Player development has been a reoccurring bright spot for the Michigan basketball program in the past decade. Making the most of 3-star recruits or overlooked talent has been a staple of John Beilein’s teams. Coaching up Trey Burke to the title game and getting Stauskus to the league as a top-10 pick stand out the most.
But another trend has stood out to me after carefully watching recent Michigan teams and that’s late season player development. Each year it seems as if there is an underclassman or two who are nowhere to be found midway through the season – then late February happens. Emerging underclassmen have been an interesting barometer for future success. Look no further than a few current starters.
Last year at this time, Moritz Wagner was in the middle of a stretch where he played one minute across five games. Michigan lost four of those games. Two weeks later, he scored nine points in a BTT win over Indiana before logging 22 minutes against Tulsa in the NCAAs. Against Tulsa, Wagner had 8 rebounds, displayed nice athleticism with post moves and active defense hands. Although he didn’t fill the stat sheet, he showed promise in tournament games vs. Indiana, Notre Dame and Purdue. That momentum carried into this year and was on display today when he dropped 22 first half points against the biggest frontcourt in the conference. It was among the most impressive performances I remember seeing from a big man.
Wagner wasn’t alone last year. To a lesser extent Kam Chatman played some big minutes. In 2015-2016 Chatman only averaged 2.8 points in about seven minutes per game. Yet he was on the court in the waning minutes of Michigan’s upset of Indiana. We know how that went down. One shot doesn’t make a player – but player’s don’t hit winning shots from the bench. Chatman’s place on the floor mean’s he earned Beilein’s trust. A closer look at his box scores shows his minutes nearly doubled in mid February. Would have been interesting to see how he would have turned out.
More notably, you may remember Caris LeVert burning his redshirt and being an end of bench guy during Michigan’s title run. He was the team's 8th or 9th man depending on where you place Horford, which is notable considering Michigan’s rotation is usually about seven or eight men. Beilein saw something. And of course through a combination of departures and an offseason training program, LeVert came back the next year to log more than 30 minutes per game – a huge jump similar to what we saw from DJ Wilson between this year and last.
So why is this important now? Lurking in the shadows of Wagner, Walton and to a lesser extent, Wilson’s great resurgence is Xavier Simpson. A month ago, he was seemingly never on the court, or when he was it wasn’t notable. Recently, he can be seen gaining more confidence, running fast breaks, making threes and occasionally taking it strong to the hole. It isn’t much yet, but if history tells us anything Simpson may be figuring things out – which bodes well for the future squad which will have a major hole to fill with Walton graduating.
A few comments this hockey season from the regular posters have asked about or lamented the fact that our present hockey team is sagging back to the 'Pre-Red' days of despair. Having been a small part of that era I thought maybe some of you might be interested in some of the background of those times and teams. Remember I am doing this one from memory of 35-37 years ago (yes, I am very old), and candidly I hope that some of the guys on those teams might be lurkers and/or bloggers here and would be kind enough to supplement or correct what I'm posting. Think of this as the JV version of what one of my favorite posters, RYG, does on a regular basis.
Leading up to my freshman year the team had been coached by Dan Farrell for a number of years, with all but one of those years being a winning record. He was a very good recruiter and my freshman year I think our team had more talent (myself excluded) that would end up playing pro hockey than any college hockey team I'd ever heard of. That said, Farrell resigned before the 1980 season, and it wasn't until decades later that I found out he apparently went back to Houghton to be an engineer. Wilf Martin became head coach. I think he was a Michigan alum that had played minor league pro. He was a nice guy but was in a bit over his head and, to quote Teddy Spears one of the guys on the team who ended up being captain, it was quickly found out that 'He couldn't handle the pressure'. Enter John Giordano, the erstwhile assistant thrust into the lead role.
Giordano fancied himself as the next Herb Brooks, the tough guy coach of the incredible 1980 Miracle on Ice U.S. Olympic team. You may remember that Brooks' players hated him at the beginning, but by the end of their time with him would've walked through fire for him. Indeed, that team of Brooks' is part of the greatest sporting achievement and event I've ever witnessed. Anyway, the problem with Giordano was that he didn't have anywhere near the gravitas (I am trying to be very diplomatic here) required to pull that off. The net result was that the players did not respect Giordano, they didn't like him, he was not a good recruiter, and though he was okay with the X's and Os of hockey, he was losing altitude in the win/loss column.
