3/19/2010 – Michigan 5, Miami 2 – 24-17-1
3/20/2010 – Michigan 2, Northern Michigan 1 – 25-17-1, CCHA
One. When I was in high school my AP English research paper was a no doubt ham-fisted comparison between Winesburg, Ohio and Bridge of San Luis Rey. I don't remember the former whatsoever, but the latter is a novel by Thornton Wilder in which a selection of lovelorn 18th century Peruvians pitch headlong to their deaths when the rope bridge they are crossing gives way.
This event fascinates a local monk who sees the tragedy happen. He tracks down the life stories of everyone involved and concludes this was merciful act of God since each victim suffered from a love so powerful and unrequited that the last thoughts of the victims was probably something a long the lines of "yay it's over yay yay yayyyyyyy—."
For the monk's troubles, the Inquisition burns him at the stake. He was looking for proof of a just and loving God, which is heretical when you're supposed to take that on faith.
Two. At some point in a gas station or at Meijer or some other place where bad or obscure movies are put on sale for five dollars, I happened across a movie version of Bridge of San Luis Rey. I still remembered the book. Inexplicably, the movie starred Gabriel Byrne, Kathy Bates, and Robert DeNiro(!). I was obviously compelled to purchase it. This did not extend to actually watching it.
Three. My satellite setup is shared with the landlord and sometimes when we want to watch TV he is instead taping every procedural crime drama or nature documentary set in the Far East on television. Yesterday in the afternoon it was Wild China. So my fiancée put on this movie.
Four. The reason we were stymied by Wild China instead of watching the NCAA tournament in Vegas was because Spirit Airlines, which sucks immensely, oversold our flight to Las Vegas and bumped us. This sent me into a rage, destroyed the cost-benefit ratio of going, saw us cancel the trip entirely, and caused me to spend Thursday sulking like a five year old.
Five. On Friday I went to a hockey game. Saturday, too.
The number of Michigan fans that would gladly have seen their sports fandom pitch headlong to its doom has to be hovering near its all-time high right now. You can't voluntarily abandon it because suicide is a sin but, man, that bridge is looking pretty rickety and maybe if I just take all these things I care about and put them on the bridge and go attend to cargo down by the river I'll come back to find no trace of them and I can go be interested in crochet. There's no such thing as unrequited crochet.
As reactions to this year of Michigan sports go, turning off the hope and settling down into a prolonged malaise is obvious. I was planning some sort of gallows-humor-laden celebration when the three major sports seasons had finally expired and kind of hoping the hockey team would gack it up against Lake State just so it would over sooner. This was always hypothetical. Once the team got on the ice I was pulling for them, but without much fervor and with an eye on the silver lining if they did what they'd been doing all season. I was thinking about a mock funeral.
Then… that happened.
Putting the spurs to Lake Superior State was one thing, as they were a tenth-place team with some fatal flaw that made Michigan's numerous fatal flaws irrelevant. A dominant sweep was a rare occurrence for Michigan this year, but it could be explained away. Following that by stomping Michigan State in a series that redefined both teams' seasons lit a tiny little flame, though. When Tristin Llewellyn (of all people!) blasted a puck past Cody Reichard, it was on: the terror of a high-stakes game you are fully invested in. It had been a long time since one of those went the right way.
Something did flip on this team when Shawn Hunwick was forced into the starting lineup. The relentless defensive intensity from Hunwick's first game, when he saw maybe two shots with any hope of going in, has been a constant feature since his insertion. That's equal parts insult and tribute: the team both needs and wants to protect their miniscule walk-on goaltender. In doing so they've found the formula for success that eluded them so painfully the throughout the season and given Michigan fans reason to believe in heretical things like Benevolent Michigan Walk-On Tolerating God.
I guarantee you this: no group of people has ever been as excited about Fort Wayne, Indiana, as Michigan hockey fans are right now.
Yost Built is doing a round of apologies in the aftermath and I have a couple to offer up of my own:
Tristin Llewellyn not only scored but avoided any penalties that meant something (he took one with a few seconds left in a 5-2 game against Miami) and failed do anything that made me mentally exclaim "Llewellyn!" in the same tone of voice Jerry Seinfeld says "Newman!"
