Hello. What with hockey and dissertation and everything it was a tired, panicked last few days but go to bed at a reasonable hour and stay there for a good while and hey the sun's shining and there's a baseball game tonight. I've also got all these tabs; they're increasingly elderly but oh well.
Elsewhere in getting hammered in the temple. A roundup of post-championship reacts on the Michigan blogosphere. HSR:
The hardest part about the National Championship game last night was that there's no new lesson to glean from it. When you take penalties, you're going to have a hard time winning. When you can't get the puck into the opponent's zone, you're going to have a hard time winning. When you can't get a change in overtime, it's going to be almost impossible to win.
The Sun rose on Sunday in Ann Arbor. It was a beautiful, 80-degree day, the first such day after another long Midwestern winter. Normally I’d be pleased, but yesterday a picturesque spring day felt like a cruel joke.
"I think right now it's pretty tough to reflect on the season when you just lost a national championship game in overtime. If you're a competitor, you're going to be devastated," he said.
"You know the seniors aren't going to get another chance, and they've been the nuts and bolts of this team. Our young guys, they might think they'll get the chance every year, but it doesn't work that way."
So… yeah… if you were in the comments yesterday complaining that I was too down you don't follow the hockey team closely enough. This could be your reaction every spring, too! Season tickets! Get them!
Also in enragement. This is uncharacteristic of Berenson:
“Were they good penalties?” Berenson asked. “I can’t tell you what I really think. I mean, you can’t talk about refereeing and penalties, but when one team gets nine (power plays) and the other four, it doesn’t add up.”
He wasn’t done.
“We’re not out there to take penalties,” he said. “So every time a player falls down, it shouldn’t be a penalty, not in NCAA championship hockey.”
FWIW, it was only the third-period calls that I thought were terrible. The other stuff was either unfortunate, undisciplined, or plain necessary. Michigan took like three straight in the second and didn't call the ref a troglodyte who should be shot into the sun, so… yeah.
That last "boarding" call was some kind of awful, though.
The enlightenment comes. Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd won't be suspended for the season, or placed in stocks in the middle of campus, or forced to wear a hairshirt for picking up a DUI. While that's not so good for Michigan's laser night game throwback spectacular it's closer to sane. Rakes of Mallow somewhat defensively posted a list of recent DUI offenses and their consequences and the consensus is one game unless you play for OSU. [Ed-M: My list is better.] Doctor Saturday:
If anything, Res Life's scorched-earth verdicts against former basketball players Will Yeatman and Joseph Fauria and basketball player Kyle McAlarney — all of whom were booted from school for an entire semester for arguably lesser charges than the trio of alcohol-related offenses on Floyd's record — were evidence of a policy far out of step with the mainstream. As McAlarney wrote the Tribune, the office showed "no compassion, no consideration for me, no feelings whatsoever." Yeatman and his parents also publicly objected to his suspension before his transfer to Maryland.
I'm with him even if I was pulling for a two-game suspension.
Feature thing. ESPN's spring feature on Michigan:
It's so bizarre seeing Urban Meyer try to be part of the media. I expect him to kick himself out of this interview. Also there's actually a lot of interesting* technique stuff in there if you ever wanted to find out what a DL coach does.
*[for a given definition of interesting, which is mine but probably not yards.]
Too cool to live. Free Darko is no more. Amongst the huge list of tributes posted I think Will Leitch is the one who gets it rightest:
Free Darko made me see athletes not as heroes, not as villains, not as humans, but as mythic, god-like creatures, comic and tragic. I don't mean God in a big man in the clouds with a beard sense; I mean in a "release the kraken!" sense.
They were perfectly suited for the NBA. I talked to Shoals a bit when we were both writing for The Sporting Blog; he was disappointed in his traffic numbers and disappointed in the weirdly disjoined TSB and seemed like a guy who was losing faith, getting ready to move on. TSB duly imploded and now FD is scattering to fancy magazine pages of the world.
Random insane NCAA decision of the week. Colleges can no longer subscribe to Rivals and Scout because they provide recruiting information not freely available to the public. The Bylaw Blog is kinda sorta incensed by the unintended consequences of what started as an attempt to reign in AAU coaches in men's basketball:
But it’s the reason Rivals is not a permissible service that shows the deeper underlying problem with the current recruiting regulations. It is not permissible to subscribe to a recruiting or scouting service that provides videos of prospects in non-scholastic competition, unless the videos are free and available to the general public.
The NCAA and its members have fought the growth of non-scholastic youth sports vigorously. Subscribing to video of non-scholastic contests is prohibited. In basketball, going to watch AAU events is tightly restricted. In football, coaches are prohibited from going to any non-scholastic event.
This has resulted in two things: the steady, continued growth of AAU basketball, 7-on-7 football, and all other club sports, and diminished NCAA influence in this area. By removing college coaches from many AAU gyms and football camps, it has become the lawless wild west that the restrictions sought to avoid.
