ROAR [Allison Farrand/Daily]
SHERMAN'D. Congrats to Michigan wrestling, which took down #2 Minnesota over the weekend thanks to a dramatic OT win by heavyweight Adam Coon over Minnesota's two-time defending national champion Tony Nelson. Well done, sirs.
Meanwhile, Dave Brandon captured the most important part of the meet:
— Dave Brandon (@DaveBrandonAD) January 20, 2014
Kudos to you sir on your triumphant victory.
Well… that sounds not ideal. Michigan's been extraordinarily fortunate to have their supposedly-middling recruits blow up into NBA first-rounders (yes even if we assume that John Beilein is a crazy talent evaluation ninja), but also kind of sort of unfortunate that their super good players have been of the variety the NBA covets instead of terrific college players the pros are indifferent to, like McDermott/Payne/Craft/Berggren etc.
You thought Nik Stauskas might be one of those four year awesome guys, but… uh… you've probably seen him play of late. And unless Joe Dumars clones himself and gets himself appointed to every other NBA GM job, chances are the NBA will think he's pretty good. If they do, don't expect Stauskas to pull the McGary. From a recent SI profile on the most swag Canadian:
“He sees the brass ring, like three inches away from his nose,” [father] Paul Stauskas said. “He knows all he has to do is keep his nose to the grindstone for another couple of months, and there’s a really good possibility he might be able to go pro. He’s working really hard to achieve that.”
Can't begrudge the kid, obviously, but a Stauskas departure would leave Michigan a bit thin next year on the wings. Also they would not have Hypothetical Junior Nik Stauskas, which…
The ideal is that the Uber-Loaded 2014 NBA Draft™ convinces Stauskas to return for one more year. I would brace for departure impact if Stauskas keeps doing what he's doing, though.
GRANDPA ASSASSIN. John Beilein's version of the Richard Sherman promo in the aftermath of the Wisconsin win:
"I don't care," the Michigan coach said Monday night, later adding, "It will be a good win if we have a great season." …
"Things that happen during the year, yeah, they’re cool and our guys like them. But where people are rated right now is such a projection. You can beat a team (that is) No. 1 in the country and by the end of the year, they might not even be in the top 25. So did you really beat the No. 1 team in the country?
"Here’s what it is: Any road win, I don’t care if we go to Concordia to play, is a quality, quality win. And (Wisconsin) was a quality win."
A requirement given Michigan's next two games. Me, I'm refreshing Kenpom every five minutes.
Tim Miles is okay by me. Nebraska picked up its first Big Ten win of the season last night, beating Ohio State at home. In the aftermath, Husker coach Tim Miles told BTN that he should probably go jump around during his post-game interview, and then took a selfie with a fan on the court.
Miles also has an entertaining-for-a-coach, actually-him twitter account and a Beilien-esque track record of success at smaller schools that led him to Nebraska. Viva Tim Miles. Viva Nebrasketball.
Lohan come back. Injured Michigan defenseman Kevin Lohan is badly needed with the Wolverines leaking goals and slipping in the pairwise. He should be back soon:
Right now, Lohan says he’s at about 90 percent — while the recovery process has been long and arduous, he’s progressing well ahead of schedule. On Nov. 5, Berenson said the injury was a “worst-case scenario” and that it would take at least three months until the defenseman had a chance to play again.
“He’s doing really well,” Berenson said. “He’s pretty close to going all-out.”
He won't play this weekend's series against MSU; the next week or the week after are targets for a return. Mike Spath reports that when he does come back, only Bennett, Downing, and Sinelli(!) are safe. This says much about the development, or lack thereof, from Clare and Serville.
“If you look at John over the years, he’s one of the best coaches of our generation,” said McCaffery, who will bring Iowa to the Crisler Center on Wednesday. “And the numbers bear that out. He’s going to stick with his style of play. They play a certain way. They can beat you in halfcourt, they can beat you in transition, they’re going to guard you.
"His offense is really sound, it’s not easy to guard and he’s going to plug the people into those positions and he’s going to go to those guys."
Meanwhile, Beilein provided an informative update on what's going on with redshirting Mark Donnal:
"He’s increased his strength a great deal. He’s probably like Horford or Morgan as far as a rebounder. Great hands. But he’s so much stronger than he was. He’s country strong anyhow, I mean he’s strong. He’s gaining weight. The one thing he has, which I’m looking forward to coaching, is he can really shoot the ball. He can really pass the ball. When you have big men who can do that, it can really open up your offense. But this was absolutely the right decision, because in all the other things freshmen go through — learning the offense but most importantly, defense — he needed this year to develop.”
