Peppers at 10, which seems low.
the world is a vampire [Bryan Fuller]
Exit Spike. This is not fair, to dredge up the sadness that I already went through once when Spike retired:
Michigan’s Spike Albrecht told ESPN he was granted his release today and plans to play next season elsewhere as a grad transfer.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) March 29, 2016
Bleah. Michigan has Xavier Simpson coming in and is already one over on scholarships after the Tyus Battle recruitment caused Beilein to break bad, so that was more or less inevitable. I would hope that Spike at least avoids Big Ten schools even if Michigan doesn't restrict that. (If they can restrict a grad transfer. It is not clear to me they can.) It'll be interesting to see if he lands at a major program or ends up at a mid-major because of the hips. It'll be fun to root for Spike if he's got 30% usage on a 14-seed. If he's at Indiana not so much.
I'm not hearing any of the many complaints about Beilein's roster management here. Michigan had a plan, and that plan is a good plan. Spike's injury is an event you cannot anticipate, and once it happens you've got a choice between carrying a third point guard for a year and shoving some other dude off the roster. No offense intended to Spike but this was the way to go.
The upcoming Deal. The Big Ten's media rights are coming up for bid in the near future, probably for the last time ever in a cable bundle world. Andy Staples surveys the scene:
If this were 2013, when the cable bundle felt as if it would stay intact for much longer, ESPN could throw money at the Big Ten for two reasons: The rights are valuable, and an exclusive deal for the league's first-tier rights would essentially choke out Fox and ensure that all of the best college games aired on ESPN networks. Under that scenario, the amount of money would extend into the ludicrous, as Fox would counter with a huge amount because it needs those games to attract viewers. …
This mega-bidding war likely won't happen for two reasons. First, networks will be constrained by the economic factors described above. Second, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany may want to split up the rights. He has fought his battles with ESPN, but he also knows the Worldwide Leader can stop talking about a conference that doesn't appear on its air. Meanwhile, Fox owns 51% of the Big Ten Network, so it is a valuable partner. … The Big Ten will still probably double or even triple the previous deal and cement itself as the highest-grossing conference in college sports.
And thus the amateurism model will become even more untenable.
Staples wonders about how long this deal will be; the answer will probably depend on the channels. The Big Ten should take the longest possible deal since by the end of it there's a strong possibility it's a boat anchor for the broadcasters no longer being propped up by little old ladies who just want to watch NCIS.
Please remember this if they go in a submarine again. Baumgardner:
I've seen Michigan's football team practice for a total of 16 hours this spring. Five practices. I haven't been around for 50 years, but it's probably safe to say this month has featured more on-field practice access than those previous 50 years combined. This sort of stuff doesn't happen around here. It really never has.
I only got to see four of those and even so they are quite an antidote to the antics that surround the program. I mean, it's not like it's a surprise that Jim Harbaugh is a football coach who runs football practices, but there are folks who lose the forest for the twitter blasts. In reality those take up about a hundredth of one percent of Harbaugh's time and the football takes up the rest of it, with occasional forays to Peru or Paris mixed in.
Anyway, this period of media openness is likely to end abruptly on Friday; Harbaugh will fill in the rest of the offseason with fluff* and then maybe evaporate for a month. Even so this period of détente with the outside world has been pretty cool.
*[Fluff like 140 characters fired off at Gene Smith that this dude in Cleveland managed to spin into a novella.]
Seth Davis is making easily rebutted points again. Scam-hawking, stat-hating Seth Davis is one of the most unlikeable college basketball media members around so of course he's going to write a long thing about how the NCAA is terrific and amateurism is too:
Yes, the “system” (whatever that means these days) needs to be constantly upgraded to deliver more and more benefits to the student-athletes. But many people are unaware of the extent to which the NCAA has reformed itself over the last two years to do a better job taking care of the players. Thanks to a new governance structure that allows the Power Five conference schools to take the reins, players are now permitted to receive several thousand dollars in stipends in addition to their scholarships to allow them to cover the costs of attending school. There are basically no restrictions on how much food the schools can serve. For the second straight year, schools are permitted (but not required) to pay the travel expenses of players’ families so they can attend NCAA tournament games.
