3/19/2010 – Michigan 5, Miami 2 – 24-17-1
3/20/2010 – Michigan 2, Northern Michigan 1 – 25-17-1, CCHA
One. When I was in high school my AP English research paper was a no doubt ham-fisted comparison between Winesburg, Ohio and Bridge of San Luis Rey. I don't remember the former whatsoever, but the latter is a novel by Thornton Wilder in which a selection of lovelorn 18th century Peruvians pitch headlong to their deaths when the rope bridge they are crossing gives way.
This event fascinates a local monk who sees the tragedy happen. He tracks down the life stories of everyone involved and concludes this was merciful act of God since each victim suffered from a love so powerful and unrequited that the last thoughts of the victims was probably something a long the lines of "yay it's over yay yay yayyyyyyy—."
For the monk's troubles, the Inquisition burns him at the stake. He was looking for proof of a just and loving God, which is heretical when you're supposed to take that on faith.
Two. At some point in a gas station or at Meijer or some other place where bad or obscure movies are put on sale for five dollars, I happened across a movie version of Bridge of San Luis Rey. I still remembered the book. Inexplicably, the movie starred Gabriel Byrne, Kathy Bates, and Robert DeNiro(!). I was obviously compelled to purchase it. This did not extend to actually watching it.
Three. My satellite setup is shared with the landlord and sometimes when we want to watch TV he is instead taping every procedural crime drama or nature documentary set in the Far East on television. Yesterday in the afternoon it was Wild China. So my fiancée put on this movie.
Four. The reason we were stymied by Wild China instead of watching the NCAA tournament in Vegas was because Spirit Airlines, which sucks immensely, oversold our flight to Las Vegas and bumped us. This sent me into a rage, destroyed the cost-benefit ratio of going, saw us cancel the trip entirely, and caused me to spend Thursday sulking like a five year old.
Five. On Friday I went to a hockey game. Saturday, too.
The number of Michigan fans that would gladly have seen their sports fandom pitch headlong to its doom has to be hovering near its all-time high right now. You can't voluntarily abandon it because suicide is a sin but, man, that bridge is looking pretty rickety and maybe if I just take all these things I care about and put them on the bridge and go attend to cargo down by the river I'll come back to find no trace of them and I can go be interested in crochet. There's no such thing as unrequited crochet.
As reactions to this year of Michigan sports go, turning off the hope and settling down into a prolonged malaise is obvious. I was planning some sort of gallows-humor-laden celebration when the three major sports seasons had finally expired and kind of hoping the hockey team would gack it up against Lake State just so it would over sooner. This was always hypothetical. Once the team got on the ice I was pulling for them, but without much fervor and with an eye on the silver lining if they did what they'd been doing all season. I was thinking about a mock funeral.
Then… that happened.
Putting the spurs to Lake Superior State was one thing, as they were a tenth-place team with some fatal flaw that made Michigan's numerous fatal flaws irrelevant. A dominant sweep was a rare occurrence for Michigan this year, but it could be explained away. Following that by stomping Michigan State in a series that redefined both teams' seasons lit a tiny little flame, though. When Tristin Llewellyn (of all people!) blasted a puck past Cody Reichard, it was on: the terror of a high-stakes game you are fully invested in. It had been a long time since one of those went the right way.
Something did flip on this team when Shawn Hunwick was forced into the starting lineup. The relentless defensive intensity from Hunwick's first game, when he saw maybe two shots with any hope of going in, has been a constant feature since his insertion. That's equal parts insult and tribute: the team both needs and wants to protect their miniscule walk-on goaltender. In doing so they've found the formula for success that eluded them so painfully the throughout the season and given Michigan fans reason to believe in heretical things like Benevolent Michigan Walk-On Tolerating God.
I guarantee you this: no group of people has ever been as excited about Fort Wayne, Indiana, as Michigan hockey fans are right now.
Yost Built is doing a round of apologies in the aftermath and I have a couple to offer up of my own:
Tristin Llewellyn not only scored but avoided any penalties that meant something (he took one with a few seconds left in a 5-2 game against Miami) and failed do anything that made me mentally exclaim "Llewellyn!" in the same tone of voice Jerry Seinfeld says "Newman!"
