in town for free camps
THING NOTES: I should have done these in approximately chronological order but too late now. Wisconsin was three weeks after Northwestern and was Iowa's penultimate game of the year. Maryland, the nonsense game with a ton of empty formations against a DL Iowa could not block, was the week before Northwestern.
Between Northwestern and Wisconsin was a miserable outing against Minnesota (10 for 19, 89 yards in a 51-14 loss) and a 10 YPA facepunching of Illinois.
[After the JUMP: kinda good things.]
Stuff for a good cause. The UM Alumni Club of DC has an annual auction to raise money for the scholarships they endow. It's going on now, and includes things like signed Jake Long and Denard Robinson NFL jerseys, tickets to various games next year, and Michigan jenga. 100% of proceeds help kids go to M. Bid on everything.
Except the jenga. I will cut you if you try to take it from me.
Exit the one thing I liked. I liked the "Legends" jerseys for the most part. Having a QB wearing 98 was unique, and Michigan does not have much recognition of the guys who have had jerseys retired. While yanking numbers around annually was a bit much, I thought it was a nice reminder of those who had gone before. No more?
So, it sounds like Michigan's Legends Jerseys, a staple under Brady Hoke, are no more. pic.twitter.com/FZ5eNryUzJ
— Brent Yarina (@BTNBrentYarina) March 23, 2015
I understand that we are going to discard many Brady Hoke staples with prejudice. Incessant second and eleven: seeya. Touching your armpits after observing another sack: GTFO. Allowing 400 passing yards to Rutgers: toodleoo. But in this one case I feel we may be throwing the staple out with the staplewater.
Also heavily rumored. Michigan may be rejoining the ranks of the bestickered helmets.
I'm in the middle here. I like throwback stuff; I like clean, simple stuff. I would prefer helmet stickers made occasional re-appearances for uniformz games, but that's not really how helmet stickers work.
Swat swat swat swat swat. If you follow me on twitter you know the existence of the UC Irvine Anteaters was killing me as they pushed Louisville to the limit in their first-round tourney outing. Irvine has a 6'8" guy… and two 6'10" guys… and a 7'2" guy… and a 7'6" guy. As someone who has pined for a rim protector ever since it became clear Michigan basketball was going to have a really good offense even if their center's game is limited to finishing around the hoop, I was having tiny little conniption fit about a tiny school that had never been to the tournament grabbing enormous people left and right.
Anyway, long story short Jon Teske is tall and alters shots:
Michigan pledge Jon Teske scored 12 points and blocked six shots in the loss, but had a much greater impact than the numbers might indicate.
Though he was credited for only six blocks, the seven-footer (Rivals.com's No. 96 junion nationally) altered at least a dozen shots near the rim with his ridiculous wingspan and was whistled for two fouls on which it appeared he had all ball.
The first two of those were against Esa Ahmad, a WVU-bound forward who Michigan recruited for a minute several months ago. Teske's currently enduring the usual crazy zone defenses that high school teams deploy when facing someone of his size, and he is a young guy who's still growing. Whatever he's going to be is still a long way off—hopefully that includes college-level rim protection duties.
If it isn't broke but could use some improvement, add gradually. Doesn't have the ring of "if it isn't broke, break it" but has the salutary benefit of applying to Michigan football instead of disruptive "sharing economy" Silicon Valley startups. And it's what DJ Durkin is doing to the defense:
"I wouldn't say we're doing 'most' of either (scheme), if there's a defense that fits a scheme and it exposes something with the offense, we'll play it," senior linebacker Joe Bolden said earlier this spring. "Some plays we'll be in 3-4, another we'll be in 4-3. Just depends on personnel, what the other team runs. The scouting reports in the fall will determine what we play. And, if we're playing a 3-4 better, why would we do a 4-3? And just the same the other way.
"I really don't think it's that hard to grasp, personally."
Michigan's defense won't be exactly the same next season, but it won't be drastically different either. More importantly for Durkin, though, the experience level is high.
And again it's what Michigan is going to try to do with that alignment that matters.
Neither option is good here. Funchess revealed that he had a boo-boo last year:
Devin Funchess tore ligaments, crack bone in a toe in the ND game. Took a shot in the toe before Utah. Re-injured it. Never got better
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) March 21, 2015
So either that happened when he was inexplicably playing in garbage time or had already happened by the time he was inexplicably playing in garbage time.
