Michigan (7-3) vs
Northern Kentucky (2-5)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
|WHEN||7 pm ET, Tuesday|
|LINE||Michigan -18 (KenPom)|
PBP: Dave Revsine
Analyst: Stephen Bardo
Derrick Walton is expected to return to the court tonight, though it's unclear if he'll start or come off the bench. His minutes will probably be limited either way against another overmatched opponent. DJ Wilson, meanwhile, is out tonight with a similar injury to Walton's and might not get back on the court for another week or two.
Northern Kentucky is a step up in competition from Delaware State, but it's all relative: they're still only 253rd on KenPom and boast only one D-I victory, that over #245 Norfolk State at home. They've lost on the road to two teams ranked in the 300s; their most impressive game was a 12-point loss at Xavier that was never particularly close.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
Michigan isn't quite at the halfway point of the regular season—that'll come after the GLI. But this is traditionally a point where we stop and take stock. So let's do that.
Despite a 9-3-3 record that looks like it should easily translate to a tourney bid, Michigan sits squarely on the bubble. Michigan is 14th in the Pairwise, which would be just enough to get into the tournament unless there were an unusual number of autobids handed out to teams below them in the rankings. (The problem Michigan would face is that if they need an at-large any non-Penn State Big Ten team would reduce the number of at large bids by one.)
There's good news and bad news. Michigan has played 11 of their 15 games at home, which is a recipe for an underwhelming RPI since the formula was slanted to value road games. Only six of Michigan's final 19 games are at home. While that makes for a pretty miserable season ticket experience, when it comes to RPI it's better to play on the road. So they've got that going for them.
What they do not have going for them is the schedule. Michigan's strength of schedule is currently 27th. It is probably going to get worse. Michigan has 8 or 9 games on the docket against Michigan State and Ohio State, currently 48th and 55th (out of 60) in RPI. Four more games are against Wisconsin, Ferris, and Northern, currently in a block from 34th to 36th. Only Penn State (9th) and Minnesota (20th) offer any counterweight. Tech (23rd) is preferable to MSU in the GLI.
The upshot: if Michigan continues winning at the rate they are winning they're probably going to be smack dab on the bubble late in the season. A 22-7-5 Michigan team is probably going into the Big Ten tournament safe because of the home/road split in the second half, but anything less than that and it's collar-pulling time. Incredibly.
You probably don't want to hear about how disastrous this schedule is again, but, like… yeah. Root for Penn State and Minnesota the rest of the year—RPI gives "quality win" bonuses for teams ranked in the top 20.
Suspensions handed out
So I tweeted that the Downing hit that got him booted from the Saturday game against Minnesota was reputation call. I did not have the benefit of replay, and I was wrong:
Here's the Downing hit on Connor Reilly, he was given the major pic.twitter.com/xwIQJuD3Lr
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) December 13, 2015
That would have been fine ten years ago, but not today. It was stupid to even attempt, as the upside there is limited. Michigan had dominated Minnesota for the entire second period and had just scored to draw within one. Downing's major not only gave Minnesota a five minute power play, it gave the Gophers an opportunity to catch their breath and recover.
Porikos's hit was the kind of blindside hit hockey started getting rid of after a bunch of skill guys got decleated (deskated?):
Niko Porikos hit on Jack Ramsey pic.twitter.com/llbxj4EmHG
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) December 13, 2015
I thought that was five and a game live and it almost certainly would have been if Michigan hadn't killed a major penalty about ten minutes of game time earlier.
As a result, Downing will miss the GLI and Porikos will miss the opener. Porikos is easily replaceable; with Michigan also down Zach Werenski on the blue line, Michigan will be a bit thin on the blue line. On the other hand, Downing's predilection for hits like the above and other assorted mental errors means his loss won't be keenly felt. Michigan does have Sam Piazza and Kevin Lohan to step into the holes left.
Michigan is hockey Indiana. They lead the country in scoring offense at 4.5(!) goals a game, and they're 36th in scoring defense. They get away with it more than Indiana does because their schedule is soft and hockey isn't a game like football where you get to take turns with the ball.
