It is alive. A month ago, Michigan's tourney streak was dead and buried after an appalling skid the likes of which Michigan hasn't endured since Red revived the program in the mid-80s. Since then a four-point weekend against MSU and a surprising GLI championship have turned their pairwise fortunes 90 degrees. Try this on for size: if the season ended today, Michigan would be in. There's another 90 degrees to go, but that's good work for two weekends.
Video from the stands gets a great look at the Moffie-Clare connection that won the State game at about the 3:10 mark:
I missed all but the last ten minutes of the BC game because I was at Crisler. Yost Built has your recap. Michigan played well in the first, built a lead, got blown out of the water in the second before Treais scored against the run of play late, and then strangled the third. The ten minutes I did see were pleasingly dull.
The day after, Michigan played an even game with State. Trailing 2-1 with under a minute left and up a man, Luke Moffatt flung a cross ice pass to one of the sundry Lynches on the team, who deflected it in. In overtime Hunwick saved Michigan's bacon three times before the above transpired.
The Situation (Not That Situation)
The pairwise is a very silly metric that bounces hither and thither even when it has most of a season's worth of data, so no grand conclusions should be drawn just yet. The pairwise is also heavily slanted towards RPI, a metric that's still pretty silly but is far more projectable now that the vast bulk of nonconference games are out of the way. Now that they are, well, remember how they put in a rule that you couldn't finish below .500 and still make the tournament because of the WCHA? This year the CCHA is the WCHA:
The CCHA is 40-12-5 out of conference so far this year, for a winning percentage of 0.746. Even terrible Bowling Green, who is 1-11-2 in conference, went 5-0-1 in nonconference play, which helps everyone else in the conference.
That was before the holiday tourneys, FWIW.
Let's have a poke at RPI. Michigan is currently in a swamp of four teams separated by a couple thousandths that stretch from 10th to 13th. Their brutal schedule down the stretch is 14 games. Two of them are against BGSU. The remainder are series against #1 OSU, #4 ND, #8 NMU, #10 MSU, #15 LSSU, and inexplicably .500 Miami.
This is good and bad. Michigan can maintain its RPI at its current level by going .500 down the stretch, which will put them on the bubble. Win nine of 14 games and Michigan's RPI will slide up the 6-8 range. That is lock territory.
Michigan's in a much better spot than they were a couple years ago when they were 10-10 after the GLI. They had little room for error, used all of it and more, and only made the tourney after scraping out a conference tourney win. That team wasn't addressing its biggest weakness with the best defenseman in college hockey, though, and they weren't playing in a league the algorithm looked upon favorably.
The Other Situation (The Wall Punching One)
Is this team addressing their biggest weakness with the best defenseman in college hockey? When Jon Merrill's mysterious suspension was mysteriously extended to a mysterious end date, everyone assumed he would be back for this weekend's LSSU series and the stretch run. That is apparently not the case:
Merrill will NOT play this weekend per Red this morning
Didn't sound super optimistic the kid will be back anytime soon either. Might have to push his ETA back to late January.
Fantastic. We still have no idea what Merrill's issue is, no idea when he'll return, no idea why he's still in Ann Arbor when he's apparently never going to get back on the ice again. It's not academic or Merrill would be eligible now. It's not legal or someone would have run across a public document of it by now. It's not serious enough to put off USA Hockey when they were selecting the WJC team, but it's serious enough to force Merrill out of 2/3rds of a season and counting. ARGH ARGH ARGH ARGH. Red is Red. He is the program. He knows what he's doing. I will remain calm.
So here we are. If Merrill ever gets back I'd guess the pairings end up like so:
That's three pairings with one offensive and one defensive player and no Brennan Serville, a guy who has struggled immensely in his transition to college hockey. Early in the year I thought Clare's footspeed would see him eat bench in the distant future when robots ruled the world and Merrill was eligible again, but the coaches clearly have more faith in him at this point. During Michigan's dismal slide, Serville was more or less directly responsible for two goals in a particular first period and sat out until midway through the third. He'll probably rotate through from time to time when Moffie or Clare has a shaky outing; a regular shift is unlikely.
If the above looks pretty good, without Merrill it's the same story we've seen so far this year: a pretty good top pairing, a somewhat reliable elderly freshmen, and after that terror, alarm, and Lee Moffie's assist machine.
Silver lining: Merrill must be planning on coming back for his junior year given the above. I mean, right?
The Forwards (Eh)
Michigan's stats are bizarre. They're fifth in the country with 3.55 goals per game but have no one averaging a point per game; leading scorer Chris Brown is tied for 79th nationally with 6-12-18 and is the only guy in the top 100 at College Hockey Stats.
The game with ALL OF THE GOALS (all of the goals)
If it doesn't feel like they're fifth in scoring, this is largely attributable to the distribution of the goals. In one game against St. Lawrence, Michigan poured in ten. Excise that from the stats and they fall to 17th nationally… which also seems high. It is less eyepopping. Since their season-opening tomato cans they've averaged exactly 3 goals per game with four outings in which they managed only one. That's why anyone running across Michigan's place in the scoring ranks is set for a double take.
As for individuals, it's hard to pick out any for attention. What is Michigan's top line? I don't know, you don't know. M had Andrew Sinelli out there for the GLI with Moffatt and Hyman… is that a fourth line? What is that?
These days the nominal top line is Brown-Wohlberg-Guptill, which sounds like just another bunch of dudes but does have the three top-scoring forwards on the team. Whoever is playing with Phil Di Giuseppe is the second line. Lindsay Sparks has eaten bench the last four games after his production fell off; he still has more points in 18 games than Lynch, Deblois, Glendening, and Hyman have in 21 or 22. He is not notably more deficient on D than the rest of the team. I will never understand his deployment, especially when Michigan's power play is terrible.
