"I love it that Ivy League coaches are coming to our camp and Big Ten coaches are coming to our camp. South Florida is coming. We've got about 70 schools that are coming to our camp."
Since the draft deadline is now past, it's time for a three part early Big Ten basketball preview, starting from the top. After scouring Kenpom and my memory I have grouped the Big Ten teams like so:
OBVIOUS FAVORITE: Wisconsin
CONTENDERS: Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska, Iowa
ONE IN, THREE ON THE BUBBLE: Michigan State, Maryland, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana
NOPE: Penn State, Northwestern, Purdue
And tackle them in approximate order, except I haven't really ordered the tiers. I am projecting a relative down year for the conference, because they've added one middling ACC program and Rutgers while MSU is poised for a major drop and Indiana/Illinois are still muddling along.
THE FAVORITE: Wisconsin
Generally excellent outside of a shocking run of five losses in six games—including two at the normally impregnable Trohl Center—Wisconsin was, like Michigan, downed by an improbable Kentucky three-pointer. In their case they'd already taken down Arizona to reach the Final Four.
WHO'S GONE: SG Ben Brust (all positions approximate)
WHO'S BACK: C Frank Kaminsky, PF Nigel Hayes, SF Sam Dekker, SG Josh Gasser, PG Traevon Jackson, PG Bronson Koening, PF Duje Dukan
WHO'S NEW (or close enough): sophomore C Vitto Brown
From that team Wisconsin loses only Ben Brust, who was mostly a three-point gunner (39% on 244 attempts). With Josh Gasser back and Kaminsky capable from the perimeter, Wisconsin won't be shooting deficient. Gasser was a deference machine last year, taking only 11% of Wisconsin's shots while he was on the floor despite hitting 44% from three over the past two years. If he leaps up to Brust's level the Badgers only have to replace about 100 efficient threes—very manageable.
- Experience. Wisconsin will start three seniors, a junior, and probably sophomore-to-be Nigel Hayes.
- Kaminsky. Developed an intimidating back to the basket game to go with his shooting en route to a 124 ORTG while taking 27% of Wisconsin's shots. Shockingly few TOs for a big man. Idea that senior bigs are surprisingly good downright frightening when applied to Kaminsky.
- Point guard. Traevon Jackson's actions in the late stages of the Arizona and Kentucky games were appalling, repeatedly going into isolation despite being a terrible isolation player when Kaminsky was on the block against guys much smaller than him. With a TO rate of nearly 20 and a 2PT% of 42%, Jackson is the primary weak point in the Wisconsin offense. Worse, he does not seem to know this.
THE QUESTION: Can Hayes and Dekker play at the same time? Nigel Hayes looked like a star to be at certain times this year and does bring a lot more banging and rebounding than the slight Dekker. But Hayes's face-up game does not extend to the three-point line and Wisconsin cannot have more than one non-shooter in the game at a time. Dekker's a mediocre shooter right now… he needs to have a leap there if Wisconsin can play what seems like their best lineup.
THE OTHER QUESTION: Is Wisconsin tolerable now? Yes, yes I think so. I am deeply alarmed by this development but with the FF run and the changes to defensive rules Wisconsin is way less annoying than they used to be. No longer does their good league record make the Big Ten look silly when they exit the tournament quickly.
PRE-SCHEDULE WAG: With Payne gone and Amir Williams probably not having an epiphany as we speak it's hard to see who in the league is going to match up with Kaminsky. (Hammons you say? 16 and 22 last year against Hammons.) Meanwhile Wisconsin's outside shooting should only dip slightly. Defense should improve if The Question above is answered in the affirmative. Wisconsin wins the league at 14-4 and gets a one seed.
Iowa fell off a cliff late last year after finding themselves in the top ten for a brief period, but it was still a little tiny bit of a breakthrough season for the Hawkeyes. While Iowa fans may feel that a First Four exit is hardly a tourney appearance at all, their game against the Volunteers felt more like a Sweet 16 battle than Dayton fluff and the Kenpom rankings of the participants suggested as much.
