also duty-free guys falling over and grabbing their shins
|WHAT||Michigan v. Ferris State|
|WHERE||Friday @ Yost
Saturday @ Ferris
January 22/23rd, 2010
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
|TELEVISION||CBS College Sports both nights|
Record. 16-6-2, 10-4-2-2 CCHA. #5 PWR. Currently third place with 34 points. Michigan is nine points back in a tie for sixth.
Ferris State is back with their septannual kickass team, though this edition probably isn't quite as good as the Chris Kunitz-led 2003 team that won the conference championship, made it to the CCHA playoff final, and snagged Ferris State's first and only NCAA tournament bid. They just got swept by league-leading Miami and their nonconference schedule (Canisius, UConn, Robert Morris, single games against Yale and Merrimack) is exceedingly weak. That 2003 team was a legitimate national power. This appears to be a solid team a step or two down from those guys.
Even so, there's one team playing this weekend on the cusp of a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament and it's not Michigan. And Ferris's goal differentials are impressive. They're +30 overall and +18 in the CCHA. They are fifth in scoring margin at 1.25. (Michigan is 11th.) They are for serious.
Dangermen. Ferris has one line that does a huge chunk of their scoring. Seniors Blair Riley (right), Cody Chupp, and Casey Haines are the top line and Ferris's leading scorers; Riley is far and away the top guy with 16 goals and 27 points. Chupp has seven and a couple of other guys are hovering around that mark, but Ferris is a top-heavy team.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. Ferris is built on an extremely stingy defense. They're tied for third nationally with Cornell at just 2.12 GPG; goalie Pat Nagle has a nation-leading .932 save percentage. (He's tied with two others, FWIW.) Ferris actually rotates its goalies, with Nagel and sophomore Taylor Nelson both getting 13 games to date. Nelson's got the better record but Nagel is giving up a half-goal less per game. Nelson's save percentage is a stellar .921.
With two goalies sporting save percentages that Patrick Roy would envy, Ferris State has either stumbled onto a goalie gold mine or the defense has a large influence on those numbers. Expect tight-checking, tough games without a ton of grade A scoring chances.
Special teams. Your updated power plays per game stat:
|PP For / G||6.0||5.8|
|PP Ag / G||5.6||5.5|
Essentially even with Ferris a tiny bit more likely to pick up penalties for and against. And there will be penalties. Ferris is #2 in penalty minutes acquired*. Michigan is #10. Also, when these teams face off it tends to get chippy.
The specialty units will get a ton of time, then. They're dead even. Ferris State is converting a little better on the power play but has allowed three shorthanded goals; if you take those into account Michigan actually outperforms them slightly. The penalty kills are outstanding. Ferris is #3 at 88.8%. Michigan is #4 at 88.5%. Since Ferris has a couple extra shorthanded goals their penalty kill is a little better. The two teams could be any more more identical here.
PROTIP: don't take an obvious holding penalty seven seconds into a kill.
*(Possibly interesting side note: despite UAF's uncharacteristic penalty-fest last weekend they are still the least-penalized team in the country by a wide margin. Meanwhile, the team that beat out Ferris for #1 is Alaska-Anchorage. Alaska: land of extremes.)
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Line match where possible. It's a home and home series so the Saturday game will be tricky, but the obvious move is to put Michigan's crazy fast fore-check and shutdown line of Lynch, Hagelin, and Rust on Riley and anyone else who wants to skate with him. Berenson has explicitly stated this is the plan:
“I don’t want to put an inexperienced player out there against the top player in the league and then expect us to win that matchup,” Berenson said. “We have to respect who is on the ice for them and who is on the ice for us.”
While the top lines on both teams highlight the matchup, it’s the players behind them that will be the difference this weekend.
“You’re trying to outscore that line or shut them down,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “But in the meantime, if you do, and they're nullifying you at the same time, then it comes down to your next line or your next line and where are you going to get your offense from?”
Continue to get supporting players scoring. Whether it's Brian Lebler firing wicked wrist shots off the post and in or Lindsey Sparks coming out of the corner or Chris Brown turning into a face-masked version of Thomas Holmstrom, Michigan is going to need to get some production out of guys who aren't the stars of the team. Caporusso and Wohlberg continue to scuffle. Though they continue to put up assists, Brian Lebler now has more goals than they do. Lebler's actually tied for third on the team with seven, and while that's super cool for him it's a major reason Michigan's had trouble this year.