Positives and negatives are hard to throw out there when you're not sure who is supposed to be what. Glendening is a senior captain who spent much of the year on the top line and he has eight points. That would be disappointing if it wasn't obvious he was going to be a guy with about eight points at midseason. PDG has stopped producing after a torrid start; that would be disappointing if he had much help from his linemates and wasn't a shiny penny found in the depths of the OPJHL.
Two freshmen forwards are clearly deviating from expectations in one direction or another: Alex Guptill is deservedly on the top line and has more goals (9) than any other Wolverine. He's a big guy with enough mobility to make his size relevant and puts in a bunch of effort on most shifts. Zach Hyman hasn't been bad, per se, but I keep waiting for him to Do Something. He hasn't and has limped his way to a 2-6-8 and the worst +/- on the team. He's an older guy, too, so if he doesn't start producing soon he's not likely to ever become a star.
As for upperclassmen, there aren't many. Brown, Lynch, Glendening and Wohlberg are playing at about the levels you'd expect. Treais has become more of a chance-generator but is still more Shouneyia than Cammalleri. Sparks is hated by all coaches everywhere, even that guy at Colorado School of Mines. That no one has stepped up to Rohlfs/Scooter/Lebler levels this season is a collective disappointment. Michigan has had a big old guy take a leap forward just about every year. Not so much this one.
Special Teams (Terrible)
Hey, speaking of: Michigan's special teams are not good. Their power play has finally given up the ghost and languishes at 41st nationally with just 14 goals in 86 attempts. (Miami, miraculously, is worse at 44th. What happened to the Redhawks?) They are killing penalties at an 80% rate, 38th nationally and worst in the CCHA.
While special teams have not been a consistent strength for Michigan in a while, the power play especially, they seem to have no plan at all this year. They did get much better movement in the GLI—I bet they spent a lot of practice time on doing something other than shooting it into a defenseman's knee from the point.
As for the PK, it was a testament to how great Hagelin and Rust were that they kept their head above water the past couple years. Hunwick's weaknesses are magnified when shorthanded. Opponents are more likely to get to copious rebounds, more likely to get the cross-ice motion that either exposes big chunks of the net or forces Hunwick to stay deep enough in his net for his size to be a problem. It's not a surprise they're bad when they have to deal with that and don't have the best defensive forward in college hockey.
This bad? Probably not.
Hunwick's maintaining a decent .917 save percentage that sees him at 26th nationally. This is a step back from his blazing junior year partially attributable to a regression in his play and partially Michigan's intense focus on executing defensive breakdowns. He's still a guy you can win with.
I was much happier when Merrill was going to be back this weekend. I'm not sure this team can hack through the upcoming schedule without him.
Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges has spent much of the season with his name as candidates for other jobs. First was the head coaching position at New Mexico, which eventually went to Bob Davie. Then, it was a potential replacement for Charlie Weis as Florida's offensive coordinator. On Tuesday, Borges said he isn't interested.
"No," Borges said. "This is Michigan, [fergodsakes]. In the noble words of someone we all know and love.
En route. Six Zero has a treat for you in the new year.
Molk will headbutt you. This is a literal thing if you are Jack Miller.
After each of Michigan's coin tosses this year, senior center David Molk would march to the sideline and find freshman center Jack Miller for his pregame ritual: headbutting.
"I like Jack," Molk said earlier this season. "He doesn't like it. He always says it's OK if he knows it's coming. ... I'll just kind of run up to him and grab him, and slam my head into him."
I hope they're wearing helmets when this transpires but wouldn't bet my life on it. Also, JB Fitzgerald has spent his career at Michigan evangelizing the superiority of shoe polish over eyeblack.
All too easy. Michigan has hired another coach, so it's time for another round of Fisk The Creepy Lech, this time with an assist to some guy at Ball State whose butthurt is exceeded only by his knowledge of identity phenomenologies. Yes, it's time once again for Gregg Easterbrook to complain about literally every college coach who's taken another job:
TMQ Readers Know Too Much: I wrote that Kevin Sumlin has joined the ranks of weasel coaches who walk out on their promises the instant dollar bills are waved; then listed Nick Saban, Rich Rodriguez, Randy Edsall and Bobby Petrino as other prominent weasels.
Justin Bauserman of Indianapolis writes, "Brady Hoke belongs among the ranks of weasel coaches. First he walked out on his own alma mater, Ball State, without even coaching in the 2008 International Bowl after the team's terrific 12-1 season. His walkout essentially doomed his team to a loss in the bowl. Hoke broke his promises to Ball State in order to sign a lucrative five-year contract at San Diego State. When more money was waved by Michigan, Hoke walked out on his SDSU deal after just two seasons. How long before Michigan fans rue the day some NFL team offers him more, and he breaks his promises and bolts again?"
San Diego State must have been shocked when Hoke took the Michigan job. Hoke had gone to great lengths to conceal his ultimate goal.
When Weber interviewed Hoke for the SDSU job in late 2008, Weber said he asked Hoke, “How do you see this position at San Diego State fitting in with the arc of your career?”
“He said the end of that arc was head coach of the University of Michigan,” Weber said. “I don’t think I’d want a coach who didn’t have that kind of aspiration.”
Only his closest confidants had any idea of his ultimate destination.
I don’t pretend to know Brady Hoke very well, but I know that his father was a college teammate of Bo Schembechler at Miami University, and that the Wolverines’ crusty Patron Saint became a mentor during Hoke’s eight-year apprenticeship in Ann Arbor. I know how much the place means to him.