That latter is the way I usually judge individual defense: number of "Newman!" plays where someone's obvious error leads to a scoring chance versus number of anti-Newmans where something that looks threatening is snuffed out by a good play. (I know this is far from a complete evaluation but it's the best I can do live.) Llewellyn had a half Newman early in the Northern game when he came up too aggressively as NMU broke the zone, but he had backcheckers and nothing came of it. He had two or three anti-Newman plays against Miami, which is That Miami. Best weekend of his career? Probably.
Louie Caporusso came in for repeated criticism this year as he and David Wohlberg failed to even approximate their 2009 production. At a couple points I suggested that this was the real Caporusso, a decent second-liner and nothing more, and that the blazing hot start to his sophomore year was the aberration. Yeah… Caporusso is now two points off a PPG. Yost Built has details:
When Caporusso was a Hobey-finalist a year ago, he had 24-25--49, but scored just six goals after the first of the year--and five of those were against LSSU, WMU, and a dreadful FYS team. This year it's the opposite. After just 7 goals in his first 30 games, Caporusso has now ripped off 13 goals and 20 points in the last 13, which includes five multi-goal games and a playmaker. He also hasn't gone consecutive games without a point this calendar year.
Theory as to what happened: Caporusso's okay but not great at stickhandling, crazy Hensick goal against Michigan State nonwithstanding, and he spent large chunks of the year attempting to do everything himself. This resulted in a lot of lost possession and not much else. When the team picked up its play, Caporusso had more faith in his teammates to get him the puck in dangerous areas, which has shifted the focus of his game from his stickhandling to his lethal wrister and ability to get open in dangerous areas. Both of Caporusso's goals against Northern resulted from that, as did the shot that zinged off the inside of the post immediately before his second.
Shawn Hunwick. By the third period of the Northern game, Shawn Hunwick-specific terror had dissipated and was replaced by a slightly lower-level General Oh My God panic. His team is helping him out immensely, but after eight full games his save percentage is .912. I admit that I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop here, but at this point you have to let it ride.
- At no point have I said anything about Carl Hagelin that would require an apology, but I should probably mention that if either of his linemates takes a step forward or they throw an offensive-minded player on his wing, his points could blow up next year to the point where he's a serious Hobey contender. There are only six players who 1) have more points than Hagelin this year, 2) play in a Big Four conference, and 3) can return next year. A couple of those guys play for RPI and UMass, teams that aren't likely to be good enough to get their guys into the Hobey top three, and none of them can possibly be as spectacular two-way players as Hagelin. The big problem is fellow Swede Gustav Nyquist, a sophomore for Maine who has 61 points.
Hoo boy did I hate a number of calls this weekend. I did not see the Miami guy clock Wohlberg into the boards and can't offer an opinion on whether that was two or five. I did think Glendening was done as soon as that hit was delivered, FWIW.
However, how the hell does a Northern guy plow Michigan's Happy Meal toy of a goalie without so much as a shove and not get a goal interference or charging call? How does the Miami game turn into a throwback where penalties are only called when there's bone showing?
Also, I've seen this call often enough to assume that it's actually the correct call but it's immoral: when a defenseman (Steve Kampfer in this case) lays an open-ice check on a guy who's about to receive a pass and that guy has just whiffed on a puck he could easily have touched, that gets called as interference. That drives me crazy. It should be like the NFL rule. If the defender gets there after the pass has gone through a small area around you it's a good play.
- I still don't understand why Winnett is playing the point on the power play. Michigan has Langlais, Kampfer, Burlon, and either Summers or Moffie available on defense. Three of those guys have more points than Winnett; Burlon is equal with him and Moffie is just two back despite playing only 29 games. Some of those guys aren't spectacular defensively but I'm betting they're all more comfortable there than Winnett. Winnett's a fourth line forward on a team with a ton of offensive defensemen. I don't get his usage there at all. Last weekend he shot numerous pucks into defenders and set up a couple shorthanded chances for the opposition.
- Scooter got pulled up onto the third line when Glendening went out and did well; in the third period I don't think the fourth line got more than a shift. I don't think he'll move up in the pecking order since Michigan is adding at least one more forward than they lose (this perhaps foolishly assumes no NHL departures) but I'd be comfortable with him as an energy guy wherever he ends up.
Daily story and gallery. Also a CHN article, attention from Puck Daddy, AnnArbor.com coverage Rivals promises "Swedish trash talk" in a Hagelin interview. 2011 recruit Lucas Lessio is projected as a first-round NHL draft pick. The Wolverine Blog on the game.
