Peppers at 10, which seems low.
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Big Ten Tourney
Could have gone worse, got Michigan in by a hair. Playing Purdue is never good for your post-recruiting blood pressure. Rutgers cost everyone in the league a seed line. Michigan didn't help themselves either.
NCAA Tourney Preview
starts at 16:08
Ace has observed the Fighting Hurricane and Golden Irish and I quiz him about how enormous and destructive the opposition's posts are (not very) and what they do well (score with their guards getting in the lane). One million MGoPoints for whoever leaked the bracket.
Ace's Hockey Podcast
starts at 29:09
Hooooboy if they play like Dr. Awesome Goals instead of Mr. I Never Cover My Own Slot we could be on to something.
Gimmicky Top Five: Wildcard Dudes
starts at 42:12
Non-obvious folk who will be given the title of Dude this year by Don Brown. Ace and I have varying definitions of "non-obvious" but returning starters and Rashan Gary are more or less collectively off the table.
THE USUAL LINKS
Tourney Previews Have a Sponsor (via Seth): My good friend Matt Demorest has built himself a nice little niche mortgage business in Southeast Michigan. I had a rather complicated FHA refinance for my house last fall, and despite that it a) took less of my time than filling out my bracket, b) cost half of what I paid to do our original loan, and, c) saved me so much the refi's already paid for itself.
Last Friday I then watched him blow everything he's made from advertising here so far on a signed Jim Harbaugh Ann Arbor Pioneer helmet.
If you're buying a house around here, or if you've got one and have "yeah I should look at getting in on these rates" rattling around in your head, give him a ring. His ticket offer is still going so if you close you can use them for football tickets this fall.
#11 Michigan (22-12, 10-8 B1G) vs
#11 Tulsa (20-11, 12-6 AAC)
|WHEN||9:10 pm ET, Wednesday|
|LINE||Michigan -1 (KenPom)|
TruTV (find channel here)
PBP: Carter Blackburn
Analyst: Mike Gminski
Right: Guard Shaquille Harrison is tough to keep away from the hoop. [Photo: Matt Barnard/Tulsa World]
Nothing of major note here. The ankle injury Ricky Doyle suffered against Northwestern in the Big Ten Tournament opener didn't prevent him from being the primary backup center against Purdue in the semifinals—he played 11 minutes to nine for Moe Wagner. Michigan should play their normal, senior-less rotation.
Win or go home. The victor will take on six-seed Notre Dame at approximately 9:40 pm on Friday.
The projections have this one close with Michigan holding a slight edge. KenPom favors the Wolverines by one point and gives them a 51% chance at victory. FiveThirtyEight gives Michigan a 54% win probability. The Vegas line favors the Wolverines a bit more; it's settled in at Michigan -4.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. 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||3||Shaquille Harrison||Sr.||6'3, 189||80||27||Yes|
|Slasher, good finisher, solid passer, good steal rate. Not an outside shooter.|
|G||10||James Woodard||Sr.||6'3, 192||82||22||No|
|36% 3P shooter on high volume. Can also get to the hoop and finish.|
|G||11||Pat Birt||Jr.||6'5, 182||67||22||No|
|Just A Shooter™ type making 37% of 3PA, about two-thirds of shots are threes.|
|F||1||Rashad Smith||Sr.||6'7, 205||49||20||Yes|
|Good offensive rebounder, solid athlete, finishes well around the rim.|
|F||44||Brandon Swannegan||Sr.||6'9, 209||49||17||Very|
|Solid offensive rebounder and shot-blocker, finishes his opportunites, gets to line.|
|G||15||Marquel Curtis||Sr.||6'3, 202||60||17||Yes|
|Inefficient despite low volume, not a good outside shooter. Decent OReb%.|
|F||40||D'Andre Wright||Sr.||6'9, 245||44||17||Very|
|Tulsa's biggest player, but not a great rebounder, shot-blocker, or inside finisher.|
|G||5||Rashad Ray||Sr.||5'11, 172||44||15||Kinda|
|Good distributor but not much of a scoring threat: 40/32/60 shooting splits.|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
Spring practice brings all the recruits to the yard
We've just had a bit of a down period where
- Michigan "offered" every single recruit in the 2017 and 2018 classes,
- those recruits said they were interested, and
- visits were suggested to be on the docket but not actually scheduled.
