At least there's that. Darren Everson has a great piece on Michigan's recent malaise and the hockey team's bounce-back that won't have much news for anyone who's lived through this year but is a great summary if you need to explain why you're sitting in the bathtub clutching yourself to someone who's not a Michigan fan.
Mary Sue Coleman shows up at the end to provide a throwaway quote, prompting a complaint from Dave Birkett about her tendency to show up in the WSJ but turn down local requests. This is probably because the WSJ asks her questions like "Do you like to win?" and local papers are more likely to ask eleven questions in a row about the threat Demar Dorsey poses to local schoolchildren. You must lie in the bed you have made.
Give me back that filet of goalie. Give me that goalie. If you've been watching the NCAA tournament you, like me, must have the bizarre Filet o' Fish jingle stuck in your head. There is but one thing as persistent this day:
Shawn Hunwick had a decision to make:
Go to Albion and become the school's first goaltender, or ...
Walk-on at Michigan. [ed: this story manages to spread one sentence over three(!) paragraphs, which must be a record.]
For the few moments the blinding television lights remained locked in on him, Shawn Hunwick played it cool.
In almost three years at Michigan, Hunwick played exactly 18 minutes of college hockey. But he never complained, never skipped, and never asked for playing time. He just kept his mouth shut, and did his job.
There is also an article from [NEWSPAPER REDACTED]. It covers exactly the same ground as the 37 other articles about Shawn Hunwick. Give me that fish.
Berenson's locked Hunwick in an electrical closet since the CCHA finals in a desperate attempt to keep his head on straight. We'll see if it works. Hunwick finds the electrical closet roomy, by the way, and thinks it's an honor to be in an electrical closet at Michigan.
Meanwhile, Louie Caporusso on avoiding that Air Force thing again:
But according to Caporusso, the formula for avoiding an early exit like last year is simply “shooting the puck on net with a purpose.”
“If we give him a lot of confidence and start building him up in our head, then it’s only going to make it harder on us,” Caporusso said. “I find if you brainwash yourself to believe that they don’t have a good goalie, you’re better off putting the puck in the net.”
The final countdown. Center Jon Horford just signed on, replacing Ben Cronin's wonky hip with a rail-thin post with some touch near the basket and good passing skills.
I don't want to steal too much of UMHoops's thunder as Michigan approaches what will be a critical couple weeks for the basketball program, but a high level overview: Michigan has two scholarships open and they may fill both of those slots despite the jam that would cause in the class of 2011. The candidates:
- Mount Pleasant SF Trey Zeigler. Ziegler is similar to Manny Harris, but higher rated on average. He is down to a top five of Michigan, Central, State, Arizona State, and UCLA. Complicating factor: his father is the head coach at Central Michigan. Zeigler could sign up to help his dad, whose job security is shaky.
- Detroit Denby SF Isaiah Sykes. Sykes can't shoot but he can get to the rack at will and is in the 6'5" range with long arms and a feverish desire to rebound. He has no offers after a high school career that saw three transfers; he didn't even play the first half of this season.
Michigan will obviously take Zeigler if they can get him. Sykes is the wildcard. Beilein's been to a number of his games recently, spurring both UMHoops and AnnArbor.com to get video and scouting reports on the guy. If Zeigler ends up going elsewhere—the tenuous conventional wisdom is that it's probably CMU or M—I can't imagine Beilein won't offer Sykes and end up with him.
Would Michigan take Sykes if it got Zeigler, though? Maybe. Michigan could free up another scholarship in 2011 for a post if they did not offer Laval Lucas-Perry a fifth year, and it's possible they wouldn't have to do that if someone transferred because of a lack of playing time in the aftermath of Zeigler, Sykes, Hardaway, and Smotrycz (who will push Novak from the four to the two and three) arriving. If I was Beilein I'd make my decision on Sykes independent of Zeigler.
The spring signing period starts in two weeks.
And fin. There was some hubbub in the comments when Michigan State reinstated a number of players who participated in the PREWB. Included were BJ Cunningham and Mark Dell, the highest profile participants not immediately booted. This set Dantonio up for a buffeting.
Why I can't figure. State has lost eight(!) players as a result of the PREWB, and six of them hadn't had previous run-ins with the law. This is not like Glenn Winston's reinstatement. None of the guys who are back on the team got any jail time; just about every program in the country would have done the same thing.
You can hammer Dantonio for two things here: letting Winston back on the team after months in jail after an unprovoked attack on a pair of innocent bystanders, lying about Roderick Jenrette's freshman year suspension. The actual handling of the aftermath here seems appropriate. Both guys who played in the Alamo Bowl, by the way, are gone. That wasn't on Dantonio.
While we're on Michigan State: they've got a goofily named quasi linebacker on their depth chart too. They've got a "STAR" listed and might be moving to a 3-4, or some other defense with three dedicated down lineman and an array of hybrids.
Happy trails. The Blue Gray Sky is packing it in. This site's relationship with those guys fell off a cliff after we did an article exchange before the '05 M-ND game. Mine was a description of my experience after the painful 2002 loss, after which a young child came up to me and literally said "good game, mister" as if I had fallen into Pleasantville. I added in some stuff about Notre Dame's program not being very good, which was basically true, and how this made Michigan's rivalry with them frustrating because they did things like lose two of three to Ty Willingham.
Theirs deployed "Skunkbears" and actually featured these two sentences:
Yost was but the first in a litany of men of low character to hold the reins at UM. ... Gary Moeller was frustrated that he couldn't pick Notre Dame up, drink it, and then drive into a ditch.
It was kind of like punching your brother in the arm and getting a baseball bat to the head in return. Suffice it to say there were no more article exchanges.
Even so, BGS was one of the first blogs to materialize out of the ether and when they weren't dredging up apocryphal stories about people who have been dead for 70 years, they were drafting incredibly research-heavy pieces I was jealous of. It must have been nice to have a blog with eight or so contributors; one of them could just hole up for months and come out with a precise breakdown of formations organized by down and distance. I can't find that in particular, but I did find their "Four Plays" series, which was a 2006 version of Picture Pages on steroids. They were good. They were Notre Dame fans who posted on ND Nation, but they were also good.
Etc.: Dennis Dodd says "if there were ever a coach to root for, it's Rich Rod." Is that a good thing?
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.