this may be of some local interest
As some noticed on the twitters I've begun putting together the stat boxes for this year's HTTV opponent previews. I figured I might as well share some of that data here in one place.
FEI and S&P+ things: Champion stats by the two resident best internet football stats guys. Brian Fremeau (@bcfremeau) of Football Outsiders, and Bill Connelly (@SBN_BillC) of that and Football Study Hall on SBNation.
Connelly is responsible for, among other stats, S&P+ ratings (for offense, defense, etc.), which are derived from play-by-play and drive data of every FBS game. S&P+ measures four of five factors that determine game outcomes: efficiency, explosiveness, field position, and finishing drives. The fifth, turnovers, is relatively random so it's left out except as extra weight on sack rates, a thing that will effect at least one weird number we'll see. Garbage time is removed, and it's all weighted by opponents.
He also puts out pre-season projections based on recruiting, returning production, and front-weighted S&P+ of the last five years. Michigan's opponents by Bill C's Projected 2016 S&P+:
Not a lot of play in that schedule; the big rivals look to remain tough tests but that's it for the expected Top 25. The first two games should be good tuneups for O'Korn/whoever.
Brian Fremeau made FEI and F/+, based on opponent-adjusted drive efficiency. Clock kills and garbage time are filtered out, and strength of schedule is factored in. Since it's an overall efficiency thing I prefer to use FEI as a single-stat measure of an offense or defense, while going to the play-by-play nature of S&P+, I tend to use that and the raw, sack-adjusted* yards per play, to represent an offense and defense's run/pass splits.
Those and more after [The jump.]
* [The NCAA treats sacks as rushing, which doesn't make sense. So every year I take the NCAA's base stats and treat sacks as pass plays.This makes a huge difference. I've put them in a Google Doc if you want at 'em.]
You know what? Michigan has offered everyone. At this juncture they're flying out so fast and furious that unless there's a react piece or the player in question is notably likely to commit we might skip mentioning it. I'm mentioning this just to note what we might not mention: FL DE Zachary Carter got an offer; Lorenz points out that he's got a solid top two of Florida and Clemson and has basically only listed Southern schools.
While we are mentioning him we might not mention other high profile guys in similar situations. Because is a touted player a recruit? He has an offer-type substance.
Here's a react piece from a guy who just got offered
Call me Greg Sankey if you must. CA RB Stephen Carr is worth mentioning here. He just got a Michigan offer and despite being a soft USC commit his reaction to said event is promising:
“It was crazy, I honestly didn’t see it coming but I’m happy I have Michigan on my roster,” Carr said. “Michigan is a great school, a great program. It’s Michigan, man. Who wouldn’t want a Michigan offer?”
Just talk until a visit, but Carr's commit may be pretty notional—it was made in March, before a coaching change. Oddly, Carr told Wiltfong that he heard a lot of great things about Michigan from… Vic Viramontes. Sigh.
Here's another guy who just got offered
IL OL Kevin Jarvis is the gent:
EXTREMELY happy to announce I've just received an offer from Michigan! 〽️ pic.twitter.com/309Os740bn
— Kevin Jarvis (@Kevinjarvis71) February 22, 2016
A couple weeks ago Jarvis named Arkansas his leader; Arkansas's OL coach is none other than former Michigan OL Kurt Anderson. Jarvis is likely to be a consensus four star guard, and he's got excellent size at 6'5", 315; Josh Helmholdt was impressed with his recent camp appearances:
Just a really solid, well-rounded offensive guard prospect. 6-5, 315 pounds, has good feet. Saw him at Ohio State's Friday Night Lights camp over the summer and he was very good against a group of DL that included 2016 five-star Terrell Hall and 2016 four-star DT Antwan Jackson.
We'll see if the Michigan offer flips the direction of his recruitment. Leaning towards yes based on a text he sent Steve Wiltfong:
"Michigan is SICK," Jarvis texted 247Sports.
Well then. Jarvis plans visits to Arkansas and Michigan; those schools are a tentative top two.
Okay this is also a recent offeree
This is going about as well as "the SEC comes up for reasons to ban satellite camps." Anyway, Michigan extended an offer to KS TE Trevor Kent. Kent's a bit of a project since his high school never throws the ball—he had one reception last year—but Lorenz says he's "high on the TE board" all the same. He's saying the right things:
"I hadn't really heard from Michigan before that, so to get an offer from them like that so quickly was great because it showed me that they see something in what I can do. Michigan is a great football program that's getting better. They use tight ends like almost nobody else does either."
