TO THE HOT TAKE CANNON
|WHAT||Michigan (19-11, 11-5 B10)
PSU (16-12-4, 8-7-1 B10)
|WHERE||Pegula Ice Arena,
State College PA
|WHEN||7 PM Friday
3 PM Saturday
|TV||BTN plus (ie: no)|
[@ right: Bill Rapai]
It says something that Penn State's farm-fresh program has become instantly competitive in the Big Ten. Half of that is Penn State, which is regularly selling out and has an attractive hockey-specific arena to offer.
The other half is the worrisome state of the league.
Things seemed a bit more worrisome three weeks ago, when Penn State was 7-2-1 in the Big Ten and had vague at-large hopes. Since they've been in a tailspin, losing five of their last six.
THE GENTLEMEN OF NOTE
Taylor Holstrom, Casey Bailey, and David Goodwin. Addressed as a group because they are a group. Penn State has a very legit top line. You can see it in the plus-minus: these guys range from +12 to +14; there's a second-ish line that's just above even, and then you get into minuses.
Bailey leads PSU in scoring with a 21-16-37 line. 1) that production has continued in the Big Ten (10-10-20), and 2) a lot of that production is even strength, with just 4 PP goals.
Holstrom is the setup man with a 7-22-33 line.
Goodwin is a highly productive third wheel at 13-16-29.
PSU has another three or four guys who are somewhat productive depending on whether you're looking at the season as a whole or just the Big Ten. Scoring threat drops off relatively swiftly after that.
Michigan would be advised to try to line-match the Copp line against the Penn State gunners, but that'll be more difficult on the road.
All three Penn State goalies have seen significant time this year. Over the last month the competition has narrowed to juniors Matthew Skoff and PJ Musico. Musico has a solid .923 save percentage but has struggled somewhat lately; Skoff is at .905. Despite that disparity, Skoff has seen twice as much time as Musico.
Skoff and Musico both gave up five goals last weekend to Ohio State, so your guess is as good as any. Whoever gets the Friday start will see playing time Saturday contingent on his performance.
THE SPECIAL TEAMS
Penn State's power play is effective at 22%; their penalty kill is weak at 80%. Similar to Michigan except slightly worse in both categories.
THE LAST TIME
PSU and Michigan split a series at Yost back in November. Penn State scraped out a frustrating-for-M 3-2 win in a game they got outshot 40-28. The next night Michigan bombed 'em 8-1 in a game where shots were a lot closer. Hockey is weird.
Michigan has a three point (ie: one game) lead on Minnesota for the Big Ten title, with MSU and PSU lurking around .500 further back. A sweep guarantees Michigan a piece of the title if they get at least a split from the MSU home and home finale; drop points, as Michigan has been wont to do of late, and they'll be relying on Meh Minnesota to help 'em out. (They've done that, splitting their last two series.)
Even more importantly, Michigan is the definition of a bubble team in the pairwise. They have four games left against .500-ish teams, and three are on the road—going 3-1 in this stretch should see them enter the Big Ten Tourney with a good shot at an at-large bid even if they don't get the auto. Anything worse and things start to look dicey.
If Michigan does end up hunting an auto-bid they would very much like to do so from one of the bye spots in the Big Ten tournament. Two games in two days is much easier than three in three.
Penn State's got a decent record but they've got a very bad SOS number so they're definitely on the outside looking in when it comes to an at-large. They are five points back of second place in the league and the second bye, so that's likely their goal.
If Michigan can keep the top line contained with the Copp line and use Hyman and Larkin to strike at the relatively soft underbelly of the Penn State roster… they could still be undone by randos unchecked in the slot and bad goaltending. But this does look like a relatively good matchup for Michigan: a team that's been scuffling that doesn't punish mistakes much save for the guys everyone needs to be alert for.
Here's hoping they can get 1-0-1 or better.
Offered: Mighty Mighty Boss T.