That all sounds great, but Get The Picture points something out:
…all those improvements he cites in his first paragraph there came not voluntarily from the NCAA, but in response to pressure the student-athletes brought in the courts and with the NLRB. And those kids aren’t so stupid as to avoid noticing that pressure gets results, even with a bunch as stubborn as the schools are. After all, learning lessons is what students do.
Power 5 autonomy is more or less a panicked response to the lawsuits and NLRB unionization threats designed to hand out an incremental improvement in situations so that revenue athletes don't realize Jim Delany makes how much? and try to get some of that lucre for themselves. Davis says athletes are "feted like kings" like that's a point in the NCAA's favor rather than clear evidence that there's too much money sloshing around in the system because the workers aren't paid.
Hockey exits. No surprises yet. Werenski is out the door already; Downing is likely to be so in the near future. I guess it's good that we haven't heard about Kyle Connor yet—come on expansion draft caution—but I'm not getting the ol' hopes up there.
Hockey changes. Brad Traviolia talked to CHN in the aftermath of the Notre Dame move. One item of note is that this championship tournament model is dead-dead-dead:
Traviolia: The only thing off the table, I think, is the status quo. ... An all-comers, neutral-site format is not the best option for us. We can do better. We're not really leaning one way. We're open to the whole gamut. Whether we do everything on campus, whether we do a hybrid of campus and neutral site, whether we want to stand alone, and whether we want to work with other conferences. I think we want to explore all options.
Well, at least that makes sense as long as they don't go for that goofy super-tournament thing in St. Paul. "Campus sites," he said over and over again until he died.
Traviolia also pointed out that the Big Ten was an 11-team league for 20 years, so folks shouldn't assume they're going to add an eighth team just to add an eighth team. TBH I'd rather have the enforced byes a 7 team league brings than the scheduling compromises an eight-team league imposes… unless the eighth team is a compelling one.
Maybe that hockey eligibility rule isn't so ridiculous. College hockey has always been open to older players, and for the most part that's been a good thing. A higher average age has improved the overall level of play to the point where the NCAA is 30% of the NHL* and kept smaller schools in the hunt for championships in a way they aren't in any other sport.
That said, things are getting kind of ridiculous:
…more than two-thirds of the 2015-16 freshman class reached its 20th birthday before playing a college game.
That is two years after high school. You get one year in all other sports. The Big Ten wants to make that the cap, not three, and while the way they've gone about it is offputting I don't think the move itself is particularly drastic or uncalled for. (A lot of these guys who pan out in a big way will sign "early" with NHL teams… at 22 or 23.)
*[It's not that the old guys are getting to the league, although some do. It's more that the NCAA is more attractive as a developmental route because it's tougher than it would otherwise be.]
Etc.: More RPO is coming, specifically at Penn State. No night game this year. People are way more upset about this than I thought they'd be. Exit Steve Racine, puck magnet. Drew Sharp heal thyself. Exiting hockey seniors advise patience for underclassmen making decisions. Defensive practice takes from Touch The Banner.
The Dodgers have a TV deal that is costing Time Warner nine digits a year because nobody wants to pay the exorbitant fees TW is trying to extract from other providers. An interesting article from a couple years ago about John Beilein and how his players perform in the NBA.
Last week we introduced the defensive terminology for Don Brown's base defense and his 4-lineman sub packages. Quick clicky-popup diagrams of the 4-3 and 4-2-5 forms we covered:
This week I'd like to get into the 3-4 and 3-3-5 and 3-2-6 looks, or in Brown's terminology, the "50" formations.
SO WHAT DOES THE 3-4 LOOK LOOK LIKE?
The BC defense Brown brought over is a base 4-3 and 4-2-5 nickel, and they'll run a relatively small suite of plays from that base on most downs. But a lot of the fancy stuff—truly, most of the playbook—are out of what are usually called "30" and Brown refers to as the "50" fronts*, i.e. formations with three defensive linemen.
Here's the basic version, as taken directly from the 2013 Boston College playbook that James Light posted.
Technically, the "Tackle" (Hurst's position) has been replaced with a "Backer" (B). When you hear about a guy you thought was playing defensive end being called a "linebacker" (e.g. Kemp) it's possible he's playing the Backer position. If a dude's getting mentions as an "OLB" that's also a sign they're using him in that Backer/Sam role, where "Sam" means "Jake Ryan-esque."