Michigan generally dominates attack time, shots… and odd-man-rushes allowed. Nagelvoort got chased by Wisconsin and I didn't think he did anything particularly wrong on any of the eight(!) goals he allowed. Chad Catt saw his first real time and was quickly dunked on by a pass across the slot. Michigan's given up multiple odd-man-rush goals in something like 5 or 6 games this year.
This is a high-variance way to live and leads to things like a loss to Minnesota one night after going for 2 on their touchdown in an 8-3 win, or having to come back from multiple-goal deficits against a bad Wisconsin team on both nights. It's kind of fun, but the specter of the multi-year tourney drought and the fact that every point dropped is another step towards extending it rather sours the mood at times.
A dull but equally good team would be more likely to make the tournament against this schedule since it would just play manball to a bunch of 3-1 wins. The flaming chaos wagon that is the 2015-16 Michigan Wolverines is liable to drop points in a series they end up with a +4 total goals margin.
Really though they should be less rickety
Literally every regular defenseman save Cutler Martin has been drafted. Michigan has a wealth of talent on the blue line that probably 58 NCAA teams would kill for. The one issue is youth—no seniors, three guys who are freshman-aged even if Werenski is a sophomore—but I mean cumong man.
The breakdowns are so widespread that you can't point the finger at any one guy who needs to improve. All of them have made glaring errors at some point this year, including Werenski. He is taking Paul Coffey comparisons to their logical extreme. Downing I kind of expect to do the Downing things—we have nicknamed a shot from the blue line that is blocked by the guy standing directly in front of the shooter a "Downing". I was hoping one or two of the other guys would emerge into Jarrod Wilson types who are boring and you forget about entirely until you look at their +/-. No such luck yet.
That scoring tho
Kyle Connor has been the kind of instant impact rookie that Dylan Larkin was, and he doesn't have quite the amount of help that Larkin did last year. Larkin played with Zach Hyman, who spent much of the year playing at a Hobey level. Connor was until recently matched up with Nieves and Selman, both decent scoring line players. Neither is anywhere near Hyman's level a year ago.
I like the recent move to put Connor with Motte and Compher. Motte and Compher have always played their best when paired together, and you might as well load up that first line as much as possible. Compher isn't scoring a ton but he has a whopping 15 assists this year because he drives play. Not like Hyman—he's not walking off the boards—but he is very good at getting and maintaining effective possession in the offensive zone. The goals will come.
Meanwhile Michigan's next six forwards are also producing. The Warren-Marody-Calderone line has been highly effective. Selman, Kile, and Nieves have all had their moments as well. Having three solid scoring lines despite the departures of Copp and Larkin is a very nice thing to have, especially given the above rickety business.
Michigan picks up a commit from this gentleman:
Proud to announce my commitment to the University of Michigan! Thank you to friends, family and coaches for the help along the way! #GoBlue
— Jack LaFontaine (@jack_lafontaine) December 15, 2015
LaFontaine will come in next year to compete with Catt and Nagelvoort after Racine graduates. He's got a .927 in the NAHL, and as I always mention when NAHL goalies get brought up: goalies come from weird places.
On the Age 20 proposal
College Hockey News collects some additional head coach reactions. I thought this was pretty interesting from the UConn HC:
They say it's a matter of have and have nots and it's only the big schools doing it, and it's not just big schools. If you go on a recruitng web site, some teams have 22 players committed. One team has a player committed for 2020. You have kids committing as (high school) freshmen and the kid doesn't pan out, and they put him off, and now he doesn't wind up going (to that college). So you have this kid because of the silly gentleman's agreement that I'm not in support of for the same reason. I hope (the new proposal) is going to stop of the stockpiling in recruiting.
"How are (the smaller schools) going to get hurt? (Schools that have '95s committed), they'll be 21 years old next year, and every single one of them has been committed for over a year. So they could've taken them now. One of them committed in 2012.
21 year olds entering college hockey have been committed long enough that they certainly could have entered earlier. None of these guys is suddenly on the radar after being passed over several times; schools deliberately delay them. I'm fine with reducing the ability to do that.