Donnal will be Beilein's first post-type substance at Michigan who might resemble Kevin Pittsnogle in any way whatsoever. Will be interesting to see how that works with Michigan's current style of offense, which I assume isn't going away even if Stauskas exits since LeVert and Walton can pick up the pick and roll burden without issue.
Etc: Stauskas on the Journey. Wyatt Shallman shaved his head to look more like a kid at Mott. Michigan much better at offense, worse at defense without McGary, correlation is not causation. Michigan continues to dominate the USA's ice dancing program. Looking at Iowa's success.
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.
Mac Bennett's projected partner: also Mac Bennett
|Mac Bennett||Sr.||Mike Downing||Fr.|
|Kevin Clare||Sr.||Brennan Serville||Jr.|
|Mike Szuma||Jr.||Nolan De Jong||Fr.|
ALSO: Mike Chiasson (Jr), Spencer Hyman (Fr), Kevin Lohan (Fr)
THIS IS WHERE IT GETS STICKY. The simultaneous departures of Jon Merrill and Jacob Trouba leave Michigan's blue line in a spot that is icky at best. While they've got a couple of NHL draft picks incoming, there's a major difference between Trouba, a top ten pick who is going to make the Jets this year, and Mike Downing, a fourth-rounder who Billy Powers says is "a bit skin and bones" at the moment.
But let's start with the nice bit. MAC BENNETT returns for his final year in a winged helmet wearing the C. He toned his game down last year when he found himself paired with Trouba, eschewing the puck-rushing style he flashed his first two years so that he could be a more reliable defensive partner for a dynamic player. He still put up points at an encouraging rate until he was hewn down in the disastrous 5-1 loss to Bowling Green that seemed to be the last straw for Red. He returned a month later on the second pairing—Merrill's return bumped him—and performed ably down the stretch. Miraculously, his +/- was zero on the year. Despite all his talent, Trouba did not fare nearly as well in that (admittedly wonky) stat.
This year, Michigan needs him to be Trouba, and all-phases crusher who sucks up shift after shift. If Red is ever going to throw over his policy of relatively even time, this is the year. Bennett should be logging Jack Johnson-in-Columbus time, playing all three phases and attempting to shut down the opposition's best on a nightly basis. Powers provided some Fred Jackson-level reassurance when he talked to the Canadiens' official site:
“Mac Bennett will be a dominant college defenseman [this season]. We expect him to be the most dominant offensive and defensive defenseman in the Big Ten. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it,” added Powers. “Every night, there will be someone in the building who will say – ‘That No. 37 is special’.”
Powers also said he's an “elite skater with incredible explosion and incredible endurance"; that latter quality should be put to the test.
Expect a resurgence of the offensive flair Bennett showed his first couple years, because it's not coming from anywhere else on this defense corps and whoever ends up pairing Bennett will be shot if he so much as thinks about getting up ice.
Now, who partners with Bennett? Your options are all frightening on some level. The primary contenders:
- The aforementioned MIKE DOWNING, who has promise and offensive upside but saw his stock drop significantly in his final year of junior and needs to fill out.
- Senior KEVIN CLARE, who provides zero offense (0-2-2 last year, 12 shots), was –9 last year in just 19 games, and was scratched for the final 14 because of disciplinary issues.
- Junior BRENNAN SERVILLE, who seems like he should be more of an offensive defenseman of only because he tends to give you hives with his decisions but is as bereft as Clare is in the points department (1-2-3, 21 shots) and was scratched for 11 games himself last year. But I guess he was +3? Woo?
I'm going with Downing, mostly because I cringe at the idea of Clare or Serville on a top pairing and haven't seen the freshman yet, but I could also see the job going to Clare, since Downing has some offensive upside in his game:
"He carries the puck well out of the zone and makes good decisions on when to hang on to it or move it ahead. Sees the ice well in transition and has a pro pass. He is willing to mix it up, especially when defending down low. He is also very good at moving the puck on the power play. He has a good, hard shot that he gets through to the net, but can and will fake his shot and make a quick pass to the open man. He is not afraid to jump to an open hole on the offensive attack to create scoring chances. He will need to show all of this with more consistency for the next level."
Michigan may want to split those two guys in an effort to have a puck-mover on the ice for most of the game. Clare's just going to sit back, break up plays, and try to get the puck out of the zone, and if he's out there with a lesser guy that could result in spells of uncomfortable pressure.
