"What (Michigan coaches) told me is that they're focusing on point guards right now, but if anything opens up, they'll definitely come back on and recruit me as hard as they were," said Towns
2/25/2010 – Michigan 3, NMU 2 – 22-9-4, 19-7-1 CCHA
2/26/2010 – Michigan 5, NMU 0 – 23-9-4, 20-7-1 CCHA – Champions
My AP Biology teachers were not very good at anticipating how much minutia an average high school student could write down in 54 minutes. They consistently wrote tests that were ten minutes too long. This compounded itself over the course of a day, so when we showed up for the last hour there was always a class full of frantic scribblers occupying our seats forever. Forced to wait, definitely not making any bus, and unbound by anyone showing up after us, my class would dribble out of the room anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes after the official end of the school day.
Except for me. Pointless memorization was my jam, man. I blew through the tests in a half hour, then waited outside for a friend who would need a ride. I'm sure this privately infuriated my teachers since most of my time in their class was spent asleep. If I'd failed a test or even not done so well they could have swooped in with Life Lessons, maybe even called my mom to describe what a terrible student I was. But as long as I was the only guy finishing their insane tests on time they were powerless.
Michigan has not been a particularly entertaining hockey team this year. They've been gritty and frustrating and occasionally elegant but only from the back end; Hagelin has been fast and Hunwick surprisingly effective. They split with an awful MSU team and didn't look like they even belonged on the same ice as Miami. They blew leads to tie seemingly all of their nonconference games. They didn't score much in the way they were trying to. It's been jarring.
Even this weekend they spent the first 90 minutes asleep. On Friday, Shawn Hunwick and some emergency defending saw them scrape a win they didn't seem to deserve. On Saturday it was looking like they were going to do the same after the first 26 minutes saw 12 shots total, one of them an attempted pass by Hagelin that a Wildcat deflected into his own net. Since I was watching the internet feed on my computer my melodramatic twitter feed features an existential crisis, incredible frustration, and the phrase "awful, awful, awful."
After the existential crisis the previous class shuffled out and Michigan got down to business. There was a humorous scene in which they wrote so fast smoke rose from the paper. When it cleared no one was even mad two goals had been waved off because four others had stood.
What was that? Was that something that's been there all along but isn't unearthed on the regular, or was it just like Michigan starting the Minnesota basketball game off 6 of 6 from three, a statistical fluke? Should we call Michigan's mother to tell on him?
I'm not sure we can. The test is in and it says "A":
No matter how deeply suspicious we are or are not, the test says "A". Michigan may have gotten blown out of Oxford but Miami won four fewer games in the league. On Saturday Notre Dame had three goals disallowed and scored none against Western Michigan. They did not put a knuckling puck through the Bronco goalie with 40 seconds left, then flick one into the top corner with two left. They allowed twelve more goals than Michigan and scored only three more. I'm still not sure how that's true but it is. Last year Michigan finished seventh in the league, and this year they won it.
Now we come to the knee-buckling section of the schedule. Last year Michigan reached this point down their starting goalie, playing a first-round series for the first time in forever and staring down the barrel of Michigan State, Miami, and someone else if they were going to extend their tourney streak. They did, and then they were robbed of a Frozen Four bid in one of the program's all-time classic games. They died like Vikings, turning their league D into a B.
This year they've got a much easier road. They've guaranteed themselves an at large and won't face either of the CCHA's other elite teams until the final. Hold serve and you're one game away from a one seed and a friendly bracket.
I don't know what to think. Maybe the subtler qualities really do exist and this series of narrow victories is just what happens when you're a really good defensive team that lacks magic midgets. I've never deeply cared about a team like this. Maybe this is what life is like when you've got six good to great defenders and Scooter Vaughn is vying to be your second-leading scorer. Or maybe the Miami series was a dark preview of what will happen whenever Michigan meets an elite opponent.
I'll know in the next month. They've got an A so far, but the only thing that matters in this class is the final. This is not fair. It is, however, college hockey.
The usual extreme detail from mfan_in_ohio.
Somewhat briefer: for a moment on Friday night Michigan had fallen to tenth despite their win against NMU, but when the dust cleared from the weekend Michigan moved up into a tie for fourth(!) despite losing OSU's record and gaining MSU's in their TUC category. Then a butterfly flapped its wings, sending MSU below .500 RPI. Voila:
Bracketology stuff usually has Michigan playing RPI/CC in the first round and getting the winner of Union/UMD in the second if they get there. Stop the season right now. I want to get off.
How did this happen?
Merrimack blew up. The lead people including myself thought was unassailable evaporated in a single weekend as meh Maine (14-10-6 before the weekend) swept. I think we PWR watchers underestimate how quickly teams high up in the RPI can backslide if they get swept. Merrimack has terrible Providence this weekend and can only lose ground—sweeping leaves their RPI basically where it is now.
WCHA teams did too. UMD only got one point out of their weekend with CC, and UNO split with Denver—the exact result Michigan wanted.
CCHA playoffs rooting guide:
- In the first round you want Alaska over MSU, NMU over BGSU, and OSU over LSSU. NMU [M: 2-0 against them] can approach the cutoff with a sweep and OSU [3-1] can get over the hump with one. MSU [2-2] is thousandths away from the cutoff and if they don't lose things could get ugly. OTOH, this might not be so bad. Unless BGSU pulls a massive upset MSU would then play Michigan in the second round. Michigan could put them right back under .500. Even if they didn't the record would then be 4-2, which whatever.
- Second round assuming no upsets: Michigan, obvs, over OSU or LSSU. NMU over Miami, as that would make them a TUC. Ferris-WMU doesn't really matter since it appears the Bulldogs are locked in as a TUC, and neither would ND-Alaska.
- At the Joe it probably won't matter as long as Michigan wins.
The most important other thing: Die, Denver. You die and go to hell. Also, pull hard for UNH against BC this weekend.
Non-Bullets Of Silverware
Wat. If you were one of the dedicated few ripping the NMU radio guy a new one on twitter as you watched the B2E feed you might have wondered what the hell Michigan players were doing after the game, unless you were also one of the many who played NHL 94 incessantly. Michigan Hockey Net digs up a junior team doing the same thing. I'm impressed guys who were about three when '94 came out have even heard of it.
Feed BTW. It probably wasn't worth seven bucks if we're talking about a random midseason series. With the title on the line, though, I shelled out both nights and was relatively impressed. Negatives: the quality is not super high and you aren't getting replays. Positive: the feed was very smooth. I missed maybe a minute of game time total to internet hiccups.
The quality wasn't good enough for me to be able to say much about specific players, however. It was tough for me to figure out who was who most of the time.
One exception. Hunwick bounced back huge on Friday night after a disappointing series against Western. He stole that game. On Saturday he had very little to do, so points to the team defense there.
Highlights. HT to Michigan Hockey Net for digging up highlights from Friday and Saturday. Friday:
That post from MHN has a bunch of other stuff including Andrew Cogliano fighting someone much bigger than him.
“You’re instincts take over on a play like that,” Burlon said after Friday’s game. “(Hunwick) was the goalie on that one, but then, I’ve got to play goalie. You do anything for the team to get the win and that was just one of those plays.”
Yost Built hasn't updated. Frowns.
2/26/2011 – Michigan 70, Minnesota 63 – 18-12, 8-9 Big Ten
Outside of Michigan, if you've heard about Zack Novak it's probably because Blake Griffin posterized him. That's what got him in Sports Illustrated, after all. The article starts off by describing Michigan's strategy—let him shoot—before noting that "the coaches do not cover what to do if he decides to jump over your head." Luke Winn reports that after it happened a Memphis fan yelled "Hey, Novak! Your kid is going to have a picture of that on his wall!" Zack Novak: not Blake Griffin.
Saturday Novak got posterized again, this time by a guy who can do this:
Substitute Novak for the motorcycle and that's basically what happened. It was lethal. I'm shocked it's not on Youtube six different ways. Bacari Alexander heard so much about it he admonished the twitter in the aftermath.
