I did not make this headline up
Novi (MI) Detroit Catholic Central running back Wyatt Shallman committed to Michigan during the Greatest Mid-February Weekend in the History of Mid-February Weekends, giving the Wolverines one of the top in-state athletes in the class of 2013. Shallman plays running back, defensive end, and defensive tackle for CC, but he'll come to Ann Arbor as a tailback. I caught up with Wyatt over the weekend to discuss his commitment, future role, and physical style of play:
ACE: What made you decide a couple weekends ago that it was the right time to commit to Michigan?
WYATT: There's a couple things that went into it, but my dad and I went down to Michigan and talked to Coach Jackson real in-depth. Just hearing his side of it and talking to more of the coaches made the difference.
ACE: What did you get into when you talked to Coach Jackson? What did he tell you that firmed things up for you?
WYATT: We just talked about positions and how he sees me playing. It checked out with the things that I want to do.
ACE: Specifically, I know there have been a lot of questions when it comes down to position, how do they plan on using you when you come to school?
WYATT: At running back, and that's what I want to play, so that's why I liked it.
ACE: What do you think are your biggest strengths on the field, especially when it comes to being a running back. What do you bring that isn't necessarily what your more traditional running back might bring?
WYATT: There's not too many running backs who are 6'3", 250. I think I bring a lot of speed and power for that size of back, so I think that's what I bring to the game. I'm a one-cut running, so I think I'm going to bring back the power game to Michigan. I don't dance too much, that's what I think I'm good at.
ACE: You said you're weighing in at about 250 right now. Have the coaches said what size they'd like you to be at when you come to school?
WYATT: No, we haven't really talked about that. I think they like the size that I'm at and the speed that I'm at. I could always get faster, but if I can keep this weight and get faster, why not?
ACE: Going back to your commitment, you committed during what ended up being a crazy weekend of commits. What was it like seeing a large part of the class come together during that weekend?
WYATT: It was pretty crazy. You don't really get too many weekends like that in recruiting, so it was pretty exciting to see all the big names go up there on the ticker. Just seeing my name on ESPN was pretty sweet.
ACE: It seems like you guys have become a pretty tight-knit group of players. Which players do you keep in contact with, and what's it like being with a group that's already so tight-knit with 11 months to go before signing day?
WYATT: It's pretty interesting to have that. I keep in touch with Khalid Hill and Shane [Morris] and Kyle Bosch a lot. The reason I keep in touch with Shane is, you know, we play them, so that's always interesting. Khalid is just a nice kid, and then Kyle I've been texting a lot. It's an interesting thing because back even a couple years ago you really don't even know anyone until you get to the school, and now with social media and all that stuff you can really become friends with people before you really get to meet them and hang out with them a lot. It's a blessing in disguise because you get to come in with that unity on the team, but you're not quite a team yet. It's great.
ACE: You also had your teammate Matt Godin committing last year. Were you talking to Matt at all before you made your decision?
WYATT: He gave me advice on how to handle the recruiting process. He didn't really force Michigan on me, which I liked. He just said, "you've got to make the right decision for you and your family," so that really helped a lot. It just happened to be Michigan and that's where he happened to go, so it all worked out.
ACE: Looking forward to next season, you guys have a little bit of unfinished business at Catholic Central. What's the goal for next year both for the team and for you personally?
WYATT: For the team and I, it's always a state championship. It was a disappointing season last year to get to the state title game and lose in that fashion, but it's put a lot of oomf in our steps and we've been working out every day for the past two months now just to get ready for the season, so it's kind of a blessing in disguise to lose like that. Now we know what it takes to get to a state championship and we know we have to work a little bit harder to win it. It'll be an exciting season for our team, we have a lot of people coming back, and we have some great talent. Me, personally, I just want to go for 1,000 yards rushing, do great on defense, and just help my team win a state championship. That's the name of the game so that's what I'm trying to do.
ACE: You mentioned working out every day with your teammates, and I also saw that you've been working out with Mike Barwis, too. What's it like getting into the weight room with Barwis?
WYATT: It's pretty crazy. He's an intense dude about it. It helps a lot, and it's cool—I do a lot of the power lifting and conditioning at school, so when I go to Barwis it's more of like the tuner muscles and that sort of thing, and the fine running motion. It's pretty interesting to pick his brain about all he knows about the subject and certain little nuances of everything. It's interesting to talk to him about all of it, and like I said, he's a crazy guy, he likes to get after it, so it's pretty exciting to lift with him.