According to Infante, the NCAA should "let go" of high school sports and reorganize around the principle that non-scholastic sports are primary. That sounds radical, but Infante makes a persuasive point: you have no control over something you have completely banned and lots of control over something you are working with. If two rival AAU tourneys are competing for players, the one with college coaches in the house is going to win hands-down.
Meanwhile, Rivals and company should expect a surge in subscriptions from coaches' wives.
Side note: Banning Rivals based on video of "non-scholastic competition" is a weird situation when a lot of newspapers are covering recruiting in more detail these days. The occasional camp highlight video hardly registers on why people subscribe to Rivals—if anyone actually watches video it's of, you know, football—and it would be interesting to see if one of the sites tests the NCAA by cutting camp stuff. Most of it's "Christian Cullen" running a shuttle.
Foot… ball? Yes, they still play it. No, there is no running back. A Daily article on the situation recycles some of Borges' quotes from his recent press availability…
“To say we have a frontline back, a guy we’re saying, ‘This guy’s the guy’ — we’ve had flashes of excellence from all of them and that’s not a decision we have to make today,” Borges said. “But I like those kids.”
…and alarmingly references Vincent Smith and Michael Cox without so much as mentioning Dramatic Cupcake Hopkins. Practice chatter has been silent on him even as guys like Cox, who has never seen the field for a reason, get unearthed and evaluated. Meaningfulosity? About as much as the rest of spring practice, but if you forgot what happens this time of year because you were paying attention to basketball and hockey, we get very very bored and therefore try to parse anything we can out of the faint whisper of the ghost of a tiny fraction of tea leaf that wasn't very large to start with.
3/18/2011 – Michigan 2, Western Michigan 5 – 25-10-4
3/19/2011 – Michigan 4, Notre Dame 2 - 26-10-4, third place
So… hockey. I went down to the Joe on Friday, sat directly behind the goal where Michigan shot twice, and saw Western Michigan score four goals in the (a?) second as Michigan got thumped embarrassingly. They went out and won the next afternoon against Notre Dame but even that win over a solid team seemed to bode unwell—Michigan was outshot 44-23. It was only Shawn Hunwick going ape that prevented an 0-2 weekend that would have provided a sad counterpoint to the basketball team's overachieving.
Depending on the events of this weekend we'll look back at the CCHA finals as a hiccup or the omen that spelled doom, and since our bracket is a team we split with earlier in the season and almost definitely BC it's probably going to be the latter. Getting outshot 2-1 and surviving on a goal from Jeff Rohrkemper of all people does not seem like a recipe for tournament success. Right now I find it very hard to believe Michigan will get to the Frozen Four unless Hunwick is as insane as he was against ND.
Deblois runs train. Derek Deblois was extremely fortunate not to get kicked out of the Western game after taking two dumb boarding penalties. I wouldn't have complained if he got the boot on the first one, and I think he was saved on the second by the fact that he was boarding the opponent into a linesman, not the actual boards. If the linesman wasn't in the way that could have been extremely ugly. Western scored on both power plays; Deblois justly sat out the ND game.
Penalty kill debacle. WMU was 3/6 on the PP and Michigan is now 25th nationally on the PK. I have no idea why. Michigan returned the entirety of what was a top five PK last year and now they're turrible. I think Hunwick's size is a major factor, as he's just not going to block nearly as many open shots he can't see as a big guy, but last year a lot of opponent power plays were spent trying to dig the puck out of their own end.
If Michigan's going to do anything in the tourney they're going to have to stay out of the box. A penalty filled game will not be to their benefit. Maybe not so much against UNO's meh PP, but BC is sixth and will gut Michigan like a fish if they take dumb penalties.
Goodbye, fourth line? Now is the time—last week might have been the time—to consign Michigan's dodgy fourth line to the bench except in select situations. I'd throw Winnett down there and use Lynch as the defensive responsibility on the midget line of Treais-Sparks-Someone, but Red has always given Winnett more time than it seems he warrants with his play so I don't think we'll see that. I'm guessing if we do see a short bench it won't be until the second round as M tries to keep players fresh.
Atmosphere. Kudos to the Western fans for turning out en masse at the Joe. The Friday game featured student sections chanting at each other*, and while I wished things were a little more clever there was more atmosphere for College Hockey at the Joe than there had been since the Chris Kunitz-led Ferris State team played Michigan for the CCHA title in a packed building. It's too bad for the league that the two new powers are fan-deficient ND and Miami; if Ferris and Western were making the Joe on the regular the CCHA finals would be far less depressing.
*[I wish the Michigan students had responded to the "why so quiet" chant with "we are losing," and followed that with "this is why you go to Western," though I'm not sure how you chant-ify the last bit.]
Please don't go full Roy. I'm a little worried about Shawn Hunwick's tendency to get punchy when things aren't going well. He took a critical penalty earlier in the year and could have gotten one in a scrum midway through the second. When he's on he's very good; against Western it seemed like the Broncos got in his head and affected his performance.
