chance of bowl: 13.6%
Practice video. From Maize and Blue News:
Jane previews Michigan! Oh man this is just so dead on:
We long for a past that we hated while it was happening, in which Michigan would go 9-3 or 10-2 and people would complain like Michigan was a waiter who we couldn't find when we just wanted the goddamn check. If a Michigan fan tells you that they liked Tom Brady when he was playing at Michigan, they are lying because no Michigan fan ever liked whomever was starting at quarterback until Denard Robinson. We hated Elvis Grbac. We hated Brian Griese. We hated John Navarre. We hated Drew Henson. We hated - HATED - sad robot Chad Henne*.
I tended to like Michigan's quarterbacks who were not underclassman Drew Henson, and I knew the one guy who really really liked John Navarre. Like, he was super-enthused about John Navarre. And eventually correct!
More insider business. A gentleman who is probably too identifiable for his own good comes back with a very legit-seeming practice report that he's posted on a couple of different boards. The 247 version, all errors sic:
DL looked great, really great. all the hype is backed up. Pipkins looks the part, even coming off the injury. on friday he was easily the most impressive NT that they had, that by no means is discounting mone, hurst, or henry. Their depth and talent at the position although young, is very, very good. Even pallante looked good!! yes, he is small, but ive spoken to a few players who say he is as strong as a senior and one of the quickest most technically sound players there.
I imagine that if that's true we'll see at least one of those four guys (Pipkins, Mone, Hurst, Henry) at three-tech, which currently has Wormley and no one else who's gotten much hype.
That's not good. Nebraska lost three defenders for the season a couple days back, including two starters: Michael Rose and LeRoy Alexander. That'll help when Michigan… uh… we don't play them this year, or until all those guys graduate. CARRY ON.
That's not… uh… relevant. Reporting from media day!
“The job that he does and the job that he’s done since the day he got here, has been unbelievable,” Mattison said with a sweaty upper lip. “Me personally, there is no way I would have come here if it wasn’t for Brady Hoke.”
That typed itself, I bet. I bet Brendan F Quinn was mesmerized by the lip and when it came time to write the article that phrase slipped itself in there and if you ask Brendan F Quinn about that passage he will be shocked that it exists. You see, I've been there, down on ol' Lip Mesmerization Farm. It's a strange, sweaty place, but you get used to it.
No age gap now. Another article on how the offensive line is going to be better because they all like each other:
"There was an age gap last year, and it was just there," Bosch said. "It was just something that was obviously noticeable. You could tell 'these were the seniors, you were a freshmen.' That's how it was."
No chance of that this year, because there are no seniors. For the record I think the line will be better this year because they will be trying to do one thing instead of all things and not necessarily because they are more together. Or that they are Galvanized By Criticism:
Those stats and the barrage of negative press regarding Michigan’s offensive line have helped galvanize the linemen. Jack Miller, a redshirt junior who started the first four games at center last season, said they are more than aware of the doubters.
No doubt they will Shock The World and Not Listen To The Haters. I mean, Miller's following quote is twisted pretty hard to get into that narrative:
“Between last year and this offseason, you’d be hard-pressed to miss that if you pay attention to anything,” Miller said. “You run into fans who say stuff — ‘What’s going on with that offensive line?’ But that’s the way it goes with any program of this caliber. We know that. We know that’s part of the gig here, and that’s OK. Some of it is rightly so. We need to live up the expectations that people have here.”
A good rule of thumb: when someone cites chemistry as a reason for something it's because they don't know. Chalking it up to the undefinable cannot be disproved or really even argued.
Getting on the the WJC team. College Hockey News profiles Downing and Motte as they try to avoid being late cuts this time around. USA coach mark Osiecki on Downing:
“We’re still trying to identify what (Downing’s) strengths and weaknesses will be,” Osiecki said. “He has a bomb from the blue line, that’s for sure, there’s no doubt about that. His awareness from the red line back has continued to show improvement. It’s hard for a defenseman to jump into summer hockey. You haven’t done much defending at all, and he likes to get into the offense when he can, but he’s getting back to it on the defensive side of things.”
Downing says he's put on 25 pounds; hopefully he'll be more of a physical presence than he was last year, when he was more lanky than intimidating. Motte dumped in a hat trick in the USA's 9-1 thumping of Finland, playing with uber-prospect Jack Eichel.
For his part, JT Compher is not so much fighting to make the team as fighting to be named king:
While a few players have stepped up, it's obvious Compher has emerged as the frontrunner to be captain of the team.
"He's done a really nice job," Osiecki said. "There's a group of those kids that are similar, but you talk to any of the support staff, the trainers, the equipment personnel, and they say he's very vocal and takes charge of the group. We have to start that now and develop that relationship between him and the coaching staff."