And he made sure that he was going to get paid tons of money.
Hoke has left San Diego State to coach football at Michigan, and his deliberations might not have spanned a nanosecond. He accepted the job before money was mentioned, and later said he would have walked to Ann Arbor as a condition of employment.
Easterbrook's complaints about coaches taking better jobs are always dumb, but going after Hoke is a new bar. In this department, anyway. The whole head-injuries-and-jews thing probably still takes the cake.
[Via the board.]
They're onto us. Arizona's Greg Byrne has adapted to the realities of the internet era:
Fly commercial. I know, who flies commercial with a private jet at his disposal? No way. These days, though, it's just too easy to track the tail numbers of private planes online. In this case, Byrne hopped on a flight that stopped in Denver (Couldn't get a nonstop? Really?) before heading to Detroit. In fact, Byrne was spotted in Denver, and news quickly hit Twitter that he was no doubt there to grab Colorado State's Steve Fairchild after his thrilling 3-9 season in Fort Collins.
By doing this and using Wire-style burners Byrne managed to keep his hire so secret that I'm still not sure who Arizona's head coach is.
General bowl-lol update. West Virginia is struggling to sell its 100 dollar Orange Bowl tickets because Stubhub has comparable seats for 19 bucks. WVU blogs note the bowl is spending some of the money it steals from the schools on a cruise for "40 FBS athletic directors and six conference executives."
The Orange Bowl is a nonprofit.
Elsewhere, Village Voice Media burns the whole system to the ground in an extensively-researched piece that ran in weeklies nationwide:
The ticket scheme alone leaves schools awash in red ink. Virginia Tech lost $400,000 on last year's trip to the Orange Bowl — despite getting $1.2 million from the ACC. Though Auburn claimed last season's BCS crown, financial records show it still lost $600,000 — even after a $2.2 million bailout from the Southeastern Conference.
Some bowls have also found a way to scam schools on hotels. Since the bowls usually arrange lodging, athletic directors assume their "friends" are negotiating the best group deals. But that's not always the case.
Under Junker's rule, the Fiesta Bowl required schools to purchase 3,750 room-nights at about $200 a pop. According to the contract, the schools had to pay whether they used them or not.
But what Junker wasn't telling his "friends" was that he'd arranged a side deal with the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. In exchange for funneling teams to Scottsdale resorts, the city's tourism arm agreed to kick the Fiesta Bowl $8.2 million over the 20-year pact, according to a contract discovered by the Arizona Republic.
The whole thing is recommended. It's a comprehensive rundown.
Calling Smotrycz’’s rebounding numbers a year ago “underwhelming” would be kind. They were disdainful for a player that stands 6-foot-9. The same Evan Smotrycz that rebounded like a guard a season ago is suddenly the second best defensive rebounder in the Big Ten.
Rank Player Team Ht Wt Yr DR% 1 Jared Sullinger Ohio St. 6-9 280 So 33.3 2 Evan Smotrycz Michigan 6-9 235 So 23.4 3 Draymond Green Michigan St. 6-7 230 Sr 23 4 Meyers Leonard Illinois 7-1 245 So 22.9 5 Ryan Evans Wisconsin 6-6 210 Jr 21
*Removed Trevor Mbakwe (knee surgery) from the fifth slot.
You can try to discount that as an artifact of Michigan's style but I don't think the argument works. Michigan has played almost entirely man to man and has reaped benefits from Smotrycz's enormous rebound-pinchers. Opponents are only grabbing 27.6 percent of their misses. The national average is 32.6. Michigan is a good defensive rebounding team and Smotrycz is one of the primary reasons.
He's also shooting better than 50% from three. If he can just stay on the floor…
Etc.: If you're wondering why on Earth Michigan signed up for a home and home with Bradley, it was probably had something to do with Bradley hiring Beilein's son. Angry Iowa Running-Back-Hating God is never sated. OSU react roundup from Rittenberg. Coastal Carolina fired the dogs and cats guy (who was actually a fairly successful coach) to hire a billionaire. Boo, Coastal Carolina. Boo.
Black Heart Gold Pod. I guest on the BHGP podcast this week. About a half hour, and if you haven't listened to a BHGP podcast yet you have to listen to the theme music at the very least.
Listen to the rest of it to hear me lose my mind when Patrick suggests we should be grateful we missed out on Ferentz three years ago, plus me talking Jacobi down from his 45-14 Michigan prediction. These are some depressed gentlemen.
Die Wayne State. Basketball tips off tonight with their first of two exhibitions. If you're not local you can check out the stream for free with the code BTDN3FR33. (Anyone know if I can get a replay of the game online? I'm headed to hockey.)
Surprisingly, Horford is slated to start over Morgan. Read into that what you will; I think there's something in there. Possibly "if we play both of them neither will foul out in ten minutes." I'm not reading much into Douglass over Burke until the team goes to Maui.
Meanwhile, the McGary afterglow continues at UMHoops with a look at Michigan's top recruits of the last 20 years. Man, are there some conflicted feelings on that list. I didn't remember Horton being that touted. AnnArbor.com surveys big time recruits as freshmen to see what they managed.
SIDE NOTE: People are talking about maybe getting two years out of McGary if he doesn't blow up upon entry. I've seen some hopes that the NBA mandates a second year in college, as has been rumored, but that would actually hurt Michigan's chances of keeping him around. As a kid who prepped he would probably be eligible anyway, and with a huge swath of talent suddenly off limits he'd be a major attraction in a weak draft. In the long term Michigan should hope for a setup closer to baseball's, where a big chunk of Calipari's recruits don't even get their cup of coffee in the NCAA before heading to the league.
