that makes one of us
The manager of my pool uses Excel, is bad at Excel.
Here's our brackets.
No questions; show us your bracket, and explain your upsets and weird guys. This time and this time only you may pick against the Kenpom gods.
Brian: I'm having a terrible time picking any upsets other than Michigan State only comprising three-fourths of the Final Four. I'm pretty sure the fourth slot will go to Indiana.
|MSU's Gary Harris is one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the tournament. [Fuller]|
Wait, what? They're in the--
They're *not* in the NIT. Well, they'll probably do well in the...
I see. Well then.
In that case, Indiana will probably be replaced by a mewling baby that the three Michigan States will dismember and consume as they celebrate about 30% as hard as they did when they beat Michigan.
But in the event we have a tournament based on data from outside the last week... uh... isn't Cincinnati a really bad matchup for State? Lost in the healthy hoopla is a totally healthy MSU team kicked off their rampage by losing to Illinois and Ohio State, two hard-nosed defensive teams with wonky offenses. Cincinnati is a hard-nosed defensive team with a wonky offense, one that plays no one shorter than 6'4" in their starting lineup and has a guy who can get buckets against anyone.
You know how the world is falling all over itself about Louisville? Well, Cinci won at Louisville and dropped their return game by a single point. Calling my shot: it's more likely MSU goes out in the second round than makes the final four.
Elsewhere, New Mexico is a dangerous second-round opponent for Embiid-less Kansas, Wisconsin is going out in round two to Oregon, Baylor will cruise to the Sweet 16, and Michigan plays Tennessee in the Sweet 16.
[After the jump we argue over really good offensive/mediocre defensive teams]
Thank you, Dustin Johnston, for lobbing this softball over the heart of the plate. It's remarkable, not to mention hilarious and captivating, that Jon Horford coexists peacefully on a team with these two hooligans:
Note John Beilein's futile effort to wave Andrew Dakich and Mitch McGary back to the bench. You cannot stop their enthusiasm. You can only hope to contain-- no, that seems impossible, too.
[Hit THE JUMP for Aaron Craft's greatest contribution to the Aaron Craft debate, Nik Stauskas making absurd layups, various moments of Illinois failure, the bench mob takeover, and more.]
More Aerris Smith. Starts boilerplate, and then gets COLLEGE, like Junior Hemingway after the Sugar Bowl COLLEGE:
Uh. Here's a first hand look at Wofford from a gentleman who saw them take on Davidson. Expect a lot of Cochran trying to get a shot for someone, usually himself.
WIN THE (hockey) GAME. A gentleman has run through all three million or so possibilities remaining in the college hockey season and presents us with everyone's chances of finishing at position X. The Penn State game turns out to be kind of a big deal:
PWR Win 0 Win 1 Win 2 Win 3 #6 0.7% #7 0.0% #8 20.5% #9 0.1% 56.5% #10 2.5% 22.3% #11 0.0% 21.9% 38.9% #12 2.0% 43.4% 39.6% #13 12.9% 25.6% 16.8% #14 30.5% 7.5% 2.0% #15 33.2% 1.5% #16 17.4% 0.1% #17 3.4% #18 0.5% In: 20.6% 95.9% 96.6% 100.0%
That is a hell of a swing.
The breakdown is off, as it assumes all remaining games are coinflips. This paints a more pessimistic picture than is realistic since it gives bid thieves a higher shot at theft than they actually have. So the picture with a Penn State loss isn't quite that grim. Michigan's chances in the event of a loss are probably in the 40-50 range if you live in a world where MSU's shot at a bid is less than 12.5%.
But it's pretty easy: win on Thursday and you're in barring worst-case scenarios where everyone else on the bubble does spectacularly well and bids get stolen. If only I could claim a game against Penn State is not a coin flip given the fact that Penn State is very bad at hockey.
The imperative is clear. #winthegame.
WIN THE (basketball) GAME. Sports On Earth profiles John Beilein, the "maestro of March":
On the eve of the Final Four, John Beilein's most important player was a mess. Practicing against teammates imitating Syracuse's famed zone defense, Mitch McGary's footwork was awful. If Beilein couldn't correct the problem, Michigan had no chance of playing for a national title.