The way the Big Ten approached this is far from ideal since the people making the decision will have little or nothing to do with hockey. But it's clear that there is a critical mass of small school head coaches that will stand in the way of anything that hurts their own provincial interests. There is no way to ever get this passed through the regular means. And since the regular means have given us the worst postseason in sports, I have little sympathy for Walt Kyle and friends when someone flips them the bird.
Friday, December 11, 2015
#9 Michigan 8, Minnesota 3
Mich 1 Minn 0 EV 00:16 Motte (10) from Compher (13) & Connor (11)
Michigan wins the opening faceoff, and the puck rolls into their defensive zone. Downing moves it to Connor along the left boards, and he cuts across the neutral zone. Connor sees Motte near the blue line and lobs it up for him, but the pass is off target. You can see in the screen cap that a Minnesota defender has his stick out to take away the passing lane; the puck hits it and rolls to Compher (circled).
Compher carries in and turns back before he has to skate through a wall. Motte reads Compher’s movement and creeps down, and he’s left alone because a Minnesota defender is clinging to the boards (he’s the one partially in the circle around Motte). That’s fine if your team has the puck, but Compher had possession the entire time. It seems like he’s assuming that the two guys at the red line are going to strip the puck and send it up the boards quickly, but when Motte starts skating down staying on the boards isn’t staying very aware of the situation.
The goalie was looking to the corner and does a nice job reading the pass, standing, and trying to square to the new shooter, but Motte’s shot beats his reaction time.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest]
Once again, we're here. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
Michigan beat Delaware State 80-33 on Saturday, and while the game itself didn't contain much of note, the shuffling of M's lineup due both to injury and personnel issues continued. There's enough of interest for a basketbullets post, starting with...
Mea culpa. So, yeah, I mailed in the game recap. My general stance on these games is to take them about as seriously as one should when the foe is a team that barely looks like they're playing the same sport, but despite the upcoming schedule—Northern Kentucky, Youngstown State, Bryant—I'll be shelving the bad poetry recaps. In my defense, Delaware State was so, so bad; they had as many turnovers (17) as combined made FGs and FTs.
Robinson replaces Dawkins. John Beilein made a move in the starting lineup that wasn't dictated by injury, replacing Aubrey Dawkins with Duncan Robinson. Beilein discussed the move in the postgame presser:
“We feel right now our flow defensively and offensively is better as a starter for Duncan. Get him in there and let him go and get more scorers out there. He and Aubrey do a lot of things very similar, there’s just a different flow right now with him. I think it make other guys better, and as we work at some of the things Aubrey’s working at, we can shore some of his weaknesses up, which I think we some of it today.
The justification is simple. While Dawkins has been a solid offensive player this year, he doesn't add as much on that end as Robinson—they're both mostly spot-up gunners and Robinson is outshooting Dawkins 60% to 39% on threes with a higher volume of attempts while dishing out more assists and turning the ball over less. Both have some degree of disastrous on defense all season, and with that continuing to be the case, Michigan might as well have Robinson out there as much as they can.
That said, when Michigan hits the meatier portion of the schedule, I wouldn't mind seeing Robinson move back to a sixth man role if Dawkins can be something other than awful on defense; bringing Robinson off the bench often allows him more time against an inferior matchup (the opponent's bench wing) when he's on the court.
The point guard situation. With Derrick Walton temporarily sidelined—he'll play tomorrow barring a setback—and Spike Albrecht permanently so, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman got the start and Andrew Dakich burned a planned redshirt (again) to provide backup minutes. With Walton returning, Dakich shouldn't be much of a factor going forward—he had four points, three assists, and two turnovers in 20 minutes—but Rahk's contributions are worth a closer look.
Rahk still isn't a point guard. He has seven assists and six turnovers in 195 minutes this year; his 6.8% assist rate is below every Michigan regular's mark aside from Dawkins and the three centers. He's mostly a drive-and-dish guy without much dish at the moment, but he's showed some signs he could be more on Saturday; after opening the season 3/13 from three, he buried 3/4 attempts against Delaware State. Granted, those shots were great looks, but Rahk looked more confident in his stroke than he has in the past. It'd be critical to M's spacing for him to be more of a three-point threat.