I am looking forward to the Copp/Compher axis truly owning the team this year. Jack Eichel:
"He does everything on the ice so well," Eichel, a teammate on the USNTDP U-18 team in 2012-13. "He's a guy that you can just try to model your game after. He just so good wherever he is, in the faceoff circle, in the [defensive] zone, he's great killing penalties, great on the power play. He's a role model to me and I really look up to him. He's a great kid and a great leader. He works so hard everywhere. Everyone else tries to match him. A guy like that on your team, it's really good. Everyone tries to work as hard as him, and if everyone works as hard as J.T., you know you have a good team."
How do two stars get drafted? By adding half a person.
Ra'Shede Hageman, No. 35 overall, gained 60 pounds
Hageman was a well-regarded but raw tight end recruit who grew from a listed 6'6, 250 to 310 pounds while at Minnesota, moving to defensive tackle. He's expected to make an instant impact for the Atlanta Falcons.
Jimmy Staten, No. 172 overall, gained 86
Staten was a 6'3, 217-pound two-star defensive end in high school when he signed with Middle Tennessee State. The Seahawks drafted him at 6'4, 303.
At least nine other drafted two-stars increased their body weight by 20 percent between high school and the Combine.
You really shouldn't criticize recruiting services for missing on guys like Staten or Buffalo first-rounder Khalil Mack—everyone else did. There are always going to be guys who blow up in college.
Etc.: In news that you take for granted these days, all of Michigan's freshmen are enrolled and full go. A look at what Loeffler wants to do at VT. Autonomy details. Annual Michigan drill thingy. Gasaway on the O'Bannon ruling.
— Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis) August 1, 2014
This is what is called a face turn. Pelini should start entering stadiums with his own corn-oriented theme music.
Reduced price. Michigan has cut the waiting list fee from 500 dollars to 150 for the 2015 season. That's the one with OSU and MSU games on it. I think we've officially hit the limit of what people will pay. Also, this… this is not a good thing to title your page about buying season tickets.
Watching football is not supposed to make you feel like you're going through twoadays and want to die.
Our lack of post depth and experience: slightly less exploitable. A couple of Big Ten big guys will not take on Doyle/Donnal and company, for reasons pedestrian and mysterious. The pedestrian one: VT transfer Trevor Thompson did not get a waiver at Ohio State and will redshirt. OSU does still get fifth-year Temple transfer Anthony Lee, so not a huge blow.
The mysterious and potentially more important: MSU stretch four Kenny Kaminski has been booted permanently. The crack MSU beat will no doubt have full details on the reason for his dismissal sometime after the sun turns the Earth into a smoking cinder bereft of life, so look out for that, Titan News Network.
Kaminski got only ten minutes a game last year, but he shot 50% on threes. This is Not Bad. Izzo kind of had a conniption fit about everything else about his game, because Izzo. Without any post types in the incoming class, MSU now will rely on Branden Dawson even more than they would have normally and lack the ability to insert a defense-stretching option for times when that would be good.
Now that I put it ion paper, this is less important from a Michigan perspective. Kaminski was a changeup option that a game against Michigan does not invite.
This is an interesting thing. I can't embed this at all, but here's a fascinating graph of the evolution of NFL players' height and weight over time. As you might expect, things get larger and heavier. The interesting bit is the split.
Increasing specialization has seen a class of OL/DL types that have totally separated from people who weigh 270 pounds. 280? 290? Do not apply.
Yea, and thine bagels shall be coated in whatever toppings you desire. Michigan's compliance twitter feed is slowly morphing into Leviticus, and I'm okay with that.
Football preseason practice shall begin with a five-day acclimatization period.
— Michigan Compliance (@umichcompliance) August 4, 2014
During the first two days of the acclimatization period, helmets shall be the only piece of protective equipment student-athletes may wear.
— Michigan Compliance (@umichcompliance) August 4, 2014
ON THE THIRD DAY OF THE ACCLIMATIZATION PERIOD, YEA, THE DOLOMITES DID DON PADS AND VENTURE FORTH INTO THE FIELD OF PLAY.
Happy! Sad. Mitch McGary is doing stupid dunks on Vine.
There's another one where he flips it up to a teammate with his feet. #McGaryForUSMNT
Unfortunately, I am totally not over this. File me under sad bastard mooning at the record store in a Nick Hornby novel in re: reaction to any and all McGary things. Oh yeah I'm really happy for him it sounds like he's doing great oh I'm doing fine you know just buying these records and so sad that I feel like I'm dissolving every day no no man I'm fine.
/plays The Cure for 12 hours straight
Is there an It Gets Better for Mitch McGary withdrawal?