Beilein wanted his 6-foot-10 freshman center to operate around the foul line and distribute the ball. The coaching staff spent all week trying to get him to pivot a certain way. Most of the time, he traveled or threw the ball away. "He couldn't read the zone because he couldn't see it, and he couldn't see it because he didn't have the right balance and leverage," Beilein said. Frustrated, he brought McGary, along with a few managers and players, back to the court after Friday's practice and said, "OK, Mitch, one more time: This is how we're going to do it." He told McGary to slow down and trust his instincts. He finally executed.
The next night in the Georgia Dome, McGary, who had a total of 18 assists all season unitl then, sliced up the 2-3 zone, recording a team-high six assists, while also scoring 10 points and grabbing five offensive rebounds in a 61-56 win. "It was a week of work getting him to figure it out," Beilein said. "His assists won us the game."
Read the whole thing. Also in Beilein hagiography: Frank Martin talks him up. Yes, that Frank Martin, the demon-screamer late of Kansas State who inexplicably took the South Carolina job.
NMSU's announcer has to thank God every day that he gets to exclaim SIMMMMMMMMM BHULLLLLAAAAAAAAAR at maximum volume.
The other random obsession with a basketball player. Remember SIM BHULLAR? 7'5", 360 pound Indo-Canadian Michigan was poking around who ended up at New Mexico State? Guy with an all-time combination of game and announcer-friendly name?
SIM BHULLAR plays about 20 minutes a game for the Aggies, has excellent rebound and block rates, shoots 64% from the floor with decent usage, and gets fouled a lot, whereupon he hits only 54%.
He and New Mexico State will take on Steve Fisher and San Diego State in the first round in a Michigan Old versus Michigan What Might Have Been matchup.
Seriously though, given the way Michigan plays offense they could really use an offensively challenged guy who looks like he's been in contact with a radioactive spider. Radioactive spider guy challenges shots and flushes putbacks and dumpoffs. We need to get in contact with whoever's importing the Joel Embiids of the world and see if there's a guy who's maybe not Joel Embiid but good enough for Michigan's purposes.
Dogpile. Yet another lawsuit has been dropped on the NCAA. This one is from a Jeffery Kessler, noted sports anti-trust lawyer, and it's a doozy:
"The main objective is to strike down permanently the restrictions that prevent athletes in Division I basketball and the top tier of college football from being fairly compensated for the billions of dollars in revenues that they help generate," Kessler told ESPN. "In no other business -- and college sports is big business -- would it ever be suggested that the people who are providing the essential services work for free. Only in big-time college sports is that line drawn."
Maybe it was not the best move to include a Rutgers basketball player in your suit when you're claiming college athletes should be given something more than a stern talking-to and return to the American conference, but this Kessler guy is bad news for sports leagues trying to keep the man up:
Kessler helped bring free agency to the NFL, winning a key jury verdict for the NFL Players Association in 1992. He remains outside counsel to the NFLPA and the NBA's player union, has taken on Major League Baseball and represented star athletes including Michael Jordan and Tom Brady. For municipal authorities, he forced the Raiders to honor their stadium lease and stay in Oakland.
Given the skepticism of the judge in the O'Bannon case and Kessler's history of wins here it seems hard to believe the NCAA will look much like it does now in a decade. And that's a good thing, both in terms of fairness and for Michigan specifically. Michigan has a lot of money. Alums have a lot of money. We are currently using that in indirect ways while others are using their money to get to the point.
Meanwhile. An article on Michigan's surging revenues highlights the absurdity of the claim that most athletic departments lose money:
Department revenues rose $41.5 million from 2009-10 to 2012-13. During that same four-year period, expenses increased at a similar level, rising from $87 million to $132 million.
Funny how that works. It's almost like athletic departments spend all the money they have.
In 2009-10, Michigan paid $33 million in wages to about 275 people. By 2012-13, the athletic department had 321 employees (it has grown even more this year to 336 workers) and projected $44 million in pay, including $19 million on coaches' salaries.
It's long past time to redirect some of that to the players.