That isn't anybody yet—I've been using Winovich as a placeholder—but the ideal here is clearly LaMarr Woodley: a 6'2/260-ish, athletic, stand-up, high-burst, space-tackling, strong-enough-to-stand-up-to-blocks attacker who can play rush end or cover some. That last is notable because it gives the 50 formations a suite of tactics that are generally absent from Brown's 70 formations: zone blitzes.
* [It's 50 and not 30 because look at the pic above and count the guys on the line. Now think back to that ol' Schembechler 5-2 "angle" defense. The more things change…
[After THE JUMP: bandits, canidae, diagrams that look like they're saying "Mike Gedeon" and "Will McCray", and blitzes. Oh lawdy do we got blitzes.]
NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional Semifinal
Friday, March 25, 2016
Michigan 3, Notre Dame 2 (OT)
SELMAN GOAL, MICHIGAN
UM 1 ND 0 EV 10:31 Assists: Kile & Downing
Nieves wins the draw back to Downing. The wingers go in motion off the draw, with Kile going from right to left. This picks up the attention of the defender in front of the net, who takes a few steps with him. Meanwhile, Selman is skating through the faceoff circle, now left unoccupied thanks to the defender being drawn out toward Downing.
Two defenders are watching Kile as he receives the pass from Downing. Nieves has locked up the defender nearest Selman in the high slot; he did so immediately off the draw, and this is just where they ended up. Selman is blitheringly open, though ND goaltender Cal Petersen is square to Kile. Selman's shot catches him off guard, and he isn't able to move across and re-square before the puck's behind him.
[You already know the OT winner is after THE JUMP why have you not clicked yet]
3/25/2016 – Michigan 3, Notre Dame 2 (OT) – 25-7-5
3/26/2016 – Michigan 2, North Dakota 5 – 25-8-5, season over
When things went badly for Michigan this year, they tended to go bad in bunches. An inability to get a clean zone exit against certain hyperactive teams led to periods where Michigan got bombarded in its own end. Until the tournament these periods weren't even against good teams, since there weren't any on the schedule.
Half the time Michigan would fight back out of these holes, sometimes wielding puck-loaded tommy guns. (Literally: before the North Dakota game Michigan was 4-4-4 going into the third period down.) While the Notre Dame game wasn't quite as explosive as various Big Ten comebacks, they did rebound from a horrendous second period on Friday to get a grip on the game, one they would eventually use to win the game on a gorgeous behind-the-back pass from JT Compher.
That was something. Through two periods that game felt like nothing so much as the last time Notre Dame and Michigan played. That CCHA championship game was Michigan's last ditch attempt to salvage their tourney streak. Michigan grabbed an early lead in the kind of game that feels over as soon as the opposition ties it; Notre Dame tied it. There was a flicker there of something different. If only someone else, something else loomed.
There was no similar respite against North Dakota, and that's the problem.
Michigan and North Dakota are, or at least were, mirror images of each other. They recruit speed and skill directly after high school. They're piled high with NHL draft picks. They win a ton of games and get shot down in the tournament by bloody, goofy fate. But these last two meetings, spread out as they are over five years, demonstrate that the programs have diverged.
The first was the Tiny Jesus game. Michigan got outshot 2 to 1, gave up a blizzard of grade A scoring chances, and saw Shawn Hunwick stone every last one of them. I thought about that game on Saturday; North Dakota fans thought about that game on Saturday. Neither of us were happy to think about that game. Never has a team absolutely crushing their opponent without having anything to show for it on the scoreboard induced so much despair in their own fans as I imagine North Dakota did during that first period. At one point shots were 15-3, and all underthings were in danger of soiling.
That state of affairs took an irrationally long time to resolve itself, because single elimination playoff hockey is barely weighted plinko. You know this; you saw Michigan bomb Air Force's goalie over and over to no effect. The "hot goalie" thing has always seemed to be a bad way to think about the fact that hockey is pretty random.
Anyway, this is what I meant when I said the plinko was in our favor this year: Michigan wasn't in North Dakota's class except on the scoreboard. By the end of the game Michigan had once again been outshot 2 to 1. They gave up nearly 50 shots.
In the years bookended by these games, North Dakota has been slashed down in the Frozen Four twice and at this stage twice. Michigan saw entire four-year careers come and go without a tourney bid. Last year's team had the NHL rookie of the year, another guy who played 70 games right out of college, and Hobey finalist Zach Hyman and couldn't make the tourney. A team with Jacob Trouba on it missed the tourney. This team features a top line of future NHLers, one of whom was so rampant he will win the Hobey himself, and Racine's performance is the only thing disguising the fact they got run off the ice by North Dakota.