As for Serville, I'm in full confirmation bias mode with him in which I magnify every mistake he makes. But I'm aware of it and I'm still nervous about having him in a major role. He was a draft pick a couple years back and defensemen take time, etc etc etc. I'll be pleasantly surprised if he makes a significant step forward.
[After THE JUMP: at least they've got a ton of third pairing guys?]
Basketball highlights ho.
I vote all of these. A student organization at Illinois is holding a contest to pick a new symbol for the Illini. Whichever one wins will be ignored by the athletic department and consigned to the dustbin of history, and this is a tragedy. A dozen of the entrants would instantly be the best mascot in the universe.
Do you choose Colonel Kernel?
Or Rabid the Squirrel?
Rabid the Squirrel is a possibility for the mascot, but the overall concept is to represent the squirrel, a hardy survivalist being, bravely bears the cold winters, bike and street traffic, and is incredibly quick and graceful. For proof, walk anywhere on campus.
Or The Corn Guy?
The tagline for Corn Guy could be: A corn could be a cute and enthusiastic corn,
who opens his arms and welcomes smart students all over the world. Or a corn could
be a fighting corn, who, in orange skin and blue armor, revealing his muscle, with
fierce look, shows his vigor and is ready for an exciting game. This, is the Corn Guy.
You want something fierce? You want something amazing? You got it all right here. Super strong, super vicious, super I-will-wreck-everything- you-love. Ain't no one wanna mess with this. What, you expecting something cute and fuzzy like a squirrel or a PIECE OF CORN? HELL NO.
THAT'S WHAT'S GOING ON HERE.
It matters not. You cannot go wrong. I vote for them all.
It is the state of Illinois with an Abe Lincoln hat with boxing gloves. Tough, Historic and blatantly Illinois. Hope you like it
I vote for them all.
K-State might be Michigan's best nonconference foe. NC State beat Duke and UNC, sure. Since they've lost to Wake Forest, Maryland, and Virginia. UVA is at least a bubble team; the other two aren't sniffing the tourney. Kansas State on the other hand just did this to Texas:
I got home, made some dinner, and kicked back to relax and watch the Texas game. It was not relaxing. I would have been better off waking up this morning, smashing a few glass bottles on my kitchen floor, opening a can of paint stripper, pouring it on the broken glass, rolling around in the mix of shards and methylene chloride, taking a shower, and calling it a day.
While Texas is real bad this year, Kenpom has them significantly above Wake Forest and the Wildcats beat the Longhorns raw—final was 83-57. They kept it close in their two league losses and are probably going to have 24, 25 wins by Selection Sunday.
I wish I had thought about this. The Hoover Street Rag introduces the Borges-O-Meter, which ranks Al on a Jorge Luis-based scale ranging from Tlön, Uqbar, Orbus Tertius to The Gospel According to Mark. As you can see, Al is currently hanging out at The Lottery Of Bablyon, level six. I would actually swap level six (dubbed "fortunate") with level 5 (On Exactitude in Science, categorized as "precise"). In all other ways this is wonderful.
Yeah, I suppose Cal or Stanford fans probably would have done this, but whatever, they didn't because of a historical quirk that directed Borges (Al Edition) to Michigan instead of their schools.
Viva this fanbase.
[update: now with link!]
Viva this team. Mitch McGary on starting:
Late Tuesday night, an undecided Beilein asked McGary, "What do you feel about tomorrow? I don't know what to do yet. You both practiced well."
McGary responded, "Coach, I've been coming off the bench for two years. I'm cool with coming off the bench."
I'm not sure there's anything we thought McGary would do when he was the #2 recruit in the country that he's not doing despite a massive nose-dive in expectations late.
This is appropriate. Hockey picked up a big, late-blooming defenseman currently plying his trade in the BCHL named Kevin Lohan. As Yost Built mentions, yes, that Lohan: he's a cousin of Lindsay, who may be the spirit totem for this year's outfit. It is possible the third jersey does not display a badly-drawn weasel but is in fact a representation of Linsday Lohan on a bender.
Right now Lohan is insurance against potential departures from Bennett, Trouba, and/or Merrill and may or may not come in next year.
Yost Built also mentions that Mike Spath is reporting that Michigan will use the scholarship money freed by Daniel Milne's departure to go hunting for a goalie, apparently overseas.
Etc.: The Northwestern view of last night. Also found here. First comment: "Trey Burke is good. Holy shit." Burke is about to pass Darius Morris on Michigan's all-time assist list and has Morris's season record for assists squarely in sight. Men's gymnast Syque Caesar sets an NCAA record on the parallel bars. Nieves profiled by the Daily. 7-on-7 leagues examined. Five key plays from NW.