It's called the Big Ten for a reason. That reason is "we don't even know anymore." But we can have a reason again! Kirk Ferentz said that this could happen:
Kirk Ferentz said he could see the Big Ten going to 10 conference games. "If we're going to nine, I don't see why not," he said.
Money, probably. I am beginning to wonder about the relative value of a home and home versus two bodybag games; surely the increased interest from scheduling, say, Iowa, is now just about enough to offset the fact that you're playing a road game once TV factors in.
Rittenberg's take is cynical, but probably accurate:
How many Big Ten teams would get into the playoff with a 10-game league schedule if the higher-regarded SEC plays only eight conference contests? It's all about the playoff and it doesn't matter how you get there as long as you get there. That's how the Big Ten must approach scheduling.
I find it hard to believe that a committee is going to pick a team with an extra loss, even if it had a tougher schedule. And it's debatable whether the committee will even see it as a tougher schedule given the recent direction of the league.
If adding a tenth game induces Big Ten teams to strip out some of the very few comparison points we get before bowl season, all the committee will have to go on is reputation. That would be bad.
I am getting excited about hockey. The prospect of Copp/Compher/Larkin down the middle and the big hole on the blueline that Zach Werenski just filled combine to get me hype about what will go down at Yost this fall. Compher is tearing up the USA WJC camp going on right now:
Compher, who centered Team White’s top line between Fasching and 2015 draft prospect Kyle Connor, was arguably his side’s top player all the way through. He used his feet to take away time and space, and drew the ire of Team Blue with a hit in the corner right at the halftime horn. In the second half, the reigning B1G Freshman of the Year made a smart zone entry and executed a give-and-go with Will Butcher (COL) before finding Fasching at the doorstep for White’s second marker. …
Compher was a key cog at both ends of the rink all game long, applying pressure without the puck while showing his playmaking eyes en route to picking up two assists on the day. He worked hard behind the net for his first assist, and kicked back to the point for a secondary helper on the third White goal. The University of Michigan standout rounded out his effort with some excellent work at the left point on the power play. He nearly added a goal to his weekend resume with a shot that just missed high over the crossbar in the final minutes.
Meanwhile, Motte and Larkin combined to score a late winner against Finland.
The soccer game happened. I did not go, if you're curious. 55 bucks was about 40 too many for a friendly between a couple of teams I don't really care about. 109,000 people disagreed with that, so you got a packed Michigan Stadium and the tangible and intangible benefits of that. The broadcast must have said the words "Big House" a dozen times every 15 minutes; also the department made some money.
Hopefully that'll become something of an annual event. The cachet of having the largest stadium in the country is a natural draw for teams that can fill it. Hopefully they can figure out the turf issues.
Unfortunately the size of the playing surface is short of regulations for a real game, as was extensively discussed when Michigan Stadium was on a list of potential hosting venues for the USA's failed World Cup bid. Any real game would have to be played on a platform that sat above the actual playing field and wiped out viewing angles for big chunks of the stadium. I don't think Michigan Stadium will ever get serious consideration for a USA game because of that.
Oh man, lawyers. I mean that in a good way this time. Andy Schwarz, who was a plaintiff's witness in the O'Bannon case, has been writing big lawyerly pieces for Deadspin about the case. His latest is more of an overview of the two sides struggling to "fix" the NCAA. One, dubbed "Team Reform," thinks that the whole problem with the system is that the universities aren't funneling the profits back into the academic side. The other, dubbed "Team Market" is just like dude this is a joke now just let them get what they can.
I bring it up because Schwarz has a couple of places in the piece that sum up a ton of things I've been thinking:
I personally question the undertones of complaints that athletes may blow their payments on bling and tattoos, when we applaud college students for spending money on ephemeral activities like traveling to Florence for a semester of wine and museums, but as a member of Team Market, I am willing to entertain the possibility that deferred payments will bridge the gap between paying suppliers and pleasing consumers and result in the most popular market-produced product. …"Fear of a Black Wallet" need not rule the country forever.
Fear of a Black Wallet! The paternalistic overtones of the arguments that start and end with "but then they'll have money" summed up in five words. They might waste their money, sure. It's being wasted now on compliance.
His sarcastic survey questions are also amazing:
This may also explain some of the surveys that we see from time to time, including even the one the NCAA presented in the recent O'Bannon litigation. The question wasn't framed as "Do you prefer watching undercompensated athletes play if it means you can rationalize your love of sports as somehow more noble than you secretly know it is?" or "Does your interest in college sports increase as more value is taken from the athletes and then ostensibly used to further more noble goals?"
I'm noticing this guy writes really long sentences now that I'm quoting him. Anyway, hardcore fans are an interesting exception to the survey trend wherein people say they'll like college sports less if it's less amateur. Guilty as charged.