Here's the platonic ideal of the form from VA LB Teradja Mitchell:
As for what's next for what's next for Mitchell, he plans to visit Florida and Florida State this spring, but no dates have been set. Then this summer, he hopes to get to Georgia, Michigan and Ohio State.
He claims no favorites at this time.
All right then. Thankfully, the opportunity to see a Jim Harbaugh practice is beginning to clarify who's actually interested and who's just talking. Two guys in the "just talking" category appear to be MS RB Cam Akers and CA RB Najee Harris. Harris scheduled a trip to OSU that does not include a swing by Michigan. Lorenz doesn't offer an explanation on Akers but "is from Mississippi" suffices for our purposes.
Visits of the recent past
WI OL Tyler Beach completed a visit last week. Surprise: it went well.
— Brice Marich (@BriceMarich) March 12, 2016
Beach maintains that M and Wisconsin are at the top; he's visiting ND, NW, and MSU in the near future but those schools are making up ground per Brandon Brown:
"I plan on committing in April or May," Beach said. "Michigan and Wisconsin are my top choices right now and I'll just pick whatever place feels right."
If Michigan gets Beach I want to see Wisconsin message boards put in an octagon with Washington mods.
OH OL/DL Howard Watkins was also on campus around the same time. Watkins is a new name out of Cincinnati Colerain, Joe Bolden's alma mater; he says he's been a Michigan fan his whole life. He's currently under the radar, unranked by 247 and a two-star guy to Scout, so he might have to impress as a senior. He's got an Indiana offer.
Watkins's teammate and OH CB Amir Riep already has an offer, as top 100 prospects almost universally do. His is certainly an all-caps one instead of an air-quotes one:
Today was a great day! pic.twitter.com/kafrOTwx1U
— Amir Riep (@Riep_Amir) March 13, 2016
Former Colerain HC Kerry Coombs is OSU's DBs coach so this might be a high hurdle; he's got a ton of OSU predictions on the Crystal Ball. Lorenz relates that word from inside Schembechler is that Michigan believes they have a "very legitimate chance."
TX RB Eno Benjamin still maintains that Iowa leads after a Midwest swing. He announced a top-ten-and-change that purports to be in no order but kind of seems in order:
Thank You & God Bless. pic.twitter.com/0fSWNKGxiz
— Eno Benjamin™ (@eno_benjamin5) March 14, 2016
I can't remember the last time Michigan and Iowa were both involved with a kid from outside the Midwest.
Visits near future
Michigan will host AL S AJ Harris and AL DE LaBryan Ray this weekend; they are popularly thought to be a real contender for Harris but were previously on the fringe for Ray. The end result is likely to be the same: it'll take something special to convince an Alabama DE with a Bama offer to spurn the Tide.
Michigan has a better shot with IN LB Pete Werner, who will visit Thursday and Friday before a Saturday visit to Notre Dame. Wiltfong expects one or the other to lead in the aftermath and says Werner is expected to make an "academic decision."
IMG OL Cesar Ruiz and Robert Hainsey will visit for the spring game. It's tough out here for a Cable Subscriber:
Michigan has a ton of competition for both gentlemen but should be in both top 5s. Hainsey is likely to be playing with or against Michigan—outside of Pitt his visit list is just about all Big Ten schools.
Michigan might land a visit from WA OL Henry Bainivalu per Washington mods who have spent the entire spring working the speed bag in anticipation of more Michigan-Washington recruiting battles.
Blame Recruit Canada
Michigan will be of more interest than usual to a couple of kids now hailing from Virginia: both VA DE Luiji Vilain and VA S Jonathan Sutherland are originally from Ontario and have moved to the US in order to make themselves more attractive to football programs. That makes Michigan one of the closest programs to home for both.
Vilain lists a bunch of schools when issued the "recruiting the hardest" question, but if you squint the local-ish programs may have an edge:
"I was pretty excited about Michigan and Michigan State," Vilain said. "I've been waiting on those two."
He will attend Sound Mind, Sound Body and hit up both instate schools.
Sutherland's list is more defined: North Carolina, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Michigan. He will also visit Michigan while he's in Detroit for Sound Mind, Sound Body.
Fine, 2018 exists and let's mention it briefly
This week in "MGoBlog grudgingly talks about the recruiting class after the current one":
- The top in-state name to know next year is MI OL Marquan McCall, a two-way lineman currently inside the top 100 on 247. He will visit for the spring game. Michigan is the favorite.
