a terrible blight on our fine country
"A fertile ground for dangerous upstarts lately." That's the accurate, expected, still painful knife Doctor Saturday gently slips between Michigan's ribs in his latest premature assessment, this of the UConn team that will inaugurate Michigan's luxury boxes and possibly clock year three of the Rodriguez era on the head before it can even kick over some MAC team's sand castle.
The assessment doesn't exactly live up the DocSat's foreboding tweet, which said he would be the first person to jump on the bandwagon of a "serious contender in the Big East." That sounds bad. It's not quite that bad in the final analysis, though:
The Huskies are a couple playmakers away from standing out as a conference favorite, and one of those guys may emerge on one side or the other. Unless they come up with more firepower on both sides, though, the existing talent level makes it hard to forecast anything better than 8-4. That's not a breakthrough, exactly, but it is a more generous guess than they've ever gotten before at this time of year.
UConn suffered through a series of painfully close losses before a breakthrough-ish game against Notre Dame launched them on a four game win streak. Syracuse, USF, and South Carolina were the other victims. In any case, UConn returns a crap-ton of starters from an 8-5 team that saw the breaks go against it last year. I don't think they'll end the year #2, but the specter of that Utah game has been duly raised.
Hypothesis damage. It's not like losing Manny Harris is going to help the team, especially if it continues to shoot zero point two percent, but I can't be the only person who has glanced at Harris's relatively meh efficiency numbers (47.7 eFG, basically equivalent to Novak) and thought that replacing him might not be the mountain it appears to be.
Here is a chart that slaps that idea in the face and tells it to sit in the corner. Presenting the top ten Big Ten players in John Hollinger's comprehensive PER stat:
|1||Evan Turner, OSU||28||35.4||22||15.5||26.8||6.6||24.8||15.7||31.3|
|2||Robbie Hummel, PUR||27||30.3||12.9||6.5||19.6||6.5||21||13.7||28.31|
|3||Draymond Green, MSU||32||25.4||22.6||12.8||18.1||10||22.1||16.1||25.85|
|4||Damian Johnson, MINN||34||25.5||18.6||10.7||16.6||6.8||12.5||9.6||25.36|
|5||DeShawn Sims, MICH||32||32.1||5.2||8.4||23||12.7||18.6||15.6||25.2|
|6||Manny Harris, MICH||31||36.1||17.3||12.1||24.4||6.8||15.4||11.1||24.76|
|7||JaJuan Johnson, PUR||32||31.1||4.6||11.4||19.7||9.3||18.1||13.7||24.66|
|8||John Shurna, NW||33||36.3||12.7||9.9||21.8||6||16.1||11.1||23.68|
|9||Zack Gibson, MICH||32||10||6.8||13.5||15.1||12.1||16.2||14.1||23.66|
|10||Trevon Hughes, WIS||31||32.5||14.2||10.4||23.5||4.6||13||8.8||23.3|
One-grunt observations on the three bolded folk: obvs, guh, wha?
Okay. I think that Michigan playing super small at all times skews this towards the players on the team who actually haul in rebounds. Still, this is one statistical measure that passes the sniff test—check out the top of the national leaderboard for Enter Samhan, Some UNI Guy, and Argh Running 40-Footer—that disagrees with the various Kenpom measures that declare Manny Harris a prolific but inefficient scorer.
Also… holy jeez maybe we could have figured out a way to put Gibson on the floor a bit more.
(HT: Inside The Hall.)
Money money money. Bleed Scarlet shouldn't feel too bad about missing USA Today's most recent FOIA rampage, a January database of revenue and expenses at public division I schools. It seems like the entire blogosphere whiffed on. I certainly hadn't seen it.
Anyway, this perked my ears up:
The vast majority of sports programs — even those that purport to support themselves — receive significant financial backing from their institutions to operate. Of the 99 institutions in the table below, all but four — Louisiana State, Ohio State, and Purdue Universities, and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln — reported receiving at least some revenues in the 2007-8 fiscal year from one of four categories of “allocated” revenues: student fees, direct state or government support, direct institutional support (general fund money), or indirect institutional support (facilities, energy costs, etc.).
Eh? Really? No Michigan? A quick zip over to the database provides an answer. It is not earth-shaking:
As of 2008, six hundredths of a percentage point of Michigan's athletic department funding comes from the university. This is not a one-time fluke, as direct support went from zero in 2005 to about 30k the next year and 50k the year after before landing at its current totally insignificant amount. What is it? I asked SID Bruce Madej:
This is how we are required to report when we receive funds to pay for work study students who assist us during the year.
That mystery solved.
Now let us ask the eternal question: why does Eastern Michigan have a football program? 86% of athletic department "revenue" comes as a subsidy.
