Michigan Softball 2015 Season Preview
Michigan fans have taken it on the chin for the last few months without a doubt. While Harbaugh has brought hope for the future and the hockey and basketball teams have shown great resilience, there can be no doubt that 2014-15 has been a down year for the Maize and Blue on the whole. In times like these, we turn to the reliable things in life, those few things we know we can count on to pick us up. In Ann Arbor for the last three decades, one of those reliable touchstones has been the softball program under the masterful guidance of head coach Carol Hutchins. With a staggering 1,372 wins in her coaching career, Hutchins is not only a Michigan legend, she is a legend among softball fans everywhere. If anyone can give us all the lift we, it’s Carol Hutchins and her team.
Below we’ll take a look at this year’s edition of Michigan softball. We’ll review some of last year’s events and the seniors who have moved on. With the help of MGoSoftball, we’ll preview some of the new faces, and then we’ll turn to the outlook in the three phases of the game – offense, pitching, and fielding. Finally, we’ll examine the schedule and map out the expectations. Just one more week to go before the Wolverines trot out onto the diamond once again!
When last season’s tournament run came to an end at Florida State, Michigan bid farewell to a brilliant senior class. The outgoing seniors were responsible for 193 wins, 4 Big Ten championships, 3 trips to the NCAA super-regionals, and 1 to Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series. Four members of the class of ’14 saw significant playing time and production last season. Outfielders Lindsay Doyle and Nicole Sappingfield served as table-setting slap hitters, each getting on base in around 40% of their at bats. First baseman Caitlin Blanchard served as protection for Sierra Romero, punishing teams again and again for the free passes that were repeatedly issued to the star shortstop. Finally, Taylor Hasselbach was the pleasant surprised of the season, coming on strong in her senior year after seeing only limited playing time earlier in her career. Hasselbach hit .320 in her final campaign with 9 home runs, including one in the thrilling 7th inning at the end of the regional. The other seniors served primarily in supporting roles as pinch-hitters and pinch runners. Replacing the production of last year’s seniors, especially at the top of the order, will be a tall order for the 2015 edition of Michigan softball.
As a program that expects to compete for championships every single season, Michigan softball recruits and plays top-quality freshmen every year. MGoSoftball has again furnished us with some great profiles of some of the new recruits, so I’m just going to point you in that direction for those where I see one. For others, I’ll link their MGoBlue.com profile.
Aidan Falk (1B/OF) – http://mgoblog.com/mgoboard/hello-aidan-falk-sb
Amanda Vargas (IF) – http://mgoblog.com/mgoboard/hello-amanda-vargas-sb
Morgan Swift (C) – http://www.mgoblue.com/sports/w-softbl/mtt/morgan_swift_928031.html
Taylor Swearingen (1B/3B) – http://mgoblog.com/mgoboard/hello-taylor-swearingen-sb
Tera Blanco (RHP/1B) – http://mgoblog.com/mgoboard/hello-tera-blanco-sb
MGoBlue.com also has a fluffy profile of three of the freshmen: http://www.mgoblue.com/sports/w-softbl/spec-rel/012915aaa.html
Carol Hutchins will be looking at Falk and Blanco in particular to add some punch to Michigan’s batting line-up. Falk has spent her last few years busily destroying New York high school softball, hitting over .500 and setting the New York state home-run record. Blanco, for her part, comes highly-recommended from the state of California, always a major center of softball recruiting. Rated as the number 1 pitcher in the state for this year’s class, she also hit .420, with a .550 on-base percentage against tough California pitching. Even if she isn’t able to crack into Michigan’s strong pitching rotation, she has the opportunity to contribute in a big way, with a number of openings in the line-up.
In the Circle
Michigan’s pitching staff had an up-and-down season in 2014, with all three pitchers showing great promise, but none delivering a truly elite season. Nevertheless, the Wolverines managed to finish 19th in the nation in team ERA with a 2.07 mark on the season.
2015 will mark the final go-round for senior LHP Haylie Wagner and RHP Sara Driesenga. Both have been the ace of the staff at different points in their careers, but both have struggled at times as well. Wagner in particular has been hampered by injuries. If both play at the top of their game, however, they have the potential to be among the best pitching staffs in the nation. Both came to Michigan as highly-touted recruits; 2015 will be their final opportunity to leave the kind of lasting mark the came to Ann Arbor to make.
Wagner was Michigan’s best pitcher last year, and, having earned a spot of the pre-season Player of the Year watch-list, figures to be the ace of the staff again in 2015. She led the team in ERA at 1.82, posting an impressive 24-5 record. When push came to shove, Hutch turned to Wagner in pressure situations, and despite some mid-season struggles, she came through in a number of key post-season situations. If Michigan is going to make a deep run again, Wagner will need to be a critical component.
Sara Driesenga, the Wolverines’ second senior, struggled in 2014 after a very strong 2013 season. Her ERA dipped from 1.89 to 2.34, and her 31-9 record in 2013 turned into a disappointing 5-6 mark in 2014. She still has all the physical tools to play the position at a high level, however, and has shown great talent in the past. Even so, with Betsa and Blanco pushing from behind, Driesenga will need to show more in 2015 than she did last year if she wants to maintain her spot in the rotation. Carol Hutchins’ long history of getting players to deliver their best performances in their senior seasons makes it too soon to write Driesenga off, though, and the Hudsonville hurler may well have a few tricks left up her sleeve.
