Niko Porikos grew up in an NTDP billet home. Cool story.
More Aerris Smith. Starts boilerplate, and then gets COLLEGE, like Junior Hemingway after the Sugar Bowl COLLEGE:
Uh. Here's a first hand look at Wofford from a gentleman who saw them take on Davidson. Expect a lot of Cochran trying to get a shot for someone, usually himself.
WIN THE (hockey) GAME. A gentleman has run through all three million or so possibilities remaining in the college hockey season and presents us with everyone's chances of finishing at position X. The Penn State game turns out to be kind of a big deal:
PWR Win 0 Win 1 Win 2 Win 3 #6 0.7% #7 0.0% #8 20.5% #9 0.1% 56.5% #10 2.5% 22.3% #11 0.0% 21.9% 38.9% #12 2.0% 43.4% 39.6% #13 12.9% 25.6% 16.8% #14 30.5% 7.5% 2.0% #15 33.2% 1.5% #16 17.4% 0.1% #17 3.4% #18 0.5% In: 20.6% 95.9% 96.6% 100.0%
That is a hell of a swing.
The breakdown is off, as it assumes all remaining games are coinflips. This paints a more pessimistic picture than is realistic since it gives bid thieves a higher shot at theft than they actually have. So the picture with a Penn State loss isn't quite that grim. Michigan's chances in the event of a loss are probably in the 40-50 range if you live in a world where MSU's shot at a bid is less than 12.5%.
But it's pretty easy: win on Thursday and you're in barring worst-case scenarios where everyone else on the bubble does spectacularly well and bids get stolen. If only I could claim a game against Penn State is not a coin flip given the fact that Penn State is very bad at hockey.
The imperative is clear. #winthegame.
WIN THE (basketball) GAME. Sports On Earth profiles John Beilein, the "maestro of March":
On the eve of the Final Four, John Beilein's most important player was a mess. Practicing against teammates imitating Syracuse's famed zone defense, Mitch McGary's footwork was awful. If Beilein couldn't correct the problem, Michigan had no chance of playing for a national title.
Beilein wanted his 6-foot-10 freshman center to operate around the foul line and distribute the ball. The coaching staff spent all week trying to get him to pivot a certain way. Most of the time, he traveled or threw the ball away. "He couldn't read the zone because he couldn't see it, and he couldn't see it because he didn't have the right balance and leverage," Beilein said. Frustrated, he brought McGary, along with a few managers and players, back to the court after Friday's practice and said, "OK, Mitch, one more time: This is how we're going to do it." He told McGary to slow down and trust his instincts. He finally executed.
The next night in the Georgia Dome, McGary, who had a total of 18 assists all season unitl then, sliced up the 2-3 zone, recording a team-high six assists, while also scoring 10 points and grabbing five offensive rebounds in a 61-56 win. "It was a week of work getting him to figure it out," Beilein said. "His assists won us the game."
Read the whole thing. Also in Beilein hagiography: Frank Martin talks him up. Yes, that Frank Martin, the demon-screamer late of Kansas State who inexplicably took the South Carolina job.
NMSU's announcer has to thank God every day that he gets to exclaim SIMMMMMMMMM BHULLLLLAAAAAAAAAR at maximum volume.
The other random obsession with a basketball player. Remember SIM BHULLAR? 7'5", 360 pound Indo-Canadian Michigan was poking around who ended up at New Mexico State? Guy with an all-time combination of game and announcer-friendly name?
SIM BHULLAR plays about 20 minutes a game for the Aggies, has excellent rebound and block rates, shoots 64% from the floor with decent usage, and gets fouled a lot, whereupon he hits only 54%.
He and New Mexico State will take on Steve Fisher and San Diego State in the first round in a Michigan Old versus Michigan What Might Have Been matchup.
Seriously though, given the way Michigan plays offense they could really use an offensively challenged guy who looks like he's been in contact with a radioactive spider. Radioactive spider guy challenges shots and flushes putbacks and dumpoffs. We need to get in contact with whoever's importing the Joel Embiids of the world and see if there's a guy who's maybe not Joel Embiid but good enough for Michigan's purposes.
Dogpile. Yet another lawsuit has been dropped on the NCAA. This one is from a Jeffery Kessler, noted sports anti-trust lawyer, and it's a doozy:
"The main objective is to strike down permanently the restrictions that prevent athletes in Division I basketball and the top tier of college football from being fairly compensated for the billions of dollars in revenues that they help generate," Kessler told ESPN. "In no other business -- and college sports is big business -- would it ever be suggested that the people who are providing the essential services work for free. Only in big-time college sports is that line drawn."