Play from ahead. Yes, this is dangerously close to a Key To The Game that boils down to "score more points."
An attempt at something not tautological: this is not the other Ferris team. That was an offensive machine capable of generating points not only from Kunitz but from a wide array of offensive defensemen. This is a gritty grit Eckstein of a team with one standout player that Carl Hagelin will be tasked with destroying. Michigan cannot afford to give up a goal like the Chad Langlais turnover against UAF, because teams like Ferris and Alaska are built to play from ahead. Just look at the difference between UAF in the third period on Friday and Saturday. On Friday they were overrun; on Saturday they played keep-away for 15 minutes before Langlais got his redemption.
The Big Picture
Just keep repeating "it was a win and a tie and the shootout was an exhibition" about last weekend. That makes Michigan 3-0-1 since the break. That is a roll, especially since they played very well in the tie save for one turnover and one terrible penalty kill.
They're now a TUC and hovering at 19th in the standings facing down a two week stretch that will probably make or break their at-large hopes. If they sweep the next two weekends they're gold. If they go 3-1 they are feeling very good about their chances with a selection of weak CCHA teams coming up and a bunch of guaranteed TUC wins in the bag. If they go 2-2 they have to really tear through the back end of the schedule, and anything worse than that is curtains.
A win and a tie from the weekend would be great.
Jack Johnson has responded to his general manager's stunning call-out of both himself and Red Berenson, and the item bringing his quotes uses "irate" in the headline:
"I'm a Michigan man. I'm very proud of it. I wouldn't want to have it any other way," Johnson said after the Kings' 4-3 shootout victory over the Buffalo Sabres at Staples Center.
"Michigan has produced more NHL players than any other school. Even the U.S. development program, people rip that and they just don't know anything about it and don't know what they're talking about."
Berenson, Johnson said, "is one of the finest coaches and men that I've met. For my general manager to rip me as a person and criticize me as a person and as a player and call me an awful hockey player is irresponsible and unprofessional."
Excellent work, Mr. Lombardi.
Stephen Spiewak, the National Football Editor for MaxPreps.com, graciously answered a few questions about Michigan’s current recruiting class. MaxPreps.com is a part of CBS Sports and covers recruiting in football and other sports nationally. MaxPreps currently has the Michigan class ranked 9th nationally, which is on the optimistic end.
TOM: How does MaxPreps rank recruiting classes for each year?
STEPHEN: It's based on a computer formula from our lead researcher, Brian Raab, so it can update quickly as commitments/decommits occur. Brian assigns a rating to every player in our recruiting database based on their ranking according to Tom Lemming. (Top 100, top 25 pos. rankings, etc). His formula considers the quality of each recruit and the number of total recruits, to guard against sample size issues (e.g. a large class of mediocre recruits ranking higher than a smaller class of stellar recruits).
TOM: MaxPreps is really high on Devin Gardner, but around the recruiting world there seems to be some difference in opinion on him. Why do you think there's such a wide range of rankings when it comes to Devin?
And why is MaxPreps so high on him?
STEPHEN: I think part of the reason there's a difference of opinion on Gardner is because he's one of the top quarterbacks in a class that's probably lacking the Jimmy Clausen/Matt Barkley/Garrett Gilbert elite recruit. I think there's always the presumption that if you're one of the top QB’s in the country, regardless of how strong the QB class is, you should be ranked at a certain position. I think some people disagree. The thing that I like about him is that he's a high-ceiling guy that was still productive as a high school player. Sometimes I think the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of performances at combines, games, and camps, and track records of success at the high school level are somewhat trivialized.
TOM: With the team coming off of two poor seasons, how do you think Rich Rodriguez has done recruiting-wise, with bringing in top recruits, his kind of players, and position of need?
STEPHEN: Well, right off the bat, I think Gardner is a great fit, but probably won't help right away. I like the wide receivers he reeled in. I think that a speedy, slot back type threat would be a big boost to this class. But if Gardner can contribute sooner rather than later, perhaps that's what becomes of Denard Robinson.
TOM: Besides Gardner, is there anyone in this class that you look at and say, Michigan really needed to get him, or they're going to be excited about him?