- Lorenz reports that Michigan is going after a number of kids in Las Vegas, amongst them Bishop Gorman teammates Dorian Thompson-Robinson, a dual-threat QB, and Brevin Jordan, an OLB/TE. Michigan would be "tough to beat" for Thompson-Robinson if they offer; Michigan is expected to do so when he swings by M and OSU this week. Mom is an M alum.
- MI DE Aidan Hutchinson is the son of former Michigan DL Chris Hutchinson. He visited last week and is a guy to keep an eye on for an offer. I'm guessing Michigan will wait for his junior season to finish before doing so since that could be a situation where the phone calls goes "We'd like to off—" "YES".
- OH LB Antwaun Johnson, another recent visitor, named Michigan his leader, twice, after returning from Ann Arbor. Encouragingly, he is scheduled to return for the Spring Game. The catch: no OSU offer yet.
- NJ OL/DL Tyler Friday has Michigan, Ohio State, and Rutgers as an early top three. He wants to visit all those schools.
IL TE Griffin Hammer.
Griffin Hammer is +3 with an extra 1d6 damage to chimerae.
Etc.: Happy trails to MO WR Jaevon McQuitty, who committed to Nebraska. More or less happy trails to TX OL Austin Deculus, who announced a decision date of May 20. He hasn't visited or scheduled a visit; that's 99.9% seeya. LSU is the expected choice so Michigan might get back in if Les Miles's tenure gets wobbly again.
GA QB Davis Mills committed to Stanford, ending any chance the Cardinal starts sniffing around CO QB commit Dylan McCaffrey. Trieu ranks MI OL/DL Phil Paea the #2 DL in the Midwest. Sounds like he's in line for a four-star bump from Scout.
MI OL commit JaRaymond Hall visited this weekend as well. He's an in with McCall, his teammate. Bama still leads for FL OL Netori Johnson and his amazing hair even after his decommit. MI WR Donovan Peoples-Jones keeps it close to the vest, lather, rinse, repeat.
Saturday, March 12, 2016
#9 Michigan 6, #14 Penn State 1
CONNOR GOAL, MICHIGAN
UM 1 PSU 0 EV 06:27 Assists: Martin
Martin banks the puck off the boards and up for Connor, and you can see from how many defenders are low in the PSU offensive zone that there’s going to be an odd-man rush.
As expected, an odd-man rush does develop, and it just happens to feature two of the highest scorers in the nation. Connor carries in and has Compher a step behind. Brooks is shaded toward Compher, and he has his stick in a position where he could feasibly take away the pass even if he doesn’t drop it.
Connor then takes a couple of quick strides and Brooks realizes his only course of action is to lunge and stab at the puck. Technically speaking he did what he was supposed to in not allowing a pass to Compher; still, there are few things more terrifying than Connor streaking down the wing unopposed, so Brooks’ attempt to help doesn’t have a downside. McAdam gets beat over the near-side shoulder. For what seems like the hundredth time this season, look at that release. The puck comes off his stick so quickly that goaltenders at this level have and will continue to have an incredibly tough time stopping it; add his seemingly perfect accuracy and you can see why he has 30 goals.
[After THE JUMP: the beauty of being on the right side of #chaoshockey]
No, Upon Further Review series is not comprehensive. Most years are absent Ohio State and bowl games (including last year), and 2014 checked out after Indiana. That said, I challenge you to find a greater cache of free data than Brian's masterful charting of Michigan plays going back to the DeBord Throws Rock age.
Every so often I pull all that into a massive Excel file and try to learn things like how spread the offense was, favorite plays, etc. Let's dive in shall we?
What're those pie charts at top? Shows the relative efficiency (by yards per play on standard downs) and the mixes of Michigan's backfield formation choices. For "standard downs" I mean 1st and 2nd downs when the offense wasn't trying to do a clock thing or go a super-long or super-short distance. So no garbage time, no two-minute drills, no goal line, and no going off on Bowling Green and Delaware State. The idea is to show which offense did they get in when they had the full gamut to choose from, and how many yards did it get when the goal presumably was to get as many yards as possible.
Nothing very surprising there. Rodriguez ran his shotgun offense, Borges inherited Denard and Devin and still managed to jam them half-way into an under-center offense in three years. Then Nussmeier ran his zone melange single-back thing. Harbaugh did what Hoke always dreamed of doing, and the offense climbed back to about where Hoke's offense was with a senior (but oft injured) Denard.
