syracuse vs. Pittsburgh (ACC 2nd round) (Wednesday, noon, ESPN)
- Washington State vs. Colorado (Pac-12 1st round) (Wednesday, 5:30, Pac-12 Network)
- UCLA vs. USC (Pac-12 1st round) (Wednesday, 9 pm, Pac-12 Network)
- Arizona State vs. Oregon State (Pac-12 1st round) (Wednesday, 11:30 pm, Pac-12 Network)
- Arkansas vs. Florida (SEC 2nd round) (Thursday, 1 pm, SEC Network)
- Butler vs. Providence (Big East quarterfinal) (Thursday, 2:30 pm, FS1)
- Penn State vs. Ohio State (Big Ten 2nd round) (Thursday, 6:30 pm, ESPN2)
*You want St. Mary's to beat the winner in the title game; both BYU and Gonzaga are on the bubble but the Zags are closer to getting in.
I don't know man. I literally don't know about Sunday's game, which was not televised. I also do not know about the Friday game, during which Michigan gave back all of their defensive gains over the past month and then some. It sounds like that continued Sunday:
Glad we got those D issues ironed out
RT @umichhockey: 19:02 1st |Racine makes a great save as 2 OSU players broke into the zone all alone
— Yost Built (@YostBuilt) March 6, 2016
After giving up a 2-on-0 breakaway a minute into the game, Michigan fell down 5-1, tied the game up, had a go-ahead goal waved off, and then lost in OT. I did not see this game, but I've seen this game.
What I did see on Friday was the same kind of stomach-churning frustration on one end and joyous awesome goal-scoring on the other end I imagine Sunday was. The reason people started watching hockey in the first place is so they could see the kind of tic-tac-toe goals the CCM line bangs in with regularity; the reason they got really angry and burned down the White House in 1812 is an inability to adjust to forechecking.
Michigan looks really really talented and not too bright, same story as always post-Mel. This year they've put together one of the best lines in Red Berenson history and it's keeping them above water. Except when it doesn't. Since Berenson is almost certainly retiring there's not much to do at this point but get to the tournament and hope things bounce the right way. Change is coming either way.
But at least they gave themselves enough breathing room. We can put away the RPI calculators and fancy graphs. Per College Hockey News, Michigan is 100% in the field and highly unlikely to end up outside the 7-10 range. At that point your seeding is unimportant. We'll be hoping the ping-pong balls come up in the right way to send Michigan to Cincinnati, where a 20% capacity crowd will provide an advantage to nobody. That means Michigan wants to get bracketed with whichever NCHC team ends up third or fourth, but it's impossible to figure out how to do that.
Michigan really just wants to go three periods without having Mad Max break out.
Speaking of "not televised." You know, I'm not as down on Big Ten hockey as everybody else seems to be. It was necessary for the growth of the sport to go from two Western conferences to three. Does Arizona State exist today if it's looking at two absolutely full conferences and the prospect of a long and lonely road as an independent? I doubt it.
But I do kind of expect that a game on Sunday between blood rivals is on TV. The only basketball game between 4 and 7:30 was on CBS. To not even have a streaming option is ridiculous.
Hockey is, or at least can be, a revenue sport. It should be treated as such. I see zero evidence the Big Ten is doing this. The BTN didn't bother televising a nonconference series against BU even though they certainly could have bought rights to televise an NESN broadcast of the Friday game; Saturday wasn't televised by anyone at all.
On the next coach. The fact that Berenson is retiring after this year has entered worst-kept secret territory. It is very like Red to not tell anyone publicly, but you can expect this weekend's Penn State series to be Red's last at Yost. His legacy is such that someone's going to put his name on something important; I'm not going to handle it in a random bullet point.
