I did not make this headline up
HEY. With searchapalooza over and LeVert out and hockey at least in contention for a bid this year, let's talk about hockey some more.
THE SITUATION. Michigan has put itself in decent shape after a streak in which it's won nine of ten games. Now 13-7, Michigan is 17th in RPI and the Pairwise. To have a chance they'll have to be at least 15th and to feel secure they'd have to hit 12. How many wins that would take is hard to judge. They barely moved after the Minnesota sweep, shot up to 14th with one game over OSU, and now have slid back down to 17 solely because of other teams' activities. It is volatile out there.
A REMINDER. The new jazzed-up RPI is pretty much all that matters. Changes a few years ago have made it very difficult for the Pairwise to deviate from RPI at all:
- there are only three categories
- one is RPI
- one is head to head and a lot of teams don't play each other
- RPI is also the tiebreaker
As a result you have to lose the other two categories to lose a comparison you would otherwise win. That requires losing both head to head and common opponents. This happens very, very infrequently.
THE GOOD NEWS. Michigan's put themselves in a situation where they are more likely to move up rapidly than down. There are four teams behind them within a single point; there are seven ahead of them.
Also, Michigan's heavily away-and-neutral schedule is horrible for fans but good for RPI. One of the tweaks they made a few years back was to weight road wins and home losses at 1.2 and home wins and road losses at 0.8. This is an affront to mathematics—a road win is worth 50% more than home win in a sport with a long-term home win percentage around 55%—and it's hurting Michigan right now since they've played a lot of unfairly devalued home games and not a lot of unfairly valued road games.
Michigan has been trudging through quicksand here despite win after win; the combination of the two above factors means that if they keep the winning up they should get some traction soon.
THE BAD NEWS. The Big Ten is so bad—if the season ended today they would be a one-bid conference like Atlantic Hockey—that Michigan is going to have to win a lot of games to feel anywhere near safe when conference play is over.
Only Minnesota and Penn State have any shot at an at-large, and since to make good on that shot they're going to have to beat the other teams with a shot it looks like the only way the Big Ten gets more than one team in is for one team to run away with the regular season title and then lose in the crapshoot tourney.
The Big Ten is not quite working out like people feared.
THE WISCONSIN NEWS. Michigan's opponent this weekend is shockingly bad. The Badgers have seven NHL draft picks and went 24-11-2 last year; they are currently 2-13-3. They've been outscored 2 to 1 on the season; they have one guy with a positive plus-minus. That is bad.
I would not be surprised if by the end of the year Wisconsin is so bad that even wins over them would lower Michigan's RPI. RPI fixed that a while back by dropping games like that out of the equation entirely (Michigan's wins against American International are already in that category), but even so that means Michigan can't do much other than but go backwards this weekend. A sweep doesn't help much, if at all; anything else provides an anchor in which Wisconsin's schedule becomes a sucking hole in Michigan's SOS.
Irritatingly, Wisconsin is already a problem for Michigan: They took three points from Ferris in a weekend series, beat Michigan Tech one night after losing 8-1, and tied Minnesota last weekend. Each of those non-wins seriously hurts those teams, and by extension Michigan.
The moral of the story: don't expect much.
ROOTING GUIDE. Hold your nose and root for Minnesota the rest of the way. RPI includes a quality win bonus for teams in the top 20 and Michigan has two wins over the Gophers. Also root for Tech and UMass-Lowell, for the same reasons.
Root for Wisconsin to end the season with two wins, because if they are bad enough to get dropped from RPI entirely at the end of the seasons that means they'll have transferred some schedule strength to the rest of the conference, and root for the bubble to collapse.
3/14/2014 – Michigan 2, Minnesota 3 (OT) – 17-12-4, 9-8-2 Big Ten
3/15/2014 – Michigan 6, Minnesota 2 – 18-12-4, 10-8-2 Big Ten
Michigan is barely ahead of the pack. [Bill Rapai]
Imagine a man tied to a pole with a bungee cord in zero-G. Grip this man with an enormous metal arm and pull him until the bungee cord has no more give. Let go. Watch as the man flies back and forth at maximum amplitude forever, occasionally bonking his head on the pole.
I've just saved you 500 bucks for a hockey season ticket. You are invited to give me a cut with the donate button at right.
What can Michigan's hockey team do? Anything. They can beat Boston College, they can run out to a 10-2-1 start, they can thoroughly dominate Wisconsin in a weekend series, they can beat Minnesota by sniping the water bottle four times.
What can Michigan's hockey team do? Anything. They can lose to Penn State, lose to Michigan State, lose to Penn State, lose to Michigan State. They can let Western Michigan waltz, or possibly tango, through the slot a dozen times in a single hockey game. They can try some sort of center-ice pinch that was months ago but still remains crystal-clear in my memory as the most insane decision I've seen since Jack Johnson was around, making insane decisions seem like good ideas.
Yeah, actually. This hockey team is Jack Johnson, the hockey team.
