North Korea DPR at
Ann Arbor, MI
|WHEN||9 PM Eastern, Today|
|LINE||OSU –7 (Kenpom)|
ASGB png via HSR
In case you allergic to clicking: Jared Sullinger is an NBA lottery pick at center who is a monster at rebounding, shooting, getting to the line, and ORtg in general. It's worth noting that Sullinger's been in a bit of a slump of late. His two-point shooting has slid from 61 to 57 percent in the last few weeks.
Sullinger is surrounded by a bunch of bouncy wing types and 40-minutes-of-hell point guard Aaron Craft. While the bouncy wing types are a little inconsistent, the rebounding and defense they bring makes Ohio State extremely difficult to beat even when they're playing like crap on offense. They possess Kenpom's #1 defense, and their #13 offense isn't exactly terrible.
One thing has changed since Michigan's first matchup with OSU: they now seem somewhat vulnerable to getting pounded inside themselves after getting beat up by Michigan State in their own building. Applicability of this event to tonight's game: 0.0%.
Since squeezing Michigan into a panini press of offensive rebounds and despair… er. Since beating Michigan 64-49 at home in a game that was vaguely competitive until OSU started pulling away several minutes into the second half, OSU has
Beaten Wisconsin on the road in a close-ish game (58-52)
Edged Purdue at home (87-84) in a game where Purdue went nuts from three
Gotten horsewhipped by MSU at home (48-58) and
Churned out a 78-68 win over Minnesota.
That's seen the Buckeyes fall to second in Kenpom. Let's all point and laugh.
Conference four factors:
|Factor||Offense (Rk)||Defense (Rk)||Avg|
|Effective FG%:||51.2 4||45.3 3||49|
|Turnover %:||18.3 6||21.9 1||20.8|
|Off. Reb. %:||36.6 2||26.4 1||32.5|
|FTA/FGA:||39.1 4||28.7 2||36.5|
OSU's offense is pretty good at putting the ball in the net and then gets better when they get second chance opportunities you're undoubtedly sick of hearing about. The defense is all-around throttling.
OSU is only a mediocre three-point shooting team (7th at just under 34%) and takes very few as a result. They do give up a relatively high number of threes, something Kenpom is busy asserting is more important than actually being able to defend them. It seems like there's little actual ability in three-point D numbers.
Get insanely hot from three. Purdue's not much good this year and they managed to stick within three of the Buckeyes by hitting a mere 58% of their threes. They might have even won if OSU didn't hit 9 of 16 themselves.
OSU gives up a lot of threes and doesn't have a lot of control over whether they go down or not. Threes also lead to a lot of long rebounds on which Michigan's lack of size is less of an issue on the offensive boards.
Yeah, it's the desperate act of an overmatched team to close your eyes and hope you can make it rain from behind the arc. And? Michigan's not winning this game unless they have a significant advantage in threes made.
Collapse, collapse, collapse. If the choice is between A) Sullinger grinding Michigan's thin post presence down, getting 57% twos off, and getting to the line and B) taking your chances with OSU's outside shooting, it's hardly a choice at all. Michigan will do what they've done all year, which is cheat like bandits against any and all post feeds.
Morgan actually did a good job against Sullinger last time out since he can front with less threat of getting beat over the top. No one else on the roster has much hope of doing anything other than being an annoyance, even if the temporary Smotrycz-Sulllinger matchups didn't go too badly last time.
Box out Lenzelle Smith and the rest of the world. David Merritt took on some of Michigan's defensive rebounding problems in a recent UMHoops post, pointing out Michigan's missed rotations when the above collapsing occurred. Those rotations left Lenzelle Smith (bottom of the picture) staring down the barrel at this:
The results were predictable. I think we've given up on the idea that Michigan's Stu-based lineup isn't going to get pounded on the boards but Michigan has to do better this time out. Hardaway is a big part of this as the second-biggest dude on the floor (and the guy not rotating above). Speaking of…
Win the mercurial shooter shootout. William Buford and Tim Hardaway Jr. have been plagued with inconsistency, except in Hardaway's case this is actually a way to say he's consistently been laying bricks. Hardaway got a little mojo back against Illinois and now finds himself one of just two Michigan players with a reasonable claim to being as athletic as his opponent (Burke is the other). It would help a great deal if Hardaway can score efficiently. He doesn't have to and probably can't go Brandon Paul; Michigan just needs him to hit open shots and finish better at the basket.