The shame of it is that Giordano inherited some pretty serious talent on that roster. Guys that had at least a cup of coffee in the pros, with some doing much better, would include Dave Richter, aka, "Magic", who was a 6' 4 or 5", 235 lb defenseman before those things existed in hockey. Magic was smart and tough and in a pair of skates looked to be about 8' tall. Other guys who made some pro rosters, some minor league pros, include Steve Richmond, aka 'Chi', Dennis May, aka 'Los', Teddy Spears, aka 'Spearsy', Brad Tippet, aka 'Tipper', and goaltender Paul Fricker, aka, 'Spaceman'.
By the '83-84 season Giordano had lost the team, so to speak. The guys all signed a letter addressed to AD Don Canham asking in effect that the school get rid of Giordano and that is in fact what happened.
Red has had a great run but as many have mentioned it looks like that run should come to an end. I hope he leaves gracefully and it would be very cool if the team sparked these last weeks of the season to achieve to the level of it's recruited talent.
Anyway, I hope the Michigan hockey fans amongst the mgoblog glitterati will enjoy this post. Have a great weekend regardless.
This is the first story in this series that features a guy I was not teammates with. He graduated two years before I got to Ann Arbor. Although we shared a lot of mutual teammates, I never had to go against him in practice (thankfully). I was a little concerned about writing this one because I couldn’t interject any personal interactions from our playing days like I did in all the other stories. The good news is, he's an attorney and damn near wrote the piece for me. I've always had great admiration for this guy. He’s got a great story and one I’m happy to share with you.
In this day of roster management, red/blue/gray shirts, satellite camps, poker chips, and the need for immediate impact players, we as fans have a tendency to write kids off if they don’t contribute by their 2nd year. Just 5 years ago, it was taboo around here to say someone was “taking up a scholarship”. I’ve never liked that term or its connotations. We’re so caught up in stars and rankings and offer lists and immediate results that we sometimes forget these are 18 year old kids fresh out of high school.
There’s a chance that if “processing” occurred back in the 80’s, you might not have ever heard about this next subject. He came here as a tall, skinny tight end who transitioned to tackle his sophomore year. He battled homesickness, injuries, and a handful of All-Americans, but finally, in his 5th year, he finally got his due. That year - 1982 - he won a starting spot, made another trip to Pasadena, earned All-Big Ten honors, and lived out his boyhood dream.
Rich Strenger was the youngest of 4 growing up in Wisconsin, where he was a 218 pound end for the Grafton High School Black Hawks. He was recruited by Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Michigan. The Badgers were never much of a factor because they were going through a coaching change. Northwestern was a surprisngly serious threat. Northwestern was coached by first year head coach Rick Venturi. The Wildcats hadn’t had a lot of success on the field winning just 12 games combined the previous 5 years, but they had one of the best recruiters in the business. This guy wasn’t flashy or cut throat. Rather he was honest, personable, and trustworthy with unwavering character and a knack for closing the deal. Rich’s parents knew right away this was a coach they could entrust with their youngest son. They knew he’d get an outstanding education at NU, he’d be closer to home, and with this particular assistant coach, their boy would be well watched over.
You all know who I’m talking about.
Coach Swag Mattison served as defensive line coach and recruiter extraordinaire for NU from 1978-1980. He knew how to find players and get them to commit. He made a hell of a pitch to the Strengers. Turning him down was a tough choice to make, but Rich knew it was the right one.
Michigan had their own secret recruiting weapon: former Wolverine great and (then) Defensive Backs coach, Dennis Brown. Coach Brown made an equally memorable impression on the Strenger family. He was honest, hard working, and a great man loved by Mr.&Mrs. Strenger. Coach Brown was busy in the Grafton area in 1978. Not only did he get Rich to say yes, he also got Mike Lemirande, Tom Garrity, and Dave Brewster to come to Ann Arbor that same year! The 4 guys were all good friends but they never discussed attending the same college. It just happen to work out that way thanks to the remarkable efforts by Coach Brown.
When Rich arrived in Ann Arbor and moved to Offensive Tackle his sophomore year, he had to compete against future All-Americans Ed Muransky and Bubba Paris who were in his same class. It's hard enough switching from Tight End to Tackle, but when you're undersized AND have to battle All-Americans, it can become a little disheartening. Back then, guys didn't transfer because of who was in front of them on the depth chart. Sure it happened, but not with the same frequency or publicity as it does today. Guys like Rich looked at the depth chart as a challenge. We had two All-Americans on the line, one at Wide Receiver, and a couple others on defense. He knew he'd have to take his licks on demo. Luckily, he had his friends from back home there with him along with Coach Brown, and Coach Paul Schudel who helped keep his head straight and his spirits high. He was not backing down.
Back home – a small town of about 10,000 people 35 minutes north of Milwaukee – people didn’t think he was tough enough or good enough to play at Michigan. Sure he could cut it at Northwestern, you just had to be smart to play there. But Michigan was the big time - "out of his league" according to some know-it-alls. Many of the naysayers predicted he'd be back in Wisconsin in no time.