Big Ten Section
In case you were wondering about other Big Ten teams adding hockey, Illinois says no, Nebraska says no, Iowa says no (sort of, no quote), and I'm pretty sure you don't even have to bother asking Northwestern, Indiana, or Purdue. If you're wondering about CCHA teams packing it in, they seem pretty sanguine about it:
Are the non-Big Ten teams worried about their future? Let’s see: Miami: Nope. Bowling Green: Not at all. Lake Superior State and Ferris State: Nah (Great quotes from LSSU coach Jim Roque). Western Michigan: Not really. Minnesota State Mankato: Not entirely. Notre Dame: Maybe just a tiny bit. Alabama-Huntsville: Cautiously optimistic? Northern Michigan: Not “crying” about it. Nebraska-Omaha: Not worried, just not too happy. (Pretty much everybody is saying the same things. I’d imagine (hope?) we’ll have a much better idea about a plan after the American Hockey Coaches Association meetings over the summer.)
That ND article also has quotes from Jeff Jackson about trying to get scheduling arrangements with the Big Ten teams. Michigan "has obviously become a rival" and Michigan State "is also an option." LSSU's Jim Roque points out that they're talking about one home series a year they won't draw as well for since no one turns out to see OSU, something Playing For Stuff would entirely replace. I cannot emphasize enough how awesome Playing For Stuff would be.
The Big Ten Network is committing to "at least 40" hockey games as part of the new arrangement. That's a third of the conference schedule and approximately two per week over the course of the season, which is way less than I'd like but way more than they're doing now. The 40 number suggests they won't be moving start times for TV.
Unexpectedly Long Recruiting Section
Feel free to file this under "I'll believe it when I see it," but highly touted forward Max Domi (yes that Domi) is apparently headed for the USHL and then college:
“I played junior but (Max’s mother) Leanne and I want our kid to go to college,” said Tie Domi, Max’s celebrity father. “It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but for us, it was the right decision.”
Young Domi, 15, was expected to be one of the top choices in the OHL draft, and has informed junior teams in the province to pass on him. The decision by Domi shouldn’t be considered a shot at junior hockey… The real shot in all this is that Domi is bypassing tier-two junior hockey in Ontario to play next season in the United States Hockey League, where he will finish his last year of high school.
Absolutely no one believes this is actually going to happen, but if Domi doesn't go to Kingston or one of the don't-draft-me-whoops-I'll-report spots (Kitchener, London, Windsor) then maybe it's not a front. Domi visited Michigan about a month ago, FWIW, and is supposed to be highly interested. If Domi actually goes to college and actually picks Michigan he'd be a 2012 recruit.
Insert link to rabble-rousing article about how messed up the major junior draft system is here. Also wonder why the hell USA Hockey would agree to this:
Hockey Canada and USA Hockey have an agreement that borders on the obscene when it comes to restricting the rights of young people. Fearful it will lose its best prospects to college hockey, the Canadian League has convinced Hockey Canada to prohibit any 16-year-old Canadian player, in conjunction with USA Hockey, from playing in the USHL unless they appeal to the National Appeals Committee and demonstrate "special circumstances" or move there with a parent. What makes it so obscene is the CHL opens its arms to American-born 16-year-olds and has no problem with doing it, but insists on making it a one-way street.
Canada forces their players who want to play college to play in Junior A—the iffy circuit that Burlon, Caporusso, and most other Canadian players in college toiled in—instead of the vastly higher quality USHL. I'm confused as to what their leverage is here. If USA Hockey welcomed them, what recourse would Canada have? They've already set their phasers to maximum predation.
Why is this a one-way street? I have no idea, but I emailed USA Hockey in case they do.
(HT: Western College Hockey)
BONUS random scouting report: AmericanDream is probably the most connected and reliable poster on HFBoards when it comes to exceedingly young American hockey players (tallest midget jokes apply but "reliable message board poster" is about as good as it gets when we're talking about 16 year old hockey players), and he provided a scouting report on recent Michigan commit Alex Talcott. Talcott is the only '95 commit Michigan has who isn't trying out for (or has already made) the NTDP but it's not for a lack of talent:
Kind of shocked that Alex Talcott did not get an invite as well. extremely gifted player who should go very high for this years OHL draft. The kid is a fire ball on skates, absolutely electric and physical. Some say he will go in the OHL draft's first round along with Compher (both University of Michigan star recruits).
Not sure if Talcott said he is going to the OHL so dont even bother, but if I could make a list of the top 5 forward eligible for this group it would be: Compher, Fasching, Shea, Brian Williams, and Talcott as the top 5 imo with Hayden, Guertler, and Allen right there as well.
Bold mine; those guys are current commits. I doubt that Talcott is already set on the OHL since he just committed two weeks ago, but stranger things have happened and as mentioned Michigan is already forward-heavy in the 2013 class.
Meta. Here's a screenshot of a blog taking a screenshot of itself:
I wish I had thought of that. That's UMHoops. After a season of coverage they're gently prodding people to click the donate button. I did, then checked my email to find that I had received a donation exactly the same size as the one I'd just made. I promise this will happen to you if you chip in.