WHO'S GONE: SG Roy Devyn Marble, PF Melsahn Basabe, PF Zach McCabe.
WHO'S BACK: PF Aaron White, C Adam Woodbury, C Gabriel Olaseni, SF Jarrod Uthoff, PG Mike Gesell, SG Josh Oglesby, PG Anthony Clemmons
WHO'S NEW (or close enough): SG Peter Jok, JUCO PG Trey Dickerson
With 6'9" guys falling all over themselves for playing time the departures of Basabe and McCabe should be manageable, possibly even beneficial. Iowa had a whopping 11 guys average at least seven minutes and was in the unusual position of having two guys designated "starters" by Kenpom who were off the floor more often than not. This is a team that could stand to tighten its rotation.
- Hugeosity. Despite losing a 6'6" guy and two 6'7" guys, Iowa projects to play six guys 6'5" or above, with only the PG spot below. This served Iowa well on the boards last year as they were 19th on offense and a respectable 68th on D; they finished in the top 40 at blocking shots as well.
- Depth. Iowa will still have the option to go ten deep and can sustain foul trouble to its front line better than anyone in the league.
- Shooting. Iowa typically plays a two-big formation with White at PF, and he is not a threat from deep. No one on the team was particularly accurate except Oglesby, who was buried down the depth chart… and he was coming of a THJ-like sophomore year during which he hit 27%. With Marble gone, Iowa has to have a prominent and functional Oglesby.
- Defense. More on this later, but Iowa fell apart on D late in the season, tried to dig themselves out with a zone that hurt more often than it helped, and project to have some of the same issues this year.
THE QUESTION: Who picks up Marble's playmaking and "oh crap do something" shots?
After initial flashes of promise, Anthony Clemmons became very turnover prone and has now settled into a limited, defensive role. Meanwhile Jok and Oglesby, the most likely replacements, are shooters, not creators. That puts an awful lot of weight on Mike Gesell to create shots in the half-court, which was already a struggle a year ago.
Iowa's best hope here may be an explosive debut from JUCO PG Trey Dickerson, who's averaging 20 points a game in North Dakota and is on JUCO AA lists after one season.
THE OTHER QUESTION: Can the Hawkeyes match up on D?
The big lineup caused defensive issues, as anyone who watched White try to stay in front of Nik Stauskas remembers.
Late in the year, Iowa tried a zone defense. It got shredded.
MSU shooting at 70.4% effective rate. This is no longer a coincidence. The zone is a miserable failure.
— Patrick Vint (@HS_BHGP) March 7, 2014
Now down their best perimeter defender, Iowa has to figure out whether they're going to double down on the zone or hope Olaseni and Woodbury can erase enough perimeter mistakes to keep their head above water.
PRE-SCHEDULE WAG: Iowa leaned heavily on Marble to fill in the holes in their offense and he has no obvious replacement. That'll drag down both Iowa's transition and half-court offense. But big guys develop slowly and one of Woodbury or Olaseni seems likely to bust out, providing back-to-the-basket shot generation that will help paper over those issues.
Assuming that Iowa either figures out the zone or figures out they should abandon it and gets their defense in order, they should poke their head above .500, especially in a weakened league. 12-6, 4 seed.
Another year, another beating taken from the NBA draft. The falloff last year was microscopic, if it even existed, thanks to massive sophomore leaps from Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert. Can Beilein do it again?
WHO'S GONE: C Jordan Morgan, C Jon Horford, C Mitch McGary, PF Glenn Robinson III, SG Nik Stauskas
WHO'S BACK: PG Derrick Walton, SG Zak Irvin, SF Caris LeVert, PG Spike Albrecht
WHO'S NEW (or close enough): C Mark Donnal, C Ricky Doyle, PF DJ Wilson, PF Kam Chatman
That is an awful lot to lose from the one true post spot in the Michigan offense and not very many guys in the "who's back" spot, but those first three are doozys. LeVert had a massive leap, essentially replacing NBA ROY candidate Tim Hardaway Jr's production, except with more efficiency. Irvin and Walton are the first top-50 guard recruits John Beilein has ever had and look to make the patented Leap after promising freshman years. And Spike's not bad either.