He is likely to visit in spring, because a family friend owns(?) the train line that runs by the stadium(?), which means he's friends with Amtrak(?).
Most of these guys have expressed serious interest, don't judge me
Michigan offered WV OL Billy Ross, who says he's "very interested" and wants to visit. Coincidentally he will be at IMG at the same time Michigan is and plans to attend practice. No leaders this early and Ross has fielded some other impressive offers like FSU.
Michigan also offered MI OL Jordan Reid. Reid is at Cass and so is obviously a person of interest immediately following an offer. Oddly, he told Marich that Michigan was his first Big Ten offer, which, uh…
— Jordan Reid (@jordanreid58) February 11, 2016
…is either major #disrespekt or incidental forgetful #disrespekt. Reid is wide open, plans an visit that is as of yet unscheduled, etc. Says he grew up a Michigan fan.
Testing the Mississippi black hole's gravity
Remember when Rich Rodriguez came in, hired Jay Hopson, and recruited Mississippi really hard for a bit? No? Right. You don't remember because Michigan didn't get one single kid from Mississippi; most of them went to in-state programs that were (at the time) amongst the worst in the country. The gravitational pull of Mississippi is not to be underestimated.
But Harbaugh is Harbaugh so Michigan is taking a swing at MS LB Willie Gay, a solid four star OLB who sounds genuinely interested:
"I've been watching Michigan football for as long as I can remember," he said. "I love everything about Michigan. They have always been one of those programs that I've kept track of and watched whenever they were on TV. I've watched so many YouTube videos about Michigan football and of their highlights and stuff."
Gay says he wants to visit over the summer. I'll believe a Mississippi kid commits to Michigan when it happens; IIRC the last one was Jeremy Lesueur, and that was a while ago. Gay lives in Starkville, further complicating things.
Rivals updates their Top 100
"He has the size of his father, former NFL receiver Ed McCaffrey, and some of the athleticism of his brother, Heisman finalist Christian McCaffrey. His ability to keep defenses honest with his feet opens things up for his arm. He can make things look very easy at this level and is just starting to become a polished pocket passer."
Tim Sullivan also caught up with McCaffrey's coach, who offered high praise for his abilities both physically and mentally:
“First, I think if you saw our film throughout the year, he played extremely well as a dropback passer: five-star seven-step, play action,” Sherman said. “Then just having a great feel in the pocket, I think he’s got a great feeling for that piece of it. Especially in the playoffs, we relied a little bit more on his legs: he ended up being our leading rusher. He was able to get us 3-5 first downs a game with his legs in addition to what he could do with his arm.
“The other thing that a lot of people didn’t notice, he got us into the right play so much with kills and alerts at the line of scrimmage, that really allowed us to be in the right play against the defense we wanted to run it against. The combination of those three things are going to make him a really special quarterback at the next level and be awesome.”
As a result McCaffrey is now the #1 QB, pro style or dual threat, on the composite; he's 18th overall and a five star.
Other moves of significance by recruits Michigan has a pretty good shot at:
- MI WR Donovan Peoples-Jones got a fifth star, sliding up seven spots to #13.
- AL WR Nico Collins also moved into the top 40, from #71.
- FL OL Tedarrell Slaton moved up about 100 spots and is now #47.
- FL OL Robert Hainsey moved up almost 200 spots and is now #56; he's at IMG and originally from PA.
Still a long way to go but Michigan now seems likely to have secured the top QB in the country.
In search of a center
NJ by way of IMG OL Cesar Ruiz tells Corey Bender that he has "six great friends" who go to Michigan and that he "knows the streets already" on campus. He's visiting a bunch of schools around IMG in the near future; he plans a Michigan visit over his spring break, and when asked who's recruiting him hardest it is M first out of his mouth. Michigan needs a center after not getting one last year and Ruiz looks like a solid bet to be that guy.
Michigan is also after CA OL Brett Neilon, another guy who projects to C. He seems almost as high on M as Ruiz in an article by Steve Lorenz. 2016 signee Kekoa Crawford is a former teammate; he's planning a spring visit, possibly for the spring game. He sounds like the kind of guy who ends up in Ann Arbor:
"Michigan was a huge offer for me. I'm looking for the "4 A's" when I'm evaluating schools: Academics, athletics, area and alumni. Michigan checks all four of those boxes at a really high level."
