"Jim's a tough guy and you can see his personality is all over this football team," Fitzgerald said.
PLAYOFF TIME IS HOCKEY BEAR TIME
HOCKEYBEAR IS GO
Western vs Michigan
Miami/ND vs Michigan
Joe Louis Arena
8:05 PM Fri
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
Friday: FSD Plus
Not much has changed since Michigan took on Western in the second-to-last weekend of the regular season, so the previous Puck Preview stands. Since Western suffered the wrath of Senior Night Hagelin they split with Notre Dame, for which they get a tip of the hat when Michigan raises its conference championship banner, and won a home series against Ferris in three games.
That's been good enough to raise Western to 12th in the Pairwise, but not good enough to assure them a bid. They will be hair on fire this weekend trying to lock that down. A split should do it.
A brief reminder of Western's strengths: they get fairly diverse scoring and have a PPG-ish star in senior Max Campbell, who has 18-17-35. Freshman Chase Balisy is moving up NHL draft boards and has 12-17-29. Western splits those two up so the checking-plus-Scooter-domination line can't shut down both, and their scoring depth is such that the third line is going to have to play some D if they're going to outscore.
Goalie Jerry Kuhn was awful against Michigan earlier in the year but has a .915 save percentage overall. He's about average.
I don't know what was with the Redhawks earlier in the year but they're a death machine now. They haven't lost since an inexplicable 7-4 defeat to Michigan State on January 21st, and though they have three ties in that stretch they're still 8-0-3 since Enrico Blasi peeled the paint after whatever that was. That includes series against the other three finalists: a two tie split at ND, a home sweep of Michigan that caused me to PANIC, and what used to be a three-point weekend against WMU. In their last five they've outscored opponents 23-5, failing to give up more than one goal in any of those games. Despite coming in a distant third in the CCHA I bet if jamiemac (of Just Cover) was to dig up offshore college hockey lines from Venezuela or whatever they'd be a solid favorite this weekend.
As a result they've moved from the PWR danger zone (they were actually 18th(!) and well out of the tournament before the Michigan series) to the verge of a one-seed—Michigan's one seed. A hypothetical title game matchup will be for that one seed and the right to not play any of the top five teams in the country until hypothetically reaching the Frozen Four, and will be a BFD.
Miami's team was also covered in a Puck Preview that remains largely accurate. Andy Miele is a Hobey Candidate and the country's leading scorer with (sigh) 21-44-65. Carter Camper would be a Hobey Candidate if he wasn't on the same team as Miele—he's fourth nationally with 17-35-42. Sophomore Reilly Smith is also in the top ten in PPG with 26-22-48, and then they've got two more guys with double-digit goals. They score like whoah.
Of late they've also defended like whoah. Alaska managed a total of 31 shots in two games last weekend, and while Lake State wasn't quite as inept when it came to vaguely testing Miami's two-headed goalie they were equally incapable of getting the puck in the net. You're probably remembering that Saturday game in Oxford when Michigan had maybe three crappy scoring chances the entire game. Yeah.
Miami's rotated their goalies all year, including last weekend. They have nearly identical stats so it won't matter much who gets the call. One possible silver lining for Redhawk opponents: both have taken major steps back from last year, when they were amongst the national leaders in save percentage.
The Irish lost the CCHA title in agonizing fashion by losing on the last day thanks to three disallowed goals. They suffered something of a hangover two weeks later as they struggled to put away a pretty bad LSSU team. An OT win Friday was followed by a loss and ND didn't show their quality until the final game when they jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead and almost doubled up LSSU in shots in a comfortable 4-2 win.
Michigan's lone series against ND came during football season, before pucks start getting previewed. It was a split in which the games seemed fairly even. Notre Dame got some bounces Friday and then Michigan's Saturday win was the deflectingest game I ever dang saw, with the primary attraction a goal from Chad Langlais that came when Langlais was literally the only guy on the ice who knew where the puck was.
Since that weekend the two rivals spent the year neck-and-neck at the top of the CCHA standings. ND got there thanks largely to two (sigh) awesome freshmen: TJ Tynan (21-28-49) and Anders Lee (22-21-41) are 1—2 in team scoring. A couple of senior assist machines come next and then there's a smattering of guys with Wohlberg-like statlines and a couple of defensemen with pop in their stick, most prominently sophomore Sam Calabrese (not that Calabrese).