[Hit THE JUMP for each year's most charted play, visualized Hennecharts, how many TEs Harbaugh used, how many rushers defenses sent, and LOOOOOTS of charts.]
3/11/2016 – Michigan 7, Penn State 1 – 21-7-5, 11-5-3 Big Ten
3/12/2016 – Michigan 6, Penn State 1 – 22-7-5, 12-5-3 Big Ten
this will not go well for you [Bill Rapai]
This used to happen with some frequency: a not-bad team would walk into Yost Ice Arena and get hamblasted. By the second period of Saturday's game they'd have given up on everything except petty revenge, things would get increasingly sloppy, and at some point a combination of angry penalties would yield a 4-on-3 power play. We waited for the 4-on-3 every weekend, and got it most of the time.
Goalies were chased. Michigan replaced theirs voluntarily. The students chanted "goalie goalie sieve sieve sieve" at the various netminders they'd seen. People came perilously close to running out of fingers for the goal chant. Yost roiled; students right behind the opposition bench tried to get players to quit hockey on the spot.
I missed the Brendan Morrison-led heart of this era, when some local pizza marketer spent Michigan hockey games with his head in his hands moaning "why no why." Ten goals seems like a safely absurd number to offer free pizza after, and then this kid wanders out of British Columbia with the puck on a string and you go from business to charity overnight. I did catch the tail end. Even a slightly less rampant Michigan was electric. The Comrie-Cammalleri team was a ridiculous goal factory, and the subsequent Hensick/Porter or Hensick/Hilbert years didn't come up too far short of that ambitious mark.
Yost then was a revelation for someone raised on genteel Michigan Stadium, black as the ancient wood that held the stands up. People would scream things, terrible things. Yost got in people's heads. It was not uncommon for opposing players to squirt water in the vague direction of their most persistent hecklers. Lake State's coach tossed expletives back into the crowd like he was playing curse word tennis. Incidents where hockey parents lost their cool and tried to fight the entire section became so frequent they had to move the visiting team's ticket block across the ice.
The team was not responsible for the edge of danger that made Yost infamous, but they did inspire the utter lack of mercy with the product on the ice. I mean, I didn't get into Michigan hockey to the point where I started shaking uncontrollably during NCAA tournament games because things were reasonable and fair. I got into Michigan hockey because I wanted to see someone set on fire, and then taunted about how stupid and flammable they are.
Michigan set Penn State on fire this weekend. PSU limped in down multiple skaters due to injury, but they are a good team, a well coached team, and Guy Gadowsky has assembled a bunch of guys who can fly. Michigan struggled with their speed early, especially on two early power plays where PSU's aggression hardly let them get set up.
That's the way to play Michigan if you can hack it. They're not great at breaking out of their own zone and can get disrupted by a fierce forecheck. Penn State just about managed it for a period and then faded a hair in the second, surviving for the most part despite a flurry of chances. Michigan was up 2-1 and I was concerned because the lead probably should have been larger. Michigan tends to give up a lot of goals, you know.
Not on Friday. The third period featured one of those goal avalanches where Michigan turns a competitive game into a laugher over the course of three minutes. Kyle Connor snapped in another one-timer from his knees or his back or whatever. Like all Kyle Connor one-timers it was uncannily accurate and virtually unstoppable. That ended the competitive portion of the weekend; Saturday was about whether or not Michigan could crack a shot per minute. The 4-on-3 power play happened, of course, and there was even a brief period of 3-on-3. I can't remember the last time I saw that.
So you're looking at this team and Yost is alive, mean and angry, for the first time in a long time, and—oh right last weekend Michigan got swept by Ohio State thanks to an astounding 13 goals allowed, many of them resulting from Michigan turning the flamethrower on itself.
I hadn't been actually mad about a home game since I'd dialed it back after the Mac Bennett injury against BGSU. I'm into this team enough now to leave a game with Yosemite Sam smoke issuing from my ears if, say, they blow a 2-0 lead by allowing six straight goals of an increasingly clownshoes variety. Which they did.
So I don't know, man. I've been saying I don't know what to expect from this team on a nightly basis and in response they've decided to up their amplitude even further. We know they're in. We know what they look like when they're locked in. They look like the apocalypse on skates. We know what they look like when they're thinking about something other than the opponent in front of them. They look like a man playing spin-the-bazooka.