STEPHEN: I really, really like Josh Furman. I think he'd be able to contribute on offense, but I think he'll be a big boost to the linebacking unit. I have heard about Furman for a few years, and this year he really put it together and was flat out dominant. I know some people think he has NFL potential.
TOM: Who do you think are the possible early contributors out of this class, either by need or talent?
STEPHEN: I suspect Richard Ash might be able to plug some holes on the defensive line. Cullen Christian is a nice, big corner. Wouldn't be surprised if he saw some reps.
TOM: How do you think, if you were to guess, Michigan closes out this class. Any surprises on signing day?
STEPHEN: I think they land Sean Parker and end on a high note. It's down to USC and Michigan. His coach paints him as the type of kid who wouldn't mind getting away from home. The problem is that he's played in the Tampa 2 his whole high school career, so it'd be an easy transition to play for Monte Kiffin. Landing Parker might open up the door for his teammate, junior Chris Brown. And there's a freshman quarterback on that team who will start at a sophomore named Troy Williams who could be one of the nations best by the time he's a senior. He's definitely one to keep an eye on.
Hey, how about that labrum? File under "Lincoln hunts dinosaurs," probably, but yeah Tate Forcier's shoulder was a bit more exploded than anyone let on last year:
The shoulder injury Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier played through last season was a slightly torn right labrum, a person familiar with the injury said Friday.
Forcier was diagnosed with the injury when he underwent an MRI while home for Christmas break. He’s rehabbing the shoulder now and doesn’t need surgery, and he’s also recovering from a staph infection in his right knee, the person said.
Tate's older brother Jason said something to the effect of "Tate is hurt more than people let on," and this is evidently what he meant. Not that he knew that at the time. Tate did have good games against Purdue and Wisconsin late—even his Ohio State game was physically capable, if interception fraught—so it was probably healed up enough as November progressed.
Optimistic take: he should be better when healthy. Pessimistic take: what do you mean "when"?
Good decisions are for people taller than 5'6". Boubacar Cissoko got caught with pot and admitted to police he intended to sell the stuff. This closes the door on Cissoko's vaguely possible return to the team; Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher said said door is now "bolted on both sides."
Meanwhile… man, if you are going to make the life choice that finds you arrested for possession of marijuana you should probably make the life choice to tell the police it is for your personal consumption. Or better yet don't consent to a search of your car when it has pot in it. I don't get people sometimes.
Hopefully moot. So… yeah, Jim Harbaugh turned down overtures from the Raiders and Bills. Unless Mike Garrett is insane he also shot down USC before they went with Kiffin. (Other people Garrett called before placing his bets on Hello Kiffin: Chan Gailey, Shamwow Vince, myself, and the skeleton of a paleolithic deer.) Meanwhile around these parts, Rich Rodriguez is going to be under serious pressure to get to a bowl and have a winning record.
I have a Sporting Blog take on these developments, but in short: turning down the Raiders job merely means you have the will to live; turning down a functional, if somewhat moribund, Bills franchise kind of implies you're sticking around to see what opens up in the next couple years. If Rodriguez doesn't make it—which seems like a 50-50 proposition nowadays—there are going to be some hellacious internet fights about the forgivability of Harbaugh's shots at Michigan's academics.
We are very watched. The Big Ten's lasting television appeal—enough to have its own damn network—is something of a mystery. If the population drain in the Midwest is so severe and 94% (or whatever it actually is) of Alabamans identify themselves as foamingly rabid college football fans, how this?
Seriously: how this? I guess the SEC is hauled down by the fact that they managed to horn ten freakin' teams into bowls and they've got more lame games where Kentucky takes on East Albania State, but still. Also, DETROIT = RATINGS:
The most unusual rating may belong to the Little Caesars Bowl, previously known as the Motor City. Played the day after Christmas, Marshall-Ohio drew a 2.6. That beat four bowls featuring two BCS-conference teams: Independence (Georgia-Texas A&M), Music City (Kentucky-Clemson), [PizzaWebsite.com] (South Carolina-Connecticut) and Insight (Iowa State-Minnesota).
That's kind of what I'm saying, I guess: Kentucky Clemson and UConn-South Carolina should outdraw Marshall-Ohio. (Iowa State and Minnesota… not so much.)
