Hockey pet peeve: "when a teammate tips a puck in on you, which is exactly how my first collegiate goal against happened. Thanks, Copper."
Northwestern 68 Michigan 62. Michigan 8-7 (2-2 Big Ten)
At this point in the season, we have a good idea who these Michigan Wolverines are. They'll finish middle of the pack in the Big Ten, lose to most opponents better than them, and just about split with teams at or below their level. In that sense, the Northwestern loss yesterday wasn't surprising. It still hurts though. The team dominated the first 16 minutes of the contest, and a valiant comeback effort fell just short.
The way this game played out, and I'm sure a lot of people noticed this, was a lot like the Penn State game on Thursday with Michigan's role reversed. A big difference, however, is that Michigan continued to fight when the tides turned. Whereas Penn State folded up when the Wolverines took the lead, yesterday Michigan was able to stem the Northwestern momentum and even briefly lead the game in the final minutes.
Turnovers told the story, just like against Penn State. Whereas the Wolverines took good care of the ball in the first half, the Northwestern defense stepped up its pressure after the break, and Michigan's young ballhandlers coughed up the rock too many times. When the rhythm was disrupted on one end of the floor, the players got distracted, allowing Northwestern to take over the game.
- Just came through now, and is unrelated to this game in particular, but John Beilein has extended his contract with Michigan through the 2015-2016 season.
- Despite a couple ill-advised turnovers toward the end, I thought Darius Morris looked as comfortable on the court as he has all year, with 7 assists to his name and a couple 3-balls, one when Michigan absolutely needed it.
- It's hard to say Manny had a tough game when he nearly had a double-double, but he made a couple killer mistakes (the turnover at the end comes to mind), and at the very least didn't play his best game out there.
- Zack Gibson made his requisite boneheaded play (letting a pass slip through his hands under the basket), but didn't get enough time to make of for it with his requisite awesome athletic play. With such a short bench (and as the only backup in the post), he needs to get more than a couple minutes.
- The commentators who always say "you need to pound inside to DeShawn Sims" (Jay Bilas and others) frustrate me, because John Beilein has proven at multiple coaching stops that it's possible for his teams to win without using the low post as a main source of offense. However, when Sims was playing so well at the beginning of the game, I wish they'd continued that when Northwestern started going on a run, to settle the team and prevent the game from getting out of control. Congratulations to Sims for being named the Big Ten Player of the Week, as well.
The Wolverines have just a couple days to recharge for a big Weekend. Indiana visits Crisler Arena on Thursday at 9PM for what has become a must-win game. On Sunday, UConn will stop by to close out the non-conference schedule. This is also a big football recruiting weekend, so they'll be taking in the UConn game.
Avast, here it be:
|2||Boise State (1)||23.1||1.0||3|
Or, at least, there's the top 10, with the rest of it, as usual, at CBS Sports. For the record, your final CK Award record: 10-5 against the spread and 9-6 straight up. I'm also claiming CK victory for Nebraska's soul-crippling Big 12 championship game loss and their delayed action eight-turnover spectacular against Iowa State. Fear it.
I'd like to thank everyone who participated this year for their effort and their thought. This was a strange year in which three teams went almost totally unchallenged until a pair of not-so-titanic year-end matchups. The BlogPoll acquitted itself well by being the only poll out there willing to consider a team other than Florida at #1. Alabama moved into the spot a few weeks into the season, and though they traded the spot back and forth with the Gators all year, that flexibility speaks of a group of people paying closer attention than the folk actually charged with picking the two anointed teams.
Update:After the jump: Tim's even MORE updated final ballot.
1/8/2010 – Michigan 4, Western Michigan 3 – 11-10, 6-7 CCHA
1/9/2010 – Michigan 6, Western Michigan 1 – 12-10, 7-7 CCHA
So. For the first time since November—when they swept the Showcase—and the second since October—when they swept Lake Superior—Michigan has come out of a weekend of hockey having inched closer to an NCAA tournament bid.