3/13/2010 – Michigan 5, Michigan State 1 – 22-17-1, 1-0 series
3/14/2010 – Michigan 5, Michigan State 3 – 23-17-1, 2-0 series
(Ariel Bond in the Daily)
"When I was in a barbershop quartet in Skokie, Illinois…"
The twist, if done properly, obliterates the thing you thought you were watching and replaces it with something completely different. This can redeem previously idiotic plot points, like Patrick Bateman charging down an apartment corridor, chainsaw blazing, without anyone noticing in American Psycho. Twists have enormous power. A really great one can launch an interminable directorial career even if no one ever likes another one of your movies again.
Michigan's 2009-10 season had a plot. After 37 games of erratic play, defensive breakdowns, soft goals, stopped shots, and the occasional monster performance that served only to get your hopes up so they could be suitably dashed later, we thought we were watching a movie titled "Death Wish III: You Thought Hockey Was Immune" or "500 Shots Of Bummer," for which latter I am deeply, deeply sorry.
Ah, but the twist. In the preview I mentioned that karma was busy with State's football team and had not yet attended to the Corey Tropp situation. I owe that fanciful concept an apology.
Tropp watched. He stepped on a puck in warmups and he watched Steve Kampfer and his teammates storm into Yost West, dominate on and off the ice, and forcefully boot Michigan State from the tourney bid it thought was guaranteed at midseason. After two periods, shots were 32-10. The only relevant scoring Michigan State had in the series came thanks to the generosity of Tristin Llewellyn and some iffy goaltending from a 5'6"-ish walkon.
Tropp and his entire team watched Michigan salute their students—who outnumbered Michigan State's—as they waited for no one to sing their alma mater. When the last of them headed off the ice, season over, a third of the arena gave them a "seeya." Karma has paid in full.
Never in the history of the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry has a comeuppance been so sudden, unexpected, and richly deserved. The road to 23-17-1 as been frustrating as hell, but as I raised my fist for the "hail" in the Yellow and Blue the season rearranged itself into a series of necessary evils. Tropp had to explode so his loss could be a crushing blow. Michigan had to lose to Bowling Green so the 2-7 matchup would be these two teams, and it would have to be at Munn for maximum pwnage.
Maybe not everything was necessary. Michigan didn't have to give it away late in nonconference games against BU and Wisconsin. If they hadn't Michigan would have probably punched their own ticket last weekend. As it is, they still have a mountain called Miami to climb before they can even play for a shot at the tourney. The frustration of this season is still real. But that's not what I'll remember it for anymore.
Because screw that guy in the ear, that's why. And screw the coach who thought a harsh conversation was sufficient punishment. Michigan has postgame video up and twenty seconds in someone walks up to the camera loudly declaring "THAT IS WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT." He passes the camera, and the back of his jersey reads "Kampfer."
He was the last guy off the ice. That's what I'll remember.
The sweep shot Michigan from 25th to 16Wth in the Pairwise and made the possibility of an at-large bid at least worth checking, but as of yet no one's put together a scenario in which Michigan splits at the Joe and manages to make the tourney.
Alabama-Huntsville winning the last CHA tournament moves the line to make to at least 14, and it will be 13 unless Cornell wins the ECAC, and it's really hard to move up by going .500, even against good competition. So Michigan will have to flip at least three comparisons. I don't see that happening. Sioux Sports has a new view where you can see the comparisons at a glance and it appears that Michigan has flipped all the comparisons they're going do. Actually going through the individual comparisons is blindingly painful: each common opponents category is a litany of missed opportunities. If Michigan wins two of the games they gave away—BU, BGSU, Ferris, UW, etc etc—over the course of the year they're probably a solid three seed.
That didn't happen, though, and it's win or go home.
- Finally the Big Ten Network comes through: Friday's game against Miami is at 8 and is on BTN HD.
- From time to time in Billy Sauer's first two years—when he was clocking with a season save percentage under .900—I felt panicked any time the opponent entered the zone, let alone put a harmless shot on net. That panic was orders of magnitude greater Saturday as Shawn Hunwick gamely tried to avoid blowing the above, awesome storyline in whatever way he could. That wander out of the net nearly killed me, and for large portions of the third he appeared to be throwing his glove out aimlessly.
