I GET IT
Michigan has gained a basketball commitment from MI PF Jon Horford. He's a 2010 prospect, and the younger brother of erstwhile Michigan commit, former Florida Gator, and current Atlanta Hawk Al Horford.
|3*, #42 PF||3*, NR PF||88, #76 PF|
ESPN has two evaluations of him, just over two years apart:
December, 2007: He's a good low post scorer that really works the glass. He has great hands and keeps working hard to improve. He's a good, but not great athlete that seems to grow an inch every 4-5 months. He has a long wing span which helps him be a very good shot blocker. His range extends to 15 feet at this point, but he has a thin frame and he must add strength. His brother Al was solid at the same stage and with hard work, ended up a two-time National Champ and NBA Lottery pick. Jon is on the same path.
The note that Al Horford was similarly limited in high school is very encouraging. And...
February, 2010: Jon is a multi dimensional power forward. He can operate in the paint or score from the high post. That is probably one of his best attributes, his versatility. Inside Jon is solid on the block. He has decent post moves and is a good rebounder inside due to his solid basketball IQ. He understands blocking out and using his body inside. He scores mostly off garbage inside (dump offs and put backs) he is best facing the basket. He can shoot with range out to 16 or 17 feet. He is a solid defender inside though not an avid shot blocker. He is not quite the athlete that his brother was at the same stage. He will be a very solid player at the collegiate level.
The more recent evaluation is significantly less "OMG HE RULZ" than the first, but it is still highly positive. That doesn't jibe with various reports that Horford's something of a project. Another recurring theme in Horford evaluations: he's thin:
Jon Horford. He definitely looked like a player -- and the Gators were all over him. He's about 6-9, but thinner than his older brother.
Dylan checked him out in person:
He moves well for a big man and looks very comfortable in the post. Despite being double teamed he had a couple nice spin moves when he got the ball cleanly on the box. He also showed very nice touch finishing around the hoop. He also did a very good job passing out of double teams and finding open shooters (even if they weren’t making shots)...
But at the end of the day he just doesn’t “wow” you like you would expect a high-major big man to. He got ripped of several rebounds and doesn’t appear to be a tremendous shot blocker, despite being the tallest player on the court. He is very slender from the mid-section down and had to pull up his shorts after about every play. Horford’s shooting form is also screwy and will certainly get some attention once he is playing for a division 1 coach.
So did Calvin, also of UMHoops:
The first thing you have to say about Horford, and something Dylan mentioned, is that there isn’t much of a “wow” factor. He’s extremely skinny (think a taller Manny Harris, but with slimmer shoulders), which means there aren’t any points in the game when he can just move somebody out of his way. Every offensive move is a finesse move–which isn’t to say they’re bad moves, that’s just the kind of player he is. He has a nice quick drop step and he knows how to use his pivot foot in that way that seems like it should be traveling but definitely isn’t and it’s just a good move. He has great touch around the basket and is an exceptional finisher given his frame. He is also a very, very good passer. Horford was double-teamed almost every time he touched the ball, and he almost always found the open man. Very good instincts on offense.
Rivals evaluated him:
Horford is long (a legit 6-8 plus) but skinny, and will need some hours in the weight room before he moves on to the next level. He's got great hands, however, a nice touch around the basket and outstanding work ethic on both ends of the floor. Henton took advantage of Horford's lack of strength to bully his way to the rim a few times, getting Horford into early foul trouble (two fouls in the first half).
He went to his right hand on all three occasions - twice he'd have had it easier if he could have used his left, and probably would have finished despite being fouled.
Where he was most impressive was passing out of the post... He runs the floor well... Horford's young supporting cast isn't all that talented, making him the obvious focus of defenses, but he's supportive and doesn't try to force it...
I've heard his height is a little overstated, and he might be closer to 6-7 than 6-9. He's just a high schooler though, so he might still be growing (especially with his NBA bloodlines). The positives: he's skilled, an exceptional passer, and assuming he can put on some weight, a legit post prospect.
As recently as last summer, he wasn't really on Michigan's radar, but he got an offer around December ($), and named Michigan his leader shortly thereafter. But then, like, actually got offered at the beginning of this month (made official when he visited this week). At that time, it was "almost sure" he would pick the Wolverines ($, info in header). He picked the Wolverines over Cal and Providence. Alabama showed some interest, but no word on if they offered. Michigan State showed some interest, especially late, but I'm not sure if they ever offered.
So what do the offers mean? He's certainly not a top-top prospect (which the recruiting rankings show as well), nor is he an instant-impact type. The Kentuckys of the world were coming a-callin'.
As mentioned above, Horford was by far the best player on Grand Ledge, which meant that he got the ball a lot, but also drew the attention of opposing defenses.