But they have just about done it, with an assist from Minnesota's backup goalie. They have waddled their way into the NCAA tournament. Since they're on the bubble, their tournament starts one weekend early and has a very strange structure where one loss is permissible in most situations as long as it doesn't come against Penn State.
You may think this doesn't quite count. I do. I will be turning on a television at three on a Thursday to watch Michigan play a hockey game in front of 14 people as I try not to have a panic attack. If that's not the NCAA hockey tournament it's close enough.
If—if—if—ifffffffffffff Michigan does in fact get past Penn State, a possibility I am absolutely not taking for granted because this would be like taking a spiderweb for granted as you clung to it over the Grand Canyon, they will be in barring specific clusters of results. And that will be fine. Just making the tournament was everybody's first and only goal in a year when the second defenseman on the depth chart was terrifying—let alone the second pairing—and the goaltender situation was a cloud of question marks.
Even when they were rushing out to a blazing start, nobody who was watching them play was harboring delusions of grandeur. They're rickety on the back end and only flash their talent at forward often enough to drive you crazy when they go a month without scoring a goal on purpose. As the man said, they are who they are.
And since they are who they are—a man careening endlessly from one extreme to the other—they've got as much of a shot as anyone does in the barely-weighted plinko that is the worst championship format in sports. Once their spot is secured they could roll out onto the ice against the top two teams in the country and hold their own, as they did against Minnesota and Boston College.
They could implode in a pile of sawdust, yeah. Everyone can implode in a pile of sawdust. One seeds get plunked on the regular by random collections of initials that happen to have a hockey team. We've got one, and you don't want to face us, no way. Unless it's one of those days where you really do. But it might not be one of those days. It might be one of those other days. Nothing is certain, except that after it is over you will sit down and hold your head and wait for the room to come to a full and complete stop.
We're in! Ish! [Rapai]
Despite being a three seed if the season ended today, Michigan is not safe with a win over Penn State. Unfortunately, there are a number of scenarios that leave them the first team out if they go 1-1 at the Big Ten tourney. That's because the margins are tiny this year. The RPI gap from 11th—where Michigan sits—down to 17th is less than a point.
Michigan can't get passed by #17 Northeastern since they're out of the HE tournament, but Minnesota State, North Dakota, Vermont, Cornell, and Colgate are all within striking distance. All save Vermont are active in their conference tourneys. If Michigan beats Penn State they will finish ahead of the Catamounts; the rest is up for grabs.
Teams are so tightly packed that changing a single result has surprising and inexplicable consequences. In one scenario, Minnesota State beating Ferris in the WCHA final is the difference between MSU-Mankato finishing outside of the tourney or getting a three seed. It also knocks Colgate out as Michigan passes them for obscure opponents-opponents-win-percentage reasons.
But here are some things I can tell you:
Michigan is (almost certainly) safe if they reach the Big Ten final. Even in the worst case scenario where somehow they face MSU and lose to them, thus crushing their RPI along with my skull and providing MSU a bid, they sneak in over the line unless there are two additional bid thieves. If it's Ohio State or Minnesota their RPI will land them as a three seed even in the event of a loss.
They could sneak onto the two line by winning the tournament. A low two is their top end.
1-1 is very likely good enough. It would take some seriously bad luck for every bubble team to man up in the fashion necessary to boot M from the tourney.
0-1 is not over. BUT LET'S NOT EXPLORE THAT OKAY.
Teams you hate. Life gets much, much easier for Michigan if Cornell and Colgate lose their ECAC semifinals to Quinnipiac and Union, respectively. Both of those latter teams are already in. The two C outfits are right on Michigan's heels. Their performance is almost more important than Michigan's—they can get in with a Penn State loss as long as the ECAC results fall right.
Bid thieves are always a bubble team's foe. Those are UNH in Hockey East, BGSU and Alaska-Anchorage in the WCHA, Denver, Miami, and WMU in the NCHC, and any Big Ten university with "State" in the name.
Teams you like. Root for North Dakota in the NCHC and Lowell in Hockey East, the former because it's the only current at-large from that league, the latter because every bit of schedule strength is going to count down the stretch here.
Ballpark. Michigan is 99% to make it with a 2-1 record this weekend, 80% to make it with 1-1, and 50% to make it with 0-1.
So frustrating. I kind of get why Minnesota may have relaxed on Saturday after securing the conference title, but it's not like they had nothing to play for. The #1 overall seed gets the Atlantic Hockey opponent that is generally far worse than any other in the field (but will still have a goalie who makes 60 saves because goalies are all far too good these days). BC and Minnesota were competing for that.
It in fact turns out that they had nothing to play for because Boston College got knocked out of the Hockey East tournament, guaranteeing Minnesota the top seed in the tournament.
Minnesota didn't know that on Saturday, though and by the time their backup goalie had ceded his first truly bad goal he'd been beaten on a procession of perfect water-bottle pops that comprised the prettiest set of goals seen in Yost Ice Arena in a long time. And the previous night, when Minnesota was going all out for the title, Michigan played them dead even.