Maybe it was not the best move to include a Rutgers basketball player in your suit when you're claiming college athletes should be given something more than a stern talking-to and return to the American conference, but this Kessler guy is bad news for sports leagues trying to keep the man up:
Kessler helped bring free agency to the NFL, winning a key jury verdict for the NFL Players Association in 1992. He remains outside counsel to the NFLPA and the NBA's player union, has taken on Major League Baseball and represented star athletes including Michael Jordan and Tom Brady. For municipal authorities, he forced the Raiders to honor their stadium lease and stay in Oakland.
Given the skepticism of the judge in the O'Bannon case and Kessler's history of wins here it seems hard to believe the NCAA will look much like it does now in a decade. And that's a good thing, both in terms of fairness and for Michigan specifically. Michigan has a lot of money. Alums have a lot of money. We are currently using that in indirect ways while others are using their money to get to the point.
Meanwhile. An article on Michigan's surging revenues highlights the absurdity of the claim that most athletic departments lose money:
Department revenues rose $41.5 million from 2009-10 to 2012-13. During that same four-year period, expenses increased at a similar level, rising from $87 million to $132 million.
Funny how that works. It's almost like athletic departments spend all the money they have.
In 2009-10, Michigan paid $33 million in wages to about 275 people. By 2012-13, the athletic department had 321 employees (it has grown even more this year to 336 workers) and projected $44 million in pay, including $19 million on coaches' salaries.
It's long past time to redirect some of that to the players.
Oh man. IU's Fred Glass making me feel slightly better about the AD gap:
"Finances wouldn't be an issue if we thought it made sense," Glass told The Star. "But we're Indiana. We don't play in the CBI."
A sentiment better left unexpressed after the last decade.
Right, that. Gregg Doyel makes a good point about Wichita State getting the stink eye from the committee:
We can debate whether Louisville deserved to be seeded so poorly, but what we cannot debate is what is being asked of Wichita State. The top seeds are supposed to be geographically protected, helped out if possible but not completely screwed at a minimum. And Wichita State was completely screwed.
Any idea how far Louisville is from Indianapolis? About 90 minutes by car. It's nothing. And southern Indiana is a hotbed of Louisville fans. Louisville is more than comfortable at Indy.
If Louisville was going to be a 4 they should have shipped them anywhere else. Does the NCAA really care that much about attendance?
Spring whatball? There is some thing with a oblong ball that isn't quite rugby that Michigan appears to be doing.
Oh good, more tackles for loss.
Departures. Matt Painter grumbled publicly about having selfish players, so a transfer does not come as a shock. Ronnie Johnson is gone from the Boilers. This is not a harsh blow statistically—Johnson's ORTG was under 100—but it is not a good look for Purdue, which loses seven contributors after going 15-17 and doesn't have the recruiting class to make up for that. Painter's apparently going to get another season, but it looks like his last unless he performs a miracle.
Also in bad teams from Indiana, Noah Vonleh is "strongly leaning" towards entering the draft. Losing Vonleh would leave Indiana hoping that Hanner Mosquera-Perea or Jeremy Hollowell can become basketball-type objects. Possible… but not looking good after this year.
Etc.: Guptill's September suspension turns out to be for assault; judge determines that Guptill made a guy "in fear of being pushed or shoved." Mark Richt has lost control of Alex Guptill. That is some straight-up UGA petty misdemeanory.
Tommy Amaker: "we're not trying to win a championship, we're trying to be a championship team." Peak coach-speak has been achieved.
3/14/2014 – Michigan 2, Minnesota 3 (OT) – 17-12-4, 9-8-2 Big Ten
3/15/2014 – Michigan 6, Minnesota 2 – 18-12-4, 10-8-2 Big Ten
Michigan is barely ahead of the pack. [Bill Rapai]
Imagine a man tied to a pole with a bungee cord in zero-G. Grip this man with an enormous metal arm and pull him until the bungee cord has no more give. Let go. Watch as the man flies back and forth at maximum amplitude forever, occasionally bonking his head on the pole.
I've just saved you 500 bucks for a hockey season ticket. You are invited to give me a cut with the donate button at right.
