just win the job thx / just get touches thx
Michigan kicks off spring practice in ten days, whereupon they will hit each other and do things that are football related and not much of import will go down but we will suck it up with the world's largest straw anyway because that's just how we do. This is a welcome change from Rodriguez-era spring practices, where worlds rose and fell because of the quarterback situation. Michigan has that locked down thanks to Denard's elbow injury and Devin Gardner's play.
Still, there are things to look for in the insider buzz and coach-talkin' that we will start receiving soon. (Other schools are out there covering it in person, grumble.) Here are the things I hope we start hearing soon:
Dennis Norfleet is back on offense. Check($). Norfleet's coach told Mike Spath that Norfleet was moving back to a return/slot/change of pace role a couple weeks ago, which makes me go eeee. Speculation that Norfleet's move was related to JT Floyd's suspension appears to have been accurate:
"In the bowl, it was basically a situation where he wanted the chance to earn more playing time, the numbers were down, and they let him compete there, but it was never supposed to be a permanent move."
Next on the checklist is seeing Norfleet get some touches at a place other than kick return.
Devin Gardner has two years to play. Also check. High five your future self.
There are clear leaders for each of the interior line spots. Last year's late Barnum/Mealer flip presaged trouble, and trouble was received. Ideally Michigan will come out of spring practice with an offensive line two-deep written in ink—chiseled in stone is unfortunately out of the question.
In practice this means:
- Kyle Kalis locks down a guard spot.
- There are no whispers about serious competition for Jack Miller since Kugler is not on campus yet.
- Bars, Bosch, Braden, or Bryant becomes the clear leader at the other guard spot.
If the last one doesn't come to fruition that's okay, as Michigan will probably be able to figure out one guard spot in fall camp without much trouble. If either of the first two is false that's not so good. If it's Kalis, that's a five-star guy falling off a stardom track. Meanwhile Miller's current competition at center is…
well, a "tight-lipped" Darrell Funk didn't mention any position changes other than the fact that Joey Burzynski and Graham Glasgow will receive looks at center this spring. If Michigan's going to start a walk-on, center is the place that I'm most comfortable having that happen, especially since they've all got a decent amount of experience there…
"That'll be a really interesting battle," Funk said. "I would prefer not to have another center battle for the second consecutive year, but it is what it is and we've got some candidates. They've all repped it for a year and a half, or two years, and we'll see who the best guy is."
…but I'm with Funk. Someone please lock that job down ASAP.
If it's a walk-on that might be okay. Burzynski was actually ahead of Miller as a sixth lineman on the goal line last year; Glasgow has the size (listed at 6'6", 305), has received some hype and is one of the better twitter follows on the team*. If either wins the job the least we can expect is that the line calls are consistently right, right?
You know you're broke when you ask Kyle Kalis for money
— Graham Glasgow (@gglasgow61) March 1, 2013
needs moar this (Upchurch)
There's someone to throw to. I'd better damn well hear that after last year's Devin Funchess fade—little of it his fault since the guy caught everything they threw at him—that Devin Gardner is throwing to him on every play, often twice. I desire a low rumble of Breaston-level hype relating to Devin Funchess. Oh and I would also like him to be a credible blocker.
On the outside, it's time for Amarah Darboh or Jehu Chesson or hopefully both to start getting buzz as a possession magnet or deep ball specialist. Michigan is okay with Jeremy Gallon (suddenly rampant with Gardner at the helm) and Drew Dileo at two spots; they'd dearly like to acquire a large receiver for various purposes.
New-ish defensive lineman X is making The Leap. Prime candidates are Ondre Pipkins and either Frank Clark or Mario Ojemudia. Someone on that line should be getting way better right now, and while Pipkins isn't going to start this year Michigan is going to count on him heavily the next three years. He needs to be a guy who does not get knocked over by running backs one-on-one.
Then you've got a cavalcade of redshirt freshmen. Chris Wormley's ACL injury was 6 or 7 months ago so we probably won't get to hear much about him; it would be nice if Willie Henry, Matt Godin, or Tom Strobel started generating some buzz.