Irvin rounding into form... except in one critical area. Largely unnoticed during the tumultuous start to the season has been Zak Irvin's continued improvement in the Not Just A Shooter™ aspects of his game. He's making 57% of his shots inside the arc and has 31 assists against nine turnovers; he's become a legitimate drive-and-dish guy.
Unfortunately, Irvin's shot appears broken; after going 0/3 from deep on Saturday, he's now 7/38 on the season. Needless to say, he has to figure out what's wrong and correct it if Michigan wants to bounce back from their recent ugly stretch and push for a tournament spot.
Speaking of that recent stretch, it's a little early to write Michigan off considering how well their recent competition has done:
Noteworthy in this week's AP poll ... 1. Michigan St, 6. Maryland, 10. Xavier, 18. SMU, 25. UConn. All 3 of Michigan's losses are ranked.
— Brendan F. Quinn (@BFQuinn) December 14, 2015
It's a similar story on KenPom: Xavier is 9th, SMU is 20th, and UConn is 26th. Michigan doesn't have a true signature win—Texas is 43rd on KP—but unless the very unexpected happens over the course of the next three games, they'll get through non-conference play without anything approaching a bad loss, which is a lot more than most of the Big Ten can say.
Michigan's 2017 class grew to five over the weekend with the addition of Covington (GA) Newton WR Jeremiah Holloman. Holloman plays high school ball with 2017 RB commit Kurt Taylor and 2017 S Jaquan Henderson, a UCLA commit who is expected to strongly consider joining his teammates at Michigan after a recent visit and offer.
While Holloman is either a three-star or unranked on the recruiting services, his tape suggests he's an early steal for the Wolverines; there's four-star potential here.
|3* WR||3* WR||NR WR||NR WR||NR WR|
Holloman gets cursory three-star ratings from Scout and Rivals and is unranked on the other two sites. Considering the dearth of scouting reports on him, this probably has as much to do with a lack of evaluations as anything else; he should see his rankings climb as the sites get around to looking at his junior film.
Holloman has a solid frame for an outside receiver, listed at 6'3", 190-195 pounds on three of the four sites (ESPN has him at 6'2", 187). He's got a stockier build that helps make him difficult to haul down after the catch.
[Hit THE JUMP for the informative portion.]
Hello. I'm writing these for a bit since recruiting and basketball are going to be most of what goes on for the next month, and by splitting it up we can do a better job at both.
Early Christmas presents, or coal
A couple of recruits high on Michigan's radar are announcing this week. On the 16th, FL LB Devin Bush announces. He says he's already decided, but that didn't prevent Michigan and FSU from dropping in on him with in-home visits last week. Michigan has been supremely confident in Bush's recruitment for a long time, but the departure of DJ Durkin did throw a wrench into things:
"For us it was bittersweet. It was like, ‘dang! We didn’t get a chance to work underneath him,” if he (Bush Jr.) choose (Michigan). But my son hasn’t chosen a school yet. So we’re just happy for D.J. and we’ve had to sit back and see what else unfolds.”
That quote has an air of someone trying to put the cat back in the bag. Uncertainty at DC—every single one of Bush's finalists save FSU has seen their DC depart—has Michigan people a bit more doubtful. Meanwhile Josh Newberg, an FSU mod who is a person to pay attention to, just ballz'd Bush to FSU.
Michigan still thinks they're getting the guy, but significant doubts are cropping up. Allen Trieu has an article in the News quoting Webb heavily that offers the lay of the land.
NJ RB Kareem Walker announces on the 17th. Walker announced that date after an in-home with Harbaugh, and before his official visit to Arizona State this weekend. FSU and Auburn are regarded as the only real competition. The the 247 FSU mods are not at all optimistic($), the main Auburn guy ballz'd Walker to Michigan, and Wiltfong isn't wavering.