Oh man. IU's Fred Glass making me feel slightly better about the AD gap:
"Finances wouldn't be an issue if we thought it made sense," Glass told The Star. "But we're Indiana. We don't play in the CBI."
A sentiment better left unexpressed after the last decade.
Right, that. Gregg Doyel makes a good point about Wichita State getting the stink eye from the committee:
We can debate whether Louisville deserved to be seeded so poorly, but what we cannot debate is what is being asked of Wichita State. The top seeds are supposed to be geographically protected, helped out if possible but not completely screwed at a minimum. And Wichita State was completely screwed.
Any idea how far Louisville is from Indianapolis? About 90 minutes by car. It's nothing. And southern Indiana is a hotbed of Louisville fans. Louisville is more than comfortable at Indy.
If Louisville was going to be a 4 they should have shipped them anywhere else. Does the NCAA really care that much about attendance?
Spring whatball? There is some thing with a oblong ball that isn't quite rugby that Michigan appears to be doing.
Oh good, more tackles for loss.
Departures. Matt Painter grumbled publicly about having selfish players, so a transfer does not come as a shock. Ronnie Johnson is gone from the Boilers. This is not a harsh blow statistically—Johnson's ORTG was under 100—but it is not a good look for Purdue, which loses seven contributors after going 15-17 and doesn't have the recruiting class to make up for that. Painter's apparently going to get another season, but it looks like his last unless he performs a miracle.
Also in bad teams from Indiana, Noah Vonleh is "strongly leaning" towards entering the draft. Losing Vonleh would leave Indiana hoping that Hanner Mosquera-Perea or Jeremy Hollowell can become basketball-type objects. Possible… but not looking good after this year.
Etc.: Guptill's September suspension turns out to be for assault; judge determines that Guptill made a guy "in fear of being pushed or shoved." Mark Richt has lost control of Alex Guptill. That is some straight-up UGA petty misdemeanory.
Tommy Amaker: "we're not trying to win a championship, we're trying to be a championship team." Peak coach-speak has been achieved.
Site note: As with last year, we'll be having a basketballgasm liveblog for Day 1 of the tournament, shifting to the hockey game at 3, and then going through the Round 1 matchup with Wofford. DraftStreet, whose 40k tourney is still filling up (as of this morning ~1600 of the 2000 spots are filled), is sponsoring, and a few former players will be joining us to promote the Go Blue Bowl.
Speaking of filling things, you're probably filling your brackets right now, so here's my now-annual post and tool for helping with that. Last year was the first since 2000 that I didn't win at least my buy-in back. Things I use:
The Power Rank (friend of the blog Ed Feng)'s interactive bracket. Ed is one of the cutting-edge guys in sports analytics. On his tool if you hover over any team you can see their probabilities to reach each round, or hover over a spot in the circular bracket to see every team's likelihood of getting there. Michigan is 58% to reach the Sweet 16; from there every game is virtually a toss-up.
The Wall Street Journal's blind comparison. They show you two profiles and say a little about the team, and you make your pick presumably without bias, though you can often figure out exactly who they're talking about:
Bracket Science's Bracketmaster tool. Peter Tiernan's blog is a standard for following bubble teams and gets things right that others don't (like Louisville as a 4 seed). The Bracketmaster+ tool lets you get into data going back to 1985. If you're a member it gets deeper but non-members can use it to do things like show Beilein's Michigan teams in the tournament:
Poologic Tool. This helps you decide how many upsets to pick based on the size of your office pool (in a large pool it's best to be the only one with a certain champ). Also you can calculate ROI on various picks.
My tool (download the excel sheet) Which uses straight-up Kenpom scores and provides a weak confidence score based on the premise that 16 seeds never beat 1 seeds. I also added injuries for each team. Looks like this:
What I do is normalize the closest 16-1 matchup (Wichita St vs. Cal Poly) as 100% for the 1 seed to win, set that as the "chaos factor," and use the KenPom ratings to percentile everyone else's games into a confidence number. Then I roll through anything under 70% and decide if my knowledge of those teams might justify taking the under.