I mean, come on. I'd like to see the NCAA burn as much as the next guy but this is laying it on a little thick:
Khari Harding transferred from Auburn to Tulsa to be closer to his ailing father and maximize his dad’s chances to watch him play live next fall.
Under a new NCAA amendment ratified this week, the latter apparently won’t be possible. The NCAA eliminated immediate eligibility hardship waivers for Football Bowl Subdivision transfers.
The rule change is effective immediately, so it doesn’t matter that Harding — whose father Corie is battling cancer for a second time — has been taking classes at Tulsa for two months before the amendment was ratified.
Surely the ability to go to school for free in immediate proximity to your dad so you can see him all the time is the important thing here, not the fact that your football career is going to be delayed by a year. You could argue that the redshirt is actually a benefit.
Andy Staples disagrees with the above paragraph and proposes one weird trick for transfer rules that would handle cases like this by devolving the responsibility to people a bit less bureaucratic. In bullets:
1. Schools may not prevent athletes from transferring to another school and receiving financial aid.
2. The player must sit out the following season. (With only one possible exception.)
3. The athletic director at the previous school signs a form allowing the transferring player to play immediately.
I'd be fine with that. The NCAA couldn't do anything to prevent conference rules from kicking in further restrictions (IIRC the SEC does not allow grad transfers between its institutions; the Big Ten has some restrictions that may or may not apply to Jake Rudock), so if you are concerned about the dread specter of Smotrycz proliferation don't be.
Big Puppy, NBA edition. Just a matter of time before he has his own t-shirts and line of dog food and possibly several different breeds of dog all competing to be renamed McGary:
3. Mitch McGary Running
It’s like the Kramer painting: You can’t look away.
Look at all that churning effort, the weirdly stiff arms and hands, the eager glance backward that says, “Please pass me the ball, I’m open, I’m running really fast, so fast, like the wind, am I going to get the ball?” He’s like a dog looking for a Frisbee.
Jokes aside, big men who run the floor suck in defenders and open up shots for teammates. Good on the rookie for playing out the ball.
Yes, he's a purebred McGary. He generates possessions and feels at an elite level.
NO I WILL NEVER GET OVER IT STOP ASKING. Why has Al Borges never recruited a quarterback who could be considered successful*? Well, it may have something to do with his long-time association with Steve Clarkson, who seems to have fobbed off all his lower-level prospects on mister gullible. This Steve Clarkson as portrayed in Bruce Feldman's "The QB" and reviewed by Spencer Hall:
3. Dilfer's just one of the QB whisperers profiled, a group of guys who all come across with drastically different results. George Whitfield, the man on ESPN chasing guys around with a broom, comes off as half-cracked, but still seemingly legit. The guy who pronounced Tim Tebow's throwing motion to be fixed after three months or so of work, Tom House, might be the biggest beneficiary here: a flaky ex-pitcher with piles of data, a messy office to match, and a stellar roster of clients who quietly swear by him. In contrast, Steve Clarkson, the man who brought Jimmy Clausen to the world, comes off as a money-hoovering huckster prone to announcing any client as "the next [STAR QB GOES HERE]" if given enough cash. Feldman doesn't even have to try, really. You just write down Clarkson's quotes and they do their own work.
Clausen was actually pretty good, if not at all deserving of his hype level. The other guys…
*["successful" is here short for "was the clear starter for his team as an upperclassman."
I only kind of hate Wisconsin basketball. I apologize to that one guy whose entire question to me was a statement about said hatred, but Wisconsin is so fascinated by the NCAA stenographer that Nigel Hayes is answering questions like this:
I didn't know you had to capitalize xylophone. But that's why I'm not a stenographer.
Anyway, I still hate that they get away with the Wisconsin Chest Bump all the dang time but I have always coveted their bigs and I find them relatively tolerable when Michigan is not playing them. This has been a difficult confession. Share yours in the comments!
Etc.: Yes, please. Stopping taxpayer money from being spent on stadiums should be a bipartisan thing right? Jim Boeheim is just kind of this dude who doesn't like NCAA rules. Gasaway on the SCORING CRISIS. Relevant to our current situation: the rise of the vagabond QB. Congrats to Carol Hutchins on her 1400th win, a 20-0(!) bombing of OSU.