So if they'd done what a team that plays Minnesota dead even does against some of the worst guys on their schedule…
And the avatar of that. Alex Guptill came off his healthy scratch in the aftermath of one of those horrible losses and Got The Message for about the fifth time in his career, playing impressive hockey. Some of the stuff he does is NHL-level.
There was one particular rush on which he repositioned himself in just the proper way so he could snap a shot past the defender's leg. That shot was whistling towards the top of the net before the goalie managed to snag it. It did not go in, but I muttered "Jesus" under my breath because the move and shot were so nasty.
I just hope he doesn't run out of attention before the end of the season here. If he comes back for his senior year—no idea—with the intention of getting an NHL contract for serious he could be a Hobey finalist. Or he could just be the most frustrating player in the last 15 years of Michigan hockey. Enormous wild card.
Sinelli emerging. The crazy thing about Andrew Sinelli these days is that he couldn't manage to find his way onto the ice as a forward during his first two years. He seems so assured with the puck as a defenseman that it's hard to envision him as a healthy scratch. Now that he's settling into his new role he is activating himself on offense more, not only for his hat trick against MSU but also several times in the Minnesota series he found himself in a dangerous position with the puck after making a nice read as to how the play would develop.
Is he Michigan's #2 defenseman now? With Kevin Clare playing his best hockey, probably not… but it's close.
The Hyman breakout. Happy to be right about this:
Inexplicable player enthusiasm of the year. Always one guy on the team who does nothing statistically but I find a way to advocate anyway, and this year it's Zach Hyman. Hyman's 1-2-3 line is obviously bleah. I still manage to think that he's much better at coming out of the corners with a purpose than anyone else on the team and should be flanked by two skilled players to take advantage of his ability to create offense off the cycle.
He seems like a different player, even if the stats aren't showing it. Remember this if he blows up in the next 20 games. Forget it if he doesn't.
After starting out with that 1-2-3 line in 13 games he put up 7-8-15 in his next 21.
Shuart's potential. Max Shuart has a nice combination of size and speed that hasn't really done much in his limited opportunities, but he seems like an intriguing guy to keep an eye on for next year. Could develop into a third line/PK guy.
I haven't been doing hockey previews this year because hockey kind of evaporated there for a long time and when it came back I didn't want to pick up the baton again just to tell you the things you could learn by going to the team page of opponent X on College Hockey Stats. So I'm going to morph this into a status update/preview thing with a new format. A work in progress.
[At right: an understandably perplexed Red Berenson. Bill Rapai photo]
|WHAT||Michigan at Minnesota|
Friday: 9 PM Eastern
Saturday: 8 PM Eastern
|LINE||college hockey lines, junkie?|
State Of The Bid
State Of The Pairwise
The Pairwise rankings got revamped in the offseason, yet again. Like the BCS rankings, each iteration drops more and more stuff until you're left with something simple but unsatisfying. This iteration dumped the "teams under consideration" factor entirely. Now everyone is under consideration, even Michigan State.
The only factors left:
- head to head
- common opponents
Since RPI breaks all ties, Pairwise comparisons against teams you haven't played devolve to a straight RPI comparison. The only way for the PWR to deviate from straight RPI is for you to be –2 in head to head or lose head to head and common opponents. This happens once in Michigan's 58 comparisons, as Michigan's grim loss to Western in the GLI lets their superior COP play. But since the tiebreaker for tied teams is the individual comparison, and the tiebreaker for multiple tied teams is RPI the only way that hurts Michigan is if Western is one of the teams right next to them in the standings.
Nowadays, PWR == RPI to a 95% confidence. At this instant the PWR follows RPI to the letter save for Colgate ranking in front of Maine.
So it's kind of dumb now, because RPI is dumb. But it was kind of dumb before, what with teams popping above or below an arbitrary cutoff point radically altering the standings up until the last day of the season*. Meanwhile, the RPI is different but perhaps equally as dumb this year, as an attempt to reform it brought about these changes:
- Road wins and home losses are weighted by a factor of 1.2; Road losses and home wins are weighted by a factor of 0.8.
- Points get added for "quality" wins against the top 20 according to RPI.
It seems like the first change is an effort to prevent Big Ten teams from larding their 14 nonconference games with a ton of home outings. In the NHL, teams get about 55% of their points at home. There is some advantage to balance, but the change seems to make the system as biased in favor of the road team as it was in favor of the home team.
Meanwhile, the quality win bonus is the kind of thing you find stapled on to systems people know don't work but are trying to ad-hoc themselves into something that looks like it works right. The upshot of that change is that you'd rather beat Wisconsin and lose to Penn State than vice versa, and hey look maybe the team already knows this. Do they know that you'd rather beat both Penn State and Wisconsin? Someone tell them this.
Right. So now…
*[WORTHLESS ASIDE: Back in the days when I could stand the USCHO message boards there was one guy who responded to all the valid complaints about the volatility of the PWR system by claiming that the system was not volatile because it only existed on the day the field was selected. Eventually it became clear that this was not the guy being willfully obtuse. He actually believed this.