ACE: Talking about Michigan's coaching staff real quick, what set them apart from the other coaches you interacted with when going through the recruiting process?
WYATT: They're just a great bunch of guys. They're really lighthearted, but they like to get down to work, and that's the way I am. I love to joke around, I love to have fun, but once you have to do it you have to get down to work and that's the way they are. That's what I'm really excited for. It just felt right, it felt like family. I want people who want to help me grow as a man and not just a football player, and I really feel like that staff can help me, so that's why I liked them and I'm excited to get in and work with them.
ACE: What else about Michigan stood out to you?
WYATT: Just their tradition; they're always going to be one of the top college football teams ever. You can't really contest Michigan and what they've done in college sports. It's a universal name, you can go anywhere and people know about Michigan and what they do. That's always been an attractive thought about Michigan, so that's why I've always kinda liked them. Also, it's a great school. You can't get too much better than a public Ivy, you can really set yourself up for later in life. Even though the reason why I'm going to Michigan right now is for football, I have to get ready for after the NFL, so it's a great place to be.
ACE: I've seen quotes from you, and I remember you saying something along these lines when I interviewed you last year, about the physical aspect of football and your enjoyment of "smashing heads," as I think you like to say. What is it about the physical side of football that you enjoy so much?
WYATT: There's not too many sports you can play where you can basically maul people and not get in trouble for it. Football is one of those sports. You can't walk around in public and just hit people as hard as you want to, you'll get arrested. Football lets you do that and that's why I've always liked it. Ever since I was a little kid I've always liked to hit. My dad, he played college football for Grand Valley, he's always loved it. I just grew up loving it. It's truly an arena where men can show their skills and test each other against other men and really show what you've got, so that's why I like. It truly is the gridiron and you've got to go out there and be a man amongst boys.
ACE: That seems almost like a defensive mentality when it comes to football. Would you say that's something extra that you bring to the offensive side of the football when you're playing, that willingness to hit people and bring that physical side to it?
WYATT: Yeah. I've learned a lot of my physicality just from playing at Catholic Central. We're a running football team, we hit you. I've always thought if you play offense like you're on defense, they can't really stop you, because you've got both sides of the ball going at you, you can't really get too much better. If you hit people like that—I think you want to shell-shock a defense into not wanting to hit you, so that's the whole mentality about it and that's what Catholic Central teaches, so that's what I've kinda come to love.
Shouldn't Spock be in this?
Hi. Me. Back. So before that much-appreciated vacation, I used this space to talk about constraint theory of offense and provide a rock-paper-scissors matrix for offensive/defensive play calling in various offenses. Today I'm on to Part III, the one where I tell you that Rock-Paper-Scissors is only a fraction of the football head game, because the actual decision trees are far too complicated for even a coach to play all of the interactions, let alone teach them. Moreover, unlike in RPS, or super-advanced-nuclear-capable-canid RPS, there are levels to things: scissors cuts paper better than it cuts (but still cuts) woven kevlar.
Rock-Paper-Scissors is a game you learn to play on the bus ride to school in 2nd grade or thereabouts. It is a very simple, 2-dimensional, triangular matrix:
…meaning every point interacts with every other. It's one dimension past a coin flip but you still only need to remember three interactions (yellow lines). Based on your personal capacity for testing the limits of social institutions, you either very quickly or eventually tried to insert an additional dimension to the triangular matrix, and realized that you were exponentially increasing the amount of interactions you had to remember.
Your 2nd grade mind didn't draw this; it just exploded the same way it might if you interlaced Grbac to Howard, Wangler to Carter and Robinson to Roundtree into the same video. Then it came up with a brilliant way to add a point without adding dimensions:
Bazooka!!! Bazooka blows up rock. Bazooka turns scissors into mangled slag. Bazooka leaves only scant streaks of carbon where once was paper. This idea is not totally silly, since defensive coordinators call bazooka like all. the. time.