When I weep on national television I only get scorn.
[I hope I get to overuse this screen cap by the time the season ends]
Friday, February 27, 2015
Michigan 3 Wisconsin 0
Michigan 1 Wisconsin 0 PPG 01:35 Hyman (19) from Nieves (17) and Werenski (15)
Boo Nieves sets a screen for Zach Werenski, who is skating toward the blue line. Werenski draws a defender high; Nieves stays stationary. Werenski passes to Nieves before the defender can make a play on the puck, and Nieves takes off for the net unscathed.
Nieves makes a simple pass to Zach Hyman.
Hyman is looking to the opposite faceoff circle, but the puck never gets there. It hits the leg of the netfront defenseman and is deflected into the top corner.
You may remember me from such emoticons as ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
[After THE JUMP: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ redux]
Back in the day I had a brief period as an Edmonton Oilers fan. (Long story short: never had much of a Red Wings connection since I grew up in pre-Avs Colorado and Edmonton had Mike Comrie.) This was at the point where they had one of the most bizarrely popular players in the league, Georges Laraque.
The French-Canadian was more province than man, kept on the team to grind on the fourth line and facepunch people. He had one more skill than that, though. If provided the puck along the boards in the offensive zone, he could keep it there indefinitely.
This had almost no utility. Laraque couldn't do much of anything once he had established possession. He was too slow to threaten to take the puck off the boards himself and not skilled enough to pick out his teammates. Even so it was a thing to see: Laraque fending off increasingly enormous piles of opposition players as the arena got more and more fevered about something that would never, ever lead to a goal. In this it was like his fighting, there to entertain in a way totally orthogonal to the stated goal of hockey.
When Zach Hyman started doing this at the outset of last season, it had a Laraquian feel to it. He was stuck on three points a third of the way through the year and no amount of cheerleading from this space made a difference. At that point Hyman was a guy who had a great season as an overager in junior but had done nothing to suggest he was going to replicate that through 60% of his career at Michigan.
And then he started walking into the slot.
Michigan's weekend was a rote walkover introduced by a penalty-induced hangover. I've been on both sides of games like Friday where the ice tilts towards the losing team and no lead seems safe, and by the time Michigan scored to pull within 1 late in the second period that game felt like a Michigan win.
The way it transpired is quickly becoming familiar. Hyman walked off the wall again, flicking the puck to the far side of a goalie worried about a wrap-around attempt. Then Michigan marauded through the slot for the go-ahead goal and the double-tap to make sure Wisconsin's zombie upset bid was well and truly dead. They'd solved prominent goaltending issues by removing them from the relevant section of the game. An empty-netter felt appropriate as an extra-point exclamation mark.
Saturday's game was over two minutes in when Michigan had scored twice and chased Joel Rumpel to the bench in world-record time. By the time Michigan scored to go up 5-0 early in the second period they were barely celebrating. After two periods shots were 37-9.
Even Wisconsin's frustrated after-the-play Standard Hockey Goonery felt obligatory. It takes a remarkable mental state to shove someone without meaning anything by it, but by the third period Wisconsin was doing it solely by reflex, thinking about what they would watch on Netflix after the game.
Eliminate Tony Calderone's five minute major and this weekend wasn't a hockey series. It was a reason that Michigan should be forced to wear body cams when on duty.
Hyman's surged into serious Hobey Baker contention in a way I don't think I've ever seen a Michigan player do so. Previous dominant Hobey types have mostly been the little puck wizards that felt like Michigan's birthright for most of the 90s and aughts. Brendan Morrison was an NHL-sized version of those guys, Kevin Porter a gentleman who scored buckets of goals without being dominant in any particular facet of the game.
All of these guys reached the point where you look for them to hit the ice because they are generating chances every shift. Most of them did so by having the puck on a string. A guy like Hyman, who is so physically dominant he creates most of his chances off the cycle, is a new thing.
He's a good metaphor for the team as a whole: eventually overwhelming. Michigan shoves line after line at you—they have eight guys on or within a couple points of a PPG, and that doesn't count NHL Draft second-rounders Boo Nieves and JT Compher. Every time they go for a line change someone you don't want to see is coming over the boards.