That latter is the way I usually judge individual defense: number of "Newman!" plays where someone's obvious error leads to a scoring chance versus number of anti-Newmans where something that looks threatening is snuffed out by a good play. (I know this is far from a complete evaluation but it's the best I can do live.) Llewellyn had a half Newman early in the Northern game when he came up too aggressively as NMU broke the zone, but he had backcheckers and nothing came of it. He had two or three anti-Newman plays against Miami, which is That Miami. Best weekend of his career? Probably.
Louie Caporusso came in for repeated criticism this year as he and David Wohlberg failed to even approximate their 2009 production. At a couple points I suggested that this was the real Caporusso, a decent second-liner and nothing more, and that the blazing hot start to his sophomore year was the aberration. Yeah… Caporusso is now two points off a PPG. Yost Built has details:
When Caporusso was a Hobey-finalist a year ago, he had 24-25--49, but scored just six goals after the first of the year--and five of those were against LSSU, WMU, and a dreadful FYS team. This year it's the opposite. After just 7 goals in his first 30 games, Caporusso has now ripped off 13 goals and 20 points in the last 13, which includes five multi-goal games and a playmaker. He also hasn't gone consecutive games without a point this calendar year.
Theory as to what happened: Caporusso's okay but not great at stickhandling, crazy Hensick goal against Michigan State nonwithstanding, and he spent large chunks of the year attempting to do everything himself. This resulted in a lot of lost possession and not much else. When the team picked up its play, Caporusso had more faith in his teammates to get him the puck in dangerous areas, which has shifted the focus of his game from his stickhandling to his lethal wrister and ability to get open in dangerous areas. Both of Caporusso's goals against Northern resulted from that, as did the shot that zinged off the inside of the post immediately before his second.
Shawn Hunwick. By the third period of the Northern game, Shawn Hunwick-specific terror had dissipated and was replaced by a slightly lower-level General Oh My God panic. His team is helping him out immensely, but after eight full games his save percentage is .912. I admit that I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop here, but at this point you have to let it ride.
- At no point have I said anything about Carl Hagelin that would require an apology, but I should probably mention that if either of his linemates takes a step forward or they throw an offensive-minded player on his wing, his points could blow up next year to the point where he's a serious Hobey contender. There are only six players who 1) have more points than Hagelin this year, 2) play in a Big Four conference, and 3) can return next year. A couple of those guys play for RPI and UMass, teams that aren't likely to be good enough to get their guys into the Hobey top three, and none of them can possibly be as spectacular two-way players as Hagelin. The big problem is fellow Swede Gustav Nyquist, a sophomore for Maine who has 61 points.
Hoo boy did I hate a number of calls this weekend. I did not see the Miami guy clock Wohlberg into the boards and can't offer an opinion on whether that was two or five. I did think Glendening was done as soon as that hit was delivered, FWIW.
However, how the hell does a Northern guy plow Michigan's Happy Meal toy of a goalie without so much as a shove and not get a goal interference or charging call? How does the Miami game turn into a throwback where penalties are only called when there's bone showing?
Also, I've seen this call often enough to assume that it's actually the correct call but it's immoral: when a defenseman (Steve Kampfer in this case) lays an open-ice check on a guy who's about to receive a pass and that guy has just whiffed on a puck he could easily have touched, that gets called as interference. That drives me crazy. It should be like the NFL rule. If the defender gets there after the pass has gone through a small area around you it's a good play.
- I still don't understand why Winnett is playing the point on the power play. Michigan has Langlais, Kampfer, Burlon, and either Summers or Moffie available on defense. Three of those guys have more points than Winnett; Burlon is equal with him and Moffie is just two back despite playing only 29 games. Some of those guys aren't spectacular defensively but I'm betting they're all more comfortable there than Winnett. Winnett's a fourth line forward on a team with a ton of offensive defensemen. I don't get his usage there at all. Last weekend he shot numerous pucks into defenders and set up a couple shorthanded chances for the opposition.