Bazooka = Vanilla
Just as the offense wants to get really good at one basic thing and then do that thing all the time, many defenses are deploying the same concept. It's a bit harder for them because they have to react to various offenses on the schedule and various plays, but the concept's the same: the defense wants to stay in a scheme that is basically sound, and will mix in blitzes and different coverages as constraints, so that they can keep running their well-practiced, mostly sound blanket defense. Bazooka is a jack of all trades, solid against the run, solid against the pass, solid against tomfoolery, and vulnerable only to great offensive play and their own physical/mental limitations.
Defenses are a bit more varied than offenses but the most popular vanilla D these days, as I mentioned in the earlier discussions, is a Cover-2 zone (above-left) against run-first teams, or the Tampa 2 against pass-ier teams (above-right).
The difference between those two is in the MLB's coverage duties—in a Tampa he has the deep middle, in a regular Cover 2 he has the short middle and can be more involved in the run game. Everybody, including the cornerbacks, are hovering around close enough to gang-attack running plays like a pincer; and soft spots in the zone (everyone has them) are relatively small and difficult for non-accurate quarterbacks.
If these guys are all reacting correctly and aggressively to the run, if the cover guys are fast enough to close their zones, and the four rushers can generate pressure with regularity, this defense can bazooka anybody's rock, paper, scissors, candle, Vulcan, or whatever. Of course that is way easier said than done—remember offenses are recruiting, training, practicing, and designed for attacking this scheme.
Offensive rock is made to beat defensive bazooka. I want you to look at the above and imagine various offenses succeeding against them. ISO running forces the linebackers to read run, read the hole, and get there in time to take out a lead blocker and lead runner who by design are getting there ASAP. West Coast passing lives in those soft spots under and between the coverage. Air Raids attempt to warp the zones into providing bigger holes by flooding and stretching them. Option running makes a balanced coverage into an effective numbers advantage for the offense at the point of attack. Vanilla defense is made to stop whatever's thrown their way, and offenses gain success by making Mr. Jack-of-All die a consistent bleeding death.
To see vanilla defense in action throw a dart at any recording of Iowa in the last 12 years; their M.O. is to stick to this maniacally. The converse in-conference would be Michigan State. On the way home from Europe this weekend I randomly sat next to MSU LB Chris Norman. Other than "Wisconsin's offense was way tougher than any of the SEC teams," and "lol Michigan's uniforms last year," Norman happily admitted "YAARRGGH SPARTY SMASH!!" is the coaches' favorite blitz, and that they'll run it or something like it more than any other play. Some teams like paper.
So there are exceptions but the exceptions can be beat with your properly executed scissors. The point remains that all matrices aside, much about football comes down to defeating your opponent's bazooka, or vanilla thing, or "rock" defense with your rock. If you recognize this particular bit of wisdom from DeBordian philosophy, well yes in this DeBord is absolutely right. But if you don't properly mix in your constraints, and you always run rock to the same spot/guy out of the same formation, and you shuffle your fullba…uh let's not go there.
Next time (last one? I think it is but I keep stretching these): What's Our Rock?
Brief Big Ten Tournament note. No column on it; I wasn't feeling massively invested because I had to miss the second half of the Minnesota game to go to Yost and watched it after I knew the outcome, then Ohio State came out and was all like "today we will play like a team with two lottery picks on it." Once that happened and Burke got annihilated by Craft it was clear this was going to be an ugly old-style loss, which fine. Michigan is not on the level of national contender… yet.
If anything the tourney just reinforced my feeling that this team did fantastically to pick up a Big Ten title split and now that there's a banner in hand the rest of this is house money. After beating OHIO*, that is. Losing to a 13 seed would leave a sour taste. Everything else is gravy-coated candy.
I'll leave the garment rending about how we're not competing for a one-seed for the next couple years.
Side note: now do we believe that Craft is a totally awesome defender? Yes? Okay.
*[SBN MAC blog Hustle Belt refers to the Bobcats as "OHIO" for reasons that are unknown but very probably related to their stunning upset of Georgetown as a 14 seed two years ago.
Since giving them the all-caps treatment is a term of respect that doubles as diss of plain ol' Ohio, this blog will refer to the Bobcats as OHIO from now on.]
Dave Brandon approves. Michigan-ND 1978 was like Michigan-MSU 2012 in two ways: one team looked totally ridiculous and lost 28-14.
The two games were different because one team didn't look ridiculous and Ufer was going ape in '78.
This game also provides ammunition for both sides of the maize/yellow debate. It's clear that UM's maize is much lighter than the yellow ND is wearing; it's also unattractively blinding.