The emphasis should be on "inch." Western Michigan is one of two terrible teams in the CCHA, currently tied with Bowling Green with ten points, eight behind a great messy pack of basically .500 teams stretching from 10th place Northern Michigan to 4th place Alaska. Michigan doesn't need to win 82 percent of its remaining games to have a good shot at an at-large bid… they need to win 80. There is still a very long way to go. But this is a Michigan team that's handed Bowling Green one of their three wins on the year. Any fully deserved 6-1 win is a step in the right direction.
Yes, Michigan had their a requisite terrible breakdown when Steve Kampfer stepped up to check one of the Broncos and came up with air. Yes, this lead to the usual good scoring chance on which you can't exactly blame Hogan for the goal even if you'd like to try. And yes, there was the usual array of dumb penalties. This time the feature was deserved five-and-a-game for boarding to Lee Moffie.
If those were the only problems the team had, though, this would be just another year of questionable defensive decisions and frustrating penalties that melt from your memory in the aftermath of territorial superiority, crazy goals and Hobey Baker candidates. Red Berenson's teams have taken lots of bad penalties and made lots of bad decisions on defense for as long as I've been watching Michigan play, and no one's cared much because the other end of the ice looks like those nuts in Texas having Christmas.
Michigan is lacking in Trans-Siberian Orchestra-worthy flash this year and currently idle 23rd—barely better than average in a 58-team D-I—in scoring offense. That, and maybe some terrible luck, have been the problem. Would you believe that Michigan is 9th in scoring defense? You probably don't. Scroll down. They are.
I think Red coaches his charges to assume their superiority and play like the hockey equivalent of last year's Oklahoma Sooner's squad: fast and lethal, with lots of opportunities each way. The assumption is that increasing the number of opportunities for each team to show their quality will benefit Michigan. Too many times this year the plan has worked just fine except for the part where the shots on goal become shots in the goal. The aggression has led to a lot of B-grade chances either way. Michigan doesn't have the skill to finish those, or the goalie to stop them.
On Saturday, Michigan looked like you'd expect a Michigan hockey team to look against Western Michigan. Sometimes if you squint your eyes and Carl Hagelin is on the ice—all over the ice—it's possible to see the hazy outline of the team that earned a #1 seed in the tournament last year instead of the one that peppered the Air Force goalie to zero effect while kicking off kick off the most random tournament ever played.
If they can do that the next two weekends against steadily increasing competition from Alaska and Ferris State, then it might be time to dust off the hopes everyone stuffed in the basement and told to shut up after that Bowling Green game.
- Tristin Llewellyn continues his vacation on the bench, which is probably for the best. I'd have to start assuming I just knew zero about hockey if he kept seeing time. Moffie might get a rest for next weekend after his major, though.
- Also: Brandon Burlon (I think) had one of the outright dumbest penalties I've seen at Yost when he was coming off the ice and checked the hell out of a Western player on the way. He was killing the Moffie major and was a fifth guy on the ice: hello too many men. Hello 5-on-3 for two minutes. Western didn't score, but that was pretty nervy. (For the record, I still think Mike Komisarek grabbing a puck and throwing out of the defensive zone is worse. One: that was an NCAA tournament game at Yost. Two: the opponent (SCSU, I think) scored on their 5-on-3. Three: Komisarek could have dropped it and used that stick thing they give the players.
- Moffie was livid after said major, angrily jawing with any official who came within 10 feet of him. He would have gotten a misconduct if he wasn't already being shown the gate. Bonus points to the off-ice official who kept the door to the Michigan locker room open long enough for Moffie to turn around and scream several more indeterminate things before finally disappearing.
- A friend of mine thinks AJ Treais has a huge tell: he lifts his left leg before he starts doing fancy stuff. That makes his stuff less fancy.
- About halfway through the last game, Berenson put his lines in a blender, looking for any combinations that seemed to work. It's clear at this point that the #1 line is whichever one Hagelin is on, and his partnership with Rust puts a ton of pressure on opponents trying to break out of the zone.
- Caporusso's tendency to shoot through four opposing players was actually fairly effective against Western, but for the bulk of the year it's just resulted in lost possession. Against better opponents I fear we'll see a return to form.
- No offense to Ben Winnett, but the fact that Red has put him at the point on the power play is symptomatic of the lack of star power on this year's team. Previous forwards on the point have been guys like Hensick or Cammalleri, real hockey ninja types. SAT analogy time: Winnett : Michigan PP point :: Chauncey Billups : NBA finals MVP.
