Michigan survived a late push from Florida State to land one of their top overall targets in the class, four-star Hollywood (FL) Flanagan ILB Devin Bush Jr., who announced his commitment to the Wolverines in a ceremony this afternoon. Bush, the son of former FSU and NFL safety and current Flanagan head coach Devin Bush, joins teammates Devin Gil and Josh Metellus in the 2016 class, which now sits at 22 commits.
Bush is the second linebacker in the class, along with three-star Dytarious Johnson, and as an early enrollee he'll have every opportunity to make an instant impact at Michigan's thinnest position group.
|3*, #13 ILB||
4*, #5 ILB,
4*, 82, #12 OLB,
3*, 88, #19 ILB,
4*, #11 ILB,
As you can see, there's a major split in Bush's rankings; Rivals and ESPN have him as solid four-star while Scout and 247 place him in high three-star territory. Bush's size—listed at 5'11", ~225 pounds everywhere but Scout (6'0", 215)—is the likely cause of the difference in opinion; those listings are apparently a little generous on length, as Bush measured in at 5'9", 227 at The Opening.
[Hit THE JUMP for the informative stuff.]
When I talked to Ryan Glasgow back in November after the Minnesota game, he said that he had kind of been able to pick up on how the offensive linemen were standing and pick up some tells whether the play would be a run or pass. When you’re lined up across from a receiver, are you able to pick anything up from them during a game or from watching film? Do they have certain tells?
“Yeah. It’s always about feeling the game and just knowing what they’re going to do. A team always has a gameplan coming into a game, so it’s a script and sometimes they go off the script and then they come back to the plays that they hit you on so you know. You have a feel for what they’re going to do next, so honestly it’s just feeling that, what your receiver likes to do, and just getting in that feel.”
Do they ever tip what route they’re going to run based on how they-
“Yeah. Linemen always tell. The formation is a big teller, and it’s just…yeah, it’s pretty much the feel, honestly.”
You’ve played a lot of man-press this year and you’ve talked a lot about technique, and I know your coaches say it all the time too, that the most important thing isn’t size or speed but is technique. Walk me through that; when you’re lined up in press, what are you looking to do as soon as the ball’s snapped?
“Be physical at the line of scrimmage. Disrupt them. Just do anything I can to bother them at the line. Just being in his hip pocket—you know, that annoys them, just knowing that you’re always there and they don’t have space to move and the quarterback has to put the ball on the spot, so honestly that contributes to incompletions and pass breakups and stuff like that because once you keep getting that tight coverage you know sometime that line’s going to break down.”
What if you have to take a guy a little bit deeper down the field? Say you’re 15 or 20 yards down the field. What’s the technique then?
“You’re trying to push them to the sideline. You’re trying to get them to the sideline, and then you’re trying to stay up under the route and get up in his back hip and turn around and try and look for the ball.”
[After THE JUMP: how to break up a pass and not get burned, a Florida scouting report, and a week of preparation]
Caris LeVert recorded the fourth triple-double in program history. [Fuller]
Caris LeVert's most memorable play of the evening didn't even count towards the fourth triple-double in Michigan basketball history.
LeVert finished with 13 points, ten rebounds, and ten assists, but his steal and Gumby-like save in the second half stood out as the highlight in a game Michigan controlled from start to finish. Duncan Robinson made a sizable contribution to that assist total, knocking down three of his six first-half triples off LeVert passes.
Robinson scored all 18 of his game-high points in the first half. He also scored them all from the same location:
Does he have a favorite spot? pic.twitter.com/LXPZC8duXb
— Dylan Burkhardt (@umhoops) December 16, 2015
When Northern Kentucky reconfigured their defense to prevent Robinson from getting the ball in the second half, the rest of Michigan's offense benefited, especially LeVert and Derrick Walton. Walton returned from his ankle injury, got the start, and looked healthy—save for a brief scare after a hard foul in the second half—in a 16-point effort.
Outside of LeVert making history, Robinson raining threes, and Walton looking spry, the major intrigue from this game came from how John Beilein handled the rotation. (Alright, and the defense once again being not-so-good, but let's leave that for another day.) LeVert, Robinson, Walton, and Zak Irvin all played 34 minutes or more, while Ricky Doyle (23) and Mark Donnal (14) took up nearly all the minutes at the five; Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (11) was the only non-center backup to see anything approaching significant time. Donnal had easily his best performance of the year, netting his season-high 11th point on the pick-and-roll to give LeVert his triple-double.
Andrew Dakich entered in time to run out the clock, and he did so with aplomb.
Tonight's bad poetry:
Duncan made a three.
Duncan made another three.
I need four more lines.
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]