Also ridiculous. I wish I'd found this before I posted on hockey's tourney streak today, as it really hammers home how remarkable it is:
Let me put that in perspective- of ALL of the teams that have won a National Championship in Hockey the last 21 seasons, here's the tournament appearances:
Boston U- 15
North Dakota- 14
Michigan State- 14
Boston College- 13
Lake State- 6
Northern Michigan- 5
Inside that, the longest streak is 9, shared by Maine, Michigan State, and North Dakota, but North Dakota will extend that to 10 this year. At least should.
Unless there's a power lurking outside this list—and I don't think there is—every other team has missed the NCAAs at least six times during the streak.
Help next year. Hockey's got blue chips on the blue line and at forward in their next recruiting class. Boo Nieves is the forward, and he sounds a little like Carl Hagelin:
Matt Herr thought he had seen it all after taking over as coach at the Kent School in Connecticut following a productive collegiate and professional playing career.
That's before he was introduced to 6-foot-3, 184-pound center Cristoval "Boo" Nieves last season.
"I don't know how he skates so freaking fast for his size," Herr told NHL.com. "He's one of the best skaters I've seen this year. I think he can jump into the American Hockey League and play right now and you wouldn't even blink." …
"He just explodes off the mark and has agility, balance and quickness to break loose from traffic," Eggleston said. "He also has the physical strength to plow through checks along the wall and bring the puck with him. He sees the ice very well, is a very smart and creative playmaker and captains the team ... he's a very good team player."
Herr then compares him to Joe Thornton, which… like… probably not. Here's hoping, though. If Michigan doesn't suffer any departures at forward I'm guessing that AJ Treais slides up to the top line next year between Brown and Guptill; Nieves should center the second line with PDG and… Moffatt? That sounds pretty good to me.
If they can keep defections on defense down to one they'd be skating something like Trouba-Merrill/Bennett, Moffie-Chiasson, Clare/Serville-Carrick. Depth is a bit scary there but kids develop; Serville especially seems like an offseason in a weight program will do him good.
Help the Mathlete. He needs some crowd-sourcing to fill in holes in his recruiting database. Your reward is good feelings and some interesting posts.
That's the ticket. Kyle Meinke tries to make us all feel better about going up against that Alabama defense:
"There ain't no one who can learn that defense in under a year," outgoing free safety Mark Barron said last month at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. "We played in a very difficult defense, first of all. We did a lot of different schemes.
"I really don’t believe anyone can learn that defense in under a year."
Score! Please score.
Trey Burke is childhood friends with everyone on an Ohio D-I roster. OHIO backup PG and lightning bolt Stevie Taylor has played with and against Trey Burke for big chunks of his career. UMHoops has the story and the requisite adorable picture:
Um… check with the basketball team. Michigan's hockey team has adopted a mantra that should be familiar to anyone who followed Michigan basketball's NCAA drought-breaking team of a few years back:
The No. 4 Michigan hockey team emerged from its locker room before Saturday’s game against Notre Dame wearing shirts with the team motto, “Burn the Boats,” prominently displayed.
Hey! I remember that! Isn't that…
“(Sophomore forward Luke) Moffatt brought it up this year,” said sophomore forward Derek DeBlois last month. “It has to do with the Vikings. When they would go to fight, they would burn their boats. No retreat, you just kind of lay all your chips on the table and fight until you win.”
…NOT ABOUT VIKINGS AT ALL. It's actually a famous event in the Spanish conquest of everything when they were discovering the new world, which is why the basketball team's version of the slogan was in Spanish. [Ed-S: actually...] Come on. Vikings. I've never heard about anything so ridicul—
SHOULDN'T HAVE TALKED ISH ABOUT VIKIIIIINGS AIEEEE—
Etc: James Rogers interviewed. Michigan Tech goalie coach and former Michigan goalie Steve Shields profiled. MEL PEARSON UPDATE: Tech reaches the Final Five for the first time in five years. Tech is two games away from .500 on the year. Carty on Draymond Green and Zack Novak. Ohio's PG in a bikini.
|WHAT||Michigan vs Ohio|
7:20 PM Eastern
Friday, March 16
|LINE||M –5 (Kenpom)|
"Who are you guys playing in the NCAA tournament?"
"No, I mean Ohio Ohio. You know, the Bobcats, from the MAC."