Sophomore Megan Betsa rounds out Michigan’s returning pitching staff, coming off a solid freshman season. Betsa went 18-4 with a 2.15 ERA. She faced some typical freshman struggles, but played brilliantly on many occasions, highlighted by a no-no in a 10-0 run-rule victory over Detroit. Betsa provides a change of pace in terms of style as well. While Wagner and to some extent Driesenga are more of ground-ball pitchers, Betsa is a strike-out artist pure and simple. Despite pitching 42.1 innings fewer than Wagner, Betsa led the team in strike-outs with 150 (to Wagner’s 122).
If Wagner and Driesenga both play to their potential and Betsa shows even standard incremental improvement, Michigan’s pitching staff will be a powerful battery. The fact that the top pitcher out of California will be joining the team as well gives the Maize and Blue a level of luxury that few teams can match in the circle.
At the Plate
As much as we all love good defense and pitching (and as often as Hutch has reminded interviewers that softball comes down to those two factors), Michigan has been known for offense in recent years, and justly so. The Wolverines had one of the top ten scoring offenses in the nation in 2014 at 6.56 runs per game. Even though Michigan will need to replace a substantial portion of their hitting line-up, there is a great deal of talent, both new and experienced, and Alumni Field should play host to a strong offense once again.
In the category of talent, no player on the team – and few in the nation – can match rising junior Sierra Romero. Romero burst onto the scene in 2013 by setting the Michigan single-season home-run record, leading the team with a .379 batting average, bringing home the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year awards, and finishing the top ten for the NCAA Player of the Year award. Even a repeat performance would have delighted fans of the Maize & Blue, but Romero had no intentions of settling for stagnation. Instead, she managed not to improve, but do so substantially in her sophomore year. While her home-run total dipped from 23 to 18 (still the team leader and tied for 16th nationally), her batting average sky-rocketing to .491, and was over .500 for most of the season until a stomach bug slowed her down in the regional. Even more impressively, she led the nation with a staggering .633 on-base percentage, a full .052 better than the second-place finisher, demonstrating her tremendous patience as team after team pitched around her (Romo was the most-walked player in the nation last season). Her sparkling season led to a top-three finish in the National Player of the Year voting and a second Big Ten Player of the Year award. If the fall series against Kentucky (a WCWS team last year) was any indication, though, Romero is still improving – she went 6-8 with 4 home runs and two doubles against the Wildcats. Great news for Michigan fans, these numbers surely have opposing pitching shaking in their cleats.
While the story of Michigan’s offense starts with Romero, it certainly does not end there. Most significant among returning players will be Michigan’s other Sierra (and third member, with Wagner and Romero, of the Player of the Year watch-list), Sierra Lawrence. Lawrence, or SiLo for short, hit .351 last year, and was second only to Romero on the team in on-base with a very strong .460 mark. She also brings some power, having jacked 9 HR last season, including two in Michigan’s come-from-behind win to clinch the regional over Arizona State. It will be interesting to see where Lawrence ends up in the line-up. Hutch could easily put her in the one or two spot to set the table for Romero with her great OBP, but her power and reliability might keep her in the heart of the order, perhaps replacing Blanchard as Romero’s protection. Wherever she ends up, she’ll have to be a key piece of the puzzle.
After the two Sierras, the question marks become a little bigger in terms of where the offense will come from. Among major contributors last year, all the other .300+ hitters have graduated. Two names stand out as potential risers, however, who could step up into bigger roles. Senior Lauren Sweet could be a candidate to have a break-out season in her last go-round, reminiscent of Taylor Hasselbach in 2014. Sweet has hit in the .200s for much of her career, but has had stretches of elite play, most notably the back half of the 2013 campaign. The other candidate is junior Kelsey Susalla, who played well in limited action a year ago. Early on last year, she looked to be getting some serious playing time, but Hasselbach’s emergence relegated Susalla to a supporting role. Both of these players were named in this space last season, so I hope I’m not just trying to justify my earlier predictions. It seems likely, though, that at least one of these two will step up in a serious way.
After that, Michigan may need to rely on a youth movement to generate offense. Rising sophomores Abby Ramirez and Lindsay Montemarano both saw a good deal of action in 2014, serving at the bottom of the order for the most part. They both struggled at times, but with another full year under Hutch’s tutelage, the potential is always there for a leap forward. Last but not least, some of the freshmen noted above will certainly be thrust into starting roles. This has paid big dividends for Michigan more than once in recent years, and will need to do so again in 2015.
All told, repeating the blistering pace of the offense over the last few years will be difficult while replacing so much of the line-up. The talent is there, however, and Hutch will always get the most out of what she has. We may not see quite as many double-digit games & run-rule blowouts, but the offense should be able to provide the pitching staff with all the run support they need.
In the Field
As I’ve noted before, this section of the preview takes me further from my expertise, and further from easily available statistics. However, at least a little must be said about this key part of the game.