No, this bullet is for looking towards the next guy. Since Michael Spath is more or less the entirety of the Michigan hockey beat he's the only person with a list of candidates, which is in some order:
- Michigan assistant Brian Wiseman
- Michigan Tech head coach Mel Pearson
- Providence head coach Nate Leaman
- U18 NTDP head coach Danton Cole
- Springfield Falcons head coach Ron Rolston
Spath's been issuing lists for a couple months now and there isn't a ton of commonality between them except for the obvious guys connected to Red. I get the feeling that nobody really knows because Red keeps his own counsel and Michigan just imported a new athletic director. The names other than Pearson and Wiseman on that list are probably educated guesses.
Set aside Pearson for a moment. I would be fine with Leaman, who turned Union into an excellent program and then turned around and did it again at Providence. Providence is in the running for a one seed this year; they are they defending national champs. I'm listening.
He would be in for some major culture shock, though: he's one of those guys importing 20 and 21 year old freshmen. Michigan doesn't recruit like that and will not recruit like that through the next, oh, three or four recruiting classes since those are all but wrapped up already. I'm pretty sure he'd be able to cope with extremely talented younger guys, but you never know. And would he be able to recruit going forward?
The other guys on the list are all major risks. Wiseman has never been a head coach and is a current assistant on a team that can't find its ass in two tries on defense. (It's in the net.) Danton Cole is a Spartan whose only college job was a dismal three-year run at UAH. Rolston does have about a decade of college coaching under his belt plus a long spell with the NTDP and a couple years as the Sabres' head coach; he hasn't been in college for a decade.
A couple of those guys might be good if you end up moving to fallback options. But then there's Mel.
I was going to put a vertical line on the chart when Mel left for Tech and then I realized it was already more or less there. It's the blue uptick and red downtick in 2012. Pearson got Tech in the tourney for the first time since 1981 last year. This year the Huskies won their first conference title since 1976. (I realize this WCHA is not the old WCHA but when you're Tech hockey any hardware is a miracle.) They've currently scrapped their way onto the bubble again. Pearson immediately made Tech much better and now that it's his program they're at a level they haven been at since Pearson was playing in Houghton.
Yes, he's a bit older than is ideal at 57. On the other hand, Red was 57 in 1997. He won a national title the year before and the year after. Michigan has the raw tools to win a national title every year; there need be no building phase. Even if Pearson does retire at around 65, you get almost a decade out of him. That decade is immediately productive. He is obviously a top-level coach who was a linchpin of Michigan's success under Red.
This isn't hiring Brady Hoke; it's more like hiring Harbaugh, insofar as hiring anyone other than Harbaugh is like hiring Harbaugh. Knowing the culture is an asset; it just can't be the only asset. Pearson was clearly a major reason Berenson succeeded and is currently in the midst of the most impressive rebuild job in college hockey.
Hire Mel Pearson.
That about sums it up. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
As Spike Albrecht thanked the fans in a pre-recorded video, many of them were already headed for the exits.
No seniors played on Senior Night; Albrecht and Caris LeVert, dressed in suits, took their familiar places on the bench after an understated pregame ceremony. The Crisler Center crowd then watched the same old team play the same old game.
Jarrod Uthoff obliterated Michigan's defense to the tune of 29 points, finding his range with ease against the smaller Zak Irvin. The Wolverines struggled to stay in front of their marks, stuggled to hit shots, struggled to do so much as put the ball in play—at one point, a wayward Irvin inbounds pass turned into a perfect outlet for a Mike Gesell breakway dunk. Mike Gesell plays for Iowa.
To be frank, deconstructing this game feels like a waste of time. We've seen this before, against Wisconsin and Ohio State and Michigan State and Indiana and Iowa again. Any one of those games could've given Michigan the final quality win they so desperately needed to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament before the end of the regular season. Instead, the Wolverines fell well short in all of them, and in all likelihood they'll not only need a victory in the 8/9 game of the Big Ten Tournament—against either Northwestern or Penn State—but an upset over top-seeded Indiana to make the field.
If you feel good about that scenario, you're far more optimistic than me, not to mention the steady stream of fans who high-tailed it to the parking lot with a few minutes left on the clock. They'd already seen this before. No need to prolong the inevitable.