"OH LOL SO FUNNY BECAUSE BRADY HOKE OHIO BLAH BLAH BLAH."
I'm not saying Michigan dodged a bullet or anything when they slid down to a four-seed, but they dodged a bullet when they slid down to a four-seed. The three seed in the Midwest region, Georgetown, drew KenPom's #23-ranked team, trendy upset pick Belmont. By falling one seed line, Michigan will play their first-round game against #72 Ohio, easing fears of a first-round* upset while simultaneously filling my Twitter timeline with approximately 4,327 terrible Brady Hoke jokes.
Sure, man. Do your thing.
The Bobcats have a pretty balanced offense; eight players average at least 30% of available minutes and six break the 20% usage mark. The go-to guy is 5'11" junior point guard D.J. Cooper, who has the 17th-best assist rate in the country, an average turnover rate (not bad considering his high usage), and some ugly shooting numbers: 39% on twos and 31% on threes. Cooper does get to the line fairly often and hits at 74% from the stripe; the obvious key here is to keep him on the outside shooting jumpers. He appears willing to pull from just about anywhere, and that's perfectly fine if you're Michigan.
6'8", 263-pound center Reggie Keely comes off the bench, but he plays a little over half the team's minutes and is a high-usage guy when he's out there. Keely does most of his work on the offensive boards, where he reels in 12.1% of misses, and he gets to the line with regularity, drawing 4.8 fouls per 40 minutes. Keely isn't an outstanding shooter, connecting on 53% of his twos and 67% of his free throws, and he turns it over with regularity, but Jordan Morgan will have to make sure to keep him off the offensive glass while staying out of foul trouble.
Continuing the trend of guys who get to the line often is 6'3" wing Walter Offutt, who also draws 4.8 fouls/40 minutes but isn't very remarkable in any other statistical category. Offutt hits 35% of his three-pointers while shooting 49% from inside the arc, making him one of the more efficient scorers on the team.
The other two main contributors are a high-usage guy with a terrible ORtg—6'8" forward Ivo Baltic, a strong defensive rebounder who can't shoot free throws and hits under 50% of his twos—and a low-usage guy with a great ORtg in guard Nick Kellogg, a 42% three-point shooter whose statistical profile suggests he's a (very effective) spot-up shooter and not much else. I'm guessing Kellogg draws Hardaway when Michigan is on defense, assuming that Burke and Douglass take the two guards who dominate the ball more, and THJ had better do a good job of closing out.
The rest of the rotation is, well, there. 6'7" forward Jon Smith barely touches the ball while starting and playing nearly half the team's minutes, but he is a plus offensive rebounder and boasts an impressive 8.2 block percentage. Tiny freshman backup point guard Stevie Taylor is nearly as bad a shooter as Cooper and doesn't have the gaudy assist numbers to salvage his efficiency. 6'6" sophomore T.J. Hall actually is a worse shooter than Cooper. I can't find anything worth noting about Ohio's other two bench players save the fact that one is named TyQuane Goard.
*I refuse to use the NCAA nomenclature in which the Thursday/Friday games are "second round" games and Saturday/Sunday marks the "third round." This is stupid. Play-in games are play-in games. GET OFF MY LAWN.
Ohio's resume is severely lacking in the signature win department despite the Bobcats finishing 27-7: according to KenPom, their best victory is a two-point road win against #74 Marshall back in November. Their only other wins over top-100 KenPom teams came in the form of a 17-point road win over #95 Northern Iowa and two defeats of #79 Akron (one a home blowout and the other a one-point squeaker in the MAC title game; the Bobcats also lost by five to the Zips on the road). They do have a victory against the one common opponent shared with Michigan, a two-point win at Oakland, whom the Wolverines beat by ten at the Palace.
The Bobcats lost their only game against a powerhouse program, though falling short by five at #20 Louisville is actually rather impressive. Other losses are the aforementioned Akron road game, a three-point home loss to #141 Robert Morris, and road losses to #123 Bowling Green, #200 Toledo, #279 Eastern Michigan, and #122 Kent State.
|Factor||Offense (Rk)||Defense (Rk)||Avg|
|Effective FG%:||49.0 171||47.2 94||49|
|Turnover %:||19.7 141||26.7 2||20.3|
|Off. Reb. %:||35.2 64||33.9 246||32.1|
|FTA/FGA:||36.6 168||43.5 301||36.4|
The Bobcat offense relies largely on their solid offensive rebounding to make up for the fact that only one player can really shoot. Just over 38% of the team's shots come from beyond the arc, a distribution which shouldn't cause problems as long as Cooper and Offutt are the ones shooting and not Kellogg.
