to play football, not to play trumpet
Bad news first: we aren't going to Grand Rapids. Thanks, CCHA!
Now, the good news: Duluth won last night and Minnesota's chances of making the tournament are extremely slim. Even better, the two last teams in the tourney in some scenarios are Miami and Ohio State. Unless the committee does something unprecedented like seed-switching or scheduling intraconference first-round games, they'd be forced to hand Michigan a first-round matchup against a small-conference autobid. Even even better, the two-seed in Michigan's bracket in virtually all scenarios is Yale. Yale's had a great year but ECAC teams rarely reach the Frozen Four.
This seems to be what we're looking at if all favorites win:
1. Michigan (#4 overall)
4. Air Force (#15 overall)
2. Yale (#5 overall)
3. Minnesota Duluth (#12 overall)
No offense to any of those teams, but that's a great draw.
Now… there are some nasty combinations, like Duluth winning the WCHA and Cornell the ECAC and the consolation games going right, that slide Minnesota into the tournament. If Air Force wins the CHA, these have the Gophers the #15 team with Air Force in front of them, at which point the committee has a difficult decision between listening to the silly pairwise and giving ND a game at Minnesota or flipping the seeds and shipping Michigan. Which they'd probably do.
I'm sorry to report that Michigan has virtually no control over its fate at this point. Unless there's some wack combination out there I haven't come across Michigan is going to be the last #1 seed no matter what happens against Notre Dame. And it appears that Yale is locked in at #5. There will be considerable jitter in the three and four seeds in Michigan's regional, though.
- Michigan is almost definitely the last #1.
- Yale is almost definitely their #2.
- Grand Rapids is gone.
- Wack stuff can happen at 3 and 4.
Programming note: I'm jammed up, as I'm headed to the hockey game tonight and that will take up a big hunk of time. I plan on getting another numbers-centric preview up for the Oklahoma game tomorrow, hopefully by 2-ish.
via the Fairbanks News-Miner
Also the other team. The hockey team—which is very, very good—takes on Alaska tonight at 8 in the CCHA semifinals. Yost Built has your ten things; this one gives the best picture of what Michigan is up against tonight:
Weird team. They've shut out their opponent on eight occasions this year. They've been shut out ten times. You want to know why Ocho Cinco [Alaska goalie Chad Johnson -ed] won CCHA Player of the Year? They scored 54 goals in CCHA play and still finished fourth. That's 1.93 goals per game. The only team that scored fewer was FYS with 43 (43??!!!). The saving grace for them was that they only gave up 51, tying them with Michigan for the fictional "Jennings Trophy" of the conference, and finishing one ahead of Notre Dame.
First goal will be very important because there don't figure to be many of them. FWIW, KRACH says Michigan has a 73% chance of victory; Michigan and Alaska split in Fairbanks with Alaska winning 4-1 Friday and Michigan taking the Saturday game 3-2.
The latest from practice has Robbie Czarnik definitely available and Ben Winnett questionable; Scooter Vaughn is also practicing as a fourth-line forward.
Northern and Notre Dame are in the other semi; you are rooting for Northern, but without any real hope it will matter.
Good news from elsewhere: Minnesota ended its regular season last night with a loss to Minnesota-Duluth in the WCHA Final Five. The Gophers are currently the last team in the tournament at #14, but most of the possible results from the weekend knock them out. They're in if all favorites win, but all it takes is one more Duluth win or one unexpected autobid and they're at home. Patman's latest tourney update has the Gophers with only a 23% shot at making it in.
Minnesota missing the tourney makes a potential Michigan game in Minneapolis far less likely to be a defacto road game. Duluth can still make it, but 1) Duluth is far away and their fanbase is considerably smaller, and 2) Duluth can get shipped; Minnesota, as a host, cannot.
And hardware. Michigan took home a couple awards at the CCHA banquet: Tim Miller was the best defensive forward and David Wohlberg was rookie of the year. Alaska's Johnson was the POY, as you might expect.
Also, Louie Caporusso is a Hobey finalist. This is a really weak year for the award, so it's not out of the question he wins. However, he's a sophomore without a commanding resume and Kevin Porter just won last year, so it's not likely.