He had something like 100k posts by the time I left, and is probably heading towards a million now. In other news, a virus that wiped the hard drives of everyone who had posted on USCHO in the past year would increase the average IQ of the internet by 20%.]
State Of The Bid
RPI is everything now; Michigan is tenth in RPI and tenth in the PWR, which would have them comfortably in as a three-seed. Michigan has a comfortable gap over the #11 team in RPI; they're closer to 6th than 11th.
Unfortunately, the RPI changes have blown up the exceedingly useful Sioux Sports feature that would let you know approximately what your RPI would be if you won X of your remaining Y games, because that's impossible to predict with the quality win bonuses.
Michigan has just one team with any of those win bonuses on tap, but they're big ones: Minnesota. Four games against the currently #2 RPI team in the country offer the potential of reward if Michigan can even split; meanwhile a home series at Penn State is a minefield waiting to happen, as is a home and home with dismal MSU. OSU is in the middle. Eyeballing it, 6-4 down the stretch would probably be good enough to keep them in the tourney as long as they got something off of the Gophers.
On the positive end, short of doing something like take three from the Gophers and run the table the rest of the way, a one-seed is out of the question. Moving up to a two is very doable; as mentioned, a couple of bumps the right way in the PWR and they'll be the top #2.
State Of The Hockey
You tell me, man. Michigan followed a grim four-game skid with a sweep of MSU that was filled with fortunate bounces and even gameplay, and playing MSU even is really bad news. Then they swarm Wisconsin, unfortunate to not sweep the Badgers one weekend before they sweep the Gophers. Everything's going just peachy after a 7-3 win against Penn State on Friday, and then… splat.
Saturday's 4-0 loss to Penn State was alarming on multiple levels. Nagelvoort gave up two awful bad angle goals that squeezed through his five hole, and all of a sudden it was last year all over again.
The only thing we've learned about this year's team is nothing. On an individual level you've got certain guys performing and certain guys not; on a week-to-week basis you could get anything from a throat-crushing of a top-ten team to one million unchecked guys running through your own slot.
Nieves is the modern day Milan Gajic.
There are two primary issues: lack of production from Michigan's cadre of highly touted, veteran scoring-line wings and the defense. These have been the issues all year, and they are compounding as the year progresses. Boo Nieves is stuck on one goal; Phil Di Giuseppe has five. Guptill is doing a bit better, but the team has exactly one player cracking a PPG, JT Compher.
The team struggles immensely to generate scoring chances at even strength. I'm not sure if it's a lack of confidence or effort, but watching every rush end with a shot from the top of the circle is beginning to wear, as is Michigan's total inability to complete a pass on a two on one. The skill guys on this roster don't have much in the way of skill. Meanwhile, the offensive ability of the defensive corps can be summed up like so: Kevin Clare (career goals: 3) is one of two D who play on the power play.
The defense kind of is what it is. We knew that it was going to be shaky going in, and then Kevin Lohan got knocked out for most of the season. Not getting even one player in the all-conference discussion from Guptill/Di Giuseppe/Nieves/Moffatt is what's really hurting Michigan. The days when a random nondescript forward became an impact player as a junior/senior seem pretty far away.
But all I wanted them to do at the beginning of the year is make the tourney and they're on track to do that.
You just got Skjei'd. No, I don't know how to pronounce it either.
Minnesota is perennially packed with talent and occasionally plays like it; this is one of those years. Despite the sweep last weekend they're still locked into a one seed at 19-4-5. Both of those losses were 2-1 affairs in which Minnesota outshot Wisconsin, in one case badly. Their sole other losses were at Notre Dame and against UMD; they have had inexplicable difficulty with MSU, going 2-0-2 with two one-goal wins.
There is no one scoring star. Minnesota has nobody averaging a PPG. They do have piles and piles of depth, with five guys over 20 points already and four more over 16. They roll three true scoring lines.
If there is a star, it's a guy who is nowhere to be found on point lists: defenseman Brady Skjei. (Skjei is somehow pronounced "Shea," in case you're wondering where this Skedge guy is on the broadcast.) Shea, a sophomore, was a first round pick last offseason and was the cornerstone of the World Junior defense corps. He's got size, strength, and defensive skill. He is legit.
Goaltending has been excellent, with sophomore Adam Wilcox a true #1—his backup has 84 minutes on the season. He's got a .930, which places in him a tie for 11th with Nagelvoort*.
Michigan's six points back of the Gophers and can tie for the conference lead with a sweep. Good luck with that. For RPI/tourney purposes, a split would be super.
*[Expand the nets. There are 12 out of 82 qualifying goalies with a .930, 28 with a .920, 47 with a .910, and a whopping 62 with a .900. Goalies are too good.]
…comes right at the end. The games are played and the PWR is set. Details are later. Now is now. This is what I think the committee will do:
3. BU (or Maine)
Yes. I'm guessing they bone us. MFan In Ohio disagrees. QUIEN ES MAS MACHO?! We'll find out tomorrow. My logic after the dashy bits.