James Ross is beast. I'm not including either rising sophomore linebacker in the above discussion since we have already seen them in action plenty and they are marked for stardom. I still think Desmond Morgan is going to hold a job, leaving one of the two a frequent substitute rather than a starter. The preferred way for this to work out is for James Ross to put on 20 pounds and leave no doubt about who is Michigan's weakside linebacker for the next three years.
It's like nothing ever happened to Blake Countess. Obvious.
The loss of Jordan Kovacs, while inevitably painful, will be mitigated. Also obvious. The battle here is between Dymonte Thomas, who enrolled early, Jarrod Wilson, and little-used veterans Marvin Robinson and Josh Furman. Jeremy Clark may figure in as well.
I'm not sure how I want that to work out just yet but like center, it's for the best if someone grabs the job and sits on it. At least here seem to be a number of reasonable options.
Starting Beard is taken care of. Elliott Mealer is gone. Time to step it up, people. This town needs Vikings.
So one way to get the shirts we put up in GTGWS is to correctly guess the score. You have about a 1/500 chance of winning. Another is to go and buy them from our store, where you have about a 1/1 chance of winning. If you're planning to do that, do that now since the store's offering free shipping for all of March. As for the other route…
We didn't listen! A few weeks ago when Michigan was looking at a road trip to Wisconsin before the big game in East Lansing I said hell let's not make people guess a 40-possession Bo Ryan game. A guy in the comments said don't do that. I didn't listen.
Last week Michigan was looking at a trip to lowly Penn State on Wednesday with MSU coming to town on Sunday afternoon. You'd think I'd have learned my lesson, but no, I went ahead and asked folks to ignore Penn State and guess the Sparty game. I didn't listen!
And this week? This week Michigan has yet another mid-week visit to a downrated team that ran into a brutal Big Ten schedule before a season-defining matchup over the weekend. I don't want to ruin the fun of Indiana, but I'm not falling for that overlook-the-road-opponent thing again neither. So both. Guess both. Like this:
Boils 78-68 Go Blue!
Whose yers: 71-70 MEEESHIGAN!
If there's a winner for two games I'll give out two shirts. If nobody gets the score this time, no shirts. This way perhaps the gods will let us have our fun without all the nasty smiting.
Also: Indiana liveblog: we're thinking of doing it again. If somebody wants to sponsor that send 'em my way: seth at mgoblog dot com.
How it works:
- I put up a winnable prize that consists of a desirable good.
- You guess the final scores of the designated game, and put it in the comments, preferably in the format of [M's Score]-[Opponent's Score]. First person to post a particular score has it.
- If you guess either game correctly, we contact you. If not, go to (5)
- The desirable good arrives at the address you give us.
- Non-winners can acquire the same desirable good by trading currency for it.
- Seriously, you don't have to actually guess a basketball score to get this shirt. You can buy it.
About Last Time:
Last week in this game,
A user FairleyStUHpid came.
And though he guessed M-59
I guess he did that by design!
(Rah rah rah)
Go hard guess the score,
With honor you may win some more!
Head you to our store,
To claim your MGo-victory!
Rooting for both the biggest local college and the local pro team puts Michiganders in the interesting position of singing the best fight song in the world on Saturdays and the worst on Sundays. Also: MMB vs a fat middle aged guy in a hard hat: reason 5857 that college is better than pro.
This Week's Games:
@Purdue tonight (at 7) and vs. Indiana at home on Sunday. Guess 'em both. To make it easy on me please use the [M's score]-[hyphen]-[Opponent's score] format and specify on that line which game that score's for.
And the Prize:
People who just see the parts of Indiana on the skyway or I-94 don't realize that the state shaped like a spilled sack of beans actually has a lot more going for it. Like there are several bars in Indianapolis. And there's corn fields. And there's gas stations. And the gas is cheaper than in Michigan or Illinois. (You know we should have just made a shirt that says "America's gas station.") Somehow this state surrounded by football enthusiasts ended up being cookoo for basketball. Maybe that's because you can't smell Gary indoors.