Cooper, a Saline High School graduate, and Burkhardt, a Pioneer grad who runs his own Michigan basketball blog, enjoyed every minute of it smack-dab in the middle of Section 117, where most of the 2,000 or so Michigan fans were gathered.
No link provided, obviously. Eyerolling goes here.
Uh? Far be it from me to harp on typos excessively, as they get through here on a daily basis. But… uh… MLive article on the dynamite Rust-Hagelin-Palushaj line, excerpt of which is sic:
Matt Rust couldn't recall the game and Aaron Palushaj wasn't sure about details, butthere is no comma here Carl Hagelin got the memories going.
Well, copy editor guy, if you're going 100% by the book there isn't, but commas are often a stylistic device used to make a sentence flow differently. Some are optional. Also optional: leaving your corrections in the finished copy.
All right: we're pretty much screwed. There is a tiny chance we can pass Notre Dame if Michigan wins the CCHA playoffs and Notre Dame gets swept at the Joe. Even in that situation (with all higher seeds winning other games) You Are The Committee shows Notre Dame taking the comparison, but the RPI edge there is tiny and could be shoved over to Michigan if a few other games go Michigan's way. (St. Lawrence, Minnesota, and Wisconsin would help out by winning, as that pushes Michigan's RPI up.)
So: have Michigan win twice, have one of the country's best teams lose to Alaska and Northern Michigan, and hope for favorable results in other conference tournaments. The chances are griiiiiim.
As for the faint hope some PWR wackiness costs ND a couple other comparisons, that's dead, too. ND's got the perfect scenario as far as TUCs go right now—they're a whopping 4-0 against Northern, which is now hanging by a thread as a TUC—and is up to 10-5 in that category, which is very strong. ND can't lose (metaphorically) against Northern: win and they, you know, win. Lose and Northern keeps its TUC status and ND gets to keep its 4-1 record against them.
Well, the good news is I can't get Michigan any lower than fourth unless they get swept at the Joe and Northeastern wins Hockey East, or they split and both Northwestern and Denver win their conference tournaments. YATC is kind of clunky and I haven't tested all possible scenarios, but Michigan's #1 seed seems 80% likely.
Then you've got a pretty weird scenario developing at the bottom of the bracket: CHA qualifier Bemidji State is the usual grab-bag foe you really want to play in the first round and will get slotted against BU. But Air Force, if it wins its conference tournament, is likely to be #13 or #14 in the PWR. IE: above the last at-large bid, possibly above two. What would the committee do in that situation?
No offense to Air Force, but they're an Atlantic Hockey team that's freakin' 30th in KRACH. If they qualify they are clearly the second most desirable first round opponent and should, by rights, be slotted against ND. But if they go by strict PWR Air Force would get matched up against… probably us, since it looks highly likely that one of the four-seeds is going to be Miami, who would get matched up with North Dakota or Vermont or whoever because they're going to protect BU and the Redhawks can't play a CCHA team.
It would be the sweetest poetic justice if Michigan got shafted out of the #2 seed only to draw that second auto-bid team and Notre Dame got Lowell or Yale or Duluth. We'd still be getting shipped, unfortunately.
3/13/2009 – Michigan 5, Western Michigan 2 – 27-10-0, 20-8 CCHA
3/14/2009 – Michigan 6, Western Michigan 1 – 28-10-0, 20-8 CCHA
This weekend's hockey series featured huge stretches of play so dominating that the above scoreboard resulted. That is the beginning of the first intermission. Michigan has three goals and 21 shots. Western has zero goals and zero shots.
Western's first shot would come at the beginning of the second when a Bronco forward, clearly instructed to get Western on the board, took a slapper from outside the blueline. It was going high, but they counted it anyway. The next shot was a clearance that dribbled in on Hogan, again from outside the blueline. That counted too: Michigan's official scorer was giving Hogan the full Jeff Lerg treatment out of pity to the visitors. By my count, the first actual shot Western launched on Hogan—certainly the first that originated from the offensive zone—came with 15:40 left in the second.
It was that kind of weekend. Total shots: 103 for Michigan and 41 for Western. Only Riley Gill's best Dominic Hasek impression kept Western from ceding 20 goals on the weekend.