Lorenz is "contemplating" a CB for Michigan; we'd probably put one in but we've already got one for Ruiz. Would M take both? Both Ruiz and Neilon are around 6'3" and 290 now, so see one playing guard. Probably they get one or the other and recruit a couple of monster Gs.
Top X lists and leaders
- AL S AJ Harris lists a top four of M, FSU, Vandy, and Louisville, but he's already been to Auburn four times and has a fifth tentatively scheduled. That sounds like a situation where Auburn isn't offering right away because Harris is likely to pull the trigger when it does come.
- MO WR Jaevon McQuitty doesn't have a top list; he did tell the Nebraska Scout site that the Cornhuskers were "slightly" leading. Michigan's likely to take a limited number of WRs in 2017 and has high profile targets in DPJ and Collins so prospects like McQuitty are on the back burner until those guys indicate they're leaning elsewhere. McQuitty did tell Brice Marich he was planning a visit to M in April.
- New offer and CA OL Alijah Vera-Tucker has a tentative top three of M, USC, and Oregon. He's got a cousin at M. No mention of a visit yet.
- NY OL Isaiah Wilson released a top five of M, OSU, LSU, Bama, and UGA. He says he will definitely visit all of those schools before pulling the trigger; he's already been to Michigan twice.
- PA DE Donovan Jeter is a new offer; he told Sam Webb that he is likely to visit over he summer but that Pitt, PSU, and OSU have developed relationships with him already. Sounds like Michigan is a bit behind early, but he's acquainted with Khaleke Hudson and expects Hudson to be in his ear.
- PA LB David Adams fielded an offer, says he's definitely interested, and "possibly might" visit. He currently has ND and PSU visits set up.
FL CB Trajan Bandy committed to Oklahoma, which is a bit of a surprise so early. If Michigan does hire Chip Viney they might get back involved here. Meanwhile GA WR Jeremiah Holloman is talking up a Georgia offer… a Georgia Tech offer. That does not sound like a guy who will be rejoining the class.
Etc.: Michigan is sniffing around OR DT Marlon Tuipulotu but hasn't offered yet. MI S Jaylen Kelly-Powell will be on campus Wednesday. FL DE Joshua Kaindoh plans a Michigan visit soonish. AL LB KJ Britt got a Michigan offer; he has blown up of late and will probably be hard to get out of the South.
Everyone should go back to these logos. Wisconsin never changed theirs, but the lack of Jaunty Iowa Newsie in my life has been acute:
1978 Big 10 Conference football slide schedule pic.twitter.com/gzoNcRQY2v
— Sports Paper (@PressRoomGFS) February 22, 2016
[HT: Hoover Street Rag]
It's not like the results are good when he does open his mouth. Useless person Jim Delany:
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told CBS Sports this week he has “no reaction at this point” regarding Michigan's spring break trip to Florida.
While this is disappointing, keep in mind that whenever Jim Delany talks he sabotages his own side. When called to testify in the Ed O'Bannon trial he accidentally firebombed the NCAA's case. Delany didn't bother to fight for home games in the Cofopoff. He said he "didn't have a lot of regard" for Alabama right before they curbstomped Michigan. The current SEC dominance was preceded by Delany writing a snotty open letter. Having him on your side is like having Mark May pick you to win. It ain't good.
But this is such a slam dunk that even Delany might be able to make a couple good points. Someone ask Greg Sankey what his opinion of this trip is:
The Vanderbilt baseball team will travel to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to start a six-day fall break team trip.
The Commodores will tour the capital and practice three days at the U.S. Naval Academy in nearby Annapolis, Md.
“That’s a huge plus for our kids just to be on the Naval Academy’s campus,” coach Tim Corbin said. “… It’s an opportunity to educate your kids in another way besides baseball. I’ve always wanted to take them to the capital.
Nobody cared about this then, and the only reason Sankey cares about it now is because of recruiting. That is transparent.
Team stuff. Harbaugh signed a bunch of autographs a couple days back and took some media questions while doing so; in addition to the Sankey stuff he revealed a couple of position switches, at least temporary ones:
Khalid Hill is going to work at fullback. Zach Gentry will stay at TE
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) February 19, 2016
I imagine that Hill's tenure as a fullback will be similar to Poggi's: he's much more likely to go out for pass than carry the ball, but he's good at that bit and a squat 270, so I can see that working. It's still pretty much the same fit for him as a blocky/catchy guy.