Notre Dame's issue has been iffy goaltending. Backup Steve Summerhays has a .859 in ten games and starter Mike Johnson's .907 is just 41st (of 71 qualifiers) nationally.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Well… no bullet points as I try to find something not tautological to say. Michigan played well last weekend against the hockey equivalent of Hampton and before that did enough to scratch out a CCHA championship despite at no point seeming like the sort of team that would end up winning the league or earning a one-seed.
I wouldn't be surprised with anything this weekend. Michigan could have a couple bounces go against them against Western and then close out a disappointing weekend with a loss to a very good ND or Miami team, or they could deflect their way to glory in a series of tight games featuring lots of offense from the blue line.
There's a lot on the line; let's hope it's the latter.
The Big Picture
If you would like to be the committee go ahead: you are the committee. I was wrong on one important point earlier: Michigan's destiny is not entirely in its own hands. If Merrimack wins HE they will take their comparison against Michigan and slip into the last #1 seed. That requires them to beat New Hampshire and presumably BC back-to-back and seems pretty unlikely, but it is a possibility.
I've fiddled with YATC a bit and can't find any other scenario that doesn't result in a #1 for Michigan if they win the CCHA. I do find things like a hypothetical Western-ND consolation game being the difference between the Broncos finishing 17th in the PWR—well out of the tourney—and tied with ND for tenth.
Michigan can still get the last #1 if they lose to ND instead of Miami and favorites win other conference tourneys but that's a 50-50 shot that relies on the hottest team in the country going down against ND in a couple hours. Win and very likely a #1, lose and very likely a #2.
Root against Denver, Miami, and Merrimack this weekend.
Michigan Hockey Net catches up with the Honeybaked coach. He makes latest commit Evan Allen sound like Andy Hilbert, but compares him to Kevin Porter.
I probably could have posted this with eight minutes left but I didn't want to tempt the jinx gods. That was awesome from the instant Michigan started going zone. Big ups to Matt Vogrich—the Vogrinch saved Christmas—CAM TATUM(!!!), Zack Novak, and… uh… everyone. Even Blake McLimans played well.
And you can't have one without the other…
We just threw a team into a volcano in the NCAA tournament. A volcano is what Tennessee is in.
|WHAT||8 Michigan v. 9 Tennessee|
KenPom: Michigan -2 (57% win)
Do I need to explain the stakes? The winner gets to continue working toward a national championship (probably against Duke), while the loser fires Bruce Pearl.
Let's get it.
If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy:
|Michigan v. Tennessee: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Tennessee Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. UT Def eFG%||56||100||M|
|Mich Def eFG% v. UT eFG%||158||226||M|
|Mich TO% v. UT Def TO%||14||116||MM|
|Mich Def TO% v. UT TO%||255||131||TT|
|Mich OReb% v. UT DReb%||327||128||TT|
|Mich DReb% v. UT OReb%||67||12||T|
|Mich FTR v. UT Opp FTR||327||193||TT|
|Mich Opp FTR v. UT FTR||34||118||M|
|Mich AdjO v. UT AdjD||46||49||-|
|Mich AdjD v. UT AdjO||48||71||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 by FAR the least skewed matchup against Michigan in a long time. Considering Michigan has won most of those games despite their faults, that is a good thing, and the upward trend Michigan has been showing late in the season is no reason to doubt it. That said, there are still some areas in which Tennessee has a serious advantage.
I think of most SEC basketball teams as horrifically unskilled but very athletic squads. This means bad at shooting, but great at both types of rebounding. Tennessee fits the stereotype to a T. They are a great offensive rebounding team, a decent defensive team, but awful, awful, awful at shooting the ball (and not great at defending shots). Michigan must take advantage of this while simultaneously preventing Tennessee from capitalizing on their rebounding advantage. Fortunately rebounding can be improved with effort, whereas a team does or does not have good shooters.
Considering most of Tennessee's success was against the poor SEC (Michigan would be the second best defensive rebounding team in the conference!), maybe the Volunteers are good-not-great even in their strongest categories.
Keys for Michigan will include good defense on Scotty Hopson all over the court, and crashing the defensive boards to neutralize a lot of the Volunteers' other opportunities. Of course the age-old "big men stay out of foul trouble" rule applies.
All sorts of stuff for NCAA Tournament game #1, most of it from UMHoops. Tennessee's players react to finding out Michigan is the opponent. Scouting report of the Volunteers, and Dylan's preview of the game.