Wat. All joke circuits shorted out, man.
Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl is new name of St. Pete Bowl, source told @ESPN
— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) June 18, 2014
I just can't, man.
I wish I could disagree. Michigan opens up as big dogs against Michigan State (they are +7.5) and Ohio State (+8). They're only +3 for Notre Dame, so we've got that going for us.
Michigan should be favored in the rest of their games; they're a touchdown favorite against Penn State and –3 against Northwestern.
O'Bannon stuff. The trial has been a bit odd, as scheduling issues have caused plaintiff and defense witnesses to come in a jumbled mess instead of a particular order. I think we can safely call this the low point (read tweets from bottom):
— SB✯Nation CFB (@SBNationCFB) June 13, 2014
Yesterday South Carolina president Harris Pastides had his turn on the stand, where he asserted that if athletes were granted rights to their image that South Carolina would shut everything except football and men's basketball down, because they can't find any more money.
Pastides said only way to raise $ would be get more from state (doubtful), raise from donors, raise tuition or cut sports programs
— Mark Schlabach (@Mark_Schlabach) June 18, 2014
I did not see any tweets to the effect of "plaintiff lawyer ask Pastides how many sports South Carolina had in 1990 and how much revenue they had then," unfortunately, but Kevin Trahan jumped on Pastides's ridiculous assertions anyway.
One dollar says Christine Plonsky sounds like Ben Stein
Meanwhile Texas women's AD Christine Plonsky, who we've pooped on in this space before, turned in the spectacularly tone-deaf performance you'd expect, claiming in a danged courtroom that players asking for a slice of the money they generate is a symptom of "entitlement." Plonsky seems to think everything is entitlement. From last April:
"Who gets a four-year, $120K deal guaranteed at age 17?" Christine A. Plonsky, women's athletic director at the University of Texas, wrote in an e-mail to The Chronicle. "The last thing young people need right now is more entitlement."
From September 2012:
"I view these cases as being the result of the entitlement attitude we've created in our revenue sports," Plonsky wrote. "We now have threatening s-a's -- many of whom, based on grad rates of the '80s and '90s, sucked a whole lot off the college athletics pipe -- and now want to buckle the system at the knees of the expense of today's s-a's."
Plonsky makes 350k a year supervising sports that lose piles and piles of money; a large chunk of her testimony worked its way around to the fact that the NCAA is protecting their athletes from commercial "exploitation."
It's remarkable how insane these arguments are once you put them in a legal setting. In the NCAA's eyes, it's only exploitation if someone gives you money for something. The people with inflated salaries preventing this transaction from happening are the heroes.
I leave the law-talkin' to BISB, but the immense amounts of double-speak being issued here would make me want to swing my gavel into the head of the people presenting them.
And today. Today is Mark Emmert day. He probably won't issue quite as many howlers as Plonsky, who has a real knack for sounding like the worst possible use of 350k. I wouldn't take a bet on that, though.
The latest "people are just in charge of things for no reason." KU's student government took a look at the athletic department's finances and recommended that KU's student athletics fee should be terminated. They ended up not quite doing that but cutting about a quarter of the completely unnecessary subsidy to the AD. The AD responds thusly:
Kansas associate athletic director Jim Marchiony said Thursday that the KU athletic department has decided to re-allocate those seats for boosters, cutting out some of the KU students’ best real estate.
The decision, according to Marchiony, stems from a student government vote earlier this year that aimed to remove a student fee that channeled close to $1.1 million to the athletic department.
Kansas athletics revenues have almost doubled since 2005.
Nope, not yet. Zagsblog momentarily reported that Canadian PG Jamal Murray had gotten a Michigan offer, but corrected itself. Michigan called, but an offer is not on the table at the moment. Murray has been on an unofficial so he could get one at any time, and while he's mostly being recruited as a point guard he is 6'5" so there is some possibility he could coexist with Thornton or Winston.
In other basketball recruiting news:
- Michigan is poking around 2015 NY SG Matt Ryan. Ryan has a Notre Dame offer and is projected to end up there by the 247 Crystal Ball; he might be waiting for bigger offers.
- Another new name($) is 2015 FL combo guard Prince Ali, a former UConn commit who's around 50th most places. His named popped up out of nowhere when Rivals's Eric Bossi reported that Ali's top two are now UCLA and Michigan. Ali is a "hardcore driver and really athletic" who needs to work on his shooting; he'd be a departure from the Beilein mold. He should take an official this fall.
- 2016 CA PF TJ Leaf is thinking about moving up his thinking about moving up his timetable to March instead of taking officials next fall.