- Sparks is the winner of the fourth-line-walk-on-be-Danny-Fardig battle; he and Glendening are getting serious amounts of time now. Sparks has been playing on the power play—another symptom—and Glendening was Red's second choice on the Moffie major after Hagelin.
|Last week's ballot|
I corrected some of the more obvious errors and oversights. This is more like what your standard draft ballot would look like. Comment away, the final is due tomorrow by 10.
|WHAT||Michigan v. Northwestern|
|WHERE||Ann Arbor, MI|
January 10th, 2010
|TELEVISION||Big Ten Network|
*Line provided by online sports betting site Sportsbetting.com.
Michigan is coming off yet another interesting game in terms of predictive power: a big win might make them overconfident, and the game itself was a tale of two halves, with Michigan getting dominated in the first frame, and bouncing back in the second for the win. So which Michigan team will we see against the 'Cats? It remains to be seen.
The Wolverines should continue to feed DeShawn Sims if the threes aren't falling, instead of continuing to jack up marginal looks. If the open look is available, you can't fault a guy for taking it, even if he misses. The shooting woes have come and gone, but hopefully they won't be a factor in Crisler Arena.
Coming into the season, Northwestern was planning to have a big year, and potentially land their first-ever(!) NCAA tournament bid. Those dreams seemed to be dashed when two of their biggest stars, Kevin Coble and Jeff Ryan, were injured at the beginning of the season. A team effort has kept NU in the hunt, and their only losses have been to Butler, Illinois, and Michigan State.
John Shurna, Drew Crawford, and Michael Thompson have seriously picked up the slack, keeping the NCAA dream alive. The 5-10 Thompson leads in shooting, assists, minutes played, and offensive rating. Shurna, however, gets the most usage on the team, taking the most shots.
If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Northwestern: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Northwestern Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. NU Def eFG%||171||70||NN|
|Mich Def eFG% v. NU eFG%||216||81||NN|
|Mich TO% v. NU Def TO%||3||126||MM|
|Mich Def TO% v. NU TO%||40||21||N|
|Mich OReb% v. NU DReb%||264||105||NN|
|Mich DReb% v. NU OReb%||269||233||N|
|Mich FTR v. NU Opp FTR||329||180||NN|
|Mich Opp FTR v. NU FTR||12||173||MM|
|Mich AdjO v. NU AdjD||67||73||-|
|Mich AdjD v. NU AdjO||87||101||M|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.
This is a pretty even statistical matchup, with neither team having more than a 2-letter advantage in a particular category. Northwestern does lead in more categories, but Michigan has advantages in overall efficiency on either side of the ball (however slight it may be when Michigan has the rock). There is something to be said for strength of schedule as well, with the Wildcats coming in ranked #249 overall, and Michigan #37. The Wolverines' numbers came against tougher units.
Michigan should be able to hold onto the ball, and keep Northwestern off the free throw line (especially since the 'Cats are a perimeter-oriented team). Michigan might have trouble coming down with rebounds, like usual, but Northwestern doesn't have great size outside of 6-11 center Luka Mirkovic, so the competition factor may play a role here.
Overall, this feels like a game that Michigan should win, especially at home. Kenpom thinks so, giving the Wolverines a 2/3 chance of coming out with a win. Northwestern has only beaten 3 opponents in the top 100 teams in the nation, with only Iowa state currently ranked ahead of Michigan by Pomeroy. I think this is a game that see-saws back and forth in the first half, but Michigan manages to maintain a lead throughout the second half, though never running away with the game.
UMHoops previews the game.
|Last week's ballot|
This ballot is very rough, because I don't have a bunch of time today to come up with something, but I wanted to get a draft out there for people to critique. I didn't take a look at any of my past ballots, and I ranked teams based on what I think their resume probably looks like, because I don't have the time right now to do otherwise.
With that said, I'm sure there is a ton of stuff wrong with this ballot (BYU up 10 strike me immediately), so I'm bound to get a lot of... spirited comments. Try to keep them constructive. I'll post another, more polished draft ballot for additional commenting tomorrow morning, then the final ballot will come out Monday.
Northwestern hoops preview this afternoon.