What can Michigan's hockey team do? Anything. They can beat Boston College, they can run out to a 10-2-1 start, they can thoroughly dominate Wisconsin in a weekend series, they can beat Minnesota by sniping the water bottle four times.
What can Michigan's hockey team do? Anything. They can lose to Penn State, lose to Michigan State, lose to Penn State, lose to Michigan State. They can let Western Michigan waltz, or possibly tango, through the slot a dozen times in a single hockey game. They can try some sort of center-ice pinch that was months ago but still remains crystal-clear in my memory as the most insane decision I've seen since Jack Johnson was around, making insane decisions seem like good ideas.
Yeah, actually. This hockey team is Jack Johnson, the hockey team.
But they have just about done it, with an assist from Minnesota's backup goalie. They have waddled their way into the NCAA tournament. Since they're on the bubble, their tournament starts one weekend early and has a very strange structure where one loss is permissible in most situations as long as it doesn't come against Penn State.
You may think this doesn't quite count. I do. I will be turning on a television at three on a Thursday to watch Michigan play a hockey game in front of 14 people as I try not to have a panic attack. If that's not the NCAA hockey tournament it's close enough.
If—if—if—ifffffffffffff Michigan does in fact get past Penn State, a possibility I am absolutely not taking for granted because this would be like taking a spiderweb for granted as you clung to it over the Grand Canyon, they will be in barring specific clusters of results. And that will be fine. Just making the tournament was everybody's first and only goal in a year when the second defenseman on the depth chart was terrifying—let alone the second pairing—and the goaltender situation was a cloud of question marks.
Even when they were rushing out to a blazing start, nobody who was watching them play was harboring delusions of grandeur. They're rickety on the back end and only flash their talent at forward often enough to drive you crazy when they go a month without scoring a goal on purpose. As the man said, they are who they are.
And since they are who they are—a man careening endlessly from one extreme to the other—they've got as much of a shot as anyone does in the barely-weighted plinko that is the worst championship format in sports. Once their spot is secured they could roll out onto the ice against the top two teams in the country and hold their own, as they did against Minnesota and Boston College.
They could implode in a pile of sawdust, yeah. Everyone can implode in a pile of sawdust. One seeds get plunked on the regular by random collections of initials that happen to have a hockey team. We've got one, and you don't want to face us, no way. Unless it's one of those days where you really do. But it might not be one of those days. It might be one of those other days. Nothing is certain, except that after it is over you will sit down and hold your head and wait for the room to come to a full and complete stop.
We're in! Ish! [Rapai]
Despite being a three seed if the season ended today, Michigan is not safe with a win over Penn State. Unfortunately, there are a number of scenarios that leave them the first team out if they go 1-1 at the Big Ten tourney. That's because the margins are tiny this year. The RPI gap from 11th—where Michigan sits—down to 17th is less than a point.
Michigan can't get passed by #17 Northeastern since they're out of the HE tournament, but Minnesota State, North Dakota, Vermont, Cornell, and Colgate are all within striking distance. All save Vermont are active in their conference tourneys. If Michigan beats Penn State they will finish ahead of the Catamounts; the rest is up for grabs.
Teams are so tightly packed that changing a single result has surprising and inexplicable consequences. In one scenario, Minnesota State beating Ferris in the WCHA final is the difference between MSU-Mankato finishing outside of the tourney or getting a three seed. It also knocks Colgate out as Michigan passes them for obscure opponents-opponents-win-percentage reasons.
But here are some things I can tell you:
Michigan is (almost certainly) safe if they reach the Big Ten final. Even in the worst case scenario where somehow they face MSU and lose to them, thus crushing their RPI along with my skull and providing MSU a bid, they sneak in over the line unless there are two additional bid thieves. If it's Ohio State or Minnesota their RPI will land them as a three seed even in the event of a loss.
They could sneak onto the two line by winning the tournament. A low two is their top end.
1-1 is very likely good enough. It would take some seriously bad luck for every bubble team to man up in the fashion necessary to boot M from the tourney.
0-1 is not over. BUT LET'S NOT EXPLORE THAT OKAY.
Teams you hate. Life gets much, much easier for Michigan if Cornell and Colgate lose their ECAC semifinals to Quinnipiac and Union, respectively. Both of those latter teams are already in. The two C outfits are right on Michigan's heels. Their performance is almost more important than Michigan's—they can get in with a Penn State loss as long as the ECAC results fall right.