Barring crazy circumstances, this doesn't seem like a bad matchup for Michigan. The Volunteers are like a version of Michigan State or Minnesota that absolutely can't shoot the ball, which tips the court heavily in Michigan's favor. Darius Morris recordss a double-double as Tim Hardaway scores more than 25 points in a 68-61 Michigan win.
Though Michigan opened the season at home with a resounding win over Florida, the true home season starts this weekend, as the Wolverines start a string of seven consecutive home games over four weeks. Before getting into those details, let's pick up where last we left the team.
Going undefeated over Spring Break is more the norm than the exception for the Michigan Lacrosse team, but that doesn't mean this year's trip out West was without drama.
Road Trip Recap
Though the University of Oregon has started the season a very disappointing 2-5, they managed to give Michigan a run for their money in Los Angeles a couple weeks back. The Wolverines trailed throughout most of regulation, but managed to stage a comeback to force overtime. In the second OT session, senior Chad Carroll scored the golden goal for Michigan to wrap up a 9-8 win.
The Wolverines atoned for the close call against UO by easily dispatching an overmatched Loyola Marymount squad 12-2 in a true road game. In a low-scoring game, there weren't many offensive standouts, but sophomore Thomas Paras finished with two goals and an assist. This game could have been a much bigger blowout, but the teams were playing slowly on a beaten-up field.
Michigan closed out their spring break trip with a visit to Chapman, one of their biggest rivals in recent years. Though Michigan struggled mightily on faceoffs (which had been a strength through the previous three years of dominance), they were able to make up for it by playing mistake-free ball. The Panthers couldn't reciprocate, and the Wolverines emerged with an 11-8 victory.
After a week back in school, the team traveled to Athens, Ohio on Saturday to open up conference play against Ohio University. The Bobcats are new to the MCLA, but sloppy play from the Wolverines prevented them from getting a blowout victory. Trevor Yealy did manage to score 6 goals in the 15-5 win.
Michigan's home slate gets off to a very tough start as traditional rival BYU will try their luck in Oosterbaan Fieldhouse (Friday at 7PM). The Cougars have started the season 7-0, including an impressive 11-7 win over #6 Colorado this weekend.
Many of the familiar faces from BYU over the past couple years are no longer around. Midfielder Elliott Grow and LSM Britton Cone (1st-Team All-Americans last year) have graduated, leaving junior midfielder Andrew Harding (3rd-Team) to be the face of the Cougars.
A much more in-depth preview of BYU can be found here.
The Panthers started their season by playing several non-MCLA-D1 teams, but have started getting into a more traditional schedule. They kicked off the conference slate with an 11-1 victory over fellow CCLA East squad Toledo to take the early lead for the Division title (Michigan caught up with the victory over Ohio). They traveled to Florida a couple weekends ago, falling 9-22 to Central Florida before rebounding with a 10-8 victory over South Florida.
Pitt is led offensively by sophomore attack Tyler Novotny, who is averaging 4 points per game (almost exclusively with goals, not assists). Pitt's Matthew Pham has fared well on faceoffs, winning nearly 66% of them so far this season, so it could be interesting to see how Michigan's relatively-inexperienced players fare against him.
Again, a more detailed preview can be found here.
Merry Christmas. We get presents this year. I'm an American so my productivity collapses like everyone else's during these couple days—content will be a bit light. Expect Tennessee/CCHA finals previews at least. A game column immediately afterwards is up in the air since I might be in Detroit rooting for Notre Dame. We'll play it by ear.
He's so articulate*. Man… I suggested the Grant Hill NYT op-ed would just confirm the Fab Five's 20-year-old opinions but I had no idea he'd actually drop Latin into it and call Duke a "special family," then tweet that his interminable diploma-waving had been edited for length and that you could find the whole thing on his website. I can't believe we actually hired one of these dips to coach our basketball team, and by "can't believe" I mean "can totally believe."
WLA truth bombs!
“was”. “hated”. “hated”. “felt”. “hated”. “was”. “came”. “went”. “played”. “was”. “had to”. “was”. “resented”. “looked”.
These are the verbs that the four members of the Fab Five use during their description of their feelings towards Duke. What do all these verbs have in common? They are in the past tense. This is an elementary fact of grammar of which you would expect one who mentions his place in the “special” brotherhood of Duke graduates to be aware. Apparently, he is not.
Rose has since clarified to foreigners, people with learning disabilities that prevent them from understanding verb conjugations, and Duke graduates that when he used verbs in the past tense he was talking about the past.