- Scooter got pulled up onto the third line when Glendening went out and did well; in the third period I don't think the fourth line got more than a shift. I don't think he'll move up in the pecking order since Michigan is adding at least one more forward than they lose (this perhaps foolishly assumes no NHL departures) but I'd be comfortable with him as an energy guy wherever he ends up.
Daily story and gallery. Also a CHN article, attention from Puck Daddy, AnnArbor.com coverage Rivals promises "Swedish trash talk" in a Hagelin interview. 2011 recruit Lucas Lessio is projected as a first-round NHL draft pick. The Wolverine Blog on the game.
|WHAT||Michigan vs Northern Michigan, CCHA Championship Game|
|WHERE||Joe Louis Arena, Detroit|
|WHEN||Championship @ 7:35 PM.|
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
The math is complicated—Michigan actually dropped in the pairwise after beating Miami—but the stakes are simple and immense: win and make the NCAA tournament as the worst matchup ever for some poor one seed. Lose and miss the tournament for the first time in twenty years.
Record. 20-11-8, 13-9-9 CCHA with three shootout wins, good for fourth place. They are locked into an NCAA tourney bid. Northern tied with Michigan for the CCHA's second best goal differential at +14. Their overall differential is +22; Michigan is currently +42 thanks to their tear through the CCHA playoffs, albeit in three extra games.
After scoring the the last first-round bye, Northern swept Alaska 4-3 and 5-1, then squeezed by Ferris in OT at the Joe. Northern's goal came a minute into OT, so it shouldn't affect their legs.
Northern's been on a tear since getting swept at UNO in late January. Since then they're 10-1-2 in a stretch of games that included four against Alaska, three against Ferris state, and two against Michigan. Michigan, FWIW, was Northern's only loss in that stretch.
Previous meetings. The teams split their only series of the year in late February, and that was at Yost. Friday was a 3-1 Northern win with a familiar script: Michigan outshot the Wildcats 39-21 but couldn't get anything except a first period Hagelin goal. Northern scored on two of its first five shots and that was enough.
The Saturday game was wild after a fairly calm first period that saw Greger Hanson score an unassisted goal on a terrible turnover from Kampfer. Michigan took the lead in the second, Northern tied it, and then Michigan took the lead again. In the third, Michigan blew the lead by yielding two goals in little over a minute; four minutes after that they would get goals from Chad Langlais and Greg Pateryn to retake the lead and close the scoring. Pateryn's goal was a JMFJ-esque swoop in from the point and a bizarre way for a stay-at-home defenseman to score the first goal of his career. Michigan outshot Northern 32-27.
FWIW, Michigan had four more power play opportunities over the two games. We will see this was not a coincidence.
First team All-CCHA forward and Hobey finalist Mark Olver (right) is the team's leading scorer with 19-29-48. He plays with a couple of sophomores. Andrew Cherniwchan has an 11-16-27 and Tyler Gron a 10-10-20. This leaves Northern a second dangerous line of double-digit scorers: Greger Hanson (16-22-38), Justin Florek (11-21-32) and Ray Kaunisto (17-14-31). On defense, Erik Gustafsson was the CCHA's best offensive defenseman. He has a 3-28-31 line.
Northern has two extremely strong lines, which will again prevent the Hagelin Solution from working perfectly, but after those two lines the dropoff is steep. There's one guy with 22 points on the season and then it's 12, 11, etc. Michigan can't afford to let the third and fourth lines put anything on the board. You can see the dropoff in the +/- numbers: the top two lines are all at least +8 and most are somewhere in the +12 to +18 range. The third and fourth lines are somewhere between +2 and –9. Michigan has three solid lines and should be able to make hay when Northern's first two units are on the bench.
Northern is just above average offensively despite the strong top two lines: their 3.08 goals per game is 22nd nationally. Michigan is up to 12th at 3.31.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. Senior Brian Stewart is NMU's unquestioned starter. His backup has only played about six games worth of hockey. Stewart has a 2.41 GAA and a .926 save percentage that's fourth(!) nationally after Michigan knocked Cody Reichard from a .930 to a .924. Does everyone Michigan play have to have a crazy save percentage?
Defensively, Northern is experienced and boring past Gustafsson. Freshman Kyle Follmer and senior TJ Miller are +16 and +17, respectively; senior Alan Dorich is +7 despite rocking an 0-2-2 line. That's your top four. The third pairing is shaky.