- I'm all for Hunwick as a concept but when your coach is calling you Rudy, there's not really any question about who the starting goalie is. Hogan (and Summers) "should have a chance to play" on Friday according to one of the assistants on WTKA, and while they're making noises about it being a tough call I will assume that Hunwick in net means Hogan is not ready to go.
I wonder how the guy who inexplicably knocked Langlais in the preview post by way of defending Tristin Llewellyn—who wasn't even mentioned—is going to justify that in the comments. It's the internet, after all. Changing your mind is not allowed. And this guy suggested that Eric Elmblad was a better option than Langlais, so he's not one of those people who is sane.
Llewellyn was in the box for all three Michigan State goals on Saturday, the first two of which came when Llewellyn ignored a loose puck he could clear out of the zone to drive some guy into the boards… on a penalty kill! Bler. The tripping call he took later was just a run-of-the-mill penalty anyone could have taken; the first was totally insane.
[Update! Llewellyn is +9 in the tournament! No one wants to play against him after he takes two penalties that make a laugher a tie game!]
- Over the past couple week's I've been talking myself into the idea that Michigan could be really good next year based on their goal differential (now 10th nationally), the relatively light losses Michigan should experience this offseason, and Michigan's still-killer recruiting class.
On that recruiting class, specifically the defense: Michigan loses Kampfer and Summers to graduation. They bring in John Merrill, Mac Bennett, and Kevin Clare. Merrill will be a first round pick in the upcoming NHL draft. Bennett was already drafted in the third round by the Canadiens. And Clare is a polished stay-at-home defenseman who will probably go sometime in the middle rounds. Michigan is going to be scratching two scholarship defensemen unless someone moves to forward. So… should Langlais move to forward? He's probably the best puckhandler on the team right now and if he can adapt to the forward spot I envision him setting up Caporusso for his lethal wrister plenty. At a generous 5'9" he doesn't have an NHL career that would screw up.
Would you rather scratch Rohrkemper or one of the freshmen defensemen/Llewellyn?
- Lebler is probably replaceable but that "probably" is a testament to how well he's played as a senior. When he came to Michigan he had, I believe, 14 points his final year of junior. He's mixed grinding boardwork, big hits, and the occasional impressive snipe to best that considerably the last two years. He's developed to the point where I'm a little worried about his departure when Michigan has the #2 pick in the OHL draft and Jacob Fallon coming in. He's a totally different player but I'd compare his career track to John Shouneyia, a guy who started slow and was never a star but developed into a very good college player by the end of his tenure.
- How about that Caporusso goal on Friday? I talked to like four people about it and everyone invoked Hensick. That's the kind of stuff that's been almost totally absent from not only Caporusso's game but that of the whole team. I still remember goals Hensick and Cammalleri and Comrie scored, and I'll remember Caporusso's cruise through the slot. Hopefully that, and the ridiculous tear he continues to be on, carries over into next season.
- …assuming that there is one. I don't think he's at a point where a team is going to scoop him up but it's vastly more possible now than it was midseason. He's a Senators draftee and went at the end of the third round in his draft year, FWIW.
- I missed this when it happened, but apparently someone printed up a long screed against Comley when he didn't dress a senior defenseman on Senior Night. Said defenseman, who hadn't played all year, immediately quit the team, and his girlfriend or a relative went all manifesto.
Michigan 68 UConn 63, Michigan 10-7 (3-2 Big Ten)
At some point during the game, I tweeted something to the effect of, "In a game like this, I have a really hard time not bursting out in cheers." This may have confused some people, who didn't realize that press row is supposed to be a fully non-partisan portion of the arena. By the time there were just a couple minutes left in the game, I didn't have to hide my excitement, because most of the journalists right around me were drawn into the excitement as well.
The Indiana game was a sloppy, unappealing contest for the viewer. A lot of people said afterwards that they wished it hadn't even been a nationally-televised game. To me, a win on national TV is a win on national TV, especially when it comes by 24 points, but that's not my point here. The game against UConn, to me, seemed to be redemption for the national audience, and a chance to see what Good Michigan can look like when the Wolverines actually play well.
Against a huge team like UConn, Michigan isn't supposed to stand a chance. The Huskies are supposed to bang it down low, get Michigan in foul trouble, and come away with a comfortable win, even on the road. Michigan didn't get the memo, as they harassed men much bigger than them into missed shots and turnovers down low, and barely lost the rebounding battle to a squad much bigger than them at nearly every single position.
