The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
Michigan (15-8, 7-2 B10)
MSU (10-11-2, 4-3-2 B10)
Thanks Dave Brandon
|WHEN||8 PM ET Saturday|
Villiam Haag has a top quality hockey mullet
This is the same opponent Michigan had last week in a game that would normally be at Yost but is instead outdoors in Chicago. As a result season ticket holders are enjoying a six week gap between home games. Adding insult to injury, the announcement that this game would be in Chicago came after the season ticket renewal deadline.
This is Dave Brandon reaching back to us from beyond the grave to torment us one last time, so here's an opportunity to give thanks that he darkens our doorstep no longer. It is ultimate Dave Brandon to take a Michigan State game out of one of the cathedrals of college hockey in favor of something called the "Coyote Logistics Hockey City Classic" at a three-quarters empty NFL stadium. You and your logistics can go straight to hell, or Arizona. Wherever.
But… right… the game.
Michigan State remains Michigan State. They won the Joe Louis Arena contest the way they usually win games, scraping out a low-scoring snoozer thanks to a puck that bounced off multiple things before hitting the net, and then packing all six guys on the ice inside their crease for the remainder. It's ugly to watch and frustrating to lose to, but that's just the way things go against a style like that sometimes. It's .500 hockey against just about anyone, be they overmatched or… uh… undermatched.
More detail on MSU can be found in the previous post. In brief, MSU is a defensively responsible outfit with little offensive talent and a penchant for extremely conservative hockey.
Michigan fell a couple spots after last weekend's loss. They would still be in the tournament if the season ended today… unless conference tournaments went badly. They're solidly on the bubble. Losing again would push them out temporarily and eat up another one of the losses they can sustain before the end of the regular season.
Also, Michigan is five points clear of PSU and MSU for the Big Ten title—PSU has a game in hand. (College hockey awards three points for a win, remember.)
There are few stakes for MSU, which will be missing the tournament for the third consecutive year and sixth time in the last seven unless they win the Big Ten tournament. They could get within striking distance of Michigan for the conference if they win again, but sustaining that doesn't seem in the cards.
Hockey predictions are even dumber than most predictions, but Michigan does need to adjust the way they play if they're going to have a game that reflects the talent gap between the two teams. Michigan is far too prone to giving up uncontested shots from the slot and has gotten frustrated by MSU's tendency to lay five guys on the ice in front of any shooter.
Scoring the first goal is even more important than it is usually, as when MSU has to chase a game they come out of their shell and into the uncomfortable world of trying to play actual hockey. On the other hand, they are highly adept at choking out scoring chances.
UM 0 MSU 1 EV 03:09 Haag from Cox
Brennan Serville shoots and misses, and the puck hits the boards and caroms around and out of the zone. Joe Louis Arena’s boards are known for being springy, and this is a good example of that as I don’t think the puck would come as far out of the zone in a different rink as it did.
Michigan is set up for an offensive chance, so they’re naturally behind when the puck enters the neutral zone. Michael Downing is back to defend and needs to work toward the middle of the ice to break up the impending 2-on-1.
I was critical of Downing diving on Twitter, but now that I’ve had the benefit of watching the play over and over again in slow motion I have to take that back. His job on a 2-on-1 is to take away the pass so that Nagelvoort can take the shooter, which is what he’s clearly attempting in the screen cap below. His dive fails because Cox delivers a perfect saucer pass over Downing’s stick. I used to try saucer passes in Ea Sports’ NHL series and was never able to execute one as well as this.
Nagelvoort has to adjust in this frame. His job has changed from taking the presumed shooter (Cox) to pushing laterally and covering the actual shooter (Haag).
Haag tries to hit the near-side corner. The puck hits Nagelvoort in the shoulder and is deflected up and into the corner of the net. Michigan’s goalies have terribly unlucky shoulders.
[After THE JUMP: Are teams allowed to go more than 20 minutes without scoring? I investigate]
Same business. I already wrote the column about John Beilein as MacGuyver, and this was more of that, except moreso. After ten minutes of post-game frustration, I have the same emotional reaction to beating Nebraska handily at home as losing in OT on the road to MSU down LeVert and Walton (and DJ Wilson and Mark Donnal and those five guys in the NBA): wow.