It takes a special kind of player on a special kind of team to be famous for being a vague impediment to someone going ham on the rim. It takes a floppy-haired short kid on an overmatched team, specifically. Every time an actual power forward gets on a media guide cover thanks to Novak it's a reminder that Michigan is a short, young, small, and possibly talent-deficient team just trying to make do until it can get some seniors up in here.
But as Alexander pointed out: scoreboard. At the end of the game it read Michigan LOTS, Minnesota NOT QUITE AS MANY despite the fact that Novak's going to be incidentally part of ten year old Minnesotans' walls next year. There were a lot of reasons for this—Tim Hardaway going NBA Jam in the first five minutes, Darius Morris braving the trees to toss in a variety of circus shots—but just about everything that was going to happen already had and Michigan was still down one on the road with three seconds on the shot clock and ninety on the game clock.
Morris tried to drive and was cut off. He had to chuck it out to Novak; Novak was camped out at the NBA three-point line. If he was closer one of Minnesota's enormous tree people would have deflected the pass. As it was the enormous tree person got a hand in his face as he fired an instant before the shot clock hit zero.
Against Iowa and Wisconsin, Novak literally hadn't hit a shot.
Minnesota came down the floor down two. Novak, who is maybe 6'4", ended up checking Minnesota's Ralph Sampson III (yes that Ralph Sampson). Sampson is 7'1" with long, long arms. He could eat Zack Novak in a single sitting. He'd already hit a variety of mid-range jumpers that Michigan could do nothing about other than watch, and was one-on-one in the block. This is shrug-your-shoulders time. This is the point where you acknowledge the physical limitations brought on by Benzing's test score and Cronin's hip and say "just wait till next year, Big Ten!" as you shake your little tiny baby fist.
Sampson is fighting for position hard enough for the announcer to note it. Minnesota feeds the post. This is shrug-your-shoulders-time.
People say players like Zack Novak do the little things, and they are wrong. I yelped "yes" involuntarily. This hadn't happened for anything else; anything that forces strained noises out of you is probably not a "little thing."
Maybe they say this because it's not the kind of thing that gets you on a poster. That's true, but in the alternate universe where Nick Hornby is on the 50 Sexiest People cover for the 20th straight year and Sufjan Stevens is Lady Gaga, there are posters of Novak leaping in front of Sampson, posters of the Aneurysm of Leadership, posters of Zack Novak bleeding on you and MANBOUNDING you and fronting your six-eight jumping-jack power forward. In them, Novak has an elbow in his back, blood running down his temple, and is plotting how to take a charge.
Tim has you covered. Go North Carolina Central!
The best in annoyance. Eamonn Brennan on Michigan's chances:
Huge road win for Michigan, and an even bigger loss for Minnesota. The Wolverines have been quietly (OK, not quietly, because Michigan fans e-mail me more than any non-BYU fan base in the nation) making a late-season push for at-large consideration, and this win will only boost that case. In fact, the Wolverines are probably, if only barely, in the tournament right now. A home win over Michigan State in the regular-season finale might very well seal it.
Say what you will about Michigan fan but boy do they lacerate people on the internet with questions/responses. Hinton agrees.
The zen of good shots. I missed the first Michigan-Minnesota game because of hockey but recall from the stats that Michigan took an epic number of threes and missed damn near all of them; in the first half they took an epic number of threes (22 to just six twos) and this was frickin' awesome until they got to 35 points, at which point it was frickin' awful. What changed? It didn't look like anything. Minnesota has enormous dudes inside and was giving up wide open three after wide open three, so it made sense to take them. Was that bad? Is an open three a bad shot after you've taken five straight? What if you've missed five straight?
I'm really asking here. I can't recall more than a couple first-half threes that seemed like bad shots in isolation. An open three from a 35% shooter is something you can win a lot of games with, but as they clanged off the rim late in the first half I tried to figure out if my frustration was me being a troglodyte or not. The end result was good—9 of 22, 41%, equivalent to hitting 61% of your twos—so… can you complain?
After all, Michigan put up an excellent 1.19 points per possession. In the second half they were far more interior-oriented and scored… 35 points. There's an argument to be made that any three is less good than a layup/dunk and that a team that can get lots of those is going to be better than a team that just bombs from deep. Also an offense like that is less prone to withering droughts.
So if Michigan was really good it would be a problem, and if they're going to be really good they'll have to cut down on the threes, but they're not so fine, especially against the Brobdingnagian Gophers. I think this is what I think.
Statewatch. The popular sentiment appears to be "beat MSU and don't fall on your face and you're in"—even an previously dismissive Lunardi now has Michigan amongst his last four in. That's quite a shift from before the Minnesota game. So goings-on with the Spartans are important. They just got obliterated by Purdue 67-47:
The offensive execution before the shot wasn't great. The ball screens and movement were enough to create open shots, and on the few occasions MSU did get offensive rebounds (OReb% of 26.3% - low, but not enough to explain a 20 point loss) they could not convert. Seven points off 10 offensive rebounds isn't good. Lastly, it seemed as if the Spartans were a bit tentative in the paint. Dan Dakich made a point a couple times during the telecast that Green and Roe were falling forward on lay-ups, and I think a drive directly at the basket would've at least drawn a foul.
While they should take care of Iowa at home they made the Hawkeyes look like Purdue the last time out. Either way MSU is going to be playing for its tourney life in Crisler on Saturday. It will be the most important, competitive game between the teams in years.
BONUS: The elf who bakes cookies is MSU's third-leading scorer in the last couple games.
Tim Hardaway: five star? Big Ten Geeks asked people to name "ten freshmen better than Tim Hardaway Jr" apropos of nothing on the twitter and then followed that up a comparison between THJ and some of his more hyped peers:
Here’s how he stacks up in terms of offensive rating and possessions consumed in conference play with some other more recognizable freshmen:
Player Offensive Rating Poss% Tim Hardaway Jr. 112.1 24.4 Jared Sullinger 118.2 26.4 Harrison Barnes 103.4 26.3 Terrence Jones 107.4 29.2 Brandon Knight 112.1 24.8 Perry Jones 114.7 22.2 Tobias Harris 103.1 26 Josh Smith 108.8 25.7
It’s not like Hardaway is a tweener, either. At 6-5, he’s got the size to play guard at the next level. We should probably see Hardaway on more mock draft boards, very soon.
Not as good as Jared Sullinger. Everyone else is at least debatable and he's got a clear edge on many. (Caveats about defense apply.)
John Beilein's eagle eye. Hardaway's emergence and Jordan Morgan turning into a way better player than classmate Derrick Nix have provided enough evidence for me to suggest that Beilein's seems to have an eye for players who are overlooked by recruiting sites. I didn't follow the Pittsnogle era at WVU closely enough to have a grasp on the players he was recruiting and didn't get, but various Michigan targets who have outperformed expectations:
- Beilein was hard after Klay Thompson as he tried to fill out his first recruiting class but Thompson decided to go to Washington State(!?!), whereupon he exploded. He's shooting 42% from 3 and has a 106.4 ORtg despite using a third of WSU's possessions.
- That same year he pursued Kyle Kuric heavily but didn't get him. Kuric went somewhere less embarrassing: Louisville. He's currently sporting a 129.8(!) ORtg because he's hitting 46% from three and 60% from two. He has low usage and only plays 57% of available minutes, but dang.
- Beilein went after Vermont transfer Joe Trapani but lost him to BC. As a senior he's got a 104 ORtg while shooting 29% of the time. He shoots 36% from 3.
- Robin Benzing fell one SAT question short of making this edition of Michigan insane. He was the leading scorer in a U20 Euro championship, got time on the actual German national team, and is a guy who keeps popping up on NBA draft radars.
- Hardaway was a meh three star when he committed.