The bracket using pure 1 to 16 sets up poorly for Michigan. This is it:
- 1. BC
- 8. Minnesota
- 2. Michigan
- 7. Duluth
- 3. Union
- 6. Ferris State
- 4. North Dakota
- 5. Miami
- They have to fiddle with the fours so that the Michigan/MSU matchup does not happen. It doesn't really matter how they slide the teams around, Michigan gets Cornell.
- Then the committee has a problem: they are sending the overall #1 seed to Minneapolis to face a potential second-round matchup with Minnesota. That will not happen. They will protect the #1 overall and they don't want to murder attendance in the East dead. So how do they deal with this?
- Option A: Flip either the 8-9 matchups or just Minnesota and Duluth. Send either both Boston schools to Worchester or Maine and BC. Attendance: good. Regionals 3 and 4: unaffected, integrilicious.
- Option B: Go by the super-strict selection process that locks Michigan into Green Bay, the closest regional, and ends up putting the #8 team in with #4 North Dakota in Minneapolis, both eviscerating your bracket integrity and, more importantly, not screwing Michigan. This is hypothetically the way it should work, but more often than not the committee just does what it wants. It's their hot body.
- If the committee does take this route, Michigan ends up in Green Bay. They still get Cornell in round one; round two is the winner of Ferris State/Denver. This alternative is hypothetically better for attendance since the other East regional isn't three Western teams and Union, but since none of those teams is within 500 miles of Green Bay it just doesn't matter.
BONUS THIS-MIGHT-BE-A-YEAR-THE-COMMITTEE-LOSES-ITS-MIND ALTERNATIVE: There is the slight possibility that the committee flips Air Force into Michigan's bracket figuring that while a flight is a flight, a flight for Air Force is cheaper to Minneapolis and Cornell can probably drive to Worchester. I think they got over their cost-cutting insanity after that one year when they put all the West teams in the West and all the East teams in the East… but you never know.
I seriously doubt this is how it goes down, FWIW.
3/09/2012 – Michigan 2, Notre Dame 1 (OT) – 22-11-4
3/10/2012 – Michigan 3, Notre Dame 1 – 23-11-4, advance to CCHA semifinals
This weekend Michigan will make its 24th straight trip to Joe Louis Arena for the CCHA semifinals. The program hasn't recruited a kid who was alive the last time Michigan was absent for going on a decade now. The last 21 of those years, Michigan has followed up the Joe with an appearance in the NCAA tourney. Since they responded to their ugly November with a 16-3-2 tear to end the year they'll make it 22 in two weeks. The only people who remember a time when these streaks were not active are the old men in Yost not quite old enough to forget.
That is incredible consistency. Just look across the lake and find future Big Ten foes Wisconsin and Minnesota if you want to chalk it up to recruiting. Both those teams select who they want, like Michigan, and have rosters littered with NHL draft picks, like Michigan. They're both working on a tourney streak of zero. Michigan State is also in that situation. (Since Rick Comley left the roster stacked with AARP members instead of future NHLers, that's a different argument.) Those are three of college hockey's glamour programs and they have one bid between them the last three years.
A lot of the vibe around Michigan's program in recent years has focused on how the team has only turned two of those 21 bids into national championships, but that's a conversation for the flat blank day the day after your soul shrivels up when a puck goes in the wrong net and hides inside its lonely crevasse for 52 more weeks of winter. In the immediate aftermath of Michigan punching out Jeff Jackson's eighth-place, college-hockey-NIT-bound Irish and Ferris State blowing it against Bowling Green it's time to give thanks for consistency.
Notre Dame was supposed to finish first in the league this year unless Miami did; they took their great talent and legendary coach and shiny new arena and finished one game above .500. Ferris State actually won the league this year; they took on the worst team in the conference and lost. Neither will be at the Joe. Michigan will, because Michigan always is.
It would be one thing if that was because they always had some ludicrous talents on the team. In recent years this hasn't really been the case. They don't have a lights-out scorer. Their top guys in PPG tied for 94th this year. They've made a transition from firewagon hockey to a more defensive style; they coped with the total implosion of their power play. The big star last year was either a defenseman who never hits anyone or a lightning-fast Swede better known for his defense than his offense. Their big star this year is their goalie.
Michigan has transitioned into a new, monstrously tight-checking era of college hockey without missing a beat. They've all but locked down a one seed after that terrible awful vertiginous November showed us a picture hardly anyone remembers: April without Michigan hockey.
I've got a few Illinois fans on my twitter feed and their mournfulness yesterday as Selection Sunday played on without the Illini was striking as I pondered Michigan's 24 and 22-year streaks. We've been there ourselves, as Michigan's 2008 season spiraled into the dirt and Bo's bowl streak went up in flames. As the basketball program embarks on a baby streak of their own and football gets back up to speed, let's take a moment and give thanks for the unchanging excellence in Yost.
