UM 1 MSU 0 EV 01:43 Downing (5) from Calderone (6) and Nieves (14)
Tony Calderone gets the puck via a stretch pass Boo Nieves makes from along the boards in Michigan’s defensive zone. The pass comes from the same spot Nieves wasn’t able to gain control of the puck last Friday (which subsequently led to a Spartans goal), so it’s nice to see him seal the puck and get it out of the zone this weekend. Calderone skates to the red line before walking it back up the boards in an effort to avoid the MSU defender.
Michigan State’s defenders have collapsed around the net, which is typical of their style. That’s not really a criticism; if you’re going to give up shots from the point and your goaltender is Jake Hildebrand you’re probably going to do alright. Calderone passes to the blur at the top of the screen cap. That blur is Downing, and it’s easy to see how much he’s able to put on the shot from the camera’s inability to focus on him.
It looks to me like the puck goes under the defenseman’s stick and beats Hildebrand on his blocker side in the little green square I’ve drawn on the screen cap. This isn’t a good goal for him to give up; despite having a defenseman in front of him in the screen cap he was able to track the puck and squared himself to the shot. That d-man in his view came in after the pass had been made to Downing and Hildebrand was starting to butterfly.
[After THE JUMP: Darth Vader makes an appearance, and it’s not in discussing MSU or Dave Brandon]
2015: Not Dead Yet
Well, I'll be damned:
In a move that comes as something less than a shock, UCLA announced Sunday that defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich "has stepped down" from his position on the Bruins' staff.
Ulbrich has been widely linked with new coach Dan Quinn's Atlanta Falcons staff and is expected to become the Falcons' new linebackers coach, per reports.
With that news, it's unlikely 2015 top-50 LB Roquan Smith will re-commit to UCLA. After taking a break last weekend, Smith will reevaluate his final four—UCLA, Georgia, Michigan, and Texas A&M—this week. With the extra time, Smith's coach believes he'll be more assured of his decision, per GBW's Kyle Bogenschutz ($):
“He’s actually relieved,” Harold said. “Like I told him, and the relief comes from the fact he gets more time. He went on five straight trips so of course the last trip you take is still fresh on your mind and he didn’t have like two days to hash everything out. He was conflicted up until he went on television. I told him you can go with your heart now and not turn a letter in and make a better decision because I want you to be 100-percent sure.
Georgia is the presumed favorite, but Michigan should be right in the running—yes, despite the "Michigan University" sign, which Smith's coach admitted was his error, not his star player's.
There's no substantive update on Mike Weber and whether or not he'll ask out of his Ohio State LOI.
[Hit THE JUMP for updated 2016 rankings, a ton of new offers, and more.]
You should really look at the big version for the background faces [Patrick Barron]
We have a theme, a palpable theme. Michigan plays about as well as they can, is right in it with a team headed to the tournament, and cannot finish the job. Three of Michigan's last four losses have followed that pattern, with the exception a home blowout against suddenly incandescent Iowa.
That was also going to happen—the ugly blowouts against teams that can exploit the various holes in Michigan's roster—but overall it's a familiar theme: Michigan's got a bunch of guys trying their best and not quite making it. This is also known as "the Amaker tenure."
In this case Michigan had to get raided by the NBA draft, lose their top two players, and have their touted freshman spectacularly underperform. They'll be a lot better next year. Take this team, add Walton, Duncan Robinson, DJ Wilson, and a year of experience for literally everyone and you're back to being a tourney team.
Levert? FWIW, I was talking to Sam Webb during my weekly WTKA thing (Thursdays, 9 AM) and LeVert came up; he said that it wasn't a slam dunk he'd go, and I was like "er, what" and he said he likes school, loves the team, and might stick it out. He is very young for his grade. Obviously, the prospect of a guaranteed seven-figure contract is and will remain tempting.
It would be nice to finally get a guy who could go back.
