it's a major award
3/31/2013 – Michigan 79, Florida 59 – 30-7, Final Four
There was a point—probably the 360 GRIII dunk against Minnesota that capped a fist-pumping, game-sealing run on the home floor of what then seemed like a top-ten opponent—when this Michigan team's ceiling seemed limitless. If Michigan needed points, Trey Burke snapped his fingers and it was so. Nik Stauskas was flirting with all-time three-point shooting records; Tim Hardaway Jr seemed to have played himself into the first round, no questions. Defense was a minor issue, surely.
I spent chunks of words around this point talking about how everyone should grab this team and hold on tight, because joys like this don't come around very often. I think I wrote like three columns exhorting anyone who happened across this here blog to set aside cynicism or reserve and prise open their chest, the better to let your heart pound loose and free in the exhilaration of the moment.
Coming down from that was terribly sad. The shellshock of the first OSU game was okay, because they were young and still fought back like champions. That happened before the GR360 anyway. Losing at Indiana was expected, and relatively competitive and the Kohl Center debacle was a fluke. It was really the next two events that punched me right in the heart. When Michigan flat-out did not show up at Michigan State, I watched the second half on mute with a glass of whiskey in my hand. I don't even know what I did during the Penn State game, but I knew how it felt. It felt like Michigan basketball. Shit.
I was in orbit, man, and had not considered the possibility of forced reentry or what I'd turned the ol' heart into: a blast shield.
There are few things better in basketball than a three point shooter going nuts. For all the things Kevin Durant his done, he may be best loved for blowing up Rucker Park with four consecutive threes. I mean:
Dr. J got his nickname on that court, and he can't make Google autosuggest. Localized abatements in the law of probability have pull. Stauskas's early-season emergence was Rucker Park every night.
The fade was inevitable, but every time an announcer mentions Nik Stauskas's still-blazing three-point shooting people who have been watching Michigan play basketball all year only hear that shooting percentage is a couple points lower than it was a couple games ago. Part of the magic that made Michigan seem like an unstoppable train was Stauskas's three point shooting lines. Here are twelve consecutive games: 3/4, 3/4, 1/4, 2/3, 4/7, 4/5, 3/4, 2/5, 4/8, 2/7, 5/8, 5/8.
If he let it go, you expected it to go down. Not in the sense that you were momentarily allowing hope to overwhelm your reason. In the sense that the ball in the air was literally better than 50/50 to go in the hoop despite being launched from a great distance. Stauskas's shooting was a microcosm of the team; it was impossible to do anything other than stare at it, slack-jawed. Stupid grins optional, but recommended.
The wake-up call came at Ohio State. Stauskas didn't score in 23 minutes; he only got off three terrible looks from three. Guy probably hadn't gone a game without scoring since he was six. Towards the end his brain foundered. As the Big Ten season progressed, his fate followed the team's: 1/5 from three in the Indiana loss as Jordan Hull showed him what efficiency was; the same line at the Trohl center; 5 turnovers in the Penn State debacle; 1/8 from the field in the second Wisconsin loss. His decline was a microcosm of the team's.
The slump reached epic proportions in the most important games of the season. Entering the Florida game he was 2/16 from deep in his last four games. Michigan papered over that with liberal helpings of Trey Burke and Mitch McGary, but against Kansas they'd escaped, more plucky underdog surviving one more day than team gunning for a title. I'd burst from my seat to shout something about sending it in when Stauskas rose up in overtime against Kansas, and then sheepishly sat down when it clanged off the rim.
Sunday, Florida left him. I don't know if this was a decision to pick the 2/16 poison instead of Burke and McGary or simply a screwup. Whatever the reason, they left him. Stauskas knocked it down. High fives all around. Stauskas knocked another one down. Eyebrows cocked. What if…
The NBA Jam "on fire" three was next, and then another, and suddenly Stauskas was delivering on everything he'd promised in videos of his dad feeding him over and over again in his backyard, those stories about him breaking Beilein three-point drill records, that highlight package of Stauskas torching Baylor as a high school senior, every splashed three pointer against Eastern and Central. They poured it in from all over, but mostly from Stauskas, who we'd all literally seen dream about this in his backyard. A basketball metronome. Automatic. Open corner three, forget about it.
That was one thing. That was all Michigan needed to separate itself, to finish the course reversal that started in the second half against South Dakota State. The other thing: the last one, the one pictured above, was not wide open. Stauskas evaded a hard closeout, dribbled a step to his left, and launched from behind the backboard. Didn't matter. Stauskas was no longer bound by gravity.
*["Nik Stauskas's dad" is a candidate for the most boring job of the last 18 years]
Seth Greenberg breaks it down:
And official NCAA highlights:
Official site video includes Bacari cheese speech, locker room stuff:
Return to Ann Arbor:
It started with
a whisper defense? Um… yeah. Michigan started this game lighting it up from the field, finishing the first half at a scorching 1.3 points per possession. But the difference between this game and, say, VCU, was the opponent's ability to score. VCU got a lot of points out of the gate; Florida got none.
As Doug Gottlieb mentioned at halftime, this was a gameplan thing. Michigan did indeed put GRIII on Erik Murphy. With visions of various Kansas 4s going 11/14 from the floor, Florida set to attacking him on the block. To say this did not work is an understatement on par with "Sunday was fun." Murphy couldn't get deep in the post and ended up throwing up tough shots while taking contact. His line for the game: 0/11, with nine of those inside the line.
By the time he did launch one of the threes he hits at a 46% clip, there were ten minutes left in the second half. He shot on consecutive possessions; the first was heavily contested and off balance. The second wasn't quite as terrible of a look but GRIII did get a hand in his face. Obviously both missed.
For the game, Florida took all of ten(!) threes. That's 18% of their shots from a team that usually puts up 40%. As someone who tracked the scary-low number of three pointers Wisconsin gave up all year let me tell you: that is downright Wisconsonian. As Bo Ryan watched this game through a film of tears, cutting box at the ready, he had a nagging feeling of familiarity as a team that bombs away went 2/10 from three. "That could have been us," he sniffled, forgetting entirely about Ryan Evans trying to shoot a free throw.
Is this post going to descend into Bo Ryan masochism fiction?
Well, is it?
Hmm. It appears the answer is no. Shame.
More on defense. Michigan's D held Florida to 0.9 points a possession in the first half… and improved(!) in the second half. All but eliminating threes did not come with an excessive cost on the interior, where Florida shot 46%. A lot of those were Boynton or Rosario runners a lot like the shots VCU was clanging; those are clearly things Michigan has just decided to give up. McGary went from challenging them fruitlessly and opening up opportunities for second chance shots to sticking to his man.
Extra possession watch. Rebounding numbers were essentially identical—both teams had 9 OREBs, Florida had one extra DREB. Michigan won turnovers by 4. So I'm a bit baffled as to where Michigan's seven extra shots came from. Both teams had 46 2PA; Michigan had 9 extra 3PA to Florida's 4 extra FTA. More of Florida's free throws could have come in and-one situations, but that doesn't make up for what looks like a seven-shot difference, does it?
The Burke. Burke's trademark steal came off at the end of the first half, giving Michigan two points that seemed worth a lot more as Florida made their push towards a single-digit deficit. I'm not sure about you, but I almost expected that. Burke has a pirate's instinct for the moment, and with Michigan nowhere near the bonus it was a free shot at two. With Florida holding for the last shot, a missed steal that Florida presses gives Michigan an extra possession.