We don't know what Michigan looks like against a tourney team. The last time they played anyone likely to get an at-large was when they travelled to BU sometime in the 1860s. I fear that a disciplined ECAC team comprised largely of 24-year-olds may be a shock to the system, but equally anticipate than anyone going up against the kind of wheelin'-dealin'-saucer-passin' magnificence the CCM line comes up with will inevitably be left consoling a goaltender and possibly a pizza marketer.
It is almost time for the most terrifying thing in sports, and we are approaching it with a team that could do literally anything. If this is the last team Red Berenson ever coaches he dies like he lived: charging headlong into death or glory with flame in his eyes.
Dang, Nieves. The Boo Nieves we saw this weekend is the best-case version of Nieves. He was big, fast, agile, and deft with the puck. He drove a ton of play. That's the guy we were hoping to get when he was a second-round pick.
It's not that he's been necessarily bad; he's been a scoring-line player for the duration of his career and he has put up points. But he's never seemed to outclass his opposition. This weekend he did, maybe for the first time. Better late than never.
Where did this passing come from? Over the past couple months of the season Michigan has become an incredibly slick passing team when they are on the attack. Alex Kile had the sweetest pass of the series when he backhanded one from behind the net that fooled every Nittany Lion on the ice and resulted in a goal. It was one of many chances generated by Michigan's vision.
This hasn't happened in a long while: I got frustrated at Michigan for over-passing in certain situations. That used to be a common refrain when Michigan had an off night back in the rampant days. That it's back is, in the wider view, a great sign.
I would still prefer it if Werenski shoots when he's in the slot, though.
Downing: still sane. Haven't had much to complain about with him for a while now, even during the OSU series. I think the switch has flipped there. I haven't seen him generate an opposition odd man rush with excessive aggression much, if at all, since that MSU game he was horrendous in.
Boka: offensive upside. Michigan's been activating their D more over the past few weeks and Nick Boka has been a beneficiary. Not so much on the scoreboard but in terms of gaining and keeping the zone and handling the puck, Boka has given some indication he can help fill the shoes Werenski is likely to vacate next year.
Shuart is a luxury as a fourth liner [Bill Rapai]
Skill down the roster. Max Shuart's goal on Saturday saw him stickhandle through a couple guys and lift a backhand over the goalie; on Friday Tony Calderone scored a slick breakaway goal five-hole. Most years
Pairwise stuff. Michigan slides up just one spot to seventh. Right now they'd be bracketed with Harvard in the first round and (probably) Quinnipiac in the second, which would mean they get shipped east.
The committee does have leeway to move folks around in a seed band in an effort to bump attendance so Michigan might get swapped into Cincinnati anyway—although if I was the committee that wouldn't make much impact on me either way since attendance in Cinci is always a disaster no matter who is in that regional. If the committee really gave a crap about attendance a Cincinnati regional would not exist.
Michigan is locked into the field now, BTW. There is not a scenario amongst the three million or so possibilities remaining that drops them out. They are about 90% likely to be #7 or #8. No other Big Ten team has a chance at an at-large; Michigan Tech has a faint shot at an at-large if they lose in the WCHA title game. Michigan's playing for the banner and the banner only in St. Paul.
Big Ten Tourney stuff. Annual rant: this is the dumbest format for a sporting event that isn't the actual NCAA tourney. They will never get attendance anywhere when they have six teams so spread out for a niche sport like hockey. I do not understand why they don't just have best two of three series on home ice. More games, better for fans, more money. Anyone who doubts this must not have watched the various home-court basketball conference tourney finals, which are always played in tiny gyms that are losing their damn minds.
The holdup is that Wisconsin and Ohio State don't want to reserve their buildings for three weeks because high school state championships use them. Which is fine. If neither school wants to take hockey seriously that's their problem. (In Wisconsin's case their objection is even more absurd since there's another arena the same damn size in Madison that can take the high school events.) That shouldn't prevent the Big Ten from running a much better tournament in every way.
Oh: Michigan gets the winner of Penn State-Wisconsin after a bye. Given the results of the last two weekends that's better than facing the MSU-OSU winner. Minnesota would likely await in the final.
I don't want to get ahead of myself, but… I have heard that Compher will return for his degree, and I'm guessing Motte comes along with him. Werenski is almost certainly gone, but if they get those two guys back Michigan is waiting on Connor and just Connor. If he comes back… hoo boy. I mean, I don't think he's back. But man.