FIRE UP THE NOTY SIREN. Michigan has offered top-100 CA DT Boss Tagaloa, per 247's Steve Lorenz ($):
"It's really a surreal feeling to get the opportunity to play for [Harbaugh]," Tagaloa said. "When I got the offer, I guess I couldn't really put it into words how I felt. It's just been a really great blessing to have all of these opportunities. Not that long ago, I was watching Coach Harbaugh coach my favorite team and now I could possibly play for him in college. That's a really cool feeling."
Tagaloa is a longtime teammate of top TE target Devin Asiasi, who he says is "like a brother" to him; they plan to take their official visits together and could very well end up at the same school. Both plan to take most of their official visits after the season and commit on Signing Day, so this recruitment will play out over the long haul.
Because this is how Michigan operates now, that wasn't the end of offers going out to California prospects last week. Top-100 CB Trevon Sidney told GBW's Josh Newkirk he'd like to visit Ann Arbor this summer after adding an offer ($). He said USC, UCLA, Washington, and Notre Dame are the schools going after him the hardest.
Three-star CA WDE Bryson Young only had three offers heading into the week—Colorado State, Fresno State, and Oregon State—before Michigan jumped into the fray and made a major impression, per Sam Webb ($):
“I was not expecting Michigan to look at me. They’re a great school and I never would have thought that they looked over here for players. It was a complete shock.” ...
“(Talking to Harbaugh) was one of those (things) I’ll never forget. That was amazing. I did not expect that at all. Talking to a coach from Michigan is fantastic enough, and talking to Harbaugh that was just unexpected. I’ll never forget that. That was great.”
Young said he's "definitely" considering Michigan now and he's looking to set up a visit. He may still be a tough pull from California—UCLA offered yesterday, and Young called USC his "dream school" while discussing the Michigan offer. The Trojans haven't offered yet, but if they do—which seems likely—they'll be the prohibitive favorite.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
The result last night, and the fashion Michigan got there, was no doubt painful. Lost in the insanity and disappointment, however, were several encouraging signs for the future. Since Brian covered the coaching stuff in today's mailbag, my focus for today will mostly be on the bright side of life.
BUT FIRST, NIT OUTLOOK. So, yeah, that obviously wasn't ideal. DRatings updated their NIT bracketology today, putting Michigan as the second six-seed. A home win over Rutgers isn't likely to change much there (a loss would obviously be a huge blow), which puts Michigan perilously close to the edge:
All regular season champions that did not win their conference tournament automatically qualify for the National Invitation Tournament (NIT). It is important to note that early predictions will be flawed because of this rule. Typically, there are about seven to nine teams that win their conference in the regular season but don’t win their conference tournament and end up in the NIT. So, in early predictions, if your team is a seven or eight seed, then it is likely they won’t make the tournament because of these auto qualifiers.
DRatings currently has ten teams below Michigan projected to make the NIT field. Hold onto your butts.
ZAK IRVIN, EVOLVING. For much of the season, Zak Irvin has been a source of disappointment. If Caris LeVert was supposed to step into Nik Stauskas' shoes, Irvin was supposed to step into LeVert's, becoming this year's guy to add a ton to his game and set himself up for lead dog status/early entry discussion.
It didn't happen right away, but take a look at Irvin's last six games:
|TOTAL (Avg.)||105 (17.5)||20/41 (49%)||16/40 (40%)||17/23 (74%)||3 (0.5)||31 (5.2)||13 (2.2)||9 (1.5)|
Now think about this: Irvin didn't make more than three two-pointers in any game his freshman year—and he only did that twice—and other than the opener against D-II Hillsdale he hadn't made more than four this season until the Indiana game. He had five last night, mostly on NBA-level pullup looks that he generated with surprising ease:
Over the last month, Irvin has raised the bar from top-flight supporting player to potential go-to guy on a good team, and that's a huge step. He's developing moves that reliably get him to the basket—he's incorporating the shot fake, for instance, which is particularly effective given his shooting ability—and he's both finishing and getting to the line more often.
