landing spot. will be interesting to see how he does.
NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional Semifinal
Friday, March 25, 2016
Michigan 3, Notre Dame 2 (OT)
SELMAN GOAL, MICHIGAN
UM 1 ND 0 EV 10:31 Assists: Kile & Downing
Nieves wins the draw back to Downing. The wingers go in motion off the draw, with Kile going from right to left. This picks up the attention of the defender in front of the net, who takes a few steps with him. Meanwhile, Selman is skating through the faceoff circle, now left unoccupied thanks to the defender being drawn out toward Downing.
Two defenders are watching Kile as he receives the pass from Downing. Nieves has locked up the defender nearest Selman in the high slot; he did so immediately off the draw, and this is just where they ended up. Selman is blitheringly open, though ND goaltender Cal Petersen is square to Kile. Selman's shot catches him off guard, and he isn't able to move across and re-square before the puck's behind him.
[You already know the OT winner is after THE JUMP why have you not clicked yet]
3/25/2016 – Michigan 3, Notre Dame 2 (OT) – 25-7-5
3/26/2016 – Michigan 2, North Dakota 5 – 25-8-5, season over
When things went badly for Michigan this year, they tended to go bad in bunches. An inability to get a clean zone exit against certain hyperactive teams led to periods where Michigan got bombarded in its own end. Until the tournament these periods weren't even against good teams, since there weren't any on the schedule.
Half the time Michigan would fight back out of these holes, sometimes wielding puck-loaded tommy guns. (Literally: before the North Dakota game Michigan was 4-4-4 going into the third period down.) While the Notre Dame game wasn't quite as explosive as various Big Ten comebacks, they did rebound from a horrendous second period on Friday to get a grip on the game, one they would eventually use to win the game on a gorgeous behind-the-back pass from JT Compher.
That was something. Through two periods that game felt like nothing so much as the last time Notre Dame and Michigan played. That CCHA championship game was Michigan's last ditch attempt to salvage their tourney streak. Michigan grabbed an early lead in the kind of game that feels over as soon as the opposition ties it; Notre Dame tied it. There was a flicker there of something different. If only someone else, something else loomed.
There was no similar respite against North Dakota, and that's the problem.
Michigan and North Dakota are, or at least were, mirror images of each other. They recruit speed and skill directly after high school. They're piled high with NHL draft picks. They win a ton of games and get shot down in the tournament by bloody, goofy fate. But these last two meetings, spread out as they are over five years, demonstrate that the programs have diverged.
The first was the Tiny Jesus game. Michigan got outshot 2 to 1, gave up a blizzard of grade A scoring chances, and saw Shawn Hunwick stone every last one of them. I thought about that game on Saturday; North Dakota fans thought about that game on Saturday. Neither of us were happy to think about that game. Never has a team absolutely crushing their opponent without having anything to show for it on the scoreboard induced so much despair in their own fans as I imagine North Dakota did during that first period. At one point shots were 15-3, and all underthings were in danger of soiling.
That state of affairs took an irrationally long time to resolve itself, because single elimination playoff hockey is barely weighted plinko. You know this; you saw Michigan bomb Air Force's goalie over and over to no effect. The "hot goalie" thing has always seemed to be a bad way to think about the fact that hockey is pretty random.
Anyway, this is what I meant when I said the plinko was in our favor this year: Michigan wasn't in North Dakota's class except on the scoreboard. By the end of the game Michigan had once again been outshot 2 to 1. They gave up nearly 50 shots.
In the years bookended by these games, North Dakota has been slashed down in the Frozen Four twice and at this stage twice. Michigan saw entire four-year careers come and go without a tourney bid. Last year's team had the NHL rookie of the year, another guy who played 70 games right out of college, and Hobey finalist Zach Hyman and couldn't make the tourney. A team with Jacob Trouba on it missed the tourney. This team features a top line of future NHLers, one of whom was so rampant he will win the Hobey himself, and Racine's performance is the only thing disguising the fact they got run off the ice by North Dakota.
The talent is there; has always been there. The team is not on an elite level anymore.
I guess trying hard and going down fighting to a vastly superior team is preferable to some of the alternatives we saw over the past few years. That assertion was featured in some pushback on Twitter after I said "it's over" for Red, as if Michigan—Michigan!—was some try-hard program that's just happy to be here. I guess some people are just happy to be here, these days.
I was one of them for most of the year because I'd resigned myself to the fact that Michigan hockey isn't what it once was. This is indisputably true. Michigan once was a team with a 22-year tourney streak. Michigan used to go out like North Dakota, shaking their fists after dominating attack time and possession. That hasn't happened for a long time, and it's hard to envision a Red team that will do that in the future.