Hockey recruiting news of a decidedly weird variety. So Michigan's got a boatload of kids coming in from the NTDP next year, except one of them isn't with the program any more and two are currently suspended. The suspended guys are Kevin Clare and John Merrill, both highly touted defensemen. The departure is Jacob Fallon, a forward, and it's unclear as to whether he's involved in the thing with the suspensions or not:
Jacob Fallon, a 5.10 forward who had committed to Michigan for next season has left the program. According to a USA Hockey official Fallon left the team and program voluntarily. I've read some scouting reports that have compared him to Patrick Kane, however most rankings I've seen have him as a mid 3rd rounder right now. Fallon, who hails from Texas, was listed by the Seattle Thunderbirds. Fallon was reportedly not suspended, but chose to leave the program after speaking with the coaching staff. I'm just guessing here but it sounds like this could be the Seattle Thunderbirds gain.
Ugh. Options here are either this guy is wrong and Fallon's departure from the program was less than voluntary—which was , in which case he's mixed up in seemingly serious team rules violations, or he's just taking off for the CHL. A later post says Seattle has been in contact with him but have not gotten a response.
Mike Spath of The Wolverine says that Michigan will not stop recruiting any of the kids; the issue for Fallon will be his patience. He can either sit out the rest of the season or play with Seattle right now.
In slightly more positive news, Mac Bennett is in the USHL All-Star game.
Etc.: Matt Hayes, yes, a man I once called "Horseface," has a sympathetic piece on Rodriguez with reference to stupid pills. Phil Brabbs talked with the football team a couple days ago. If you ever wanted an up-to-date breakdown of where NFL players come from, Drill provides a wall of text for you. This NSFW recounting of one guy's trip to the national championship-type game glories in paint and is awesome. MVictors interviews Sam Webb. UMHoops goes in depth on Zack Novak.
This is the most direct attack I think I've ever seen on a college coach by a professional in any sport, and it's directed at Red Berenson of all people. Here's Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi talking about Jack Johnson's somewhat erratic development:
During a recent interview, Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi explained that Johnson is learning his craft…belatedly.
“This guy has never had any coaching [at the University of Michigan],” Lombardi said. “Jack just did what he wanted.”
“Michigan is the worst.” Lombardi added. “For hockey people, if you’ve got a choice between a kid—all things being equal—one’s going to Michigan and one’s going to Boston University, you all want your player [going to Boston University]. Michigan’s players—[head coach] Red [Berenson] doesn’t coach. It’s ‘do what you want.’ He gets the best players in the country.”
During his two seasons at the University of Michigan, Johnson played as a rover, rather than as a defenseman, even though that was his official position.
This is somewhat ridiculous since Berenson was an NHL coach of the year and any five year slice of his career on or off the ice has more accomplishment in it than Lombardi's entire life. In this specific case, Jack Johnson improved vastly in his two years at Michigan. In his first year I actually yelled "you're supposed to be the third pick in the draft" at him during one extremely frustrating game; in his second year he was a god. He scored more, slashed his penalty minutes nearly in half, and lead the team in plus-minus. Jack Johnson came to Michigan an incredibly undisciplined hockey genius and left considerably less undisciplined but still Jack Johnson.
(Also, what the hell is a "rover"? Lombardi obviously added an assertion that Johnson didn't play defense when he was out there playing, you know, defense. In doing so he makes himself seem like a crank making stuff up because it serves his argument—he's the David Berri of the NHL. )
Lombardi and Berenson have a long, contentious history. Red is probably still pissed off about the way Mike Cammalleri, then a Kings prospect, left the program. Cammalleri promised he'd return and Lombardi enticed him to break that promise. Later, the Kings drafted Michigan signee Trevor Lewis in the first round, signed him immediately, and shoved him off to the OHL. Lewis is still in the AHL. Recently departed sophomore Robbie Czarnik is also a Kings prospect.
Neither Lombardi and I have actually been coached by Berenson; Brendan Morrison has. I asked him for his take on that quote:
I think this is very harsh and irresponsible on Lombardi's part. I don't understand what he is basing this on. Red has been instrumental in the careers of several players, mine included. I am sure Lombardi is aware of Red's accomplishments as a coach not only at the college level but the NHL level as well.
I believe his opinion of the program would be in the minority. Most people in the hockey world have a lot of respect for the Michigan program.