If you promise to be gentle, I will gingerly shake your hand. Congratulations to wrestler Kellen Russell, who won the national championship at 141 pounds and was the primary reason Michigan finished 15th at the national championships. He beat Boris Novachkov—no doubt sent by a Russian oligarch to destroy democracy—of Cal in the final.
Russell went 38-0 against an insane gauntlet of opponents. The Big Ten featured five of the top six wrestlers in his weight class. Russell beat all of them, beat a bunch of them again in the conference tourney, beat a bunch of them again again in the national tournament, and finally defeated Russia's nefarious plans in the final. Statistically it's the best season in Michigan wrestling history even if it came by the slimmest of margins:
It didn’t matter when he heard his ankle pop while he was tied, midway through the championship match and couldn’t put pressure on his leg.
It didn’t matter that it took Russell a combined four overtimes to advance through the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, or that both wins came from the slimmest of margins — a meager 21 seconds of combined riding time, earned by being on top of your opponent.
Russell returns for another go-around next year.
We are talking about practice. Normally the start of spring practice would get banner headlines around here, but something something basketball something so here's this:
I was slightly disturbed by the bit where they run through the dong forest:
Whatever happened to family values? /boren'd
Draft tea leaves. Michigan had their pro day, during which Jonas Mouton showed relatively well and Martell Webb showed at 274(!) pounds. Commence retroactive Greg Frey assault, though:
G Stephen Schilling did pretty much what everyone expected in Ann Arbor. His athleticism, quick feet and pulling speed continue to entice NFL teams. He looked solid in positional drills, showing he can physically do what he will be called upon to do.
The one issue that showed up during his workout, something not unexpected from watching Schilling on film, was his shaky technique. He often bent at the waist and leaned rather than keeping his feet under him.
I'm not even mad. The Tennessee game was a crazy outlier, a 30-point blowout in which the winning team made no free throws and only attempted one. Surely you cannot find one Tennessee fan on the planet who is complaining about the refereeing in the aftermath. Surely this is the one game ever played in which everyone agrees that—
Tennessee is better than Michigan.
Yeah, I said it. Tennessee is better. It was obvious at the outset that Michigan could not guard Tennessee. They were too slow. They were guarding with their hands and fouling. We were getting past their defenders at will.
Then, about 10 minutes in, we were only up about 5 and we had completely outplayed them. I began to think we may have problems.
Then the refs took over. They called charges if Michigan's players even thought about moving their feet to establish position...which they never did. After four bogus charges (and one legitimate one on them that went uncalled), Tennessee changed its offense. UT no longer drove the ball. They settled or outside shots and pull ups. They missed. A lot. The refs had accomplished their mission. They single-handedly took Tennessee out of its offense. Then Michigan started hitting from outside.
Thanks to the above elements, Michigan went on a run. Tennessee got down. Then Tennessee quit. I'm not excusing that, but given the recent events of the past few days and given that it was abundantly clear from the officiating that UT would not be allowed to win this game, it's understandable. So a loss turned into a blowout loss.
Thank God college basketball is over. I won't watch another game in this tournament because it's ridiculously subjective and corrupt. I just don't know if I'll care enough to watch any of it next year. It's like scripted reality TV. Can't wait for football.
That is amazing. I love this man for posting this thing on the Tennessee message board that had the nice story about Beilein. He has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that there is no possible game in which fans of the loser will not blame the refs.
Exit Pearl. Bruce Pearl has been fired at Tennessee for lying to NCAA investigators. There were some minor recruiting violations and one extremely minor violation of the bump rule, too, but if Pearl just says "my bad" in the room he gets away with a minor suspension a la Izzo/Calhoun. Instead he lies and then fails to report the bump violation and he's out.
Is this Tennessee doing a 180 from earlier in the year when they seemed determined to hold on to Pearl at all costs? It doesn't look like it. Fans are apoplectic. Wes Rucker tweeted that anyone who thinks Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton wants a new coach "is wrong"; that link contains one of those impossibly long and plausible-seeming emails that get batted around the internet but can never be confirmed suggesting the same. Meanwhile, FOX's Jeff Goodman says that UT's hand was forced:
Hamilton — according to sources — was recently informed that the NCAA would be coming down hard on Pearl and he opted to cut ties.
Add another notch on Bylaw 10.1's belt.
The obvious comparison is to Tressel, who voluntarily extended his suspension to five games as if his violation is on par with those of his players. Media still isn't buying this, especially if the suspension only applies to gameday. In Tressel's corner: he didn't lie to anyone's face and he didn't follow up his transgression with an otherwise minor violation that proved he'd learned nothing, then score another violation in March—ie, now. Not so much in his corner: Pearl's troubles stem from a minor recruiting violation acquired in the pursuit of a player he didn't actually get; Tressel covered up violations that made five important players ineligible through an entire season, failed to disclose the problem four separate times, and duped the NCAA into making them eligible for the Sugar Bowl. I think Tressel's violation is considerably worse than Pearl's but that could just be a zillion losses talking.