So, no, Michigan Daily, Red should not return next year. This season is not a return to form. It is an extension of same against a terrible schedule with a transcendent one-and-done. If there wasn't a ready-made candidate waiting in the wings there might be a case. But there is, and it's time for Mel Pearson to get the job he's waited 30 years for. Only Red can make that call; here's hoping he does.
A thought for Steve Racine. For Racine to finish this season with a save percentage of .914 is a danged miracle. Even so he has to endure goofs like Dave Starman deriding him as Michigan's weak point despite the fact that there can't be another goalie on a decent team in the country who endured the same shot quality he did. He made some big mistakes at times—two goals came from outside the blueline this year—but he is clearly Michigan's best goalie since Shawn Hunwick.
The statistics will not reflect this assertion. The scatter charts will.
The Big Ten excuse doesn't fly. Have seen a number of assertions that Michigan was ill-prepared to play North Dakota because they are good and the Big Ten is not. Such assertions fail to deal with the fact that Michigan got run over by Ohio State just three weeks ago, that Michigan didn't even win the not good league, that Michigan had control over 14 nonconference games and came up with BU and nobody else within spitting distance of an at-large bid.
Michigan's defense was a travesty most of the year; there was plenty of opportunity to fix it, but it didn't get fixed, just like it didn't get fixed any of the last four years.
Looking towards next year. Mike Spath says that Werenski, Downing, and Connor are almost certainly out the door and that Motte and Compher will get pushed by NHL teams to sign.
Those two guys will have to decide between getting a jump on their entry level contracts or returning and having the flexibility Zach Hyman did after his senior year. Hyman forced a trade to the Leafs and is now in the NHL permanently since Mike Babcock loves him. I've also heard that Compher is in Ross and has a very high profile degree he can complete next year, which is motivation to return.
If Michigan gets Motte and Compher back their lines might look something like this:
Pastujov, Sanchez, and Lockwood should be mid-round picks in the upcoming draft.
- De Jong-C. Martin
- L. Martin-Luce
Luce will be a mid-round pick.
That's not bad but it lacks an out-and-out star on defense unless Luke Martin, who's eligible for the 2017 draft, is the top-15-pick various mock draft sites are projecting him as.
If Compher and Motte depart things start getting grim. The only forwards not listed above are Evan Allen, Niko Porikos, and incoming PWO Lukas Samuelsson.
Breakout failures. It was uncanny how North Dakota destroyed Michigan by attacking the second pass. Most of the time a D's pass up to a forward saw that F under immediate pressure, whereupon he either threw it up the ice blindly or turned it over right there. It reminded me of watching the USMNT play Germany in the most recent world cup. North Dakota's forecheck is a high press that destroyed Michigan's offensive rhythm for most of the game. Their goals were more or less both on the power play; at 5x5 they did not score.
5x5: all of it. Michigan had one full power play in 130 minutes of hockey and drew one other penalty. This was a disaster for the nation's top power play. It resulted from a combination of excellent discipline from opponents, Michigan's inability to possess the puck, and refs lacking the courage to blow the whistle.
This was particularly acute in the Saturday game. An obvious interference call as Motte attempted to dump and chase in the first five minutes of the North Dakota game went unpunished, and after that it was free-for-all for both teams. By the third period Michigan defensemen could get their stick slashed out of their hands repeatedly with no reaction from the referee.
North Dakota was the superior team and deserved to win the game, but I'm frustrated that the game tilted even further to them because the refs decided that playoff hockey has different rules than regular hockey.
A fitting end. Michael Downing's slashing penalty with two and half minutes left was the final nail in the coffin, and a fitting way for him to go out. It was a two-handed chop down on a guy's arm in a situation where you'd rather just let the guy take his shot. I can't remember a more frustrating player other than maybe the freshman version of Jack Johnson, and Johnson was incredible as a sophomore.
Meanwhile Downing never shook the violence and bad decisions that plagued his game at Michigan. Notre Dame's opening goal on Friday was an odd-man rush he ceded with an awful decision. He then compounded it by falling down as the play entered the defensive zone.
I don't think Michigan will miss a beat without him. They went 3-0 during his various suspensions this year.
|WHERE||Homesure Lending Arena
March 25th, 2016
|THE LINE||Michigan –1.5|
Yes, I found a college hockey line.
Notre Dame is 19-10-7 on the year, 15-5-2 in Hockey East. They enter the tournament on quite a skid, having lost five of their last six games. Those games were against Providence, BU, and Northeastern—all participants in this year's tourney—so at least their losses have been against good teams and not, say, Ohio State, but that's not the ideal way to enter win-or-go-home time.