He averaged about 21 points and 13 rebounds per game, according to umgoblog.com.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Though he's not an instant-impact player, Horford may be forced into a bit of action as a true freshman, since he, Jordan Morgan, Blake McLimans, and fellow freshman Evan "Metrics" Smotrycz will be the only Wolverines taller than 6-4. With Morgan coming off yet another injury and surgery, Horford might have to be ready to go. With his noted lack of strength, that doesn't bode well for a big freshman season. He'll likely get spot minutes to give a rest to Michigan's other options in the post (of which Blake McLimans might be the only healthy bigman - and eve he is more of a power forward), if he plays at all.
Assuming he's able to put his body together in the weight room, he'll be able to contribute in subsequent years. If he grows a little more (his dad, Tito, is 7-1, and brother Al is 6-10), that goes double. He's a skilled big man who just needs to develop a bit before he can be a major contributor to a Big Ten squad. Unless he makes huge strides, he probably is a 4-5 year player.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Scholarship breakdown time:
|2010-11 Michigan Roster|
|Tim Hardaway Jr.||1-2|
** Cronin's basketball career is likely over. I've included him on the chart in the event of a miracle recovery.
That's 12 guys, which means if Cronin gets healthy and Manny stays, Michigan has room for one more prospect, and would have one scholarship to give out for the 2011 recruiting class. That scholarship would go to Trey Zeigler, or if Michigan can't reel him in, Isaiah Sykes.
More likely, Cronin is no longer a factor, opening up an additional scholarship, and pushing the number to two. Would Michigan take both Zeigler and Sykes, or bank on of the spots for next year's class? I wouldn't be surprised if Michigan took both, assuming they could land them.
Manny is on the fence about his senior year, and most reports have him likely leaving. The Wolverines probably don't have three more prospects on the table that they'd want to take in this class, so they would bank Manny's scholarship for the 2011 class. If they filled all three hypothetical slots in this scenario, they would have a grand total of zero scholarships for 2011.
Most likely scenario: Cronin and Manny are both gone, Michigan takes however many of Zeigler and Sykes they can land, and has two scholarships available for 2011. For next season, those scholarships will go to a couple walkons.
Hockey bits. Whatever doubt there was about Summers returning this weekend is just about evaporated. Berenson is "over 80 percent confident" he will be back:
"I thought he looked pretty good again [on Wednesday]," Berenson said. "He's such a free skater, and that's an advantage he has. And he's a senior. He's fit. He's worked hard in this whole rehab. If he gets through the next few days, he'll play."
As mentioned in the preview, I assume this means Lee Moffie gets sent to the press box. Hogan is still out.
I updated the preview with some extra television information, but if you missed it Saturday's game is now on Comcast so everyone should get it. Channels:
- Comcast: 900
- Dish: 432 and 436.
- DirecTV: 640 and 668.
The game is also on ESPN360 and will be on ESPNU on tape delay. Hypothetical Sunday game would be on ESPNU.
Rothstein has a piece on Fort Wayne's preparations for the NCAA tourney—he used to work at the paper there—and asks whether neutral sites really work for the NCAA hockey tournament. In my opinion, not really. It's goofy to have the most important games of the season played in sterile, largely empty buildings, and moving to home ice for top seeds would help make the tourney less of a random number generator. Playoffs should strive for a balance between unpredictability and a satisfactory champion. The NBA has too little unpredictability, MLB too much. College basketball is just right. Single-elimination hockey is on the MLB side of the scale.
Comley says MSU was the last team out of the NCAA tournament and if Michigan had not beaten Miami, then MSU would have replaced the Wolverines in the 16-team field. He is not for expanding the current 16-team format, although I am in favor of expanding it to 24 because a couple of teams with automatic bids, like Alabama Huntsville, are in the field with a losing record.
As Western College hockey points out, 24 teams would be 40% of college hockey. It would be all but one TUC. The tourney is more likely to contract back to twelve than expand further. Hockey is already over the 25% mark, the maximum amount of tournament participation advised by the NCAA. Also, Comley's wrong. Ferris State is the first team out of the tourney.
BONUS: Junior defenseman Jeff Petry is a holy lock to sign with Edmonton. I'm hoping Tropp heads out the door, too, so that karma delivering a fatality to him is the last thing that happens to him in college hockey, but it sounds like he's leaning towards a return.
So how's that working out for you, being ornery? Ever since the Free Press Jihad started there has been a wing of Michigan's internet fandom dedicated to the proposition that Michigan should pursue a scorched-earth policy with the paper. They imagine David Brandon revoking press passes and locking anyone from the paper with temerity to show up on campus in stocks on the Diag.
A popular sentiment amongst these folks in the aftermath of Urban Meyer going all no-you-di'in't…
…at the reporter who quoted Deonte Thompson saying he was glad to have a "real quarterback" was "that's how you handle the media."
This, of course, releases the hounds. (There's plenty more if you want it.) Two of those are from Bruce Feldman and Tony Barnhardt, adults capable of stringing together paragraphs. But the latter is from Mike Bianchi and is closer to certain local folks' speed. Prepare for the one-sentencing:
First Urban Meyer quits.
Then he comes back.