Irvin bust out. Indiana does not have a good defense. Let's stipulate that. But Michigan actually saw a good deal of, you know, offense. Michigan's 13 assists were the most they'd had since the Penn State game, and rarely have they cracked double digits. That's symptomatic of an offense that's struggling and resorting to a lot of heroball.
Nobody has been more negatively impacted by this than Zak Irvin, who was an excellent microwave last year and has struggled to initiate his own offense or find kickouts from his teammates. This leads to a pattern of frustration followed by contested shots off the dribble—not good eats for your offensive efficiency.
Irvin shook that against Indiana, finishing a few buckets around the basket that were set up by his teammates and finding small windows of space for his threes. He initiated a little offense himself. He was efficient. After, Beilein praised his improved "acumen for the game," and that's about right. This was also right, unfortunately:
But if there was one nagging frustration with Irvin on Sunday, it was his struggles to finish at the rim. With eight minutes left and Michigan down nine, the forward missed a fairly routine layup. A minute later, he went up for a layup with his right hand despite being on the left side of the rim, and the shot was blocked as a result.
“He’s got his head on right, and he knows that everybody has parts of their game they need to work on,” Beilein said. “He realizes what some of those are, and he’s working on them.”
Major points to the color guy for pointing that latter problem out immediately and informatively.
Anyway, priority one for the rest of this year is for the rest of the offense to pose enough of a threat to opponents that Irvin can either find open threes or, at the very least, closeouts. He can attack those; when he's just trying to straight up beat a guy he doesn't have the lateral mobility to do that without a bunch of spins and other such moves that bring help defenders into play.
MAAR bust. Freshmen are up and down and hoo boy was MAAR down in this one. His missed bunny after a steal was followed by another Irvin missed bunny and those buckets combined to rankle the remainder of the game, no more so than when Michigan ended up three points short on the scoreboard.
This is no doubt an adjustment period. Teams have seen what MAAR can do and have a scouting report on him; now it's up for Michigan to get MAAR playing better than he's scouted. One priority needs to be moving him from a guy who seems to make up his mind whether it's pass or shot before the drive to one who can find the open guys under the hoop when he draws help.
And then Doyle surges. (Also Donnal.) Meanwhile, Michigan's bigs kept moderately-big Max Bielfeldt (three minutes) on the bench for the first time in forever. Donnal put up seven points on four shots; Doyle had 15(!) on 8 shot equivalents. He was one made FT from having as many points as you can without an and-one or three pointer, on 19% usage in 27 minutes.
This has a lot to do with Indiana, which got a total of five minutes from guys bigger than a willowy 6'7".
Negative: even so they still got crushed on the boards. Doyle's trying to block shots that are not good shots to block: in the first half Irvin or Dawkins or MAAR had successfully contested a drive, forcing Indiana into difficult runner from five feet. It missed, but Doyle had tried to block it and his guy was there for an easy putback. Unless you are a pterodactyl man like Anthony Davis, that's a bad idea.
Evidence of offensive improvement. Michigan's last shot went through all five Wolverines before landing in MAAR's hands in the corner for a wide open look. It didn't go down, but to be able to execute that is something resembling progress.
Also, an alley-oop! It seems like forever ago when Michigan got two or three of those a game from Robinson.
[@ right: Patrick Barron]
Evidence they've got a ways to go. Blackmon (sigh) and Ferrell had a great sequence against the 2-3 in which Blackmon attacked, drawing both high defenders. Ferrell saw this and made a cut to the soft spot of the 2-3, receiving the pass and finishing and and-one against a highly disadvantaged Irvin.
That's not something we've seen much of from Michigan during their extensive opportunities to go up against a 2-3. Very, very rarely does anyone force the zone to react before attempting to get a pass inside the arc, and a lot of the time Michigan spends 20 seconds or so trying to make a pass to initiate their offense against a zone that hasn't been deformed or stretched.
Chatman thing. He did little in his ten minutes. This is something of an improvement. I did wonder what was going on on several possessions where he sat in the middle of the floor like he was flashing to the post against a 2-3. He brought a defender with him, which almost made it look like Indiana was running a 1-3-1. It was a confusing time.