Bid thieves are always a bubble team's foe. Those are UNH in Hockey East, BGSU and Alaska-Anchorage in the WCHA, Denver, Miami, and WMU in the NCHC, and any Big Ten university with "State" in the name.
Teams you like. Root for North Dakota in the NCHC and Lowell in Hockey East, the former because it's the only current at-large from that league, the latter because every bit of schedule strength is going to count down the stretch here.
Ballpark. Michigan is 99% to make it with a 2-1 record this weekend, 80% to make it with 1-1, and 50% to make it with 0-1.
So frustrating. I kind of get why Minnesota may have relaxed on Saturday after securing the conference title, but it's not like they had nothing to play for. The #1 overall seed gets the Atlantic Hockey opponent that is generally far worse than any other in the field (but will still have a goalie who makes 60 saves because goalies are all far too good these days). BC and Minnesota were competing for that.
It in fact turns out that they had nothing to play for because Boston College got knocked out of the Hockey East tournament, guaranteeing Minnesota the top seed in the tournament.
Minnesota didn't know that on Saturday, though and by the time their backup goalie had ceded his first truly bad goal he'd been beaten on a procession of perfect water-bottle pops that comprised the prettiest set of goals seen in Yost Ice Arena in a long time. And the previous night, when Minnesota was going all out for the title, Michigan played them dead even.
So if they'd done what a team that plays Minnesota dead even does against some of the worst guys on their schedule…
And the avatar of that. Alex Guptill came off his healthy scratch in the aftermath of one of those horrible losses and Got The Message for about the fifth time in his career, playing impressive hockey. Some of the stuff he does is NHL-level.
There was one particular rush on which he repositioned himself in just the proper way so he could snap a shot past the defender's leg. That shot was whistling towards the top of the net before the goalie managed to snag it. It did not go in, but I muttered "Jesus" under my breath because the move and shot were so nasty.
I just hope he doesn't run out of attention before the end of the season here. If he comes back for his senior year—no idea—with the intention of getting an NHL contract for serious he could be a Hobey finalist. Or he could just be the most frustrating player in the last 15 years of Michigan hockey. Enormous wild card.
Sinelli emerging. The crazy thing about Andrew Sinelli these days is that he couldn't manage to find his way onto the ice as a forward during his first two years. He seems so assured with the puck as a defenseman that it's hard to envision him as a healthy scratch. Now that he's settling into his new role he is activating himself on offense more, not only for his hat trick against MSU but also several times in the Minnesota series he found himself in a dangerous position with the puck after making a nice read as to how the play would develop.
Is he Michigan's #2 defenseman now? With Kevin Clare playing his best hockey, probably not… but it's close.
The Hyman breakout. Happy to be right about this:
Inexplicable player enthusiasm of the year. Always one guy on the team who does nothing statistically but I find a way to advocate anyway, and this year it's Zach Hyman. Hyman's 1-2-3 line is obviously bleah. I still manage to think that he's much better at coming out of the corners with a purpose than anyone else on the team and should be flanked by two skilled players to take advantage of his ability to create offense off the cycle.
He seems like a different player, even if the stats aren't showing it. Remember this if he blows up in the next 20 games. Forget it if he doesn't.
After starting out with that 1-2-3 line in 13 games he put up 7-8-15 in his next 21.
Shuart's potential. Max Shuart has a nice combination of size and speed that hasn't really done much in his limited opportunities, but he seems like an intriguing guy to keep an eye on for next year. Could develop into a third line/PK guy.
Post game celebration. Confetti ho.
Morgan's singing voice is not the strong point of his game, but we'll forgive him.
Beilein said he will give away the coach of the year award as a trivia door prize at the radio show.
The first words out his mouth when asked about the award were about Tim Miles; he seemed almost annoyed he'd been handed a plague.
Meanwhile, Nik Stauskas is your Big Ten player of the year, Caris LeVert is second-team All Big Ten, and Derrick Walton is on your all-freshman team. On the snub side of things, Jordan Morgan is passed over for all-defense and Irvin for all-freshman.
It was probably tough for anyone to look at Michigan's defense and provide an all-D nod to them, even if most of the things going on weren't Morgan's deal. Irvin losing out to Purdue's Kendall Stephens is hard to defend since they were the exact same player and Stephens hit 37% of his threes to Irvin's 41%. But whatever, man.