While Michigan appears to be looking at other options, Jalen Coleman is the top priority in 2015. Given the promising way the class of 2016 is looking Michigan may take a small 2015 class (they have one spot now but will probably get up to three or four) in order to take more of the 2016 guys.
A potentially large blow for Buckeyes. OSU was going to rely on freshman shooting guard D'Angelo Russell heavily, as he can shoot and such. OSU needs someone to do those things. But they may not have him; he still doesn't have the requisite test score:
The eligibility center is awaiting Russell’s score from a standardized test he took earlier this month, the source said. He needs a test score that, combined with his grade-point average in his high-school “core courses,” makes him eligible to play as a freshman.
If he doesn't get the number there he's just about out of chances.
Prepare for hits. USA Hockey has announced the 42 players invited to their WJC evaluation camp, including four Michigan players: D Michael Downing, F JT Compher, F Dylan Larkin, and F Tyler Motte. Recruit(!) Kyle Connor is also invited; he's the second-youngest player there.
Compher made the team last year before a broken foot sent him back to Ann Arbor for the GLI. Compher played anyway, because he is JT Compher, and this is the reason he's a holy lock for the WJC this year:
The group embodies what Johansson hopes to have with the group picked for the 2015 WJC: Strong, skilled and hard to play against.
"J.T. Compher embodies all of that," Johansson said. "We look at a player like that and a coach says I can use him in any and all situations. He's hard to play against."
Motte went last year and should go again this year. Downing probably won't make the team without a big leap from him; the US is stacked on D. I'd bet Larkin goes as well. The hockey roster's enormity will at least give Michigan options for the GLI.
Etc.: I would be super mad about this, but I am not perpetually aggrieved. Tyus Battle visits Louisville and Kentucky, says requisite nice things. David Sills, who committed to Lane Kiffin as an eighth grader, is not going to end up at USC. Surprise.
Send Joe Dumars to space, part XVII. Trey Burke's line from last night's Magic-Jazz game: 30 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds.
actual highlights start at about a minute in
Burke's shooting percentage is pretty low right now since he's taking a lot of those tough runners you remember from a variety of NO NO NO NO YES moments last year and getting fewer easy looks around the basket what with NBA players being very tall and athletic, but in his last ten games He's averaging 6.4 assists against 1.3 turnovers in that window. His TO rate of 6.8 is insanely low. It's looking like a three-way race for Rookie of the Year between Burke and old foes Victor Oladipo and Michael Carter-Williams.
Meanwhile, Detroit drafted a shooting guard currently hitting 37% from the floor and traded for Brandon Jennings, who is a fourth year player about as good as Burke is as a rookie. I shake my fist!
Is this getting old? Am I going to be describing various things that should be done to Joe Dumars for passing on Trey Burke when Burke is 55? Yes. I apologize for what will be history's longest conniption fit.
Prepare your butts. Devin Gardner's status for the bowl game is still up in the air but looking grimmer and grimmer as each day passes without his return to the practice field. We mentioned it on the front page a couple days ago after Hoke's presser, and everyone followed up with assessments about how grim it's sounding. And in retrospect… when has a sprain of a ligament in your big toe ever required crutches?
Meanwhile, Sam Webb was asking people if you play Gardner at 75% in this upcoming bowl game, and the answer to that seems to be a clear no since there's not much at stake. And was Gardner 75% by midseason? At best. Now that he's limping around on crutches, it's at least 50/50 Shane Morris fans will get to see him against K-State.
It is possible that Jason Whitlock doesn't know what he's talking about. Taylor Lewan took a lot of heat this year for Michigan's offensive line… for some reason. I watched him closely and he still looked like the incredibly good player that he was as a junior, but when things are bad they must be a Failure of Leadership if you are the kind of person who has no basis for saying anything but is paid to say things.
The NFL will weigh in in April; current returns are that Jason Whitlock is talking out of his butt. I know you are shocked. Todd McShay projects Taylor Lewan as the ninth pick of the NFL draft:
Lewan isn't an exceptional athlete but he has enough quickness to get by when coupled with his physicality and mean streak. I've written a few times this season that even though Lewan doesn't always look like a prototype left tackle, he is very effective in run blocking and pass protection. Safety might be seen as a bigger need for Buffalo, but typically if you have a chance to take an offensive tackle over a safety in the first round, you do it.
"Not a prototype left tackle" is a weird criticism to level at a prototype left tackle. Putting it in the pile with that guy who thought Mike Martin was supposed to be some journeyman plugger after he 'struggled' as a senior.
This man must be educated on his own dime. That one Cal assistant who got a ton of recruits to commit to Cal and then jumped to Washington, bringing those recruits with him, is under investigation. For terrible things.