Fine print: One entry per user. First user to choose a set of scores wins, determined by the timestamp of your entry (make it easy on me and write your score in digits with a hyphen between them. Deadline for entries is sometime within 24 hours before the start of the game—whenever I can get online in that time and lock the thread. MGoEmployees and Moderators exempt from winning because you can change scores. We did not invent the algorithm. The algorithm consistently finds Jesus. The algorithm spent 10 years as the Indiana of basketball, if that makes sense. The algorithm is banned in China. The algorithm is from Jersey. The algorithm's name has to be spelled wrong. The algorithm is not just a shooter. This is not the algorithm. This is close.
It is obviously huge to have Gardner around for a fifth year in 2014, when Brady Hoke's OL recruiting will be emerging into upper-class years, Derrick Green is a sophomore, and Drake Harris is wearing the #1*. Getting a fifth year out of any starting QB is big time, especially one with as much upside as Gardner. Since he's pretty raw right now, he should use it unless he absolutely blows up in 2013—a problem I will take if it goes down like that.
Also a bonus is this presumably pushes the Morris/Speight/true freshman battle out to 2015, when Morris is (probably) a redshirt sophomore and Speight a redshirt freshman. Not starting a freshman QB is a nice thing.
*[Projection based on awesome dream. Also, Drake Harris is made of of mushroom marshmallows, the offensive line mutates into candybears, and Michigan beats East Magellanic Cloud for the Universe Title. Suck it, Bama.]
3/1/2013 – Michigan 4, Ferris State 1 – 13-18-2, 10-15-2 CCHA
3/2/2013 – Michigan 1, Ferris State 1 (shootout win), 13-18-3, 10-15-3 CCHA
it was messy, like we like it (MGoBlue)
After the Bowling Green meltdown from myself and the hockey team I vowed I was done talking about them. They'd just gotten blown out by BG and topped it off by letting a dangerous knee-to-knee hit slide without so much as a shove. They sucked, which was bad enough. That they did nothing when a guy wearing an A was on the ice after a cheap shot in an already-lost game was the end.
I spent the following two months of the season watching them in a depressed, cynical fugue state, dreading the ticket in my hand that condemned me to watch them get swept by Alaska for the first time since Alaska was a thing, not really caring if we missed half of a first period against Western because the waitress couldn't figure out how to change the channel, content to pick up twitter updates on the Ohio State series. I kept thinking of better things to do with 500 dollars, like use it to set my beard on fire.
Friday, I went to the ticket drawer, pulled out not one but two Ferris State tickets, realized that the home-and-home I expected was a two game home series, and sighed.
Friday started off rough with a penalty 30 seconds in; Michigan only killed it off with a couple of fine point blank saves from Steve Racine and then suffered another shift of heavy Ferris pressure. I was just prepping to enter fugue state when Michigan scored; Zach Hyman and young Lynch and Selman cobbled out a goal from some hard work. Guptill won a board battle and Andrew Copp made a cross-ice pass that Deblois buried, and Ferris got chippy.
Jacob Trouba probably got speared at some point, and another opponent knee met a Michigan player dangerously. This time there wasn't even time for me to put the Bowling Green game together with that incident before Copp came over and let that Ferris guy know he was marked. Roughing penalties followed; Trouba took an extra two late with Michigan up four. Michigan had incidentally dominated a 4-1 win, outshooting a decent team by 14. It was fun.
Saturday's ticket felt like an opportunity instead of a burden, and Copp—now ensconced in his role as the #1 center—started screwing with Ferris before the puck even dropped. He assisted on a first period goal, drew two penalties, intercepted stretch passes like he was playing for a Ron Mason Michigan State outfit, and spent large chunks of the game giving anyone who looked at a Michigan player funny the business. A pissed-off Trouba picked up a misconduct. I grew little grudges against Ferris State players, and was incensed by after the whistle business.
Michigan again significantly outshot Ferris. Racine stoned a couple of breakaways and then three straight shootout attempts. The team mobbed him for an unnaturally long time after the last one.