Mmm, foreboding. John Gasaway puts together a list of the top players in college basketball($) that includes one Nik Stauskas, and sums him up from the opponent's point of view well:
At the moment, I'm not sure there's anything else in Division I ball quite like the deep foreboding experienced by opposing fans when the first 3 falls for Stauskas.
He's an Illinois fan, so he may be extrapolating from his most recent Stauskas experience.
Major blow to a contender. Kansas's Joel Embiid has a stress fracture in his back and is a "longshot" for the first weekend of the NCAA tourney. He's just plain out for the Big 12 tourney. If Kansas maintains their spot on the two line the toughest seed they can face before the Sweet 16 is a 7, but they just got beat by WVU in a game that would have been a blowout if WVU could handle a press.
For Michigan, a Kansas loss in the Big 12 tourney helps them in their quest to scoot into a Nova/Wichita region, and possibly Indianapolis. It would at least take a Villanova loss before anyone starts talking about a potential one seed for Michigan.
It's desperation time for hockey. [Bill Rapai]
The other bracket. Michigan is just about hanging on to a spot in the hockey tournament despite their inability to beat some of the worst teams in the country. They are 14th in the Pairwise at this moment; current hockey bracketology has them matched up against Union in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
At 14th, Michigan could withstand one bid thief but not two. There is an extra conference this year, and thus an extra tournament to worry about. At 14th, there's probably a 50-50 shot at a bid. Ferris State is the only WCHA team in the top 16; St. Cloud and North Dakota are the only NCHC teams in the top 16. The ECAC has three teams slated for the tournament, as does the Big Ten. Bid thieves are everywhere.
That's if Michigan maintains its current position. The bad news: this weekend's opponent is an excellent Minnesota team. The good news: a split will be massively helpful thanks to the new quality win bonus. Get swept, though, and Michigan will be either right on the bubble or right outside it.
These are the wages of going 5-4 against Penn State and Michigan State. If Michigan ends up on the outside looking in again, that is 85% of the reason why.
Worst best mascot ever. I see shots of old mascots that seem designed to engender years of nightmares and pine for their return. South Dakota School of Mines and Technology has my back.
His name is Grubby. Seriously. If Dave Brandon could guarantee that hypothetical Michigan mascot would be a homeless Wolverine named "Diseasy" I would support a mascot for M. Alas, it will just be a wolverine in a bread bowl.
Well that's (partially) random then. If you were wondering if student sections could affect free throw shooting, the answer is probably no since Northwestern crushed all comers in this department while MSU finished last.
While most of this looks like random variation, those gaps down to Nebraska and Northwestern are pretty wild. I wonder if that's repeatable. 148 attempts is kind of a lot for that to be totally random.
Next year's schedule. Michigan's preseason tourney next year will take them back to Brooklyn. They'll play a couple of warmup tomato cans at Crisler before taking on one of Villanova, VCU, or Oregon at the Jay Z Center in the "Legends Classic"*. I'd imagine they'll split Michigan and Villanova with the hope the two meet in the final.
*[Which sounds like a fictional tournament hosting Generic State, East University, Ivy Tech, and COLLEGE COLLEGE.]
Well, yeah. By FOIAing the Ann Arbor Police Department, MLive discovers that Michigan's Office Of Institutional Equity asked them for the Gibbons police report in October, which doesn't clarify anything as to when the athletic department knew about what was going down. The most interesting bit of the story is actually a comment from an MLive person:
For context, the Ann Arbor News has been requesting several documents and communications via FOIA from U-M, but they have declined all of our requests citing sections of the Freedom of Information Act that allows U-M "to refrain from disclosing information that would constitute an unwarranted invasion of an individual's privacy." We continue to file FOIAs with U-M, but it appears in this case our best bet for information is requesting it from other sources that U-M has communicated with in regards to this case, including the AAPD.
Other FOIA-covered organizations offer up their data. Michigan has a culture of secrecy that has nothing to do with the privacy of individuals, but rather seems to be focused on covering for people who may or may not have screwed up, whether that's in taking four years to act on the Gibbons information or as part of the massive PR debacle that ensued after actually acting.
Etc.: Scouting Jeremy Gallon. McGary and Robinson on list of folks whose draft stock has slipped. Kam Chatman named to one of those basketball all star type things. Lax getting competitive this year. Sloan Sports Analytics conference suffers fate of all things. Jordan Morgan's top moments.