I don't really get to talk much game theory about basketball, but that's a situation in which Burke's skill combines with his intelligence to make that a majorly +EV move.
Mitch: cooled off, sort of. McGary's been on the kind of streak where you can announce some statline of his to a room and get gales of laughter back. I read a tweet that ended up in my timeline stating that McGary had eight points and six rebounds at the under 12 timeout in the first half, and the room went LOL.
McGary didn't continue that torrid pace and fell short of his third consecutive double-double. Still: 11 points on 9 shot equivalents, 9 rebounds, just one turnover, two blocks, and five(!) steals. I don't think I've ever seen a big who's better at coming from behind a post feed for a steal. He doesn't just knock it away and home, he knocks it away, goes and gets it, and then sometimes chucks an audacious over-the-head outlet pass that demands a Wes Unseld reference.
Everyone's searching for their McGary comparable, so here's mine: Brian Cardinal. Cardinal was a quality three point shooter (god, imagine that skill added to McGary's repertoire), but in terms of being a super-active big who generates possessions and has a floor-burn collection, I like it.
Morgan and Horford. Those guys got 14 minutes as McGary got in a bit of foul trouble, and produced. Horford was 3/3 from the floor; combined they acquired nine rebounds, three on offense, and had a 1:1 A:TO ratio. Once Murphy proved he couldn't exploit Robinson on the interior, Michigan didn't need to go two-post (though they did run it out for a minute or two in the first half); those guys got production in when they were called on.
Good to see Morgan getting enough time to contribute. It would be beyond brutal for him if he'd been limited to the minute he got in the first two games of the tournament.
Spike. Albrecht is on a minutes streak: 15 against VCU, 11 against Kansas, 14 here. This was his best outing, obviously. It struck me as Florida tried to pressure him just how impossible it is to get the ball off of the guy. Even Burke will occasionally get his pocket picked by Craft and the like; Albrecht is so low to the ground and capable of that instant spin, so pressing him is futile. With Florida desperate and pressing Spike came in to take the ball up, easily beat the press, and then handed off to Burke. That conserved Burke's energy for the final stretch.
Three steals, two of which led to layups, and a three he knocked down are bonuses. He's doesn't seem enough of a threat inside the line to hold off Walton next year but who cares about that? Right now he's Michigan's main guy off the bench. He's now 44% from three on the year, BTW (albeit on just 25 attempts).
I still don't get deploying him against Kansas, which wasn't pressing and was destroying Michigan at the four.
Hardaway. An awful shooting night, but the difference between Hardaway this year and last: he put up five assists.
Beilein talent eye x2. So Albrecht, obviously. His other offer, singular, was Appalachian State. Then there's Casey Prather, who is often cited as an exception to the rule that if Beilein tries to get you, you are good at basketball. After seeing him play are you telling me you wouldn't want to have the guy off the bench in the LeVert role? 6'6" sticky defenders aren't too common. He's got great rebounding numbers for a wing. He can't shoot, but there'd be a role for him on a Final Four team.
The number one thing to fix about college refereeing. The Wisconsin Chest is a foul, but is never called. The Chest occurs when a guy goes up for a shot and his defender scoots his chest up into the lower body of the defender. Guy takes a bump, shot difficulty goes up a lot, principle of verticality is violated. Never gets a call. I've noticed that Michigan is getting better at the Chest in the the last couple games, because I'm now thinking "that's a foul ARGH" when Michigan's on defense. Which, yay for right now and all that, but also I feel dirty.
Gottliebtake. I'm of two minds about Gottlieb. He's obviously annoying. Earlier this year I tweeted something to the effect of "that guy should wear a lucha libre mask and call himself Strongtake." He has one strength of opinion: extra.
But this does allow him to say interesting things and ask interesting questions. There should be someone badgering the committee rep about why Oregon was 12 seed and that guy should be rolling his eyes when the committee rep tells him "well, they were really an 11" as if anyone gets incensed about teams that are one line off of expectations. There should be someone doing college basketball games who won't shut up about how terrible the monitor review process is—there should be dozens, actually. There should be someone willing to bomb Billy Donovan's first half gameplan when it results in Florida going 1/5 from three. He seems to have a mild form of Tourette's—the white guy analyst comment. I'm in favor of weird guys, I guess.
[12:39 PM] Ace: http://www.wdfn.com/pages/shep.html?article=11133369
[12:39 PM] Ace: BEILEIN DANCING ALERT
will it surprise you that Beilein says he's "trying to have more fun"?
IT WAS CRAZY
OU's Greg Kampe on the Syracuse matchup and some other things. What do Michigan fans think? They are generally in favor! Wojo. Daily's Daniel Wasserman. Everett Cook. Meinke on Stauskas. Beard on Albrecht.
3/29/2013 – Michigan 87, Kansas 85 (OT) – 29-7, Elite Eight
Every year from now until the country collapses into warring fiefdoms because of peak oil or some other nonsense, Trey Burke rising up from 30 feet over a 6'8" guy will make an appearance on someone's reel of insane NCAA tournament moments. Even after the collapse, if things go badly for you and you are captured anywhere from Topeka to Kansas City you can escape by just uttering the words "Trey Burke" and watching your captors seize helplessly. Collect their weapons and go. Once recovered they will be in a foul mood.
It's going to go in every time. You won't have that sickening lurch in your stomach as the bottom drops out of your hopes and then slowly tick-tick-ticks up the rollercoaster as the improbable trajectory seems true. Josh Bartlestein is way ahead of you on this, and you'll see Bartlestein start celebrating two beats before anyone else in the arena can figure out if they're going to live or die. This time, it'll go down. This time, every time.
Michigan wouldn't have been in this position if the rim had been kind at Ohio State, or at Wisconsin, or at home against Indiana. They'd have popped up a seed or two and avoided a team like the Jayhawks, maybe even gotten the gilded path the Buckeyes got and are determined to make look like the Bataan Death March. Thanks to a delirious two and a half minutes no one has been able to figure out yet, and probably never will, Michigan erased a ten-point deficit, and then that happened, and then Trey Burke did that twice more in overtime and Michigan's where they thought they might be when they walked into Assembly Hall the #1 team in the nation: playing a three seed for the right to go to the Final Four.
At this point I'm not sure that even matters that much. I mean, yeah, obviously it matters. But that shot is going in, over and over, for everyone, forever. It is written on cuneiform tablets found in ancient Sumeria, and a tatoo on Charles Barkley's forehead.
I'll Probably Embed This On The Next Four Posts
Also a little more of the end of the game:
And Burke talking to Sager:
Because Twitter Will Kill Me If We Don't
There is a "WE HAD SUBS IT WAS CRAZY" shirt.
Mystify your friends.
Ima let you block five shots Jeff Withey, but Mitch McGary is the greatest post of all time in this game. Wait, first Withey: the guy blocked a Trey Burke floater on a pick and roll, despite being a good five feet from the shooter. Boggle. Trey agrees:
He kind of surprised me the first half, once I got to the free throw line and shot. He had a piece of it. I think he was deep in the paint and he still got a piece of it.
Michigan shot 56% from two against him, boggle.
Okay, Mitch. First, inhale.
12/17 from the floor against Jeff Withey with 5 offensive rebounds and 9 defensive rebounds. Three steals. An assist. One turnover. One blocked shot and a second that was so clean in this world of "you can do anything as long as your arms aren't fouling a dude" that the sound of the whistle made me leap from my seat and cry "noooooo," Vader-style.