The Gentry move is a lot more interesting. It says either one or both of these things:
- the quarterback battle is all but decided, likely in John O'Korn's favor, or
- Gentry's brief moonlighting at TE during bowl practices was too impressive to ignore.
I lean strongly to the former since O'Korn's had the opportunity to play QB in front of Harbaugh for a year; Gentry may have impressed at TE but not enough to remove a touted competitor from the single most critical open position on the team… unless that position is not particularly open.
That's good since it's a tangible piece of evidence supporting the extremely positive practice chatter in re: O'Korn.
Meanwhile, Allen Trieu reports that Rashan Gary will start as a strongside end (or "anchor" in Brown's system) with Taco Charlton moving to WDE. Both of those are moves that we've projected for a bit. That does create a bit of a problem. Matt Godin was pretty good as Chris Wormley's backup early in the year—he actually played about as much as Wormley did—and not very good as a defensive tackle when injury pressed him into duty there. Michigan needs a fourth DT to rotate in with Glasgow, Mone, and Hurst. With Gary at SDE, either Wormley or Godin is likely to get sucked inside.
Finally, Harbaugh said that Mason Cole was going to play a bunch of center in spring.
PRATT. JUST PRATT. The highlight from Harbaugh's presser:
Pratt, my man Pratt’s got to get past a few more things. He’s one of the students. We had about 14 guys who were students who tried out about a month ago and did really good. They’ve been keeping up well, so we’ll be looking forward to seeing them on the field. Guys that were just going to the University of Michigan.
“A lot of them are freshmen. Pratt’s one that’s a junior, but if he walked in here right now, you’d say ‘okay, he belongs.’”
On if there are any fullbacks in the group:
“Yeah, there are. There are two or three fullbacks in the group and some linebackers and a kicker, a snapper. Pratt’s an offensive lineman.”
On what his first name is:
“He’s Pratt right now. He’s just Pratt.”
This will probably be the last we heard of Pratt just Pratt but it was memorable.
A DB coach candidate. Aubrey Pleasant is one possibility; Michigan is also interviewing Chip Viney, a QC coach for Oklahoma. Viney is a former UCLA corner who took a grad transfer to NMSU in 2011; afterwards he was scooped up by Oklahoma as a grad assistant before transitioning to the QC job last year. He is a Harbaugh kind of guy:
Viney also surprised the players by frequently wearing his cleats to workouts and challenging both other defensive backs and receivers to one-on-one battles. He went head-to-head against guys like Sterling Shepard and Jalen Saunders.
“A lot of those guys think since he sits in an office he doesn’t have it, but he still does have it,” Sanchez said. “Guys would talk, but if he put those cleats on, he will get you."
Viney is widely credited with Oklahoma's success recruiting the Fresno area and California more generally:
Chip is awesome,” first-year defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks said. “From a personality standpoint, he’s as good a recruiter from the G.A. spot I’ve ever been around. It’s easy for him to be relatable to these players. He’s phenomenal with that.
“He’s played the position and played it at a high level. He knows the details. I have complete confidence with Chip. It has been a blessing to have him.”
Viney, who played at UCLA, has become the name synonymous with OU’s recruiting success in the state of California.
Viney's a former corner; Zordich is a former safety. He's young, upwardly mobile, and an excellent recruiter in a part of the country that is a major focus for Michigan's national recruiting. Everything looks like a fit. The Oklahoman just published a glowing profile of him a week ago; would not be surprised if he was the guy. Harbaugh specializes in finding guys like him.
While we're on coaches. I don't think I mentioned that one of the open analyst spots is going to be filled by Jimmie Dougherty, who a lot of people though was going to be Michigan's WR coach before Jedd Fisch fell into Harbaugh's lap. Meanwhile, Matt Doherty returned to Miami.
OSU postgame, 1995. Via Dr. Sap:
Also here's 1981 MSU via Wolverine Historian:
Now that we definitely have a draftee can we have Willie Henry back? Kiper is projecting Graham Glasgow in the second or third round, and Harbaugh's unvarnished opinion is a major aid:
"Jim's highly regarded and highly respected, he's done a phenomenal job wherever he's been," Kiper said. "Jim's a phenomenal coach, whether it be in the NFL (or in) college football. He'll have Michigan right there with Ohio State and the best teams in the country, had a real good recruiting class ... his opinion is huge."