It was tough for him, no doubt about it. He was a long way from home, playing behind future Hall-of-Famers, and barely able to bench press more than some of the kickers. Legendary Strength and Conditioning coach Mike Gittleson paid extra special attention to the skinny kid who was switching over to the offensive line. Mike was known for pushing guys to their absolute limit. With Gittleson's help* and "encouragement", Rich packed on the muscle, gained his confidence, and ultimately became the player he would be. As a testament to his toughness, Rich never missed a full day of practice (Fall or Spring) in any of his 5 years. That is a remarkable feat for an Offensive Lineman.
“I often think they (the coaches) were part psychologists and part coach. Here they were dealing with kids from all walks of life, different personalities, different races, different religions. Some poor kids, some rich, some middle class. Some over-confident, some lacking confidence. We all felt that we were being treated alike, and I think we were on the field, but off the field, the coaches did subtle different things to help us succeed.”
An example of those “subtle things” was giving Rich his first game action against his hometown team, the Wisconsin Badgers. You never forget that first time you step on the field. It’s surreal. You’re so hyped you damn near forget how to hear. It’s a big deal for anyone whose ever played. But it’s all the more special when the coaches give you that first taste of action against your hometown team. It’s a little thing but it goes a looooonnng way.
During his 3rd year, Rich starting seeing some action on the special teams. He recalls a couple games that stuck out.
Against Illinois, Rich ran down on the punt and laid a hit on a guy trying to block him that knocked him off his feet. The guy fell into the punt returner who muffed the punt due to the distraction. Rich’s momentum carried him right through the receiver and he pancaked him, too. The ball was loose and a teammate recovered the fumble. As was tradition back in then, the coaches would award Offensive, Defensive, and Special Teams players of the week. The defensive coaches also recognized the “Big Lick” - the biggest hit of the game. They used to put a projector outside the defensive meeting room that would play the Big Lick on a reel-to-reel, literally looping the play over and over. Rich was surprised to see his play on loop that week. He wasn’t even a defensive player but he was recognized for that week's Big Lick Award. It was the first time he felt like he was contributing to the team.
Later that same year, he given the Special Team’s Player of the Week for his play against Ohio State. They beat the Buckeyes 9-3 that year which clinched the Big Ten title and trip out west where Bo earned first Rose Bowl victory.
At the start of his 4th year, Rich was competing for a starting guard spot. Unfortunately, he would injure the arch on his foot, which was excruciatingly painful. An injury like that won't heal unless you get off your feet and give it a rest. Of course, that wasn’t an option. He went and got treatment before and after every practice, but he never missed a day. Despite his grit and best effort, he didn't earn the starting position. You could blame the injury, but the fact of the matter is, Rich was competing against Stefan Humphries - another All American who was later a member of the Super Bowl Champion ’86 Bears. (If you’re keeping count, that's THREE All-American’s Rich was behind on the depth chart. Remember that the next time you think of "processing" a player).
Rich made his first start at tackle in the opening game of the 1982 season against Wisconsin. He had a good game in the win but the following week against Notre Dame (in their first night game ever), things would not go so well. The offense failed to score in the first half, and despite a second half charge, the Irish prevailed 23-17. Rich didn’t have a good game and was fearful that he might lose his starting position. But Bo, Coach Schudel, and Coach Hanlon stuck with their guy and he rebounded with a strong performance against UCLA the following week. That team would go on to play in its 3rd Rose Bowl in Rich's 5 years. In all, he would be a part of three Big Ten Championship teams and amass an overall record of 45-15. He fought through pain, adversity, a loaded depth chart, and plenty of doubters along the way, but in his fifth and final year, he proved to everyone he could play at Michigan.
When I asked him if playing in the pros was always a goal of his, he replied that “Yes and no. What kid doesn’t want dream about playing in the NFL? But I never gave it a thought because in the back of my mind, I did not think it was an achievable goal. A kid from Grafton Wisconsin just does not go on to play pro ball.” His opinion would change about ¾ of the way through his 5th year.
Rich had improved every week following the Notre Dame game and could tell he was getting better, but not enough for the scouts to notice. Then one day, Bo walked up to him and said matter-of-factly, “You’re going to play in the NFL.” That’s a conversation that’ll change your your life.
The following year, with the 40th pick in the draft, the Detroit Lions select in the 2nd round….Rich Strenger - Offensive Tackle, University of Michigan.
He earned the starting left tackle position his first year in the league, but a season-ending knee injury cut the season short. The following spring, the Lions drafted consensus All-American (of course) tackle out of Florida, Lomas Brown. Since playing behind All American’s had become old hat, Rich simply moved over to Right Tackle, where he would finish out his career.