- Smotrycz was a meh three star when he committed before shooting up with a strong AAU season; he's struggled a bit so far but has potential and was no one when he committed to M.
- Novak had his Valpo offer pulled.
- Morgan had no other D-I offers and even his father was surprised he got one from Michigan.
Add in Pittsnogle and Joe Alexander and Gansey, etc., and I think you've got a strong case to trust the coaches when Beilein brings in someone you've never heard of who doesn't have any offers. Not everyone can pan out explosively but Beilein seems to be more hit than miss.
Dang. Random BTN tweet:
Jordan Morgan has averaged 15.0 ppg and 4.8 rpg over his last five games. He's shooting 71.4 pct during this span.
Recap from UMHoops. Also AnnArbor.com. Big Ten tourney scenarios from AC1997. Zach Travis of MNB on the other Zack. Big House Blog on Novak. Maize n Blue Nation on Novak. Mets Maize on… Novak. Little things… not so much.
In Soviet Russia, Novak discusses topic of dunk:
“I didn’t even really see it. I was turned around a little bit,” Novak said. “So I was under the basket and I saw him dunk it. I didn’t know it was that bad.
“But (my teammates) told me it was pretty bad. He’s just, he’s a great player.”
Rothstein also recaps Michigan's league situation.
And finally, here's this:
The Michigan offer blitz is in full effect with over 100 offers already extended by the coaching staff. The 2012 offer list is here and for the most part accurate. There have been a lot of questions asked about the number of offers being thrown out. It's probably not going to be a normal thing in the future. These coaches are new to the neighborhood so they're trying to make their presence known.
Giving out offers to high profile kids does a few things for the coaches. It shows everyone that they're serious about recruiting high talent kids to Michigan, that they think they can land some of them, and that they want to build relationships for the future. In year one, this is probably a decent strategy. Here's a look at some of the recent happenings.
6'0", 185 lbs.
Old Tappan, New Jersey
Fuller is an outstanding athlete that brings a lot to the table at many positions. He has made a name for himself in his area, and his film is really impressive. He was recently extended a Michigan offer and very excited about that.
It's a huge [offer] for me and my family. I know they have great tradition over there, and they all know how to win. Plus the academics are great as well. I don't have a top list yet, but Michigan was a big one, I must say. The coaches see me at quarterback, but they will give me a chance at any other positions. I'm probably looking to make my decision in the summer time so I can get it over with.
As Devin said the Michigan coaches have told him he can try quarterback. He's an all round athlete so it wouldn't be wasting a scholarship if that didn't work out.
6'6", 260 lbs.
Williams is a big tight end prospect who has been offered by Michigan, Boston College, Illinois, NC State, and Toledo among others. He's a little raw, but obviously has the size.
It means a lot that [Michigan] offered. I love the way the staff is honest and I love how it's a big powerhouse. It means a lot that they were recruiting me from the beginning too. Kind of like a friend that was with you since childhood, if someone else comes a long you still like the childhood friend better. I'm going to try to make it up there after basketball season, and really get everything going then.
Williams sounds very interested in Michigan and is also hearing from Iowa, Northwestern, and Wisconsin. The coaching staff has already made AJ feel comfortable, as he mentioned about honesty. They told him they would be recruiting him, that they would offer, and everything they've said to him that would happen has happened. That's made an impact on him.
6'1", 182 lbs.
Gant was talked about a lot before the 2012 recruiting class started, and has seen his recruitment consistently gain profile. He doesn't have a top list yet, but still sees Michigan as one of his top schools.
I talked to Coach Funk and Coach Mattison sent me something last week. I don't have the exact date set up, but I will be visiting there soon. I think they might offer me either after they see my film, or after I go to camp. I'm just focusing on a place where I know I can be happy, and I can contribute right away.
Grant's play speaks for itself, and he should be in the top 20 players in Ohio. Considering the amount of talent in their state this year, that's pretty impressive. Although I'm sure he'd like to make a name for himself, Michigan fans probably know him best for being related to Charles Woodson and being the son of a former Michigan football player.
Names to Keep An Eye On:
DE Javonte Magee (6'5", 262 lbs) Texas: big time defensive end from Texas is close to an offer. Will probably be hard to pull from Texas, though.
OL Prince Eshan (6'3", 295 lbs) Texas: teammate of Javonte Magee says that he hopes to get a Michigan offer. He likes the snow, and wants to check out some teams to the north.
DT Jonathan Taylor (6'4", 315 lbs) Georgia: Huge defensive tackle with a very impressive offer list could be hearing from Michigan soon.
- Illinois OL Dan Voltz says that Michigan will be one of his top teams.
- Michigan DT Matt Godin talked to me about his offer and Michigan.
- A look at some of the running backs Michigan is after so far. That list has gone up since RB Vonte Jackson was offered.
- Georgia DT Jordan Watkins talks about Michigan, and the fact that he could be closing in on an offer.
- Ohio State commit OL Kyle Kalis was offered by Michigan. Three of his teammates also hold Michigan offers, and could affect where he goes.
This is the conclusion to Carving Up Ohio Part I from last week.
As a refresher, I split up Ohio into 7 regions, then went over the 4- and 5-stars since 2002 (based on Rivals.com) to see if there's a regional difference in how Michigan recruits, and also if there are any opportunities I can see where the Wolverines could do better. Ultimately, my hope is that this could serve as reference for future discussions of Michigan's Ohio recruiting. Last week was Toledo, Dayton, Cincy and the Columbus regions. This week I finish up with Cleveland, Eastern Ohio, and conclusions. Also remember by "2012 Prospects" I mean "mentioned on main page of MGoBlog this month." There have been a few more added from the offer cannon since then, thanks to umhero's Offer List, and Tim's just-released 2012 Recruiting Board. Also, I went back and found a lot more former Wolverines (going back to 1991 grads), which I have added to the Spreadsheet. That Spreadsheet lives here.
Notes before you start: Figures given are for 4- and 5-star recruits from 2002 through 2011, based on Rivals. "5-Star Recruits" are those given 6.1 on Rivals Scale, if available. Current and former Wolverines include all recruits I could remember or find because a good way to get the blue chips interested in your school is to have their old teammates come and have a good experience there. Conferences without a percentage in the Conf. Breakdown got one guy.
Notes so you don't complain about arbitrary regional divisions: Where the "Steel Corridor" is separated is up for debate: I put Cleveland and Akron together as I might include Ann Arbor as part of Detroit, and made a separate region for Wayne County, Canton, Warren and Youngstown. In the southwest, Cincy (with its own cultural image) is separated from Dayton.
Cleveland/NE Erie: 37 players, 70.3% Ohio State
And you wonder why they say God hates Cleveland? By far the largest football factory in the state, The Mistake by the Lake allows less than 30% of its high-profile recruits to take their talents somewhere other than the big black eye of the Big Ten.
That's mostly thanks to the Glenville Academic Campus, a powerhouse program run by Ted Ginn Sr. that pumps blue chips directly to Columbus on an annual basis. Of the 14 Glenville 5.8+ products since '02, 10 were Buckeyes, including standouts Ted Ginn, Donte Whitner, Jamario O'Neal, and Troy Smith. The last 4-star or higher to come out of Glenville and go blue was Pierre Woods in 2001. Cleveland's big Jesuit school St. Ignatius gave us the Massey brothers and Jake Ryan, and sent as many 4-stars to Pitt (Mark Myers) or Notre Dame (Dan Fox) as Ohio State (Tony Gonzalez). St. Ed's in Lakewood is a power program (2010 D-I State Champs), that takes in players from all over the state (e.g. DT prospect Greg Kuhar is from Concord Twp., between Akron and Columbus), and ships out at least one good Big Ten player a year. No past Wolverines – Alex Boone was the last big pursuit - but Hoke has offers to four of their 2011 seniors.