Here's one bet on supplemental. Notre Dame terrorbeast Michael Floyd got hit with something between a garden-variety and Kevin Grady "Mickey Mouse is a dog" frightening DUI, getting pulled over with a .19 BAC after running a stop sign. That would warrant a game or two suspension at most places. At Notre Dame they have some jackbooted bureaucrats called the Office of Residence Life who are like every evil movie dean ever, though. Pot possession? Gone for the year… or out for the Purdue game*. Drankin'? No big deal or season-long suspension.
Which will it be? Well, that last link may be the most relevant: TE Will Yeatman got booted for a year for being one of 37 underage ND students ticketed at a house party. He had picked up a DUI in January for driving down the sidewalk with a .11 BAC. Floyd has not one but two underage drinking citations in his past and by exceeding .15 BAC has been charged with a more serious version of drunk driving. If precedent holds Brian Kelly is going to watch his best player get suspended by the dread Office and head to the NFL's supplemental draft.
*[I could not for the life of me find definitive word on what Ragone got hit with, but the NCAA says he played in every game except ND's opener.]
Just screwin' around for pi day. It turns out Zack Novak doesn't know 62 digits of pi:
He does know more than you do.
Etc.: Jalen Rose makes it very clear for anyone who still has trouble parsing Jalen Rose's very clear sentences. Ohio State rabble-rouser Bruce Hooley gets insta-fired for his comments about Tressel, and my reaction is admiration—people in Ann Arbor itself still have to deal with miserable schticky losers, let alone Detroit. Eamonn Brennan says Michigan fans have a lot to look forward to. Boston College fans shipped to St. Louis as four seed UNH gets to play at home are on-board with ditching the current regional format. The Bylaw Blog argues that anyone with a problem with the NCAA should really look at the NBA and NFL for providing zero alternatives. Nebraska won't add hockey even though they've got a multipurpose arena opening in 2013. The culprit is the usual: Title IX, a law made in a different world. In this one 57% of college students are women.
PLAYOFF TIME IS HOCKEY BEAR TIME
HOCKEYBEAR IS GO
Western vs Michigan
Miami/ND vs Michigan
Joe Louis Arena
8:05 PM Fri
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
Friday: FSD Plus
Not much has changed since Michigan took on Western in the second-to-last weekend of the regular season, so the previous Puck Preview stands. Since Western suffered the wrath of Senior Night Hagelin they split with Notre Dame, for which they get a tip of the hat when Michigan raises its conference championship banner, and won a home series against Ferris in three games.
That's been good enough to raise Western to 12th in the Pairwise, but not good enough to assure them a bid. They will be hair on fire this weekend trying to lock that down. A split should do it.
A brief reminder of Western's strengths: they get fairly diverse scoring and have a PPG-ish star in senior Max Campbell, who has 18-17-35. Freshman Chase Balisy is moving up NHL draft boards and has 12-17-29. Western splits those two up so the checking-plus-Scooter-domination line can't shut down both, and their scoring depth is such that the third line is going to have to play some D if they're going to outscore.
Goalie Jerry Kuhn was awful against Michigan earlier in the year but has a .915 save percentage overall. He's about average.
I don't know what was with the Redhawks earlier in the year but they're a death machine now. They haven't lost since an inexplicable 7-4 defeat to Michigan State on January 21st, and though they have three ties in that stretch they're still 8-0-3 since Enrico Blasi peeled the paint after whatever that was. That includes series against the other three finalists: a two tie split at ND, a home sweep of Michigan that caused me to PANIC, and what used to be a three-point weekend against WMU. In their last five they've outscored opponents 23-5, failing to give up more than one goal in any of those games. Despite coming in a distant third in the CCHA I bet if jamiemac (of Just Cover) was to dig up offshore college hockey lines from Venezuela or whatever they'd be a solid favorite this weekend.
As a result they've moved from the PWR danger zone (they were actually 18th(!) and well out of the tournament before the Michigan series) to the verge of a one-seed—Michigan's one seed. A hypothetical title game matchup will be for that one seed and the right to not play any of the top five teams in the country until hypothetically reaching the Frozen Four, and will be a BFD.
Miami's team was also covered in a Puck Preview that remains largely accurate. Andy Miele is a Hobey Candidate and the country's leading scorer with (sigh) 21-44-65. Carter Camper would be a Hobey Candidate if he wasn't on the same team as Miele—he's fourth nationally with 17-35-42. Sophomore Reilly Smith is also in the top ten in PPG with 26-22-48, and then they've got two more guys with double-digit goals. They score like whoah.
Of late they've also defended like whoah. Alaska managed a total of 31 shots in two games last weekend, and while Lake State wasn't quite as inept when it came to vaguely testing Miami's two-headed goalie they were equally incapable of getting the puck in the net. You're probably remembering that Saturday game in Oxford when Michigan had maybe three crappy scoring chances the entire game. Yeah.