McGary spearheaded another blowout on the boards against Kansas, with Michigan doubling up the Jayhawks in offensive rebounds and winning the tempo-free battle 33% to 23%. He put up 25 points on 19 shot equivalents and generated at least eight extra possessions for M. He didn't pick up a foul until deep into the second half. I think we've just seen the best game of his career.
McGary has definitively arrived now. It's one thing to beat up on Juvonte Reddic and the four dwarves, entirely another to leave scattered bits of Jayhawk in your wake. The finer points of defense still elude him; that's the difference between McGary being pretty dang good next year or All American. That and free throws.
Now that we're used to the hugeness and the energy, the striking thing about McGary is how skilled he is. He hit an elbow jumper in this one and followed that up with a late turnaround from the short corner that was some Duncan business. His bunnies go down at a huge rate because he can slam them down when appropriate but also has excellent body control and the ability to shoot with both hands. Most of McGary's makes don't even touch the rim.
['shop via Ace.]
Relatedly. At halftime I made a comment about how I missed the version of Kansas that shot itself in the foot until it ran out of feet and just kept shooting, and more than one person said something about how they missed Burke. I was a little confused by this, and then the TV put up some chyron stating that he had zero points. Oh.
I didn't really feel that. Michigan had over a point per possession at halftime largely thanks to Burke getting the offense set up, and if he missed shots they often drew so much attention that GRIII or Mitch McGary was able to get a putback. Faced with the prospect of taking on Withey, he mostly got his teammates involved. Five assists is a lot of assists in a half.
I was frustrated by a thirty-foot bomb that came early in the shot clock and set up a break the other way. It felt selfish. Even that turned out to be necessary range-finding as Trey unleashed his inner Jimmer in the second half.
Win graph. Per reader request, the win graph from Kenpom:
Michigan's win probability dipped to 0.6 with 2:33 left, down ten. That was one in a hundred—one in two hundred. Trey's shot took Michigan from 10% to just over 30%.
Jordan Morgan, scrapping. Morgan only got five minutes, about which more later. This bullet is a feel-good bullet about Morgan dusting himself off and turning in two huge plays:
- scrapping to the ground after Hardaway's missed three pointer and eventually getting the ball to GRIII for his acrobatic layup.
- forcing Nutpunch Johnson to orbit so far around the corner that by the time he realized Hardaway wasn't leaving McLemore, anything he threw up was going off he side of the backboard.
His boxscore contributions were thin (though I guess three rebounds in five minutes is pretty good), but Michigan did need him and he did come through. Beilein lifted McGary for him on that final possession; it's hard to see McGary pushing Johnson as far outside as Morgan ended up doing. Also, Morgan eventually decided to do nothing:
"I was going to go up with (Johnson) and I saw he was looking to pass. I backed off a little bit but the angle he had wasn't necessarily the best," Morgan said. "He didn't have a good angle to put it off the backboard, so he got caught too far under and if it had been a floater, that would have been tougher than putting it off the glass."
That zen decision is not something McGary specializes in.
Karma is going to punch you in the nuts. Speaking of ol' Nutpunch Johnson, he picked up an obvious charge shortly after being assessed the flagrant one, sat, came back, picked up a cheap one on an out of bounds play, and sat yet more time. He ended up getting 20 or so minutes in the last 25; he hit some shots… and had 0 assists to 5 turnovers, not even counting the mess he made of the last play. Oh and that McGary statline. Oh and missing the front end right before Burke blew everyone's brains up.
My only regret is that Johnson is a senior—otherwise we would have a delightful couple years of competing nicknames for the guy in the blogosphere.
Spike. I don't get it. Michigan gave Albrecht 11 minutes, and I was confused by about 10 of those—Burke sat for one. In this game it seemed like Michigan badly needed post defense, especially at the four. Kevin Young, Jamari Traylor and Perry Ellis combined to go 11/14, give or take an Ellis attempt against McGary when Withey was on the bench.
At 5'11", Albrecht is not noted for his post defense. While he was perfect for the up-and-down VCU outing, having him out there for a big chunk of time right after halftime was odd. He barely touched the ball on offense, and Michigan's defense with him out there was pretty porous.
Morgan at the four seemed like the move. Robinson had a decent night on offense and added three steals of his own, but, man, 11/14. Am I crazy here?
Stauskas took it easy, man. I predicted a tough night for Stauskas. He did okay. His attempts were relatively limited, which was fine. He took only good shots, hitting all three inside the arc and 1/4 from three—the OT miss was a killer. 11 points on 9 shot equivalents is decent output; he also had three assists.
But like man, if I can scream "make a free throw" in anguish at anyone, it's Stauskas. That missed front end would have paired with the foul on McGary's block in a Jacob Marley tapdance duet if Michigan hadn't pulled their asses out of the fire.
They really need an advantage call or something. If your foul does not prevent a fast break from fast breaking, the refs should just stick their arms out wildly to indicate a foul is coming but they have chosen to let the play go because the offense is in a fast break state.
If only my predictions weren't literally taking whatever Kenpom says and repeating it because I think predicting sporting events is an incredibly foolish pastime, as last night's game amply demonstrates. By which I mean, suck it local media!
Nick Baumgardner, MLive: Kansas (66-61)
Kyle Meinke, MLive: Kansas (67-61)
Mark Snyder, Detroit Free Press: Kansas (67-63)
Mitch Albom, Detroit Free Press: Kansas (70-61)
Jeff Seidel, Detroit Free Press: Kansas (72-68)
Drew Sharp, Detroit Free Press: Kansas (71-65)
Rod Beard, Detroit News: Kansas (72-65)
Matt Charboneau, Detroit News: Kansas (74-68)
John Niyo, Detroit News: Kansas (67-63)
Bob Wojnowski, Detroit News: Kansas (72-68)
Brian Cook, MGoBlog: Michigan (by one)
(I also expected Kansas to win in my heart of hearts.)
Burke postgame from GBW:
Trey Burke has taken the last shot for Michigan before but come up short several times.
Burke has seen his share of misses at the buzzer: Last season at Arkansas and this season at Ohio State, at Wisconsin and at home against Indiana.
One out of five is… fantastic right this instant.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Trey Burke may now officially be a folk hero, and Michigan's season is still alive.
Sample size. Woo.
Before the game, Michigan coach John Beilein wasn't ready to call that a slump or get a good feeling about McLemore's struggles.
"He's played how many games in postseason? Two?" Beilein said. "I wouldn't say that's a good sample size."
Kansas center Jeff Withey was asked before his team faced Michigan whether he could dominate Mitch McGary.
"Yeah, definitely," Withey said. "He's not very tall. ... We'll definitely have to try taking advantage of my height."
That got telephoned into this:
"(McGary) looked at me last night, right before we went to bed, and he said, 'Did you hear what he said about me?" said Glenn Robinson III, McGary's roommate. "'He said, 'I’m not excited about his height. I don’t think anything about his height. And I expect to dominate him.'
"I looked at him and was like, ‘Oh. We’ll show him.’"
If Withey had said his bit a couple days earlier by the time it got to McGary it would have described him as a midget toad, so Kansas actually got off easy there. Seniors hugging and such. Rapping and ancient Chinese texts. Horford is a trip yo:
there was forward Jon Horford, off in a far corner ... reading a book.