The pump up. Jeff Goodman has moved to CBS and uses his new gray platform to pump up one John Beilein:
McGary is heading to a Michigan program that is dangerous this season -- and could be downright scary in the next couple of years with the addition of a monster in the middle.
Even without Morris, Michigan should still be a factor in the Big Ten race this season.
There's Novak -- one of those guys who every coach regrets passing over when he came out of high school -- and fellow senior Stu Douglass.
Much is expected of Tim Hardaway Jr., the son of the former NBA guard with the same name who is coming off a strong freshman season. The same can be said of skilled forward Evan Smotrycz, who has a year under his belt.
Freshman Trey Burke, who was a teammate of Ohio State star Jared Sullinger in high school, will likely share the point guard duties with Douglass.
And while he isn't overly intimidating from a physical standpoint, Burke is a guy who makes quality decisions -- and can really shoot the ball (something Morris was unable to do).
"He can do it all," Sullinger said of Burke. "He's fast and knows how to get his teammates the ball. There's a lot of pressure having to fill the role of Darius Morris, but he'll be able to do it."
What are we thinking here? Six seed? I think maybe a six seed.
Oversigning Bowl gets some attention. Cribbing from Eleven Warrior's previous post, the WSJ points out this weekend's 1-vs-2 matchup is pretty close to a 1-vs-2 matchup in a more dubious department:
Alabama has signed 137 players over the past five years, for an average of 27.4 per year. It signed 32 in 2008—a class that included nine starters on this year's team, plus Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. This total places Alabama among the top five nationally in oversigning.
LSU has signed 126 players over the same period, which works out to 25.2 per year. That number is considerably lower than Alabama's but higher than many other top teams.
Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds, whose football team has signed just 112 players over five years (25 fewer than Alabama) said oversigning is "certainly an advantage."
LSU says that the Tigers have signed "at the NCAA limit of permitteed enrollees or one or two above," which is reassuring since 25 times 4 is probably less than 85. LSU doesn't know. They're not in the business of knowing.
Molk in the NFL. NFP's Wes Bunting on one of Michigan's NFL candidates this year:
A shorter, compact lineman who looks nearly maxed out physically, despite weighing 288-pounds. Looks a little tight hipped trying to sit into his stance, but has a quick first step, and snaps and steps very quickly. Creates leverage for himself consistently, extends his arms and can easily reach and seal on plays off his frame. Displays a compact, sturdy punch and can stun defenders at the point. Looks really natural when asked to quickly reach block on runs to the perimeter, as he's coordinated getting his feet around and can seal the edge routinely. Displays natural range/balance getting into blocks at the second level as well. Breakdowns well showcasing the ability to routinely seal on contact.
The rest of it is about how he lacks the power to win in-line or create push, with some dings on his pass protection. Generally positive about his ability to be an NFL player in a zone (cough cough) system.
The Merrill situation. Mike Spath has an update on what's going on with Jon Merrill:
"The initial suspension was in concrete - it was a dedicated suspension to so many games and so much time - and in further discussions, we changed that to an indefinite suspension, which means it's going to be longer," head coach Red Berenson said.
"There is no game we can point at and say he'll be back. But what we have done is we've put him back on the ice and he's practicing with the team."
It sounds like he's passed his OHL flirtation and will stick at Michigan unless something untoward happens in the near future. Spath also floats the potential return of Merrill for his junior year—if he's only playing half of this year the usually-patient Devils probably won't be pressing him to sign.
Meanwhile, it seems like Phil Di Giuseppe's recent trade to Windsor isn't something to worry about. Windsor just blew up their team by shipping out Jack Campbell and one of their top scorers for a bucket of picks and speculative assets like the rights to PDG; if Di Giuseppe wanted to bolt he'd be walking into a crappy team after he'd already reached a college campus. When defections like that happen they're usually players struggling with the level of play (Jason Bailey: 0-0-0, –11; Robbie Czarnik: 3-3-6) who want to take it down a notch or people who just hate their coach (Duncan Keith). PDG is obviously not in the first boat and it would be a surprise if he was in the second.
Even the scenario in which Di Giuseppe is drafted by the college-phobic Kings and signs doesn't get him to the OHL—he is AHL eligible already because pro teams don't prohibit college kids from playing in the A before 20. (Why don't they, by the way? Shouldn't College Hockey Inc be all over the NHL about this double standard? Sure could have used Max Pacioretty a second year, no?)
Etc.: The Willis Ward documentary is live and in the wild. Jacob Trouba in a skirt. Meet all the people who won't be filling wherever the Hurricanes are playing in 30 years. Hockey preview from MLive. We are less of a fraud than PSU. A Nebraska zone read wrinkle that gets the QB outside. Would love to see this—have been wanting this for three years, actually.
Sponsor thanks. You may have noticed the banner on the left side from Park and Party, which is a local startup that organizes gameday parking. You can reserve a favorite spot, which allows you to get up after 5 AM without ceding your precious swath of green space. Hit their Purdue parking availability to reduce the number of things that can go wrong on gameday.
BONUS: checking them out also opens your Beveled Guilt valve.
Hardly knew ye. Freshman CB Greg Brown has left the football team. Brown was the first commitment of the 2011 class and enrolled early but evidently fell behind Countess and Taylor; with Rodriguez and Tony Gibson no longer on campus he may have felt he was never going to get playing time.
Michigan isn't likely to feel much impact from Brown's departure; they still have the aforementioned freshmen plus Tamani Carter and Delonte Hollowell and are bringing in a couple of corners this year. Best of luck wherever he goes (obviously Pitt).