Once we have experience/players they'll get back to it. It's unfortunate they ended up on the wrong side of a couple of games that look like they'll prevent them from getting to the tournament. Let's see what the guys can do for the rest of the year and then go into next year with confidence. And so forth and so on.
MAAR/RAHK. In a meme:
MAAR had an efficient 18 points on 14 shots and a few rebounds. He didn't exactly fill up the box score—just one assist and one TO and a bunch of zeroes places other than points—but Michigan needs points more than anything else.
MAAR's ability to get to the basket and hit contested layups is a foundation for expanding his game. Once teams start to focus on him that will hopefully lead to more good looks for other people.
Autobench. In fact Michigan lost this game because MAAR picked up two first half fouls, leading to an extended period with Andrew Dakich on the court. Dakich played 16 minutes, attempted one shot, got one rebound, and turned the ball over once. Replace a few of those minutes with MAAR minutes and that's probably worth another few points—in his absence defaulted to posting Max Bielfeldt.
MAAR then finished with two fouls, frustratingly. I complain about this every time it happens but I'll keep complaining about it. Every year Beilein has one of the least foul-prone teams in the country, and every year he yanks an important player from the lineup for ten minutes because a guy who averages 2 fouls per 40 picks them up early. When that guy is a scholarship player who has some ability it's one thing. When it's a walk-on who was a few bounces of the ball away from a 16-minute trillion it's another.
I'm enjoying the scotch-tape-and-soda thing as far as it goes, but it is still frustrating to feel that you could have won this game if you'd just had faith a guy averaging 3.5 fouls per 4 could handle a few first-half minutes with two.
This is like timeout strategy with NFL coaches: even the best people are seemingly insane about it.
Assist drought. Michigan struggled through this game with a measly 8 assists (30% of their baskets). MSU was at 70%. That's the offense's struggle in a nutshell. There's a lot of one on one basketball and not much ability to find an open guy. Irvin actually led the team with three. That was the second straight game he'd managed that. Believe it or not, that's the first time in his career he's had back-to-back games of three+ assists.
Michigan has very little ability to penetrate without two of their big three, and unless MAAR develops into more of a point guard instead of a shooting guard that's going to persist. The offense's smoothness will require assists in the 15-18 range instead of the 8 number they've put up in many of their Big Ten games.
Irvin. A frustrating year from him, one in which he's suffered greatly from Michigan's general lack of shot generation. He's improved in that department, but he's gone from "zero" to "not much"; many of the shots he gets for himself are heavily contested bad ideas. As a result his efficiency went off a cliff. His assist rate remains well under 10 despite the recent surge-type event and he's not a plus rebounder on either end.
Early in the season I was hoping Irvin could become a "threes and" guy, whether that was threes and D or rebounding or shot generation. He hasn't really. It's not so much about the shooting. He's been hurt by Walton's evident lack of burst all season, and would no doubt be just as deadly as he was last year if he was getting the same shot quality. It's about how he tends to drift out of games when he's not scoring.
Center spot. Bielfeldt hit some shots but not efficiently; he rebounded but was generally overwhelmed by MSU. He did screen much better than we've seen the freshmen do this year—too often they are imprecise and the screen just wastes time instead of creates room.
Michigan needed Doyle to have one of those games in which he seems like a future star; instead they got some iffy defense (he was too aggressive in the short corner in the 2-3) and one shot attempt in 15 minutes. He is a freshman post and so will be up and down for the next two years; really would have been nice to get a Syracuse-like performance from him.
We saw some brief passages with Bielfeldt at the 4 next to Doyle and I wonder if that'll be more common going forward when Donnal gets back. Against low-usage Big Ten 4s, Bielfeldt brings more rebounding, and if MAAR can pick up spot PG minutes that might be a way to prevent the dual-walkon backcourt we saw at the tail end of the first half.