Then he takes a leave of absence.
Then he doesn’t take a leave of absence.
Now, incredibly, he is threatening reporters because one of his players was quoted … correctly?
Can you say Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs?
Good grief, that Florida coaching job really is a pressure-cooker, isn’t it?
Urban Meyer has to care zero percent because he has a two-deep at crystal football, but it's an illustration of the cliche about not getting in arguments with people who buy ink by the barrel. It doesn't matter that according to people on the same beat think Urban was basically right about this guy…
other Florida beat reporters contend Thompson's quote was merely a poor, vastly overblown choice of words by a 21-year-old who will never be mistaken for Barack Obama as a public speaker, and I can tell you some of them think Fowler has had it coming for a long time.
…any time a reporter takes a shot from a coach, rightly or wrongly, it's time to close ranks and howl at the moon. Meyer didn't even raise his voice here; his "threat of violence" was phrased as a hypothetical from the start. And this reporter basically deserves his chewing out. But get pissed off at a guy and you'll never hear the end of it, no matter how righteous your wrath is.
So… yeah, Michigan's doing the right thing by sucking it up and smiling nice for the cameras. Sadly.
How's that working out for you, being a hypocritical weasel? Win at all costs is apparently a totally awesome strategy for John Calipari:
REFUSE TO LOSE. It sounds like such a simple, inspirational phrase for a team -- and it can be. But it also describes the man. He's a scrapper, and will weigh all of his options besides losing.
Calipari has done the most remarkable coaching job of this season, and nobody is close. Think about it: He convinced John Wall, Xavier Henry and DeMarcus Cousins to come to Memphis, inserted clauses into their letters of intent so they could go somewhere else if Calipari left, convinced Memphis to keep its Notice of Allegations from the NCAA quiet for three months, took the Kentucky job before anybody knew about that notice, then convinced Wall and Cousins to join him in Lexington. That is refusing to lose.
Can you guess who wrote that? It's freakin' Mike Rosenberg, the guy who's spent the last two years ripping Rodriguez for recruiting one kid who got in trouble, slightly exceeding allotted NCAA practice time, and a bunch of other inconsequential or totally imaginary crap. I'm too busy slamming my head into the desk to analyze this, so I beg you to head over to Braves and Birds for righteous indignation.
Etc.: I really wanted the Tebow Wonderlic prayer thing to be true because I thought it was hilarious. Football players pray all the time. They pray before games. They pray during games. They pray when they score touchdowns. They pray when someone's injured. They pray all the time. So Tebow wandering in and saying "HAI GUYS LET'S PRAY" so often that football players were getting exasperated at him was an awesome mental lollercoaster yesterday. So of course it is 0% true.
Kenpom's doing very well through the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, but don't tell my bracket that. [shakes fist at Kansas] [feels douchey for bringing up his bracket]. Wisconsin fans want to demand more out of Bo Ryan. This is because they are insane.
It's home-opener week, which seems like a great time to start looking at cumulative stats. This will be one of a few of these I do over the rest of the season.
Baseball has a long lived on the forefront of statistics in sports. From the heavy emphasis on batting over .300 or advanced sabermetrics, baseball's history is forever linked with teaching kids that not all math is useless. In honor of that longstanding tradition, today we look at some stats from our baseball team and then wonder what the hell they might mean. College baseball stats are not just loosely kept, but they fluctuate wildly over periods of time.
First, because of the nature of college baseball's shortened season (compared to major leagues), pitching statistics don't really offer enough data until very late in the season, if at all. There's just not enough to say about 17 innings of work for a starter or 8 innings, if that, for a reliever. So we're going to focus on just batting statistics in this and most future posts of this type.
Second, college baseball stats are very basic. There is no way to track pitches accurately without either a dedicated sports information director or someone at games. It's painstakingly, eye-gouging-ly monotonous to calculate batting averages with runners in scoring position. You have to hope your team has play-by-play on the bottom of their box score, and then you have to read through each at-bat, and all surrounding at-bats in order to come up with the raw data. Just to come up with the data that I have, I had to go through each box score and type in each statistic to have a game log for each player.
This is just the way things are.
The first thing I always like to post is a track on how our team batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage have progressed over the season.
This year I've tried to add a fourth line to represent the quality of competition Michigan has faced. The purple line represents RPI, with a team registering a 1.000 as the #1 team in the nation, a team at .500 being the 151th team in the nation, and a team scoring zero as the 302nd team in the nation, with the RPI coming from Boyd's World (in this case, the data was taken on Sunday 3/21). I felt this would help identify certain peaks and valleys as a reference.
Other than the realization that we've played a tough schedule this year, what jumps out to me is the lower slugging percentage. Last year, Michigan regularly slugged around .475. The last graphic I made last year was this one, 37 games through the season:
We're slugging just over .440 this season, where last season was spent hovering around .475. Sure, the competition has gotten a bit tougher, but something else seems spotty here. We'll look at the slugging percentage and other non-Excel visualizations after the jump…
I’ve talked to a few people about spring practice and some of the early enrollees' progress. There’s nothing earth shattering, since we’re basically only 5 practices in, but here’s what I’ve been hearing so far.