Following football, he went to work for Oakland County prosecutor (and now County Executive) L. Brooks Patterson. He worked in Risk Management as well as on Patterson’s personal security detail which required him to attend the Police Academy. Rich found the Academy interesting, particularly the criminal law classes. After 8 or so years with the County, in a job that didn’t have much upward mobility, Rich considered other career options. He thought about physical therapy, but Oakland University didn’t offer evening classes (and regular daytime classes were out of question). So he harkened back to his Academy days and the law classes he liked so well. After talking it over with is wife, he decided to apply to and was accepted at Detroit College of Law. He started practing at Butzel Long, and now owns his own firm in Lake Orion, Michigan.
He’s been married to his wife Karen for 32 years and has one daughter who's a junior on the high school basketball team. He sits on the board for the Orion Area Youth Assistance Program and the March of Dimes for Southeast Michigan. He also participates in Clay Miller's "Mentor Program" for current Michigan football players (which just held its 10th annual event last night).
Those who stay…..
Rich wore #68 at Michigan.
If he had a son he’d let him play football and support him all the way. He wouldn’t push him if he wasn’t interested in playing, though. Rich believes that sports teach so many life lessons. He says that the people he encounters in daily life that impress him the most all have one thing in common: they played a team sport.
And in case those naysayers from back home in Grafton need a little more convincing, check out the Grafton Wikipedia page.
February 1 - Thursday
The blogger awards continue with the Keith Jackson Award for best prose. The winner is EDSBS.
Ronald Johnson has reportedly dropped Michigan. Internet rumors surround shady things and Johnson’s mom. Also Donovan Warren looks likely to go to USC.
Yet later (I said this was approximate): someone starts forwarding a creepy email around purporting to be inside information on the exact circumstances of the drop. It levels Lebron's mom-type accusations at the Official Mom of Rojo and implies that shady doesn't begin to cover said circumstances. None of it will ever be proven true; all of it will filter into Michigan recruiting lore. The ghost stories hardcore recruitniks tell each other when they like to simulate misery now include Ronald Johnson's mom.
Blogger award for best individual CFB post. This one goes to EDSBS too.
Blogger award for best Pac 10 blog. Bruins Nation wins.
Oui Oui, It’s a DT. Relando Sagesse decommits from Illinois and commits to ‘M’.
Suddenly, Donovan Warren is going to join the class.
A recruiting disaster on par with 2000 is officially averted. Warren will be a Wolverine in the fall and we have our first five-star corner since Marlin Jackson. Of course we had to go the panicky, crazy-ass route to get him, but there you go. Recruiting, ladies and gentlemen... recruiting.
February 2 - Friday
Unverified Voracity is Internet Meme Crazy with links to lots of Warren excitement, and Rob Parker thinks Amaker deserves more time.
Blogger award for best audio thing/podcast. Another win for EDSBS.
New reports are that there might be a chance with ROJO. This appears to be the first use of the recruiting board emoticons (Nefarious Eduardo and others).
February 4 - Sunday
NOJO. He’s going to USC, but I think ‘M’ came out on top of this exchange:
In the end, USC and Michigan ended up with a strange cross-country cornerback exchange program and the end result of this recruiting year is the same: somewhat disappointing but still okay, especially with the so very shirtless recruits at cornerback and quarterback.
February 5 - Monday
Brian’s annual rant against a ranking system in which he complains about Pairwise.
Unverified Voracity and Stuff. The Daily looks at what an Amaker departure would mean for commits Manny Harris and Alex Legion.
February 6 - Tuesday
Unverified Voracity Haet Official Journalist because they don’t like recruiting rankings or bloggers.
February 7 - Wednesday
Early signing day news: Finch is going to Florida, Hello Boubacar Cissoko, and Vance Bedford is returning as DB coach.
2007 Recruiting: Offensive Backfield. Profiling Ryan Mallett, Avery Horn, and Vince Helmuth. Projection on Mallett:
Projection: Carr irritates me by wasting his redshirt year; Mallett starts for three years afterwards.
Carr Signing Day presser. Ryan Mundy, Will Paul, and Marques Walton are all gone. This is likely not true:
Hello. Marques Slocum's epic journey has finally reached a successful conclusion.
But he is qualified now and will be able to practice in the spring.
2007 Recruiting: Wide Receivers. Profiling Toney Clemons, Junior Hemingway, and Zion Babb. Clemons will be remembered for all the wrong reasons, so let’s look at Hemingway’s prediction:
Projection: Does not redshirt but I find this less than annoying because we need to spread out all these receivers over a few classes. Hemingway is the most polished and ready to step in. I doubt he sees much action with Manningham and Arrington in front of him, but candidate 1A to be Michigan's go-to guy in '09.