Last season, I called for Michigan to raise their fielding percentage (thoroughly mediocre in 2013) into the top third or quarter of the nation if they wanted to have a successful season. The women did far more than that, ending 2014 in the top ten nationally with a .976 mark. This elite defensive production was a key factor in backing up a pitching staff that, as mentioned, struggled at various moments. Only two players on the team had more than 4 errors in 2014, those being freshman infielder Lindsay Montemarano and Sierra Romero. Romero’s 14 errors last year are still too many, but they do represent a substantial improvement over her freshman season, so there is reason to hope for more improvement this year. Additionally, she makes up for many of those errors with athletic defensive plays to pick up outs that most other players would never come close to. Michigan will have to sustain this high level of defensive play to achieve their goals in 2015. This seems like a reasonable possibility, especially if Romero continues her improvement. I can’t go so far as to predict that Michigan will be a top-ten outfit again, but I’d be surprised to see a major drop-off. If there is one, it may be due to the need to break in a new outfield following the departures of Doyle and Sappingfield, who patrolled the open areas of the field effectively for several years.
With an overall picture of the team in place, we can start looking ahead to the schedule, and then wrap up with some Bold Predictions about what will happen as the season plays out. As always, Michigan starts with an arduous non-conference cross-country tour. The Wolverines open the season with a bang, taking on #1/#1 defending national champion Florida on February 7th. Michigan opened against Florida last year and lost in heartbreaking fashion, blowing a 4 run lead in the 7th before losing in extras. The Florida game will come as part of the first of 5 tournaments/invitationals/classics that Michigan will take part in, comprising 25 games in 4 different states (Florida, Alabama, Arizona, and California). While there are always a few easier games mixed in – if Michigan struggles with Binghampton, we may be in for a long season – the usual bevy of powerful opponents lies in wait. In addition to the match-up with top-ranked Florida, Michigan will have a pair of showdowns with #5/#5 Florida State (who sent Michigan packing in the super-regional last year), and #3/#4 Alabama, three clashes with #16/#16 Arizona State (whom Michigan ousted in thrilling fashion in Tempe a year ago), a rematch with the Gators at the always-challenging Judi Garman Classic, and a tussle with #10/#11 Baylor, also at Judi Garman. Especially given the heavy travel requirements for Michigan, our women will likely be underdogs in many of these matches, but Hutch always manages to pull out a number of big wins no matter what. These games are key for Michigan’s tournament résumé, and provide vital opportunities to get experience playing against the nation’s best. Only the most mentally strong players come to Michigan to run this gauntlet (Southern and Southwestern teams scarcely leave their home stadium until the start of conference play), and they grow together through the experience every year.
The annual odyssey comes to an end on March 14th, when Michigan will finally get to play in front of the home fans at Alumni Field. A three-game set against Kent State and a one-off against Bowling Green a few days later will provide some final tune-ups before conference play gets underway. Once again, Michigan’s journey through the Big Ten should be a lighter burden than the non-conference trek, although last year should serve as a reminder to take nothing for granted. Key losses to over-matched opponents cost the Maize & Blue the outright Big Ten Championship and the right to host a regional. Michigan opens Big Ten play in Columbus, against an OSU team that was thoroughly mediocre a year ago, followed by a home set against an Iowa team that struggled mightily. Next up will be the defining series of the Big Ten season for Michigan, as the team travels to Minnesota to take on the #15/#15 Golden Gophers. Minnesota gave Michigan a real fight last year at Alumni Field and ripped the tournament title from our hands as well. While Sara Moulton is no longer around to terrorize batters, sophomore righty Sara Groenewegen was last year’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year and can do plenty of damage herself. Taking a couple games from the Gophers on their field would go a long way towards sealing the Big Ten title. After that, Michigan will close out the regular season with a tour of the bottom of the Big Ten barrel. Road trips to newcomers Maryland (11-35 a year ago) and Rutgers (28-19 against weak competition in 2014) combine with a home-and-home against a dismal MSU program and home stands against Penn State and Indiana to round out the Big Ten schedule (there are also a pair of one-offs against MAC opposition mixed in).
Once again, Michigan misses out on most of the tougher opponents in conference, including ranked Nebraska and a Wisconsin team that just missed the top-25. While this is a boost to Michigan’s chances to win the conference, it is a real missed opportunity in terms of staying sharp by facing the best. It’s hard to avoid feeling like the suits at Big Ten HQ dropped the ball on this one once again. Michigan plays the 3 worst teams in the Big Ten from last year, both of the mediocre newcomers, and only one of the other 4 NCAA tournament teams from a year ago. For comparison, Minnesota plays all the tournament teams, and Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Northwestern play all of them except for Michigan.
It’s almost time for some hot takes, but first a look back at the Bold Predictions made in this space a year ago. I said:
- “I expect Michigan to pick up a few quality wins in the non-conference schedule and come into the Big Ten season still sporting a top-ten ranking.”
Correct! Michigan was ranked #6 in the nation when they opened Big Ten play by slaughtering Indiana in a trio of run-rule decisions.