By my count that brings Michigan up to 25 scholarships in this class. With three players set to enroll early and a couple guys not likely to return for fifth years, they may already be able to take this class to 28. If they aren't, they almost certainly will be by February. With Jeremy Clark losing his grayshirt that leaves Michigan with five slots for two WRs, another OL, a RB, and a wildcard who may or may not be CB Yuri Wright.
In another world. Wolverine Historian has posted a video of the '89 Purdue game that is derived from press box video sans announcers:
As a result there's a bunch of sideline stuff you wouldn't see in a normal game: band jumping around, cheerleaders doing different cheerleader stuff, etc. Also plenty of triple option.
Side note: man, the skill guys in that game. Hoard, Boles, Howard, Alexander, Calloway. Not bad.
Why did newspapers stop doing this? The analysis isn't amazing but surely 60 years later someone at a newspaper should be able to explain an inside zone. (BONUS: there is now a "1947 pitt" tag.)
About a week after Carr's announcement, Martin told his hand-picked search committee that Tony Dungy was his favorite candidate. Dungy had played high school football for Jackson Parkside, a half hour from Ann Arbor, but turned down Bo Schembechler to play for Minnesota. His Indianapolis Colts had just won the 2007 Super Bowl the previous winter. Exactly why Martin thought Dungy might be interested in Michigan, however, is a mystery.
The committee then briefly discussed Brian Kelly, who had just finished the 2007 regular season at Cincinnati 9-3 while graduating 75 percent of his players. But Kelly had a well-earned reputation for being unpleasant — even basketball coaches had strong opinions about him — and Martin made it clear he was not a serious candidate.
What was most striking about that first meeting, however, was the number of candidates they barely discussed, if at all: Mike DeBord, Ron English, Jeff Tedford, Rich Rodriguez, and even Les Miles, the committee's first choice. "Bill didn't want him," recalls Ted Spencer, the director of admissions and a committee member. "I have no idea why. He never gave us a reason."
Four years ago Dungy was 52 and therefore plausible if he actually wanted to keep coaching, but he didn't and Bill Martin didn't know this. The guy's a broadcaster and everyone in the world expects Carr to go out with Henne/Hart/etc. Call him?
There's much more at the link. It basically confirms the conventional wisdom that the coaching search was a fiasco run without much of a plan. Strange compared to the Beilein hiring, which had a bunch of plausible candidates and secured its first public option instead of getting turned down by the guy at Rutgers.
It is Carr who calls Rodriguez to gauge his interest in becoming the Michigan coach. And that call takes place only hours after the conference call with Miles. "Even if you haven't thought about it," Bacon reports Carr saying, "you should think about it now."
Readers are left to infer that Carr had a big role in picking Rodriguez, who took the job days later without setting foot on the campus. But then Carr, whose strong objections to Miles are documented early in the book, holds a team meeting after Rodriguez is introduced as the Wolverines' new coach, informing players he will sign their transfer papers if they want to leave.
Things go downhill from there.
*[Which oddly suggests that Robinson wouldn't have made it as a QB in Bo's offense. Moeller or Carr, sure, but Bo ran the option. He would have installed Robinson at quarterback ten seconds after he arrived on campus and threatened to deport anyone who suggested he move.]
No reason. Facepalm guy thread gem:
That is a long torso.
Phew. People are reporting that Jon Merrill is going to stick it out:
That comes from the junior side of the aisle so is likely sourced from Plymouth. That is likely to be solid.
In less good hockey news, Shawn Hunwick got ejected from Michigan's game against NMU and his replacement let in a number of softies en route to a loss; the next night Michigan could only manage a tie. (They did win the shootout. That only applies to CCHA standings. For NCAA purposes it's a tie.) Their (wholly ridiculous) time at #1 has come to an end.
The Oversigning Bowl. On the podcast last week I mentioned that if I was athletic director* Michigan would not have signed up to play Alabama at any juncture because it's stupid to take a knife to an oversigning fight. With the LSU-Bama game of the year already in hype mode (both teams have this week off), Ramzy states the obvious:
The storyline that probably won't make it anywhere near the national discussion is that Saban and Miles each play the recruiting game with a stacked deck: For every four players that almost every other program in the country admits to school, Alabama and LSU each take in five.
While it won't happen, the discussion of oversigning should be one of the storylines for this particular game. LSU and Alabama should be ranked at or near the top of the polls, and every year - not just in 2011.
Both programs have top-tier head coaches and both schools - unlike the one in Columbus - are at or above the Southeastern Conference's pay grade for proven assistant coaches and coordinators. Baton Rouge and Tuscaloosa are practically required to be on every elite high school recruit's list of possibilities.
But what ensures that LSU and Alabama should be among the elite of the elite is that both have installed a system that gives them significantly less recruiting risk than most of their competitors in recruiting.
Oversigning recruits every year has given both schools built-in second and third-chances where talent acquisition is concerned. They get refunds on their bad bets, and their depth charts are proof that it works.
It's stupid to play a team that gets to look at 25% more players than you do over the course of a recruiting cycle. If you have to in a bowl game you have to but if I'm looking for an opponent it's not going to be one with an inbuilt advantage due to skeeziness. That goes double when you're coming off the attrition/recruiting problems Rodriguez left Michigan.
*[hoo boy, that's an alternate universe right there.]
Etc.: Create your own periodic-table-themed Denard Robinson tshirt.