Henry is getting lost in the shuffle of a deep DL class, he says, but the combine could be impressive for Henry if that playing strength translates to bench press reps. Kiper also says Rudock will get drafted. If that happens it'll be a testament to Harbaugh's development skills.
Why you want the money to be on the table instead of under it, Part N. Somehow the Big Ten continues to lead the universe in TV ratings:
Amateurism is a handicap for the Big Ten.
Interesting job. Michigan posted an interesting "analytics coordinator" job with a bunch of responsibilities:
1. Perform data analysis for identification of play calling tendencies and strengths and weaknesses of our team and our opponents
2. Creation of and provision over research in regards to specific teams, conferences, styles, and College Football as a whole, that lead to insightful measures and reports
3. Weekly video scouting of top opponent players through an in-house created Player Evaluation System
4. Creation of Michigan post-game summary statistics and advanced measures of success
5. Weekly management of coach-produced player grades and helmet stickers
There are many other things, all of which seem like good things for Michigan to be keeping track of.
This is a good omen. When you have three really good scorers you tend to do well in the tourney:
Over the last 17 years, a handful of college hockey teams have had similar production from a standout trio. Of the eight teams that finished with three top-10 scorers during that stretch, three won national titles and another three finished runner-up.
Miami was the most recent in 2011; they got dumped in the first round. Red called Racine "the difference" in the Ferris State game… I can't agree with that, but he has been critical over the past month.
Half of this is Baxter, the other half Ferrigno. Michigan's increased emphasis on special teams paid off a year ago even if there were some hiccups:
— SportSourceAnalytics (@SportSourceA) February 22, 2016
Will be interesting to see how Michigan maintains there without Baxter. I don't think they'll give back all the gains. Harbaugh doesn't carry around guys who don't pull their weight like Hoke did.
Etc.: Illegal man downfield rule to be enforced vigorously. I'll believe it when I see it. Michigan moves up to 14th in Baseball America's poll after a 4-0 start. Omaha.com names them a CWS dark horse(!). Will Carr goes from GA to analyst at Texas. Rashan Gary's decision process; contains lots of fun quotes.
Friday, February 19, 2016
#6 Michigan 5, Ferris State 2
MOTTE GOAL, MICHIGAN
UM 1 FSU 0 EV 05:48 Assists: De Jong & Compher
Michigan capitalizes on a Ferris State defensive-zone turnover as De Jong picks off a pass that’s flung up the boards.
De Jong settles the puck and sees Motte cutting to the middle of the ice. He threads a pass through a fraction of a second before the passing lane is cut off by the Ferris State skater near the blue line.
Motte gets the puck and surveys his options. With Connor in front of his defender and screening, and with the defender in front of him giving a big gap and getting ready to attempt to block a shot, Motte decides his best option is to take a stride and shoot.
Motte releases a shot through the defender’s legs, and the puck goes through the goaltender’s five-hole before he can butterfly. Connor sliding in front certainly helps, but so does having one of the quickest releases in the country.
[After THE JUMP: Some very gif-able goals]
2/19/2016 – Michigan 5, Ferris State 2 – 19-4-5
There was a particular shift on which Connor, Compher, and Motte buzzed around the offensive zone for a solid minute and forced a panicked icing. I don't remember when this was, because it was most of the game. I do remember starting to clap, as one does when there is an excellent shift, and nobody else noticed sufficiently to join in. In-game expectations had shifted for the remarkable to be routine, and that felt different.
Despite having the shiny record above, Michigan has only occasionally looked like a rampant old-timey Red team. Mostly they've outscored their mistakes. Even when they're outscoring their mistakes dramatically, there's enough of a rickety feel to things to forbode. Friday night's game against Ferris State was not that. The Bulldogs scraped out a couple of goals on their occasional forays out of their defensive zone. The rest of the time they curled up in a ball and said "not in the face," whereupon Michigan put it in the face.
Ferris came out trapping, which frustrated Michigan for maybe five or six minutes. They started getting through the neutral zone, they scored a couple times, and in the second period Ferris tried to amp up the pressure only to give up a couple of two-on-ones in the first five minutes. That ability to crack a defensive team and punish them when they go up-tempo is encouraging.
Steve Racine was not under siege. By halfway through the second period he looked downright disoriented at the lack of work, and he gave up a late, soft goal to his short side largely out of boredom. There was just one odd man rush created by a defenseman's operating system suddenly rebooting—Joe Cecconi was victimized on a breakaway that didn't get converted. Other than a couple of bad turnovers, Ferris created little. Michigan overwhelmed.