The talent is there; has always been there. The team is not on an elite level anymore.
I guess trying hard and going down fighting to a vastly superior team is preferable to some of the alternatives we saw over the past few years. That assertion was featured in some pushback on Twitter after I said "it's over" for Red, as if Michigan—Michigan!—was some try-hard program that's just happy to be here. I guess some people are just happy to be here, these days.
I was one of them for most of the year because I'd resigned myself to the fact that Michigan hockey isn't what it once was. This is indisputably true. Michigan once was a team with a 22-year tourney streak. Michigan used to go out like North Dakota, shaking their fists after dominating attack time and possession. That hasn't happened for a long time, and it's hard to envision a Red team that will do that in the future.
So, no, Michigan Daily, Red should not return next year. This season is not a return to form. It is an extension of same against a terrible schedule with a transcendent one-and-done. If there wasn't a ready-made candidate waiting in the wings there might be a case. But there is, and it's time for Mel Pearson to get the job he's waited 30 years for. Only Red can make that call; here's hoping he does.
A thought for Steve Racine. For Racine to finish this season with a save percentage of .914 is a danged miracle. Even so he has to endure goofs like Dave Starman deriding him as Michigan's weak point despite the fact that there can't be another goalie on a decent team in the country who endured the same shot quality he did. He made some big mistakes at times—two goals came from outside the blueline this year—but he is clearly Michigan's best goalie since Shawn Hunwick.
The statistics will not reflect this assertion. The scatter charts will.
The Big Ten excuse doesn't fly. Have seen a number of assertions that Michigan was ill-prepared to play North Dakota because they are good and the Big Ten is not. Such assertions fail to deal with the fact that Michigan got run over by Ohio State just three weeks ago, that Michigan didn't even win the not good league, that Michigan had control over 14 nonconference games and came up with BU and nobody else within spitting distance of an at-large bid.
Michigan's defense was a travesty most of the year; there was plenty of opportunity to fix it, but it didn't get fixed, just like it didn't get fixed any of the last four years.
Looking towards next year. Mike Spath says that Werenski, Downing, and Connor are almost certainly out the door and that Motte and Compher will get pushed by NHL teams to sign.
Those two guys will have to decide between getting a jump on their entry level contracts or returning and having the flexibility Zach Hyman did after his senior year. Hyman forced a trade to the Leafs and is now in the NHL permanently since Mike Babcock loves him. I've also heard that Compher is in Ross and has a very high profile degree he can complete next year, which is motivation to return.
If Michigan gets Motte and Compher back their lines might look something like this:
Pastujov, Sanchez, and Lockwood should be mid-round picks in the upcoming draft.
- De Jong-C. Martin
- L. Martin-Luce
Luce will be a mid-round pick.
That's not bad but it lacks an out-and-out star on defense unless Luke Martin, who's eligible for the 2017 draft, is the top-15-pick various mock draft sites are projecting him as.
If Compher and Motte depart things start getting grim. The only forwards not listed above are Evan Allen, Niko Porikos, and incoming PWO Lukas Samuelsson.
Breakout failures. It was uncanny how North Dakota destroyed Michigan by attacking the second pass. Most of the time a D's pass up to a forward saw that F under immediate pressure, whereupon he either threw it up the ice blindly or turned it over right there. It reminded me of watching the USMNT play Germany in the most recent world cup. North Dakota's forecheck is a high press that destroyed Michigan's offensive rhythm for most of the game. Their goals were more or less both on the power play; at 5x5 they did not score.
5x5: all of it. Michigan had one full power play in 130 minutes of hockey and drew one other penalty. This was a disaster for the nation's top power play. It resulted from a combination of excellent discipline from opponents, Michigan's inability to possess the puck, and refs lacking the courage to blow the whistle.
This was particularly acute in the Saturday game. An obvious interference call as Motte attempted to dump and chase in the first five minutes of the North Dakota game went unpunished, and after that it was free-for-all for both teams. By the third period Michigan defensemen could get their stick slashed out of their hands repeatedly with no reaction from the referee.
North Dakota was the superior team and deserved to win the game, but I'm frustrated that the game tilted even further to them because the refs decided that playoff hockey has different rules than regular hockey.