3/25/2011 – Michigan 3, Nebraska-Omaha 2 (OT) – 27-10-4
3/26/2011 – Michigan 2, Colorado College 1 – 28-10-4, Frozen Four
The course of the season showed that if Michigan was going to make the Frozen Four they were going to do it one way: narrowly. If you need a number, during the course of the UNO broadcast they put up a stat showing Michigan's record in one-goal games was 10-3. That's just how they do.
That record is now up to 12-3 after history's greatest video review and the Joe Howe show (wsgs Joe Howe's Posts) and if there was ever any chance we remembered this hockey team as the weird one that kind of reminded you of Ron Mason that's gone now. This team isn't trying to win games –1 to –2 but you'd be forgiven if sometimes you thought they were.
It's working, though. I spent the second intermission Saturday thinking about Buffalo, when Michigan dominated Minnesota for two periods but didn't put enough of that domination on the scoreboard to prevent Minnesota's rally from tying the game; Michigan lost the game and Al Montoya's brain in overtime on one of those bizarrely frequent OT goals that comes from almost the goal line on the left side of the net*. I spent the third period thinking about how beautifully boring it was until Red channeled into Lloyd Carr by slipping Jeff Rohrkemper out there for a power play shift. He was immediately punished for punting from the 34 by a Rohkemper boarding penalty and nine seconds later CC fumbled a puck into the net. Everyone braced for a storm. That storm was a single pea-sized hailstone. The most nervous moment after that was a bunch of players rooting for the puck on the boards with the goalie out and twenty seconds left.
Michigan had outshot their opponent 43-22, played a game universally acclaimed as their best of the season, and won 2-1 because Scooter is an animal and pucks that come off Lee Moffie's stick will hit the post and go in even if they have to deflect off three guys to do it. There is a natural inertia pulling them towards narrow wins you're uncertain about; even now that they've reached the Frozen Four there's a feeling they don't really match up with a North Dakota.
There's also the feeling they just might, though. Because what the hell, Michigan's 11-1 since the line shakeup after Michigan's dismal 0-3 stretch against MSU and Miami. Season goals slipping away and faced with the question of how to get the most use out of some good forwards who never, ever score Michigan put together a vintage Todd Marchant checking line and let anyone who might put the puck in the net forget about guys like Jaden Schwartz.
This has been remarkably effective. If the announcer didn't bring his name up every time he wasn't making a joke-type assertion about the "hockey hotbeds" of California, Texas, and Arizona, the viewer could have forgotten about Jaden Schwartz. Lingering irritation at Matt Rust's bad OT penalty against UNO evaporated as his line erased Schwartz, Schwartz, and Schultz with a healthy assist from Jon Merill at his most subtly awesome. The Schwartzes got their goal on a four-on-four scramble; everything other than that was frustration. In the second period they started jawing and shoving people because they were getting nothing. This was one day after they turned defending national champs Boston College into a lump of smoking carbon.
I watched North Dakota pummel two teams, one of them not even in the ECAC, this weekend. I remember Michigan's last two not-very-competitive matchups against them. I have considerable doubts that Michigan will beat them since they're by far the best team left standing. Doubts about doubts come when you close your eyes and see Jon Merrill gently shepherding you, the puck, and a hockey team into a deep, peaceful sleep as Matt Rust obscures the face of North Dakota Hobey finalist… oh… you know… what's his name.
*[Almost certainly an artifact of my introduction to college hockey but they seem to happen all the time: Josh Langfeld's championship winner, the Vanek goal (at 1:00) that put Michigan out in Buffalo, and ND's winner against Merrimack were all bizarre nothing shots from the same area of the ice that took the goalie by surprise.]
A Tiny Window Of White Bullets
Also the other two goals but mostly Scooter!
You do not have a twitter account that concerns itself with Michigan hockey if you didn't tweet "Scooter" followed by one to three exclamation points after his goal, which was completely unbelievable even as it was happening. CC does not have the greatest defensemen in the world but holy crap where did that come from?
Monster faceoffs. Michigan both faced and received extended periods of 5-on-3 time in the first period, and during both they got clean, critical faceoff wins. Moffie's goal was a direct result. The lack of a CC goal on their terrifying PP was greatly aided, as well.
Clare escape. To recap the thing I kept talking about during the game: after a tough shift in which Pateryn and Clare got caught in the zone forever, allowing the Schwartz line to get out against them and some other random non-Rust forwards, Red pulled Clare out of the lineup for more than a period. Pateryn took shifts with the second pair D to give guys a break. Clare returned about halfway through the second and actually got some PK time a bit later, which I guess makes sense because your breakout on the PK is slapping the puck down the ice. I saw him out there a couple times in the third, as well, but his minutes were minimized.
All this invites questions about Burlon's availability. He's got two weeks to recover from his strep and penicillin reaction, so I imagine he'll be in the lineup. Losing 15 pounds is kind of a lot, though, and I wonder how effective he'll be.
RNG in full effect. Hockey's vaguely weighted plinko system was a little more random than normal this time around: FF participants are two three-seeds, a two, and a one. One seeds went 2-2 in the first round, bringing their record against fours to 11-9 the last five years. That goes beyond "anything can happen" into "your excellent season gets you nothing."
What's wrong? I don't think you can blame the Pairwise. The "better"* ranking system, KRACH, already updated for the weekend's results and still has Yale a #1. The only difference between KRACH's top seeds and the PWRs is putting Denver above Miami, and there's a fair chance that wasn't the case before the events of the weekend.
You can blame insular schedules. Yale's nonconference schedule consisted of single games against CC, Air Force, Cornell, and Vermont and an "Ivy Shootout" against other ECAC members. The only evidence we had that Yale was a top seed other than their ECAC schedule was a 5-1 win over a .500 WCHA team and a 2-1 record against Atlantic Hockey—yeah, they'd already lost to first-round opponent Air Force.