February 8 - Thursday
Hockey conference CHA is hanging on the edge of existence, so the CCHA should be broken up to create two stable conferences.
2007 Recruiting: Tight End and Offensive Line. Profiling Martell Webb, Steve Watson, Mark Huyge, and David Molk. A two man OL class will not be helpful in the coming years.
General Excitment Level (Molk): Good pickup and a fine member of an OL class that he's the third best player in. Unfortunately, we don't have that OL class.
February 9 - Friday
Unverified Voracity Hockey Hockey Hockey. ‘M’ is tied for first in the nation in shorthanded goals, and Chris Summers and Tim Cook are switching positions.
2007 Recruiting: Defensive Line. Profiling Ryan Van Bergen, Renaldo Sagasse, and Marques Slocum. The latter two were both 20 years old by this point.
February 12 - Monday
Unverified Voracity is on the Ceiling. The Big 10 Network is telling local network stations not to bother bidding on telecast packages. This is a cause for concern that many games will be stuck on cable channels that no one gets.
2007 Recruiting: Linebacker. Profiling Austin Panter, Marell Evans, and Brandon Herron. Panter was the JUCO defensive player of the year, but that doesn’t mean much.
Unfortunately, JUCO D Heisman has been about as good an indicator of future success as Actual Stupid Heisman:
Johnathan Batson played in two games for Texas A&M. (He has a year of eligibility left.)
Mickey Pimental was a useful starter at linebacker for Cal.
Jamaal Jackson evidently did little at Texas Tech.
Randy Jackson was a bit player at South Carolina.
Dustin Looman ended up at D-II Winona State.
Proceed with caution.
2007 Recruiting: Defensive Backs. Profiling Donovan Warren, Michael Williams, Troy Woolfolk, Artis Chambers, and James Rogers.
Rogers was expected to switch positions when he came in... except he was supposed to switch to wide receiver.
Poor guy, this started right away and his position confusion would last his entire career.
February 14 - Wednesday
‘M’ basketball lost badly to MSU last night. During the broadcast Steve Lavin compared Tommy Amaker’s coaching style to Dean Smith. Here are the ways they are similar:
The operation of clean programs that graduate their players
Notoriety in the ACC
A fondness for apples
Lack of participation in the War of 1812
A powerful desire to sock Dick Vitale but good
A coaching career dedicated to humiliating Duke
A cutting-edge 1910 fashion sense
Neither improve Michigan players
Aaaand the same number of NCAA tournament bids over the last six years.
Unverified Voracity Scores a Point Per Minute. Rumors persist that Amaker will be back. This is in part to give him a chance with his incoming recruits (Manny Harris and Alex Legion), but mainly because Mary Sue Coleman likes him.
February 15 - Thursday
An FAQ about MGoBlog. Lots of interesting details here, particularly on the origins of Unverified Voracity, OMG Shirtless, and other terms.
The SEC has a reputation of signing impressive recruiting classes, but the truth is they are signing larger classes than the Big 10. Jim Delany recently spoke out about this, and this post looks at some of the reasons why.
Brian is going to Lake State to ski and watch a hockey so he won’t be posting the following day. He gives a transcript of a Seinfeld scene.
February 19 - Monday
Michigan finally has an opponent for the football opener, and yes...they are HOT HOT HOT. Most of the the post is spent talking about the inevitability of playing I-AA opponents in the current NCAA climate.
The newspaper industry is fighting illiteracy with a campaign by “legendary film and television star, Optimus Prime”. My five year old wishes this wasn’t ten years ago.
Brian recaps his trip to the Soo. It’s a humorous read.
As we made our way through the surprisingly crowded concourse after the game, a door opened up and the Lakers, shorn of skates but still in full equipment and smelling like it, emerged from a pair of double doors in front of us. I was brought up short by the convoy and made a WTF shrugging gesture to my travelling companions, at which point one of the Lakers slapped me five. Then they were gone, evidently to ring the victory bell outside. When they returned, I kept my hands in my pockets.
Lester Abram has been arrested. He had some small traffic issues, which Brian has also had, so he doesn’t expect much to come of it.
February 20 - Tuesday
2008 Recruiting Board with all the updates that were made throughout the coming year.
Unverified Voracity is Precious. Ryan Mallett won’t be redshirting, and there is a movement to hire Rudy Tomjanovich.
February 21 - Wednesday
A close look at the coming weekend’s hockey games and how they affected Michigan’s tournament chances.