Mike Davis, a throwing coach who helped Basham win a state shot put title in track and field, told the Times that [Tosh] Lupoi gave him $3,000 for private tutoring for Basham and $1,500 to reimburse Basham's father for online classes.
The kid ended up not qualifying anyway. I guess you can't be giving money to people no matter what it's for, but I bet the NCAA prefers it when they come down on people for hiring strippers instead of tutors. Lupoi should start making donations to charities in recruits' names, just to see what happens.
Steve Sarkisian could eat a suspension for this after the NCAA made head coaches responsible for their assistants' misdeeds, something that would undoubtedly increment Lane Kiffin's smug look the one tenth of one percent it can be upgraded from its resting state.
OH GOOD THANKS 2013. JT Compher won't play at the WJC because he broke his foot, which will probably put him out for a month. This is at least the right time to do it, as Michigan doesn't return to the ice in a game Compher was going to be available for until January 10th, and then Michigan has a bye week before a Joe-and-road series against MSU that he may be available for.
This does make an important series at Wisconsin tougher, but at least Michigan has a lot of center depth.
SERIOUSLY 2013, I MEAN, SERIOUSLY? Beilien on WTKA:
During a Thursday morning interview on “The Michigan Insider” show on WTKA-AM (1050), Michigan coach John Beilein said he sophomore forward is being held back by a "variety" of nagging injuries.
"Right now, Mitch cannot go 100 percent," Beilein said. "He can't do what he can do."
You go straight to hell, 2013.
I SAID STRAIGHT TO HELL. PA DB Monate Nicholson, who was going to commit to M before the coaching staff basically told him not to visit, is now an MSU commit.
Still looking. Michigan signed their four hockey recruits for the upcoming year, though there are a couple of things yet to be determined.
One is the status of Hayden Lavigne, who's had a rough start in the USHL (.887 in five games) and is still a really young guy, especially for a goalie. It seems to make more sense for everyone to delay his entry until 2015, and even then he'll have to compete with a senior Racine and junior Nagelvoort. As we've seen in the recent past, goalies staring down a tough road to playing time are often defection candidates. Lavigne will be of interest. We'll see how committed he is to the college route; he was at least committed enough to sign his LOI.
The other thing is who replaces Jared Walsh, who committed and then defected to the OHL. Michigan graduates two defensemen (Bennett and Clare) and brings back something between six and eight depending on your opinion of the viability of the guys on the back end. (They are Serville, Lohan, Downing, De Jong, Chiasson, Sinelli, Szuma, and Hyman.) They've got a guy named Cutler Martin who is the hard nosed stay at home type his name foretold from birth, and they'd probably like to add another in that mold with Serville, Downing, and De Jong all puck moving types. May their search here be as successful as their search for a goalie last year was.
Okay.gif. Borges on Michigan's success against Ohio State:
"We executed," Borges said firmly. "It's that simple. We executed.
I really hope that's just balderdash for the reporters. The BTN commercials don't say FOOTBALL IS SIMPLE, man.
Etc.: McKeen's ranks incoming hockey center Dylan Larkin 20th in their latest NHL draft projection. That means he'll probably end up in the second round, like fringe first rounders before him JT Compher and Jon Merrill. Ricky Doyle highlights. He's killing it to the tune of 30 a game. UNC basketballer John Henson's shirt has an opinion. Hyping up the redshirting DTs.
An annual tradition: the post where I spit out a bunch of hockey thoughts right after football season ends.
Andrew Copp emoji state.
AT RIGHT: Friday night immediately after OT goal
They are going to the tournament. Michigan's fantabulous 10-2-1 record has come against a tough slate of opponents; unadjusted win percentage has M's opponent's third; the more sophisticated KRACH system has them 12th. As a result they are second in both RPI and KRACH, behind only Minnesota. They're also tied for second in the revamped Pairwise*. Unless they implode, Michigan is on pace for a bid. Hell, they're on pace for a one seed.
They are living on the edge. Michigan isn't as good as their record. Don't take it from me, take it from Red, who said something along those lines a few weeks ago. They have played only three games not decided by one goal: 3-1 over BC, 6-0 over Niagara, and 7-4 over RIT. Hooray winning one goal games and all, but:
- Michigan is 3-0-1 in five minute OT sessions.
- Their goalies have a collective .937, and that's not because every shot is from the blue line.
- Shots for and against are dead even at 428.
- Pythagorean expectation (upshot: goal differential is a better predictive metric than record) works just as well in the NHL as it does MLB, and Michigan is 7th in scoring margin, way behind the Gophers.
Who's happy with #7 in goal differential? Everybody. But they're not playing like the elite team their record and the rankings suggest. There's no denying they've had a hefty helping of fortune so far and replaying this season results in a record this good maybe 5% of the time.