- Shooting. The four guys returning shot 41%, 41%, 43%, and 39% from three on piles of attempts. To that Michigan adds a starting center with true three-point range and a couple of Beilein-standard stretch fours.
- More shooting. That previous bullet probably deserves to be mentioned twice.
- Diversity of weapons. Few teams in the conference will have as many places to go for shots as Michigan. LeVert is obvious; Walton is likely to come into his own in year two; Irvin just launches when given a sliver of space. Five-star-ish recruit Chatman is regarded as a point forward who can get his and set up his teammates. And Donnal adds a pick and pop element Beilein has lacked since the days of Pittsnogle expired. While the departure of Stauskas is a blow, he only took 23% of Michigan's shots. That's extremely low for a go-to lottery pick and is a testament to the pieces surrounding him.
- Rough 'n' tough stuff. Michigan seemed a little flimsy inside last year, and now they've lost their entire center corps and starting PF. They'll be taller, with two 6'8" PFs and Cs an inch or two taller than Morgan, but unless Max Bielfeldt presses his way into the lineup the vast majority of Michigan's minutes in the frontcourt will go to freshmen—three of them true freshmen. Rebounding and meanness have never been Beilein strengths; this year will really push the limits of what you can do with a fleet of B-52s.
- THE QUESTION: Is this an infallible assembly line? Based only on the returning gentlemen, Michigan is probably not a contender. But that's what everyone thought last year when Michigan sat at 6-4 and McGary went out for the year. Then Stauskas, LeVert, and Morgan blew up and when the dust cleared Michigan had won the conference by three games. It is irrational to expect that sort of improvement on an annual basis, touted recruit or no. Or is it?
- THE OTHER QUESTION: Is the defense really going to be worse? Michigan's D took a huge step back last year, from 48th to 109th. They were 10th in the conference, down from 6th, and the absolute worst at preventing two-pointers. They had the second-worst defense in the league over the course of the entire season, ahead of only Iowa. It might not get better but since it was already scraping the bottom of what a non-Rutgers Big Ten D might do, there might not be much of a drop.
- PRE-SCHEDULE WAG: The offense is a given what with Beilein and at least three plus guys on the back end. The defense… well, it's not going to be great. It may not be as bad as you would think, at least relative to last year. 12-6 after a rough nonconference schedule sees Michigan enter the tourney a 5 seed.
WELL FINE THEN. Apparently Michigan earned the animosity of Jimi Hendrix.
This was the Rose Bowl immediately following the legendary '69 OSU game that put Bo on the map, FWIW. Hendrix seems uncertain of the team that beat Michigan, he just wants Michigan to lose. Join the club. The very happy club.
I admit it. I find Wisconsin basketball tolerable these days. I still kinda hate Bo Ryan for being an alien from another planet sent here to prep us for invasion, but once they reached the Final Four I wanted Wisconsin to win the national title last year. And now Frank Kaminsky explains why he passed on the NBA draft:
"I am at the pinnacle of my basketball playing career, at least in my eyes. I know the NBA has their crazy fans and all, but if you look at all of their games, there are games when teams like the Bobcats get hardly any fans, and it looks flat out boring,” he wrote.
“At the Kohl Center, we play in front of nearly 17,000 fans every single time we step onto the court. When we travel, we play in front of sell out crowds who absolutely hate us. Not because of who is on the team, but because of where we go to school. Who could leave that?”
Frank Kaminsky Gets It™. Frank Kaminsky for athletic director. Where? Anywhere. Texas. Definitely Texas.
Oh, Texas twit, we are going to have an unrequited hate. Via Get The Picture, Texas Guy Just In Charge Of Things For No Reason on the A&M series:
UT AD Steve Patterson told us ``unless there is a compelling reason,'' the football series between Texas and Texas A&M is dead.