Oh, and rebound.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Tajikistan Air Force FC by seven.
1/29/2012 – Michigan 49, Ohio State 64 – 16-6, 6-3 Big Ten
No one expected Michigan to go on the road against Kenpom's #1 team and come back with a victory, so frustration and alarm was kept to a low simmer as Michigan tried and generally failed to find a way through the thicket of arms and athleticism that Ohio State presents. While OSU also goes "small" by deploying just one post-oriented player at a time—6'7" Deshaun Thomas is the second-tallest player OSU starts, and he's an NBA-sized wing slasher who rebounds at a lesser rate than Trey Burke—there is small, and there is "small."
Michigan is the former, Ohio State the latter. Kenpom has OSU's effective height 78th. They're not huge but they're well above average while still getting to play four-out, one-in. So if a game in which an insurmountable three-point halftime deficit ballooned to 15 by the end is dispiriting, it's also an indication of Michigan's future, in which a post is surrounded by a point guard and bouncy guys ranging from 6'4" to 6'7". Just now, that seems like a pretty good recipe for success.
But Michigan's post guy is not Jared Sullinger and with the exception of Tim Hardaway, Jr., their bouncy guys range from 6'2" to 6'2" and have a tendency to bounce their arms into fastbreaking opponents' heads because they're not bouncy, so expected outcomes come out as expected. At the half, it seemed like Michigan's point total was about what you would expect and Ohio State's was a ton of missed putbacks. That proved itself in the second half.
Oh well. This one was house money anyway.
Down the road, the team keeps scraping out narrow wins against good competition and is on track to meet expectations. The overall picture has some concerns. Ubiquitous Michigan basketball messageboardist MHoops1 compiled some stats on three pointers in league play that point to a burgeoning problem:
Tim Hardaway Jr., with 55, has taken more 3s in conference games than anyone else--he is second in 3s per game to Illinois' Brandon Paul (who is shooting just under 40% from 3). …
There are 8 guys who are shooting 20-29% from 3 in conference play--two are Hardaway at just under 22% (2nd worst overall in the conference…), and Smotrycz at just over 24% (4th worst overall, ahead of Walker, Hardaway and Keith Appling of MSU, who is shooting just under 23% from 3.
[Only players with 20 or more attempts are considered.]
I just don't know what happened to Hardaway's stroke. Last year it was the key component driving Michigan to their bid—they took just about as many threes but were third in the conference at hitting them. You can poke at all the psychological explanations you want; I don't buy them and am left with helpless shoulder-shrugging and an increased appreciation for Darius Morris's ability to create shots from everywhere.
No matter what the reason is, Michigan has the most prolific and least efficient three-point shooter in the conference now. This is a trend that extends to the team as a whole. Kenpom's conference-only numbers have Michigan first in three-pointers attempted (43%) and tenth (31%) in makes. Often poor percentages from three aren't that harmful since threes are worth more points (SCIENCE!). Here, though, each three point shot taken is 10% less effective than an average two*. That's a big difference when you consider the standard deviations involved here.
And then there's the free throws. There aren't any. (You may have noticed.) Michigan is dead last at getting to the line. Add it up and it's a parody of Beilein's reputation for perimeter-oriented fooferah.
No one is turning their nose up at 6-3 halfway through what seems like the slightly tougher half of the conference slate, or what looks like a third tourney bid in four years. Playing Ohio State drives home what looks like a ceiling for this edition of Michigan. To compare them, just line Zack Novak up next to DeShaun Thomas. Sometimes your physical limitations catch up to you, like when you're playing a Final Four contender. So it goes.