That is looking good, but it doesn't seem like it's the 100% lock it felt like a month ago. New Jersey-based recruiting guy Todderick Hunt feels like it'll be Florida State, FWIW, but I'm not sure how seriously to take that when he's commenting on his own article thusly:
Obviously Michigan is the overwhelming favorite and he could very well end up there, but the recent sequence of events has me thinking FSU.
Official visit weekend: commits
Michigan brought in a bunch of commitments: IN RB Chris Evans, NJ DE Ron Johnson, NJ WR Brad Hawkins, IN QB Brandon Peters, FL CB Antwaine Richardson, and TX DT Jordan Elliott. Commit visits are usually no-news events and these were no exception. The most newsworthy thing about any of those guys is that Richardson is no longer enrolling early.
Two of the visits should move a couple commitments from 98% to 99%. Evans had a slight waver as he announced visits to both in-state schools, but none of the three major sites have a report that indicates he actually went to either. Meanwhile Elliott returning with his mom two weeks after he came up for the Ohio State game should further solidify that commitment.
Elliott seems somewhat annoyed he has to keep telling people that Michigan is final answer. This is mostly because Texas folks keep saying there's a chance; in response Elliott's twitter feed is nonstop Michigan boosterism. He is not giving the appearance of a guy who is going to flip again.
Nate Johnson adds self to above list
[Shelley Mays/The Tennessean]
Michigan also had a handful of uncommitted prospects. TN WR Nate Johnson dropped for M about the instant he arrived. Ace's Hello post covers him in detail, including a couple of excellent explanations for why 247 is high on him while others aren't:
Then the season came and Johnson validated his camp performances and was just unstoppable. It was a crime that he didn't win Mr. Football. He played with a quarterback that he had been with for years and their offense was crazy good (undefeated with very few close contests) but Johnson made it tick. He's one of the best route-runners in the country, has great hands, fantastic body control and he has a much bigger catch radius than his 5-11 size would suggest. He's also added good weight and strength as he's progressed in high school. At this point, he reminds me some of Christian Kirk down at Texas A&M in terms of body type.
That's a free post with plenty more at the link. With the flood of impressive late offers (Penn State, Miami, Tennessee and Michigan just last week) maybe other sites take another look. Scout hasn't even ranked the guy, which is kind of boggling since he had over a thousand receiving yards in both of his last two years in high school and was committed to a Power 5 school for months.
While numbers are getting tight now, Sam Webb says Michigan might take another wideout. It won't be FL WR Eddie McDoom(!), who committed to Oregon on an official this weekend. We are of course all devastated to lose such a name but if it can't be Michigan, Oregon seems appropriate for a fast guy named MCDOOM. Oregon's up to 25 commitments but has just two WRs and still has room for CA WR Dylan Crawford. They're in on a couple other WRs; if one of those guys drops then it might be time to talk about Crawford getting pushed over to M.
Delance on campus
Things are looking up for TX OT Jean Delance, who has been a major priority for Harbaugh and company for months now. Delance was popularly thought to be favoring Texas, but now the buzz is that it's a Michigan-LSU battle. Steve Wiltfong reports that he's close to putting in a crystal ballz($) for Michigan… and that he's close to putting a ballz for LSU. Dangit, Wiltfong.
Let's read too much into a tweet with a colloquial phrase in it, shall we?
Ann Arbor it's been real see you all again! 〽️ pic.twitter.com/qLMzO7ALKM
— Jean Delance (@JeanDelance74) December 13, 2015
Delance told an LSU site that he was planning to be committed by January, so it's one of those three teams, period, and with Texas on route to RichRodding Charlie Strong it looks like Texas is suddenly playing from behind.
Read between the linebackers
The considerable, if indirect, debate between the various recruiting sites as to how hard Michigan is recruiting CA LB Caleb Kelly has been resolved by Kelly himself:
As for his recruitment, Kelly said he has not talked with Michigan since his visit, which he thought was strange so he hoped to get in communication with them soon. Oklahoma remains a serious contender and he said the Sooners have not stopped their aggressive approach to recruiting him.
Kelly seems to like Michigan more than Michigan likes him. I would not expect Kelly to end up at Michigan unless there is a 180 by the coaching staff.