So, again: this team is pretty freakin' good. They've pushed their recent non-crazy-goal-controversy record out to 19-1 since late November. Mark Mitera has been making excellent outlet passes and hasn't seemed out of place since an error that lead to Ferris State's first and only goal of the Friday game two weeks ago. They were 15-1 in NCGC games before they added last year's defenseman of the year. They're scratching an NHL draft pick every night. Our third defense pairing is either Steve Kampfer and Brandon Burlon or Tristin Llewellyn and Chris Summers, either of which pairings would be the #1 pair for any CCHA team other than Notre Dame.
When Michigan did anything other than dominate it was more because they were bored and hadn't spent any time in the defensive zone in two weeks and weren't quite sure what you were supposed to do. I am a little concerned that Michigan spends 80% of its time in the offensive zone because it leads to breakdowns and carelessness in their own end. This is a pretty good concern to have, all things considered.
Bullets Western left in the chamber:
- Holy crap was Carl Hagelin out of his mind this weekend. He singlehandedly dominated the penalty-kill, skated through the opposition like it wasn't there, and did his usual demonic backchecking. The Friday night ENG was justice for an outstanding performance. Two borks up.
- Northern Michigan upset Miami to reach the Joe, which improves Michigan's draw (they get Alaska) but hurts them in other ways: Michigan's SOS goes down as they played Miami four times, and Northern is now a TUC which brings M's 1-1 record against them into play.
- We wanted OSU to win the other series; they did not. Bizarrely, since we play now Alaska we want them to stay a TUC if we beat them since 2-1 is good for our overall percentage in that category.
- It doesn't hurt Michigan nearly as much as it does Miami, which is now the final team in the tourney and is vulnerable to an unexpected winner in any of the power conferences.
- I deeply regret that we were not allowed to trade Scooter and a recruit to be named later for Gill's services during the playoff run. That guy was insane both nights, which brings his record for insanity at Yost up to 3/3 on the year, as he was insane in a game Michigan totally dominated and contrived to lose 2-1 when Western conjured two late goals out of deflections and screening. About halfway through the Saturday game people around me started chanting "goalie-goalie" during the Temptation goalie-sieve chant, and, like, yeah. At some point Gill flat robbed Aaron Palushaj to the point where he was compelled to explain just how the hell the puck didn't go in the net to his linemates.
Gill's got a .920 save percentage, which is impressive but only 17th nationally. In context it's astounding, though. This is Western Michigan we're talking about here, always the worst defensive team in the league under Jim Culhane. He probably sees more grade-A rubber in a game than one of Mason's pedestrian .940 guys (Alban, Blackburn, etc) saw in a year; every Western goalie I've ever checked stats of is languishing around .885 or something. I'm sure Alaska's Chad Johnson is pretty good with his .939, but, man, how did Gill get left off the All CCHA Team for Jeff Lerg?
- Hey: they finally got a goal review right! Michigan's third-period goal to go up 4-2 was waved off by McInchak for no apparent reason—it was a virtual replay of the waved off OSU goal—but reviewed and declared good, largely because Shegos got in the box and was like "dude, that's his chest." Good on you, Shegos. Also, the look on Shegos' face—"not this s--- again"—was priceless.
- Last time we saw Shegos, by the way, he was with Langseth. This time no Langseth. Did he get busted down to linesman again? Or did they just tighten the crews because there were only four series to do this weekend instead of the usual six?
- I don't think we can pass ND, but I'll check.
Bubblin'. Both results last night went Michigan's way, with Gonzaga stomping St Mary's and Siena beating Niagara; St Mary's is now a bubble compatriot of Michigan's and the MAAC is a one-bid league. Diverse alarums. Lundardi, for one, has the Gaels as the second team out—Creighton is first. Did I dismiss their chances too quickly? Eh… even with an M loss to Iowa Creighton can make up no ground and you'd think would get slotted in after M. Probably. Who knows?
Back to St Mary's. Bracketology 101 on the Gaels:
We are sticking with the Gaels for at least one more day. We still like their OOC wins against fellow bubble teams Providence and San Diego State and their Bracketbuster win over Utah State. We also think there's a slight chance the committee takes a flier on them based on how they played early in the year before Mills got hurt and, potentially, based on how Mills looks against Eastern Washington on Friday. We bumped the Gaels down to a 13 seed in today's bracket, which means they are very, very thin ice. If there are any other mid-major bid stealers (Cleveland State tonight?) or if there are any other upsets in the big conference tournies, St. Mary's will be the first team to go.