Things happen. Your goalie flames out or some guy leaves school and you're left with a guy from the club team and a mop Jon Falk said you could borrow you call "Lee Moppie" because all hockey nicknames consist of putting "—ie" at the end of someone's name. Moppie sees way too much time and gets stuck in his own end because it's a mop and you lose a bunch of games. Even Bo's bowl streak was a flimsy thing when Harbaugh went down.
It is at this point that your program lays down for a breather, and you find out that the only thing worse than the horrible deflating feeling in April is one in March or February or November. But not for us, not yet.
It was really too bad this one wasn't on TV. It was the game of the year, no question, and up there as far as Yost all-timers go. Obviously not at the level of tourney games; other than that it's competing with Ryan Miller-era games against MSU and that BC game when Jack Johnson shot the goalie's helmet off.
Hunwick on his last game at Yost:
The flag. It's above. It's fabulous. They'll have to figure out exactly when to deploy it since their current idea conflicts with the "who cares" bit during player introductions, but it is awesome. They'll figure it out. Aaron Ward paid for most of it, which is also awesome. Also, Taylor Lewan pled for the Arizona state flag—which the student section deployed when Moffatt got a penalty just to show it off—to make an appearance at Michigan Stadium this fall.
I want more flags. All of the flags!
That's more like it, Notre Dame goalie situation. CenterIce has a diary breaking down the Michigan goals and came away from the weekend with an impression similar to mine:
Watching the highlights I was very surprised by how the scoring played out for us. I could not see anything televised because of my location, but it was very strange to see an entire series of lucky bounces and soft goals.
Michigan had a bunch of legit scoring chances they rang off the posts (three of them in the first OT Friday); everything else was soft.
Even though Summerhays wasn't exactly awful—he did give up just over 2 GAA—most of the goals he gave up were soft-ish, none worse than the harmless dink Phil Di Giuseppe managed to slide through his five hole:
If you let something in through the five hole at that angle from that tight, you have earned the "it's all your fault" in the aftermath.
Meanwhile, Hunwick was just about flawless. He had no hope on ND's Saturday goal, on which Jon Merrill didn't realize he had a two-on-one situation down low and went after a puckhandler emerging from the half-boards, leaving the back door wide open. The Friday goal came after a long period of Notre Dame pressure featuring several grade A stops from Hunwick; finally he could not react fast enough when ND found an open guy in the slot on a pass that came from behind the net.
Meanwhile, the all-Gongshow goalie gave up ten in a three game series against BGSU. Well done, hockey gods.
Notre Dame. Good? Bad? ND is such a confusing team. I think I was right to be very much against playing them in the second round, as they dominated large stretches of the first game and could have/should have put it away. Hunwick was ridiculous, and Michigan was much better in the OT. Michigan was much better on Saturday; even so my impression from watching ND play four times this year is that they should be easily in the tourney.
The goalie thing is a big, big problem. You could tell the body language on Saturday night was "here we go again." If they just had an average goalie I'm guessing they're well above the bubble.
Top line re-emerges. They had a little bit of a quiet spot there. That's over after Brown got the winner Friday and Wohlberg's top-quality snipes Saturday. They were dominant for stretches on the cycle, as well.
Now that Glendening and Di Giuseppe are getting some goals it seems like Michigan has two solid scoring lines for the tournament with the potential for some bonus stuff from Moffatt, a Lynch, etc.
The main problem left. The power play is just horrendous. They could not even get the zone on Friday night, and while they fixed the problem somewhat Saturday they still ended up 0/7 on the weekend. There's an obvious lack of dipsy-doo on the team that is a problem. Michigan has never in my memory played two defensemen on the PP, and I remember many years where the solution to getting the zone on the powerplay was "give it to Hensick."
This year the guy most likely to get the zone on the rush is… Mac Bennett, probably, and he does it by beating a guy as he leaves the defensive zone. When an opponent is lining four up across the blue line like ND was he doesn't have the puckhandling to make guys back off.
I don't really have any answers here. I'll just be over here massaging my temples for the next two minutes.
Sparks. : ( Scratched again and with no points in forever it's hard to make the case he should not be. I just thought that line was so close to putting in a half-dozen goals once he returned to the lineup. Oh well.
MFan in Ohio has been ably summing up the situation on the message board. Michigan actually dropped after Friday night's action thanks to a weird confluence of factors seemingly designed to play up the PWR's flaws: a bunch of not very good teams won or lost to fall above or below the .500 RPI mark that makes teams a TUC. They did this in just the right fashion for Cornell's TUC record to be momentarily very good, and Cornell took its comparison from Michigan based on that and the 3-4 games they've played against common opponents. Cornell is almost 300 points back in RPI.
Order was restored on Saturday, and with just one weekend left you can run scenarios out the wazoo. The worst-case chalk scenario (all higher seeds win except M going 0-2 at the Joe) still sees Michigan finish second; the worst-case-period scenario (UMD, BU, Miami, and Cornell win conference tourneys) sees Michigan finish in a three way tie for fifth. If Michigan beats BG in the semi they'll finish in a tie for third.