Etc.: Hidden in the night game announcement is a two-year break in the M-ND series in 2018 and 2019, which an mgoblog user picked out and MVictors confirmed was a new development. DocSat on the "cult of the bracket."
Your humble author at around 8PM on Wednesday
So, right. I didn't want to harsh the hockey buzz earlier and mention it then, but I will mention it now: Spirit Airlines sucks. I waited long enough that I am no longer a spittle-flecked FFFFFFUUUUUU-bot about the whole thing and can now relate to you my story without having it devolve into fantasies where I chop off their heads. Instead I will rationally explain to you why Spirit Air is an exceptionally bad choice for anyone looking to use a plane to change their location.
Event #1: I am flying to New York for Blogs With Balls 1.0, the first ever sportsblogger convention-type substance. Due to crazy weather things, the flight is cancelled. Okay, fine, out of their control. I am then told that I can get on the next available flight. The flight is on Sunday. It is Thursday. BWB is on Saturday. I am attempting to get to New York City, which is a large and notable place with no fewer than three major airports if you count Newark.
It turns out I cannot explode the heads of people who are talking to me on the phone. I cancel. I do manage to Priceline a flight for less than one zillion dollars, but I have to get up at 4 AM to catch it. That day is fun.
Event #2: I purchase tickets to head out to Las Vegas for the NCAA tournament's opening weekend in order to see my friend who moved to Nowhere, Arizona, and spends the first weekend of the NCAA tournament running around like one of those little dogs whose blood is 90% cocaine. Because MGoSignificantOther has to TA classes, we have a tight window. It only makes sense to fly out Wednesday night and come back Sunday and unfortunately in that window Spirit is about 300 bucks cheaper than the alternatives. I grit my teeth and buy.
When we arrive at the airport more than an hour before the flight, our boarding passes have no seats. I know this is very bad. It turns out they have oversold the flight by a whopping six people and we are all totally screwed. We are given the option to fly out later… 24 hours later. This totally destroys the sense in going. We cancel. Spirit offers us exactly nothing in compensation.
I FFFFFFUUUUUUU my way out of the airport and fall into a funk that only magically delicious Shawn Hunwick can cure.
A Totally Non Spittle-Flecked Reason You Should Avoid Spirit
I have been caught in the throes of airline fiascoes a few times before, and have been pissed off. But in those instances the delays have been on the order of hours because other airlines have reciprocal agreements where they will reduce FFFUUUU as much as possible by letting you on their flights.
Spirit does not have these agreements—my Priceline flight is proof of that—and if anything goes wrong with your flight, or you are one of the unfortunate folk who Spirit says "psyche!" to when you say "you sold me a ticket", you will be waiting at least a full day and possibly up to, like, forever, before you can actually get on a plane. If getting somewhere at a particular time is important, avoid Spirit Air at all costs. If you have a wedding or a holiday or a space ninja convention or have made any plans whatsoever, Spirit Air is a terrible choice.
I understand that sometimes the flight is going to be ridiculously cheaper and you'll want to roll the dice, but trust me: if it's anywhere under a couple hundred bucks—which most of them are—they'll extract most of that from you in hidden fees for booking a seat or checking luggage or breathing funny and you'll be exposing yourself to greatly increased risk that your plans will just evaporate.
Also, when you try to email them you will have to jump through sixteen hoops to do so and then you will be all FFFFUUUU again when you send them a link to your post.
A Side Note
Is there any other industry that will promise you something, take hundreds or thousands of dollars from you, and then say "sorry, we were just kidding?" I can hardly believe this "oversold" bullcrap is legal. Two would be one thing, but six? Seriously?
Obligatory Planes, Trains, And Automobiles Embed
The most NSFW 53 seconds that does not involve nudity can be:
For the record, I did not do this. For the first time in my life I did pull the "DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE TALKING TO?!?" card, though. They did not.
3/19/2010 – Michigan 5, Miami 2 – 24-17-1
3/20/2010 – Michigan 2, Northern Michigan 1 – 25-17-1, CCHA
One. When I was in high school my AP English research paper was a no doubt ham-fisted comparison between Winesburg, Ohio and Bridge of San Luis Rey. I don't remember the former whatsoever, but the latter is a novel by Thornton Wilder in which a selection of lovelorn 18th century Peruvians pitch headlong to their deaths when the rope bridge they are crossing gives way.
This event fascinates a local monk who sees the tragedy happen. He tracks down the life stories of everyone involved and concludes this was merciful act of God since each victim suffered from a love so powerful and unrequited that the last thoughts of the victims was probably something a long the lines of "yay it's over yay yay yayyyyyyy—."
For the monk's troubles, the Inquisition burns him at the stake. He was looking for proof of a just and loving God, which is heretical when you're supposed to take that on faith.