One more time: Jon Horford, 15 minutes after advancing to the Elite Eight in one his school's most exciting tournament games ever, was reading a book.
Reporter: Jon. Jon. Jon.
Still no answer.
Finally, after a shout from point guard Spike Albrecht, Horford looks up from his ruffled pages.
"Hey man, what's up?" he said, apparently ignorant to or indifferent of the fact reading a book at this time is not customary. And he wasn't exactly thumbing the pages of Sports Illustrated, either.
Horford was reading the "Tao Te Ching," an ancient Chinese text believed to have been penned between the sixth century and fourth century BC.
A first look at Florida.
3/23/2013 – Michigan 6, Miami 2 – 18-18-3, reach CCHA final
3/24/2013 – Michigan 1, Notre Dame 3 – 18-19-3, season over, tourney streak over
In the end they were nowhere near good enough.
If you've followed Michigan hockey for a long period of time, you can point to a tourney game here or there Sunday's CCHA final against the Irish reminded you of. Smash together:
- that Maine game where a moment of brilliance from Mike Comrie couldn't cover up his short-handed defense's failing legs with…
- that Boston College game Michigan inexplicably led for most of that was over the moment the Eagles tied it after a nine-minute stretch without stoppages and…
- that North Dakota game when Michigan couldn't get out of its own zone but scratched out a shorthanded goal and made it stand up and…
…you get that Notre Dame game.
You know the general outline even if you have no idea what I'm talking about above. If it was soccer the announcers would instantly announce your goal as "against the run of play." Overwhelmed in the corners, fortunate to be in the game, goalie's arm hanging out over the abyss as he screams "DON'T. LET. GO." Fingers sweating, grip slipping, eyes widening, waiting for the buzzer or death.
I don't know about you but as soon as Notre Dame tied it, I was waiting for the end. Michigan had hardly put together a scoring chance. Notre Dame did them a favor by scoring early in the third and dialing back the throttle. At that point shots were 31-10, scoring chances at least that lopsided. By sitting back Notre Dame allowed Michigan to get a better handle on the game, but with 19:30 left I thought "Michigan will have two chances to tie it" and that was all they got.
Notre Dame ate Michigan's lunch. They took one penalty and gave up no odd-man rushes save the shorthanded goal. They won battles in the corner at a 3 to 1 rate. Michigan couldn't put together a rush for ten-minute blocks of time. Over the previous month they'd put something together and run roughshod over all comers, but finally they met a horse they couldn't catch up to. All that stuff Michigan did over their last ten games Notre Dame had been doing all year.
That's how a 21-year tourney streak ends: with Notre Dame showing men of will what will really is.
In the aftermath the word of the day is "redeem."
By the bitter end, Michigan hockey redeemed itself
NCAA streak ends, but Wolverines made Michigan proud
Michigan put themselves in this position with 2/3rds of a season of miserable, unwatchable hockey, and did not dig themselves out. Without the vagaries of single-game playoff hockey they would not have even come close in the end. They were 0-5 against the Irish this year, bombed in every game. Michigan was about as far away from winning that Notre Dame game as they were from getting an at large bid. They had a chance, and found out that running to catch up with someone who had been trying hard from day one isn't easy.
They got what they deserved. A team with as many NHL draft picks as anyone in the country was reduced to a "Cinderella run" in the CCHA playoffs. Divided, they lost game after game to sheer apathy. It got so bad Red tried the put-in-the-third-string-walk-on trick again. Hunwick's first team responded by flying through the slot to clear pucks like demons. This edition lost 4-0 to Michigan Tech and 5-1 to Bowling Green, the nadir. That listless debacle against Bowling Green is this season. What they did at the end was a preview of next year.
It's great that Andrew Copp emerged to take the team by the scruff of its neck and jam it towards an NCAA bid whether it wanted one or not, great that Steve Racine emerged into a viable starter once his defense ceased selling him out a dozen times a game, great that Guptill went from a wake-up scratch to pounding, skating power forward. The fact that this could happen is a ringing condemnation of the upperclassmen. By midseason the guys flanking Treais on the top line were Copp and Sinelli; by the end of the season Copp, a freshman no one had heard of before the year, was the undisputed leader of the forward corps. Because he tried real hard, full stop. This made him unique.
His leadership and the rest of the locker room pulling together is reason for hope. Lessons have clearly been learned, and if this year doesn't show the players the route to success goes through Jeff Jackson's relentless discipline, I'll be surprised.
But it doesn't redeem a damn thing. The preseason #2 team in the country finished under .500 and missed the tournament for the first time in 22 years. There is only one word for that: failure. The scarlet F is branded in this team. The only way up is to own that. Some of them have time to redeem themselves yet; that process starts now.
Michigan loses Moffie, Treais, Sparks, Rohrkemper, and Lynch the Elder to graduation. The early word on departures from Mike Spath at the Wolverine is as such:
- OUT: Kevin Clare, revealed to be indefinitely suspended as much as he was injured and implicated as a Problem, and—sigh—star-crossed Jon Merrill.
- FENCE: Trouba is declared 60-40 to return—an opinion more or less shared by Dave Starman. At least we will know quickly—he's expected to make a decision in a couple days.
- BACK (EXCEPT ONE OF THESE GUYS WILL NOT BE BACK BECAUSE THIS IS MICHIGAN HOCKEY): The three forwards likely to have NHL options are Guptill, Di Giuseppe, and Nieves. Spath projects all to be back, though Guptill "clashed" with the coaches earlier in the year—he was left at home for one series, IIRC. Mac Bennett is projected to return and wear the C.
Just looking at playing time, a couple other guys may also head for greener pastures. There's Rutledge, of course, who turned in an .856 and watched Racine establish a death grip on the job over the last ten games of the season. If he wants to play, a return to the USHL and transfer to a smaller school is probably the only way. Then there's Mike Chiasson, who was an apparently-healthy scratch for the ten-game run. Mike Szuma played in his stead; against Notre Dame Michigan refused to ice a sixth defenseman entirely. I don't think any of the recruits are threats to not show but never say never, mmm, Connor Carrick?
If Michigan does get Trouba back and somehow evades the inevitable unexpected departure, here's a hypothetical line chart:
- Di Giuseppe-Nieves-DeBlois
(Also: Kile, Sinelli, Cianfrone, Random New Walk-on who might be Max Shuart.)
- Bennett-De Jong
(Also: Szuma and probably Kevin Lohan, possibly Spencer Hyman.)
Michigan can sustain a forward departure without much dropoff. The guys I've projected as scratches are all capable of emerging into quality players. Sinelli gave Michigan good minutes late this year. Kile is a year older than the NTDP guys and has better than PPG with one of the USHL's best teams. While Cianfrone has struggled in the USHL, before that he was a midget minor demon and projected first-round OHL draft pick who still went in the third round despite telling teams he was headed to Michigan. Drawing one of those guys into the lineup will be fine. Only Shuart (who left his USHL club for the NAHL) looks particularly unlikely to be a contributor next year.
On defense, they need Trouba back badly. That third pairing is pretty sketch as it is, featuring one of two guys Michigan simply refused to ice against ND plus Serville, who still gives me hives quite a bit. The top two pairings feature two freshmen. There's not nearly as much confidence that any of the backup plans will come through. Lohan is a 6'5" late bloomer; Hyman is a guy who's piled up a lot of time in junior and seems like a third pairing type. If Trouba's gone Michigan is down to one solid pair and hope.