Upshot: Michigan has to both blow it as hard as possible and have every opponent within striking distance do as well as they can to lose the top seed.
As far as draw goes, I have no idea. One set of results sees Michigan drawing #4 seed Cornell in the first round; others have Cornell a strong two. The PWR is a jittery thing.
It does seem like Michigan has a solid shot at getting another Atlantic Hockey champ despite not being the #1 overall seed. For that to happen, the following must transpire:
- Two CCHA teams must be one seeds
- Two CCHA teams must be four seeds
- Michigan must be the highest-ranked CCHA team
In that case the committee has no choice but to match the CCHA teams up against the other folks and hand the not-very-good AH champ to Michigan. Your wicked hangover from that one year Michigan played Air Force suggests this may not be the absolute best thing in the world, but… well, yeah.
That is likely to happen if Miami beats Michigan Saturday. It's a consolation prize.
As far as the league goes: Miami, Michigan, and Ferris are solidly in. Ferris and their all-world goalie gave up a billion goals to BGSU and ended up not making the Joe; they're a solid two seed. Western Michigan and State are on the bubble. Both are in unless there is a bid stolen.
One will make it unless two bids are stolen this weekend; that team will be State unless WMU wins the CCHA. In that case State can be knocked out with a single stolen bid.
The only reasonable explanation. Michigan State lost the outright title, still won a share, and collectively reacted like this…
…the likely explanation is that they were more focused on denying Michigan than their own team. That game meant very little in the grand scheme of things to MSU. It mattered to OSU and Michigan.
No, it wasn't hard to root for Ohio State yesterday. I didn't even notice.
Irrational optimism getting less irrational. Michigan has two five-star sorts in its upcoming recruiting class and the guy I'm most excited about may be the other dude. That is 6'6" shooting guard/potential Burke backup Nik Stauskas, who just outdueled Nerlens Noel, a 6'10" center who recently reclassified to 2012 and instantly became a top five player after doing so, for tournament MVP at the NEPSAC championships. He is not just a shooter($):
Nik Stauskas (Mississauga, Ontario/St. Mark’s)
2012, SF, 6-6, 205
Stauskas finished with 19 points but his impact on the game far exceeded that total, as he not only scored the ball in different ways but also facilitated for others in both pick and roll as well as drive-and-kick action. While the complete versatility of Stauskas’ offensive repertoire was on full display, the most impressive part of his performance was that innate star quality that allowed him to make big play after big play at the most pivotal moments of the game.
The main thing keeping him from being another five-star type recruit is his athleticism. That shouldn't prevent him from being a shot generator at the college level—he'll enter with far more skill than Stu Douglass had, for one. I mean, look at his evil beard:
IF that does not fill you with confidence, nothing will.
Stauskas also drew raves from NERR. Meanwhile, Mitch McGary's Brewster team suffered an upset while Glenn Robinson III helped his team win their first sectional title since '97. All that and more at UMHoops.
McCray/Gedeon/Levenberry: Linebacker is the new offensive line
brief comment on the linebacker crunch. My trapper keeper with Michigan's projected recruiting class surrounded by hearts has at least two slots for linebackers, but if the third guy is going to be O'Daniel/Levenberry/Gedeon it probably has three. Sam Webb first thought this was not the case, but recently reversed course.
It should be clear why after a quick glance at the depth chart by class. With announced positional rearrangements taking Beyer and Paskorz away from the SAM spot, that is now the sparsest position on the depth chart. Insert First World Problems GIF here. Michigan has three more years of Jake Ryan, two of Cam Gordon, and nothing else. Even if you figure one of the 2012 recruits is destined to move down—something the coaches denied on Signing Day—that would seem to make a third linebacker a reasonable acquisition.
Even if that's the case now, if O'Daniel and Levenberry hew to their current plans and take their decisions to Signing Day there's a pretty good chance room opens up for one of them. The current assumption on this site is 22, but that assumes Michigan only loses two players to attrition*.
That's an extremely conservative estimate. If Michigan gets up to 24, they can take…
- Another RB
- Two more WRs
- A third TE
- Another CB
- Two DL
…and still have a couple spare scholarships. You may have spotted the assumption here: Michigan will only take one three-tech/SDE type in this class. I think that's reasonable after taking four (Wormley, Godin, Strobel, Henry) last year, especially with two 2011 recruits coming off redshirts and the possibility/likelihood that Wyatt Shallman ends up weighing 280 by his sophomore year.
When all is said and done the bet here is Michigan has a couple scholarships to play with in January and SLB is an excellent candidate to use one of those spares even if Michigan already has a couple linebackers committed. It sounds like McCray and Gedeon are about to drop; if Levenberry changes his mind and attempts to commit on his Spring Game visit he's not getting turned down.
BONUS HYPOTHETICAL EXTRA SCHOLARSHIP DISTRIBUTION DESIRE: Cornerback. Michigan… uh… has fewer blue chip guys there than anywhere else in the last two classes.