- Stephen Hopkins has actually lost 15 pounds; he’s at about 228 now.
- Christian Pace has already gained 15 pounds.
- Jerald Robinson has gained somewhere between 10-15 pounds, and has been mentioned quite a bit. A lot of buzz around him, and the catches he’s made.
- Anthony LaLota is up around 260 pounds now. Unfortunately, he has an elbow injury.
- Cameron Gordon is the most surprising for everyone. His name keeps coming up. I’ve heard that he tackles well and has really good coverage skills. The people I’ve talked to say he’s just a natural ball hawk. Good decision to move him to safety.
- The offense looks more in sync than last year, despite Molk being out. It’s practice, though, so everyone looks good. It feels like there’s a lot of competition out there.
- A lot of the early enrollees have a chip on their shoulder. They want to play early.
- Pat Omameh has impressed everybody. Everyone has described him as “huge.”
- Justin Turner is progressing as well as everyone has hoped. There is no reason for concern
with him. I think everyone had high expectations for him, and he seems to be meeting those.
- Jeremy Gallon has been practicing really well. The person I spoke with about him said he’s really fast, and coming along nicely.
- JT Floyd has been working really hard to see the field. He’s a case where he has more confidence this year, which will help. He understands more of what he’s doing this year.
|WHAT||Michigan vs Bemidji State
NCAA First Round
Michigan vs Miami/UAH
Hypothetical NCAA Second Round
|WHERE||Fort Wayne, Indiana|
|WHEN||Saturday, March 27th 7:30 PM
Hypothetically, Sunday March 28th 8 PM.
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
|TELEVISION||Saturday: ESPN360, Fox Sports North, Comcast Local
The Bemidji State Beavers were the darlings of last year's Opposite Day NCAA tournament, the 16th seed who knocked off national #1 Notre Dame and thumped Cornell to make the Frozen Four. Air Force's upset streak stopped at one game and thus did not occasion a series of "what's Bemidji State" articles. (This literally happened.) Also people are aware of what Air Force is. My favorite: the New York Times article entitled "Bemidji State Awakens From Incongruous Dream." College hockey as brought to you by Michele Gondry.
Put that from your mind. Those games were not flukes. The combined score of those games was 9-2 Bemidji. Further indication of that: they used that regional as a springboard to a season that is by far the best in school history and is only the second time a team outside a major conference has acquired an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament*. Remember how Michigan's loss to Air Force acted as a harbinger for this season? Yeah, that's Bemidji State. They are Cinderella no more.
Record. 23-9-4, 14-3-1 CHA. Who cares about the CHA, though? It's more telling to look at Bemidji's 14 nonconference games against WCHA and CCHA opponents as a hodgepodge conference schedule. Those opponents ranked from best to worst according to KRACH:
|KRACH||Team||Game 1||Game 2|
|7||Minnesota-Duluth||W 4-1||W 5-4 (ot)|
|8||Northern Michigan||T 3-3||W 5-0|
|12||Minnesota||L 1-4||W 6-2|
|19||Nebraska Omaha||W 3-1||L 2-3|
|23||Ohio State||L 1-2||--|
|25||Minnesota State||L 1-5||L 2-3|
|37||Western Michigan||T 0-0||W 3-0|
That's a weighted average of 17.2. The CCHA's conference average is 21.1. In those games, the Beavers were 7-5-2 and had a goal differential of +9. Extrapolated over a 28-game season, BSU's goal differential against a CCHA-ish schedule would be +18—better than Michigan's by four. They'd be 14-10-4. If shootouts are a 50-50 proposition they'd land 48 points, which would tie them with Northern Michigan for fourth in the league.
Don't be fooled by the conference affiliation. Bemidji's body of work is better than Michigan's this year and they earned their at-large bid without assistance from Pairwise oddities.
My longstanding bitch about KRACH is that it weights schedule strength way too heavily**—if it was used to determine the NCAA tournament, 18-19-4 Minnesota would be a three seed—and therefore is too enthusiastic about the WCHA teams Bemidji played this year, but even at worst Bemidji's nonconference schedule is about on par with the average CCHA team's. BSU played the first, fourth, sixth, eighth, and twelfth place teams in the CCHA and the fourth, seventh, and eighth-place teams in the WCHA. That's a great spread if we're going to make up a Hypothetical CCHA Bemidji State (HCCHABSU), which we totally are.
College Hockey Stats conveniently separates conference stats on its team pages, so I'll take a look at BSU's overall stats and then the HCCHABSU alternate universe. The latter includes the 14 games charted above plus BSU's conference tournament games and a season-opening sweep of Air Force (total goals there: 10-4). Air Force was a good Atlantic Hockey team but didn't win any of their six nonconference games.