Copp will get an A, for sure, and then DeBlois seems like the most likely other captain. That lineup has no seniors save projected C Bennett and Luke Moffatt, who has never seemed like captain material. Juniors include Lynch, Hyman, Chiasson, and Serville. I could see Hyman getting a call, but DeBlois was on the top line while he toiled on the fourth.
3/23/2013 – Michigan 78, VCU 53 – 28-7, Sweet 16
It doesn't take long for people to forget who you are. One loss to a MAC team on the big stage seems to do it, even if that MAC team was an overtime away from the Elite Eight. The next year you might find yourself on a bit of a skid to end the year, facing down another mid-major star and instantly targeted by the talking heads as upset city, baby*. Rule one of sports opinion: the last thing that happened will always keep happening.
If you ever find yourself in this situation, I'll be surprised since that means you've been a head coach for a zillion years. You'll also be feeling like John Beilein has been the past week. Drinking decaf tea. Thinking about covalent bonds. Enjoying your grandchildren. Pissed off.
I mean… John Beilein, projected first-round upset victim. I don't know if you know this, head-talker,—I think you should since you will never stop referring to Michigan's 1-3-1 zone—but John Beilein has been around the block. He's made verbs. Have you made a verb? Does it mean "higher seed has just been blitzed out of tournament by three-raining center"? No. It means "seemingly has not watched college basketball since he played it, and probably not even then." Except your verb doesn't exist. "Pittsnogled" exists.
Even if your theory is that Beilein's March blitzes ended at the Big Ten's edge, you've got more evidence against you than in favor of you. In 2009, a ramshackle Michigan ten-seed took out #7 Clemson. At one point that game was a blowout before Michigan went into clock-kill mode. They held themselves in against Oklahoma despite deploying Zack Novak against Blake Griffin and having to rely on Anthony Wright as their primary scorer with Manny Harris stapled to the bench, in foul trouble. Two years later Michigan ran Tennessee out of the gym in an 8-9 game and was inches away from taking #1 Duke to OT.
Basketball's weird, randomness is random, bad things happen to chemistry teachers, yeah yeah. Going out of your way to project John Beilein doing poorly in the tourney is like pressing Trey Burke: once in a while you get lucky. Over the long run you're going to end up holding your intestines, thinking about a foolish life ill-lived.
Don't even get the tiny slice of John Beilein's brain given over to his id (he keeps it between gluten-free pancake recipes and lamp instructions in a disused, dusty corner) started about what happens after you show Summit Trey Burke his intestines. If the tiny disused id could draw Beilein's attention for a fraction of a second, boy, would he be slightly peevish about VCU this, havoc that. About new hotness Shaka Smart and his defense with a name and everything and a two-year-old play-in-to-Final-Four run.
The definition of whippersnapper (Bryan Fuller)
The gap between expectations of serious men—Vegas installed Michigan a slight favorite—and the chatter of VCU havoc-ing Kansas and whoever might come next was large.
"All we've been hearing was the VCU 'Havoc,' we didn't hear anything about us, and we wanted to prove we're no team to mess with right now," Michigan freshman Nik Stauskas said. "All you heard is 'how are they going to stop Nate Wolters?' Stuff like that."
The thing is: Shaka Smart is a great tourney coach. Entering Saturday's game against Michigan he was 7-1 against the spread during March Madness. He did that whole first-four-to-Final-Four thing. He is appallingly young to have done this. I have to tell you that when VCU's band was putting Akron's to shame on Thursday and their dancers were just kind of, I don't know, moving, you know, in a certain way and VCU came out and blitzed Akron it was intimidating. This was before I knew they had a guy with a Tim the Enchanter hat even.
Smart has created an aura. VCU's presence at an NCAA tourney site brings an electricity with it. This havoc thing will be a verb sooner or later. Shaka Smart is 35.
It's just that John Beilein's been doing this since Shaka Smart was playing with Legos. No, since Smart was gurgling out his first words. Dude was one year old when Beilein started his coaching career at an age even more appallingly young than Smart did. On March 19th, Beilein was 10-2 against the spread in the tourney since '05. He's since added two more ATS wins to his docket, the last one a deconstruction of Havoc™ so comprehensive that Michigan put up 1.2 points per possession despite hitting just 30% of their infinite wide-open threes.
Anyone predicting VCU to do things forgot that this was a John Beilein team piloted by Trey Burke. I am almost certain the handshake in the aftermath did not feature Beilein telling Smart he was strapped with gats when Smart was cuddling a cabbage patch. But not completely. Kansas awaits; John Beilein sips tea with eviscerating intent.
*["Upset city, baby" patently unfair here since Dick Vitale in fact put Michigan in his Final Four. I enjoy being patently unfair to Dick Vitale. If you consider this a character flaw in me, I consider it a character flaw in you. So there.]
McGary, of course. (Fuller photo, Ace photoshop, board suggestion at right.)
It will not be news if I tell you that Mitch McGary had himself a day: 21 points on 10 of 11 shooting, 14 rebounds, and even a made free throw. He earned Obligatory Wes Unseld references from the announce team and The Sporting News.
Oh, and he just might be the best outlet passer we’ve seen since Wes Unseld. Matter of fact, he’s built a lot like Unseld, too, with a hard-edged game like the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer.
He dove on the floor with Michigan up 20, because that is what a St. Bernard would do.
To cap it all off, he gave Kammron Taylor a flashback seizure so bad that Chris Rock (That Chris Rock) had a twinge:
He and GRIII were the engines behind a blowout on the boards: 19% OREB for VCU, 41% for Michigan. He played 34 minutes with a single foul. It was a day. If he can go head to head with Jeff Withey… dot dot dot.
While I don't think that's super-likely, guys do have coming-out parties that suddenly announce they have reached the proverbial Next Level. Beasting on an undersized VCU team with their one quality post stuck on the bench for a big chunk of the game* might count. Going head-to-head with Jeff Withey and coming out even is indisputable. I'm saying there's as chance.
*[Reddic had 16 points on 13 shot equivalents in 24 minutes. His backups saw a total of 21 minutes, in which they attempted zero shots.]
Stat of the game. Michigan gave up all of four fast-break points to VCU and scored 15 of their own. That is the recipe for blowing Shaka Smart off the court.
Stat of the game, part II. Michigan had 12 turnovers, VCU 11. This number is of course under the 15 magic number, or 23 magic percent. VCU also managed just two more steals than Michigan.
Slash and burn. I got a lot of grief about this assertion when Michigan ended up in the same pod as the rams:
Whenever someone posts a bracket and says they like or do not like the matchups therein there is always the guy who says they will boil themselves alive if VCU is a potential second-round matchup. I say bring the Rams on:
VCU 100% dependent on (huge) TO margin. A-10 opponents actually shooting better than Rams.
I'll take that strength versus VCU's many other weaknesses in the matchup game.
Now everyone will kill me if we lose to VCU in the second round. I should have said nothing.
I'm not usually a point-to-my-awesome-prediction guy, because predictions are stupid. (Remember "NC State is the #8 seed no #1 wants to see?") In this case, though, WOOOOOOOO.
Michigan's three and a half ballhandlers defeated virtually all attempts to run that 1-2-1 diamond trap. Except for a brief period right after halftime when Burke got run into a few traps—a couple times by his teammates—trying to heat him up was more loss than win for VCU. The 15 fast break points don't seem to include a number of possessions where the broken VCU press led to crushing GRIII/McGary dunks.