/runs around laughing maniacally
//falls in trough
/continues laughing maniacally
We do it better than Todd Graham.
*[Two more players are assumed to not be getting fifth years.]
A rule to live by. Orson just tossed this off and I'm thinking of embroidering it on a sampler or something:
Never have anything to do with a recruit who wants to sign after Signing Day.
This may be sour grapes.
June building stuff. The Washington Post highlights Cato June, new head coach at Anacostia High School in DC. He's filling his staff out with a familiar name:
June quickly turned to [retired HC Willie] Stewart, asking him to help coach the Indians next fall. He also named his close friend and Michigan roommate Walter Cross, the 1997 All-Met Offensive Player of the Year from Oxon Hill, as his offensive coordinator — the same position Cross held at Potomac (Md.) this fall.
Apparently anyone in DC can transfer without a reason, so if June gets things off the ground Anacostia could be a fertile ground for recruiting—not that Brady Hoke needs another one.
Bye-week hockey events. Michigan pulled the worst possible opponent in the second round thanks to Northern Michigan going down in flames against Bowling Green and all other higher seeds holding. They go against Notre Dame, who gave them a very tough weekend about a month ago. The Irish are 19th in the Pairwise and entering a do-or-die weekend for tourney hopes.
The key for Michigan will be watching Notre Dame's goalies play as poorly as they have in all games not against Michigan. Steven Summerhays put up a .945 in the M-ND series; for the year he's at .908.
Pairwise. Michigan's off weekend saw them move up thanks to a one-point weekend from Minnesota-Duluth that cost them the regular-season WCHA title and put their one-seed in flux. Michigan still doesn't win that comparison—I told you it would be tough—and still wont even if they sweep next weekend despite UMD drawing 12-22-2 Minnesota State. Michigan can win the comparison by sweeping ND and doing better than UMD at the conferences' respective finals… as long as UMD doesn't lose this weekend.
Weird system: you are rooting for UMD to win this weekend and get annihilated at the Final Five.
BONUS CCHA BIDS ODDITY: remember that period in the season when seven CCHA teams were destined for the tournament? That's been whittled down to four as of today. Five of the first six teams out of the tourney are CCHA teams. Western, Lake Superior, and ND can still play themselves in.
It's March, so it's time for huge Daily profiles. Luke Glendening is first up:
It was late April 2008, and the Michigan hockey assistant coach had just extended a one-year tryout offer to Luke Glendening, a forward recruit from The Hotchkiss School, a prep institution in Lakeville, Conn.
“You’re on a one-year tryout,” Powers told Glendening. “If you’re good in practice, you’ll stay.”
Powers left him with one last word of warning.
“If you have somewhere else to go, you should probably do it.”
We're living in the golden age of angles, I'm telling you.
A fantastic idea. Mike Spath proposes a new format for the NCAA tournament:
To start, the NCAA should collaborate with the NHL to form six permanent sites, rotating among the six for the four yearly locations: Boston, New York, Detroit, Minneapolis, Denver and Toronto. The Frozen Four would also rotate among those six cities instead of taking us to Tampa Bay or Washington D.C.
That would be excellent. You might want to add a Philadelphia or Pittsburgh but that's fine. No more Green Bay, St. Louis, Tampa, etc. Take the money the NHL is giving you and use it to lower ticket prices so you get a local crowd—part of the horrendous attendance in Fort Wayne was the $90 session passes—and try to fill those buildings as much as you can. If you want to "grow the sport" you can promise a local regional/FF to areas considering the addition of hockey programs.
In response to this idea, the NCAA announced the next six Frozen Fours would take place in New Zealand.
Retconned history. The New York Times has a look at how the Big East fell apart featuring this tactical error back in the day:
Tranghese tried to tell the Big East’s university presidents and athletic directors as much as early as 1989 when he was Gavitt’s assistant. Gavitt thought the conference needed to bring Penn State into the fold. Penn State was an independent at the time, looking for the security of a conference.
The membership voted no, with St. John’s, Villanova and Georgetown leading the resistance. At the end of the meeting, Gavitt asked Tranghese what he thought about the decision. “I said, ‘We will all rue the day about this decision,’ ” Tranghese said. “I understood how big football was. I didn’t understand how big it was going to become.
“At that point, the Big East had so much success in the ’80s, everybody sort of forgot about it. But I felt looking back on the history of the Big East, that was probably the biggest mistake we made.”
The conference has been regularly pillaged since and will be a nationwide amalgam of mid-major football schools minus flagship Syracuse as a result. I wonder if the Big Ten would still be ten teams today if the Big East hadn't screwed it all up in the late 80s.
Etc.: Wojo on Sunday's events. I bet a dollar Burke and Cody Zeller end up splitting the freshman of the year award. From Old Virginia takes a look at where lacrosse is headed, speculating that Michigan will eventually end up in a "Western" conference with OSU, PSU, Detroit, Air Force, and Denver. BSD recaps the PSU-M game from their perspective. Michigan engineers elect Bender to school board.