— Paul Finebaum (@finebaum) April 25, 2014
I wonder what would qualify as a compelling reason other than 111(!) games dating back to 1902.
But go ahead and play a game in Shanghai. That'll get your brand synergized.
Dude you're never going to get a girl like that. Move on to the next one. This is stalker behavior:
After extending the Season Ticket Holder renewal deadline, and a total of (15) emails delivered starting on March 14 as well as a voicemail left by Jim Brandstatter, the Michigan Athletic Department wanted to provide you one final opportunity to renew your 2014 Michigan Football season tickets to ensure you are once again a part of one of the most exclusive groups in all of sports.
One of the most exclusive groups in all of sports that begs you 15 times plus leaves a voicemail by Jim Brandstatter in the desperate hope you will renew your tickets. Oh and lets you have ONE LAST CHANCE to renew. All right. One more chance.
Seriously, this is your last chance.
Despite it being 2016, it's not too late to renew your 2014 season tickets!
At least I'm not alone? When Phil Di Guiseppe and Alex Guptill signed NHL contracts, I wrote rather bitter posts about their exits that garnered a number of sarcastic "tell us how you really feel" responses. Tell us how you really feel, Red Berenson:
"We were going good in the first half and then some issues started cropping up and we thought we had dealt with them, but there was an underlying current of animosity, and a division between certain factions. You'd like to think the leadership is strong enough - and we had good captains - that you can just bring guys together, but you have to have total buy-in and no matter how much guys like Mac Bennett, Derek DeBlois and Andrew Copp tried, they just couldn't get that."
I'm expecting hockey to have a refreshing season next year.
Hello, defenseman of the future. Hockey adds a commitment from Joe Cecconi, a kid currently in the USHL after a mid-season callup last year from a U16 junior outfit. Cecconi had nearly a PPG with his junior team before moving to the big (USA junior) leagues. Already 6'2" and nearly 200 pounds, the OHL fired an eighth-round pick at him despite considerable uncertainty about whether he would report. He doesn't appear to be on NHL draft radar.
As a mid-year '97, Cecconi is likely to come in next year unless Michigan has one of those "if X happens, this year, if Y happens, next year" deals. This is about all I could Google up on him.
Hockey rule changes. It sounds like college hockey is serious about going to three-quarter shields next year, which has been framed as a safety issue in the past and now apparently has USHL data to back it up. I continue to think it's at least partially driven by a desire to look more like the NHL and therefore help the never-ending blood war with the CHL, but if they've got data they've got data.
Other potential changes:
- Death to ties. The NCAA wants to explore way to get more W/L decisions, seemingly without resorting to shootouts. There's no solid proposition on the table; 4-on-4 and longer OTs are possibilities, as are—ugh—shootouts.
- More reviews. There's a proposal to expand the ways reviews can be used to check if goals are legit and if penalties warrant five-and-a-game. Hockey reviews are generally less odious than basketball ones since they're infrequent and about things that have a huge impact on the game, but it seems like they've got all the critical stuff right now and expanding it is reaching the point of diminishing returns.
- All neutral zone faceoffs at center ice. Faceoffs at the offside dots are kind of stupid for the attacking team if they win them. This is more a product of the fact that hockey offsides is clumsily implemented.
- Penalties for delay when you can't change. In favor.
- Fewer hand-pass whistles. Apparently there were too many inadvertent deflections called hand-passes last year.
- No leaving your feet to block a shot. Linked article says that's unlikely to pass, FWIW, but that's an effort to create more offense "in a time where goals are already at a premium." I'm pro-offense but that seems like it takes a hustle play out of the game for debatable returns.
There are a couple other extremely minor proposals.
As always when hockey rule changes come up, I rant against how restrictive offsides is and proclaim it's time to admit goalies have won and expand the nets. There are a hundred ways to make offsides better; my current proposal is to triple the width of the line (the line is both part of the neutral zone and the offensive zone) and create a passive offsides rule like there is in soccer. A guy can be offsides without a whistle as long as 1) he is not impacting the play and 2) he immediately moves to exit and re-enter the zone.