- "Six straight Big Ten Titles will probably become seven, as no one in the Big Ten can match Michigan’s talent. Nebraska is an up-and-coming team and may provide a challenge, but in my estimation their tougher schedule will probably doom them to a strong second-place showing.”
Correct (almost)! I was right that Michigan would win a Big Ten championship, and also on the mark in identifying Nebraska as the primary threat to Michigan’s reign of terror. What I did not foresee were disastrous road losses against Illinois and Purdue, which opened the door for Nebraska to clinch a share of the title as well.
- “Michigan will once again host a regional and probably a super-regional as well and will go all the way to the WCWS. … Winning it all is a lofty goal, but it is well within reach.”
Not quite. Michigan was on track to do exactly this, but faded down the stretch. The stumbles in the latter portion of the Big Ten season and Michigan’s failure to lock up the conference tournament title sent the Wolverines to Tempe to play in Arizona State’s regional. While Michigan triumphed heroically and started off strong in the super-regional (handing Florida State the worst loss in program history), they could not seal the deal, and went home early.
Looking ahead to this season, it is hard to deviate too much from what I said going into last year. I’m a bit more circumspect about our chances to host a super-regional or maintain a consistent top-ten ranking, given how much we’re replacing on the offensive side of the ball. If things come together at the plate, however, the sky could very well be the limit for this year’s team. So:
- Michigan will end the non-conference portion of the season with a few big wins, but suffer too many setbacks to stay in the top-ten. They will still be in position to host a regional, however, with a ranking in the top 16.
- When a team has won seven conference championships in a row and returns this kind of pitching and talents like the Sierras, it is almost impossible to pick against them in conference play. Even if Michigan struggles, the substantially easier slate of opponents will guide the Maize and Blue to another outright Big Ten crown.
- Michigan will host a regional in Ann Arbor, but probably not a super-regional unless the youth movement on offense comes together in a big way. A trip to the WCWS is very much in play, but not a lock.
- A bonus prediction: with Hutch only needing 28 wins to crack the 1,400 mark and having earned at least 40 wins in every single season since 1994, look for her to fly past 1,400 career wins in 2015.
This Michigan team has a number of wild-cards that make prognosticating difficult. Will Wagner & Driesenga finally both play at an elite level at the same time? How quickly can the offense get up to speed while replacing such a huge part of the line-up? Can Michigan maintain their elite defensive play without its host of reliable seniors? Any of these doubts could hold Michigan back from achieving their lofty goals. If these questions can all be resolved, however, Michigan should be a WCWS team, and could very well wear the crown again, just as they did 10 years ago. What we know for sure is that we’ll have a talented, disciplined, well-coached team that plays as a single unit and stays focused on one-pitch softball. February 7th cannot come soon enough!
It is the offseason, a time for self-reflection, a time to spend our energy focusing on the things in life that are more important than football. If you're like me, there are a series of burning questions that begin to bubble up into your consciousness this time of year demanding to be dealt with. One of the recurring questions that has been simmering in my mind all season, and I write this piece assuming that I am not alone in this, has been: Why does Brian always say "Cumong, man?"
Whenever I would see this in print, I would wonder: is this how Brian pronounces "come on"? If so, why? Is this a thing people say? It seems to have caught on to the point where other people on the board use it as well. What is the origin of this spelling? Has the Michigan accent evolved since I left? I decided to do some research. I present to you what I have learned about the etymology of "cumong".
First, is this phrase mgoblog-specific? The evidence supports the notion that the term is indeed highly associated with this blog. There is actually an entry in the Urban Dictionary, which defines the term as "A word Alabama Crimson Tide fans use to exhort their team before a key play or belt out with a fist pump in celebration." The example given is CUMONG Tide, run the dad gum ball. Git this! However, as I will cover later, this entry was most likely added by an mgoblogger. Outside of that, there seems to be little to no usage of this word on the English-speaking web, with the exception of mgoblog, where its usage is frequent.
How do we characterize this phenomenon linguistically? The word is an apparently intentional misspelling of "come on". It is a kind of metaplasmus, but more specifically it appears to be a version of sensational spelling, in which a word is deliberately misspelled for effect. Examples of sensational spelling include "Froot Loops" and "Led Zeppelin".
Phonologically, this spelling portrays a shift in place of articulation of the final consonant of "come on," moving it from an alveolar nasal to a velar nasal. In other words, the contact between the tongue and the roof of the mouth simply moves further back when producing this variation.
Historically, on this site the first usage came on November 14th, 2012 in this post describing the Michigan-Northwestern football game. In that post, Brian writes:
Git R Done, for values of R that equal racism. If you don't follow me on twitter you missed the saga of the Larry The Cable Guy clan in my immediate vicinity, a group of redneck yahoos that said a lot of things like "LEZ GO CUMONG" and "GIT EM CUMONG," which was annoying when they did that really loudly after a four yard run--now my hopes are all up and it's second and six--but mostly harmless.