The blue line is a large problem. Bennett's great; everyone else is worrisome at best. The OSU comeback Monday was a collection of gross errors from the defense corps, from Chiasson wandering out to a player behind the net without putting his stick down, thus allowing a centering pass right through him, to Downing sliding his way behind the net on a 4 on 3. On Friday, Clare threw a blind backhand pass behind his own net with three minutes left in a one goal game instead of chipping the puck out of the zone; five seconds later it was no longer a one-goal game.
With Serville hurt, Michigan turned to junior forward Andrew Sinelli as the #6 D, and my buddy and I went from panicking about this to wondering if Michigan would sit Clare in favor of him when Serville was back. Since he hardly saw a shift late Monday you'd think the answer to that is undoubtedly "no," but Spath says he's threatening Serville:
"I like his quickness," Berenson said. "He's a good skater. He goes back to get the puck and he'll win that race. He'll take a hit to make a play. And he's a defensive forward so he has good defensive instincts in our zone."
Szuma missed some time with a concussion but after a long and thorough rest, he's back at practice. It appears, though, that for now, Sinelli has won the job and he will be given every chance to compete with Serville to be the Maize and Blue's sixth defenseman.
Chiasson has apparently slid past Serville to solidify his job, which makes sense to me. Clare holding his spot without threat… not so much.
Sinelli is much defter with the puck than most of Michigan's available defensemen and surprisingly physical for a small guy. He effectively pinned a bunch of guys to the boards and didn't make any glaring errors. He could help. This is both an endorsement of Sinelli and a cocked eyebrow at the rest of the crew.
But hey Bennett. Getting any scoring from the D has been the main issue with Michigan's offense so far. They're 16th in scoring with virtually no contribution from the D. Bennett pulled both of those OSU games out of the fire, first with the great stretch pass embedded above, then with a plunge into the goal mouth to take a cross-ice pass from Chiasson(!) to complete the World's Most Dangerous Goal.
If that had rebounded such that OSU got a quick breakout that was a 3-on-1 developing with Di Giuseppe back. Yikes. But it went in, so hooray.
Guptill's penalty shot against BU is one of five goals on the year for him [Bill Rapai]
The forwards are deep with little top end. I love me some Copp and Compher, who just scored two of the dirtiest crease goals Michigan's put in since… well, it's been a while since Michigan's had a true goalmouth fiend. Those guys bring value beyond their scoring lines and both are at a PPG.
But while it seems like Di Giuseppe, Nieves, Moffatt, and Guptill is a hell of a supporting cast, not a lot is happening 5 on 5 here. Those scoring line veterans have six goals 5v5 in 13 games. That's a little disappointing. The power play, clicking at 25%, is keeping everybody afloat right now; they're going to have to get some more even strength production if they're going to keep winning games if and when the save percentage and PP come back to earth.
Speaking of clicking. The turnaround in the power play is kind of incredible. Last year their single idea was get the puck to Trouba, and this was an okay enough idea to get Michigan to 19%. The year before they were completely miserable at 15%; they were at 17% the year before. All of these numbers seemed deserved.
This year's number also seems deserved. Michigan gets much better puck movement and regularly finds guys for cross-ice bombs that have been the most effective way to put the puck in the net since NHL 94. I don't get why it's happening this year instead of previous years, but I'll take it.
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.
No Racine is no problem. [Bill Rapai]
Goaltending is weird. Steve Racine started Monday's game out with some shaky rebound control before righting the ship and turning in one of the best four goals allowed performances you'll see; he has a .925 this year, building on the .920 he put up in the final ten games of his freshman season. And this is nothing compared to Nagelvoort, who's putting up Hunwick numbers: .945, 1.65 GAA.
Quite a difference there… and sad to say probably not a sustainable one. Teams that manage to have those kinds of save percentages over the course of the year are generally Cornell or Ron Mason-era MSU teams that place a heavy emphasis on defense and conservatism; Michigan just scored on a cross-ice goalmouth pass from D to D. Meanwhile, the shaky defense corps is giving up a ton of Grade A opportunities, and eventually those are going to start going in unless Michigan gets it together.
Even if it's not sustainable, that's 23 consecutive games of goaltending ranging from high quality to outstanding. At some point the sample size is about as good as its going to get, and we can put the terrible memories of last year behind. That point is coming up very soon.
Is Josh Blackburn still working with Michigan's goalies as a volunteer? Can someone buy him a smoothie or something?