Those two were 17 of 19 combined on twos, and GRIII's miss was a chaotic attempt with guys falling all over the place that McGary immediately rebounded and put back. All but three of those attempts were at the rim. The press mostly set up dunks or layups or Kobe assists, not turnovers.
How did this happen? Why didn't the quick turnaround hamper Michigan's preparation? The program is based on ball control.
"Preparation for a game like this does not happen in one day," Beilein said. "If you came to our early drills in October, in the summer, we're catching on two feet, we're pivoting, we're passing the ball to the outside hand. We're valuing each possession. You play a team like VCU, if you don't value each possession and take care of the basketball, they're going to run points on you like crazy. (They're) averaging 75 points a game, 20 of those are off defensive transition off turnovers. We work on it daily.
"The prep was really minor (on Friday), as far as 90 minutes of walking around, doing things."
This was a draw of doom for VCU, playing a team that basically spends every practice defeating your system.
Spike. Hello. Spike Albrecht's 14 minutes came with a made three, a missed two that really should have been a Kobe assist (he drew Reddic and threw one off the backboard to Horford; Horford managed to biff the putback), and a couple of assists. The second blew the roof off the Palace:
nooooooooooooooo! ohhhhhhhhhhhh! lolllllllllllllllllll
(Watch the bench, BTW.) This is the bit where you started cackling madly because this was officially a replay of Tennessee 2011, and bitterly wished Gus Johnson was doing this game—oh my God Gus Johnson doing this game.
Anyway, Spike has a nasty habit of dribbling 25 seconds off the shot clock but eventually teams get irritated that this little white kid is running around the court on them and foul him. I do not think this is a sustainable strategy, but there are worse backup point guards to have.
One thing he's got in common with all Michigan point guards since Darius Morris emerged: kid is unflappable. He showed that today and during a stabilizing cameo after Michigan had gotten run early at Ohio State. Contrast his play with a clearly rattled Caris LeVert, who cost Michigan a few points in four minutes in the first half and then ceded the rest of his time to Albrecht.
A HUMBLEBRAG CHAMPION IS YOU. Hardaway on his reverse two handed slam:
"Coach (John) Beilein always said if you're going to do something flashy, it better work," Hardaway said after the game. "I just tried to do the easiest dunk that I knew how to do.
"It ended up being that."
Supporting cast turnovers. VCU got to Burke a bit, forcing seven turnovers out of him. A couple of those weren't his fault—in particular I remember one ill-fated backcourt trap that Nik Stauskas led Burke right into—but that's a high number. It's offset by the 5 the rest of the team picked up. Hardaway and Stauskas operated as press relief and auxiliary ballhandling, finishing the day with a 4 to 1 A:TO ratio. Add in Spike's one TO in 15 minutes and that's an impressive job of TO avoidance.
It's an expected job of TO avoidance, mostly. The exception: Hardaway taking the ball up the floor for big chunks of the game without incident was a bonus. It helped that VCU couldn't put one of their flypaper PGs on him with Burke out there and Theus in foul trouble.
A series of missed lane floaters. VCU was hurt early by a series of possessions that ended with their guards—I guess they're all basically guards—getting into the lane, whereupon McGary would help but not really challenge. The resulting short floaters went clang clang clang.
Looking at the box score, might this have been the gameplan? Rob Brandenberg, Melvin Johnson, Briante Weber, and Troy Daniels were a combined 9 of 24 from two, and if you look at those dudes' season averages and squint away a fast break adjustment, that's not far off what you'd expect from that collection of mediocre midrange shooters.
In compensation, VCU suffered a 3/16 night from three, with designated sniper Tony Daniels going 1/9, and got to the line just 6 times, all of those attempts from large-ish folk Treveon Graham and Juvonte Reddic. Graham, VCU's highest-usage player, was limited to eight shot equivalents in 35 minutes. As a team, VCU picked up six assists on 23 made baskets. Michigan had 17 on 31.
The problem with Michigan's D is that they kind of have to give something up. If those are lane runners without a Kobe Assist waiting, that doesn't seem too bad.
Behold the power of a withering tourney blowout on Kenpom. VCU rocketed from 22nd to 14th thanks to their Akron annihilation; Michigan providing the Rams the greatest two-game swing in tournament history bounced them up four spots. They are now ahead of Kansas(!) even after the Jayhawks' crunching second half against North Carolina.
All of this is poisoned by Akron playing their game against VCU short four players and the three-standard-dev matchup advantage Michigan had against the Rams, but you guys we're totally beating Kansas! You guys.
I don't think we're going to beat Kansas you guys. They've struggled for 60 of their 80 minutes in the tourney so far, sure. That doesn't change their season-long performance and the looming terror that is Jeff Withey. It seems like their shot is dependent on whether Kansas is a funhouse mirror version of some fourth graders like they were for about 22 minutes against North Carolina or a lethal death machine like they were the final 18 more than anything Michigan does.
I say that in part because turnovers are a persistent Kansas problem. They don't really have a point guard per se; facsimile Elijah Johnson's assist rate is barely above his TO rate. But Michigan does not force turnovers much. Unforced errors from Kansas seem to be make or break for them in this one.
But there's a reason Kenpom has this even. Just as soon as I figure it out I'll let you know about it.
Second small downer thing. Michigan couldn't have put Jordan Morgan out there for like five minutes? I'm worried that his mental state is haywire right now and Kansas looks like a team that will demand more post rotation from M. They play a two-post system with 6'8" senior Kevin Young (season 3PA: 6; season 3PM: 0). Young is a top-100 OREB guy and almost-top-200 DREB guy who shoots 56% from two. Meanwhile, Withey draws 5.2 fouls/40.
With the prospect of McGary foul trouble looming and the possibility Michigan will want to run two posts out there in the event Young is beating up GRIII on the boards, you'd expect Morgan to get 15 minutes or more in this one except for the fact he disappeared almost entirely last weekend.
Rothstein on McGary:
McGary almost shrugged discussing the hit, with a sly smile yet insisting it was unintentional. That is part of what makes McGary a question mark for how good this Michigan team could be in the final two weeks of the season.
“Mitch, his confidence was incredible today, easy drop-offs and offensive boards that he got and he just kept going,” said Michigan redshirt freshman forward Max Bielfeldt. “He can go on a run, and he’s just very talented. When he gets his game going, he’s really, really tough to stop.
“He’s a guy, when he gets going, he’s going to keep going, and his enthusiasm keeps his game at a high level.”
Gary Parrish on… McGary.
"We're an even-keeled group," Stauskas said. "Except for Mitch."
The Daily's Everett Cook on… McGary.
“He came in weighing in the 250s, ballooned up a little bit, you know, enjoying the cafeteria a bit too much,” Alexander said. “Then he got back, recalibrated with his discipline.”
John Niyo on… McGary. (And other stuff.)
McGary had 20 pounds on VCU forward Juvonte Reddic, and probably 40 pounds on just about everybody else the Rams could throw at him. Funny what escaping from the rough-and-tumble Big Ten can do for a guy, isn't it?
"I mean, I guess it was easy to grab rebounds," he said.
Easy for him to say. But hard to do justice to his energy level — "He went down and chased all the loose balls," Smart said — that never waned despite his playing a season-high 34 minutes.
"That's Mitch McGary," Burke said. "That's what he does. He's the guy that gives us the spark and makes our engine run."
Baumgardner on McGary!