Northern is 12th nationally in scoring defense at 2.51 per game; Michigan is 7th at 2.31. Shawn Hunwick's save percentage is up to .908.
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
|PP For / G||4.4||5.6|
|PP Ag / G||5.7||5.3|
Northern is a heavily penalized team that spends significantly more time in the box than their opponents do. A repeat of the Yost PP disparity seems likely, though if Shegos and Wilkins call the game like they did yesterday—think NHL circa 1995—there will be a lot of should-calls that get ignored.
However, despite the penalty disparity Northern has scored and yielded an equal number of goal on special teams: 35 for, 35 against. Opponents are shooting just .097 on power plays; Northern is shooting .172. Overall, Northern's kill is 17th nationally at 84.3% and their power play is 10th at 20.5%. Michigan's kill is 9th; their power play is 19th.
Northern actually leads the country in a funky stat College Hockey Stats tracks called "combined special teams" that adds up all your opportunities and counts your successes, but that stat slants heavily towards teams that spend a disproportionate share of their time killing penalties. If I had to hazard a guess I'd say Northern is amongst the worst teams in the country in that ratio.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Do whatever the hell it is you have been doing lately. Against Miami, Michigan did not spend 80% of its time in the opponent's end like they did in the first two rounds of the CCHA playoffs, but they did tilt the ice slightly in their favor against a team that was +61 in the CCHA this year. They deserved to beat Miami.
I mean no disrespect to a Northern team that is currently hotter than hell, but if Michigan can do that to a team that is definitely That Miami when it comes to hockey, most of this game will probably be played in the Northern end. Supporting evidence: Northern has been outshot on the year by a margin of about five per game. Michigan is outshooting opponents 34-23. That might not be enough for a win given the shooting/save percentages, but it's better than the alternative.
If Michigan can keep the turnovers down and keep clearing the dozen terrifying pucks that kick out into the slot, they will be in good shape. The overall goal differential here is big: despite the fact that Northern (13th) is only four slots back of Michigan (9th) in scoring margin, Michigan is +1.0 and Northern is +0.56.
Clone Carl Hagelin and put him on three lines. I'm pretty sure they did this after watching Miami turn the puck over in its own end time and again because of heavy Michigan forechecking. Michigan had its share of scary moments against the equally fast Redhawks, but I don't think Northern quite has the skating those guys do. Sans Michigan turnovers, their third and fourth lines are going to be hard pressed to do anything except get off the ice without giving up a goal.
Stay out of the box. Northern takes a lot of penalties and doesn't draw many but that power play is lethal. I think Michigan would prefer most of the game to be played five on five. This would make that 1995 NHL era refereeing a positive for Michigan.
The Big Picture
Win or go home.
MVictors returns from the Joe with a bevy of pictures and one Awesome Crappy Photoshop. Yost Built recaps the Miami game.
Michigan (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten)
When a college basketball player scores a triple-double, it's likely his team had a pretty good game. When he does it after 29 minutes of play, and is able to take to the bench for significant garbage time, it's guaranteed. Manny Harris did just that, recording only the second triple-double in Michigan basketball history last night in the Wolverines' 97-50 romp over D-2 Northern Michigan. He finished with 18 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists. Just about the only thing that made Wolverine fans unhappy was Beilein's decision not to go for the century mark in the final minute.
For much of the game, it seemed like the offense wasn't running that smoothly, and the majority of Michigan's points were coming in fast break situations (or only shortly thereafter). There are a number of things that probably factor into this: freshmen getting used to the pace of an actual game in college, including one at point guard; overmatched opponent didn't require running too much of the offense; early season jitters. I think the jitters may have played a role, as the team started sketchy from the line, with Manny Harris missing one, and LLP and Anthony Wright each having a bad miss. They settled down from the stripe as the game went on, and the team missed just one freebie in the second half.