This is the Michigan team we saw last year. It may have showed up too late into the year to make it to the tournament again, but they weren't going down without a fight. This UConn team isn't what their top-15 ranking would imply (and after dropping their last three game, they can kiss that ranking goodbye), but the Huskies are no pushover. This might be the Wolverines' best win of the year, and though it probably won't be enough to get them into the tournament without an insane run through the Big Ten, it certainly re-opens the NIT as a possibility, even likelihood.
The next few games no longer look like a curse, but rather an opportunity.
- To those clamoring for a third scorer to emerge from the team, I think you got your answer today: It's not necessary to have a 1-2-3 (Manny/DeShawn and another go-to guy) as long as there are several guys scoring. Sims was only the 4th leading scorer, but Michigan pull off a win against a ranked squad.
- Matt Vogrich almost became a member of Club Trillion, but played two minutes without accruing any other stats, which I guess makes him a member of Club Two Trillion.
- Michigan... has... bench? Zack Gibson and Anthony Wright came up big today, when the team really needed them because of foul trouble for Novak and Sims. I've been hard in Wright in the past, but I'll also give him props when he earns them. Hats off to both of those guys.
- Also from the bench, Darius Morris comes in for a round of praise after the past couple games, and practically disappears. 0/4 with 1 turnover, 1 steal, and 1 assist. Can't blame him too much as these are probably some of the best opposing guards he's faced, but he has to play up to the competition if Michigan wants to continue having success.
- Zack Novak is capable, more than almost any basketball player I've ever seen, of turning in a mediocre statistical performance, but looking like one of the biggest factors to his team's success. The 3-ball at the end was huge.
- The shooting performance was mediocre, but UConn is also a pretty good defensive squad, with a ton of quickness on the perimeter. I'll take 44.9 eFG% against them, with hopes it'll continue improving.
- Dude, a UConn player airballed a free throw. I haven't seen that since the first time Ben Wallace played for the Pistons.
- I really liked the presentation for BRandon Graham at halftime. It was a shame there was some booing directed at Rich Rodriguez. I would have loved to see the students respond with a chant in support. Next Tuesday is another opportunity, I guess.
Additional important photo from the Detroit News.
"I don't care about nothin' else but the win." DeShawn Sims, on having a quiet day on the statsheet.
"That's the whole joke, I just chill on the rest of the games, and just play whenever it's a big game." Anthony Wright, comparing his performance to the NCAA tournament loss against Oklahoma last year, in which he led the team with 14 points.
"This is just the first game of a big four-game series we have coming up, and it's always great to get that first win." Anthony Wright, on looking to the Wisconsin game.
"It's cool, its cool. Just to have that support from the football team and Coach Rich Rod, you know, kind of a Michigan family atmosphere type of thing." Stu Douglass, on having the football team in the stands.
"It's definitely a step in the season, and it could be a turning point, I don't know. But I know from here on out, the team's gonna come out with a lot more hunger." Manny Harris, on whether this game should be considered a turning point for the team.
"The crowd was big for us today, I think a sellout. The Maize Rage was awesome, even our other fans, everyone was into it." Zack Novak, on the crowd support.
"Especially from a defensive standpoint right now, we're really learning a lot more of what it takes to do this." John Beilein, on the team's improved defense and overall play over the past few games.
Michigan begins (or continues, if you count the UConn game) a brutal stretch, traveling to Madison to take on the Badgers Wednesday, then turning right back around to face Purdue in West Lafayette. Following that road swing they'll return to Crisler Arena to take on in-state rivals Michigan State in another Maize Out game.
1/8/2010 – Michigan 4, Western Michigan 3 – 11-10, 6-7 CCHA
1/9/2010 – Michigan 6, Western Michigan 1 – 12-10, 7-7 CCHA
So. For the first time since November—when they swept the Showcase—and the second since October—when they swept Lake Superior—Michigan has come out of a weekend of hockey having inched closer to an NCAA tournament bid.