Those four games should drag those schedule numbers down a bit and be a close approximation of BSU's performance as a CCHA team. We'll prioritize those 18 games on the assumption they're a more realistic picture of BSU's ability than 18 games against UAH, Robert Morris, and Niagara.
Recent form. Patchy. In their last six games they're 2-2-2, splitting at Nebraska-Omaha (something Michigan could not do) and getting a win and a tie at Alabama-Huntsville before their disappointing CHA tournament, which featured an opening-round loss against Niagara and a third-place game tie against a Robert Morris team that sucked against teams not named Miami and had zero to play for. (Bemidji was playing for seeding.) Even before that disappointing weekend, BSU coach Tom Serratore was fretting about his team's play:
“When you start looking at wins/losses over the regular season – you don’t just think so much about that you won, but how you won. We talked about it with the team this week – when was the last time we put two really good back-to-back games together? Maybe it was at Western Michigan in January.
“We’re aware of that, and also aware that now is the time to really step it up. It’s the same formula – pay attention to detail, play with intensity; establish the forecheck; put pressure on the defense; get good goaltending and special teams play.”
In that CHA tourney fail, shots did favor the Beavers. BSU outshot Niagara 36-25 in the semi and 36-32 in the third place game. Against Robert Morris, starting goalie Dan "Scott" Bakala got chased five minutes into the third after giving up three goals in a two-minute span.
FWIW, The three weeks before the recent 2-2-2 stretch were a sweep of Niagara and two consecutive splits against Robert Morris.
Dangermen. I've searched high and low for something more illuminating than pure stats on the Beavers, but there is no BSU blog and the only newspaper coverage consists of local gamers devoid of analysis. USCHO's forum remains as pointless as it usually is, so stats will have to do.
Junior Matt Read, pictured above scoring BSU's only goal in their national semifinal against Miami, is the guy at the top of the heap with a 19-21-40 line in 36 games. Junior Ian Lowe actually bested Read in goals with 20, but only had ten assists. First-team All CHA defenseman Brad Hunt had a 7-26-33 line and is by far their most active defender. No other D had more than one goal and none cracked ten points. Look for him on the power play.
Outside of conference play, BSU averaged 3.11 goals per game. Read was still the top scorer with 17 points, just one shy of a PPG. Everyone's points suffer but it doesn't appear that there's anyone who loses more than you would expect. Their guys are their guys.
The Hagelin Solution is likely to be deployed against Read, Lowe, and Jordan George; BSU's second line has some pop but is averaging .5 PPG or less in the Hypothetical CCHA portion of the schedule. As it was against Northern Michigan, Michigan's third line of Lebler-Treais-Brown should have a significant advantage over Bemidji's third and fourth liners.
Goalie and defense and whatnot. Bakala (above) has an impressive .919 save percentage (11th nationally) and a 2.27 GAA. He's got a freshman backup who saw about seven games' worth of time this year, but Michigan figures to have chased Bakala if we see him. The good news: Hypothetical CCHA Dan "Scott" Bakala's save percentage is only .906. That would be 48th nationally.
Shawn Hunwick doesn't have enough games to qualify for the stats, but his current .912 is around 30th nationally. This marks one of the first times this year the opponent's goaltender will enter the game with save percentage lower than Michigan's. Hypothetically.
On defense, Hunt and Ryan Adams are the top pair; Hunt is the guy with all the points but Adams's +23 leads defensemen. Hunt is six back. Junior Dan MacIntyre and freshman Jake Areshenko are the second pairing; both are +11 overall. HCCHA versions average a +6, so they're not gits outside of the CHA. Both are extreme stay-at-home types, though: between them they have nine points. McIntyre's six came in just 17 games, FWIW.
Meanwhile, Michigan should get senior captain Chris Summers back:
The Milan native skated at the Joe last Saturday before the team’s game against the Wildcats and Berenson said he would probably be back for next weekend’s game (or games) in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Excellent jinx avoidance by the Daily there. Elsewhere, AnnArbor.com makes Summers' return seem considerably more doubtful; Mike Spath says he "should" be back. The ayes have it. With Tristin Llewellyn earning the coaches' trust over the second half of the season, Summers's return should send freshman Lee Moffie to the press box.
Michigan's defense has cut down on the dumb penalties and turnovers during Michigan's blazing finish, but they remain susceptible to forechecking pressure and can leave the team caught in its own zone. Bemidji might have one or two lines capable of applying this pressure—it's impossible to tell given the information out there—but it's doubtful they can hem Michigan in for long stretches.
Special teams. Power play opportunities per game:
|PP For / G||4.6||5.6|
|PP Ag / G||4.9||5.3|
(Above numbers HCCHABSU; overall numbers are basically identical.)
Overall, Bemidji State finds itself 25th nationally on the power play at 19%. HCCHABSU, however, is 40th at 16.9%. Same story on the penalty kill: BSU drops from 12th (84.8%) to 35th (80.3%). Meanwhile, Michigan's been dropping on the penalty kill but rising on the power play. The kill has fallen to 8th nationally from a high of third and now sits at 86.5 percent. The Caporusso-enlivened powerplay is up to 17th at 19.6 percent.