ND's offense curled up and died during this period. Just one of their last six games has featured more than two goals, that a 6-4 loss to Northeastern that knocked them out of the HE tournament. Their single win was a 1-0 shutout of BU.
ND has the statistical profile of a team that is responsible but less than overwhelming. Leading scorer Anders Bjork has 11-22-33—less than a PPG. Leading goal scorer Thomas DiPauli has 13. They're deep, though, with six double-digit scorers. They're slightly getting outshot on the year. They haven't given up a shorthanded goal this year; they've only scored one.
This is a team short on high-end talent but one that goes three lines deep in reasonably prolific dudes.
Notre Dame split against Minnesota, BU, and Penn State this season. Michigan was 3-2 against the Gophers, split against BU, and nuked Penn State into orbit.
DiPauli has 13 goals on the year
Despite recent struggles the Irish have still scored a healthy number of goals this season, albeit often against the lower reaches of Hockey East. Those lower reaches were not much different than the Big Ten's: Maine and UMass are below even MSU in RPI; UConn is just above the Spartans; Merrimack, Vermont and UNH barely edge out Wisconsin.
ND has bombed the aforementioned schools and nonconference opponent WMU, who is in the same RPI range and faced ND three times this year. In those 15 games ND scored 67 goals, 4.5 per outing. In their other 21 they managed just 46, 2.1 per. That is a stark difference. ND really struggles to score against good teams.
Now, you are probably thinking "does Michigan qualify as good in this department?" and I'm like… uh.
Maybe? The Ohio State series is a blip in what is otherwise a long stretch of games against decent to good teams that did not make me want to boil myself alive after the opposition hit double digits in odd man rushes. Since a 4-4 tie against Wisconsin, Michigan has played
- that series against OSU, guh
- a 5-2 win over Ferris State, which is in the tourney at RPI #30 thanks to a WCHA tourney win
- six games against Penn State and Minnesota, bubble teams, in which they gave up an average of 2 goals per game. PSU and Minnesota are 6th and 13th in scoring nationally.
I'm not saying they've turned the corner. I'm not saying they haven't, especially since some of those goals came in sloppy third periods with Michigan up a zillion.
Bjork spearheads ND's defense from center
Notre Dame is the #14 D in goals allowed, and while this is almost identical to where they stand in goals scored it's a much more consistent strength. Until that 6-4 loss to Northeastern in their most recent outing ND hadn't given up five since October (against PSU). They almost never scored shutouts and almost never gave up more than three goals (just five times all season and twice since November). ND can make it rough sledding against anyone.
Often that rough sledding means giving up 3 goals against tourney-level competition. Goals allowed this season against top 20 RPI opponents: 6, 3, 0, 3, 3, 3, 4, 2, 1, 3, 4, 2, 2, 4, 4, 3, 3, 3, 5, 4. You get the idea. They're not impregnable, or even particularly good at shutting down good teams.
Bjork, an Andrew Copp type, is by far ND's best forward defensively—consider that he is +27 with just 33 points and that the next-best F on the team is +15—and ND will seek to match him against the CCM line. Michigan has last change, which could be a factor.
Goalie Cal Petersen, drafted in the fifth round by the Sabres, is a major strength with a .928 save percentage.
Surprise: Notre Dame will want to stay out of the box. Michigan's rampant power play is #1 nationally at 32%, having scored on an amazing 17 of 29 opportunities over their last six games. Notre Dame's penalty kill is 20th at 84%—decent but nothing spectacular. They have just one short handed goal to their name this year.
Michigan will also want to stay out of the box, because their penalty kill is 45th and ND has a solid PP unit of its own, 10th nationally. The two teams are about even in penalty minutes.
A FEELING OTHER THAN TERROR?
I think this is a reasonably good matchup, though. RPI and KRACH both agree that this is a 7-vs-12 game. Those metrics don't take goal margin into account; ND has made a lot of hay against a slate of HE opponents that are more or less equivalent to Wisconsin and MSU. So has Michigan, of course, but the gap between performances against good teams is not nearly as large. Also Michigan is outscoring the opposition by 1.9 goals per game; ND is at .8. Michigan just bombed teams slightly worse than the ones ND lost to repeatedly. ND's defense doesn't look capable of shutting CCM down; they haven't shut down many good teams this year. Michigan is and should be favored.
Unfortunately for Michigan, their bell curve is so wide that being favored might not mean a whole bunch. Jeff Jackson is a very good coach and Michigan can struggle when the opposition has a high-energy forecheck going, as OSU did in that series.