You really can't separate Cleveland recruiting from Ginn, who has made a life's work out of taking in at-risk inner city youth, and bussing them around to Ohio campuses. Michigan fans tend to wonder if Ginn Sr. steps over the line from educator to active OSU recruiter (recruiting fans will remember the unpredictable, visit-canceling decision processes of safety prospect Latwan Anderson (Miami-YTM), and OL Aundrey Walker (USC)). On the other hand, Pierre Woods was sleeping in a car when Ginn found him, and even the most jaded among us would still rather have Troy Smith win a Heisman for Tressel than seen him continue on the path he was on: one more gangbanger on the Cleveland streets. Still, until Ann Arbor becomes a bus stop on the Tour de Ginn and the Wolverines burst the Glenville pipeline, the Cleveland pickins will remain slim and scattered.
Any positives? Well Desmond Howard was born and raised in Cleveland. And a guy named Glenn from the Akron suburb of Baberton became the most quintessential "Michigan Man" since Yost. The area was once a major pipeline for Bo and Mo. More recently, Brady Hoke secured a commitment this month from tight end Frank Clark, a Glenville product who has vowed to redirect that notorious Cleveland pipeline northward.
- Current Wolverines: Christian Pace (Avon Lake), Frank Clark (Glenville), Jake Ryan (St. Ignatius)
- 2012 Prospects: DEs Greg McMullen and LaTroy Lews (Hoban), DE Pharaoh Brown (Lyndhurst Brush), DE Tom Strobel (Mentor), DT Greg Kuhar, OLs Kyle Kalis and Tyler Orlosky, and TE Sam Grant (St. Edward-Lakewood), Kyle Dodson (Cleveland Heights)
- Former Wolverines: Desmond Howard and Elvis Grbac (St. Joseph), Scott Loeffler and Joe Ries (Baberton), Ricky Powers and Eric Graves (Akron-Buchtel), Jason Foster (Medina), Dave Henkel (Cleveland Heights), Ray Edmonds (Hoban), Randy Stark (Mentor), Dave Petruziello (Lake Catholic in Mentor), Dennis Washington (Lorain), Brian Wallace (Padua Franciscan-Parma), Michael and Patrick Massey, John Jaeckin, Trent Zenkewicz, Jason Brooks and Pat Kratus (St. Ignatius), Caleb White (Akron-Washington), and Zoltan the Inconceivable (Romania, Space, Twinsburg)
- Notable Recruiting Sites: Cleveland (Glenville, St. Ignatius, Cleveland Heights), Akron (Hoban), Twinsburg, Lakewood (Lakewood H.S., St. Ed's)
- FBS Schools in Region: Kent State (MAC), Akron (MAC)
- Other FBS Schools Nearby: Ohio State (Big Ten), Pittsburgh (Big East), Toledo (MAC), Bowling Green (MAC), Buffalo (MAC)
- 5-Star Recruits: Latwan Anderson (Mimai-FL), Beanie Wells, Robert Rose, Ted Ginn Jr., Alex Boone and Mike D'Andrea (Ohio State)
- Conference Breakdown: 86.5% Big Ten, 5.4% Big East, (ACC, Pac Ten, MAC)
- School Breakdown: Ohio State 26, Michigan 1, Notre Dame 1
Eastern Ohio: 24 Players, 37.5% Ohio State
If there's a football capital of the world, this region would have a strong claim to it; the predecessor to the NFL was established in a 1920 meeting at a Canton car dealership. Penn State has a lot of natural fans out here, as does Pitt. Notre Dame has recruited here for a century. Contrasting sharply with the nearby Cleveland area, Eastern Ohio sends more high-profile kids to other Big Ten schools than it does Ohio State. Tressel, who came up through the area's FCS power YSU, still has enough connections in the region that Ohio State fares well at the smaller programs. The big ones, on the other hand, have been relatively unkind to the Buckeyes, at least as compared to the rest of the state.
Here Michigan has had success, mostly from a connection to Warren G. Harding H.S. (Burgess, Manningham, D.J. Williamson, Davion Rogers) in Warren. That school has sent a fair amount of 3-stars to Michigan State, so some defense is necessary. Harding's responsible for two Buckeye RBs, Maurice Clarett (you remember him) and Dan Herron. In Youngstown, Cardinal Mooney is kind to Penn State, but Rodriguez recruited Taylor Hill out of there (to both West Virginia and Michigan), and more recently Ray Vinopal. Across town is confirmed Michigan pipeline Liberty; all three of its FBS commits since '02 (Isaiah Bell, Antonio Kinard, Fitz Toussaint) have chosen Michigan. Ursuline (Penn State's Daryll Clark) is a very successful Div V Catholic program called "The Irish," yet strangely sends few players to Notre Dame.
Wayne County is a football-mad region southwest of Akron. The Wooster-Orrville rivalry in Wayne is famous in the state, but doesn't produce as many top NCAA prospects as neighboring Stark County, i.e. Canton. The Canton area includes Washington HS in Massillon and their archrivals at Canton McKinley. The former has produced a few Wolverines (Crable, Turner), the latter a few Buckeyes (Mike Doss, Tyler Everett). GlenOak [sic] is a suburban school in Plains Twp. that is basically the north side of Canton. On the opposite side of the city is Canton South, a separate district that includes Pike Twp. and produces more than its fair share of FBS talent.
- Current Wolverines: Fitzgerald Toussaint and Isaiah Bell (Youngstown Liberty), Jerald Robinson, (Canton South), D.J. Williamson (Warren Harding), Ray Vinopal (Cardinal Mooney)
- 2012 Prospects: S Deshaun Hall (Canton-GlenOak), DE Se'Von Pittman (McKinley), LB Mason Monheim (Orrville), RB William Mahone (Austintown Finch)
- Former Wolverines: Ben Mast, Shawn Crable, John Woodlock and Justin Turner (Massillon), Mario Manningham, Prescott Burgess, Davion Rogers and Carl Diggs (Warren Harding), Alfie Burch (Warren West Reserve), Bryan Wright (Salem), Taylor Hill (Cardinal Mooney), Antonio Kinard (Youngstown Liberty), Buster Stanley (Youngstown East), Deollo Anderson (Youngstown Ursuline), James Otis Williams (Canton-GlenOak), Shawn Lazarus (Canal Fulton)
- Notable Recruiting Sites: Massillon, Youngstown (Ursuline, Cardinal Mooney, Liberty, Austintown), Canton (GlenOak, South, McKinley), Warren (Harding), Coshocton, Carrolltown
- FBS Schools in Region: (none)
- Other FBS Schools nearby: Ohio State (Big Ten), Penn State (Big Ten), Pitt (Big East), West Va. (Big East), Ohio (MAC), Akron (MAC), Kent St (MAC)
- 5-Star Recruits: Prescott Burgess (Michigan), Maurice Clarett (Ohio State)
- Conference Breakdown: 91.7% Big Ten, Big East, Big XII
- School Breakdown: Ohio State 9, Michigan 6, Notre Dame 1
Southeastern Ohio: (0 Players rated 4-stars+)
The area has produced very little in the way of top talent. Driving through here you'll see a lot of Ohio State stickers on mailboxes sticking out from the (beyond knee-high by the Fourth of July) tasseled corn stalks. That which isn't farmland is forested. Much of the population lives in Appalachian-influenced rust belt towns like Portsmouth and Ironton (a big rivalry) along the Ohio River. West Virginia and Marshall are not that far away, and many Ohio-side towns from Rome to Bellaire are either tributary towns, or small Windsor-like reflections of larger West Virginian population centers.
Current Wolverines: (none)
2012 Prospects: (none)
Former Wolverines: (none)
Notable Recruiting Sites: Portsmouth, Ironton/South Point, Athens, Marietta
FBS Schools in Region: Ohio University
Other FBS Schools nearby: Ohio State (Big Ten), Penn State (Big Ten), Cincinnatti (Big East), Pitt (Big East), West Va. (Big East), Marshall (C-USA), Ohio (MAC), Akron (MAC)
5-Star Recruits: (none)
Conference Breakdown: N/A
School Breakdown: N/A
Totals & Conclusions
I was writing this before blublooded put together a shorter, similar thing on Michigan in-state recruiting. As he notes in that article, which used the same metrics, 76 4- and 5-stars were produced in Michigan. For comparison, in the same timeframe, Ohio produced 136.