I tracked down that original series of tweets. I present to you the first time the phrase "cumong" was used in mgoblog history:
they cloned larry the cable guy and put four of them behind me— mgoblog (@mgoblog) November 10, 2012
send help— mgoblog (@mgoblog) November 10, 2012
LEZ GO CUMONG— mgoblog (@mgoblog) November 10, 2012
Note that the Urban Dictionary entry, which is the only known instance of this phrase on the web outside of mgoblog, was added on November 15th, 2012, one day after Brian made his post highliting the term. This timing strongly suggests that it is not an independent phenomenon. After the initial Nov 15th post, it appeared again over the next couple of days, first in the defensive UFR as a figure caption and then in the offensive UFR. The phrase picked up steam in 2013 and by October of 2014 became an actual tag on the site.
EDIT: By popular demand, a chart! This is number of unique google results by month on the mgoblog site for the word cumong. Notice that there was a sizable jump in its popularity this football season:
In light of the information that spelling of this phrase was intended to portray the dialect of several "redneck yahoo" fans, we can re-evaluate its literary significance. It seems now that the phrase is in fact a kind of eye dialect, a misspelling often used to convey the ignorance of the speaker, even though the spelling may correspond to how the word is generally pronounced. This is the same device Dickens used to convey the way his uneducated characters spoke, and was a common feature in Mark Twain's writing. (That said, I can find no academic work that confirms the substitution of the nasal alveolar with the velar consonant in dialects from the American South).
I asked Brian to comment on this, and he confirmed that the phrase indeed originated from the a group of Larry the Cable Guys sitting around him during that game. I hope you've enjoyed this foray in to mgoblog history and culture, and that I have helped to shed some light on a question that was on all of our minds.
Michigan may only play one game this weekend but there is a ton of other great games for college hockey fans to keep their eyes on. I am on afternoons this week so I won't be able to have the board posts I had last week. I will however be watching tonights Michigan game via Slingbox on my tablet (Technology and stuff)
Friday January 30
7:00 #54 Sacred Heart @ #58 American International
7:00 #40 Rensselaer @ #33 Dartmouth
7:00 #15 UMass-Lowell @ #17 Merrimack
7:00 #45 Alabama-Huntsville @ #10 Michigan Tech
7:00 #19 Quinnipiac @ #53 Brown
7:00 #31 Cornell @ #17 Colgate
7:00 #29 Union @ #3 Harvard
7:00 #56 Princeton @ #16 Yale
7:30 #12 Michigan vs #36 Michigan State (FYS)
7:30 #9 Providence @ #13 Boston College
7:30 #48 Massachusetts @ #3 Boston University
7:30 #41 New Hampshire @ #34 Notre Dame
8:30 #39 Ferris State @ #1 Minnesota State
8:30 #2 NOrth Dakota @ #3 Nebraska-Omaha
9:00 #20 Minnesota @ #55 Wisconsin
9:30 #7 Minnesota-Duluth @ #11 Denver
- UMass-Lowell has another chance this weekend to help themselves and help Michigan. THey start off the weekend on the road against a team sitting just outside of the PWR top 16.
- There is a top 15 matchup in Chestnut Hill as Boston College is hosting Providence. A Boston College win would improve the RPI of Michigan it should cause Michigan to get passed by BC as thye currently sit only one spot below Michigan.
- The Duel in the D is previewed on the front page (Thanks Brian MOAR Hockey Content please...
- North Dakota takes their #2 ranking on the road to face #3 Nebraska-Omaha. Both teams should remain highly ranked but if North Dakota were to win both games on the road this weekend you could see Neb-Omaha fall down into a range that Michigan could be fighting with them for seed and region ccome NCAA tournament time.
- Ferris State could help Michigan's RPI with a road win in Mancato but C.J. Motte will need to stand on his head to knock off the #1 team in the country on the road.
- Minnesota NEEDS to beat lowly Wisconsin as they are currently sitting 4 spots out of top 16.
Saturday January 31
1:00 #14 Vermont vs #22 Penn State
6:30 #41 New Hampshire @ #34 Notre Dame
7:00 #54 Sacred Heart @ #58 American International
7:00 #45 Alabama Huntsville @ #10 Michigan Tech
7:00 #17 Merrimack @ #15 UMass-Lowell
7:00 #7 Minnesota-Duluth @ #11 Denver
7:00 #8 Miami @ #21 Western Michigan
8:00 #39 Ferris State @ #1 Minnesota State
8:00 #20 Minnesota @ #55 Wisconsin
8:00 #2 North Dakota @ #3 Nebraska-Omaha
8:00 #6 Bowling Green @ #28 Bemidji State
- Penn State hosts a team ranked a couple spots below Michigan in Vermont in their only game of the weekend. A non-conference win would be nice for PSU and the B1G.
- New Hampshire winning two games at a higher ranked Notre Dame would be a nice little bump in Michigan's RPI.
- the only conference matchup is the second game of the Minnesota Wisconsin series at Kohl. it is very important for Minnesota to sweep both of these games.
Monday February 2
5:00 #3 Harvard vs #3 Boston University
8:00 #13 Boston College vs #24 Northeastern
Wednesday February 4
7:00 #9 Providence @ #36 Connecticut
- The best tournament in the country get started Monday night. The first round of the Beanpot matches the two top teams, Harvard and Boston University, in the early game and a BU win helps Michigan''s RPI slightly.