The emphasis should be on "inch." Western Michigan is one of two terrible teams in the CCHA, currently tied with Bowling Green with ten points, eight behind a great messy pack of basically .500 teams stretching from 10th place Northern Michigan to 4th place Alaska. Michigan doesn't need to win 82 percent of its remaining games to have a good shot at an at-large bid… they need to win 80. There is still a very long way to go. But this is a Michigan team that's handed Bowling Green one of their three wins on the year. Any fully deserved 6-1 win is a step in the right direction.
Yes, Michigan had their a requisite terrible breakdown when Steve Kampfer stepped up to check one of the Broncos and came up with air. Yes, this lead to the usual good scoring chance on which you can't exactly blame Hogan for the goal even if you'd like to try. And yes, there was the usual array of dumb penalties. This time the feature was deserved five-and-a-game for boarding to Lee Moffie.
If those were the only problems the team had, though, this would be just another year of questionable defensive decisions and frustrating penalties that melt from your memory in the aftermath of territorial superiority, crazy goals and Hobey Baker candidates. Red Berenson's teams have taken lots of bad penalties and made lots of bad decisions on defense for as long as I've been watching Michigan play, and no one's cared much because the other end of the ice looks like those nuts in Texas having Christmas.
Michigan is lacking in Trans-Siberian Orchestra-worthy flash this year and currently idle 23rd—barely better than average in a 58-team D-I—in scoring offense. That, and maybe some terrible luck, have been the problem. Would you believe that Michigan is 9th in scoring defense? You probably don't. Scroll down. They are.
I think Red coaches his charges to assume their superiority and play like the hockey equivalent of last year's Oklahoma Sooner's squad: fast and lethal, with lots of opportunities each way. The assumption is that increasing the number of opportunities for each team to show their quality will benefit Michigan. Too many times this year the plan has worked just fine except for the part where the shots on goal become shots in the goal. The aggression has led to a lot of B-grade chances either way. Michigan doesn't have the skill to finish those, or the goalie to stop them.
On Saturday, Michigan looked like you'd expect a Michigan hockey team to look against Western Michigan. Sometimes if you squint your eyes and Carl Hagelin is on the ice—all over the ice—it's possible to see the hazy outline of the team that earned a #1 seed in the tournament last year instead of the one that peppered the Air Force goalie to zero effect while kicking off kick off the most random tournament ever played.
If they can do that the next two weekends against steadily increasing competition from Alaska and Ferris State, then it might be time to dust off the hopes everyone stuffed in the basement and told to shut up after that Bowling Green game.
- Tristin Llewellyn continues his vacation on the bench, which is probably for the best. I'd have to start assuming I just knew zero about hockey if he kept seeing time. Moffie might get a rest for next weekend after his major, though.
- Also: Brandon Burlon (I think) had one of the outright dumbest penalties I've seen at Yost when he was coming off the ice and checked the hell out of a Western player on the way. He was killing the Moffie major and was a fifth guy on the ice: hello too many men. Hello 5-on-3 for two minutes. Western didn't score, but that was pretty nervy. (For the record, I still think Mike Komisarek grabbing a puck and throwing out of the defensive zone is worse. One: that was an NCAA tournament game at Yost. Two: the opponent (SCSU, I think) scored on their 5-on-3. Three: Komisarek could have dropped it and used that stick thing they give the players.
- Moffie was livid after said major, angrily jawing with any official who came within 10 feet of him. He would have gotten a misconduct if he wasn't already being shown the gate. Bonus points to the off-ice official who kept the door to the Michigan locker room open long enough for Moffie to turn around and scream several more indeterminate things before finally disappearing.
- A friend of mine thinks AJ Treais has a huge tell: he lifts his left leg before he starts doing fancy stuff. That makes his stuff less fancy.
- About halfway through the last game, Berenson put his lines in a blender, looking for any combinations that seemed to work. It's clear at this point that the #1 line is whichever one Hagelin is on, and his partnership with Rust puts a ton of pressure on opponents trying to break out of the zone.
- Caporusso's tendency to shoot through four opposing players was actually fairly effective against Western, but for the bulk of the year it's just resulted in lost possession. Against better opponents I fear we'll see a return to form.
- No offense to Ben Winnett, but the fact that Red has put him at the point on the power play is symptomatic of the lack of star power on this year's team. Previous forwards on the point have been guys like Hensick or Cammalleri, real hockey ninja types. SAT analogy time: Winnett : Michigan PP point :: Chauncey Billups : NBA finals MVP.