A fitting end. Michael Downing's slashing penalty with two and half minutes left was the final nail in the coffin, and a fitting way for him to go out. It was a two-handed chop down on a guy's arm in a situation where you'd rather just let the guy take his shot. I can't remember a more frustrating player other than maybe the freshman version of Jack Johnson, and Johnson was incredible as a sophomore.
Meanwhile Downing never shook the violence and bad decisions that plagued his game at Michigan. Notre Dame's opening goal on Friday was an odd-man rush he ceded with an awful decision. He then compounded it by falling down as the play entered the defensive zone.
I don't think Michigan will miss a beat without him. They went 3-0 during his various suspensions this year.
This post has been updated.
— Ricky Fontaine (@JMarickWoods) March 28, 2016
Michigan picked up its second commit of the morning when Florence (AL) safety J'Marick Woods announced his pledge in both video and note form on Twitter moments ago, a couple hours after MA RB AJ Dillon also committed to the Wolverines. Woods is a lanky safety listed between 6'2" and 6'4" on the recruiting sites; he's a four-star to Scout and a high three-star elsewhere.
Woods is the eighth commit in the 2017 class and the first at safety. After his commitment, Michigan is eighth in the 2017 composite class rankings. He plans to enroll early.
4*, #22 S,
|3*, #31 S||
3*, 79, #25 S,
3*, 88, #30 S,
3*, #26 S,
While Scout initially looks like an outlier as the only service to give Woods four stars, a closer look reveals all four services have him in a similar range: between 22-31 in the safety position rankings and on the 3/4-star borderline.
Woods is a tall safety, listed between 6'2" (Rivals) and 6'4" (Scout) with ESPN and 247 splitting the difference; his weight is listed between 187 and 205 pounds. Based on recent photos, he looks to be on the higher end of that height listing. Get used to him being described as "rangy."
[Hit THE JUMP for scouting, video, and more.]
photo via 247
Groton (MA) Lawrence Academy running back AJ Dillon is the grandson of former Notre Dame All-American Tom Gatewood. He made multiple visits to South Bend throughout the recruiting process, including one for their Junior Day within a couple weeks of his planned decision. According to Steve Lorenz, even the Irish had an uphill battle heading into Dillon's most recent round of visits, and Michigan had work to do as well:
Going into his visit last week, I posted that it was going to be a good barometer visit for both Michigan and Dillon, as we had the Wolverines possibly running fourth on his list. Wisconsin was the favorite, he was a Notre Dame legacy prospect, and Florida State was his childhood favorite.
However, this visit turned into somewhat of a home-run for both parties, as Michigan was really impressed with Dillon and what he brought to the table from an on and off the field standpoint. The same could be said on the other side, as we were told that the strong visit to Ann Arbor caught Dillon and his camp off-guard. A good indicator of this is the quick commitment not only post-visit, but also when seeing Wisconsin and Notre Dame after he saw Michigan last week.
A few days after Dillon's ND visit, he made his way to Ann Arbor, and that was enough to convince him to blaze his own trail and attend Michigan:
"I got that feel of the atmosphere, the people, and everything was clicking," Dillon said. "It's just a place I could see myself in the next three to four years. I know I'll develop as a young man, as a student and a great football player at the University of Michigan."
Dillon is the seventh commit in the 2017 class—AL S J'Marick Woods has since become the eighth—and the second at running back, joining Georgia three-star Kurt Taylor.
|3*, #41 RB||4*, #16 RB||3*, NR RB||
4*, 91, #18 RB,
4*, #19 RB,
Dillon's rankings are split between solid four-star (Rivals, 247) and generic three-star (Scout, ESPN), which isn't unusual at this stage for a prospect from a state not known for producing a ton of football talent. Michigan fans have seen this before with Massachusetts prospects; Mo Hurst's rankings belied his ability that was apparent on tape, the same could be said for incoming freshman Sean McKeon, and after watching his film I'd say that's the case with Dillon.
There's far less discrepancy in the listings of his size. Dillon is listed at 6'0", 228 on the low end (Rivals) and 6'1", 235 on the high end (Scout); he's got the build of an every-down back and could even be a linebacker if Michigan so chooses—though they've told Dillon they want him as a RB.
[Hit THE JUMP for scouting, video, and more.]