All these numbers are encouraging: Michigan converts and kills better than Bemidji and is in the black when it comes to power play opportunities; BSU, hypothetical or not, is in the red. This is a significant advantage for Michigan.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Do whatever the hell it is you have been doing lately. This is what they have been doing lately:
“Their speed gave us big problems,” Kyle said. “They got pucks behind us, they forechecked … they had great back pressure, stole the puck from us numerous times coming up ice, and we failed to get pucks in the zone and generate a forecheck.”
Essentially, they have cloned Carl Hagelin and put him on three lines. Michigan's speed from lines one to four is causing neutral and defensive zone turnovers galore, preventing organized breakouts from the opposition, and keeping the action largely confined to the opponent's side of the ice. Even a team as good as Miami ended their recent game with Michigan on the short end in shots and (eyeballing it) attack time; Lake State, Michigan State, and Northern Michigan could barely generate an offensive rush.
If Michigan can pull that trick off against Bemidji—and they've just done in four consecutive games against opponents either as good or better than them—they will again be staring at a major advantage in shots and attack time. This usually results in a win.
For God's sake, score or something. This has been less of an issue lately with Louie Caporusso's re-emergence, but you and I and everyone who's watched this team is petrified that the final shots will read 35-12 and the scoreboard will betray us. Hell, until Caporusso leapt off the bench with under a minute left in the second period of the CCHA Championship game, I was expecting to lose that game 1-0 with a 3-1 advantage in shots on goal.
Michigan's low shooting percentage is a real thing to fear. Their best player (Hagelin) is currently chugging along at 11% and there's a guy on the second line (Glendening) with a 7%. First liner Kevin Lynch is also sporting an ugly 8% conversion rate. Michigan is short a sniper and a half this year. Converting that presumed territorial dominance into goals is by no means guaranteed.
Camp out in your own crease and watch it like a hawk. I agree 100% with BWS's assessment of Hunwick's primary flaw:
there's a pretty obvious fundamental flaw in the way he handles rebounds, and it's not something that works itself out with more playing time. Hunwick attacks shots. Given his size, he might have to. He can't sit back in the net and direct rebounds the way larger goalies can. This is not to say that coming out and challenging shots is wrong (in fact, it's one of the strongest parts of his game), but Hunwick has to exert himself so much--stretching to make a save, moving quickly to cover the corners, etc.--that steering rebounds to the corners and out of danger is something he seems unable to do.
Michigan has remedied this by collapsing on the slot and frantically clearing everything, but eventually kicking every somewhat dangerous shot out into the slot is going to burn you. I don't think Hunwick can do anything about this unless he grows a half-foot in the next few days. They'll have to continue to play panicked and hope the rebounds land on their sticks, not the opponents'.
It's worked so far.
Fort Wayne's arena hosts all manner of events—the D-League's Mad Ants call it home!—and has a reputation for erratic ice conditions. Slow ice would neutralize Michigan's blazing speed and would probably be bad. So this is good news:
After months of planning, coliseum staff started preparing the arena immediately after Sunday's Mad Ants game was completed. The floorboards were removed, the hockey boards put back up and then two Zamboni machines started shaving down the ice to a 1/2 -inch level. The Komets' advertising was removed, the remaining ice was painted white and new NCAA logos were placed. Then hoses were used to start building new ice.
While General Manager Randy Brown and his staff hosted a conference call with NCAA officials Monday afternoon to discuss hotels and travel plans for the teams, the Zambonis returned to work on specific spots and add the final few layers. The Komets and recreational hockey leagues will break in the ice this week before Friday's tournament practices start at 11:30 a.m.
“We want to have the Komets and some other uses skating on it so it is well broken in by the time we get to our practice sessions on Friday,” Brown said. “The worst thing you can do is have green ice, new ice. We don't want to have that.”
This should mean good ice for the teams.
A Regrettable Thing I Have To Say Of A Prediction-Type Variety
Bemidji made the Frozen Four last year and Michigan went out at the hands of Air Force, and Bemidji's body of work is indeed stronger than Michigan's, all things considered. HOWEVA, I must regretfully inform readers that as I have researched Bemidji State's season I have become increasingly confident that Michigan should win.
This is all based on the assumption that Michigan will play like they played the last six to ten games of their season, which is basically how they played the rest of the year plus a ton of defensive responsibility and Louie Caporusso sniping. Michigan should have a major advantage in shots and chances, but that's proven to be insufficient time and again this year. The difference has been Michigan's almost total dominance the last few games. They've leap past their crappy shooting percentage and crappy save percentage by making the ice so lopsided it doesn't matter. Do that and they're 80% of the way to a Miami rematch. Play an even game and they're 40-60 dogs.