Freshman Matt Vogrich showed he can shoot the hell out of the ball, making all 5 of his shot attempts, each of them from behind the arc. Zack Novak, on the other hand, was unable to continue his hot streak from the last game, missing on both of his 3-balls. DeShawn Sims led all scorers with 22 points. Zack Gibson is still good for a couple really athletic plays per game and a couple awkward ones, including having a guard rip a rebound out of his hands. I still don't like Anthony Wright as a useful piece of this team. He misses 100% of the shots he doesn't take... and nearly all the ones that he does take. Sure, he can get hot at times (see: NCAA Tournament game against Oklahoma), but that's the exception, not the rule.
Other personnel notes: Laval Lucas-Perry didn't score a lot, but did a pretty good job running the point when he was asked to do so. A host of walkons got in at the end of the game (Akunne, Bartelstein, Puls, and Person), and they played with Ben Cronin. After the game, Beilein said that he would have liked Cronin to get a bit more time, but he has a hand injury (his right hand was heavily taped during the game) that limits him from shooting or catching the ball. That injury should be fine by Friday.
The defensive intensity looked really good to start the game, and the players were being really aggressive in the zone. I can see why it's so helpful to have a 6-4 guy at the top of the zone, rather than somebody who's generously listed at 6-0. There were instances where the team was able to trap Northern's players, but they didn't actually record too many turnovers. As the game wore on and it became apparent that the Wildcats wouldn't be posing a serious threat, the intensity cooled off a bit, and I think there might have even been more reliance on man defenses, though I haven't re-watched the game to confirm.
- "They told me I had three assists to get [the triple double] and that's when I knew and I kinda counted from there." Manny Harris, on whether he knew he was approaching the triple-double.
- "I think anybody could get 10 assists, because we shoot the ball so well." Manny Harris.
- "He'll probably miss one or two [in practice], but we know he can shoot." Manny Harris on Matt Vogrich's shooting performance. "Class of 2013 right there. I was real happy for him. He's a shooter and I think he proved that out there today. I think you guys will be seeing a lot more of that from him." Darius Morris on Vogrich's performance.
- "For Manny to go out there and make plays, that's what he does: he's a playmaker." Darius Morris on Manny Harris's triple-double.
- "He trusts these shooters, and he relishes the assists as much as he does the points." John Beilein on Manny Harris's performance.
- "I like Stu coming in at that 13-minutes mark, because he's got that arm warmed up and ready to roll." John Beilein on bringing Stu Douglass off the bench.
- "I think he'll be fine by next weekend but he can't shoot right now and catch right now because his right hand still bothers him." John Beilein on Ben Cronin's injury.
- "Our defense has to improve, and I thought this was a good start today. Tomorrow when we watch film, there will be 50 or 60 cuts, and we'll spend an hour in there telling them what we gotta do better." John Beilein on the team's defense.
Michigan takes on Houston Baptist (0-2) Friday at 7 in Crisler Arena, available online at BigTenNetwork.com. The Huskies have another game before they head to Ann Arbor, taking on Rice tonight. Full preview of the game as it approaches.
|WHAT||Michigan v. Northern Michigan|
November 13th, 2009
|THE LINE||No line, junkie|
|TELEVISION||Big Ten Network|
Year 3 of the John Beilein era gets off to its official start Saturday at 7 as Michigan takes on the Wildcats of Northern Michigan in Crisler Arena. Though he's been a coach for over three decades, Beilein still feels butterflies heading into the year. "My gut feels the same... You're excited about it, and at the same time there's nervous energy."
If everything goes according to plan, the Wildcats will provide little competition. Instead, it should be an opportunity to get the kinks worked out, and a rotation established, before Houston Baptist comes to town next Friday—and hopefully even that is just a tune-up for the Old Spice Classic. The game against Northern will count as a win in the record books, but doesn't have an effect on Michigan's final RPI.
Manny Harris is still not 100%, though he's finally practicing in full with the team. Jordan Morgan has yet to hit the court with his teammates, though it should come soon. He and Blake McLimans will be kept on a redshirt track until the team absolutely needs them, in hopes that it never does.
A number of players are looking to improve their versatility. "I'm here to do what Coach Beilein needs me to do," says Laval Lucas-Perry, "I think I'm a little bit of both: point guard and a shooting guard." Darius Morris needs to learn when to simply go to the bucket, instead of setting up an offensive play (he also needs a winter coat). "As a point guard, you have to know when it's your opportunity to go out there and be a scorer... when you have to make that extra pass or go straight to the basket," Morris said. Stu Douglass is learning that sometimes it's OK to just trust his shot, even when running the point.