If the defensive improvement over the past month holds, Michigan should get a couple of ridiculous goals from CCM and ND will struggle to get past two or three. These days I call two goals a "Michigan shutout" since that's enough to win. If Jackson gets in Michigan's grill with his coaching chops something like OSU could go down, albeit tighter since ND is not much of an offensive team against reasonable opposition.
I think it's a W, but hockey plinko.
Kind of a big deal. PG recruit Xavier Simpson won the Ohio Mr. Basketball award after averaging 27 points and 6 assists a game. You may remember that one Trey Burke won Mr. Basketball in Ohio, an award that comes with some heft. Recent winners include Luke Kennard, Burke, Jared Sullinger, William Buford, Jon Diebler, OJ Mayo, and someone named Lebron.
Both Beilein and Simpson welcome the Burke comparison:
"With me going to Michigan and seeing the success they had with [Burke]. What I'm hearing, from out of high school no one ever thought he would go to the NBA. And Michigan put the ball in his hand and helped him make the right decisions and get better as a player. That prepared him for the next level, so hopefully they can do that for me."
Simpson is a much higher rated recruit than Burke was, but I think we'll take Trey 2.0.
Let's stop doing the dumb RPI thing. College basketball RPI is broken. Broken things can be exploited, and the Pac-12 did that so successfully that they got a bunch of ridiculous seeds in this year's NCAA tournament. Those teams all bombed out of the tournament save Oregon, which got a one-seed everyone thought MSU had on lock. Ask the Spartans if that mattered, assuming you can keep a straight face while doing so. (You cannot.)
This was not an accident. In both men's and women's basketball the Pac-12 has made a concerted effort to game the RPI. It started with the Washington women's coach, and the league is so proud of it they've put up articles it on pac-12.com itself:
Neighbors’ work developing a mathematical picture of success for the Pac-12 inspired conference coaches to change the way their programs scheduled in the non-conference seasons and has strengthened the conference from top to bottom.
“It’s one of the most productive things we’ve done,” Close said. “The best part about this story is Mike’s selflessness, but also the coaches putting the conference above themselves.” …
“He came in with this huge packet, with color-coded graphs. The message was, ‘Everybody needs to get eight or nine wins (in the non-conference) and you need to play the best teams you can beat’,” Close said. “Everyone was brainstorming. Everybody understood this has to be bigger than just your team. We have to help each other.”
This worked, as the Pac-12's evidently mediocre teams got seeds they did not deserve. Meanwhile, a 15-3 Big Ten champion got a five-seed, and Michigan was relegated to a play-in game largely because the Big Ten didn't put anyone in the 50-100 range of the RPI. Some of this is the Rutgers effect. (Thanks, Delany.) Rutgers was a mandatory anchor on every schedule in the league. But some of it is the fact that the league is playing far too many voluntary games against Rutgers equivalents.
I complain about this just about every year. Four years ago I put a post together titled "How To Schedule In College Basketball" after a selection controversy between Drexel and Iona. What leapt out at me was Michigan's nonconference SOS. It was objectively much tougher than either of those teams but when it came to numbers it was barely better than Drexel's miserable schedule and far worse than Iona's mediocre one.
This is because Michigan fills out the bottom of their schedule with the very dregs of college basketball. Jason Lisk:
Then, you look at the non-conference. Michigan played Xavier, NC State, Texas, Connecticut, and SMU. That’s more top quality games then most programs played. But, from December 12 to December 23, they also played Delaware State, Northern Kentucky, Youngstown State, and Bryant. They won them by an average of 40 points. Each of those teams is at 275 or below in the RPI. Those teams are collectively 28-90 against Division I teams, and play against other low level teams (that whole opponent’s opponent’s record thing).
That’s killing Michigan.
If you just took out two of those games, and replace them with home games against mid-level MAC teams like Eastern Michigan and Toledo, the RPI goes from 66 to 55. With just that change alone. Heck, even if they lost one of those games (and they would be heavy favorites at home), the RPI actually goes up slightly. That defies logic.
For years I'd assumed this was a Dave Brandon thing. Towson is cheaper than Richmond, end of story. After Brandon's departure it's clear that John Beilein is the guy lining up Delaware State (#348 in Kenpom) and Bryant (#345) because he doesn't want the slightest chance at a loss.
This hurts Michigan and the Big Ten because the chance Michigan loses to the #200 team is also negligible. For example, per Kenpom Michigan had a ~94% chance to beat then-#203 Minnesota when the teams played at Crisler in January. Despite the very small gulf in likely outcome between a game against a bad team and an awful one, the RPI assigns very different values to those games.