As far as goal size goes, with modern butterfly goalies the only way to change the paradigm is to make sitting back and waiting for a shot to come in a worse play than it is right now. Teams like MSU play a six-goalie style in the defensive zone these days, because it makes sense. Dropping save percentages three or four points would swing things back towards aggression. Expand the nets by the width of the goalposts to get 2-3 more goals per game. It sounds dramatic, but really it's the least dramatic option to get scoring up. Everything else proposed is either a weak measure that won't do anything or a radical overhaul. Expanding the nets is just hockey with slightly different equations.
Etc.: Talking with DJ Wilson. Women's tennis has lost in the BTT final for the fifth straight year. Ouch. Instead of tweeting out your outrage about people saying "furst amundmunt," just tweet this XKCD. Jordan Morgan's suddenly the belle of the ball.
My fellow Americans, the state of the union is lol. Abroad we have seen the greatest extension of three-point hegemony in our history. We have looked unto the face of Bo Ryan and lol'ed. Our troops deployed to the darkest reaches of Breslin, where the favored Izzo complained about every which thing, and we lol'ed. At home we have faced adversity and Hawkeyes, and won a great battle, and afterwards we lol'ed.
So I ask you, fellow Americans: how do we ensure the security of these lol's that we cherish?
- How long will Michigan remain atop the Big Ten standings?
- How long will the Big Ten remain the nation's best basketball conference?
- How long will the basketball team remain superior to the football and hockey teams?
Mathlete: With Michigan State's win at Iowa, this year has all the makings of a two horse race with Michigan State. In Big Ten play, anything is possible, but at least a share of the title is highly likely at this point. With McGary, Robinson and maybe Stauskas leaving early, next year could be a tough hill to climb, but Beilein has done more with less. Even though Michigan has been recruiting at a higher level, they've missed on several of their top targets and that will likely keep them from being a perennial elite, first tier team. But based on the track record of Beilein, this team isn't going to be far from the top of the conference any time soon.
|What's wrong, kitty cat? [Fuller]|
Last year's conference lineup was incredible, this year's may still be the best, but the teams do seem to be down a bit from last year. Last season the Big Ten had 7 of the KenPom top 26 and 8 of the top 40. This year the eighth best team is Nebraska at #74. Indiana is in the process of rebuilding, Illinois is wandering in the desert, Purdue has turned into a football sch-can't even finish typing that joke. The top of the Big Ten is outstanding but there is a little more breathing room in the mid and lower tiers than last season.
The ACC has 5 of KenPom's top 22 right now and next year they swap out Louisville for Maryland. Once North Carolina finds their way again, they might be good enough to keep Dicky V at home and out of Michigan. Even if the Atlantic Coast steps up their game, no sport is more dependent on coaching and the B1G's best aren't going anywhere. Izzo, Matta, Beilein, Ryan and Crean are all firmly established winners with no indication of jumping ship. Over the next five years, I would be shocked if any other conferences were close to as good as the Big Ten and ACC.
Now this is the tricky question. Football has the capacity to narrow the gap, possibly as soon as this year. The roster is finally in place, all signs point to a good defense getting better in 2014 and the offense has been written about enough at this point. I'm not going to go picking a Rose Bowl or anything, but this season is the first that's 100% on Hoke. The pieces will be there and the excuses will be gone. If the football team can't get to 9 wins this season, that's probably another 3-5 years of basketball superiority as Michigan would be facing another football coaching spiral. I'm not even qualified to write about random number generating playoff hockey, but my guess is that its going to be easier for Michigan to sustain the basketball success under Beilein than re-establish the elite level at hockey. So I guess the 2014 football season will write the story on whether or not we've become a #basketballschool.
[Jump: more answers, and then Ace and I argue for like 6,000 words]
Pretty much. Midnight Maize returns with MS Paint sidearm:
I do not know why Petway is riding a dolphin.