- Sparks is the winner of the fourth-line-walk-on-be-Danny-Fardig battle; he and Glendening are getting serious amounts of time now. Sparks has been playing on the power play—another symptom—and Glendening was Red's second choice on the Moffie major after Hagelin.
Indiana 71 Michigan 65, Michigan 6-6 (0-1 Big Ten)
The Indiana game was the type of contest that makes me not want to even think about Michigan basketball for a couple days, so I did just that. It happened pretty much the way I expected, except a close game at the end broke the way of the Hoosiers, not in favor of Michigan. The Wolverines have still only won 1 game away from home this season, and the 6-6 record means Michigan is almost certain to miss the NCAA tournament, and will struggle to even make the NIT.
Michigan got in foul trouble too early, and was unable to get into a rhythm. DeShawn Sims and Zack Novak both fouled out, and Manny Harris was limited in the first half with foul trouble (though he did manage 30 total minutes in the game). Indiana was allowed to shot the ball very well, and Michigan's defense seemed to regress since the encouraging contest against Kansas.
On the bright side, Zack Novak was able to knock down a couple threes, as was Stu Douglass. Novak started the game on fire then went 1/6 the rest of the way, but seeing the ball go in the hoop at all will aid his confidence. Other than that, it's probably best to forget about this game.
Part 2: The Essentials
|WHAT||Michigan v. Ohio State|
|WHERE||Ann Arbor, MI|
January 3rd, 2009
|THE LINE||Michigan -2(!!!!)*|
|TELEVISION||Big Ten Network|
*Line provided by online sports betting site Sportsbetting.com.
The Buckeyes, like Indiana before them, face Michigan without their best player. Evan Turner is scheduled to return from fractured vertebrae in just a few days, but isn't expected to play tomorrow. The Buckeyes enter this game coming off a shellacking at the hands of Wisconsin on Thursday, only their second loss since Turner went down.
Leading the way in Turner's absence are William Buford, who is the assist leader, David Lighty, who is the best defender, and big outside sniper Jon Diebler, one of the nation's leaders in shooting, with an effective field goal percentage of 66.7%. The Buckeyes don't have one huge guy to scare Michigan fans about size, but they are big at every position. PJ Hill at 6-1 and Jeremie Simmons at 6-2 are the only Buckeyes in heavy rotation under 6-5.
If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy. Also, you'd better hide the women and children before they catch a glimpse of this chart.
|Michigan v. Ohio State: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Ohio State Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. OSU Def eFG%||226||60||OO|
|Mich Def eFG% v. OSU eFG%||216||3||OOO|
|Mich TO% v. OSU Def TO%||4||50||M|
|Mich Def TO% v. OSU TO%||56||30||O|
|Mich OReb% v. OSU DReb%||256||70||OO|
|Mich DReb% v. OSU OReb%||244||259||M|
|Mich FTR v. OSU Opp FTR||321||23||OOO|
|Mich Opp FTR v. OSU FTR||25||148||MM|
|Mich AdjO v. OSU AdjD||101||36||O|
|Mich AdjD v. OSU AdjO||103||30||O|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.
HAHA WE WON'T FOUL YOU AND ARE TOTALLY GOING TO WIN. Ohio State has advantages in a vast majority of categories, including the two big boys of overall efficiency. Michigan will have to play well above their season-average level of play in order to get a win. A defensive effort like the one they put in against Kansas will have to be combined with one of the best shooting performances of the year for Michigan to win, unless something bizarre happens.
The Buckeyes can shoot better, defend opponents' shots better, rebound better, and keep opponents of the foul line very well. Unless the Wisconsin game was evidence that they can't compete against similarly-talented competition without Turner (the only teams they beat without him were Presbyterian, Delaware State, and Cleveland State), Michigan is probably in for a tough, tough game.
This looks like one that the Buckeyes lead by single-digit margins almost throughout, and then pull away at the end. If Michigan wants to come away with the victory, keeping the deficit manageable is their best bet.
Michigan 76 Coppin State 46, Michigan 6-5 (0-0 Big Ten)
Make no mistake about it, Coppin State is a horrible team. But for the first time since the very beginning of the year, Michigan did what they were supposed to do to an overmatched opponent, and completely ran them off the court. For a basketball team that had (and, in all fairness, probably still has) a lot of ills, the Eagles definitely treated most of the symptoms at the very least.