Defensively, Ohio plays a high-pressure man-to-man look, going all-out for turnovers. While they've amassed the fourth-best steal rate and second overall turnover % in the country, the Bobcats foul a lot in order to do so—opposing teams produce just under a quarter of their points against Ohio from the free-throw line. They do defend the three rather well, sitting at 19th in the country in opponent 3P% (30.3).
Make sure Trey Burke doesn't play 45 minutes the night before the game. Check.
Make sure Trey Burke can play 45 minutes if necessary. This is not a concern about his gas tank as much as it is D.J. Cooper. Namely, D.J. Cooper's ability to draw an absurd 5.6 fouls per 40 minutes. Burke will guard Cooper, and it's obviously obvious that Michigan needs Burke to not foul that much. He's done a great job this season of avoiding foul issues, and if things get hairy Beilein should be able to switch Douglass onto Cooper without creating a major matchup problem elsewhere, but I'd rather not spend large portions of the game tearing my hair out because Beilein refuses to leave anyone in the game who can remotely be described as being in foul trouble.
Okay, now work the pick-and-roll. An aggressive man defense like Ohio's means Michigan isn't going to create open jumpers simply by working the ball around the perimeter, so successfully taking advantage of defensive pressure via the screen is imperative. We'll see if the Bobcats comes out and hedge hard—I'd guess yes—and if they do, Jordan Morgan could be the key to this game. Ohio only has one decent shot-blocking presence and he's 6'7", 190 pounds; let Morgan slip the pick and see if anyone can stop him on the roll.
Good Hardaway. Please show up. Ohio's main perimeter players all check in at 6'3" or shorter, meaning Timmy should be able to shoot/jump right over these guys. The problem will be the temptation to shoot over them while standing still 25 feet away from the basket. With Ohio's propensity for steals and Hardaway's tendency to cough the ball up in traffic, it would be best if Michigan tried to work him off the ball and free him up that way instead of letting him try to create on his own.
Let Ohio's chuckers chuck. As long as it isn't coming from right next to the basket, any D.J. Cooper shot seems like a good one for Michigan. Offutt isn't a whole lot more efficient while the backup guards are simply not good at putting the ball through the basket. Meanwhile, Kellogg is rather deadly from beyond the arc and the Bobcats crash the boards well. The Wolverines would be best served denying Kellogg the ball while sagging off the other shooters, encouraging Ohio to settle for shooting from deep—Cooper seems to have no issue with that—and making sure they don't get killed on the glass.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by five.
3/09/2012 – Michigan 2, Notre Dame 1 (OT) – 22-11-4
3/10/2012 – Michigan 3, Notre Dame 1 – 23-11-4, advance to CCHA semifinals
This weekend Michigan will make its 24th straight trip to Joe Louis Arena for the CCHA semifinals. The program hasn't recruited a kid who was alive the last time Michigan was absent for going on a decade now. The last 21 of those years, Michigan has followed up the Joe with an appearance in the NCAA tourney. Since they responded to their ugly November with a 16-3-2 tear to end the year they'll make it 22 in two weeks. The only people who remember a time when these streaks were not active are the old men in Yost not quite old enough to forget.
That is incredible consistency. Just look across the lake and find future Big Ten foes Wisconsin and Minnesota if you want to chalk it up to recruiting. Both those teams select who they want, like Michigan, and have rosters littered with NHL draft picks, like Michigan. They're both working on a tourney streak of zero. Michigan State is also in that situation. (Since Rick Comley left the roster stacked with AARP members instead of future NHLers, that's a different argument.) Those are three of college hockey's glamour programs and they have one bid between them the last three years.
A lot of the vibe around Michigan's program in recent years has focused on how the team has only turned two of those 21 bids into national championships, but that's a conversation for the flat blank day the day after your soul shrivels up when a puck goes in the wrong net and hides inside its lonely crevasse for 52 more weeks of winter. In the immediate aftermath of Michigan punching out Jeff Jackson's eighth-place, college-hockey-NIT-bound Irish and Ferris State blowing it against Bowling Green it's time to give thanks for consistency.