Miami's rotated their goalies all year, including last weekend. They have nearly identical stats so it won't matter much who gets the call. One possible silver lining for Redhawk opponents: both have taken major steps back from last year, when they were amongst the national leaders in save percentage.
The Irish lost the CCHA title in agonizing fashion by losing on the last day thanks to three disallowed goals. They suffered something of a hangover two weeks later as they struggled to put away a pretty bad LSSU team. An OT win Friday was followed by a loss and ND didn't show their quality until the final game when they jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead and almost doubled up LSSU in shots in a comfortable 4-2 win.
Michigan's lone series against ND came during football season, before pucks start getting previewed. It was a split in which the games seemed fairly even. Notre Dame got some bounces Friday and then Michigan's Saturday win was the deflectingest game I ever dang saw, with the primary attraction a goal from Chad Langlais that came when Langlais was literally the only guy on the ice who knew where the puck was.
Since that weekend the two rivals spent the year neck-and-neck at the top of the CCHA standings. ND got there thanks largely to two (sigh) awesome freshmen: TJ Tynan (21-28-49) and Anders Lee (22-21-41) are 1—2 in team scoring. A couple of senior assist machines come next and then there's a smattering of guys with Wohlberg-like statlines and a couple of defensemen with pop in their stick, most prominently sophomore Sam Calabrese (not that Calabrese).
Notre Dame's issue has been iffy goaltending. Backup Steve Summerhays has a .859 in ten games and starter Mike Johnson's .907 is just 41st (of 71 qualifiers) nationally.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Well… no bullet points as I try to find something not tautological to say. Michigan played well last weekend against the hockey equivalent of Hampton and before that did enough to scratch out a CCHA championship despite at no point seeming like the sort of team that would end up winning the league or earning a one-seed.
I wouldn't be surprised with anything this weekend. Michigan could have a couple bounces go against them against Western and then close out a disappointing weekend with a loss to a very good ND or Miami team, or they could deflect their way to glory in a series of tight games featuring lots of offense from the blue line.
There's a lot on the line; let's hope it's the latter.
The Big Picture
If you would like to be the committee go ahead: you are the committee. I was wrong on one important point earlier: Michigan's destiny is not entirely in its own hands. If Merrimack wins HE they will take their comparison against Michigan and slip into the last #1 seed. That requires them to beat New Hampshire and presumably BC back-to-back and seems pretty unlikely, but it is a possibility.
I've fiddled with YATC a bit and can't find any other scenario that doesn't result in a #1 for Michigan if they win the CCHA. I do find things like a hypothetical Western-ND consolation game being the difference between the Broncos finishing 17th in the PWR—well out of the tourney—and tied with ND for tenth.
Michigan can still get the last #1 if they lose to ND instead of Miami and favorites win other conference tourneys but that's a 50-50 shot that relies on the hottest team in the country going down against ND in a couple hours. Win and very likely a #1, lose and very likely a #2.
Root against Denver, Miami, and Merrimack this weekend.
Michigan Hockey Net catches up with the Honeybaked coach. He makes latest commit Evan Allen sound like Andy Hilbert, but compares him to Kevin Porter.
Newsbits of importance from Tom. Dark I'm-not-saying-I'm-just-saying rumors about Craig Roh and Demetrius Hart have been flying around the internets this week. Tom clarifies. On Craig Roh:
My source told me that Craig has been concerned with his position switch to linebacker, and believes he is much more effective as a defensive end.
Craig actually vocalized his concern about his position to the coaches after the Penn State game, and my source says that he has been playing much more on the defensive line during practice this week.
Roh's apparently been handed to Bruce Tall and will no longer be mostly a linebacker. This is both good and another instance of players coaching themselves. Meanwhile, Demetrius Hart decommit rumors are false:
There was a slight mix up with Demetrius' enrollment with Michigan, but it has been cleared up. That was the issue, it wasn't that anyone was recruiting him harder, or anything along those lines. Everything has been straightened out, and his mom says Demetrius will be at Michigan in January.
Insert the usual CYA boilerplate about how anything can happen, but you can focus your panic elsewhere.
Crowded. JT Floyd is officially out for the year with "freak" ligament damage in his ankle. Hooray.
The Never Forget banner guy has updated it, and if any further members of the secondary wish to make themselves unavailable they'd advised to do it quickly because we're running out of room:
New additions are Michael Williams (concussions), JT Floyd (ligament damage), Jared Van Slyke (leg injury), and Vlad Emilien (transfer). Available locations are limited to that patch of maize underneath the crying wolverine. Given the state of the secondary this is getting considerably more RR-fault-ridden as the year goes along. Justin Turner and Vlad Emilien's transfers are big deals with the free safety depth chart reading "Ray Vinopal" and the corner depth chart reading "Random Three Star Freshman Projects and James Rogers."
At least the Floyd injury has been a productive one for the legions of Michigan photoshoppers:
So we've got that going for us. Courtney Avery will draw into the lineup for Floyd.