No one thought Grant Hill was a bitch, even the guys who said they thought he was when they were 19, until he wrote his response. Now everyone thinks he's a bitch. Can we get a Grant Hill Effect wikipedia page?
*[514 hits for "grant hill articulate" in the last 24 hours by people who don't know what articulate means but do know he's black. Hill's clunky constructions are reminiscent of a high school term paper even after going through a battery of NYT editors. Look at this:
It was a sad and somewhat pathetic turn of events, therefore, to see friends narrating this interesting documentary about their moment in time and calling me a bitch and worse, calling all black players at Duke “Uncle Toms” and, to some degree, disparaging my parents for their education, work ethic and commitment to each other and to me.
Too many commas. Pointless use of "interesting"—95% of the time a filler word. Awful finger-wagging intro. Too many goddamn commas. This sentence could have been half as long and communicated the same thing**. If this is articulate to you, you need to read more.]
**[That thing, of course: "The Fab Five was right."]
Dead coach walking. Bruce Pearl's athletic director said his status was undecided yesterday and it took all of two hours for this to morph into a "he's fired" news-type substance propagated by local radio. This is a perfect opportunity for hindpsychology no matter what happens tomorrow: if Tennessee loses, they have been distracted. If they win, they were motivated to protect their embattled coach.
Since Pearl's job status isn't likely to affect Hopson's jumper his wavering status is more interesting as a window into Tatgate. Tennessee is trying to hang on to Pearl, something that hardly any team facing a serious ethical violation has done before. If they can't do that it could bode poorly for Tressel, who'll get the same charge on his docket of major violations. The NCAA typically levies show-cause penalties when you break bylaw 10.1 ("don't be a liar, coach"), and those are basically a death-knell.
Bolden wavering. Robert Bolden is in at Penn State… for now:
"Nothing is official," he said [Wednesday]. "I'm just here for the spring. I decided to come back. I'm just here. I'm going to work hard and we'll see what happens from there."
That's a sticky spot for PSU. If he sticks around because he "won" the job in spring—for whatever that's worth—his threat to transfer hangs over that decision and a fall benching for McGloin or redshirt freshman Paul Jones seems likely to cause instant hissyfit + transfer. If he doesn't win the job he's out, leaving PSU with walk-on Favre and a guy who wasn't as good as Bolden last year.
Not far enough. Gasaway's annual rule-fixing column is up, and as per usual he is mincingly weak on the tyranny of basketball timeouts:
3. Reduce the number of timeouts. Here's a tip. If the coaches in your sport can call timeout, send their players into action, see what defense the opponent is using, and then call another timeout before anything has even happened, your sport gives its coaches too many timeouts. Let's make a start here by taking away one timeout per game from each team. The earth will continue to spin, I promise, and TV networks fretting about lost commercial time can be accommodated via slightly extended breaks in the action during the remaining timeouts.
Take away one timeout per team? Teams should only have one timeout. Make it count, yo, like they do in hockey, and stop turning the last two minutes of a basketball game into the Odyssey.
Big Ten hockey en route. Rumor has it a Big Ten Hockey conference, already a fait accompli—SUCK ON THAT GRANT HILL—could be announced as early as Monday. Big Ten play would start in 2013 when Penn State moves into its new building. They'd spend a year getting their feet as an independent.
Small schools will complain but Big Ten Hockey is great for the sport. Reasons:
- It opens up spots for expansion that don't exist right now. A variety of schools have come and gone over the past ten years, unable to stick because their only conference option was the constantly shifting, constantly almost evaporating CHA. Creating a Big Ten creates 12 slots in stable conferences for new programs, although half of those would have to be Big Ten schools.
- Twelve schools is too much for a hockey conference anyway. Nonconference schedules are preposterously small when 28 of your 34 games are ticketed for your conference. Getting the Western conferences down to 6, 8, and 10 teams greatly increases available nonconference games, making schedules more varied and ranking systems more reliable.
- Big Ten hockey will increase the profile of college hockey as a whole, helping it as it battles with the OHL for players.
A lot of small school fans are horrified at the prospect but it's not like North Dakota, Denver, and CC are going away. Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota would be hard pressed to recruit any better even with the promise of gorgeous Big Ten Network HD. Big Ten hockey will help the sports profile but not so much that it turns everyone else into mid-majors.