There's probably some kernel of truth in Red's approach to coaching—Michigan takes a lot of penalties year-in and year-out—but Lombardi goes too far. The huge number of Michigan players is not an accident, and they're not all pre-ordained superstars like Jack Johnson. Kevin Porter, Chad Kolarik, Jed Ortmeyer, John Madden, etc.
|WHAT||Michigan v. Wisconsin|
|WHEN||7:30PM CST/8:30 EST
January 20th, 2010
|THE LINE||Michigan +9*|
|TELEVISION||Big Ten Network|
*Line provided by online sports betting site Sportsbetting.com.
Though UConn is hardly a world-beater this year, Michigan's win over the Huskies finally provides much-needed momentum for a hoops squad that has struggled badly. The Wolverines need to seize that momentum and steal a couple games they aren't expected to if they want the NCAA tournament to remain—or, rather, become—an option. This Wisconsin game is the first in a week of opportunities for that.
The defensive renaissance that started with the Kansas game (and has taken a couple breaks in losses to Indiana and Northwestern) needs to continue for Michigan to have a chance to win in Madison. It's clear that Michigan won't have a consistent third scorer, but if several guys take turns chipping in a few points, there should be enough offense with one or both of Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims carrying the load.
Something that's become a bit of a problem of late has been a newfound tendency for Michigan to turn over the ball. Everything is relative, as the Wolverines plunged from #1 nationally to 20th. That's an effect of shooting fewer threes, but Michigan has little choice but to go inside more given the ugly numbers they've put up from behind the arc.
The Badgers come into this game perched near the top of the Big Ten standings at 14-4 on the year, undefeated record in the Kohl Center. (Michigan hasn't won in Madison in ten years.) In the noncoference, the Badgers lost a neutral-site game to Gonzaga and at UW-Green Bay, with road losses to Michigan State and Ohio State in the Big Ten.
The Badgers will be without junior center Jon Leuer, who is probably out for the rest of the regular season with a broken wrist. He was one of the team's key players, leading in shot blocking and defensive rebounding. Wisconsin plans to go to a smaller lineup without him. Senior guards Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon play the lion's share of minutes for Wisconsin (both averaging over 32 minutes per contest). Sophomore Jordan Taylor will get a playing time boost from the newly implemented three guard look. Forwards Keaton Nankivil and Tim Jarmusz will be the primary frontcourt players for the Badgers.
The loss of Leuer is something Wisconsin is still adjusting to, but it might not necessarily benefit Michigan that much, as they performed so well against UConn's taller lineup by taking advantage of the Huskies inability to guard four players around the perimeter. On the other hand, Deshawn Sims has always struggled against significantly bigger opposition and was on a tear before he ran into UConn's usual array of enormous shotblockers. He could go off.
Expect Wisconsin to play their traditional style, slowing the game waaay down, and getting physical with the opposition.
If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Wisconsin: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Wisconsin Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. Wisc Def eFG%||175||37||WW|
|Mich Def eFG% v. Wisc eFG%||183||67||WW|
|Mich TO% v. Wisc Def TO%
|Mich Def TO% v. Wisc TO%||38||8||W|
|Mich OReb% v. Wisc DReb%
|Mich DReb% v. Wisc OReb%||260||240||W|
|Mich FTR v. Wisc Opp FTR
|Mich Opp FTR v. Wisc FTR
|Mich AdjO v. Wisc AdjD||75||7||W|
|Mich AdjD v. Wisc AdjO||55||16||W|
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 matchup favors Wisconsin in nearly every category, and rightfully so. However, Michigan's rankings in all factors have been climbing slowly but surely over the past month as they put together some of their best performances of the year.
Michigan's advantages come in holding onto the ball (which, unfortunately, is one of the few areas that has gone downhill of late), and keeping the opposition off the free throw line. They'll have to take advantage of those categories to pull off an upset, and play some of their best ball in other facets.
That's unlikely, however. The Wolverines haven't been able to play a team nearly as physical as Wisconsin in quite some time, and the Badgers are exceptional at defending the home court. They'll slow down the game, beat up Michigan in the paint, and take advantage of opportunities that Michigan provides. If Manny Harris learned his lesson from last year's contest in Madison (lesson: regardless of how hard you get fouled, the referees will not blow their whistles), Michigan has a much better chance.
In the end, this looks like a low-scoring game with Wisconsin never too far ahead. 56-50, Badgers.