It felt like a team again, and Yost a place to be. It was Michigan hockey: end to end, pissy, ref-baiting, out-shooting, chippy fun. Michigan has always been a team with its heart on its sleeve, prone to dumb penalties of aggression that I used to loathe. They are far superior to the sleepwalk of the last year. By the end of Saturday's tumultuous draw Ferris's goalie was out in overtime and Yost was on its feet, moaning and screeching, full of hate and joy and fear. The new building seemed like the old one for a bit. Finally.
I don't know if Racine is going to keep up this level of performance or if Trouba's going to stick around or if Copp can really be the emotional center of a team as just a sophomore. I do have something to say about them that isn't randomly assorted swear words now. It's hard to see them winning two series and two at the Joe to extend that tourney streak, but at least I'll be pulling for them instead of silently hating everything. At least I've got a reason to renew.
Bullets still mostly about next year
Gongshow forever. I don't actually know if the refereeing in the Big Ten is going to be any better, but it's fitting that the last ten seconds of regular-season CCHA play saw Ferris State get a breakaway thanks to having seven guys on the ice. Here are four:
Here are two more:
This is okay since the goalie is out. This guy…
Not so much. Racine stoned the guy anyway.
Racine, come on baby. I was hoping he'd pop that save percentage over .900 with that weekend but he remains stuck at .892. Nonetheless, he was probably the star of the weekend if it wasn't Copp. Two goals against and many quality saves.
The one goal on Saturday was a little strange—still not sure if that was deflected or just unexpected—and is a bit concerning. Racine has had games like that where he makes a bunch of good stops and then lets some bizarre stuff in; it's a major weakness.
Despite it, the kid looked good… confident post-to-post, able to come out on shooters when it's appropriate, and seemingly technically sound. I was watching Saturday's game with a couple of guys who have played the position as kids and on the beer league level and they also thought he'd come a long way. My amateur impressions are that I see a ton of places where pucks can slide through Rutledge, and Racine provides not only a bigger guy but one with fewer gaps as he moves around.
Michigan should still try to find another goalie next year; I think Racine has a decent chance of developing into a quality guy. If he does, Josh Blackburn for president.
Copp. At the beginning of the year I said I thought he could be more than a fourth-line PK guy like the Swistaks and Fardigs before him who came from the end of the USNTDP bench. I didn't think he'd be centering the top line by the end of the year. I cannot overstate how excellent he looked this weekend: he played smart, made nice passes, took a couple of high-quality shots, and seems to have become the on-ice leader of the team. Not bad for a late add.
I'm guessing the split between football and hockey—he was Skyline's QB—held him back and now that he's finally focusing full time on one he's making a leap. At 7-9-16 he's ten points off the team leaders, but that's with very little PP time and after spending big chunks of the year down the depth chart. He's making a late-year leap and I bet he sees those points go up a lot next year.
Nieves. Another guy who is rounding into form as his freshman season comes to a close. A lot of guys who become stars start out slowly as freshmen and then emerge in the second half of their first year—Palushaj, Pacioretty (though he never came back), and Tambellini spring to mind. He's showing that he may be a guy Michigan can lean on heavily next year.
Next year. This was discussed in a UV last week, but it's all about offseason departures. Michigan loses Sparks, Lynch The Elder, Treais, Moffie, and Rohrkemper. Only three of those guys really play important roles. Sparks and Rohrkemper get scratched a lot. Moffie is the 4/5 defenseman if Clare is healthy. Lynch is okay but eminently replaceable. Only Treais might sting. Most schools are going to lose players more important than one guy with 20-something points, though.
But what with the rampant rumors about dissention in the ranks, an already-bulging roster, and a recruiting class that could have as many as eleven kids in it, defections are all but inevitable. Merrill, Trouba and Bennett will have NHL options; Di Guiseppe, Guptill, and Nieves will also. Other guys may just want to leave.
Michigan is committed to bringing in at least seven of those guys: forwards Evan Allen, Bryson Cianfrone, JT Compher, Alex Kile, and Tyler Motte plus defensemen Michael Downing and Nolan DeJong. Hockey is an equivalency sport so not all of those guys are necessarily on full rides and Michigan lost Daniel Milne midseason, but if they're going to keep the roster at its currently rather packed level they are going to suffer a defection. If they don't, they will carry nine defensemen into next year. If they suffer lots, then Max Shuart, Spencer Hyman, and Kevin Lohan may also join up, and then there's the goalie situation.