*[By this I mean the average three pointer is worth more than the average two. The D-I average 3 is worth 1.03 points; the D-I average two is worth 0.95 points. So you can be below average from three and still not hurt yourself too badly if you take a lot. Michigan far exceeds this margin of error.
I know fouls and getting to the line argue in favor of going inside and complicate this analysis considerably.]
And to think you could have pissed off Valpo's conference opponents. Man, do people hate Zack Novak. While in OSU's case it's standard "you elbowed our dude" lingering bitterness, it seems like 75% of previews express some sort of distaste for the gritmaster. That as much as anything else is a tribute to his career. If he ever has a plaque somewhere in Crisler he should be bleeding profusely and it should read "booed at every arena in the Big Ten for obscure reasons."
Free throw non-perturbation. To me it didn't seem like Michigan had a case for many more than the zero free throws they acquired before 37 minutes were gone. Maybe two or three—Craft obviously got Burke's follow through on a three he made anyway—but not so many that it would have had even a slight impact on the game. There was just little way through for most of Michigan's players. It's not hard to not foul a guy like Douglass when you can just follow him to the hoop and block his shot.
Sullinger attention == board obliteration. Michigan did an excellent job of rotating to Sullinger but all that defensive attention unbalanced Michigan's defense and allowed various Buckeyes to hammer the boards. OSU rebounded nearly 50% of their misses, which was death. Not sure what was the cause of the sudden inability to get the damn ball. Let's check!
Culprits in order: Hardaway, Douglass, Smotrycz, Sullinger double, Morgan, McLimans. Well… crap, try to fix that. I can't even claim that the Sullinger doubling was a major factor. It was just guys getting pushed out of the way and out-athleted by a 6-4 dude. Guh.
Smotrycz hat tip. Those possessions when he was matched up against Sullinger could have gone much, much worse. Still not contributing much on offense except in spurts. The small-ball lineup seems very effective defensively but lacks a certain something on offense.
Slightly tougher half in the rearview? I'd say so. Michigan had five at home and four away in the first half and must invert that in the second, but you can call the MSU, OSU, Indiana, Purdue, and PSU and Northwestern games a wash since Michigan will flip home and road with all those opponents. So then you've got:
- DONE: Minnesota, Wisconsin, @ Iowa,
- TO COME: @ Nebraska, Illinois, @ Illinois
Minnesota and Illinois at home are a wash. @ Nebraska is easier, and I'm not sure whether I'd play Wisconsin at home or Illinois on the road. Kenpom says definitely Illinois but it's been a little gaga for Wisconsin's nonconference blowouts all year. Anyway, I said slight. This section has been excessively defensive.
Iowa State watch. The Hoiberg Home for Lost Big Ten boys took out Kansas, which serves as a big, tourney-bid-validating win as long as they perform as expected down the stretch.
LAST WEEK ON "JARED SULLINGER AND TIM HARDAWAY JR SCREAMING AT EACH OTHER"
AND NOW… OUR THRILLING CONCLUSION!
YAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH YA YA YA YA YA
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHHHHH!
|WHAT||Michigan at North Korea DPR|
|WHERE||Value City Sellout Arena, Columbus, OH|
|WHEN||1 PM Eastern, Sunday|
|LINE||OSU -17 (Kenpom)|
Hmmm. This isn't good. Ohio State is #1 in the Kenpom rankings and not far off with squishy hoo-man voters. Their tempo free individual stats are pretty terrifying.