"Mitch was at the LeBron James Skills Academy the summer before he (committed to Michigan), and he was out of the game and he was getting cups of water for his teammates," Alexander recalled earlier this week. "That, in essence, gave us an idea of the type of person he is.
"A selfless spirit that allows our culture to grow."
Burke broke Darius Morris's single-season assist record in the game. Talking head recap. Beilein says things. Clownfrauds no more, doubters silenced, welcome to the jungle amirite. Trey would be relieved if he could feel hoo-man squishy emotions, but clearly he cannot so this is probably a misquote.
Five Key Plays. Mitch, destroy.
3/10/2013 – Michigan 71, Indiana 72 – 25-6, 12-6 Big Ten
One of my earliest memories of basketball was brooding over a narrow loss. I have no memory of who may have been playing but since at this point in my life I lived in Denver and regarded the Alex English-era Nuggets as a curiosity, it must have been some Michigan game that my dad put on.
What struck me is the infinite variety of moments I had to brood on. This free throw here, this missed layup there, that egregious foul call: 40 to 48 minutes of opportunities to not lose by a point. Basketball is weird in that way. Most sports come with thunderclaps from God. If you're caught on the wrong end of a scoreline you brood over, oh, I don't know, a friggin' Honduran defender with one goal to his name at any level being momentarily possessed by the spirit of Pele. Something titanic. A keystone kops attempt to tackle in the secondary, eight blown tackles on one play, somehow giving up a 5 on 3 shorthanded breakaway, etc. That goal. That massive refactoring of the world from something in which pleasure beckoned into one containing only sand and dust. THAT.
On Sunday, mere hours after Michigan had choked away a second consecutive Big Ten title, we were treated to the NBA equivalent of the bicycle kick linked above when DeAndre Jordan caused twitter to explode into a panoply of jokes about the murder and death of one Brandon Knight.
Like you 1) haven't seen it and 2) won't watch it again:
The Clippers were awarded two points! That is a lot of points to get on one basketball possession! The Clippers acquired a third thanks to a free throw! That made the Clippers lead by 22 points instead of 19, so it was super helpful in their efforts to victory.
Basketball is weird in this way. It's the highlight thing. Baseball highlights are hugely important near-replicas of every other baseball highlight you've ever seen (man swings bat, ball goes far). Basketball highlights are unique snowflakes with almost no impact on the outcome. Except, of course, in those odd situations when the things are balanced on a knife edge right at the end, and everything that goes wrong is one of the thousand papercuts that did you in.
My most recent basketball memory is brooding over a narrow loss. Also there are a couple additional narrow-loss broodings in there ranging from 10th to 4th most recent. I don't know, man. Michigan probably wouldn't have grabbed that share of the Big Ten title if the conference season was 1800 games long. If Morgan's tip goes down their collective margin of victory over the teams they hypothetically would have shared with would have been 4; their collective margin of loss was 34. They were 3-3 in conference games decided by five or fewer points. They lost to Penn State. In the end, they got a fair result.
That does not stop a man from running his fingers through his hair and thinking of a half-court shot at Wisconsin and Jordan Morgan's putback hanging on the rim, hanging on the rim, hanging on the rim. Change a brush of the finger on those, and Michigan is the team raising a banner all by themselves. There are many things to brood on, things that make no sense and can be blamed on no one except bloody fate.
This is why I basically shrugged when Michigan went out in the first round last year—they'd come from a much more fortunate place than they did this year and still got that banner up. They don't give banners for falling valiantly in the Sweet Sixteen. I'm not sure we should be talking about salvage after Michigan's best season that counted in a long, long time, but after Sunday a lot more rides on the single elimination portion of the schedule. If the season was a game, it's one against a very good opponent coming down to the wire.
Make a macro free throw maybe?
REBOUND. Ugh, ugh, ugh. A cripplingly bad defensive rebounding performance is finally what doomed Michigan. Indiana recovered 57%(!!!) percent of their misses, with Oladipo snagging seven OREBs by himself. It's kind of hard to figure how Indiana didn't score more with that sort of second-chance rate. The end result of that bombing was to drop Michigan's defensive rebounding to 80th—they entered Big Ten play second in the country—and 8th in conference. They're actually worse this year in Big Ten play.
Much of this has happened just lately. This space was talking about how Michigan was in the upper echelon halfway through the conference season and holding their own as recently as a couple weeks ago. As mentioned after the Purdue game, the fives are a big issue: Morgan had six offensive rebounds but only two on defense; Michigan rolled out five different guys at that spot and got three defensive rebounds. Also, when Oladipo is going off like that someone isn't boxing him out: Tim Hardaway, who had two rebounds.
Generic mutterings about getting that fixed before the tourney go here.
Make your free throws, etc. I think it would have been good if Michigan had made the front ends of one and ones late. #strongtake
Good thing you didn't change the outcome of the game you guys. If a guy is gone for a dunk and someone prevents that from behind, is there a rule against that or not? A: yes, lol jk no. Even Clark Kellogg, last seen accusing his grandmother of fouling Cody Zeller, thought the obvious intentional foul was obvious. Michigan got neither the dunk or intentional call and ended up losing by a point. But at least they looked at it on the monitor!
The other ref bitches are the usual except for the blatant goaltend on a Burke shot that hit the backboard before being rejected. Missing that call should be grounds for termination. It is black and white, and of course cannot be reviewed.
Death to timeouts, Part MCMVII. The last ten seconds were a terrifying whirlwind because Michigan had no timeouts. Michigan couldn't go to the sideline, decide their play would be "Trey, do something" and then see if Trey could do something. Instead Trey just got on with the doing of things. A neutral observer probably enjoyed that quite a bit. It amplified my terror, to be sure.
This is what all basketball games could be like if timeouts were drastically slashed. In these situations there would not be ten-minute stretches of financial service commercials occasionally interspersed by basketball midway through the second half.
Zeller. Despite putting four fouls on Mitch McGary in eight minutes of play plus five more on other Michigan centers, Zeller's ORtg was just an ok 108 because of six turnovers. And some of those came against McLimans and Biefeldt, both inexplicably inserted late in the first half despite Horford not having any fouls. It's a small thing, but all small things are important in a one point game.
Tom Crean: pretty much. I can't believe this guy is this guy:
At least he lets you know by looking like Dwight Schrute, and by saying "whoops, Ron Patterson, you are vaguely ineligible because we don't have a scholarship.*" Apparently Meyer's work in the state of Indiana is a source of conflict:
There have been unfriendly recruitments between Indiana and Michigan in last year. Major source of issues between staffs. Will leave it at that.
Beilein is getting his punches in between the lines:
“Michigan’s always going to win with class, and it’s going to lose with class,” Beilein said. “I’m proud of the way Jeff [Meyer] showed great poise.”
YEAH KILL 'EM PILOT WALTER WHITE
*[He was so ineligible he ended up at Syracuse.]
3/1/2013 – Michigan 4, Ferris State 1 – 13-18-2, 10-15-2 CCHA
3/2/2013 – Michigan 1, Ferris State 1 (shootout win), 13-18-3, 10-15-3 CCHA
it was messy, like we like it (MGoBlue)
After the Bowling Green meltdown from myself and the hockey team I vowed I was done talking about them. They'd just gotten blown out by BG and topped it off by letting a dangerous knee-to-knee hit slide without so much as a shove. They sucked, which was bad enough. That they did nothing when a guy wearing an A was on the ice after a cheap shot in an already-lost game was the end.