If you're in a big pool, run multiple brackets, each with carefully selected upsets.There's no such thing as an NCAA tournament without lots of big upsets and at least one surprising run. The 1 seeds all made it to the Final Four just once. If you submit one milksop bracket you're up against every other milksop bracket and will get beat by the one crazy guy who had LSU going to the Elite 8 or something. Hitting on a carefully selected upset that rearranges a bracket and lets you ride a different high seed to the Final Four is the most typical route to a win.
If you're in a small pool, play conservative. One or two points won't usually make a difference in a small pool, but the likelihood of something crazy like that one guy's wife who picks based on the cuteness factor of mascots winning is cut down so you don't need to take risks to get ahead.
Pick the upsets the most carefully. I love picking 6-11 upsets because if you get it wrong they're bound to get wiped out by the 3 anyway. If you roll the dice on a 3-seed or lower losing early though, you'll feel like an idiot as the rest of your pool collects the easy points. A tournament without upsets never happens, but neither does a tournament with all the upsets. You can totally undo a great pick with a terrible one elsewhere.
Get value for your upsets. Know who's in your pool and the inefficiencies. This year, those of you in Michigan are facing the mother of all inefficiencies in that Spartan fans are bound to submit extra brackets just to have one that has State going all the way. Fans will generally take their favorite team to go two rounds later than they really belong and conference teams to go a round further. This is an inefficiency (even if MSU looked like they could dominate the tourney on Sunday).
Be really really lucky. This is really the only rule.
Michigan hosted some big time prospects this past weekend and they seemed to do very well with every one of them. It’s not unrealistic to say that three to four of the visitors could potentially become Wolverines.
CB Garrett Taylor - St. Christopher's School - Richmond, VA
Michigan hosted highly touted defensive back Garrett Taylor this past weekend and the Wolverines are in outstanding shape with him following his visit. Taylor arrived on Friday morning and spent the entire weekend in Ann Arbor, shoving off on Sunday morning. The extended time is sitting well with him.
I loved it, it was definitely a great visit. I really felt like the coaches were really excited to have me out there and that they really want me up there. I was really impressed with the whole package. They showed off all of their facilities which are great. The Al Glick Fieldhouse and Schembechler Hall were incredible and the campus was awesome. All of the football stuff was great but so was the academic side of things. We got to go to the academic building and it was really clear that there is a great support system in place. The tutors, the mentors, just everyone to help keep you on track was really cool.
Clearly Taylor enjoyed himself and the coaches did a solid job setting him up with a fellow Virginian to ensure that he would.
I had Wilton Speight as my player host. It was really cool, I definitely got to see what the campus life was like and what the dorm life was like. His roommate was real cool, Drake Harris, another early enrollee. I got to meet some other guys like Derrick Green and Shane Morris, hung out with those guys so it was really cool to see that side of things.
Just a few minutes after Taylor and I finished speaking he released his top five via Twitter, a group made up of Michigan, Stanford, Michigan State, South Carolina, and Tennessee. He has visited all of the campuses except for South Carolina and he plans to make his decision within the next month. Right now it is a two horse race between Stanford and Michigan and with academics being a huge factor for Garrett, Michigan finds itself in unfamiliar territory as the less heralded academic institution when compared to the Cardinal.
Garrett is a stand-up young man and said when he commits, he will be a man of his word and honor his commitment, a value instilled in him by his parents. Right now it really sounds like it’s about 50/50 between Michigan and Stanford and he said he may not be able to fit in any other visits so the positive memory of Ann Arbor will be the freshest in his mind. His offer list is stacked and landing him would be big for the Wolverines.
LB Justin Hilliard - St. Xavier - Cincinnati, OH
Justin Hilliard is one of Michigan’s top targets in the 2015 class and he seems to be pretty keen on the Wolverines as well. Hilliard has now visited Ann Arbor six times on his own dime and every time he returns he has positive things to say. He was really looking forward to this visit and he was able to experience some firsts this time around.
It was a great visit! I got to see how the coaches run practices. I was able to spend a lot of time with the coaches and the players. I spent most of my time with Coach Mattison and I was with a bunch of players that night but mostly Blake Countess.
Countess has the reputation of being a great host and Hilliard definitely seemed to enjoy himself. Hilliard has already included Michigan in his top 15 and I expect him to put them in his top ten as well when he releases that soon.