Fears that some of the smaller CCHA programs could be threatened by loss of revenue are more worrying. BG considered dropping its program a couple years back and hockey is an expensive sport. Ferris and Lake State and other places where it's the flagship are probably going to suck it up, but that's not the case everywhere. I certainly hope the Big Ten schools create scheduling agreements that see them regularly visit former conference opponents, and hate the idea of Miami and Notre Dame moving to the WCHA. That would see two perfectly viable conferences turn into one very good conference and CHA 2.0, and we know how CHA 1.0 ended.
Losing schools is bad for everyone since college is in a perpetual war against major junior; college hockey needs to work together to make this transition one that everyone can live with.
Etc.: Michigan has an 0.9 percent chance to make the Final Four. Zack Novak is short. Wojo column on Beilein. Hardaway fluff comes with another spectacularrrrrr Emotions of Tim Hardaway photo. Hockey fluff. Caporusso returns this weekend to the place where he scores.
So this has been floating out there for a few days, hanging out in the area of my tabs where stuff I mean to get to but don't lives. It's about Chris Barnett, the Texan tight end who decommitted from Arkansas and signed with Michigan on Signing Day. It's also about one of the guys Oregon is in hot water over.
This is our concern, Dude:
But while Flenory refused to reveal that advice [about where to go to school], Barnett has transferred high schools five times, attended four different high schools and twice broke commitments to colleges. The bizarre recruiting odyssey of the 6-foot-6, 245-pounder is a window into Flenory’s influence among top recruits whom he befriended while working as a Dallas-based recruiting analyst for Scout.com.
“It all makes sense if you understand how dysfunctional (expletive) is,” [father] Elzie Barnett said of his son’s recruitment. “But it doesn’t make sense to a layman. He’d be like, ‘What the hell?’”
What the hell, indeed. Thayer Evans, who you might remember from such stories as "Ladies Romancing Each Other" and such titles as Most Hated Man In Austin, posted an investigative piece on what happened with Chris Barnett's recruitment. As per usual with Evans pieces it's overheated—these days decommiting twice is unusual but hardly unprecedented, especially when the Oklahoma commitment may have been to an offer-type substance, not an actual we-want-you-here offer. Despite that it provides some insight into how love gets made on the recruiting trail, and maybe causes you to place a finger under your collar and tug nervously.
In summary: Barnett is an itinerant high school player who lives with various relatives for short durations and starts listing Baron Flenory—apropos name, that—as his role model instead of his father at some point midway through his career. He commits to Oklahoma briefly, then decommits for Arkansas. Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee flirts with the head coaching job at Tulsa, causing Barnett to look around. This is where Michigan enters the story:
Flenory said he told Barnett that he didn’t know about those schools [Barnett was interested in after he decided to look around], but did know that Michigan was looking for a tight end. He said he asked Barnett if he wanted to look at the Wolverines.
Once Barnett told him yes, Flenory said he called a Michigan coach, whom he declined to identify. “That’s irrelevant,” Flenory said.
Michigan visits Barnett and his uncle but never touches base with his father, which pisses the father off. For his part, Barnett says he wasn't unhappy with Arkansas at all:
Although Flenory said he talked to Barnett about Michigan, Barnett said he was never unhappy about his commitment to Arkansas and doesn’t know what prompted the Wolverines to start recruiting him. “I really don’t,” Barnett said. “I guess they heard that I was being able to take visits.”
(Barnett hopped on Facebook a couple days ago to issue an all-caps apology, FWIW.) There's more about his dad being pissed and how he thinks he should have gone to Arkansas so he can play in the SEC and in a pro-style offense, but the core of the unease is above.
- This Flenory guy runs camps and has many close relationships with high school kids.
- He is part of the reason the NCAA is squinting in Oregon's general direction.
- He apparently called Michigan out of the blue to push Barnett on Michigan's new, tight-end-needy regime.
- He won't say who he called.
- One of Flenory's Badger Sports camps is at Michigan this year so there's kind of an obvious quid pro quo available.
This is classic Evans; the piece has just the barest suggestion that funny business must have occurred but is constructed to invite the reader to connect those dots. There is a lot of sea to part before we can walk from the above to the NCAA squinting at Michigan again, especially if there's no Oregon-esque money trail. Since there basically can't be since Michigan's new staff was in place for like a week, I'd file this under how the sausage gets made until someone other than Evans picks it up—about as likely as Texas getting in trouble for ladies romancing each other.
That said, the piece does paint a picture of the increasing influence of summer camps as people like Flenory take advantage of NCAA restrictions to act as middle-men between player and coach. This is a problem partially of the NCAA's own making.
[insert item about what people would say if Rodriguez acquired this Barnett kid here.]