At the top of the heap is post Jared Sullinger, who is…
- shooting 61% from 2 on 26% of OSU shots
- in the top 100 in eFG%
- getting to the line more than five times per game
- rebounding almost 30% of opponent misses, fourth nationally
- not turning the ball over much
- getting a good number of blocks and steals
/shakes fist at NBA lockout. Okay, right, obvious high lottery pick on the other team. Super. Good thing they don't have…
Oh, right, they do. Seconday scoring comes from senior William Buford and sophomore Deshaun Thomas, both of whom absorb about as many of OSU's shots as Sullinger does. Thomas is actually better than Sullinger on twos (62%, 34% from 3) and almost as efficient overall; Buford has a been a little erratic but still bests Michigan's high usage players in ORtg. While Ohio State puts up very few threes (26%, 317th), if one is going up chances are its one of these two dudes launching it. Buford's hitting 39%. You can't leave these guys alone on the perimeter but neither are you asking for it, Diebler-style.
OSU plays four out, one in most of the time and Buford has to pick up a lot of the defensive rebounding; Thomas and Sullinger crash the boards on offense (along with Sullinger vacuuming up all those opponent misses).
The fourth guy on offense is PG Aaron Craft, a sophomore whose main role is setting up everyone else; his assist rate of 27 is the highest on the team amongst players who see a bunch of time. He doesn't shoot much but is efficient (53% on twos, high free throw rate) when he does. He can be prodded into the occasional three.
Where Craft thrives is on defense. He's by far the Big Ten's best at stealing the ball and his high-pressure defense starts opposing offenses in a hole even when he's not shooting down court for an easy bucket.
Past the big four it's a large array of young role-players. Guard Lenzelle Smith is the only other Buckeye to average over half of available minutes; he is an extremely low-usage player who rebounds, steals, and occasionally snipes from deep. Oddly, his FT% is exactly the same as his three-point percentage: 49%. Low sample size and all, but weird.
OSU only played three top 100 Kenpom teams in the nonconference schedule, beating #13 Florida by 7, crushing Duke by 22 in the Big Ten/ACC challenge, and losing by 11 at Kansas in a game Jared Sullinger missed. They also beat SEC opponent South Carolina by eight; Not That USC also has losses against Elon and Tennessee State. So… yeah. Not good.
OSU's Big Ten schedule has been by far the easiest in the conference to date. Opponents are winning at a 39% clip in games not against Ohio State. The next softest schedules belong to Illinois and PSU at 45%; Michigan opponents are at 48%. This might make you feel a bit better if Ohio State hadn't annihilated all six of their victims. I mean, yeesh:
- Northwestern: W 87-54
- Nebraska: W 71-40
- @ Iowa: W 76-47
- Indiana: W 80-63
- @ Nebraska: W 79-45
- PSU: W 78-54
Their two losses in conference are by four at Indiana and by five at Illinois during the Chris Paul supernova; at home they are winning their Big Ten games by an average of 29 points.
|Factor||Offense (Rk)||Defense (Rk)||Avg|
|Effective FG%:||53.8 26||44.6 36||49|
|Turnover %:||17.1 16||26.7 5||20.8|
|Off. Reb. %:||34.9 91||23.6 3||32.5|
|FTA/FGA:||37.5 146||29.1 31||36.5|
Er. That adds up to the country's top defense, something you probably could have extrapolated from the Big Ten scores above, and the #14 offense. Other notable tempo free numbers are a high pace for the Big Ten and a huge quantity of twos launched.
Um, so, like… you can… No, probably not.
Maybe try to… Not likely, that.
If you move it like this and shake it like so and squint really hard? Still kind of seems like a ten point loss even then.
Drat. You said it.
Get insanely hot from three. Hey, maybe. If the random number generators fall right and a bunch of jacked-up three-pointers are dropping, Michigan can stay in contact. Michigan kept it close in a four-point loss at Crisler last year by going 11 of 24 from deep.
Convince Big Ten refs to put two early fouls on Sullinger in a home game. That's the ticket! While you're at it, I would like three on Buford and a pony. A pony made of lemon ice cream.
Make Tim Hardaway a superior defender. THE State University of South of Michigan's two primary non-Sullinger scorers are 6'6" and 6'7" athletes. Stu Douglass will draw one, leaving the other to either Novak or Hardaway. Neither of those seem like a good matchup, but Hardaway is a match for either in terms of length and jumping. Zack "I'm not a very good athlete" Novak may end up repeatedly bashing one in the head until he's ejected.