Fifth year though, right? Michigan does not have any recruits in the 2015 class as of now; unless they do there seems to be no reason to not bring Bielfeldt back if he's willing. I know he was thinking about heading elsewhere for his final year so that he could get some playing time… but he is getting some now and I don't see why that would not be the case next year as well.
|WHAT||Michigan (15-7, 7-1 B10)
MSU (9-11-2, 3-3-2 B10)
|WHERE||Joe Louis Arena,
|WHEN||7:30 pm ET, Friday|
|TIX||the box office will have lots|
|TV||Fox Sports Detroit|
I haven't done a hockey preview for a while because I've never had much to say other than "this guy has a lot of points and this guy is drafted," but I guess it's better than nothing.
Michigan State is in their Nth consecutive year of mediocrity or worse, their fourth under former CCHA commissioner and non-hockey-coach Tom Anastos. After an opening year a few games above .500, Anastos's teams have lingered in a territory above terrible but below average; this year they are still that at 9-11-2. They're coming off a sweep of a drastically undermanned Ohio State team, so they've got that going for them.
Anastos teams tend to be defensively responsible and hopelessly dull, and this year is no exception. State is 45th of 59 in scoring and 25th in defense. They stay out of the box, kill penalties well, and struggle on the power play. They have a couple guys with a modicum of skill and a bottom six that tries to grunt their way towards goals. They have a couple of high draft picks on the defensive end and play a conservative system that tries to shut down space in the neutral zone, so at least that hasn't changed.
This is a Ron Mason team without an NHL top line or, you know, Ron Mason.
THE GENTLEMEN OF NOTE
Matt Berry. The diminutive senior is State's most skilled player. He leads the team in points with 16 despite missing several games due to injury earlier this year and is the only MSU player on a PPG. He's in the little puck wizard mode.
Mackenzie MacEachern. MacEachern is a rare breed indeed, drafted in the third round out of Michigan high school hockey. Reminiscent of Justin Abdelkader minus the dumb penalties, MacEachern is the most physically imposing opposition forward.
Villiam Haag. Is named "Villiam Haag." (Try-hard Swede is also active defensively and has established a spot on the top line thanks to two-way play. Think Matt Rust.)
Junior Jake Hildebrand has seen every minute of MSU's season; his .918 save percentage is middling but significantly better than Michigan's platoon.
THE LAST TIME
Michigan won the GLI final 2-1 with Zach Hyman and Andrew Copp scoring; Michigan was actually outshot 29-32. MSU was missing Berry; Michigan was down their four WJC participants (Werenski, Larkin, Compher, Motte). They skated seven defensemen in that game, in fact.
Michigan has played itself into an at-large bid for the tournament and must keep winning to stay there. The Big Ten offers no favors to Michigan's schedule strength.
Michigan State has no hope of an at-large bid. At this point Anastos has to be on the verge of losing his job if anyone in East Lansing still realizes the hockey team exists. It's been four years of mediocrity with no light at the end of the tunnel and a retiring Red Berenson is kicking MSU's ass on the recruiting trail.
It's time for Michigan State to get a real coach and start winning some games—crappy MSU was fun for a while but I'm over it. If Anastos wants to keep his job winning against Michigan is the best way to do it.
THE GUY WHO HASN'T CHANGED
Kampfer-assaulter Andrew Conboy was just dropped by his ECHL team for cross-checking a dude in the teeth. Stop hiring this man, hockey teams.
Hockey predictions are dumb, but whatever: Michigan is still vulnerable to turnovers and WTF defensive play but if this was an even game last time they should have a major advantage now that they've got four of their six best players back in the lineup versus just Berry for MSU. Stay out of the box and get solid goaltending and this train should keep rolling.
When can we fire this apparel company?
What do you think will happen when the Adidas contract runs up? It's no secret around these parts the quality of garments that Adidas has put out have been sub-par to say the least. I know the majority of MGoBlog would prefer to go back to Nike, but there's a faction that would like Under Armour. Where do you see this going? Especially since I would anticipate the Nike contract not being nearly as lucrative as an Under Armour signing or a re-up with Adidas. Does Hackett (assuming he's still around) or a new AD listen to the fans or do you think they go for profit here?
I don't know. Nike isn't willing to spend bucks as huge as Adidas and Under Armor, which was a contributing factor in Miami's recent switch to the only incompetent Germans. Adidas has the four most expensive (FOIAable) contracts in college sports, with Michigan's whopping 8.2 million at the top of the list. That number is double what OSU gets from Nike.