3 Things Michigan "needs"
- all 3 points against Michigan State
- Minnesota to take all 6 points from Wisconsin
- UMass-Lowell winning the home and home series.
unfortunately I have been having computer issues the past couple of days and have written this Diary entry 2 times in full already without being able to post so todays recap is going to be VERY short. Expect the Preview of this weeks action out around the same time Friday.
Friday January 23 (all rankings are pairwise as of 1/22)
#29 Ohio State 1 @ 4 #41 Michigan State
#27 Northern Michigan 4 @ 5 #22 Penn State
#8 Boston University 4 @ 2 #12 Vermont
#36 New Hampshire 4 @ 6 #49 Maine
#36 Dartmouth 2 @ 2 #16 Colgate
#7 Harvard 2 @ 3 #30 Cornell
#10 Yale 2 @ 3 #23 St. Lawrence
#50 Mass. 4 @ 4 #16 Merrimack
#53 Lake Superior 3 @ 1 #3 Bowling Green
#14 Providence 7 @ 3 #9 UMass-Lowell
#12 Denver 3 @ 1 #6 Miami
#1 Minnesota State 4 @ 2 #19 Minnesota
#15 Michigan 7 @ 4 #54 Wisconsin
Recap of Key Games:
- Penn State fell behind 4-1 15 minutes into 2nd period before pulling Skoff and charging back to win 5-4 in regulation.
- UMass-Lowell gave up the first 3 goals of the game and didn't mount much of a comeback losing on home ice by the score of 7-3 to the team ranked one spot above Michigan.
- Michigan State won 4-1 thanks to 2 goals in the second and 2 in the third (agiainst one Buckeye 3rd oeriod tally)
- Minnesota and Minnesota State exchanged goals in the 1st and again in the first 10 minutes of the second.before Minnesota State pulled away with 2 goals in the second half of the 2nd period. HTe 4-2 Minnesota Loss didn't really hurt them but a win wouldv'e been much more beneficial.
- Michigan opened up horribly but turned it around in the second and poured it on in the 3rd.
First peroiod in Madison just under 3 minutes into the game Joseph LaBate scored a power play goal to take the lead. Justin Selmon scored a power play marker to tie the game up with 6:13 left in the period (assists to Kile and Werenski). just 26 seconds later Grant Besse answered for the Badgers to re-establish the 1 goal home team advantage. With just 1:19 to go in the period Joseph LaBate scored another power play goal. Wsiconsin's total season goals in the 1st heading into this game was 2.
Second Period saw another early Badger goal, on Michigan's 2nd goalie of the night as Nagelvoort replaced Racine after the intermission, Jedd Soleway scored the Badgers 3rd PPG of the game giving the Badgers a 4-1 lead on home ice. 1:11 later Justin Selman scored his 2nd goal of the game (assists to Hyman and Larkin) to pull within 2. With just over 5 minuted to play in the period Captain (and Hockey God) Andrew Copp scored on the Power Play (assists to Downing and Compher) to cut the lead to 4-3 heading into the 3rd (Michigan was 0-6 when trailing after 2). Michigan outshot Wisconsin 13-2 in the middle frame
Third Period started off slow in terms of goal scoring. Zach (HOBEY) Hyman got things started back up again 9:19 into the final regulation period scoring in his 6th straight game (assists to Selman and De Jong). 1:01 later Alex Kile found the back of the net (assists to Shuart and Downing) to give the Wolverines their first lead of the game. 1:02 after the Kile goal Justin Selmon completed the Hat Trick (assists to Larkin and Hyman). That was 3 goals in 2:03 of game time. Andrew Copp added the empty netter with just over a minute to play for his second goal of the game (assist to Motte).
Racine started and gave up 3 goals on 8 shots in the first period
Nagelvoort came in at the start of second and allowed 1 goal on 2 shots in the period before stopping all 10 shots he faced in the 3rd.
Saturday January 24
#27 Northern Michigan 5 @ 5 #22 Penn State
#19 Minnesota 1 vs 2 #5 MInnesota-Duluth
#29 Ohio State 0 @ 2 #41 Michigan State
#9 UMass-Lowell 1 @ 4 #14 Providence
#8 Boston University 2 @ 1 #12 Vermont
#7 Harvard 6 @ 1 #16 Colgate
#12 Denver 1 @ 4 # 6 Miami
#39 Rensselaer 3 @ 8 #33 Union
#15 Michigan 6 @ 0 #54 Wisconsin
Recap of Key Games
- UMass-Lowell is swept by Providence
- RPI is crushed by Union. only positive is the game was on the road.
- Minnesota drops their second game of the weekend to another top team in Minnesota-Dultuh.
- Michigan State completes the sweep of Ohio State with the 2-0 shutout
- Penn State ties Notrthern to go 1-0-1 on the weekend.
- fresh off the 7-4 come-from-behind win Michigan scored early and often in this game that was a rout from the get go.