Unfortunately, Hardaway's athleticism hasn't made him a good defender so far in his career. If he doesn't get lit up 1) I'll be surprised and 2) Michigan will be a lot closer to winning.
Maybe zone? The closest thing to an Achilles heel OSU has is their outside shooting. If a 2-3 or 1-3-1 zone can cut off supply to Sullinger and befuddle Thomas, I'll take the tradeoff given OSU's blistering shooting inside. Luke Winn's latest power rankings* (which are excessively bullish on Michigan) reveal a surprising fact:
This year's Wolverines are heavily man-to-man, though, playing 87.9 percent of their possessions in man according to Synergy.
What's curious is that, in a small sample, Michigan's defense has been much better this year in zone, holding opponents to 0.667 PPP using a combination of 2-3 and 1-3-1, as opposed to 0.856 PPP in man. Beilein seems to be employing the zones as a very effective changeup, in groups of just a few possessions at a time.
If you had asked me about that I would have assumed those numbers were reversed because it seems like going to the 1-3-1 ends up in a dunk or an uncontested corner three most of the time.
They aren't, though, and if Michigan can't match up on OSU's main perimeter scorers maybe they should pack the post with a zone and live and die by OSU three point shooting. This might be the ticket according to Eleven Warriors:
The mixed bag of Buford’s inconsistency to date and the lack of a consistent three point threat to complement Buford on the perimeter and give Sullinger and Thomas more room to operate will most likely be to blame if the Buckeyes fall short of the Final Four.
*[Which also contain a factoid that reinforces my dislike for those long Hardaway two pointers via the lens of Michigan State:
As a team, 26.2 percent of Michigan State's jumpers fell into the Long Two category, and the team converted them at a clip of just 0.682 PPP. This wasn't the only reason the Spartans' offense ranked 62nd in the country in 2010-11, but it was part of it.
This season, the Spartans are being much smarter about their jump-shot selection: Just 17.3 percent of their jumpers are Long Twos. Their two-point field goal percentage has jumped from 46.7 percent last season to 52.9 percent now, and their offense ranks ninth nationally in efficiency.
Death to the long two.]
Watch your pockets, Trey Burke. Maybe get a fanny pack or something for your passport. Burke had one of his poorer performances of the year against lightning-quick Lewis Jackson last time out and now faces a guy who inverts the danger to defense. Free transition buckets are not points Michigan can afford to give up at OSU, and getting into the offense efficiently will be required if Michigan's also-very-good two point shooting is going to keep pace.
Beast up, Morgan. Morgan has been a critical component of Michigan's offense in spurts against Arkansas and Purdue. Unfortunately, he has struggled against Sullinger, averaging just over five points in three meetings last year and getting destroyed on the boards. Sullinger had thirteen offensive rebounds in Michigan games last year to Morgan's three.
Closing that performance gap somewhat is feasible.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
OSU by double digits. It seems like there's going to be a horrible run by OSU at some point, whether it's the first five minutes or ten minutes into the second half.
1/13/2011 – Michigan 4, Ohio State 0 – 13-8-4, 7-6-4 CCHA Gongshow
1/15/2011 – Michigan 4, Ohio State 1 – 14-8-4, 8-6-4 CCHA Gongshow*
[sitebulletin: I'm going to be in a car driving for most of the day, unfortunately. I thought I would be able to avoid doing this during the posting day but it turns out I have to get back to town earlier than I thought I would. Apologies. Basketball game column can be ably summarized by searching for "temper tantrum" on youtube.]