They do have to get their act together on defense. The goalies' flagging save percentages are not entirely their regression. Michigan's giving up grade A scoring chances with alarming regularity. Not so much this weekend, but Wisconsin is truly, bogglingly bad.
Even so at this point you have to wonder if they can outscore anyone. The 80s called, offering their hockey again. All aboard the firewagon.
Michigan's sweep did count for something, as they moved up about four tenths of a point despite Lowell and Minnesota (teams that give them quality win points) having bad weekends. Wisconsin has a solid SOS (4th in RPI terms) and that helps them remain somewhat relevant. Then the road multiplier kicks in.
That four tenths of a point corresponded to a whopping five-spot move in RPI/PWR because the teams immediately in front of Michigan had horrible weekends, with three getting swept and a fourth taking just one point.
Michigan is now solidly in the tournament but vulnerable to backsliding. They're barely a point above the 16 slot which is guaranteed doom.
Suggestion: keep winning. Michigan has 12 games left in the regular season and probably has to go 8-4, maybe 9-3 to feel secure entering the Big Ten Tournament. Given the way they've been playing and the way the rest of the Big Ten has, that's not too tall an order.
Pile 'em in. Michigan has surged to an enormous lead in scoring offense, a full six tenths of a goal past #2 Robert Morris. Last year's leading offense, BC, was at 4.1 GPG; Michigan is at 4.4. BC got their piles of goals thanks to 80-point Hobey winner Johnny Gadreau.
PPGs. Those eight(!) guys at or a couple points away from a PPG: Hyman, Larkin, Copp, and Motte are past that pace. Kile and Werenski are one and two points short, respectively. And after a five-point weekend featuring a Friday hat trick, Justin Selman is at 5-6-11 in just 11 games.
This goal was rightfully disallowed. Kile got a little bumped here but yeah:
I wasn't expecting that to stand after one replay.
Goalie issues. The BTN announcers made a great deal about Michigan's goalie issues this year, which I thought was pretty simplistic given the sheer number of grade-A chances they'd faced but then both goalies gave up horrendous goals on Friday and now that I'm poking at the numbers… yeah. Nagelvoort is 50th of 80 qualifying goalies on CollegeHockeyStats and Racine is 74th.
These things can turn around quickly—Racine was horrible the first half of his freshman year and put up a .920 the rest of the way—because you need a pile of shots before save percentage becomes statistically meaningful. Michigan's going to have to hope someone steps forward as we approach the stretch run. It's Nagelvoort's turn for a while, it seems.
Selman? Selman's been one of my argh-play-him-more favorites. Sometimes these work out (Hyman), sometimes not so much (Lindsay Sparks), but a five point weekend on the wing of Selman and Larkin probably buys him a few more weekends as the third wheel there. Selman brings a net-driving presence on a line that generates a lot of chaos and rebounds, and he seems like a good fit there.
Already prepping to pump Selman as next year's upperclass breakout forward, which has been an annual tradition (Rohlfs, Scooter) until recently.
Larkin. Hyman is carrying that line and has been all season but Larkin is obviously contributing, and he's contributing on a higher level since the GLI break, where he was one of the best forwards on the WJC team. Larkin reminds me a bit of Max Pacioretty, who wasn't particularly noticeable during the first half of his only year at Michigan but absolutely blew up in the second half. Larkin's adding some flair to his game now that he's comfortable with college and his line.
Sinelli on defense? Michigan listed Andrew Sinelli as a defender this weekend, leading to weird things like a box score featuring "XD" as a position for Nolan De Jong. Michigan rotated through its centers for extra shifts on the fourth line—when those guys are Compher, Copp, and Larkin that's not a bad idea—and played with what they were going to do on the back end.
I liked Sinelli as a defender last year. I actually thought he was a top four guy for them. He's not great shakes as a forward with the puck but for a defenseman he's very capable in that department, and while he's small he was generally in the right spot. That would be a large improvement for Michigan's defensive corps.
I'd keep an eye on that going forward, especially since Michigan is going to plug Lynch back into that fourth line center spot when he gets back. Given the Michigan offense a solid senior like Sinelli might be preferable to a guy who has more upside but offers up more WTF moments.