OL David Moorman - Northville High School - Pinckney, MI
As an in-state prospect with primarily MAC offers (Illinois as well) David Moorman is hoping that his recruitment will continue to gain momentum especially with Big Ten schools.
I grew up a fan of the Big Ten in general. I loved watching Michigan when Mike Hart and Coach Carr were there and as soon as Coach Hoke got the job I started appreciating Michigan football again. I’m still open to all schools and I’m just considering every option that’s out there for me.
Moorman was very excited to tell me about his experiences in Ann Arbor.
I pretty much just watched practice and got a tour of Schembechler Hall which was by far one of the nicest facilities I’ve seen. Practice was high tempo and intense and I really liked the way the coaches ran practice. All the coaches were great! I have a pretty good relationship with Coach Funk so it was good to see him again. Obviously it was really cool to talk to Coach Hoke and Coach Nussmeier too.
Moorman doesn’t hold that Michigan offer yet, but it has been discussed.
The coaches told me to be patient with them and if they can get some things worked out numbers wise an offer could come. If they did offer Michigan would for sure be at the top of my list and I would definitely highly consider them. Right now I’m training as hard as I can so in June I can go out on the camp circuit and prove that I’m one of the best offensive lineman in the country and then I’ll see what happens.
Before June gets here though, Moorman has intentions to re-visit Ann Arbor as well as some other campuses.
I’m for sure heading back to Michigan again soon and I’m going to visit Michigan State in the next couple of weeks and then probably Ohio State, Illinois, Toledo, Wake Forest, and Wisconsin.
QB Josh Rosen - St. John Bosco - Bellflower, CA
Rosen’s visit was kept under wraps for unknown reasons, but people don’t seem to care about that now. The visit happened and he enjoyed it. He’s a big time talent and getting him on campus about a week before he is set to commit was huge. Rosen is Michigan’s #1 target at quarterback but the Wolverines are playing from way behind trying to catch in-state and suspected favorite, UCLA. The coaches closed the gap but it is still going to be an uphill climb to land him.
Rosen is planning on announcing March 20th and even the Michigan coaches are wondering if his most recent visit was enough for him to rethink what everyone assumes is an eventual verbal pledge to the Bruins.
QB David Sills - Eastern Christian Academy - Elkton, MD
Freddy Canteen and Brandon Watson talked David Sills into taking a visit to Ann Arbor and he told me that it was a really good time. He left Ann Arbor still committed to USC but he said that a flip commitment isn’t completely ruled out. He told me that he is planning on visiting Oregon and Penn State before he starts to think about what’s next in his recruitment.
Sills spent a lot of time with all of the coaches, most notably Coach Nussmeier and believes that if he had wanted to commit while on the visit he could have. The coaches are still in close communication with a lot of quarterbacks so the picture isn’t clear just yet. Sills did say that he’d like to make his final decision before his senior season starts so expect Michigan to stay in the loop.
TE CJ Conrad - Keystone High School - Lagrange, OH
CJ Conrad is a very real possibility for an offer in the future as potential top target Chris Clark committed to North Carolina over the weekend. Conrad talked with me about his visit and his future expectations.
Michigan was good. I talked to Coach Hoke and Coach Ferrigno. They said that they loved my film and they want me to come to a camp in order to evaluate me better and get a possible offer. I will definitely be at that camp on June 8th.
Conrad has around 15 offers but Michigan is one that he particularly covets.
If Michigan offered me they would be right up there. Right now Kentucky is my leader because I fit their offense really well and I really like Coach Marrow. I like Michigan a lot but I’m not sure if they can pass Kentucky or not.
Upon hearing the news of Clark’s commitment I asked CJ if he had heard anything about it and he replied, “Yeah I just found out, that’s big news for me.” He saw the news on Twitter but immediately thought that he might benefit from Clark’s pledge in regard to his chances of earning a Michigan offer.