Unverified Voracity Snaps Back. ‘M’ is in on 8 of the top 10 football recruits in PA. However, Terrelle Pryor is a longshot.
February 22 - Thursday
2007 recruiting grades, a recap of instate recruiting, and a look ahead at 2008 needs.
CA RB Darrell Scott. Early favorite for this year's #1 back, he's transferring to freshman-to-be Michael Williams' school. With USC having locked up last year's #1 and #2 RBs, plus four others in the past couple years, he's more liabile to escape Trojan clutches than most California recruits. Ron English and an attractive depth chart -- the only significant competion appears to be Brandon Minor -- should have us in the running.
MI RB Jonas Gray. From Detroit Country Day and has publicly stated he was big into Notre Dame, but may be backing off that for similar depth chart reasons: ND picked up Robert Hughes and Armando Allen in the last class.
TX RB Sam McGuffie. McGuffie's the hurdling whiteboy as seen on Deadspin and every social video site you care to name. His father's from Michigan and there is thorough mutual interest between the two sides.
PA WR Jonathan Baldwin. Ty Law's cousin, the 6'6" Baldwin is one of the top five prospects in a good class of Pennsylvania prospects. Michigan has an early lead but it's tentative.
TX WR Daryl Stonum. A former teammate of Troy Woolfolk and Brandon Herron, he's been very vocal about Michigan's lead for his services. Ranked around #11 in Texas, Stonum will probably be at the tail end of top 100 lists or just off them.
MI OT Dan O'Neill. A solid-four star type, O'Neill is expected to commit sooner or later.
TX OT JB Shugarts. He's leaving the state, is friends with McGuffie, and has been up to Michigan. Will have to fight off OSU, UF, LSU, etc, but a decent shot.
PA LBs Christian Wilson, Shayne Hale, and Andrew Sweat all have Michigan in the top group of teams they're listing. OSU will be a competitor for all three.
CA DBs Robert Golden and Brandon Leslie. From Fresno Edison, the former home of Johnny Sears. Michigan's recruiting both. Golden has repeatedly said that Arizona(!?) leads for his services
Video of a Penn St. fan watching the 2005 game, but the video doesn’t work anymore.
Unverified Voracity Doesn’t Know, but there is a rumor that several players are in some minor drug related trouble, but no names at this point.
February 23 - Friday
With EDSBS, another look at class sizes and statistics on which BCS teams have had the largest and smallest average classes over the last six seasons. ‘M’ averaged 20.3 over that time period.
NCAA hockey and the CHL battle for prospects as the NCAA considers allowing players to be contacted at a younger age.
February 25 - Sunday
Recruiting Board Update with lots of names added. Of interest ten years later: NJ S Brandon Smith and MN WR Michael Floyd.
February 27 - Tuesday
Unverified Voracity Zoom. The basketball team still has a chance to play themselves into the tournament. They just have to a beat MSU and a 14-1 OSU team.
February 28 - Wednesday
Roast Beast! ‘M’ does beat MSU 67-56.
I will admit that this basketball grinch's heart grew three sizes when Brent Petway threw down a half-court alley-oop from Jerrett Smith midway through the second half yesterday. Even my ambivalence about the possibility of another NCAA near-miss leading to an extension of the Amaker era eroded with every shot of a white-clad slackjaw cheering for Michigan State and every non-turnover possession. It's no fun thinking big picture in the throes of actual sporting competition, and I hereby suspend any and all conflicted musings until the season ends.
The second half pick-and-roll perfectly executed by Jerrett Smith, Brent Petway, and Courtney Sims: most shocking basket of the Amaker era?
The disappearance of Lester Abram is on a par with Amelia Earhart.
The site was attacked by spammers, so Brian puts up a Sam McGuffie highlight film as an apology.
The next 3 games are all 50/50 for me right now, just a heads up...
(Patrick Barron) Not all JLF's fault...but hockey is sad, these days
FIRST: Michigan definitely had their chances in the first. They had a couple OMRs (one came shorthanded, though), and got into the slot and crease a few different times. By the numbers, Michigan generated 19 even strength attempts with 9 of those coming from home plate. This is great! They didn't get one to go but created many nice looks and flubbed a couple of their best chances. This is equivalent to the first couple periods of the OSU series a couple weeks back.
SECOND: Once again, Michigan generated some decent looks in the attacking end. They created 15 even strength attempts and got 6 from home plate. They're above 40% from the dangerous area. This is above their average. They missed a few great chances, including a breakaway and another 2v1. Michigan started and finished the period very strongly but got caught up in the penalty fest in the middle of the period. While Berry is making some good saves, they're also not getting a lot of their best chances on frame.