Michigan is a team that could go into next year featuring Trouba, Merrill, Bennett, and projected first-rounder Downing as their top four defensemen… or they could lose half of those guys and end up icing Mike Szuma quite a bit.
Meanwhile at forward, Compher is a high-end prospect expected to go in the middle of the first round; Allen and Motte are second and fourth in NTDP scoring. Cianfrone was projected as a first-round OHL pick before his Michigan commitment but has struggled in the USHL with a 3-14-17 line in 39 games. An emergency appendectomy may have something to do with that, he is small (5'8"), and he is young, but it looks like his star has fallen. Kile on the other hand has put up a PPG this year with Green Bay. At least one or two of those guys will probably end up on a big line.
Here it's less precipitous a dropoff if only because none of the forwards are near Merrill or Trouba's level, but Guptill's been playing well of late and it would suck to lose Nieves just as he starts rounding into a player.
In any case, find or grow a goalie and the talent will be there for a major bounce-back year as long as there's a guy to grab folks by the scruff of their neck. Please hockey Jesus, don't let Trouba's only year at Michigan be this floundering one.
One of the great things about this here blog is the user-generated content. After the Michigan State game the board came though with a photoshop thread inspired by Melanie Maxwell's great shot of Trey Burke's steal. This, in turn, has inspired a new regular feature—"Shop Class"—where we'll highlight the best work from these threads (and I'll throw my hat into the ring, as well).
Let's start with one of the many variations of that Maxwell shot, this one posted by hail2thevict0r, who maximized the Appling shadenfreude:
In a similar vein, BlueBarron was reminded of a meme of yore—though I'd imagine the Spartans were quite impressed, actually:
Brian's front-page commentary led to my own effort:
If you're all welped out, I made an alternate version with just Burke's laughter.
[Hit THE JUMP for the, er, inspired(?) work of resident gif wizard chunkums and more.]
The moral of last week: don't lose to Penn State, you guys. Providing the Nittany Lions their only win of the conference season was sufficient to knock Michigan out of one-seed contention for now. Despite the Michigan State win, Michigan has fallen into a mass of teams duking it out for spots on the 2 and 3 lines on the Bracket Matrix, a hair behind Louisville and Florida for the final twos. This isn't a lag effect; brackets updated today are evenly split, with guy-whose-job-this-is Jerry Palm declaring Michigan a 3.
Crashing the Dance also has Michigan in the 3 range, though they're significantly closer to the last #1 seed than dropping to a 4. Kansas and Gonzaga are the main beneficiaries, with Miami hanging on the cusp of a one after a narrow defeat at Cameron. I still think Gonzaga's schedule should disqualify them from a one seed but since Michigan's not in line to replace them, whatever man.
Could Michigan get back in the conversation by winning their last two? It's not out of the question. Indiana is by far the #1 team in all these ranking systems and a win over them would at least vault them up to a solid 2. But they'd have to jump a half-dozen teams at this point, one of whom is the extremely-unlikely-to-lose Gonzaga. Getting back on the top line is not entirely out of the question, but it requires a closing streak that is, to put it kindly, unlikely.
Projected ones: Duke, Indiana, Kansas, Miami
i changed the pictures. run, BJ, run!
Last win for IUPUI: December 27th. Binghamton: January 19th. Central Michigan: won! Against Northern Illinois, but still. IUPUI is done with the regular season and has a Saturday matchup with SDSU that will probably end them. Kenpom gives Binghamton a 1% chance of advancing past Stony Brook in the America East tourney, also on Saturday.
Cleveland State lost their final game and enters conference tourney play at 5-11; their season probably ends tonight. Bradley remains a 500-ish MVC team. Eastern Michigan beat Western in a 50-49 OT Wisconsin special. Both teams have a couple of games before their conference tourney kicks off.
Big sorts of teams
USF: W 64-44. Villanova: W 73-64 (OT)
Crushing rebounding and defense against one of the worst teams in the Big East to start their week, then a home escape against 'Nova in which the stats are close to identical save a burst of OT scoring from the Panthers. With just DePaul left, Pitt is likely to enter the Big East tournament as the #4 seed.