Part of that premium is because Adidas isn't as cool to the whippersnappers and you have to weigh that, but this isn't a few hundred thousand a year Michigan is weighing. Switching to Nike would be a decision that costs Michigan a significant chunk of change.
The ideal situation may be Under Armour stepping in with an on-par offer. UA's done some wacky stuff with Maryland but they've been extremely reserved with Auburn's classic look. (An extensive Googling reveals no alternate uniform horrors.) I'm a huge fan of what they've done with Northwestern, incorporating a historical design element in a unique way.
Aside from the excessive logo frippery* that plagues everyone these days, that is a fantastic, distinctive look. Even the font is on point. I'd rather have UA take a swing at—or just, like, sit quietly by and not do anything weird with—Michigan's uniforms than Adidas.
But I don't wear the stuff so I don't know. It seems like the players are gung-ho about Nike and Hackett is listening; plus it seems like there is some real recruiting impact in basketball.
*[The best thing Dave Brandon did with Michigan's brand is render the mandatory Big Ten logo in Crisler as faintly as possible.]
Rate the get
How big of a get is Harbaugh compared to Ohio state landing Urban? Obviously OSU's down time was smaller than Michigan's, and Urban won national titles at Florida, but in terms of hires it has to be close to comparable, right? Recruits lining up and all that.
In terms of difficulty of acquisition it's a much, much bigger get. Meyer was momentarily retired and looking to get back into coaching, and his preferred style of offense makes him unattractive to NFL teams. It probably took the two sides about a half hour to come to an agreement after Tressel got axed. Michigan was in a much more difficult situation with Harbaugh, who could have coached at about 20 NFL teams if he wanted to.
In terms of impact and probable success, it's close. I would still go with Meyer, who had already won two national titles, over Harbaugh. Harbaugh's done kickass things in his tenure as a coach but he hasn't had the kind of sustained run on the mountaintop that Meyer did at Florida. That's splitting hairs in any case.
[After the JUMP: manball an aid? best coaching combos, NFL reporters, Milhouse.]
HARBAUGH HARBAUGH HARBAUGH HARBAUGH.
There. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s break down a mid-season tournament win that featured an impressive victory over Michigan Tech and about what you’d expect against Michigan State.
Michigan v. Michigan Tech 12/28/14
UM 1 MTU 0 EV 06:28 Martin (2) from Hyman (11) and De Jong (4)
Hyman has the puck along the boards, and that causes Sturos (#7) to come down and make a futile attempt to take away the passing lane. He’s far too late, and Hyman easily gets a cross-ice pass off to Martin. The pass gets Tech’s defense skating, as no one’s covering Martin. In fact, no one’s really in position to do so, either. You can see that they have a box-plus-one, and the one is the aforementioned Sturos, who’s now on the wrong side of the ice.
Martin’s shot is going to end up going over the blocker of Tech’s Jamie Phillips, and it’s something that can best be described as a seeing-eye shot. If you look at the black box in front of the goalie, there’s not even a Michigan player in front to screen. This is a shot that just beats the goaltender; I don’t think the Tech defenders acted as screeners either.
UM 1 MTU 1 EV 10:28 Gould from Petan and Kero
Tech moves the puck down the boards and into the corner. Michigan has Downing in front, and he’s smart to not jump in and help but instead stay in front of the net. As you can see, there’s a Tech skater who’s unaccounted for who’s going to play an important part in just a moment, one which will necessitate a defender in front.
Kero (#10) makes an incredible pass from the corner to the trailing man in the faceoff circle. Petan gets the puck and fakes a shot, which causes Downing to drop to a knee in an attempt to block. Petan’s shot fake is superb, and the pass to Gould is perfect. I really can’t blame Downing for trying to block here, because he had about a tenth of a second to decide whether it was a shot or a pass and Petan executed flawlessly.
Racine tries to push across the crease to square with Gould, and in doing so he opens up the five-hole. Gould’s shot is low and just barely clips Racine’s right leg pad, deflecting down and in.
[More after THE JUMP]