[Hit THE JUMP for more Irvin and a look at the development of three freshmen.]
things were bad all around when Bump was doing his best
Bad times man
Could this year be the first year that all three major sports missed the post season?
I tried to look it up but realized I was wasting too much time doing so.
Thanks for the leg work. Sorry for bringing it up, though.
This isn't actually that hard to do. Michigan had a 30-some year bowl streak starting with Bo and a 22-year tourney streak starting early in the Red era. Basketball made the tournament the last two years, so we start with 1974 and go back from there. So:
- Hockey had a tourney drought from 1965 to 1976(!)
- Basketball made it in '74, reaching the Elite Eight, but hadn't made the tourney since 1966 previously.
- It was Rose or nothing for football back then, and nothing happened in 1974 and 1973
So, 1973. Meanwhile, the late sixties were not much fun to be a Michigan fan, with no postseason appearances from the big three from 66 to the 1970 Rose Bowl.
Hockey still has a shot to avoid the trifecta. Also HARBAUGH
Why in the world does a coach as good as Beilein continually pull the autobench? Which is basically taking the penalty for a crime you haven't committed yet. Also, what's the team's +/- in the last 5 minutes of the first half this season? That seems like when the autobench would be hurting us. Thanks.
Funny you should ask that, I was just about to—
BAH GAWD THAT'S ZACH JONES'S MUSIC
Given the discussion via both the website and Twitter today railing against the autobench, I put together the attached file to see what's actually going on. Thought you might be interested in the results. Dan Dakich said something interesting during the broadcast about people not talking enough about the importance of the time at the end of the first half on the outcome of a game. I've always thought this, as well, so I also put in a +/- on Michigan's performance from the final media timeout of the first half to halftime [in both autobench and non-autobench situations].
The document is here if you want to look at the details. The summary data follows.
The first column is Michigan's overall margin at the end of the game. The second is Michigan's performance in the last four minutes of the first half in all games; the third is Michigan's margin in autobench situations.
parens means negative numbers
The conclusion seems to be that John Beilein has not adapted his autobench policy to the injuries of Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton, and is still coaching like he has solid depth. This is emphatically not true, as the result of the autobench today put Andrew Dakich and Sean Lonergan on the floor for extended time.
Anyway, like I said, I thought you might find this interesting.
This was pre-Northwestern but with the only autobench in NW coming from Kam Chatman it's still accurate. Most of Michigan's deficit in Big Ten play post-injuries has come in autobench situations.
Autobench was a reasonable strategy earlier in the year when the guy coming off the bench was usually Spike (or Spike was the autobench subject). Lately it has gone very un-well.
These are tiny sample sizes that you can't draw any statistically significant conclusions from, but they do confirm the eyeball test. Michigan scored once in ten possessions at the end of the first half when Irvin and MAAR were benched, and that was the difference. MAAR's absence in the MSU game corresponded with a huge MSU run that put that game out of reach.
It's one thing to bring Dawkins or MAAR or Spike into the game because one of your guys has a couple fouls. It's another to have a lineup with Lonergan and Dakich on the floor.
The other recent controversy.
I watch the multiple M games with my Michigan grad neighbor and occasionally we get into battles about Michigan coaching strategy. This came into fruition during the NW game in both the regular time and the OT. I have always held the strategy: if it is under the shot clock (35 seconds left ) with a lead of over 2 points you should foul with the ball under ½ court with the opposing player in no act of shooting. This holds true especially in the 1-and-1 and with a timeout (to escape the trap by calling timeout). My theory is that you give the opposing team no chance to tie the game on their possession. Add to that if the ball is brought up court by a poor free throw shooter, to miss the 1-and-1 reduces dramatically to the 2 points awarded. I also have a time out to call in the event of an inbounds trap. The net is you give up 2 points max up by one with an out of bounds pass and a timeout. You inbounds the pass up by one shooting a 1:1 probably immediately fouled.