This is why Ohio recruiting is important for the University of Michigan: our biggest rival has a state that produces almost twice as many top prospects as ours. An whereas we share the mitten with an in-conference rival, OSU is situated smack dab in the middle of this bucket of NCAA talent, with only a Big East commuter school and a bunch of MACrifices around its edges to compete with. Remaining a player for talent across the state keeps that talent away from the one rival who can make or break our season, and establishes pipelines within our region's biggest talent centers. When Michigan is a national title contender, we're winning with Ohians.
|Region||Big Ten||SEC||ACC||Big East||Big XII||Pac Ten||MAC|
You'll note not a lot of talent escapes the conference. Only Cincinnati, which has the state's only other BCS tie and is situated across the river from the SEC, had a significant amount of talent going elsewhere (Toledo's 28% departure rate is due to one USC guy and one player who went to Wake Forest).
Consistent with what you'd expect from a big state with one major program in the middle of it, about half of the 4- and 5-stars from Ohio go to Ohio State, while a third go somewhere else in conference. Among other Big Ten schools who got more than 1 blue chip Ohioan since '02, Michigan State was the only one to leave the major highways in the north of the state. Notre Dame got half of its haul out of the Cincy Catholic schools, but like MSU got another four from various places. Penn State's three were all from near the Pennsylvania border.
Ohio State showed its strongest presence in Dayton and Cleveland, but the Canton-Youngstown region, Cincy, and Toledo were dramatically more open, even showing pipelines to other schools. It's a daunting task, but it seems the best thing Michigan could do would be to focus on competing with Ohio State for kids near the hometowns of Bo Schembechler and Brady Hoke. Goal 1 would be to crack Glenville in Cleveland, and hit Western Ohio hard, thus tapping two excellent recruiting pipelines while simultaneously cutting directly into Jim Tressel's most consistent resource.
Michigan's better years in recent memory coincided with strong success in Ohio recruiting, but this should be obvious if looking at any out-of-state recruiting: more wins = more national interest in the program. However I do think I've gotten to the bottom of how this whole "Must Own Ohio" meme got stuck in our brains in the first place:
The chart shows Michigan's roster for each year using stats from Bentley. That big blotch of yellow from 1969 to 1989 peaking in the middle of the Ten Year War was Bo Schembechler building his program by stealing tools out of Woody's garage then using them to beat his old sensei senseless. After four or five years of this, Bo actually had more Ohioans playing for Michigan than Michiganders. (Aside: the thing also shows Rich Rod inheriting the smallest roster since World War II).
|1891||Murphy & Crawford||11.11%||63.89%|
|1901-'26||Fielding Yost & George Little||7.41%||37.89%|
Versus those who came before, Bo dramatically increased out-of-state recruiting, first in Ohio and then all over the country. Versus those who came after, Bo was doing more than twice the going rate. My point: Recruiting the shit out of Ohio is a diademed Schembechlerian value. 'Course once Hayes retired Bo noticeably shifted toward national recruiting, a direction which his heirs maintained. As for Hoke, it's really hard to glean much from an offer list since S.O.P. for out-of-state offers is to give 'em out like candy, but of the 100 on umhero's list, here's a statewise Top 5:
|3(t)||Florida & Michigan||9|
|5(t)||Maryland & Texas||6|
Hoke uber Bo alleles!
Since football's hibernating and playoff season is near for the other two revenue sports, the diarists have been mostly focusing on these other things, as we try to figure out what various postseasons will resemble.
Hockeywise, mfan_in_ohio has been keeping up with pairwise. As of last week, Hagelin et al. were about as high in the PW as we could go (emphasis mine):
"It’s almost impossible to flip two of these comparisons. The best we are likely to do, if we win out, is a tie for fourth and winning the RPI tiebreaker to get the top seed in a regional. Of course, none of the regionals are particularly close (the closest are St. Louis and Green Bay), but the top seed means not having get by an east coast team on the east coast to get to the Frozen Four. This, however, is about as likely as the basketball team making the NCAAs. The most likely scenario now is a 2-seed."
Then something magic happened:
Meanwhile, around college hockey, Merrimack got swept (crushed, really) by Maine, allowing Michigan to flip its comparison with Merrimack and move up to a solo fourth in the Pairwise rankings … Michigan is in the driver’s seat for the fourth spot in the Pairwise and the #1 seed hat goes along with it.
Precarious things including Ohio State winning (they're back below the Maginot line but if they can climb back into the Top 50 our 5-1 record counts). But they no longer seem as far fetched as M basketball in the NCAA Tournament.
Speaking of hoops hopes, Michigan was seconds away from finally getting that signature win that makes the difference between feasible and pipe dream, when…
I wasn't there to see it. But one man in Row 42 poetically captured the feel of it:
Backs to the wall, battled the Maize and Blue.
Though they may fall, they fought to find their way through.
They'll stand, and fight those who stand in their way.
They'll stand, and with all their hearts they will play.
Blazefire's point is that this team is the kind that's really easy to root for. Like remember the first time Hart got the ball instead of Underwood or Jackson or ol' what's his name who was the same year as Hart and higher rated out of high school, and you weren't expecting much but then the little fella was still going forward long after three Big Ten linebackers did the thing that would normally bring down even a Perry or Thomas, and you were like…this basketball team is kind of like that.
Not all hopes died that day. For one, there's still the possibility of a Big Ten Tourney run. As we try to puzzle out what such a run might look like, AC1997 started with the edges and then worked in:
Right now we know who the top three teams are (OSU, Purdue, Wisconsin). We also know who the bottom four teams are (Minnesota, Northwestern, Iowa, Indiana). At this point those seven spots aren’t really likely to change barring some upsets in the final week. But the middle four spots are totally up for grabs among Michigan, MSU, Illinois, and Penn State.
He then breaks down those four and concludes a scenario where we beat State in the finale then Illinois in the first game of the playoffs could be enough to beat the bubble field.
Speaking of the bubble, mfan_in_ohio (apparently buried under the snow this week with only an internet connection and NCAA comparison charts) has been making the M case against the field this week. Part I compares us to Butler. Then in an epic Part II is Gonzaga, Alabama, and UAB. These, plus the pairwises above – apropos given the header topic – make this Maize and Blue Ohioan the Diarist of the Week.
Elsewhere, Michigan Wrestling finished the season last week by pinning Little Brother and giving him a noogie (no word yet on whether we did that thing where you let your spit hang over his face before you suck it back up again). The Big Ten tournament is up next.
And finally a Magic Muppet Mazel Tov to the Michigan Men's Swimming team, i.e. your BIG TEN CHAMPION Men's Swimming Team.
|WHAT||Michigan v. Minnesota|
4:30 PM EST (3:30 Local)
February 26th, 2011
|THE LINE||Michigan +5.5.|
This is The Most Important Game of the Year
Until the Next Game. They're all equally important now. Unable to get the wins in excruciatingly close games against Illinois and Wisconsin, the Wolverines must sweep their final two regular-season games for a realistic shot at an at-large bid. A loss in either of the final two regular season games likely means no NCAA Tournament, barring an epic run through the Big Ten Tournament.
Fortunately for the Wolverines, the two games are winnable - though that doesn't mean they're sure things. The Wolverines have already beaten Michigan State in the Breslin Center, and the Gophers are very vulnerable right now. How vulnerable? Since Al Nolen went out of the Gophers' lineup (in the first game against Michigan), they're without a true point guard, and only have wins against Northwestern and at Iowa.