Still, I'm going to wait a minute here to see if there's anything consistent about this defensive performance. Michigan's coming off a 4-4 tie against 6-15-7 Wisconsin in which Racine got bombarded; they have a series against desperate Minnesota on Olympic ice this weekend*. Their Corsi** is 53%, which is 16th nationally. Michigan's top line looks highly capable of outperforming shooting percentage expectations over the long term, but… yeah. Poke at the underlying stats, which aren't even adjusted for a meh schedule, and Michigan looks like the thing that's been in front of your eyes.
On the other hand,
Points Per Game: GP G- A- P P/GM 1 Kyle Connor (WPG) Michigan 28 24-27-51 1.82 2 JT Compher (COL) Michigan 28 11-34-45 1.61 3 Tyler Motte (CHI) Michigan 28 28-16-44 1.57 4 Max French Bentley 26 18-22-40 1.54 5 Andrew Poturalski New Hampshire 32 22-26-48 1.50
This has also been in front of our eyes. So we've got that going for us.
*[Sort of: it's a Thursday-Friday series, possibly for TV. I'll take the oddity if it's actually on the teevee.]
**[Basic Corsi is your shots attempted divided by total shots attempted. It's one of those WHIP stats that is in fact stupidly easy to calculate and intuitive but makes old sportswriters go haywire.]
Pairwise check. Michigan remains sixth after the W. Let's go back to that Jim Dahl graph, which has not been updated for weekend results but is still useful:
The worst case scenario is now out of the question, leaving Michigan two wins from 100% in and one from 90% in. Unfortunately they have little upward mobility.
Meanwhile Penn State and Minnesota are the heart of the bubble right now at #15 and #16, respectively. Both teams will be going all-out in critical series against Michigan over the next couple weeks. PSU's split with OSU this weekend hurt them; they need to take 3 of 4 remaining regular season games to (probably) enter the BTT in a spot to get an at-large. Minnesota is in deep trouble despite a superficially okay spot right now. Their graph is still mostly on point since they had a bye last weekend:
5-1 most likely puts them at 16, still. They'd have a shot if they went 2-1 in the BTT but it's going to be tough for them to get an at-large.
It's pointless to look at this yet but if the season ended today Michigan would get bracketed with BC and shipped east, with UNO their likely first-round opponent.
Cutler Martin, forward? Tony Calderone missed the game for reasons I have not seen specified, so Michigan skated seven defensemen. This is not unusual; they've done it most of the year. What was unusual was that one of the defensemen took a regular shift on the fourth line. This was Cutler Martin, who would not have been my guess for the defender most likely to move. (That would be Sam Piazza, who is deft on the puck and not huge.)
Martin looked awkward, as you might expect. He did ring the post on a backhand during Michigan's period of frustrated dominance, and the fourth line only took a minus thanks to the soft goal towards the end. Michigan seems to not think much of Evan Allen, so Martin might keep that job if Piazza continues to stay in the lineup.
Plus/minus stuff. Not the most reliable way of determining anything but advanced stats in the college game are limited. So, your defensemen:
- Joe Cecconi, +16
- Nick Boka, +15
- Michael Downing, +15
- Nolan De Jong, +14
- Cutler Martin, +10
- Zach Werenski, +7
- Sam Piazza, +6 (in 12 games)
Not much to pick from there other than Werenski lagging the field. Plus/minus doesn't take Werenski's excellent power play skills into account; it does suggest that the occasional lack of awareness and/or effort you may have observed when Werenski doesn't have the puck is indeed a real thing.
The forwards are in clear tiers based on their lines, with the CCM line all +31 or better(!), the Nieves line +6 or +7, and the third line around even. The fourth liners are performing well; Dexter Dancs is +8 and Max Shuart +4. That probably has something to do with the fact that for most of the year the other guy on that line has often been a top-liner taking a double shift, but they've managed to make that pay off.
I've thought that the all-underclass third line was in fact the second line but the +/- numbers suggest that they're giving up a lot of chances in their own zone.
Downing has toned down the crazy. A big chunk of how I judge defensemen is how often I think "no arrrgh why" because of something they've done. Downing was approaching Tristin Llewellyn levels earlier this year, but after a disastrous MSU game in which he just about singlehandedly kept the Spartans in it he's settled down considerably. He's finally stopped rushing out at forwards for big hits that end up in a penalty or a two-on-one ceded.