3/14/2014 – Michigan 2, Minnesota 3 (OT) – 17-12-4, 9-8-2 Big Ten
3/15/2014 – Michigan 6, Minnesota 2 – 18-12-4, 10-8-2 Big Ten
Michigan is barely ahead of the pack. [Bill Rapai]
Imagine a man tied to a pole with a bungee cord in zero-G. Grip this man with an enormous metal arm and pull him until the bungee cord has no more give. Let go. Watch as the man flies back and forth at maximum amplitude forever, occasionally bonking his head on the pole.
I've just saved you 500 bucks for a hockey season ticket. You are invited to give me a cut with the donate button at right.
What can Michigan's hockey team do? Anything. They can beat Boston College, they can run out to a 10-2-1 start, they can thoroughly dominate Wisconsin in a weekend series, they can beat Minnesota by sniping the water bottle four times.
What can Michigan's hockey team do? Anything. They can lose to Penn State, lose to Michigan State, lose to Penn State, lose to Michigan State. They can let Western Michigan waltz, or possibly tango, through the slot a dozen times in a single hockey game. They can try some sort of center-ice pinch that was months ago but still remains crystal-clear in my memory as the most insane decision I've seen since Jack Johnson was around, making insane decisions seem like good ideas.
Yeah, actually. This hockey team is Jack Johnson, the hockey team.
But they have just about done it, with an assist from Minnesota's backup goalie. They have waddled their way into the NCAA tournament. Since they're on the bubble, their tournament starts one weekend early and has a very strange structure where one loss is permissible in most situations as long as it doesn't come against Penn State.
You may think this doesn't quite count. I do. I will be turning on a television at three on a Thursday to watch Michigan play a hockey game in front of 14 people as I try not to have a panic attack. If that's not the NCAA hockey tournament it's close enough.
If—if—if—ifffffffffffff Michigan does in fact get past Penn State, a possibility I am absolutely not taking for granted because this would be like taking a spiderweb for granted as you clung to it over the Grand Canyon, they will be in barring specific clusters of results. And that will be fine. Just making the tournament was everybody's first and only goal in a year when the second defenseman on the depth chart was terrifying—let alone the second pairing—and the goaltender situation was a cloud of question marks.
Even when they were rushing out to a blazing start, nobody who was watching them play was harboring delusions of grandeur. They're rickety on the back end and only flash their talent at forward often enough to drive you crazy when they go a month without scoring a goal on purpose. As the man said, they are who they are.
And since they are who they are—a man careening endlessly from one extreme to the other—they've got as much of a shot as anyone does in the barely-weighted plinko that is the worst championship format in sports. Once their spot is secured they could roll out onto the ice against the top two teams in the country and hold their own, as they did against Minnesota and Boston College.
They could implode in a pile of sawdust, yeah. Everyone can implode in a pile of sawdust. One seeds get plunked on the regular by random collections of initials that happen to have a hockey team. We've got one, and you don't want to face us, no way. Unless it's one of those days where you really do. But it might not be one of those days. It might be one of those other days. Nothing is certain, except that after it is over you will sit down and hold your head and wait for the room to come to a full and complete stop.
We're in! Ish! [Rapai]
Despite being a three seed if the season ended today, Michigan is not safe with a win over Penn State. Unfortunately, there are a number of scenarios that leave them the first team out if they go 1-1 at the Big Ten tourney. That's because the margins are tiny this year. The RPI gap from 11th—where Michigan sits—down to 17th is less than a point.
Michigan can't get passed by #17 Northeastern since they're out of the HE tournament, but Minnesota State, North Dakota, Vermont, Cornell, and Colgate are all within striking distance. All save Vermont are active in their conference tourneys. If Michigan beats Penn State they will finish ahead of the Catamounts; the rest is up for grabs.
Teams are so tightly packed that changing a single result has surprising and inexplicable consequences. In one scenario, Minnesota State beating Ferris in the WCHA final is the difference between MSU-Mankato finishing outside of the tourney or getting a three seed. It also knocks Colgate out as Michigan passes them for obscure opponents-opponents-win-percentage reasons.
But here are some things I can tell you:
Michigan is (almost certainly) safe if they reach the Big Ten final. Even in the worst case scenario where somehow they face MSU and lose to them, thus crushing their RPI along with my skull and providing MSU a bid, they sneak in over the line unless there are two additional bid thieves. If it's Ohio State or Minnesota their RPI will land them as a three seed even in the event of a loss.