Two. At some point in a gas station or at Meijer or some other place where bad or obscure movies are put on sale for five dollars, I happened across a movie version of Bridge of San Luis Rey. I still remembered the book. Inexplicably, the movie starred Gabriel Byrne, Kathy Bates, and Robert DeNiro(!). I was obviously compelled to purchase it. This did not extend to actually watching it.
Three. My satellite setup is shared with the landlord and sometimes when we want to watch TV he is instead taping every procedural crime drama or nature documentary set in the Far East on television. Yesterday in the afternoon it was Wild China. So my fiancée put on this movie.
Four. The reason we were stymied by Wild China instead of watching the NCAA tournament in Vegas was because Spirit Airlines, which sucks immensely, oversold our flight to Las Vegas and bumped us. This sent me into a rage, destroyed the cost-benefit ratio of going, saw us cancel the trip entirely, and caused me to spend Thursday sulking like a five year old.
Five. On Friday I went to a hockey game. Saturday, too.
The number of Michigan fans that would gladly have seen their sports fandom pitch headlong to its doom has to be hovering near its all-time high right now. You can't voluntarily abandon it because suicide is a sin but, man, that bridge is looking pretty rickety and maybe if I just take all these things I care about and put them on the bridge and go attend to cargo down by the river I'll come back to find no trace of them and I can go be interested in crochet. There's no such thing as unrequited crochet.
As reactions to this year of Michigan sports go, turning off the hope and settling down into a prolonged malaise is obvious. I was planning some sort of gallows-humor-laden celebration when the three major sports seasons had finally expired and kind of hoping the hockey team would gack it up against Lake State just so it would over sooner. This was always hypothetical. Once the team got on the ice I was pulling for them, but without much fervor and with an eye on the silver lining if they did what they'd been doing all season. I was thinking about a mock funeral.
Then… that happened.
Putting the spurs to Lake Superior State was one thing, as they were a tenth-place team with some fatal flaw that made Michigan's numerous fatal flaws irrelevant. A dominant sweep was a rare occurrence for Michigan this year, but it could be explained away. Following that by stomping Michigan State in a series that redefined both teams' seasons lit a tiny little flame, though. When Tristin Llewellyn (of all people!) blasted a puck past Cody Reichard, it was on: the terror of a high-stakes game you are fully invested in. It had been a long time since one of those went the right way.
Something did flip on this team when Shawn Hunwick was forced into the starting lineup. The relentless defensive intensity from Hunwick's first game, when he saw maybe two shots with any hope of going in, has been a constant feature since his insertion. That's equal parts insult and tribute: the team both needs and wants to protect their miniscule walk-on goaltender. In doing so they've found the formula for success that eluded them so painfully the throughout the season and given Michigan fans reason to believe in heretical things like Benevolent Michigan Walk-On Tolerating God.
I guarantee you this: no group of people has ever been as excited about Fort Wayne, Indiana, as Michigan hockey fans are right now.
Yost Built is doing a round of apologies in the aftermath and I have a couple to offer up of my own:
Tristin Llewellyn not only scored but avoided any penalties that meant something (he took one with a few seconds left in a 5-2 game against Miami) and failed do anything that made me mentally exclaim "Llewellyn!" in the same tone of voice Jerry Seinfeld says "Newman!"
That latter is the way I usually judge individual defense: number of "Newman!" plays where someone's obvious error leads to a scoring chance versus number of anti-Newmans where something that looks threatening is snuffed out by a good play. (I know this is far from a complete evaluation but it's the best I can do live.) Llewellyn had a half Newman early in the Northern game when he came up too aggressively as NMU broke the zone, but he had backcheckers and nothing came of it. He had two or three anti-Newman plays against Miami, which is That Miami. Best weekend of his career? Probably.
Louie Caporusso came in for repeated criticism this year as he and David Wohlberg failed to even approximate their 2009 production. At a couple points I suggested that this was the real Caporusso, a decent second-liner and nothing more, and that the blazing hot start to his sophomore year was the aberration. Yeah… Caporusso is now two points off a PPG. Yost Built has details:
When Caporusso was a Hobey-finalist a year ago, he had 24-25--49, but scored just six goals after the first of the year--and five of those were against LSSU, WMU, and a dreadful FYS team. This year it's the opposite. After just 7 goals in his first 30 games, Caporusso has now ripped off 13 goals and 20 points in the last 13, which includes five multi-goal games and a playmaker. He also hasn't gone consecutive games without a point this calendar year.