Minnesota has gone to a 4-big lineup, though it hasn't been all that successful, seeing losses to Purdue, Ohio State, and Illinois on the obvious end of the spectrum, but also road losses to Indiana and Penn State, and allowing Michigan State to control the final 5 minutes of the game in The Barn for a comeback Spartan win.
With a few games under each team's belt, it's finally reasonable to look at the stats. If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Minnesota: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Minnesota Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. Minn Def eFG%||57||73||M|
|Mich Def eFG% v. Minn eFG%||167||108||G|
|Mich TO% v. Minn Def TO%||22||282||MMM|
|Mich Def TO% v. Minn TO%||244||217||G|
|Mich OReb% v. Minn DReb%||321||138||GG|
|Mich DReb% v. Minn OReb%||49||13||G|
|Mich FTR v. Minn Opp FTR||340||28||GGGG|
|Mich Opp FTR v. Minn FTR||40||31||-|
|Mich AdjO v. Minn AdjD||64||53||G|
|Mich AdjD v. Minn AdjO||54||48||-|
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.
Minnesota's numbers are mostly OK, but keep in mind that these include the entire time that Al Nolen was in the lineup - they're trending downward since he broke his foot. That's most evident in Turnover Rate, where the Gophers are bad an getting worse offensively. The Wolverines haven't been a machine forcing opponents into mistakes, but they have a chance to make a big dent there.
On the other end of the spectrum, playing with 4 bigs has been a huge benefit in the rebounding game. The Wolverines were killed on the defensive glass in the first half against Wisconsin, and Minnesota is an even better rebounding team. Michigan will have to pound the glass and eliminate second-chance opportunities for the Gopher bigs.
Michigan is also going to have trouble getting to the line (no surprise there) against a tall Minnesota lineup. Forcing Minnesota to extend their defense all the way out the arc is going to be important, both for getting offense on the perimeter and opening lanes for cutting. I think - even though it will be a defensive liability - Michigan might go with more Smotrycz at the 5, in order to have serious shooting threats at all positions.
Dylan previews on UMHoops.
The Wisconsin loss was a gut-punch of epic proportions, but this Wolverine team is as hungry as can be after that. Minnesota is reeling, and if Michigan wants to make the NCAA Tournament, they need to prove it by taking advantage of the Gophers' poor form of late. It's going to be a shooting type of night with Minnesota short on guards, and I think Michigan shoots more than 25 3-pointers, making about 40%. Darius Morris gets a points-assists double-double, and Michigan gets the 69-62 victory in The Barn.
So yesterday I wandered over to USHR, which is pretty much the only reliable source of information on college hockey recruits aside from some regular posters on Hockey's Future, and wandered around a bit. They're a subscription service that frees up their content after a while and I ran across some newly interesting assessments from this summer's "Select" camps, which are nationwide things that attempt to collect the nation's best talent. The 17s don't have NTDP kids and a lot of OHL kids either don't show or apparently embarrass themselves doing so—Max Iafrate was a fighting, dumb-penalty taking machine—so this is not a comprehensive ranking. It's not far off for college-bound kids at the 15 and 16 levels, though.
Anyway, persons of interest from the Select 15s:
4. J.T. Compher (#10 Red) 6-0/160 - 2-5-7 -- From Team Illinois Midget Minor. Aggressive and good-sized, with a sense of the game and anticipation. Competitive, too. Blocks shots. Plans to play in USHL for Waterloo this season. [Ed: Compher ended up sticking with midget minor.]
27. Tyler Motte (#18 Kelly Green) 5-10/165 - 3-2-5 -- From Honeybaked. Started slowly, but picked up the pace.
Compher's Team Illinois teammate Gabe Guertler was ranked #2 because of he's "a dynamic offensive player who made things happen every shift," FWIW. If Michigan can swing a package deal there that would be nice.
The Select 16s just had one player listed but it was a big one:
1. Boo Nieves (#12 Forest Green) 6-3/185 -- 1-1-2 -- Fascinating player. Has size and explosive speed. His ability to turn a d-man - to just blow past guys -- is breathtaking. Some people, notably the NTDP, have criticized Nieves' lack of engagement, which was actually not bad in Rochester. But consider the context: a 6'3" kid who can absolutely fly and is playing midget minor is expected to do one thing -- get the puck from one end to the other, and fast. And, man, can he ever do that. That said, several times we saw Nieves fly down the wing, turn the D, cut in -- and suddenly find himself in so tight that his options had dwindled severely. It's like the rink is too small for those strides of his. When Nieves gets to Kent, and plays with older kids for the first time, and works with Matt Herr, he will learn to use his speed to maximum advantage, to curl back and find space, etc., the way a pitcher uses his off-speed stuff to set up his fastball (sorry, it's July and 95 degrees). At the end of the day, Nieves has all the tools - size, big-time speed, nice hands, and a ridiculously high level of athleticism. Sometimes, though, the perfect is the enemy of the good, and Nieves needs to realize that it's OK to make mistakes, that it's through mistakes that you discover what you can become. We thought Nieves, and his highly talented linemates (Quentin Shore and Zach Stepan) were much too fine here, almost paralyzingly so - and they couldn't buy a goal. Nieves has high first round potential for the 2012 draft and, over the next two years, will, à la Chris Kreider, have every single game of his dissected. He's an exciting talent. It will be fun to see how good he can become. (Named to team going to Switzerland.)
Apparently Nieves's stock has not fallen much in the aftermath of his controversial omission from the NTDP. He's playing at a prep school under that Matt Herr so I imagine he's not an OHL threat, either—will be nice to actually get one of these top end guys on campus.
And the Select 17s:
8. Justin Selman (#18 Gold) 6-0/192 - 2-3-5 -- From NJ Avalanche; going to Des Moines. Really made a statement. Physical, hard-working two-way forward. A late '93. Not a natural scorer but does everything else.
Sounds like an Eric Nystrom, though undoubtedly with less hype—Nystrom was a surprising top-ten pick.
The other takeaway: be deathly afraid of Boston College. I checked out Chris Heisenberg in the aftermath of reading all these reports to see if various big names were available and it was all BC, BC, BC. Michigan is probably looking for another forward in the 2011 class, and I wonder if they'll try to pick off one of Michigan State's fairly good recruits now that Comley is out the door and no one knows who will replace him. They've got a little overage guy who is putting up a lot of points in the USHL (Matt Berry) and Shattuck C Tanner Sorenson got a good review from USHR—fourth in the Select 17s group. Either might be put off to 2012 at MSU; Michigan has room now. Could pull the reverse Lerg.
BONUS POSSIBLE SKETCH ALERT: Wisconsin's been the SEC of college hockey for a while with their controversial oversigning tactics and now Ohio State has hired a branch off that coaching tree. Mark Osiecki flat-out cut three players before the season, suggesting they weren't putting in sufficient work. Okay, maybe so. But while Ohio State graduates ten skaters and a goalie they're bringing in fifteen freshman, which would bulge the roster to 31 players. Watch to see if anyone gets cut over the summer.
|WHAT||Michigan @ NMU|
|WHERE||Berry Events Center
|WHEN||7:35 PM Fri/Sat|
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
|TELEVISION||Online streaming only ($7)|
Record. 14-15-5, 12-11-3 CCHA. Northern Michigan is miraculously fifth in the league despite having a –20 goal differential. They're +0 (-0?) in their nonconference schedule. Math thus requires a bunch of humiliating blowouts and indeed Northern's schedule features a 9-1 loss to Miami, an 8-1 loss to Notre Dame, a 6-1 loss to Western Michigan, and several other large margins of defeat coupled with narrow victories.
In six games against the league's upper tier (Miami and Notre Dame) the Wildcats are 1-5. There were the two massive blowouts plus a 4-0 loss to Miami, 5-2 and 3-1 losses to Notre Dame, and a single 3-2 win against the Irish in which Northern was outshot 53-15(!).