Brackets. Surveying the panoply of brackets at the Bracket Matrix gives the impression that to most Michigan is currently a three seed. Michigan's currently the last one overall, but the Matrix generally lags as brackets are up to a week old. They're on the cusp of a 2, especially with Oklahoma State losing last night.
That's where Jerry Palm has them, in a rather unpleasant region with potential rematches against Stanford (the 11), Iowa State(the 2) and Arizona(the 1) plus winged-helmet-on-winged-helmet crime in the opener against Delaware. There is exactly no reason to get exercised about team placement in a random January bracket, I know. I just am not feeling positive about that business.
More on Aneurysm Two. Beilein has not and apparently will not disclose what set him off, but when MLive is getting screenshots from youtube of the LeVert layup attempt that was (officially) blocked by Appling, it seems that everyone agrees. Beilein, for his part, on Stauskas getting him away from the spittle exchange:
“Yeah, that was a good assist by him,” Beilein said of Stauskas in the postgame press conference. “He was a little rough with me, too. I was in control, though, believe it or not.”
I do not entirely believe it, and if it was anyone other than John Beilein I would be snorting in derision. Also:
"(Stauskas) made a great move there because I was an innocent bystander at the time," Beilein said. "At any rate, we got through that. That would have been a shame if I would have gotten a technical at that time."
The implication there is that Beilein started barking at this Wymer guy and it was Wymer who got in his face. Imagine that happening to, say, Tom Izzo. It does not compute. No wonder he blew up.
Coach Mitch. Presented without context.
“I’m Coach Mitch,” McGary said to reporters after the game Saturday.
Also, another photo in the Horford/McGary odd couple bin:
Photographers, you have been notified that side by side shots of McGary and Horford are of bottomless joy and utility.
Nevermind! Biggs was a unique combination of high volume and absolutely miserable efficiency: his usage rate was 35th nationally and his ORTG 92nd. I'm only thinking this is a major loss because Biggs had 14 points against Michigan. Now I am worried abut Michigan's defense. More worried.
Just another Alabama offseason. Alabama fans believe they will take 27 kids in this recruiting class, which means they'll have to eject eight guys from the program. Unless it's actually eleven, ie, the different between Michigan signing the 16 or 17 they expect to this year and a near-NCAA maximum class. At least Bama fans are no longer able to deny what's happening with sleight of hand, and have to admit they don't care:
Scholarship limits are designed to limit student-athlete opportunities in the name of competitive balance. Those who laud scholarship limits while suggesting that oversigning is harmful to student-athletes are hypocrites.
I knew I shouldn't have worn my I LAUD SCHOLARSHIP LIMITS t-shirt today. The only thing more endangered by Alabama than backup offensive linemen are strawmen.
Injuries issues for Wisconsin hockey. Badger defenseman Tyler Barnes will be out for this weekend's series at Yost. Nick Kerdiles, a first round pick, is questionable after missing the Michigan series in Madison. Even if they get a weakened version of the Badgers, Michigan is going to have to significantly step up their game to compete with the #5 scoring offense in the country.
Wow, Yost. Remember that? It's January 28th and this is the first game at Yost since December 11th. Scheduling. I am not impressed with it. If they're going to have all these bye weeks because the conference tournament is one weekend instead of three, they should endeavor to fill breaks like last week with nonconference series. I very much want to go to hockey in January, because it's a star attraction. In the heart of football season it's not.
Well now. There's been a kind-of-bonkers rumor floating around the past few years that when Red retires, one of the primary candidates to replace him will be Mike Babcock. Here is the first circumstantial evidence this is not something a twelve year old posted on a message board:
“He always mentions that -- (coaching college hockey) at some point -- when we talk,” Berenson said. “When he's done (in the NHL), he could see himself doing that. He's a student of the game and understands academics and sports and life after hockey."
IIRC, Red's tentative plan is to serve out the next two years of his contract and then hang it up. If Babcock wants the job I think we might let him have it.