My neighbor argues that playing good defense is a valid strategy, citing the NW player stepping out of bounds giving Michigan the ball.
We would have won the game at Northwestern if we deployed this strategy in both the regular time and/or the overtime. We let them win by two miracle Trey Burke shots to tie that never should have happened. Please convince me by math that I am not insane that the “prevent” defense in college basketball is not better than in the NFL and insanely underutilized.
I am #teamfoul all the way, but any discussion of this has to point out the most extensive study of this decision on the college level was done by Ken Pomeroy and it didn't show what you think it might:
W L OT Win% Cases Foul 122 5 11 92.0 138 Defend 598 2 76 93.5 676
(That post was spurred by Ben Brust's DEATH TO BACKBOARDS heave, because of course.)
Now: fouling does prevent OT. 13% of "defend" instances made it to an extra five minutes. 8% of "foul" instances did. The increased chance of an insta-loss offset that in a sample size that's suggestive but not definitive.
So. Despite being #teamfoul, this is the kind of game theory noodling that is way less significant than anything that gets you a single extra point over the course of 40 minutes. There are some game theory noodles that are worth exploring (fourth down decisions in football, calling your f-ing timeouts when the opponent has first and goal). This one appears to be marginal.
The more important thing is what the hell Bielfeldt was thinking when Olah set a screen for Demps in that situation. There is no way Demps should have been that open.
[After THE JUMP: Mary Sue Coleman's role in Brandongate, Mike McCray deployment, #harbaugheffect]
Not fair comparing Peppers to humans. [Upchurch]
Ace: Since there's always at least one: Who do you think becomes this year's Spring Breakout Guy?
Alex Cook (hoops beat): Can I answer with Jabrill Peppers? Last year was a complete and unmitigated disaster -- even our best recruit (of the past decade and perhaps longer) went down with an injury and missed pretty much the whole season. It's going to be easy for the national media to forget about him: Peppers didn't make any noise last year -- because of injury -- and Michigan isn't expected to do a whole lot (though we do have Harbaugh, which will be a well-tracked national storyline).
|I like big butts and we cannot lie, when we’re building an offensive line. When a kid walks in with fleet-foot spin, and lower-body weight you get sprung! [Upchurch]|
I'm a True Believer when it comes to Jabrill Peppers, especially after the move to safety, where he can be in the box and play a coverage guy in equal turn. The guy has "future top ten pick" written all over him and I'm guessing we'll hear all about that as spring progresses.
Seth: Yeah it'll be Peppers though we've been stoking that flame so long it can't be that much of a surprise when it goes up. So in the spirit of the annual "hey look what we found" of Spring let's go for a surprise candidate.
Logan Tuley-Tillman is what NFL left tackles are supposed to look like at 20 years old. Here's a guy who dropped 20 lbs from high school, then built back 10. He also had a hand injury last year to explain why he couldn't compete with a true freshman.
Brian on Monday mentioned a practice observer said the light went on. When that happens to a guy whose build matches the Michael Oher description from Blind Side, that means a Jake Long is born.
For LTT to crack the starting lineup now would mean he beat out (probably) Magnuson and Braden, two guys with 23 starts between them. Word from practice so far seems to be emphasizing that Cole and Miller are the only two OL from last year's unit who've locked down a job, then peg Cole as maybe moving to guard or RT. Reading between the lines it seems somebody’s job’s under fire from one of underclassmen. It could as well be Dawson—perhaps he can pull?—pushing from behind, since I’ve also read nice things about him coming out of practice, but the Cole thing suggests it’s a tackle who’s upsetting the standard order, and if that tackle was Magnuson we’d be hearing they plan to find a spot for Mags. Fox is still hurt, so that leaves JBB or LTT, and people are talking about the latter.
[Jump for more things Harbaugh makes better]