Notre Dame was supposed to finish first in the league this year unless Miami did; they took their great talent and legendary coach and shiny new arena and finished one game above .500. Ferris State actually won the league this year; they took on the worst team in the conference and lost. Neither will be at the Joe. Michigan will, because Michigan always is.
It would be one thing if that was because they always had some ludicrous talents on the team. In recent years this hasn't really been the case. They don't have a lights-out scorer. Their top guys in PPG tied for 94th this year. They've made a transition from firewagon hockey to a more defensive style; they coped with the total implosion of their power play. The big star last year was either a defenseman who never hits anyone or a lightning-fast Swede better known for his defense than his offense. Their big star this year is their goalie.
Michigan has transitioned into a new, monstrously tight-checking era of college hockey without missing a beat. They've all but locked down a one seed after that terrible awful vertiginous November showed us a picture hardly anyone remembers: April without Michigan hockey.
I've got a few Illinois fans on my twitter feed and their mournfulness yesterday as Selection Sunday played on without the Illini was striking as I pondered Michigan's 24 and 22-year streaks. We've been there ourselves, as Michigan's 2008 season spiraled into the dirt and Bo's bowl streak went up in flames. As the basketball program embarks on a baby streak of their own and football gets back up to speed, let's take a moment and give thanks for the unchanging excellence in Yost.
Things happen. Your goalie flames out or some guy leaves school and you're left with a guy from the club team and a mop Jon Falk said you could borrow you call "Lee Moppie" because all hockey nicknames consist of putting "—ie" at the end of someone's name. Moppie sees way too much time and gets stuck in his own end because it's a mop and you lose a bunch of games. Even Bo's bowl streak was a flimsy thing when Harbaugh went down.
It is at this point that your program lays down for a breather, and you find out that the only thing worse than the horrible deflating feeling in April is one in March or February or November. But not for us, not yet.
It was really too bad this one wasn't on TV. It was the game of the year, no question, and up there as far as Yost all-timers go. Obviously not at the level of tourney games; other than that it's competing with Ryan Miller-era games against MSU and that BC game when Jack Johnson shot the goalie's helmet off.
Hunwick on his last game at Yost:
The flag. It's above. It's fabulous. They'll have to figure out exactly when to deploy it since their current idea conflicts with the "who cares" bit during player introductions, but it is awesome. They'll figure it out. Aaron Ward paid for most of it, which is also awesome. Also, Taylor Lewan pled for the Arizona state flag—which the student section deployed when Moffatt got a penalty just to show it off—to make an appearance at Michigan Stadium this fall.
I want more flags. All of the flags!
That's more like it, Notre Dame goalie situation. CenterIce has a diary breaking down the Michigan goals and came away from the weekend with an impression similar to mine:
Watching the highlights I was very surprised by how the scoring played out for us. I could not see anything televised because of my location, but it was very strange to see an entire series of lucky bounces and soft goals.
Michigan had a bunch of legit scoring chances they rang off the posts (three of them in the first OT Friday); everything else was soft.
Even though Summerhays wasn't exactly awful—he did give up just over 2 GAA—most of the goals he gave up were soft-ish, none worse than the harmless dink Phil Di Giuseppe managed to slide through his five hole:
If you let something in through the five hole at that angle from that tight, you have earned the "it's all your fault" in the aftermath.
Meanwhile, Hunwick was just about flawless. He had no hope on ND's Saturday goal, on which Jon Merrill didn't realize he had a two-on-one situation down low and went after a puckhandler emerging from the half-boards, leaving the back door wide open. The Friday goal came after a long period of Notre Dame pressure featuring several grade A stops from Hunwick; finally he could not react fast enough when ND found an open guy in the slot on a pass that came from behind the net.
Meanwhile, the all-Gongshow goalie gave up ten in a three game series against BGSU. Well done, hockey gods.
Notre Dame. Good? Bad? ND is such a confusing team. I think I was right to be very much against playing them in the second round, as they dominated large stretches of the first game and could have/should have put it away. Hunwick was ridiculous, and Michigan was much better in the OT. Michigan was much better on Saturday; even so my impression from watching ND play four times this year is that they should be easily in the tourney.