The Wildcats come in hot… sort of. The good: they've gone 3-0-1 in their last four and those were all on the road. The bad: they were against the worst two teams in the league and they come out of their series against awful BGSU with a tie and a 3-2 win. They'd lost their last four before that.
FWIW, it's spring break this weekend so the crowd will be relatively muted.
Dangermen. According to NMU head coach Kyle Walt via some guy on USCHO, NMU leading scorer Tyler Gron will miss his second consecutive weekend. That hurts, as he was on a PPG pace and the next guy is well back of that. In his absence Northern's main threats are juniors Justin Florek (12-14-26) and Andrew Cherniwchan (7-13-20) and seniors Phil Fox (11-7-18) and Greger Hanson (5-15-20).
This is not exactly going up against Miami here. NMU is 46th in scoring even and is missing their top guy. Chances are goals will come off of Michigan mistakes, of which there will be a few.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. Junior Reid Ellingson and freshman Jared Coreau have split time. Ellingson gets about two-thirds of it and has a significantly better GAA and save percentage, so chances are Michigan sees him both nights unless Northern gets bombed Friday.
Northern's defense corps is young. They've got two seniors taking a regular shift and then it's sophomores and freshmen. NMU is better defensively than they are offensively but they're still giving up exactly three goals per game.
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
|PP For / G||3.9||4.1|
|PP Ag / G||5.5||4.4|
That's a huge gap for NMU, one that helps explain that goal differential. NMU gets penalties from all over but they're concentrated in the defense: only senior Andrew Fernandez has fewer than 35 PIMs and freshman CJ Ludwig has 78. It may even be worse than the PP numbers suggest since by the looks of it Northern is taking a lot of penalties longer than two minutes.
As to what happens when the specialty units get on the ice, NMU's power play is pretty effective at 18.8 percent (21st), but their penalty kill is very bad: they're 50th of 58th at 78.7 percent. They take a ton of penalties and don't kill them well, which is a recipe for getting bombed by Miami and their #5 PP.
Meanwhile, Michigan is mediocre at both, slightly worse than NMU on the on the power play but better killing penalties and less likely to end up with a deficit in power plays.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Don't give up two pure breakaways against a 5'7" goalie. Just sayin'. More to the point: like Michigan's series against Alaska earlier in the year it looks like this opponent isn't going to generate much you don't give them. No hockey team can go a game without making mistakes that lead to scoring issues but Michigan's had more issues than they're comfortable with lately; reducing those is kind of important.
Get a bounce-back from Hunwick. A rough outing here and there happens to the best; a second consecutive would be an ominous sign as Michigan hits the playoffs.
Demote everyone to fourth-line center. Then they'll be Kevin Lynch and imbued with super powers.
Let the Sparks fly. Hurr durr hurr! But seriously folks, Sparks has verve. He has panache. He has extra savior faire. I know defense and all that but frankly before Lynch blew up that fourth line has been a liability that gets stuck in its zone more often than not.
BONUS: "The Northerns." If you're listening to this on the radio be sure to listen for one of the most bizarre verbal ticks you'll ever hear: PBP guy Al Randall will call Michigan's opponent this weekend "The Northerns." It never fails to amuse and slightly alarm.
The Big Picture
The CCHA is simple. Michigan wins the league if they get one more point than Notre Dame does this weekend. They have a home and home with a reeling Western Michigan team. ND will get the Broncos' best shot: despite their four-game losing streak WMU is still hanging on to the last at-large bid*.
As far as the Pairwise, it is a fickle beast and Michigan will probably lose ground no matter what this weekend. You want the following results:
- Denver to lose to Nebraska-Omaha
- Nebraska-Omaha to lose to Denver
- Minnesota-Duluth to lose to CC
- Boston College to lose to UMass
- Ferris State to beat OSU
- OSU to beat Ferris State
Ferris and OSU skated to 2-2 tie yesterday so you probably want OSU to win the remaining game.
Obviously some of those are direct contradictions; even with a sweep there are several sets of results that will see Michigan give back the ground it somewhat illicitly staked thanks to OSU getting into the TUC category. Looking at the comparisons, it's going to be hard for Michigan to stay in front of UNO if they sweep, so you probably want splits in both the DU/UNO and OSU/Ferris series and now we're proscribing very specific sets of results and you can see why Michigan's probably locked into about where they are now even if they end the year on a ten-game win streak.
Losing is bad for many reasons, one of which is that losing to NMU will give them a good shot at being a TUC at the end of the year with a record Michigan would rather not have featured, but it also doesn't matter a whole lot because Michigan's almost certainly going to be a two or three. What does matter is the conference race—the winner gets to avoid Miami in the league semifinal.
*[assuming that no one outside the top 16 snags an autobid, which is a dodgy assumption.]
On Motte’s character: “He was voted captain by the boys and basically that’s a result of not only his hard work on the ice but off the ice. He’s just a pure leader. There’s not much bad I can talk about Tyler.”
Motte will try to make the NTDP team in March.
Yes, pretty much. Not to dwell on a small monkey on a Caribbean island throwing a banana that turns into a tsunami because of chaos theory and wham(!) there's a coconut in Crisler, but people are saying that Tim Hardaway's facial expression after you know, that, was priceless and perfect and they're right:
Yes, yes, free throws, yes free throws. The most shocking stat from the game to me: Michigan rebounded 76% of Wisconsin's misses, which is actually better than their very good season average of 71% (50th nationally). It seemed like Wisconsin had one possession that lasted four minutes.
Dolla dolla bill yo. Michigan is officially one of those teams that has a head coach and then a guy making almost as much as the head coach:
Michigan, according to contract obtained today, will pay Greg Mattison $750K/year with chance to make $900K if the team wins Big Ten title
That's probably triple what any Michigan assistant has ever made and makes me wonder who Michigan could have acquired a couple years back instead of Greg Robinson. A: Damn near anyone. /kicks self in face
Compher fill-in. JT Compher is one of two recent 2013 verbals for the hockey team, but unless you're Jack Johnson it's hard to get a read on how big of a get any particular 15-year-old is. But he might be kind of a big deal if his local paper is to be believed:
"He reminds me of (Vancouver Canucks MVP candidate [ed: ??? - he's 20 points behind two teammates]) Ryan Kesler , who played in the program," said Ryan Resmierski, director of player personnel for the National Team and in charge of all the youngsters in the program.
"He's a good hockey player right now, but we think with our program in Ann Arbor, we can make him an exceptional hockey player. He has a huge upside. First of all, he's an outstanding competitor. He competes every game we've seen him."
[HT: Michigan Hockey Net.]
Compher is currently the only kid on next year's NTDP U17s, getting offered a spot four months before the annual tryout camp held in March. He held early offer-type-substances from Notre Dame, Miami, and BU; there was also some chatter about the guy getting selected in the first round of the OHL draft.
BONUS: His sister is a "talented volleyball player and dancer."
Meanwhile, Michigan's other early commit from the MWEHL, Tyler Motte, has gotten the "Seat Over There" treatment from Yost Built. Motte's averaging over a point per game for Honeybaked and Tim (Not That Tim) dug up this tantalizing quote:
"He's playing like an 18- or 19-year-old, and for a '95 to do that is pretty amazing ... If he plays with Honeybaked, they're going to have the best player in the nation."
That's just one guy's enthusiasm so we don't have quite as much to go on as we do with Compher but it sounds like both are high-end gets.
Usual caveat: even guys with Johnson's hype level come up short when we're projecting so far down the line. Both Luke Moffatt and Tristin Llewellyn were hyped as first round picks when they committed and fell well short of that. (Moffatt went in the seventh round; Llewellyn didn't get drafted at all.)
The new "hard edge". Motivational whatnot ho:
The little text below says "State of Ohio High School Coaches Clinic," if you're wondering why you've never heard that before. So we've come to this, have we? Countdown clocks and quotes on the wall for Michigan State? A team that scrapes over seven wins twice a decade? /kicks self in face*
*[Not a Hoke criticism. Hoke uber alles.]