Then I figured out that Indiana was just in man to man and Chatman kept flashing to the post because he didn't recognize that. This happened on three or four possessions and is another ominous sign about how far he has to go.
Must… fight… old man sportswriter… feels. SPOCK. I am not a fan of guys sitting back from their typewriters proclaiming some dude they don't know a scourge of society because he is a bit of a showoff. I think this is more reflective of the person writing it than the subject.
But, man, Troy Williams takes it to another level. Troy Williams flexes at his mom after he successfully pours milk in his cereal. Troy Williams goes to children's hospitals and mean-mugs at cancer patients because he is to date free of same. Troy Williams makes me an old man sportswriter and therefore I dislike him.
Hatch bits. ESPN story and video:
Thing I never want to see again. A Yogi Ferrell pull-up three. I would like him to not be at Indiana, please.
Oh, the faces you'll show. [Patrick Barron/MGoBlog]
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman's last-second attempt to tie from the corner summed up this Michigan team of late. Indiana looked like they'd win comfortably for most of the game, at times threatening to break the game wide open, but the Wolverines clawed back into it late, overcoming their porous defense with timely buckets.
The final possession played out similarly. Zak Irvin, whose hot hand brought M within striking distance, was clearly the first option, but IU wouldn't allow him a decent look. As the clock wound perilously close to zero, Michigan swung the ball around the arc, and suddenly there was MAAR, standing alone in the corner.
His try caught only iron, and we're once again left to commending Michigan's effort in a narrow loss against a better team.
This team, in its current form, just isn't talented enough to overcome too many mistakes. The first half featured Indiana jumping out to a lead in part due to too many Wolverine turnovers. The second half featured a couple critical missed layups—including MAAR blowing a breakaway that would've pulled M within two—and too many offensive boards for IU.
Michigan struggled throughout on defense, failing to keep Yogi Ferrell (18 points, six assists) out of the lane whether in man or zone; Ferrell did most of his damage in the paint, either swooping in for layups or creating open looks when the defense collapsed. Troy Williams posted 20 and 8 in an impressive performance highlighted by a couple thunderous dunks.
The failings on the other end meant Zak Irvin's 23-point output (9/16 FG) went in vain. Ditto Michigan's most productive performance from a big man in a long time, Ricky Doyle's 15 points on 5/5 FGs and 5/6 FTs. While the offense clicked in the second half, the hole dug in the first proved too deep to escape.
Facing their most difficult stretch of the season ahead, Michigan has a lot of positives to take from the last couple weeks. To actually start recording some signature wins, however, they must start shoring up the mistakes.
Michigan (13-10, 6-5 B1G) at
Indiana (16-7, 6-4)
|WHEN||1 pm ET, Sunday|
|LINE||Indiana -8 (KenPom)|
PBP: Kevin Harlan
Analyst: Clark Kellogg
Michigan has won just twice in Assembly Hall since the 1989 championship season, and they'll still be without the services of Derrick Walton this time around, though his prognosis has ever so slightly improved:
Walton, who has missed the last three games because of a foot injury, could return this season — a potential upgrade from last week, when coach John Beilein said that Walton would be out for "the foreseeable future" because of an injury compounded by a turf-toe issue. ...