- THIRD: The eyeball test said Michigan had a great third period. They held the puck deep in the Badger zone for multiple long stretches and kept pressure in the attacking end for most of the third period. Except...no one could find (or hit) the net. Finally Wisconsin Michigan'd a lovely DZTO right to Winborg who slid it across to Allen along in the low slot and he beat Berry to tie the game. The shot chart backs this up as Michgan has a 16(7) in the third. I guess I was expecting a bit higher, but a 50 is actually one of their better scores on the year. That's also 44% from HP on a relatively high volume...which means they couldn't get anything past Berry or any of their best looks on frame. Ugh...this season.
FIRST: Michigan allowed 16 even strength attampts and 7 from home plate. This is not so good. The overall total isn't the worst but the near 50% HP ratio is not great. They also had some trouble clearing the puck and breaking out. Going to need a better 2nd period. With a crazy assist to physics, the first period goal does fall on the defense. The puck is shot wide of the net an took an odd bounce around to the other side of the net. Unfortunately, no one was marking Trent Frederic. He waited for JLF to drop and lifted it to the roof of the net. Probably need to check that guy.
SECOND: Almost an idential period for Michigan on defense, again. Wisconsin goes 16(6) in the 2nd. Still a little too easy for Wisconsin to get the puck into dangerous places, though. The goal was when Michigan was down a man, so it technically isn't going against the defense. However, it was poor man-marking that lead to the goal as no one checked the guy bringing the puck into the zone. That needed to be addressed in this section.
- THIRD: It started so well and then dropped like a sack of flour. Michigan actually gave up the most chances in the third: 17(10). At least half of those had to have come in the last five minutes as the wheels were flying off like one of Pharaoh's chariots in the Red Sea. Michigan was dominating in the attacking end and then all of a sudden everything came sliding back to their own end. After JLF took a curious clear, Luce marked his man in the slot, but didn't really touch him and Frederic was able to tap a centering pass behind LaFontaine. Then, a gorgeous behind the back pass finds Zirbel between two more M defenders who goes upper 90 on poor Jack. The 5th goal also came from just outside the crease after another silly DZTO. There were certainly enough of those all night, but eventually the lack of marking and puck clearing came back to blitz Michigan's beleaguered defense. In the end, they gave up 49 shots from even strength and 23 from inside home plate. That's 47%. That's awful. It's also the 2nd highest percentage M has surrendered this season. Only the trip to Vermont was worse.
FIRST: Michigan draws no penalties in the first. They take one, though...but it was soft. Nothing comes of it, though. Wisconsin barely got their power play set up.
SECOND: Michigan gets their first power play due to lazy miscommunication on the Badger bench. The Wolverines quickly set up their 1-3-1 and a dot-to-dot feed from Slaker to Marody gave Michigan a power play goal. When they can get their power play set up, they've been very dangerous. Michigan took two more penalties and it came back to bite them. Wisconsin scored on their second opportunity. A simple give and go at the blue line and neither Cutler nor Shuart stayed with Hughes and he walked right in on JLF and scored.
- THIRD: Not much special teams action in the third. Michigan got a power play early and created numerous great looks but could not score. It was similar to their overall offense from the night: a lot of swarming puck control with good chances but not enough on frame or obviously in the net. They also got another power play late, after the game was 5-2. I don't know how that one looked. Obviously.
FIRST: Jack LaFontaine started in net and look good to start. I don't put the goal on him. He was bumped on one side of the net, thrown off balance, lost his stick, and had no chance to make the save on the opposite side of the net. Crazy bounce off the boards. He did show nice positioning and made a few stops with attackers crashing the net around him. Apparently, he's over whatever hurt him midway through the game, last Saturday. He had 10 saves.
SECOND: JLF was mostly solid in the middle frame. He stopped 10 more shots and was betrated by lazy defending for the second goal. The only slip was a shot from a 90 degree angle that got into has pads. As he reached back to check, he fell back into the net and the puck squirted out across the goalline. Fortunately for him, the whistle had already blown. Since the ref had lost sight of the puck, blowing the whistle was probably the right move, but it would have been a soft goal, otherwise. Aside from that, he minimized chances and was up to anything that was thrown at him.
- THIRD: Another up and down period for JLF. Stoned a breakaway. Hung out to dry in his crease as the puck is turned over time and time again below the dots. Still, with Michigan dominating the third period, tied at 2, JLF has the puck behind his net and clears the puck around the left boards with no Wolverine player in its path and a Badgers steps in and keeps the puck in the zone. A couple of passes later and the puck is in the net. Now, the defense didn't help later, but it started with a curious clearing decision. The last couple goals were not on him, but just a good -not great- performance in net. He definitely showed what he was capable of doing, but JLF also had a couple of whoops moments, as well. He's still only a freshman. He had 26 saves.