This vapor-thin trail coupled with some other ECAC nonconference games convinced the ranking systems the conference didn't suck despite years of evidence to the contrary. The last ECAC team to make the Frozen Four was Cornell in 2003 and that last to win a title was Harvard in 1989.
That only explains perpetually disappointing ECAC #1s, which are rare. The rest of it is on a tournament format which has #1 Miami play #4 UNH in New Hampshire in a single-elimination game.
*[FWIW, KRACH is mathematically pure but has a tendency to go nuts about nonconference results. In certain years it would put up to eight WCHA teams, some well below .500, into the field.]
Abandabuildings. It was no surprise to see literally every seat in the upper bowl in St. Louis empty. We wondered if a couple of friends had actually made the trip despite stern clucking about teaching the NCAA a lesson, and I said "if they did they'll be on TV because they'll be the only people there," and midway through the second there they were. Even the NCAA's comically generous numbers only show 55% capacity.
Every year we get sterile half-full buildings as teams get shipped halfway across the country and fans have to deal with the possibility they'll get on a plane to see their team play once, or if they're lucky play twice and make the Frozen Four and then you've blown your budget on regionals already. Insert usual rant about using home sites here.
The good news is the NCAA has not selected regional sites past next year. In the past sites have been selected three to four years out, so that's a clear sign this failed format is on its last legs. Last year there was a report out of Grand Forks that change was coming, with home sites and "super regionals" of an undetermined nature.
The bad news is that once again the CCHA has no regionals within hundreds of miles of it—the closest is in Green Bay as the St. Louis regional moves to St. Paul. At least Michigan's getting out of that rinky-dink operation, and as a bonus the failures of its commissioner* now directly benefit it.
*[Seriously, what has Anastos done since 1998 that a lump of quartz couldn't? The CCHA has gone nowhere, and has clearly become the region of the country that either gets screwed over by the committee or can't scrape together a bid that makes any more sense than having a regional in St. Louis.]
I am Jack's total lack of surprise. The crew doing the Yale-UMD game that chucked Yale's best player out of the game for a clean open-ice hit were from the CCHA. Yale's coach was infuriated enough afterwards to lead his presser with "the game was taken away from us." Yet more reason to be happy we're getting away from the league—hopefully most of the refs don't follow.
Via Boyz in the Pahokee as per usual.
Daily game story and gallery featuring a great shot of the Scooter(!!!) goal:
Everyone in the shot including Scooter is thinking "WTF?"
“I think they did have a few pretty good shots early on,” Hunwick said. “But this is an opportunity to play for the Frozen Four. I think I made a couple good saves. It’s pretty easy to stay in the game when you’re playing to go to the Frozen Four. They didn’t really get anything going too much until they got into the power play. Once they got into the power play, I really had to be sharp.”
Seriously, that power play was terrifying. That first period five on three was awful.
Torrent of the CC game.
2/18/2011 – Michigan 6, Western Michigan 3 – 20-9-4, 17-7-1 CCHA
2/21/2011 – Michigan 5, Western Michigan 4 (OT) – 21-9-4, 18-7-1 CCHA
Sometimes being at a hockey game is an exercise in wishing you were watching the thing on TV where the camera angle is consistent and the replays are repeated ad nauseum. This is especially true at Yost, where events just happen and evaporate without the benefit of video replay.
An example: at the end of the first period the puck was behind the net and suddenly the ref was feverishly pointing at the puck in the net without the thing seemingly ever reaching a spot where that was physically possible. The ref went to check it out. A few moments later the part of Yost directly behind the penalty boxes stood up and craned their collective neck to see the review as I plotted to relocate there next year, and a few moments after that he waved the thing off.
Last year I would have had to trudge through the deep, useless recesses of the USCHO board to find out what happened. Five years ago a Saturday game against Western probably wasn't televised at all and no one would really ever know. Since it's 2011 I just pulled out my phone, tweeted at the Daily's hockey beat writer*, and found out within ten minutes that the puck had indeed gone into the net from behind the goal.
I didn't see it, though, and that's kind of the point of being a spectator.
Sometimes hockey collapses itself into a universe just for you. You have to be sitting along the sideline between the blue lines for this to happen. If you are, at certain points you can draw a perfectly straight line from you to the guy shooting the puck to the goal.
An example: when Michigan came back against Denver in the NCAA tournament I sat right behind the Michigan bench and watched Eric Werner plunge into the slot to flick a puck over Wade Dubielewicz** to tie the game. I saw it the whole way and my mind blew up.
I shelled out for old fogey seats this year so when Lee Moffie entered the zone I saw Hagelin behind him and thought Moffie should drop it, and he did, and there were two seconds left so there's only one thing for Hagelin to do, and as he let the shot go and I drew a straight line from me to him to the net as the puck slid past the defenseman clean and rose. I could see where it was heading, see the goalie throw his glove at it but not get there in time, see the puck ricochet the right way as the great clank filled the building. It was one of those moments where the angel comes down from heaven and says "you there—God has selected you to have the deep-seated, socially awkward fandom of the concealed lunatic." It was pure.
And while I've been craving video boards at Yost for years there's something beautiful about not having the thing you just experienced altered by someone else's perspective. Since the Werner goal isn't on youtube no one can tell me he wasn't wielding a scimitar, wearing an eyepatch, and screaming "hhhhhyarrrrr" as he swashbuckled towards the net. I'm pretty sure the unicorn he was riding was named Steve.
Those days are over—see the youtube clip above—but thanks to Carl Hagelin Yost got one last opportunity to walk out of the building buzzing about the thing that just happened in your head, and only your head.