"He's in that (walking) boot and when he can walk pain-free again, then we'll start looking at it. We're doing therapy in the pool and different things with him. We're very hopeful he can return at some point this year," Beilein told reporters Saturday.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations; I've switched over to conference-only stats for %Min and %Poss now. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||11||Yogi Ferrell||Jr.||6'0, 178||93||21||No|
|Dangerous outside shooter and great distributor.|
|G||4||Robert Johnson||Fr.||6'3, 195||64||19||No|
|Sharpshooter takes half his shots from 3-pt. A bit turnover-prone.|
|G||1||James Blackmon||Fr.||6'4, 190||69||26||No|
|Excellent shooter, good athlete, can help on boards. Dealing w/ ankle injury.|
|F||5||Troy Williams||So.||6'7, 206||68||25||Very|
|Outstanding athlete, solid finisher and rebounder, not a shooter.|
|F||30||Collin Hartman||So.||6'6, 210||62||13||No|
|Low-usage stretch F hitting 59%(!) of threes in B1G play.|
|G||2||Nick Zeisloft||Jr..||6'4, 205||49||14||No|
|Almost exclusively a 3-pt shooter, hits 41% of them.|
|F||25||Emmitt Holt||Fr.||6'7, 215||33||14||Very|
|Low usage. Solid rebounder who tends to finish his chances at rim.|
|G||22||Stanford Robinson||So.||6'4, 193||31||20||Very|
|Slasher who hits just 38% of twos and is 0/9 from three on the season.|
Indiana looked pretty solid in nonconference play, beating #28 SMU and #18 Butler before taking #23 Georgetown to overtime; their loss to #11 Louisville was quite understandable, not so much a defeat at the hands of #125 Eastern Washington in Assembly Hall.
In Big Ten play, it's been all about the home/road splits: they're 4-0 in Assembly Hall and 2-4 away from it, with the road wins coming against Nebraska and Illinois. They've dropped three of their last four, though the most recent game, a road blowout at Wisconsin with James Blackmon Jr. sidelined due to an ankle injury, is hard to hold against them.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
Michigan (15-8, 7-2 B10)
MSU (10-11-2, 4-3-2 B10)
Thanks Dave Brandon
|WHEN||8 PM ET Saturday|
Villiam Haag has a top quality hockey mullet
This is the same opponent Michigan had last week in a game that would normally be at Yost but is instead outdoors in Chicago. As a result season ticket holders are enjoying a six week gap between home games. Adding insult to injury, the announcement that this game would be in Chicago came after the season ticket renewal deadline.
This is Dave Brandon reaching back to us from beyond the grave to torment us one last time, so here's an opportunity to give thanks that he darkens our doorstep no longer. It is ultimate Dave Brandon to take a Michigan State game out of one of the cathedrals of college hockey in favor of something called the "Coyote Logistics Hockey City Classic" at a three-quarters empty NFL stadium. You and your logistics can go straight to hell, or Arizona. Wherever.
But… right… the game.
Michigan State remains Michigan State. They won the Joe Louis Arena contest the way they usually win games, scraping out a low-scoring snoozer thanks to a puck that bounced off multiple things before hitting the net, and then packing all six guys on the ice inside their crease for the remainder. It's ugly to watch and frustrating to lose to, but that's just the way things go against a style like that sometimes. It's .500 hockey against just about anyone, be they overmatched or… uh… undermatched.
More detail on MSU can be found in the previous post. In brief, MSU is a defensively responsible outfit with little offensive talent and a penchant for extremely conservative hockey.
Michigan fell a couple spots after last weekend's loss. They would still be in the tournament if the season ended today… unless conference tournaments went badly. They're solidly on the bubble. Losing again would push them out temporarily and eat up another one of the losses they can sustain before the end of the regular season.
Also, Michigan is five points clear of PSU and MSU for the Big Ten title—PSU has a game in hand. (College hockey awards three points for a win, remember.)
There are few stakes for MSU, which will be missing the tournament for the third consecutive year and sixth time in the last seven unless they win the Big Ten tournament. They could get within striking distance of Michigan for the conference if they win again, but sustaining that doesn't seem in the cards.
Hockey predictions are even dumber than most predictions, but Michigan does need to adjust the way they play if they're going to have a game that reflects the talent gap between the two teams. Michigan is far too prone to giving up uncontested shots from the slot and has gotten frustrated by MSU's tendency to lay five guys on the ice in front of any shooter.
Scoring the first goal is even more important than it is usually, as when MSU has to chase a game they come out of their shell and into the uncomfortable world of trying to play actual hockey. On the other hand, they are highly adept at choking out scoring chances.