The rebounding and three-point defense continue to be issues, as they probably will be throughout the John Beilein era, though not to the extent they were last year. "The zone, at times, will give up a higher percentage than we'd like to, but it also creates turnovers," says Beilein. The team size will improve over last year, hopefully fixing some of those issues.
This team is still very much a work in progress. But isn't it fun to be able to enjoy the process?
As discussed in yesterday's non-conference roundup, Northern is, like, not very good. Against D-2 competition, they were below .500. They split the season series with Wayne State, a team that gave Michigan a comfortable victory in their exhibition last week. This is the Wildcats' first game of the season, in the largest arena they'll visit all year. They placed nobody on the pre-season all-conference squads.
Their players to watch are guards Marc Renelique and Raymont McElroy. They were atop last year's squad in scoring, and McElroy is the three-point shooter. The Northern Michigan roster from their website has some differences from ESPN's website, so take any personnel notes with a grain of salt. Hopefully, it shouldn't be too relevant for this game.
No tempo-free breakdown for this game, as it's the first game of the year against a D-2 opponent. We'll see about Houston Baptist getting the statistical preview, but it should make its permanent debut for the Old Spice Classic.
UMHoops has a little more on the Wildcats and six questions going into the season, which makes Rothstein's five questions seem very sad and small and alone. AnnArbor.com has plenty of coverage; Morris and LLP are the point guards with Douglass a third option. Jay Bilas has gone from emotional problems to crazy Michigan homer. Also Dick Vitale said something I'm betting was annoying.
With basketball season fast approaching, let's take a look at Michigan's non-conference schedule, and see what the Wolverines are up against this winter. A more thorough rundown of Saturday's opponent may be coming later this week, but it's pretty difficult to find information on D-2 teams.
November 14: Northern Michigan
Home, Big Ten Network
2009 Record: 11-16, 6-16 GLIAC
2009 Final RPI: N/A (Division 2)
2009 Final Pomeroy: N/A (Division 2)
Key Players: Guards Marc Renelique and Raymont McElroy led the team in scoring last year, with 14.2 and 13.0 points/game, respectively. Both have good size, at 6-2. McElroy is the team's sharpshooter, making 42.2% of his threes last year. Fellow guard Chris Warner was third on the team with 10.4 points/game, and he specialized at getting to the free throw line, with 136 attempts. Unfortunately, he only shot 68.4% from the stripe. He also led the team in rebounds and foul-outs.
Key Losses: Wing Tyler Kazmierkoski was fourth on the team in scoring at 10.4 points/game. He's not listed on the Northern roster, but was only a sophomore last year. 6-6 forward Kyle Greene is also not listed on the roster, and he was second on the team in boards last year. Both players are still on the team, per ESPN, so I don't know what to think.
Notes: If the GLIAC sounds familiar, it's because Michigan's only opponent to date, Wayne State, also hails from the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Last year, Wayne finished 10-12 in the GLIAC, though they played in the opposite division. The teams met up twice, with the road team emerging victorious in each contest.
November 20: Houston Baptist
2009 Record: 4-25, Independent
2009 Final RPI: 312
2009 Final Pomeroy: 324
Key Players: Mario Flaherty is a 6-9 white guy with an Italian and Irish name. He played about 50% of the team's minutes last year, which doesn't sound like much. Except it's by far the most of any returning player. He's a banger down low, as the tallest guy on the team last year, he led in blocks and was second in drawing fouls. The only other contributor from last year's team that returns is 6-7 forward Fred Hinnenkamp, who had the worst offensive rating of anyone on the team, at 55.3.
Key Losses: This should be a pretty robust category, considering Baptist played 10 seniors last year, in addition to one sophomore, Jeremy Havard, who is no longer with the team. Just look at what Flaherty and Hinninekamp did last year, and keep in mind that EVERYTHING ELSE has been lost from the team. That includes the top 4 in minutes played, and the team's two most important players, forward Gordon Watt and guard Brandon Sauls.