*[Michael Florek was beaten to the punch by the Hoover Street Rag.]
**[Google's spellchecking was heroic here: I typed "wade dublevicz."]
mfan_in_ohio has again broken down the pairwise so I'll just point you to his analysis. Michigan flew up to sixth after the sweep, but it is a tenuous, tenuous sixth. Here's why:
That's Ohio State barely nosing above .500 in RPI after taking a win and a tie from LSSU. Michigan's 3-1 record against the Buckeyes thus counts in the TUC category. This tiny difference in the season of a single opponent swings comparisons against Boston College and UNO. If OSU had split over the weekend Michigan would be eighth and we'd be wondering what a man has to do to get some respect around here.
As it is, OSU's nose getting over the line combined with a couple of wins over a WMU team that did well in its nonconference schedule gets you halfway to a one seed in one weekend. That and a lot of help elsewhere—Dartmouth, RPI, UMD, UNO, and Denver all lost over the weekend. Denver lost to Michigan Tech(!), which is huge because that's a common opponent and a terrible team.
While this is almost Michigan's ceiling, the stumbles of Denver and UMD have opened the door to the last one seed. Michigan easily beats Denver in COP now and is within striking distance in both TUC and RPI—outperforming them by a game down the stretch will do it. UMD, meanwhile, is close enough in RPI to drop if they lose and the six remaining regular season games between the two teams are all common opponents—NMU for Michigan, CC and UNO for UMD. If they take those two comparisons and Ohio State and Ferris can walk the tripwire so that both of them finish the season under consideration, they can slide up to fourth. This will take some luck but if Michigan sweeps Northern and wins the CCHA playoffs I think they'll be 50-50 for the one-seed.
- OSU plays Ferris this weekend and can remain in the TUC zone by splitting. However, sweeping will actually put Ferris about where OSU is now, leaving them vulnerable to dropping out in the CCHA playoffs. You probably want a split here but root for OSU on Friday because they're more vulnerable. You want both of these teams to do well in the playoffs.
- You hate Denver and Minnesota-Duluth with the burning fiery passion of a thousand suns.
- Also Boston College and UNO.
Everything else is up to Michigan.
It's Michigan and Notre Dame with ND maintaining a one-point lead. They have a home-and-home with this Western team; Michigan goes to Northern. Agonizingly, neither game in Marquette is televised. Michigan will win the tiebreaker if the teams end up even in points.
Non-bullets of !!!
Kind of mad, kind of awesome. Shawn Hunwick was not so good this weekend. On Friday it didn't result in much damage because the team had already gotten the other guy's goalie pulled but on Saturday he was off on both of the breakaways. They were breakaways so it's hard to be too mad but he gave up a weak five hole goal on the first and was way too deep in his net on the other. On the other hand, this is what he tweeted immediately afterwards:
Thank you Carl Hagelin for saving my ass. Great senior class. We had a phenomenal four years.
It wasn't that bad. We still love you and the fact that on shots from the point you end up halfway to the blue line.
Also, Hunwick made three clutch, clutch stops in the third period Saturday.
Need moar Swede. There needs to be another Swedish guy on the team ASAP. We've got the flag, we're very enthusiastic about the word "Bork"—let's make this happen.
Muppets. I totally should have muppetsed. Sorry. I had some people over afterwards and it slipped my mind.
With an assist to Lee Moffie. Moffie's fought for playing time most of the year despite having quite a knack for scoring because he's not that great defensively. Late in the third period as Michigan was trying to tie, however, he was ridiculously good. He's at his best when it's desperate and he can pinch and use his skill and wheel around the zone.
Other defensemen. It was a weekend full of defenseman thoughts:
- Greg Pateryn had a goal and three first assists on Friday. He essentially beat WMU by himself. As a bonus he would have had a fourth assist if you could assist on your own goals—he made an excellent play to control the puck and make a cross-ice pass in to the zone to set up the scoring chance. He still gets too aggressive at the blue line.
- Jon Merrill was really really good Friday—my friend just kept saying "he's really really good"—and then had probably his worst game as a Wolverine Saturday. It wasn't just the breakaway; he probably had more turnovers Saturday than in any two games he'd played this year.
- Mac Bennett is now leading the rush like 25% of the time there is one when he's on the ice.
What does he have to do? Lindsay Sparks was fast out there and looked as dangerous as he usually does. He hasn't put up much in the way of points but I'm continually surprised he can't get in the lineup regularly.
Exploding Lynch. Two on Friday, then two very fancy moves to get to his forehand Saturday. After the first I thought "that's the most dangerous thing he's done as a Wolverine" even though the shot was stopped; he did the same thing a period later and scored. Let's throw everyone down on the fourth line.
BONUS. Googling for Denver goals did turn this one up:
I'm hoping Hagelin channels Ortmeyer in his final games at Michigan.
As the crowd honored the seniors after the game, the Swedish flag that has flown at Yost for three seasons was tossed over the glass to Hagelin. The students had passed it around throughout the game, autographing it and writing thank yous and words of encouragement to our Super Swede.
I wondered what all the stuff on it was. Also: this is a bonus from having Senior Night on a weekend where the students aren't on break.
On what Berenson said to Carl when he gave him a hug after the game… Well, I just told him “Aren’t you glad you came to Michigan? And aren’t we glad that you came?” And good for him. He set a standard here. He’s been a terrific kid, student, player, teammate—you know, just a terrific kid. It’s the first Swedish player we’ve had and we’ll always remember him.
2013 commit JT Compher will join the NTDP, which should lock him up for college—it also suggests he's a high-end guy.