Union and Michigan State are underway in a near-empty building, so we're off. Some final items before the madness descends:
HOCKEYBEAR. PLAYOFF TIME IS HOCKEYBEAR TIME.
HOCKEYBEAR IS GO
Cornell. The preview is here; the Big Red is a tight-checking team with a defensive emphasis and good goaltending. Usually getting an ECAC team in the tournament is a good sign—no team from that league has advanced to the Frozen Four since 2003. You saw the Air Force game, though. This is single elimination playoff hockey.
Line change? Michigan's broken up their top line at an odd time. In practice they've moved Derek Deblois up and Chris Brown down, leaving the lines like so:
- Brown-Lynch The Elder-Moffat
- Rohrkemper-Lynch The Younger-Hyman
Berenson's explanation of this is grim:
"I just think the lines were getting stale, especially Wohlberg's line," Berenson said. "I thought they lost their work ethic, and they were scoring as individuals but the line wasn't producing. In fact, the line was negative in the last 10 games.
"We can't go into a tournament with a line that is not helping the team, especially one that's supposed to be one of your best."
The top line was still filling up the nets, scoring eight goals in the last nine games, but they're –1 between them. How much is on them and how much is on Michigan's newfound addiction to terrible turnovers from the defense.
Also from that article: Michigan is 13-4-1 since Merrill returned, and he's +12.
Or maybe not? The Daily has another quote from Berenson that suggests Michigan may dump the change if it's not going well:
“When you see the line chart (on Friday) you’ll have a better idea,” Berenson said. “But I like the fact that we’ve got some flexibility. We’ve had different players play with different players during the year, and we’ve even had some guys play different positions. I think when you get to this point of the year, you have to be flexible, as a coach and a player.
“That doesn’t answer (the) question, but that’s my answer.”
It's possible Red is just sending a message.
2002 from darker eyes. Denver reminisces about Yost's apex:
"That was one of the toughest losses I've had in my career," says Kevin Doell, who led that club with 43 points and remains a veteran scorer with the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League. "When we had a lead going into the third period, we were good at shutting the door. Once they got that first goal and their crowd got into it, it was a huge momentum boost for them. It's still hard to swallow when I think about it."
And thus was born the NCAA's deathly fear of a home crowd for anyone other than Minnesota.
The start of it all. The Daily's Zach Helfland tell the story of Michigan's tourney streak beginning:
It was late Sunday night in March 1990. Bo had just retired, the Fab Five just months away from enrolling at Michigan, and Berenson had just finished a phone call that would decide whether his once-mighty hockey team would be relevant again after so many years.
The 2012 version of the Michigan hockey team encountered some bumps, but it waltzed into the tournament. So did the team before it. In fact, since 1990, only one team, the 2010 squad (which Shawn Hunwick led on its miracle run), was anywhere close to the bubble. But in 1990, it wasn’t that easy.
On one end of the call was Berenson, six fruitless years into his tenure in Ann Arbor. On the other was the NCAA selection committee. Ever since it beat Bowling Green in the CCHA consolation game the day before, Berenson’s team, firmly planted on the NCAA Tournament bubble, had been waiting for this call.
View from Cornell. An email:
Hi, I'm a Cornell fan. I like your site and wanted to add a thought or two with respect to some of the comments.
About the ECAC's number of national titles: technically it is four, not three. Cornell (1967, 1970), RPI (1985) and Harvard (1989). RPI also won in 1954, before the league was formed. And BU walked off with 3 (1971, 1972, 1978) when Hockey East split off from the ECAC.
On the subject of Cornell's mascot/nickname confusion: The nickname is the Big Red. Just the color. We tried to explain this to a Minnesota fan at the 2005 regional when they asked what the mascot is and they thought we were talking down to them. But usually when we say "Big Red" to someone the next words out of their mouth are "Big Red What?". In fact, one of the Cornell fan sites is called "the Big Red What?"
Anyway, the nickname comes from a football song written in 1905 as the team wore red and white, the school colors since its founding. The bear came along in 1915 when the football team bought a live black bear and kept it on the sidelines during games. And despite a bear being in the Cornell sports team logos the university website still refers to the mascot as "unofficial". Not sure what to make of that. Long story short, nobody calls us "the Bears".
They're like Stanford, okay?
Etc.: Michigan is not exactly paranoid about letting people see their practices. Cornell is of course the team that Michigan emulated during the famous 1991 matchup at Yost that spawned a thousand angry swears. (HT: MHN.)
New Hockeybear. The Alaska hockey series is previewed by Yesman. Alaska means hockeybear. There is new Hockeybear.
Yeah, it's not as good as last year's, but they were due for a comedown after making the greatest hype video in the history of the world. I do like that it makes me think of Take On Me.
UFR update. It is not going to happen this week. It's a long story but I ended up having to disassemble my laptop almost wholly—I still have a half-dozen screws left over, looking for a home—over the course of the week. This was accompanied by the usual shouting and banging that precedes total laptop disassembly. Sorry; look for both halves early next week.
We are 2% of the way to this game. The thing the man said to the people at Tulane about wanting a game against Michigan turns out to be a real thing:
Rich Rodriguez wants a piece of his former employer.
UA athletic director Greg Byrne said Thursday he and the Wildcats' new coach discussed playing Michigan, which fired Rodriguez after the 2010 season.
"He brought it up like, 'Hey, let's look at this down the road,'" Byrne said. "I said, 'Sure.'"