Okay, a final final final word or two. It's unfortunate that Anchorman references are vastly overused because sometimes there's nothing you can say except…
…I'm not even mad, I'm impressed. That is amazing. I'm sitting on this pile of ninja corpses, covered in blood. As the sun rises over a scene of indescribable gore I laugh, because what else is there to do?
Probably not in the special section about how naughty Michigan's been:
the committee wrote that "though serious," the overage was "far less extensive than originally reported and that no student-athletes were substantially harmed."
Though this was obvious as soon as the smoke cleared last August because the piece was so shoddily written, it is now official. Hurrah for pyrrhic victories.
Watch this. The House Rock Built's "Stuffing The Passer" series is the best thing going in the CFB blogosphere right now:
If "Shit My Dad Says" is being made into a sitcom, Stuffing The Passer can't be far behind.
Elsewhere in coach grumbling. You've probably seen this but Brandon Graham has some depressing quotes that point towards the Those Meddling Kids theory:
I’m surprised they didn’t stick with what Coach Robinson was running,” Graham said of the 3-4 the team deployed in 2009, its first year under Robinson. … “Let Coach Robinson play his defense,” Graham said. “Let him do what he knows. He was thrown off, I would say. I know the 3-3-5 is what he (Rodriguez) has been doing for so long. He’s just got to adjust to the Big Ten.”
Michigan ran a 4-3 under last year but that's beside the point. Those quotes from a guy who was in the program last year indicate that no one who doesn't know a 3-3-5 like the back of his hand is ever going to be comfortable as a defensive coordinator at Michigan as long as the WVU guys are around saying things like "hey it's a bye week, I've got this great idea."
While everyone says "scheme is overrated," Michigan's offense puts the lie to that. It's not necessarily the 3-3-5 itself—this is not a BLANK can't work in the Big Ten argument—but attempting to run an exotic niche defense with a guy who doesn't know it (and evidence suggests is a terrible coach anyway).
I'm pretty sure this is as close as we'll get to an opinion from Angelique Chengelis, if that's actually what it is:
Hope for next year?
Much has been made about Michigan's defense, which is near the bottom of several national categories, including total defense. Illinois was in a similar spot last year, but has made strides under new defensive coordinator Vic Koenning:
Scoring defense: 30.2 (96th) in 2009, 16.8 (12th) in 2010
Total defense: 403.3 (91st) in 2009, 301.4 (15th) in 2010
Pass defense: 248.8 (100th) in 2009, 183.9 (19th) in 2010
Rush defense: 154.4 (76th) in 2009, 117.5 (26th) in 2010
That certainly reads like a "hint, hint."
Defensive antidote. Via Wolverine Historian:
Penn State jerkos. As an internet fanbase, Penn State has a remarkable knack for accusing others of pathologies they're displaying literally within the accusation itself. The latest example is a piece at Black Shoe Diaries the author probably thinks is Swiftian satire that takes a sentence from the game recap, some random comment I don't recognize and didn't make about the Terrence Talbott whiffed PBU that turned into 40 yards, a somewhat maudlin paragraph from Maize and Brew supporting Rodriguez, and a random quote from pissed off David Molk. It combines these to show how self-centered Michigan fans are… in a post whining that Michigan fans didn't give Penn State its proper respect.
BSD can talk about self-centered behavior when they do this:
Indiana has a legitimately very good pass offense. They had 41 opportunities to make catches and made 40. Chappell almost never went to the wrong guy and missed on maybe five of his 65 attempts. Their receivers are tall and fast and shifty. One dollar they're the most productive pass offense in the conference at the end of the year.
Michigan State has somehow acquired the without-question best stable of tailbacks in the league; Iowa's Adam Robinson isn't bad but he's not the equivalent of Baker/Bell/Caper, and there's only one of him.
Indiana imploded and Michigan State's run game is pretty mediocre. We tried the credit-the-opponent bit and then all of the opponents turned out to be much worse on offense than Michigan made them look. Doing it now against your gritty moxie ginger neckbeard quarterback would be delusional. Penn State sucks and Michigan is worse. But I said Ogbu is a beast, so your pathetic insecurities can be a tiny bit less pathetic. Let's hold hands.
Now go talk about how arrogant we are as you caress each other's soft places while whispering "what if Michigan never comes back" and we discuss whether we should keep Rich Rodriguez and worry about falling into a Notre Dame-like fallow period. Tim was right to describe BSD as a place utterly incapable of recognizing irony.
Etc.: Craig Roh's eyebrows, and the rest of Craig Roh, are attractive to some guy who ranks him the #13 "hottie" of the year in CFB. Yost Built has ten things to know about Alaska. Amani Toomer is running marathons now.
Schadenfreuede starring you. You may be featured in TWIS…
It's time to play "MGoBlog Content Or Smiths Song?"
…but so am I so it's only fair. Also the first one isn't actually MGoBlog content, it's from MGoFootball, but it was too perfect.
What happened when that other thing was happening. If you weren't one of the sixteen people at Yost on Saturday this is what happened:
That completed a four point weekend after Michigan's last-ditch tying goal led to a shootout loss in Big Rapids. The NCAA does not use shootouts as part of the PWR formula so to them it's just 1-0-1, which is a decent enough weekend against an opponent that traditionally plays Michigan very tough at home.