Is Michigan ahead of St Mary's with an Iowa loss? Eh… probably, but the Mills thing makes them hugely variable.
As for today's viewing schedule, ESPN is so down on the Big East trio that it lists no relevant games even though Georgetown, ND and Cincinnati are in action. Aaaand Cinci just lost to Depaul, so maybe they're right to be skeptical.
There is one game with obviously huge implications: Butler and Cleveland State face off in the Horizon* League final at 9:00 PM. Butler is in either way and Cleveland State is looking to steal a second bid for the Horizon; you're very heavily in favor of the Bulldogs. Oakland also takes on North Dakota State with a Summit League bid on the line, if you want to get your granfalloon action on.
*Note! Not only does the "MidCon" conference not even exist anymore, Butler was never in it and is currently in the Horizon League. Mea culpa to the two annoyed emailers.
In the long annals of sports opinion, this might be the worst idea ever recorded:
If the goal is to have the very best teams playing for the national championship in a balanced national tournament, and to have an eye on providing a chance to the very best mid-major teams, expanding the field is not the answer. The answer lies in shifting the automatic bids to the best teams in the country.
That's Jay Bilas, and let's just leave aside all the Manny Harris elbow stuff and Tommy Amaker stuff as we attempt to wrap our heads around this fantastic idea: get rid of automatic bids. Bilas spends 1151 words on this idea, beginning with the premise that "more good teams play in Division I than ever before"—what does that even mean?—and arriving at the conclusion that the problem with Creighton or Penn State is the SWAC.
No, a thousand times no. One: the goal is not to have the "very best teams playing for the national championship in a balanced national tournament." If that was really the goal the tournament would be about eight teams and would have a round-robin format, or something. The NCAA tournament is a chaotic single-elimination mess and an obviously unfair system for determining a champion. But it is so damn fun that people reasonably overlook its flaws.
More than that, the autobids help lessen the flaws. A national championship tournament that includes this many teams is kind of a dumb idea. It will be apparent from the moment that the bracket is selected that 40 or 50 teams in it are obviously not the best teams in the country. A number of no- or little- hope bids actually makes it less of a dumb idea. One way to make a singe elimination tournament less unfair and stupid is to bias it in favor of the teams who did very well during the regular season. Including a bunch of conference champions who would otherwise not be in the field otherwise provides greater motivation to get a protected seed.
I mean, never ever has a 1 gone down to a 16, and a 15 over a 2 is really rare. But once you get into the 3, 4, 5 range you know some of those teams are getting lead pipes to the head. In the Bilas system you'd be replacing those no-hopers at the end of the field with, like, Penn State, and significantly reducing the reward for having a kickin' regular season.
So even if you are a heartless lawyer robot like Bilas—who says the argument against his position is a "sentimental one," which is another way of saying "I hate puppies and fun and sunshine"—the straggling autobids at the end of the field help make the bracket less of a mockery of the regular season and should be kept even if, you know…
…you'd watch Bucknell versus Kansas and think to yourself "goddammit why isn't a below .500 major conference team in this game?"
Bilas does frame his post by arguing that dumping autobids would get the best mid-majors in more—St Mary's and Creighton wouldn't be biting their fingernails to the nub if there were no autobids—but really, that's not the point. Really, really not the point.
Everything you ever didn't want to know about the pairwise. Western College Hockey has an overview of college hockey's rigid and kind of crappy selection system, and I winced when I read this sentence:
Proponents of this system argue there is no cliff because the system is designed to only be looked at once, at the end of the season, and thus, there are no fluctuations, but regardless, teams still gain a disproportionate benefit if a team they beat ends up 25th rather than 26th.
Only one person argues something that stupid: a poster on USCHO named "ScoobyDoo" who has some five-digit-and-rising post count and who descends on any thread about how the pairwise is deeply flawed—which it is—and expounds dumbly like that.
By the way: Michigan returns to action this weekend against Western Michigan. Outside of that series you are rooting against Notre Dame and Alaska. Here's the TUC cliff in action: Alaska is currently the 25th and last team to be counted as a TUC. If Alaska loses its series against Ohio State, they're extremely likely to drop out of consideration; with them will go ND's 2-0 and M's 1-1 record against the Nanooks. Both of those are very good for Michigan, as if that happens ND will be vulnerable at the Joe.