The committee does attempt to see through these flaws, but everything is framed by RPI. Your RPI. Your record against the top 50 and top 100 in RPI. Conference RPI. Gaming the system clearly works; Michigan is doing the exact opposite of that. It just about cost Michigan a bid this year. It's well past time for the school and the league to figure that out and exploit it.
Precisely, good sir. Harbaugh on Sankey's Think Of The Children campaign:
“I thought it was fake outrage. I thought it wasn’t really real,” Harbaugh told Mike & Mike when asked his reaction to their reaction. “The moral high ground of the sanctity of spring break, that’s what people chose to use as their moral stance? I thought it was fake. I thought it was fake outrage.”
January February Middle Tennessee April. Pat Forde in the aftermath of MSU getting Giddy Potts'd:
Here’s what might also have played a part in Middle Tennessee’s calm reaction to shocking the world: the Blue Raiders knew they were no 15 seed. That was a joke, and part of a major choke.
By Michigan State, yes. But also by the NCAA tournament selection committee.
All hail MTSU, which put Murfreesboro, Tenn., on the map Friday. Its 90-81 upset of the Spartans is one of eight all-time victories for a No. 15 seed over a No. 2 seed – but Middle Tennessee never should have been a 15.
That’s on the committee.
The facts that Forde marshals for his argument are ridiculous. One: the winner of CUSA has never been seeded that low. CUSA used to have Memphis in it. This version of the CUSA had zero top-100 Kenpom teams. Forde cites the fact that CUSA was the #21 league at that very site without considering the fact that teams are not leagues. MTSU was not even the best 15 seed per Kenpom—that would be Cal State Bakersfield. The only teams in the tournament rated lower than MTSU above the 15 line were a couple of 14s.
MTSU was off by a seed line at most, which they promptly demonstrated by getting hamblasted by Syracuse.
Well, yeah. Kyle Connor left Penn State in a state of disbelief:
"I’m a firm believer that Kyle Connor is the best player I’ve ever played against and I even told him that in the handshake line,” Goodwin told reporters after the game. …
“[Connor] does everything very, very quickly,” Guy Gadowsky told reporters. “It’s amazing how he just gets himself into such an offensive advantageous position. I think it’s just what you can’t really explain that just makes him so darn good.”
After a few years of struggle against PSU, Michigan put the hammer down in 2016. They scored at least six goals in each of the five games, culminating in 7-1, 6-1, and 6-2 demolitions.
I mean I guess I'm not surprised. No idea if CBC News has the inside scoop on Kyle Connor but I'm not exactly expecting him back next year, and neither are they:
The focus on him is certainly justified and if Connor decides to leave school once his season wraps up (no decision has been made in this regard, though it would be a shock if he chose to stay at Michigan), signs with the Jets and eventually settles into the NHL game at the level that's expected of him, then let the good times roll.
I would assume that comes from the Jets' camp and indicates they intend and expect to sign him. I always think NHL teams are shortsighted to do this because the CBA accelerates free agency for players under 20; grabbing a kid at 19 is removing a year of team control at 27. But nobody seems to care for whatever reason.
Hockey incoming. NTDP forward Will Lockwood draws notice from NHL draft expert Kyle Woodlief, who names him a rising prospect:
Will Lockwood (U.S. NTDP U-18) — Showed lots of speed and was buzzing all over the offensive zone at last month’s Five Nations tournament, where he was one of the best U.S. forwards.
Lockwood is one of seven scholarship skaters* Chris Heisenberg shows as committed to Michigan next year; they are scheduled to lose two guys to graduation. Even if Connor, Werenski, and Downing** are all signing there's quite a logjam. Michigan has eight D this year and is set to carry nine next year even minus Werenski and Downing; they'll add an extra forward as well.
*[F Lukas Samuelsson is also listed but Michigan did not acknowledge him when they announced their incoming class. Generally that means the player is a PWO.]
**[Ben Clymer and Random Verb Guy were talking about Werenski and Downing like they were both out the door to the NHL after this year. Werenski we all expect to go; Downing hasn't been talked about much. I'm guessing they got word from someone or another and were impolite enough to repeatedly reference it on the broadcast because they can't talk about gritty grit heart for literally the entire thing.]
Etc.: More satellite camps: Dallas and Waco are on the table, with the Waco event a stop at Baylor's camp. That company that runs the summer soccer friendlies briefly listed Chelsea versus Real Madrid at Michigan Stadium on July 30th; it's since been changed to TBA. Harbaugh clinic notes.