Etc.: Obituary of the year. Venric Mark will return for Northwestern. Hockey moves up its recruiting calendar by six months so coaches can talk to guys before the CHL drafts. Nebraska's new ice rink will not support D-I hockey. Oh man I forgot to put the fact that MSU was favored by five by Vegas in the 30 for 30 pitch.
1/10/2013 – Michigan 2, Wisconsin 5 – 10-5-2, 2-1 Big Ten
1/11/2013 – Michigan 1, Wisconsin 3 – 10-6-2, 2-2 Big Ten
Well… I suppose we have to talk about what is going on with the hockey team. On December 11th they had a fun, uptempo game with a very good Ferris State outfit that ended in a 2-2 tie. They were 10-2-2 on the season, and while it was obvious they'd been the beneficiary of some good fortune they seemed like a pretty good team.
Fast forward… wow, over a month, and Michigan has lost four straight games in extraordinarily difficult to watch fashion.
- In the opener of the GLI they failed to cover about a dozen WMU players plunging into the slot and were lucky to even be in the game when Josh Pitt went right through four Michigan players to score with 19 seconds left.
- The next night Michigan made a pathetic Michigan State outfit look like the Spartans of old, allowing 40 shots in a 3-0 loss and barely mustering a scoring chance until the third period.
- Michigan did not score until there were five minutes remaining in Friday's game at Wisconsin, and when they pulled to within 3-2 it took 40 seconds for them to give up an empty-netter.
- Michigan got one goal on Saturday, that on the power play from Copp, in a 3-1 loss that featured a huge scrum with 30 seconds left. At least they're mad, I guess?
the only entertaining thing about the last four games
Since the Ferris game, Michigan's gotten two even-strength goals, one from Copp, one from Travis Lynch. Compher added a shorthander and Moffatt is credited with two power play goals on College Hockey Stats, thought one of them should be Copp's. That's it. If, say, you turned off the Friday Wisconsin game with six minutes left like I did the only even strength goal you've seen in a month and a half was Travis Lynch firing a shot from the top of the circles that hit the square inch necessary for it to go in the net.
Problems. Michigan has them. We knew that they weren't the 10-2-2 outfit their record said they were, but this correction is brutal.
The problems are twofold. One was obvious to everyone from the moment Trouba and Merrill both announced departures: the defense is miserable. I've seen Kevin Clare try to make a neutral zone pinch this year; I've seen Downing blown through in overtime like he was playing in a never-ever league; I've seen converted forward Andrew Sinelli step into a regular shift and thought "well, at least he's not several other options". While it's disappointing that the only veteran who's developed one iota over his time at Michigan is Mac Bennett, anyone staring at this year's line chart on D knew it was going to be a problem. It is.
The secondary scoring was not supposed to be, but we're 18 games into this season and Moffatt, Guptill, Di Giuseppe, and Nieves have 9 even strength goals between them. I guess you could throw Compher in there, but Compher carries so much weight and is a freshman so I'm inclined to give him a pass. Those four guys are supposed to be the team's skill players and at even strength they're scoring at the same rate as Travis Lynch.
Why? I don't really know. Michigan finds itself reduced to throwing shots at the net through defensemen most of the time because they don't have the skill to get around people, so the bulk of their shots are attempts from outside the circles that have little chance of going in or even causing a rebound. Copp actually drives the net and drives play with his effort level; the other guys are just kind of out there, with the exception of Guptill's ability to flip pucks up high from tight angles. That's acceptable if you're a random fourth-liner, but three of the four scoring types mentioned are high NHL draft picks who've been around the block. When Copp's out and Compher's playing on a broken foot they have to step up; at this point it's obvious they can't.
Michigan has yet another bye week (hooray one-weekend conference tournament) and what should be an easy series against a Michigan State team that can't beat anyone but American International, Princeton, and Michigan to find its footing; if they can't come out firing against MSU, oxygen masks will deploy from the ceiling as the downward acceleration becomes stomach-clenching.