The shooting woes were dramatically improved, and although making a third of 3-point baskets is nothing to stop the presses over, it's a hell of a lot better than Michigan had been doing. Stu Douglass, in particular, was finally able to get going from beyond the arc, nailing 6 of 10 from long range. Zack Novak, on the other hand, struggled to the tune of 1-7 from 3-point land. If he can get into the same rhythm as Douglass, this team will get a lot better very quickly.
At times, the team seemed to be overly deliberate in running the offense, as they made passes instead of taking marginal looks, and got the shot clock well below 15 on most trips down the court. It didn't make for an exciting game of basketball most of the time, but it resulted in 25 assists on 30 made shots - and a 30-point win.
As good as Michigan looked last night, it's hard to take too much away from the performance. This was basically the basketball edition of Baby Seal U. But if the basketball team can do what the football team didn't, and regain some confidence and polish their game, it certainly looks a whole lot bright for the future.
- Manny Harris ended the game with 5 points. That's a tie for his second-worst scoring output since he's been at Michigan. He still had 7 assists, and would have had more if Michigan's shooters would have made a couple good looks. With more than a week to rest the hamstrings, this performance isn't too discouraging, right?
- In a 2-game sample size against teams at the opposite end of the "quality" spectrum, it appears safe to say that Michigan is better with Darius Morris coming off the bench. He had another solid performance in limited minutes.
- Speaking of Morris's minutes, I was a little disappointed to not see some of the bench guys get a little more time. The game was out of hand within a few minutes, so I would have liked to see Manny and the starters play less than 32 minutes, and get Gibson, Wright, Vogrich, and the depth players that will be needed during Big Ten play to get a little more comfortable on the court.
- It's nice that DeShawn Sims scored 18 points, and that's not even notable enough that I wouldn't have mentioned him except in this bullet, right?
- In a similar vein, it was nice to get a couple walkons and Cronin some playing time at the end. It was not nice, however, to see that Cronin is still very, very hurt.
- Sam Coleman for the Eagles played very well. He also received chants of "A-va-tar!" from the student section, because he looks like a character from the movie.
- The student section was tiny, by the way, and even those who were there were only half-hearted. It's hard to complain too much during Christmas Break, but it was a poor showing.
- The rest of the fans, however, showed up in strong numbers considering the timing and the opponent. There seemed to be at least as many people as were at the Detroit game.
"All I can say is it felt good, and basically everything that was going up I thought was going in." Stu Douglass, on his shooting performance.
"They were playing the zone, and I kinda felt bad sometimes I was so wide open up top. I didn't wanna shoot, I wanted to get the clock going a little bit. It was going in if I was gonna shoot it that wide open though." Stu Douglass, on his shooting.
"Kansas definitely helped. We kinda got our edge back and we kept it going here. It's huge for our confidence going into the Big Ten." Stu Douglass, on being prepared for conference play.
"I think it's more mental. I just gotta step up and shoot it and not think about it." Zack Novak on his shooting troubles.
"This is the right time for us to be shooting the ball a little better. We shot 33%, and it's sad to say that's improvement, but it's a big improvement" Zack Novak.
"I've got a lot of friends that go to school there, and it's almost like a high school game again for me, having all my friends in the stands. It'll be cool." Zack Novak, on travelling to Indiana next week.
"I come in every game trying to get guys involved... guys like Stu and DeShawn was making shots, so I just was driving and trying to set them up in good position to keep making shots." Manny Harris, on his distributor role.
"The main thing is I'm just happy that our defense was there tonight, and I know that's going to carry oer into the game with Indiana." Manny Harris.
"As far as our shooting woes, I don't think 33% answers the question, but it's double what we did at Kansas, so it's a step in the right direction." John Beilein.
"I still think he's a little slow trying to get by people, and they really packed it in on him, so one of his things was to make that extra pass. If we make a few more shots, he's got 10 assists a game." John Beilein, on Manny Harris.
"They just need to make these shots in games over and over and over again to get used to it again." John Beilein, on team shooting.
The Wolverines have a nice long break to rest and get healthy before they kick off Big Ten play. They'll head to Bloomington on New Year's Eve to face the Hoosiers. Indiana is improved from last year (when they nearly beat the Wolverines in Assembly Hall), but lost to Loyola Maryland last night, and trailed by 18 points at half. They are definitely a beatable squad.