*[This is not an endorsement of the CCHA's advertiser. But seriously folks, "CCHA Gongshow" is impossible to pass up now that I know they did it to themselves a year after they unsuccessfully attempted to keep their conference from imploding. We have a new leader in the Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment-memorial most craven naming-rights sellout competition.]
head up. you are feeling totally copacetic, man
I'm not saying that Jon Merrill's suspension was a deviously ingenious experiment designed to turn a large group of people into connoisseurs of the little nuances of defensive play. The only reason I'm not is because I can't think of a motive.
Because even if that connoisseurship is a side effect, it is real. In the second period yesterday, Merrill made a clearing attempt, got it blocked, got bashed by a forechecker, and then whipped a hard pass to Alex Guptill's tape in a situation where 90% of college defensemen start breathing into a paper bag or bawling for their mom. Billy Jaffe, one of the the uncommonly useful color guys for Sunday's game, exclaimed "that's the move!" afterwards, and I was like "YES THAT IS THE MOVE." Later they put up a replay of a pass that never got out of the defensive zone.
The thing that Merrill gives Michigan is breathing room. Sure, he's piling up assists at a PPG pace and whipped a breathtaking breakaway pass to Phil Di Giuseppe on Sunday. These are nice things. They are intermittent, though. What's constant is how a game feels when Merrill's on the ice: calm, spacious, steady. Smooth like Billy Dee Williams with his Colt .45.
Jon Merrill is the Billy Dee Williams of hockey. Forecheck hard and Merrill will take the hit with his head up and make the move. Back off and Merrill is capable of going tape to tape in small windows over long distances. Instantly Michigan switches from reacting to a forecheck to forcing the opponent to react to it.
I'm not an expert on hockey. I came to the game when I was ten and haven't put in the UFRing required to get me to the extremely-informed-amateur level I am with football. In hockey, that feel is all I've got. It's done a 180 since Michigan picked itself up after the Alaska series thanks first to the emergence of the Guptill-Wohlberg-Brown line as a true #1 scoring unit and now Merrill's return turning the second (first?) pairing from a third unit trying to cope into a major strength.
On Sunday, Michigan felt elite for the first time this season. They outshot a 14-4-3 team significantly, dominated time on attack, and hardly gave up an even strength scoring chance, let alone a goal. Moffatt and Treais flashed dirty dangles and walked in on Cal Heeter. Heeter got chased halfway through the game.
It was a throwback to times when Michigan won hockey games without requiring nuanced views as to why this might have happened. (See: last year.) They won because they bruised every inch of two different goalies and, with limited exceptions, spent the whole game in the offensive end doing fun things.
This isn't all Merrill—half of Michigan's 6-0-2 run has come with Merrill observing or playing at the WJC—but with him around it seems more plausible that Michigan's recent run is a sustainable one. The GLI was a near thing. Michigan was dominated by BC but snuck a late goal against the run of play, then played dead in the third; they scraped the MSU game in overtime thanks to a goal with under a minute left.
That felt like finding a shiny penny on the street. This weekend Michigan gave up zero even-strength goals en route to sweeping the #2 team in the country. With Merrill around it's possible they've invested in a mint.
Calm, Easy Breathing Bullets
About that #1 line. Yowza. I can't recall a big guy who's come in with a mid-round NHL draft pedigree who's performed at the level Guptill has. Max Pacioretty was a first-rounder, Aaron Palushaj a second-rounder, and both of those guys were only sort of big. Other mid-round power forward types seem drafted on the principle that they won't shrink even if they don't display any NHL level skills.
Not so Guptill. His goal in the first period Sunday was a pure snipe into the upper right corner of the net from a somewhat awkward angle, and his ability to dump and chase into the corner is actually effective because he's got the speed and board play to set up possession in the opponent's zone. Then the rest of the line cycles.
Meanwhile, Brown has suddenly leapt forward to consistent productivity after a couple years of flashes but not much else. This does not appear to be the line carrying him—remember that he spent big chunks of his first two years with Caporusso or Hagelin as his center. He's making nice passes and the availability of pucks in the area where his size matters gives him the opportunity to sweep in (admittedly soft) goals like he opened the scoring with last year.