2/27/2009 – Michigan 6, Ferris State 1 – 25-10, 19-8 CCHA
2/28/2009 – Michigan 4, Ferris State 0 – 26-10, 20-8 CCHA
Everyone held serve this weekend, with Michigan and Notre Dame both sweeping inferior opponents. The critical comparison remains as grim as it was last week (PWR rankings from Sioux Sports, as usual):
I could break every category down in detail, or I could just give you the upshot: Notre Dame basically has a two-game lead on Michigan. If they bomb out of the CCHA playoffs in the second round Michigan can pass them. That's unlikely. The best team they could face in the second round is UNO, which has a –14 goal differential compared to ND's +43. The other option is for ND to lose twice at the Joe while Michigan wins the CCHA, which is more plausible but still a slim window.
So it's best to just accept the fact that Michigan is either a 2-seed or getting shipped.
Compounding the bad vibes is Denver's flight up into a tie with Michigan despite 1) being way back in RPI and 2) splitting this weekend. DU got a lot of fortunate results around the TUC cliff and now owns that point along with common opponents, which overrules the, you know, season. So they win that comparison with Michigan and are currently the #3 overall seed with Michigan slipping to #4. With nine relevant games sitting in the last four RPI slots, this comparison is going to be hugely unstable until the end of the season.
Slipping to the last #1 seed doesn't really matter, as any spot behind ND results in getting shipped and PWR's just going to throw up some random stuff at the end when it comes to the brackets.
The Whole Situation
Michigan's PWR status by category (some "lock win" teams may not be TUCs at the end of the season but Michigan will win the comparison with whoever replaces them):
- Lock Wins: Air Force, Alaska, BC, Cornell, Lowell, CC, Minnesota, UMD, Mankato, UNH, North Dakota, OSU, Princeton, RIT, SCSU, St Lawrence, Wisconsin, Yale
- Lean Michigan: Miami, Northeastern, Vermont
- Tossup: Denver
- Lean Opponent: ND
- Lock Losses: BU
Okay, that's a pretty good situation. Michigan is guaranteed to be at least a #2 seed and it'll take some doing to not be a #1:
- Miami has basically lost the M comparison if Michigan sweeps its first-round playoff opponent; even a head-to-head victory wouldn't be enough to move things since H2H games don't count in either of the other categories. This is a near-lock.
- Vermont has COP but is well back in TUC and about a game and a half back in RPI.
- Northeastern loses COP and it would take some fortunate playoff matchups for any chance of that changing; they'd have to sweep BC to take TUC and that would remain precarious depending on the results of conference tourneys.
The upshot: unless Michigan fails to make or gets swept at the Joe, the only thing that can prevent M from being a one-seed is sustained hot streaks from Northeastern and Denver coupled with unfavorable results near the TUC cliff. They have a one-game lead, basically, with few opportunities to lose it.
Things That Aren't Math
It's worth noting that since Michigan finished trundling to a 9-7 start, they've caught fire. They're 17-3 since, and two of the losses were one goal games featuring not one but two obviously incorrect decisions on goals. Michigan dominated those games, outshooting ND 38-22 and Ohio State 37-25. The only game that Michigan has just straight-up lost since November was, bizarrely, a home game against last-place Bowling Green.
And they did all that without Mark Mitera, the captain and last year's INCH defenseman of the year. Mitera returned to the ice this weekend and put up two points. Even if he was rusty—and though I didn't see the game @ Ferris most commenters at USCHO said he was to blame for the lone Bulldog goal of the weekend—he's got three weeks to round into shape before the NCAA tournament arrives.
So… yeah. It appears this team is in position almost as good as last year's team to make the Frozen Four and, hopefully, break the painful streak of semifinal exits. Though they don't have the elite All-American sorts on the top line they did last year, they're fast and tough defensively and almost unbelievably deep on the blueline. My excitement levels are getting dangerously high. I worry about what happens if Michigan goes down a goal without a Hensick sort on the team, but 17-3 with an asterisk is 17-3 with an asterisk. One team in twenty has outplayed Michigan. One.