First Period Dylan Larkin got things going EARLY, 1:12 into the the game to be exact (assists to Selman and Hyman). just 51 seconds later Michigan's top line scored again this time it was Zach Hyman with the goal (assists to Larkin and Selman). Things quieted down on the goal front until there was 4:14 to go in the period when Tony Calderone scored (assists to Copp and Serville). Zach Werenski added a beautiful goal (assists to Sinelli and Copp) with just 1:00 to go in the first.
Second Period saw just 1 goal. Zach Hyman scored 1:16 into the period (unassisted) to make it 5-0 in the first 21:16 of action
Third Period had only one goal as well and it was DMan Zach Werenski getting his second one the game (assists to Motte and Calderone)
Nagelvoort was given the start after his recen t relief efforts and stopped all 17 shots fired his way for the Shutout.
Sunday January 25
#16 Merrimack 1 @ 4 # 50 Mass. (Game was rescheduled from Saturday)
Tuesday January 27
#16 Merrimack @ #34 Connecticut was rescheduled
- Penn State defending home ice. They went 1-0-1 against non conference opponent NMU
- Minnesota going no worse than 1-1. They went 0-2 didn't hurt as much as it couldv'e as they ended up playing the two best teams in the tournament.
- Michigan 6 point sweep. CHECK
Pairwise Update (Top 20 and Non conference opponents(*), BIG in all caps)
1) Minnesota State
2) North Dakota
t3) Boston University*
6) Bowling Green
10) Michigan Tech*
13) Boston College*
t22) PENN STATE
t36) MICHIGAN STATE
38) OHIO STATE
39) Ferris State*
t41) New Hampshire*
58) American International*
1) Michigan 21pts 7-1-0-0
2) Penn State 16pts 5-2-1-0
3) Michigan State 13pts 3-3-2-2
4) Minnesota 8pts 2-2-2-0
5) Ohio State 6pts 2-6-0-0
6) Wisconsin 2pts 0-5-1-1
Individual Stats Update
- Zach Hyman ranks 4th Nationally in points.
- Dylan Larkin ranks 12th Nationally in points (2nd to only Jack Eichel amongst Freshmen).
- Zach Hyman ranks 3rd Nationally in points per game.
- Dylan Larkin ranks 6th Nationally in points per game (2nd to Eichel amongst Freshmen).
- Zach Hyman ranks 5th Nationally 2nd in B1G in Goals.
- Andrew Copp ranks 27th Nationally 3rd in B1G in Goals.
- Alex Kile is 6th ranks B1G in Goals.
- Dylan Larkin ranks 7th Nationally in Assists 1st in B1G
- Zach Hyman ranks 10th Nationally in Assists 3rd in B1G
- Tyler Motte ranks 25th Nationally in Assists 5th in B1G
- Zach Nagelvoort ranks 43rd in GAA 3rd in B1G
Team Stats Update
- Offense leads the nation in Goals per game at 4.36. 2nd place Robert Morris sits at 3.73.
- Defense ranks 44th nationally allowing 3.00 goals per game. Ohio State and Wisconsin are only B1G schools ranked lower
- Michigan's Power Play ranks 2nd in the Nation and Conference behind Minnesota (24.69% and 25.58% respectively)
- Michigan's Penalty Kill ranks 43rd in the nation and only ahead of Ohio State and Wisconsin in conference
I'm planning on starting the preview tonight after i get home from work and will try to get it out around noon on Friday.
and thanks to another Michigan sweep I leave you with one simple statement "1, 2 YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO...."
HALFWAY THROUGH THE CONFERENCE SCHEDULE
I thought this might be a good time to review the Four Factors with regards to Michigan basketball now that we’re nine games into the conference schedule. For this diary, we’ll just focus on these nine games – there will likely be a grand analysis of the entire season talking OOC / conference, win / loss, home / away, etc…at the end of the regular season.
First, however, some averages of those factors in the conference schedule to date:
Effective FG% - 46.84%
Off. Rebound % - 26.98%
Free Throw Rate – 26.97%
Turnover Rate – 14.65%
A few other stats to perhaps consider as well – the average A/T ratio for Michigan in these nine games is 1.35 and their average offensive PPP is 1.01 (average number of possessions per game for Michigan is 59, incidentally). That PPP, well not quite as high as in past years for conference play – at least for the Wolverines – does include six performances north of 1.00, games in which we were 5-1 (the sole loss in that subset being Wisconsin, where our PPP was 1.13).
Effective FG% - 46.94%
Off. Rebound % - 30.06%
Free Throw Rate – 32.26%
Turnover Rate – 16.01%
Also for our opponents, they achieve an average A/T ratio of 0.943 and an average offensive PPP of 0.99 (which, of course, is our defensive PPP). Buried in that average PPP are 5 sub-1.00 performances for our opponents, which is part good defense and part playing mostly the lower reaches of the Big Ten conference up to this point.
Looking at the four factors themselves, however, you see a team that is not exactly outshooting anyone, extending a lot of possessions, getting to the line often…and then it makes sense that Michigan’s average margin of victory / loss when it comes to points is actually about 5 points in wins and 13 points in losses (I know, average of three numbers….grumble grumble). The grand average regardless of margin is 0.22 points.