Wohlberg remains Wohlberg: good shooter, fast guy, decent stickhandler. His goal Sunday was soft but showed off his assets pretty well. As a whole they seem to have an identity they lacked apart. They drive the net, dump unless it's obvious they shouldn't dump, cycle, and score.
Power play. It technically didn't score since Michigan's second on Friday was deposited a couple seconds after the penalty expired, but the spirit of the law declares it did. They have looked intermittently better since the holiday break gave them an opportunity to rejigger what they were doing. They were good against State in the GLI final, pretty awful against LSSU, and back to threatening against OSU.
Over the weekend they were moving the puck and getting shots on net that were not getting blocked above the faceoff circles. I'll take it. Eventually they'll get some puck luck.
Sinelli. Through the mist of hazy Sparks complaints I can see why Sinelli has taken a regular shift over not only Sparks but Rohrkemper, as he's a decently speedy guy who makes effort plays on the regular.
CCHA Gongshow. The league remains an incredibly tight sack of cats. By points Michigan surged into third with its weekend sweep; on winning percentage they are still fifth behind OSU, WMU, ND, and FSU. Notre Dame is third in winning percentage and sixth on points because they have two games in hand on everyone in front of them.
The 9th place team, Northern, is one game below .500 in conference and would easily make the tournament if the season ended today. It is a weird year.
BONUS: Michigan's goal differential is now the best in the league at +14. They've scored five more goals than their nearest competitor, OSU, and not even the relentlessly excellent defense of… wait for it… Western Michigan can get them past M. They're +13. Yes, I just said excellent defense and Western Michigan in the same sentence. No, I don't know why they held on to Jim Culhane for a decade. FWIW, OSU would still be tops in the league if they hadn't given up two empty-netters on Friday.
Pairwise. This is faintly ridiculous: after we spent most of the first half kissing our tourney streak goodbye, Michigan is now on the cusp of a one seed. They rank 5th. I can't give you the nitty gritty details because my favorite Pairwise site hasn't updated for yesterday's game yet. CHN's has and has Michigan fifth. This is not a fluke based on TUC or COP records that are liable to change with the win: Michigan's RPI is also fifth.
It's also not something liable to persist unless Michigan keeps winning. Michigan's flown up from out of the tourney to nearly a one seed in three weekends. They can drop back down just as fast.
There are still seven-ish CCHA teams in the tourney with MSU, Miami, and Denver tying for 15th. More realistically it would be six.
Have fun storming the castle. This looks less daunting what with the winning and all, but yeesh the final five weekends:
- @ Notre Dame
- @ MSU, MSU @ JLA
- @ BGSU
BGSU is not good; everyone else will be fighting tooth and nail for tourney positioning or a bid, period. ND is the toughest team statistically, FWIW. They have a +5 GD in conference; MSU is +4, Miami +1, and NMU –2. Sack of cats, I tell you.
Anything I can do you can do dumber. It's hard to see in this shot but lord, OSU's jerseys were goofy:
The zillion oversized Buckeye leaves were reminiscent of Ghost of Bo's legendary parody(?) football unis. Clean, simple lines are preferable. Even Michigan's jerseys could use a little cleaning up. OSU's were reminiscent of…
…yeah, you know it.
Official site recap has pictures and whatnot. Michigan Hockey Net describes the game as a "clinic." A few AP photos. Daily article quotes Wohlberg sounding somewhat badly translated from the Japanese:
“You saw after they scored their first goal, it was a big uprising for them. Then when we go out and we score two real quick, it’s a big push for us, and I think it emptied their spirits.”
AKRON STATE IS HOCKEY BEAR TIME
|WHAT||Michigan at North Korea DPR|
|WHERE||Fri: Value City Arena, Columbus
Sun: Baseball Stadium, Outside, Cleveland
|WHEN||7:35 PM Friday
5:05 PM Sunday
|LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
Sunday: FSD Plus
The Bolivian Air Force
Record. 14-4-3, 10-3-3 CCHA. Ohio State is your surprise conference leader with 34 points in 16 games; Notre Dame and Western are seven points back with two in hand, and then there's the avalanche of .500 teams including M.