The Panthers are going to be a trendy upset pick in the second round what with their sterling Kenpom numbers, but I've watched them enough to be wary of them against any team that can match their size and rebounding. If Pitt isn't crushing the glass it's hard to see them taking out a 2 or 3 seed.
SEEDWATCH: A strong six on Bracket Matrix; a seven on Crashing The Dance.
Kansas State (24-5)
@ Baylor: W 64-61
Scraped by the Bears thanks to excellent two-point D (38%) and a slight TO advantage in a game with lots of offensive rebounds and a swingy win graph:
That's some high leverage right there. May all tourney games not involving Michigan look like that.
K-State has a gimmie against Texas Tech tomorrow and then a season-ender against high-flying Okie State that could spring them to the three line if they perform reasonably in the Big 12 tourney. That one's on the road.
SEEDWATCH: Narrowly a 3 on Bracket Matrix; four on CTD. Jerry Palm says 4.
North Carolina State (21-8)
Boston College: W 82-64. @ Georgia Tech: W 70-57
Given NC State's defensive struggles this year two solid wins over not-great teams is actually a positive step. This is a team that lost to Maryland and Wake Forest, and BC and GT are hovering around 100 in the Kenpom rankings.
BC actually scored just over a PPP in their matchup but could not compete with an NC State team hitting 62% inside the arc and rebounding half their misses. GT shot horribly and turned it over 15 times; NC State got easy distance despite going 1/11 from three thanks to excellent twos and a lot of FTs.
MCHOBBIT UPDATE: 16 minutes against BC, four points on three shots, 5 to 1 A:TO. 11 minutes, 8 points on five shot equivalents, 2 A, 0 TO.
SEEDWATCH: 7 on Crashing The Dance, 8 on Bracket Matrix. Drawing these guys in the second round as a 1 or 2 seed would be awful.
@ LSU: L 65-60. Kentucky: W 73-60.
Arkansas keeps giving themselves hope at home—wins over UK and Florida—and then blowing it on the road—losses to LSU and Vandy. Their vague flutter towards a spot on the bubble comes down to winning at Mizzou and at home against A&M, plus a run in the SEC tourney.
Likely? No. But not impossible. Crashing the Dance has moved them up from the fringe bubble to Next Four Out territory, with Kentucky and Tennessee the last at large bids in and two more SEC teams (Ole Miss and Alabama) just in front of them. Lunardi also has them in Next Four Out. They've got a 10-20% shot at a bid.
SEEDWATCH: CTD next four out; no one has them in on the Matrix.
West Virginia (13-16)
Baylor: L 65-62. @ Kansas: L 91-65
At least we won this coaching switch.
SEEDWATCH: exploding seeds that kill spiders like in Zelda or something
Games relevant to your interest that are on the TV and may be worth watching after the first ten minutes. Bolded teams are suggested teams to root for, calibrated for …
1) helping M win conference title
2) best chance for quality-win pile-up to help M seeding
3) greatest number of tourney teams from league
4) eff Michigan State
5) also Wisconsin
Yesterday; no games.
Illinois at Iowa, 7:06 PM, BTN
Ohio State at Indiana, 9PM, ESPN
Arkansas at Missouri, 7PM, ESPN
MICHIGAN at Purdue, 7PM, BTN
Minnesota at Nebraska, 9PM, BTN
Wake Forest at NC State, 9PM, ESPN3
Penn State at Northwestern, 7PM, ESPNU
Wisconsin at Michigan State, 9PM, ESPN (rooting interest: meteor)
Minnesota at Purdue, 12PM, BTN
Kansas State at Oklahoma State, 1:30, no tv(?!?)
Texas A&M at Arkansas , 2PM, ESPNU
Nebraska at Iowa, 2:21 PM, BTN
NC State at Florida State, 9PM, ESPN2
Wisconsin at Penn State, 12PM, BTN
Illinois at Ohio State, 12:30, ESPN
Indiana at MICHIGAN, 4PM, CBS
Northwestern at Michigan State, 6PM, BTN