Sadly, I'm thinking the former. Please don't throw me into the fiery furnace if it doesn't happen.
Entirely Hypothetical And Not At All God-Taunting Section About Potential Second Game
Please ignore the section behind the curtain, Temporarily Benevolent Michigan Walk-On Tolerating God
If Michigan does get by Bemidji State, the bracket sets up in a convenient fashion for previewers: Michigan's second opponent will either be CCHA league champion Miami—previewed thoroughly on Friday around these parts—or Alabama-Huntsville.
If it's Huntsville, this is what you need to know: Huntsville is a bad CHA team that has just pulled off the bar-none greatest upset in NCAA hockey tournament history. Michigan should thwack them mercilessly. You should make friends with a Miami fan so that five years from now, when he's all but forgotten it, you can subtly bring it up and watch bits of his brain splatter across a three-county area.
In the exceedingly likely event of a Miami win, they are almost the exact same team that was so terrifying on Friday:
The ferocity with which Miami pwned the CCHA has to be approaching record territory. They had 70 points, 20 more than second-place Michigan State. Their conference goal differential was +61. Michigan and Northern tied for second in that category at +14. This may be the best CCHA team since Brendan Morrison and company.
The only thing that's different is a 1-1 record and –2 goal differential against Michigan and Ferris State that makes them slightly less terrifying. And the possibility that nominal backup goalie Connor Knapp starts. Knapp got the start against Ferris in the CCHA consolation game and held the Bulldogs to one goal… on 13 shots. That's not exactly standing on your head but it is the second week in a row Knapp has come on in relief of Cody Reichard after Reichard gave up five goals. In the most recent case it's hard to blame him for any of Michigan's goals save one (the Lebler tip that went five-hole) and even that's a tough deflection to handle. I don't think it matters much who plays; both are amongst the national leaders in save percentage.
If there is a second-round Michigan-Miami matchup, don't let the CCHA semifinal fool you. It will be a war. In the last matchup Michigan had a fitness edge with Miami's previous series going three games and featuring some overtime play while Michigan skated maybe a game and a half against a fairly pathetic effort from Michigan State. In this hypothetical matchup, Miami will have slightly more rest since they play early and probably won't have to expend too much energy in the third. Michigan now has confidence from outplaying Miami in two of three matchups this year, but they still lost two of those games and it's not like MU fluked its way to a +61 goal differential.
Home crowd or not, Michigan remains an underdog against the Redhawks—albeit a slighter one than they were at the Joe.
*Niagara was the first way back in 2000, the second year they even existed. They won the CHA but the conference hadn't been around long enough to get an automatic bid. Amazingly, they qualified via the PWR into a twelve-team tournament and beat HE champ UNH in the first round.
**I know that KRACH is recursive and internally consistent and therefore correct by definition, but that doesn't mean it correctly weights the amount of randomness in hockey. When you get highly segregated clusters of information, you can considerably overrate the strength of the links between the two. Any rating system that deigns to assert that nine of the sixteen teams in a hypothetically national tourney should be from a ten-team WCHA is wrong.
There are versions of KRACH that add fictional results against teams that don't exist that significantly reduce this effect. Anyway, if KRACH was really about who the best team was it would take goal differential into account. Poster quakk, who KRACHed college football last year, might jump in with some arguments about this.
After a couple hectic weeks, this update is a more manageable. For all your recruiting needs, Don't forget about the 2011 Michigan Football Recruiting Board. It should be up to date, but if it's not, let me know. The technology has been acting wacky lately.
Demetrius Hart: The Saga Continues
The ongoing saga of FL RB Demetrius Hart (top right)continues, but this week's update brings an interesting quote from his teammate, FL S Hasean Clinton-Dix (bottom right):
"[I]f we feel like it's comfortable for both of us then that's what we're going to do," Clinton-Dix said of he and Hart attending the same school. "Like say we wanted to go to Florida. If he felt comfortable and I felt comfortable and that's where we want to be, then that's what we're going to do. But if I feel comfortable at Michigan and he feels comfortable at Illinois or somewhere, then we're just going to split up and keep in contact."
It's widely believed that Hart is the prospect with higher interest in Michigan (they're back in his top 3, for the record), so for Clinton-Dix to mention that the Wolverines have a chance to end up high on his list re-opens the possibility of a package deal for the pair, as long as Hart's spring game visit goes well. Of course, mentioning Michigan as a possibility is far different from saying they're one of his top schools: Clinton-Dix still maintains Alabama as his favorite.
I'm of the opinion that the spring game visit is not quite as important as how Michigan performs on the field this season. If they win, Michigan's shot is great. Otherwise, not so much. Hart is rumbling about a commit in the near future but also says he will take all five official visits, so that would be one of those soft commits.
Visits! Offers! Much, Much More!
MI DE Brennen Beyer plans to make a decision before the start of his senior season ($, info in header). Of course, Michigan fans are probably disappointed that he hasn't made a commitment yet, as he's been favoring the Wolverines and it seemed like a February decision was likely. However, I did see him at Michigan's practice yesterday, and he plans to be in Ann Arbor for the scrimmage on Saturday.