They could sneak onto the two line by winning the tournament. A low two is their top end.
1-1 is very likely good enough. It would take some seriously bad luck for every bubble team to man up in the fashion necessary to boot M from the tourney.
0-1 is not over. BUT LET'S NOT EXPLORE THAT OKAY.
Teams you hate. Life gets much, much easier for Michigan if Cornell and Colgate lose their ECAC semifinals to Quinnipiac and Union, respectively. Both of those latter teams are already in. The two C outfits are right on Michigan's heels. Their performance is almost more important than Michigan's—they can get in with a Penn State loss as long as the ECAC results fall right.
Bid thieves are always a bubble team's foe. Those are UNH in Hockey East, BGSU and Alaska-Anchorage in the WCHA, Denver, Miami, and WMU in the NCHC, and any Big Ten university with "State" in the name.
Teams you like. Root for North Dakota in the NCHC and Lowell in Hockey East, the former because it's the only current at-large from that league, the latter because every bit of schedule strength is going to count down the stretch here.
Ballpark. Michigan is 99% to make it with a 2-1 record this weekend, 80% to make it with 1-1, and 50% to make it with 0-1.
So frustrating. I kind of get why Minnesota may have relaxed on Saturday after securing the conference title, but it's not like they had nothing to play for. The #1 overall seed gets the Atlantic Hockey opponent that is generally far worse than any other in the field (but will still have a goalie who makes 60 saves because goalies are all far too good these days). BC and Minnesota were competing for that.
It in fact turns out that they had nothing to play for because Boston College got knocked out of the Hockey East tournament, guaranteeing Minnesota the top seed in the tournament.
Minnesota didn't know that on Saturday, though and by the time their backup goalie had ceded his first truly bad goal he'd been beaten on a procession of perfect water-bottle pops that comprised the prettiest set of goals seen in Yost Ice Arena in a long time. And the previous night, when Minnesota was going all out for the title, Michigan played them dead even.
So if they'd done what a team that plays Minnesota dead even does against some of the worst guys on their schedule…
And the avatar of that. Alex Guptill came off his healthy scratch in the aftermath of one of those horrible losses and Got The Message for about the fifth time in his career, playing impressive hockey. Some of the stuff he does is NHL-level.
There was one particular rush on which he repositioned himself in just the proper way so he could snap a shot past the defender's leg. That shot was whistling towards the top of the net before the goalie managed to snag it. It did not go in, but I muttered "Jesus" under my breath because the move and shot were so nasty.
I just hope he doesn't run out of attention before the end of the season here. If he comes back for his senior year—no idea—with the intention of getting an NHL contract for serious he could be a Hobey finalist. Or he could just be the most frustrating player in the last 15 years of Michigan hockey. Enormous wild card.
Sinelli emerging. The crazy thing about Andrew Sinelli these days is that he couldn't manage to find his way onto the ice as a forward during his first two years. He seems so assured with the puck as a defenseman that it's hard to envision him as a healthy scratch. Now that he's settling into his new role he is activating himself on offense more, not only for his hat trick against MSU but also several times in the Minnesota series he found himself in a dangerous position with the puck after making a nice read as to how the play would develop.
Is he Michigan's #2 defenseman now? With Kevin Clare playing his best hockey, probably not… but it's close.
The Hyman breakout. Happy to be right about this:
Inexplicable player enthusiasm of the year. Always one guy on the team who does nothing statistically but I find a way to advocate anyway, and this year it's Zach Hyman. Hyman's 1-2-3 line is obviously bleah. I still manage to think that he's much better at coming out of the corners with a purpose than anyone else on the team and should be flanked by two skilled players to take advantage of his ability to create offense off the cycle.
He seems like a different player, even if the stats aren't showing it. Remember this if he blows up in the next 20 games. Forget it if he doesn't.
After starting out with that 1-2-3 line in 13 games he put up 7-8-15 in his next 21.
Shuart's potential. Max Shuart has a nice combination of size and speed that hasn't really done much in his limited opportunities, but he seems like an intriguing guy to keep an eye on for next year. Could develop into a third line/PK guy.