This is pretty weird after OSU graduated a flood of seniors. I should correct myself in re OSU oversigning hypocrisy: it was last year new coach Mark Osiecki ran off a bunch of dudes. This year's attrition was mostly natural.
Previous meetings. Part of Michigan's awful first-half slide was an OSU sweep in Yost. Friday night was an even game in which shots were 33-30 OSU. Michigan failed to convert on a major penalty and OSU won 2-1 when Hunwick let in his worst goal of the season on a shot from almost the goal line along the boards.
Saturday was a wild affair that OSU won 6-5; when Chris Brown was given a major for boarding (but oddly not booted), OSU scored twice in 16 seconds to establish a 4-2 lead they would not relinquish. Michigan was outshot 37-31.
Dangermen. This may be a conference that wins a lot of games but it's not one with a ton of offensive firepower. Even the club at the top of the standings has one PPG scorer, and he's got exactly 1.0. That would be sophomore Chris Crane and his 12-9-21; senior Danny Dries is the other double-digit goalscorer with 11-7-18. Freshman Ryan Dzingel would appear to be their setup man (or passenger) with 5-12-17.
After the top line there's one guy with 11 points, three defensemen who have the usual lines (2-9-11, 0-11-11) for guys who are on the ice when other people score, and then a bunch of Glendening types with 9, 8, 7 points. It's not a team that scares you offensively. Highlights from their most recent game feature just one goal, that scored from about a half-foot out, and a shootout reminiscent of Michigan's most recent adventure in meaningless showpieces:
Firepower is lacking across the league.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. This is where OSU makes its hay. Cal Heeter is having an outstanding year with a .932 save percentage. He stole the Friday night matchup in Yost. Team defense seems to have something to do with this, as backup Brady Hjelle has played four games and sports a .942.
Junior Devon Krogh and senior captain Sean Duddy are the mainstays. I won't attempt to pretend I know anything about them.
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
|PP For / G||5.8||5.2|
|PP Ag / G||5.7||5.2|
The expectation is for even penalties for and against.
The expectation is not for those opportunities to come out equal. You know this by now: Michigan's special teams are awful. Michigan is at 15.6 percent, 42nd of 58 teams. OSU's isn't great at 20.6, but when you combine that with the penalty kill it is a significant advantage for OSU. OSU is 8th nationally at 87%; Michigan is 37th at 81%.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Stay out the box. Michigan would prefer a low-penalty affair the likes of which they've been playing recently since OSU's much better at both power play and penalty kill.
Find someone to go with Di Giuseppe. Isolated on a line with guys who aren't scoring chance generators, Di Giuseppe's production has collapsed. Michigan can afford to put together a pure scoring line against an Ohio State team that doesn't have much scoring depth itself; I'd like to see Moffatt out there with PDG; Treais or the perpetually scratched Lindsay Sparks would be a solid third option.
Don't inexplicably scratch Mike Chiasson for a guy you can't put on the ice in the third period. Just sayin'.
Jon Merrill. Extant.
The Big Picture
Michigan is 11 points back of OSU and four back of ND and WMU with both those teams possessing two games in hand, so they've probably blown their shot at a conference title already.
This is still a huge series for Michigan's at-large chances. Playing the #2 team in RPI is an opportunity that will only come around… like four more times this year because of Michigan's brutal schedule. Er.
Anyway. Even a split is a slight positive. It would leave M's RPI static and would help their common opponents comparison*. That is somewhat offset by the 1-1 dragging their TUC record towards .500, though, so it's change on the fringes at best.
Anything better than a split will be a considerable asset; anything worse will be a setback.
*[Nitty-gritty details on that: the COP category has changed from a simple sum of W/L to sums of percentages. Michigan is currently getting 0% of available points against OSU; splitting will get them 25% of available points.]
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