Michigan heads up to Fairbanks this weekend for a tough series against Alaska (That Alaska):
The Nanooks are 5-2-1 on the year and have a win over Colorado College; they've beaten some weak teams and lost to North Dakota at home and had a 0-1-1 trip at Munn in their first and only weekend outside of Alaska. After that Michigan gets a rejuvenated Notre Dame program at Yost; the next two weeks will go a long way towards establishing just what Michigan is this year after a slightly shaky start.
Brian Kelly terror level: reduced. I'm on record saying that in Brian Kelly Notre Dame had found a real coach who was likely to whip the talented but lost Weis leftovers into a formidable team sooner or later, likely sooner. Eh… not so much. The decision to have your freshman backup toss a fade to Michael Floyd when you need a field goal to win and a Groza candidate at kicker is Weis-level outsmarting yourself. Also it was against Tulsa.
So that's one thing. More damning still was what happened in the Navy game. At halftime Brian Kelly mumbled something incoherent about the "veer" to the sideline reporter, implying that the Mids had brought out the fireworks for their big game against Notre Dame:
If you saw the game you might have thought this was weird since the Navy offense looked pretty much like the Navy offense always does except the fullback wasn't getting tackled until he was 20 yards downfield. Navy blog The Birddog, which breaks down Navy games in detail equivalent to UFR, explains what the fancy new scheme was:
Kelly and Diaco just have absolutely no clue how the Navy offense works.
Navy started the game in the heavy formation, with two tackles lined up on one side and a wide receiver in the tackle position on the other side. Contrary to Kelly’s comments, this isn’t unusual at all for the Navy offense. Offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper frequently uses the heavy formation when the defense has an inside linebacker with exceptional playmaking ability; in Notre Dame’s case, that would be Manti Te’o. … The first down lineman on or outside the B gap is still unblocked as the quarterback’s first key, and the next player out is still #2 in the count. Since it is the lineman in the B gap that is left unblocked, that’s the path that the fullback takes on his run. If that lineman steps upfield and takes the quarterback, that’s where the running lane will be.
That isn’t something new that the Navy coaches saved for Notre Dame. That is Navy Offense 101. It’s the absolute basics; the bread and butter play run in every game out of every formation. If Diaco and Kelly hadn’t seen it before, then I have no idea what film they’ve been watching, or if they even watched any at all. That isn’t even hyperbole; they thought that Navy’s fullback ran through the A gap. And that was their plan– to send the inside linebackers crashing into the A gap that nobody was running through.
The Birddog explains Kelly's odd veer comment as a fundamental misunderstanding of the Navy offense based on the idea they run the midline a ton (they did run it against ND, but only twice). Which fine he's an offensive guy but that's got to be the explanation he got from DC Bob Diaco, then, so you're just devolving the gaping incompetence to the coordinator level. (This does not sound familiar at all.) So Notre Dame goes in at halftime aware they've made a fundamental mistake when it comes to the Navy offense and they change their scheme up like so:
Those ILBs kept running into the A gap for the entire game. Once or twice Te’o scraped outside to make a play in the backfield, and I’d think,”OK, now we’ll see something else.” But we didn’t. Notre Dame would go right back to the same old thing on the next play, and the Mids would pick up a big gain.
That's how you lose 35-17 to Navy. Navy then went out and lost to Duke, rushing for 148 yards at 4.0 a pop. So… yeah. As long as Diaco's around I'm not going to be that terrified of Brian Kelly. (This is not a criticism you can level at Michigan.)
Give me back mah bukkit. Elsewhere in Charlie Weis comparisons, Danny Hope is one easily-peeved walrus:
After Purdue cut its deficit to 37-10, Illinois threw three passes on a 57-yard scoring drive, including a 15-yard scoring strike from Scheelhaase to Chris James with 1:36 left.
"I probably would not have done that but I’m not going to cry about it," Hope told reporters after the game. "That's their choice, their call. I would not have done it. He’s the coach. If it makes him feel better about him and his team, call it, chuck it and run it up."
Unlike former Minnesota coach Tim Brewster, who had a heated postgame exchange with Wisconsin's Bret Bielema after an Oct. 9 game in Madison, Hope doesn't intend to confront Zook.
"Why would I say something about that?" Hope said. "Game's over. It's his call. It’s done. I'm not going to cry about it."
Charlie Weis press conferences were laden with statements like "I'm not going to blame Jimmy Clausen for overthrowing Golden Tate, I take that responsibility myself. Another thing I'm taking responsibility for: our defensive line being comprised of mewling kittens. That's on me, and does not reflect poorly on the character of Ian Williams." Here Hope repeatedly states he's not going to cry about the thing he is crying about.
Etc.: 2011 PG commit Trey Burke continues to play well in local tournaments, going head to head with a top-50 player and coming out almost even in points (33 to 34) and seeing his team pick up the W.