The rest of the league is Minnesota and poop. I fielded a couple of questions about why I was high on Minnesota instead of Wisconsin and didn't really have an answer other than "Wisconsin always does this," and Wisconsin is doing it again: they're 4-5-1 on the year and just got swept by the Gophers in their first Big Ten series; they got blown out by both Boston schools. And they're probably the third best team in the league. The rest:
- OSU is 8-6 with seven of their wins against Robert Morris, Niagara, Canisius, and BGSU (a split with UMD is the final win). They played well against Michigan but still got swept; they were swept by Miami in their first series of the year, and Miami's not that good right now.
- MSU is 5-7 with 4 wins over American International (3-8) and Princeton (3-10); they were recently swept by Michigan Tech.
- Penn State is 3-7-1 with wins over Army, Robert Morris, and Sacred Heart; they were swept by Air Force and Union.
- Minnesota leads the nation in goal differential and is rather good at hockey. They've beaten UNH and taken a three point weekend from BC, plus split against ND.
Minnesota's the heavy favorite to win the league, and Michigan should finish second. No one else is likely to make the tournament.
*[I don't have a handle on what the changes did yet. In previous years I've downplayed the Pairwise until late in the season due to its volatility, preferring RPI as a better projection of where you would finish in the PWR at the end of the year than the actual PWR. If that seems like a dumb ranking system to you, well, at least they overhauled it?]
Nagelvoort rides to the rescue
Due to some recording snafus I ended up catching only the final two periods of Friday's game and the third period Saturday, along with the overtimes. Also, the feed FCS picked up looked like an internet stream and it was really hard to figure out who anyone other than Kevin Lohan was even though the announcers tried their damndest to keep us informed. (Seriously, they were great.) I didn't actually see any goals until the Motte winner on Saturday, though I saw replays of some of them. Not enough to write a column, but here are various bullets:
That was probably a good UNH team. The Wildcats were 20-12-7 last year, 13-8-6 in Hockey East, reaching the second round of the NCAA tournament. They lost a couple of their better forwards but returned the vast bulk of their scoring—10 of their top 12—and both goalies. They opened with a solid win over Clarkson in the Icebreaker and then lost 3-2 to Minnesota. By the end of the year that's going to be another quality scalp for Pairwise purposes. Michigan's done a lot of work in just two weeks here.
So far so good for Nagelvoort. Man, when Racine went down with what was obviously a groin issue that I'd be lasts a month or maybe longer (he's definitely out this weekend, and not practicing), dark thoughts flitted through my head. Nagelvoort comes out, my former goalie buddy remarks on how enormous his pads are, and he proceeds to shut UNH out through a rampant third period in which they outshoot Michigan 14-2, with one of those stops an impressive recovery on a penalty shot.
The next night he holds UNH to two goals through an entire game and overtime. Four games in Michigan's save percentage is .937 as a team and Nagelvoort is at .949. Massive sample size disclaimers are of course warranted. It's still the best possible start you could have hoped for minus the Racine injury. Hopefully it keeps up.
Power play: extant. Michigan's 6 of their first 16, a 38% strike rate, and that feels like a sustainable thing since Michigan's been going up against good teams and has been setting up in the zone for extended periods of time. The puck movement is night and day from last year, when their single idea was "get the puck to Trouba." It's too early for me to tell you much else—I get my mind around hockey things slowly.
Recovery. Michigan scrambled their lines for the first time this year after they got pinned in their zone for disturbingly long stretches of the third period on Friday night. They ended up getting outshot nearly 2 to 1 and that was a fair reflection of the play on the ice, if aided by buckets of penalties—UNH had eight power plays. The next night the script flipped and Michigan was better in the last 25 minutes.
Buddies. Michigan's line scramble affected almost everyone but did leave two forward pairs joined: Copp/DeBlois and Motte/Compher. I expect those pairings are untouchable with the success the former has had since its formation at midseason last year—Copp also leads the team in points with 6—and the success the latter's had since their NTDP days. Motte and Compher have already connected on a number of plays that show great understanding of each other and seem like they're more than the sum of their parts when they're on the ice together.
The defense is about what we expected. Bennett is far more aggressive with his puck rushes, Clare's slow speed of thought on the ice gets Michigan trapped in their own zone too often, and Serville continues to make scary mistakes. The freshmen have been a pleasant surprise, especially Lohan, who I figured would mostly ride the bench but has been in the way of a lot of scoring plays. Judgments here are still extremely tentative—ask me again after the upcoming four-game homestand.
Michigan's going to need to get some more playmaking from these guys. Successful passes to set up rushes have been lacking. Four games in the defensemen have four points between them, all of them assists, three of them Clare's.
Nieves stands out. Nieves had the proverbial jump over the weekend; on Friday his line was the primary one generating chances in the final two periods. The shuffle put him with Guptill and Hyman and while they didn't score the line got Guptill seven shots. That is a good guy to get shots; Nieves seems to be emerging. Di Giuseppe, too, seems to be more active this year.