ODD MAN RUSHES
FIRST: Michigan surrendered one 2v1. Attacking Badger may have had his skate grazed but was losing control on his own. Didn't get a shot away, regardless. Boka did go to the box, though. Nothing else.
SECOND: Wisconsin gets a 3v2 that turns into a 5v5 and a shot from the point that doesn't go in. So...eh. But they follow that with a 2v1 that Boka gets caught flat-footed at the Wisconsin blueline. The pass was behind an open Besse or else the Badgers would have had an OMR goal.
- THIRD: On a powerplay, Michigan gave up a breakaway. JLF stoned it for his best stop of the night. Four OMRs tonight. The total is creeping up the last couple weeks. At this point, whatever, I guess.
FINAL CORSI SCORE
I had: Michigan 50, Wisconsin 49
www.collegehockeynews.com had: Michigan 53, Wisconsin 47
We're two days away from baseball season! Let's start the season preview looking at the infield.
1st baseman and DH Carmen Benedetti has departed after the Astros selected him in the 12th round of the MLB draft.
It was a down year for Benedetti after his monster sophomore season. As a junior his average dropped to .326 and with two new players hitting in front of him with lower OBP he only knocked in 33 runs. Benedetti was also an able pitcher and a rock in the field. Like Cronenworth and Glines, Michigan will not be able to plug someone into his spot and replace him right away.
Senior catcher/DH Dominic Jamett has graduated. Jamett made 17 starts last year and swung the bat well. He hit .254 with 14 batted in and was a team captain.
Erik Bakich and staff had a difficult offseason a year ago after Nick Azar decided to walk away from baseball to play hockey at Harvard and Charlie Donovan passed away.
That forced the diminutive freshman Ako Thomas into starting duty much sooner than Bakich would have liked. Despite the circumstances, Thomas started 52 games at second base and did well. He started the season rough at the plate but finished strong with a .258 average, 16 batted in and 30 walks. He also led the Big Ten with 11 sacrifice bunts. In the field he wasn’t so great committing 11 errors.
Michael Brdar started 52 games at shortstop after transferring in and he was just alright. Brdar hit .250 without much power and struck out twice as much as he walked. He also committed 11 errors.
Jake Bivens came to Michigan as a middle infielder but out of necessity he moved to 3rd and started 57 games for the Wolverines. Leading off for the lineup, Bivens hit .356 and knocked in 26 runs on his way to a 3rd team All-Big Ten selection. His defense was not good as a middle infielder and he was putrid at 3rd base committing 12 errors and posting a fielding percentage of .916.
Harrison Wenson Is your starting catcher. Wenson was the biggest surprise of the year; after playing sparingly as an underclassman without any part of his game standing out, Wenson stepped into the lineup and crushed the ball on his way to leading the team with 56 RBI and 8 home runs, 18 doubles and a .289 batting average.
Drew Lugbauer split between 1st, catcher and DH last season and took a huge step forward from freshman to sophomore year. As a 5 hitter, Lugbauer raised his batting average from .211 to .294; he hit 15 doubles, 7 home runs and knocked in 47. His .990 fielding percentage was outstanding.
Slot Lugbauer in as your starter at 1st base. His production as a middle of the order bat will be one of the most important storylines to follow early in the year.
Nick Poirier is a JUCO transfer who hit .372 last year and will see time either as the DH or in the outfield. He’s got a good bat, so DH would be more likely.
This team has potential on their bench but they don’t have much proven depth.
Jimmy Kerr is probably your first infielder off the bench; Kerr hit .375 and batted in seven on just nine hits. The sample size is tiny, however, it’s more than anyone else has.
George Hewitt was a big prospect coming out of the Northeast. He didn’t see time last year but he has a big bat and should find his way into the lineup somehow.
Senior Hector Gutierrez was going to be the most important depth infielder but he is going to take a medical redshirt and miss the entire season.
This program brought in 3 new catchers. Brock Keener, Marcus Chavez and Harrison Salter. Keener is a JUCO transfer who hit the ball well last year and should be your frontrunner for the backup job at catcher. If he can swing the bat, there’s always going to be an at-bat available at the DH position.
Chavez will play as a utility guy, Salter will probably redshirt.
I think you’re going to see an infield that looks like it did last season. There isn’t going to be much production from the middle infielders with their bats but the hope is that they can cut down on the errors and be more patient at the plate. The team doesn’t need Brdar and Thomas to crush the ball, they just need to get on base.
The corner guys, DH and the catcher will be your bigger bats. Although Bivens isn’t a power bat, his numbers are really good for a leadoff hitter. Lugbauer is your middle order run producer.