The goalie thing is a big, big problem. You could tell the body language on Saturday night was "here we go again." If they just had an average goalie I'm guessing they're well above the bubble.
Top line re-emerges. They had a little bit of a quiet spot there. That's over after Brown got the winner Friday and Wohlberg's top-quality snipes Saturday. They were dominant for stretches on the cycle, as well.
Now that Glendening and Di Giuseppe are getting some goals it seems like Michigan has two solid scoring lines for the tournament with the potential for some bonus stuff from Moffatt, a Lynch, etc.
The main problem left. The power play is just horrendous. They could not even get the zone on Friday night, and while they fixed the problem somewhat Saturday they still ended up 0/7 on the weekend. There's an obvious lack of dipsy-doo on the team that is a problem. Michigan has never in my memory played two defensemen on the PP, and I remember many years where the solution to getting the zone on the powerplay was "give it to Hensick."
This year the guy most likely to get the zone on the rush is… Mac Bennett, probably, and he does it by beating a guy as he leaves the defensive zone. When an opponent is lining four up across the blue line like ND was he doesn't have the puckhandling to make guys back off.
I don't really have any answers here. I'll just be over here massaging my temples for the next two minutes.
Sparks. : ( Scratched again and with no points in forever it's hard to make the case he should not be. I just thought that line was so close to putting in a half-dozen goals once he returned to the lineup. Oh well.
MFan in Ohio has been ably summing up the situation on the message board. Michigan actually dropped after Friday night's action thanks to a weird confluence of factors seemingly designed to play up the PWR's flaws: a bunch of not very good teams won or lost to fall above or below the .500 RPI mark that makes teams a TUC. They did this in just the right fashion for Cornell's TUC record to be momentarily very good, and Cornell took its comparison from Michigan based on that and the 3-4 games they've played against common opponents. Cornell is almost 300 points back in RPI.
Order was restored on Saturday, and with just one weekend left you can run scenarios out the wazoo. The worst-case chalk scenario (all higher seeds win except M going 0-2 at the Joe) still sees Michigan finish second; the worst-case-period scenario (UMD, BU, Miami, and Cornell win conference tourneys) sees Michigan finish in a three way tie for fifth. If Michigan beats BG in the semi they'll finish in a tie for third.
Upshot: Michigan has to both blow it as hard as possible and have every opponent within striking distance do as well as they can to lose the top seed.
As far as draw goes, I have no idea. One set of results sees Michigan drawing #4 seed Cornell in the first round; others have Cornell a strong two. The PWR is a jittery thing.
It does seem like Michigan has a solid shot at getting another Atlantic Hockey champ despite not being the #1 overall seed. For that to happen, the following must transpire:
- Two CCHA teams must be one seeds
- Two CCHA teams must be four seeds
- Michigan must be the highest-ranked CCHA team
In that case the committee has no choice but to match the CCHA teams up against the other folks and hand the not-very-good AH champ to Michigan. Your wicked hangover from that one year Michigan played Air Force suggests this may not be the absolute best thing in the world, but… well, yeah.
That is likely to happen if Miami beats Michigan Saturday. It's a consolation prize.
As far as the league goes: Miami, Michigan, and Ferris are solidly in. Ferris and their all-world goalie gave up a billion goals to BGSU and ended up not making the Joe; they're a solid two seed. Western Michigan and State are on the bubble. Both are in unless there is a bid stolen.
One will make it unless two bids are stolen this weekend; that team will be State unless WMU wins the CCHA. In that case State can be knocked out with a single stolen bid.
not with a bang
Mike Rothstein is reporting that LB/DE Isaiah Bell has left the program:
Michigan redshirt junior linebacker Isaiah Bell is no longer with the football team, a Michigan spokesperson confirmed Sunday evening.
Bell never saw a snap at Michigan. Now that he's departed I can tell you that while he was still on the team this fall he was actually left out of fall camp because there's a roster limit there and Michigan thought it was better to spend that time on various walk-ons. He wasn't part of the plans going forward.
While his departure does technically open up another scholarship for Brady Hoke's monster 2013 class, he was one of the guys I was assuming would not return for a fifth year. It was already built into 20 that is the no-attrition baseline. So this is a non-event: a guy who wasn't going to play or take up space next year not being around is just like him being around.
Sail on, Isaiah. We'll always have your ludicrous ESPN scouting report.