Theory as to what happened: Caporusso's okay but not great at stickhandling, crazy Hensick goal against Michigan State nonwithstanding, and he spent large chunks of the year attempting to do everything himself. This resulted in a lot of lost possession and not much else. When the team picked up its play, Caporusso had more faith in his teammates to get him the puck in dangerous areas, which has shifted the focus of his game from his stickhandling to his lethal wrister and ability to get open in dangerous areas. Both of Caporusso's goals against Northern resulted from that, as did the shot that zinged off the inside of the post immediately before his second.
Shawn Hunwick. By the third period of the Northern game, Shawn Hunwick-specific terror had dissipated and was replaced by a slightly lower-level General Oh My God panic. His team is helping him out immensely, but after eight full games his save percentage is .912. I admit that I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop here, but at this point you have to let it ride.
- At no point have I said anything about Carl Hagelin that would require an apology, but I should probably mention that if either of his linemates takes a step forward or they throw an offensive-minded player on his wing, his points could blow up next year to the point where he's a serious Hobey contender. There are only six players who 1) have more points than Hagelin this year, 2) play in a Big Four conference, and 3) can return next year. A couple of those guys play for RPI and UMass, teams that aren't likely to be good enough to get their guys into the Hobey top three, and none of them can possibly be as spectacular two-way players as Hagelin. The big problem is fellow Swede Gustav Nyquist, a sophomore for Maine who has 61 points.
Hoo boy did I hate a number of calls this weekend. I did not see the Miami guy clock Wohlberg into the boards and can't offer an opinion on whether that was two or five. I did think Glendening was done as soon as that hit was delivered, FWIW.
However, how the hell does a Northern guy plow Michigan's Happy Meal toy of a goalie without so much as a shove and not get a goal interference or charging call? How does the Miami game turn into a throwback where penalties are only called when there's bone showing?
Also, I've seen this call often enough to assume that it's actually the correct call but it's immoral: when a defenseman (Steve Kampfer in this case) lays an open-ice check on a guy who's about to receive a pass and that guy has just whiffed on a puck he could easily have touched, that gets called as interference. That drives me crazy. It should be like the NFL rule. If the defender gets there after the pass has gone through a small area around you it's a good play.
- I still don't understand why Winnett is playing the point on the power play. Michigan has Langlais, Kampfer, Burlon, and either Summers or Moffie available on defense. Three of those guys have more points than Winnett; Burlon is equal with him and Moffie is just two back despite playing only 29 games. Some of those guys aren't spectacular defensively but I'm betting they're all more comfortable there than Winnett. Winnett's a fourth line forward on a team with a ton of offensive defensemen. I don't get his usage there at all. Last weekend he shot numerous pucks into defenders and set up a couple shorthanded chances for the opposition.
- Scooter got pulled up onto the third line when Glendening went out and did well; in the third period I don't think the fourth line got more than a shift. I don't think he'll move up in the pecking order since Michigan is adding at least one more forward than they lose (this perhaps foolishly assumes no NHL departures) but I'd be comfortable with him as an energy guy wherever he ends up.
Daily story and gallery. Also a CHN article, attention from Puck Daddy, AnnArbor.com coverage Rivals promises "Swedish trash talk" in a Hagelin interview. 2011 recruit Lucas Lessio is projected as a first-round NHL draft pick. The Wolverine Blog on the game.
Wow. After years of screwing one and two-seeded Michigan teams, the committee went off the reservation and gave Michigan the kindest possible draw in the history of draws:
1. Miami vs. 4. Alabama-Huntsville
2. Bemidji State vs 3. Michigan
That bracket is crazy better than going to Massachusetts to play WCHA champion North Dakota and facing a probable road game against BC if you survive that. Michigan gets to play virtual home games against Bemidji, the #8 overall seed—North Dakota is #5—and probably Miami, a team they just beat handily. I have no idea why the committee would do this except the big one: attendance. Fort Wayne is now going to be packed and Michigan's chances of making it to Detroit probably just doubled. This is totally unfair for the rest of the field.
UPDATE: Just to emphasize what a favor the committee just did Michigan, everyone thinks KRACH is a much better rating system than the Pairwise. KRACH has North Dakota 4th and Bemidji 13th. In its world, Michigan is 10th and actually a favorite in the first round game. Of course, then Michigan has to take on #2 Miami instead of #5 BC, but I'll take it.
UPDATE II: Tickets here.
I'm not actually in Las Vegas. It's a short but spittle-flecked story I'll get into on Monday. But I can tell you that this is the likely bracket Michigan finds itself in:
4. Boston College vs 13. Alaska
5. North Dakota vs 12. Michigan
It's a pretty brutal bracket: ND first and probably BC in Boston next, but Michigan isn't in a position to complain. Confirmation tomorrow, but the final bracket has no conflicts and there's no chance it will be significantly different.
Because you can't have one without the other... Other goodies after the jump.