But not a really real thing.
Byrne said the conversation lasted 10 seconds. He has yet to contact the Wolverines.
"It's a two-way path to play a game," he said.
I'd rather not dredge that up again, but if they want it enough to do a one-off at Michigan Stadium it's better than playing East Nowhere.
Something that turns out to not be true. Yeah: the seat filler thing was a hoax that lured me in. Mea culpa. Well played, whoever you are.
Iowa on the decline? The High Porch Picnic breaks out the recruiting stars for a rough evaluation of the amount of talent available for the Hawkeyes next year, finding that the offense will drop a little (from 3.0 to 2.9) and the defense will fall off a cliff even from its current dilapidated state. This year Iowa's average is 2.7; they graduate seven starters and will be dealing with this:
Standard disclaimers about stars not being the be-all and end-all apply but holy dang, man. Remember that window when Iowa was recruiting at a top 25 level? Not so much these days. HPP sums up:
Not only do we lose 7 starters to graduation but their replacements (based upon our current depth chart) aren't highly touted. For guys like Alvis, Hyde and Miller the stars don't seem to matter much. For everyone else, especially the rest of the defensive line, it's one big GOD HELP US. That's just something to think about following the bowl game. Remember when Vint wrote this article and Ross wrote this one? Yeah, just like Penny Lane said: it's all happening.
With a couple of disappointing years in the rear-view mirror already, unless that defense vastly outperforms recruiting expectations this could be the beginning of the end for Ferentz. While Iowa is grateful and patient it will be hard to look at the trajectory there and get excited about it.
BONUS IOWA WORRY: They lost a freshman WR to a transfer in a class Vint says this about:
Grant is the third member of the Class of 2011 to leave the program -- defensive end John Raymond left in September under similar circumstances (Raymon was from the Philadelphia area and got homesick), and Rodney Coe was unable to qualify and left for Iowa Western C.C. -- which, coming off massive attrition in the classes of 2008 and 2009, is a troubling number for a class that Iowa desperately needs on the field.
Boy, we've been there. Now if Ferentz can maintain his puntasaur ways against us we're in business.
Speaking of corn. Iowa State is this weekend. UMHoops has a full preview; the Cyclones are a hodge-podge of former Big Ten players like MSU's Chris Allen, Minnesota's Royce White, and PSU's Chris Babb.
They're better than they were a year ago but haven't really played anyone—Lehigh and Northern Iowa are their only top 100 opponents in Kenpom—and lost games against Drake and UNI, both in-state mid-majors. Their offense is humming along thanks to a 56.8 EFG%; their defense is still pretty crap. They let opponents shoot a lot of uncontested shots (223rd in EFG% D, 300th in turnovers forced, 22nd in FTAs allowed) and rebound well.
Michigan should win. This is a team that was 3-13 in the Big Twelve last year and they haven't so much as played a major conference school to prove they're much different. Kenpom has them an eight point favorite with around an 80% chance of victory.
More NBA draft. The Daily hits up Ford for his opinion on Burke:
“I spend the start of my year talking to our high school scouting guys about who are the freshmen to watch, who are one-and-done candidates — he wasn’t mentioned,” Ford said. “He was a steady kid, not flashy like a lot of the players can be. I think a lot of the scouting guys … see that and they say, ‘He’s not as good.’
“Well now when you see him play that way in college, it’s all poise. He’s unselfish, he’s getting people involved, he gets his own shot, but he’s not out there just primarily looking for his own shot.” …
“One of the NBA GMs said to me, ‘Well look, think of the 30 backup point guards in the NBA and then look at him and what he does and say, ‘Could he do that?’ And I think the answer is yeah.”
There's some one-and-done chatter, which is a bit scary. Michigan does not have a Burke waiting in the wings like they did last year and would have to go with… uh… Brundidge? That's a scary prospect since he's currently behind Eso Akunne. I still think anyone not going in the lottery this year will be inclined to hit up a much weaker draft in 2012, but can a brother get a four year player around here?
Exit Burns. The only head coach in the history of Michigan soccer is gone:
"As a Michigan alum, I'm proud of everything we've been able to accomplish within the soccer program," Burns said in a statement released by the Athletic Department.
"I will forever cherish the relationships that I have developed over the past 12 years with players, assistant coaches, support staff and fellow coaches within the department. However, it's time for a new direction in my life and leadership for Michigan soccer."
Losing Meram, both Saads, and his top incoming recruit was too much to deal with and the team collapsed from a College Cup appearance to a 5-14-1 record. Speculation as to his successor naturally focuses on Caleb Porter, the piped piper of Akron and the Olympic team's coach. It was Porter's team that made Michigan look like the USNT against Brazil in that College Cup game.
Many in a thread with a lot of people close to the situation say he won't leave, but there's got to be a chance. Michigan should punch him in the face with the highest salary in the country; this is a high leverage opportunity to make one of your programs a national power for a relative drop in the bucket.
Montoya on Yost. Bang:
“I’ve played in some great rinks in the NHL and with Team USA, but when you get those 7,000 fans in Yost Ice Arena, there’s not anything like it,” he said. “I’m glad I went to a program like that.”
Etc.: Other Brian unearths self for Genuinely Sarcastic column, receiving bonus points for reminding me of Bring Your Champions, They're Our Meat by referencing historical events with no apparent connection to the game in question. If Johnny posts I think we'll have everyone save IBFC covered in the aftermath.