And then he stage-dove at a Whitney Houston concert. I've met Mike Spath and he's a nice guy but what in the holy hell is this?
Three years earlier, Rich Rodriguez donned a Maize and Blue hockey jersey and took a stab at Score-O – …. The student section roared with delight. That was Rodriguez's way and that didn't make it wrong but his occupation of the spotlight did offend some folks.
Flash-forward (or rewind) to Friday night. Hoke stepped onto the ice from the north entrance wearing jeans and an untucked collared blue shirt. He looked uncomfortable as the patrons rose to their feet just as he appeared a bit out of sorts at a men's basketball game a few weeks ago. Hoke probably would have retreated quickly, disappearing out of sight, but the band broke into a rendition of The Victors and Hoke was soon pumping his fists in unison with the crowd.
That has got to be the dumbest criticism ever leveled. Braves & Birds obliterates it and the thinking behind this, convincingly pointing to the repeated uninspiring, cheap hires the filthy rich Big Ten makes as a major reason they've fallen behind in the race to not get destroyed 49-7 by Alabama:
Heaven forbid that the highest-paid employee at the University of Michigan, the man up front for the winningest program in college football history actually acknowledges that he is in the spotlight! Thank goodness that we’ve hired a guy who is going to do his work in front of 110,000 paying customers and millions watching on TV, but is uncomfortable with attention. This is bound to work out well!
At the same time Dave at Maize 'n' Brew pointlessly deconstructs Rodriguez's recruiting classes in an effort to… do… something. What other than piss people off is unclear.
So now we're positioning Hoke as a socially anxious Fred Flintstone and pretending that Rodriguez wasn't playing Sisyphus on the recruiting trail. I really want Michigan to win but this crap saps my enthusiasm because accompanying the wins will be yet more articles about how Brady Hoke "gets it" that claim "it" to be ineffable qualities like looking sloppy and knowing the fight song instead of having an upperclass quarterback and extant secondary. I'll deal with that should the time come.
I'm sorry if this occasions more eye-rolling from people who just want to leave Rodriguez dead and in the ground. I know I should just let it slide, but I can only take so many stupid things before I blow up. Otherwise I will die.
Etc.: Steven Threet retires due to concussion issues; here's his 58-yarder against Wisconsin. Brabbs profile in AnnArbor.com; The Daily profiles Carl Hagelin. AnnArbor.com also sets a new record for most extraneous words at the beginining of a headline: "Swedish Michigan hockey captain Carl Hagelin finds a second home with Wolverines." That's five. Hot diggity SEO. /kicks self in face
2/23/2010 – Michigan 52, Wisconsin 53 – 17-12, 7-9 Big Ten
For a while, the house we lived in—1331 Geddes, AKA "the Unlucky Palindrome," the purple-doored white house almost but not quite right next to the CCRB—had a fairly sizeable hole in the wall. Raffi's hip put it there. I put Raffi's hip there with a sort of flying tackle.
After this we were both on the ground. This was Raffi's territory. He has cerebral palsy, which means he can't walk that well or supinate his hands—he got around with the aid of crutches. As a result his arms were thick, meaty bludgeons. Since I'd just delivered a wall-shattering flying tackle to a guy who can't walk very well he used them to hit me, hard. It hurt.
This was "man fun." It was a semi-regular occurrence when someone had been studying too long or just felt like delivering a flying tackle. You would pick an available person and hurt them, and they would hurt you, and everyone would laugh.
Watching a freshman shooting 28% from three missing his buzzer-beater badly enough to make it was like absorbing one of Raffi's flat, heavy blows. I'd never witnessed something like that in person, and… yeah. Being in Crisler was to viscerally understand the cliche about the air going out of the building. The transition from a standing, raucous crowd to a bunch of pissed off people looking for their jackets was instant, and the ride home was mostly silence.
But I'm not upset in the aftermath despite this being objectively worse than the Evan Turner half-court dagger last year. Last year's team was under .500, a miserable disappointment after being ranked #15 before the season. Even Michigan fans who thought that was a bit much didn't expect the massive regression we got. That shot just meant Michigan didn't get their very narrow chance at winning two more games and the automatic bid that went with it. Losing was the merciful end, but it stood as a symbol for everything that went wrong. It was somewhere between irritating and infuriating.
Josh Gasser punting it in off the backboard—BACKBOARDS DIE—is probably going to cost Michigan an at-large, and it comes after a season of near-misses. I already wrote the bit about that scoring chance you get with five minutes left in the hockey game. It turns out that if Michigan is watching the NCAA Tournament selection show with a jaundiced eye they'll be thinking about threes clanging off rims in Champaign and a one-armed freshman shooting a three pointer so wildly errant it hit a courtside photographer before going in. And not being able to finish the deal against Ohio State earlier. And needing one measly point to avoid overtime against Kansas.
By all rights we should be waking up today like most Sundays the past three falls: hungover, pissed off, and mopey. It doesn't seem like we are, collectively—aside from one nutball on WTKA this morning the mood was downright chipper for the first time since the Notre Dame game.
It's obvious why. Just being in a position to be hurt is good after what happened last year and what the expectations were for this one. I admit that as I edited Tim's season preview I cocked an eyebrow at Tim's sunny conclusion:
The one thing they can promise, though, is that they'll be fun to watch. Maybe not in every individual game, but seeing these young players grow over the course of the season should be an entertaining - if often frustrating - experience all its own.
31 games later that may be the most accurate season prediction ever purveyed in this space*.
It sucks that a blind Chinese six-year-old threw a ball through the center of the earth that just happened to have enough momentum to pop up through the underside of the basket and fall back through, but Michigan has the most improved player in the conference, the best freshman who will be around next year, no seniors, the 336th most-experienced team in the country, and two good guards on the way to fill out the roster. According to Kenpom this is already the best team Beilein's had at Michigan—they are 48th while the tourney team was 50th. There has been no point in the post-sanctions history of Michigan basketball where optimism is as warranted.
In the light of morning not even a tiny meteor launched from Tralfamadore billions of years ago falling through the Crisler arena roof and subsequently the net can take away the feeling that sometimes it's good to hurt because at least you know you're alive. Michigan basketball is alive.
*[Although I did say football would go 7-5 this year. Third time's a charm.]
Non-bullets of glassy destruction
Novak no shoot. Beilein apparently said that he doesn't believe playing Zack Novak at the 4 is affecting his shooting but it's hard to see the correlation as something other than causation. I don't think Michigan has a choice—in the Iowa and Wisconsin games when Smotrycz was put on Basabe/Leuer it led it instant easy baskets and a quick switch. I think the reason Michigan's mostly playing Smotrycz at the five is because he gets annihilated by guys with ball skills.
Getting Smotrycz to improve and getting Christian to the point where he can do at least one thing on offense—corner threes maybe—are key points for next season. I'm not sure how much more Michigan is going to get out of Morgan and Morris and we have an idea of what Hardaway will become. The shooting guard will be a white guy who shoots threes and occasionally Carlton Brundidge. The four is the biggest issue.
Beilein's bedroom. Has a poster of Jon Leuer where other people put Megan Fox. Jesus. He has a 119 ORtg and he's taking nearly a third of Wisconsin's shots! Random mock draft has him going in the second round to the Pistons, which okay. I'm all over that. I can't imagine him being not useful.
Also, Beilein has to be looking at Keaton Nankivil and thinking "where can I get a 6'8" to shoot 48% from three?" Either that or "was that guy in The Usual Suspects?"
Late game strategy. I was fine with it; the problem came on the last foul when Michigan could only burn a second or two off the clock. If they get a bit more Wisconsin is trying to shoot with three seconds. As it was, Michigan really needed to not have three guys in the paint by the time the pass was made. That ball was going up.
Senior day? What are they going to do for it? Are they going to bother with it?
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