PA DE Deion Barnes plans to visit Ann Arbor for the Michigan Spring Game (April 17th, 1PM). Barnes attends Philadelphia Northeast High School, the alma mater of Michigan sophomore WR Je'Ron Stokes. Barnes is also firneds with Stokes' little brother, PA QB Malik Stokes.
FL WR Ja'Juan Story should be a bigtime prospect (as early offers from schools like Florida State and North Carolina imply), and both the Wolverines and Buckeyes have joined the fray.
The Buckeyes offered him a scholarship Tuesday and the Wolverines followed with an offer Thursday, Nature Coast assistant Robert Kazmier said. Story also received an offer from Georgia Tech last week.
"He's hot commodity," Kazmier said.
Michigan will probably take just one more outside receiver in this class with Shawn Conway already committed. MI WR DeAnthony Arnett is the elephant in the room, so to speak. It'll be interesting to see how the coaching staff manages all these offers to receivers.
mgoblog's own TomVH talked to FL QB Kevin Sousa, who's been hearing more from Michigan lately. His coach says that he's a perfect fit for a spread-option offense, and thinks that Michigan is Kevin's leader right now. If Michigan offers, there's a good chance he'd end up in Blue.
TX LB Anthony Wallace should be one of the top linebacker prospects in the nation, and he plans to make a visit to Michigan over the summer ($, info in header). He's a high school teammate of erstwhile Michigan commit Tony Drake, who ended up signing with (and qualifying at) Colorado State.
The Big Uglies
It should be very clear that Michigan's coaching staff understands that they have a pretty dire need for some offensive linemen, given the fact that I've had to devote a segment of the recruiting update to that position group in each of the past few weeks. No insult intended by the heading, by the way, I'm sure some of them are very handsome gentlemen.
Scout.com Midwest regional manager Allen Trieu added: "He's very athletic. He has great foot speed and agility for a bigger kid. Plus he's tough as nails. He's a guy that plays the game 100 percent, full bore all the time. If there's anything he needs to do, it's adding some weight. He's about 260 and you'd like to see that number go up while also keeping his speed.
"I think he's a high level college prospect on both sides of the ball, but I like him a little more on offense. I think he's a top five player in the state."
Next on the recruiting agenda for Zettel is learning as much about as many of his suitors as possible in the coming months. His decision timeline calls for him to make a choice prior his senior season. That means it could be late summer before he selects a school.
He originally planned a quicker decision because he didn't want Michigan's class to fill up (which, hint freakin' hint), but the Wolverines have told him they'll be able to save a spot in the 2011 class whenever he's ready to decide. I imagine he'll still get a commitment over with (to Michigan or another school) before his senior season. He visited for Notre Dame's Junior Day over the weekend, but did not receive an offer.
MI OL Bryan Bell has a top two of Michigan and Michigan State. He grew up a Wolverines fan, but doesn't yet hold an offer from the maize and blue. He plans to visit Ann Arbor for multiple spring practice sessions.
AZ OL Cyrus Hobbi gives a little lip service to academics:
"I want to be able to have a back-up plan if football doesn’t work out for me so education will always be key for me. I also want to go somewhere that I know I can get along well with the coaching staff and mix in well. The overall enviornment of the program will be key for me."
He also made similar comments to VolNation. Michigan is among his offers, but he hasn't stated whether Ann Arbor will be a stop on his summer tour. He has also been invited to participate in the Army All-American game, and will have to choose between that and the Under Armour game.
NM OL Matt Hegarty received a Michigan offer last week ($, info in header), and he was slated to visit Ann Arbor over the weekend, in conjunction with his junior day visit to Notre Dame. He didn't manage to make it, but may try for a return trip.
OH OL Michael Bennett has Michigan interest - and a timetable to make a decision ($, info in header). That likely means he'll be deciding sooner rather than later. He holds a Michigan offer, and wil try to visit Michigan sometime this spring.
Michigan is still one of the leaders for AZ OL Andre Yruretagoyena.
Michigan has offered an offensive lineman from Indiana ($, info in header). Detective work says it's IN OL Joel Hale.
MI Ath/TE/LB Taiwan Jones committed to Michigan State.
The Wolverines have apparently offered FL RB/Ath DeVondrick Nealy. Michigan has offered SC WR Charone Peak. Michigan has offered FL CB Nick Waisome. MD Ath Deandre Scott visited for the Night of Champions ($, info in header). Michigan apparently offered FL LB Keith Lewis last week. FL LB Kent Turene is still hearing from Michigan, but they haven't extended an offer yet. FL RB Mike Bellamy has interest in Michigan ($, info in header), and is planning a visit. Rivals is now showing an offer for FL DE Giorgio Newberry. Brief Michigan mention on a Phoenix-area website talking about the Wolverines' presence in the area over the past couple classes.