Meanwhile, vibes are still mostly good with FL LB Jonathan Jones. He took his official visit this weekend as well, and while this is not a great quote when you think you're leading for a guy…
Jones was accompanied on the trip by his mother and she came away equally impressed.
“She said my decision just probably got a bit harder,” said Jones. “It's a great school and she said there are great people. If I went there she would feel very comfortable.”
…later he said he "most definitely" thought about committing on his trip and even the Notre Dame side of this thinks Michigan is the likely choice. He's got a visit to Duke next weekend, and plans on a Signing Day announcement.
Bush and Jones are Michigan's clear top targets. They must be supremely confident in both to all but invite a David Reese decommit and go forward with few or no obvious other options save TX LB Dontavious Jackson on their board.
Cornerbacks moving things around
CA CB David Long, a Stanford commit most people don't think will end up at Stanford, did not make a planned visit to Washington this weekend. UCLA and Michigan have "a little more of his attention" according to Rivals' Adam Gorney. Meanwhile the 247 mods at Washington were recently all but guaranteeing Long flipping to the Huskies. 'Crootin'.
Long told Scout that Michigan hiring Lance Anderson away from Stanford would "give them the upper hand," but that he doesn't think Anderson would take the DC job if offered.
Meanwhile, MI CB LaVert Hill's recruitment has also gone full 'crootin' after months during which he was reputed to be the most locky lock on Michigan's board despite a nominal commitment to Penn State. So:
- Hill likes DJ Durkin and his departure shook up Hill's recruitment extensively. Webb reports that Greg Jackson will be key, and that his brother will vouch for the guy all day.
- Despite the uncertainty, Hill took his official visit this weekend. This marks the 750th time Hill has been in Ann Arbor this year, for which he receives a tiny pewter tree from the mayor's office.
- He's now planning to take all five visits, with UCLA and USC on the docket. He has already been to Tennessee and Michigan; MSU is other team scheduled to get a visit.
- Hill and MI WR Donnie Corley are now planning to announce on the same day. Corley was set to announce on the 18th but now that's off the table. That's probably good for M since they're believed to trail a couple schools in his recruitment. Corley claiming there is "a significant chance" he and Hill are a package maybe not so much.
After the visit Wiltfong did re-iterate he still expects Hill to end up at Michigan, but he had backed off on his certainty that would happen. Rivals is reporting that Maryland is trying to get in, which isn't a huge surprise.
Prepare another 2017 Hello post, Ace, and then another maybe
Michigan picks up a commitment from 2017 GA WR Jeremiah Holloman, a teammate of 2017 RB commit Kurt Taylor. Tim Sullivan catches up with him:
The 6-3, 190-pounder is a three-star unranked within the state or at his position, but has plenty of physical potential. He won the Georgia 6A state title in triple jump this spring with an effort of 47 feet, 5.5 inches. He also placed sixth in both the long jump (22-0.25) and high jump (6-4). …
"Basically on the outside, I'm a big, dynamic player," he said. "I'm speedy with the routes, nice precision with my routes. I can cause a whole bunch of threats from short routes to going deep or jumping over corners. I'm just a threat on the field."
Ace will elaborate with a forthcoming Hello post. Meanwhile Michigan has offered a third 2017 player at Covington: GA LB Jaquan Henderson, a UCLA commit. He was also offered by Michigan's staff and in the aftermath of Holloman joining up Chad Simmons, Brice Marich, and Steve Lorenz all indicated a flip was somewhere between a real possibility and imminent.
TX DE Jeffery McCullough didn't include Michigan in his top five. He was always a longshot. As mentioned, FL WR Eddie McDoom(!) committed to Oregon.
Michigan will poke around Montana State transfer QB Conor Prukop, but most expect him to end up plugging Oregon's odd and ongoing hole at QB. Mattison and Partridge stop in on NJ DE Rashan Gary. NJ WR Donald Stewart has been trending away from M for a while but he had an in-home recently and may be back on the radar. TX RB Rakeem Boyd, an A&M commit, may visit in January.
Michigan had an in-home with AZ DE Connor Murphy, who plans a visit in January. He still seems very open.