So, here’s what the four factors look like game-by-game (we are, of course, in blue):
Offensive Rebound %:
Free Throw Rate:
For kicks, I looked at Michigan’s four factors split win to loss (so again, average of three numbers….I know):
eFG% in conference wins – 49.25% (1.06 offensive PPP)
eFG% in conference losses – 42.03% (0.92 offernesive PPP)
OREB% in conference wins – 27.68%
OREB% in conference losses – 25.59%
FTR in conference wins – 27.80%
FTR in conference losses – 25.59%
TOV% in conference wins – 14.09%
TOV% in conference losses – 15.77%
Aside from eFG%, there doesn’t seem to be much variance between wins and losses, although take a surface analysis for what it is worth there. The end of season breakdown could very well be more interesting. Right now, the profile of the average conference game has Michigan shooting 20-52 or so including 7-21 from beyond the arc, as well as only 13 FT attempts per game and only 8 offensive rebounds.
Another game, another backbreaking loss. (Source)
Your Weekly B1G Hoops Column
Since the B1G typically doesn’t have conference games on Mondays, might as well move this column to Tuesdays for good.
Table of Contents
Week IV Results
Post-Week IV Standings
Team of the Week: Wisconsin
Player of the Week: D’Angelo Russell
Efficiency Scatterplot From Conference Games
Michigan’s Week That Was
Michigan’s Week Ahead
Week V Schedule
1. Week IV Results
Poor Damn Northwestern.
After jumping out to a 21-10 lead at home against Ohio State, they let the Buckeyes take control of the game – Northwestern was able to tie the game with about four minutes left, but D’Angelo Russell was too much to contain and they eventually lost by two. They led for almost the entire contest against Maryland on the road and squandered an 11-point lead with less than four minutes left in the game. This was the final sequence:
The final sequence of Northwestern' s crushing loss at Maryland. https://t.co/8qNDeRSxnO
— Drew Hallett (@DrewCHallett) January 26, 2015
The loss to Ohio State was brutal; the loss to Maryland was absolutely soul-crushing. Northwestern needs an exorcism or something.
Elsewhere – Wisconsin absolutely murdered Iowa, Indiana beat Maryland at home only to turn around and lose to Ohio State on the road; Wisconsin came away with a tough OT win against Michigan; Nebraska held serve at home with two narrow wins over Minnesota and Michigan State.
2. Post-Week IV Standings
Wisconsin’s still the class of the conference (as evidenced by their excellent efficiency margin), but they haven’t managed to distance themselves after four weeks of conference play because of the unfathomable loss to Rutgers.
Maryland and Indiana are the two lurkers – Indiana’s excellent offense is offset by their permissive defense; Maryland is the inverse. Wisconsin only plays each team once: Maryland on the road, Indiana at home. Whether either are legitimate challengers is certainly up for debate (I personally think Wisconsin’s still the overwhelming favorite), but the conference race has been more entertaining than it was supposed to be, at least.
Ohio State and Michigan State have the best efficiency margins behind Wisconsin – and they’re quite a ways behind the Badgers – though both have already gotten three losses in conference play (along with four other teams at either 5-3 or 4-3 overall). With Wisconsin’s likely dominance (they’re projected to get to 15 conference wins by Ken Pomeroy’s algorithm), those two might be out of the race already.
The race for second place should be a dogfight, and there’s little clarity there, as seven teams are within a game and a half of Maryland. All of them – except for Michigan – have an efficiency margin at or above even; none have an efficiency margin better than +0.07.
3. Team of the Week: Wisconsin
This picture is incredible. (Source)
Wisconsin’s offense is nothing short of amazing. Even without senior point guard Traevon Jackson, the Badgers are a ruthless, efficient machine. Bronson Koenig has aptly stepped into the starting role running the show; Frank Kaminsky is perhaps exceeding the lofty expectations that accompanied him into the season; Sam Dekker is showing off his NBA potential (and efficiently, at that); Nigel Hayes, Josh Gasser, and the rest of the Badgers are all playing well.
Here are the most efficient players in the Big Ten during conference play:
Hayes is the most efficient player in the Big Ten with a significant usage – Aaron White, Yogi Ferrell, Rayvonte Rice follow him – and Kaminsky and Dekker are fifth and sixth respectively. Overall, having 5 players in the top 13 is just absurd, and Wisconsin’s methodical offense is as surgical as ever.
Their win over Iowa – a Top 25 contest, nationally televised on ESPN – was a complete ass-whupping; Wisconsin scored an unbelievable 1.52 points per possession, and, if not for their customarily slow pace, it could have been an even worse blowout. It had the fingerprints of classic Wisconsin basketball (turnover avoidance on offense, foul avoidance on defense – which really hurt Iowa), but it’s hard to remember a time that they played a better game than this against fairly quality competition.
The Badgers averted an upset in Ann Arbor – the game was incredibly slow (which benefits the underdog), but after Wisconsin opened up with a quick run to start overtime, Michigan couldn’t claw back again. It was an underwhelming performance against a much lesser opponent, but credit to Wisconsin for holding on in a tough road environment and defeating the reigning conference champions in their only meeting this season.
Previously: Iowa (Week III), Maryland (Week I), Rutgers (Week II)
[Hit the jump for the rest of the article]