I spent the following two months of the season watching them in a depressed, cynical fugue state, dreading the ticket in my hand that condemned me to watch them get swept by Alaska for the first time since Alaska was a thing, not really caring if we missed half of a first period against Western because the waitress couldn't figure out how to change the channel, content to pick up twitter updates on the Ohio State series. I kept thinking of better things to do with 500 dollars, like use it to set my beard on fire.
Friday, I went to the ticket drawer, pulled out not one but two Ferris State tickets, realized that the home-and-home I expected was a two game home series, and sighed.
Friday started off rough with a penalty 30 seconds in; Michigan only killed it off with a couple of fine point blank saves from Steve Racine and then suffered another shift of heavy Ferris pressure. I was just prepping to enter fugue state when Michigan scored; Zach Hyman and young Lynch and Selman cobbled out a goal from some hard work. Guptill won a board battle and Andrew Copp made a cross-ice pass that Deblois buried, and Ferris got chippy.
Jacob Trouba probably got speared at some point, and another opponent knee met a Michigan player dangerously. This time there wasn't even time for me to put the Bowling Green game together with that incident before Copp came over and let that Ferris guy know he was marked. Roughing penalties followed; Trouba took an extra two late with Michigan up four. Michigan had incidentally dominated a 4-1 win, outshooting a decent team by 14. It was fun.
Saturday's ticket felt like an opportunity instead of a burden, and Copp—now ensconced in his role as the #1 center—started screwing with Ferris before the puck even dropped. He assisted on a first period goal, drew two penalties, intercepted stretch passes like he was playing for a Ron Mason Michigan State outfit, and spent large chunks of the game giving anyone who looked at a Michigan player funny the business. A pissed-off Trouba picked up a misconduct. I grew little grudges against Ferris State players, and was incensed by after the whistle business.
Michigan again significantly outshot Ferris. Racine stoned a couple of breakaways and then three straight shootout attempts. The team mobbed him for an unnaturally long time after the last one.
It felt like a team again, and Yost a place to be. It was Michigan hockey: end to end, pissy, ref-baiting, out-shooting, chippy fun. Michigan has always been a team with its heart on its sleeve, prone to dumb penalties of aggression that I used to loathe. They are far superior to the sleepwalk of the last year. By the end of Saturday's tumultuous draw Ferris's goalie was out in overtime and Yost was on its feet, moaning and screeching, full of hate and joy and fear. The new building seemed like the old one for a bit. Finally.
I don't know if Racine is going to keep up this level of performance or if Trouba's going to stick around or if Copp can really be the emotional center of a team as just a sophomore. I do have something to say about them that isn't randomly assorted swear words now. It's hard to see them winning two series and two at the Joe to extend that tourney streak, but at least I'll be pulling for them instead of silently hating everything. At least I've got a reason to renew.
Bullets still mostly about next year
Gongshow forever. I don't actually know if the refereeing in the Big Ten is going to be any better, but it's fitting that the last ten seconds of regular-season CCHA play saw Ferris State get a breakaway thanks to having seven guys on the ice. Here are four:
Here are two more:
This is okay since the goalie is out. This guy…
Not so much. Racine stoned the guy anyway.
Racine, come on baby. I was hoping he'd pop that save percentage over .900 with that weekend but he remains stuck at .892. Nonetheless, he was probably the star of the weekend if it wasn't Copp. Two goals against and many quality saves.
The one goal on Saturday was a little strange—still not sure if that was deflected or just unexpected—and is a bit concerning. Racine has had games like that where he makes a bunch of good stops and then lets some bizarre stuff in; it's a major weakness.
Despite it, the kid looked good… confident post-to-post, able to come out on shooters when it's appropriate, and seemingly technically sound. I was watching Saturday's game with a couple of guys who have played the position as kids and on the beer league level and they also thought he'd come a long way. My amateur impressions are that I see a ton of places where pucks can slide through Rutledge, and Racine provides not only a bigger guy but one with fewer gaps as he moves around.
Michigan should still try to find another goalie next year; I think Racine has a decent chance of developing into a quality guy. If he does, Josh Blackburn for president.
Copp. At the beginning of the year I said I thought he could be more than a fourth-line PK guy like the Swistaks and Fardigs before him who came from the end of the USNTDP bench. I didn't think he'd be centering the top line by the end of the year. I cannot overstate how excellent he looked this weekend: he played smart, made nice passes, took a couple of high-quality shots, and seems to have become the on-ice leader of the team. Not bad for a late add.
I'm guessing the split between football and hockey—he was Skyline's QB—held him back and now that he's finally focusing full time on one he's making a leap. At 7-9-16 he's ten points off the team leaders, but that's with very little PP time and after spending big chunks of the year down the depth chart. He's making a late-year leap and I bet he sees those points go up a lot next year.
Nieves. Another guy who is rounding into form as his freshman season comes to a close. A lot of guys who become stars start out slowly as freshmen and then emerge in the second half of their first year—Palushaj, Pacioretty (though he never came back), and Tambellini spring to mind. He's showing that he may be a guy Michigan can lean on heavily next year.
Next year. This was discussed in a UV last week, but it's all about offseason departures. Michigan loses Sparks, Lynch The Elder, Treais, Moffie, and Rohrkemper. Only three of those guys really play important roles. Sparks and Rohrkemper get scratched a lot. Moffie is the 4/5 defenseman if Clare is healthy. Lynch is okay but eminently replaceable. Only Treais might sting. Most schools are going to lose players more important than one guy with 20-something points, though.
But what with the rampant rumors about dissention in the ranks, an already-bulging roster, and a recruiting class that could have as many as eleven kids in it, defections are all but inevitable. Merrill, Trouba and Bennett will have NHL options; Di Guiseppe, Guptill, and Nieves will also. Other guys may just want to leave.
Michigan is committed to bringing in at least seven of those guys: forwards Evan Allen, Bryson Cianfrone, JT Compher, Alex Kile, and Tyler Motte plus defensemen Michael Downing and Nolan DeJong. Hockey is an equivalency sport so not all of those guys are necessarily on full rides and Michigan lost Daniel Milne midseason, but if they're going to keep the roster at its currently rather packed level they are going to suffer a defection. If they don't, they will carry nine defensemen into next year. If they suffer lots, then Max Shuart, Spencer Hyman, and Kevin Lohan may also join up, and then there's the goalie situation.
Michigan is a team that could go into next year featuring Trouba, Merrill, Bennett, and projected first-rounder Downing as their top four defensemen… or they could lose half of those guys and end up icing Mike Szuma quite a bit.
Meanwhile at forward, Compher is a high-end prospect expected to go in the middle of the first round; Allen and Motte are second and fourth in NTDP scoring. Cianfrone was projected as a first-round OHL pick before his Michigan commitment but has struggled in the USHL with a 3-14-17 line in 39 games. An emergency appendectomy may have something to do with that, he is small (5'8"), and he is young, but it looks like his star has fallen. Kile on the other hand has put up a PPG this year with Green Bay. At least one or two of those guys will probably end up on a big line.
Here it's less precipitous a dropoff if only because none of the forwards are near Merrill or Trouba's level, but Guptill's been playing well of late and it would suck to lose Nieves just as he starts rounding into a player.
In any case, find or grow a goalie and the talent will be there for a major bounce-back year as long as there's a guy to grab folks by the scruff of their neck. Please hockey Jesus, don't let Trouba's only year at Michigan be this floundering one.