In the absence of the WTF moments it becomes possible to appreciate the things that made Downing a potential first round pick until scouts picked up on the characteristic mental bobbles; his size, smoothness on the puck, and skating are an attractive package. I cannot be held responsible if this immediately causes a six-penalty, four-odd-man rush game.
De Jong had a very solid night. Nolan De Jong has occasionally seemed like a guy who can be a two-way defensemen, but those flashes have been erratic and not frequently repeated. De Jong may be putting things together, though. His ability to keep the puck and get it away from forecheckers was excellent in this game.
Marody back. I was worried that once mono was invoked as an explanation for Cooper Marody's absence that he might be gone long-term. He's still behind where he would be…
“(Cooper) feels good,” Berenson said. “He wants to play and he’s had a few practices now. It’s going to take him a little while to get caught up in terms of quickness and conditioning, but that’s why you have to play.”
…but he should be full go in a week or two here. Unfortunately, Calderon's absence was without explanation.
The meat of the schedule dumbness. Friday night's one-off non-conference game was the first competitive game at Yost since January 17th. The Big Ten schedule goes a month and a half with zero home conference games for Michigan. That should never, ever happen. This is when I want to be going to hockey games. But when your guy in charge of hockey doesn't know what hockey is, I guess that means you get nonsense like this year's conference schedule. There should never be conference bye weeks in the second half of the season.
Paul Sherman – MGoBlog
After Michigan and Maryland traded baskets in the first five minutes of the game, the Terrapins locked up the Wolverines defensively and put together one of those frustratingly common runs that seem to take U-M out of the game. Over a span of about seven minutes, Maryland went on a 17-1 run and the game was following the script of Michigan’s many blowout losses this season. For the first time all season, the Wolverines stood in after taking a big early punch and managed to erase the deficit by the first TV timeout in the second half.
That resilience wasn’t quite enough, as Maryland eventually managed enough stops late in the game to pull ahead in what was an entertaining back-and-forth second half without much defense – Maryland (1.17 points per possession) put up its best performance against a Big Ten foe in nine games on the offensive end, while Michigan (1.09) mostly kept pace until the very end. Though no losses can be considered moral victories by this time of year, Michigan still acquitted themselves far better than they had in any loss so far this season – today, they were just unable to make enough shots in the final possessions to get away with what is still a much-needed marquee win for their NCAA tournament hopes.
Surprisingly, it was Michigan’s role players leading the charge – Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin combined for just 25 points on as many shot equivalents (though Walton added five assists, six boards, and three steals). Mark Donnal was excellent against a very good center duo: he flashed his full arsenal of skills in a 20-point second half as he finished with an extremely efficient 25, two offensive rebounds, and five blocks(!) Yet again, there was a significant drop-off from Donnal to Ricky Doyle and Moritz Wagner – per SCACCHoops, Donnal was +8 in 29 minutes. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman also turned in one of the better performances of his season with 16 points and a career-high nine assists – as a team, Michigan had 22, indicative of the Wolverines’ excellent ball movement today. Duncan Robinson was largely off all day; Kam Chatman put in some of his best minutes off the bench and hit two threes (and no other bench player scored).
In Michigan’s win over Maryland, Zak Irvin won the battle of mismatched power forwards against Robert Carter – today, it was Carter who turned in a very good performance with an efficient 17 points, six rebounds, two blocks, and a critical tip-dunk to stretch the Terrapin lead to four with under two minutes left. Three others scored in double figures for Maryland: Jake Layman (16), Melo Trimble (14) – though he didn’t play well – and Diamond Stone (13). Collectively, UMD hit on 59% of its twos, 44% of its threes, and 90% on a high volume of free throw attempts; while both teams put up high eFG% marks and very similar rebounding rates and turnover rate, Maryland scored 12 more points from the free throw line than Michigan did. Michigan hit 13 threes on the game, which kept them in it; an atypically high turnover rate prevented them from getting as many looks as they should have.
Michigan now sits tied for seventh in the Big Ten at 9-6 and finishes the season with contests against Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Michigan needs two more wins to feel safer about a tournament bid – though if those wins are against NW and a weak first-round opponent in the Big Ten tournament, it might be dicey. Moving forward, we shouldn’t assume that the Wolverines will make it in, though as things stands right now, I think it’s more likely than not that they’ll be dancing in a few weeks.