Notes: This team was bad last year. This team loses almost every single ounce of production, both offensively and defensively from last year's team. It shouldn't be pretty in Crisler Arena come next Friday.
November 26: Creighton
Orlando, FL (Old Spice Classic), ESPN2
2009 Record: 26-7, 15-5 Missouri Valley
2009 Final RPI: 40
2009 Final Pomeroy: 76
Key Players: Junior guard P'Allen Stinnett led the team in minutes played and steals last year, in addition to getting fouled and going to the line frequently. Senior forward Justin Carter was the team's top rebounder both offensively and defensively, despite standing just 6-4. Senior Cavel Witter was the team's second point guard last season.
Key Losses: Creighton actually fielded a fairly young team last year (making them dangerous this season), but they did lose two important contributors. Guards Booker Woodfox(!) and Josh Dotzler were second and fourth, respectively, in minutes played. Dotzler led the team in assists, and was second nationally in steal percentage. Woodfox has an awesome name, and was by far the team's best shooter.
November 27 & 29: TBA
Orlando, FL (Old Spice Classic), ESPN or ESPNU
Notes: Michigan's 2nd and 3rd-round opponents will be determined by the results of Round 1. Possibilities for Round 2 are Marquette and Xavier. A more thorough preview of the Old Spice Classic as it approaches.
December 2: Boston College
Home (ACC/Big Ten Challenge), ESPN2
2009 Record: 22-11, 10-8 ACC
2009 Final RPI: 60
2009 Final Pomeroy: 69
Key Players: The Eagles only played one senior last year, so they return lots and lots of depth, particularly in their 6-man junior class. Forwards Joe Trapani and Corey Raji and wing Rakim Sanders are the most important returners form last year's team. The 6-6 Raji led the 2008-09 Eagles in offensive rating, rebounding, and HOLDING ON TO THE DAMN BALL. Trapani, at 6-9, was the best blocker and defensive rebounder. Sanders took the most shots on the team, on with good reason - he was the best shooter for BC. However, like junior center Josh Southern, he was known to get in a bit of foul trouble.
Key Losses: Tyrese Rice was the only Eagle who graduated this offseason. He played the most minutes on the team by a healthy margin, and racked up a good number of assists. He was also the only BC player who could consistently get to the free throw line.
Notes: Rice is a big loss, but Boston College should be able to absorb the departure of just one player. This should be the first really good test for the Wolverines. A home win here would also give the Big Ten a chance to (finally) win the BigTen/ACC Challenge. More on that as the event approaches.
December 5: Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Home, BigTenNetwork.com or ESPNU
2009 Record: 13-18, 12-8 SWAC
2009 Final RPI: 250
2009 Final Pomeroy: 311
Key Players: Senior guard Terrance Calvin was the team's leader last year, playing the most minutes, dishing out the most assists, and consistently drawing fouls. 6-7 forward Tyree Glass, a senior, took up the most possessions for the Golden Lions, while pulling down the most offensive rebounds and drawing the most fouls. Sophomore guard Savalance Townshend has an awesome name, and played the second-most minutes on the team, while committing the fewest fouls. Senior forward Tavaris Washington was the team's best shooter, and he was also second in both block percentage and steal percentage. He got to the foul line more than any other player for Pine Bluff.
Key Losses: Arkansas-Pine Bluff didn't have any seniors last year, but forward Ricky Parks and guard Eric Brooks are not on this year's roster. Parks got limited playing time and didn't accrue any meaningful stats, but Brooks played 41% of available minutes, and was the team's steals leader.
Notes: Pine Bluff will be Michigan's second experienced opponent in a row, though they don't have nearly the talent that Boston College does. They were a poor team last year, but should be improved. Off three days' rest, this could be a tough turnaround for Michigan, but both games are at home, and it's difficult (though not impossible) to see an upset in the making.
December 9: Utah
Away, CBS College Sports
2009 Record: 24-8, 15-4 Mountain West
2009 Final RPI: 9
2009 Final Pomeroy: 30
Key Players: Utah was a very experienced team last year, and they lost a lot of talent. The key returners for the Utes are junior guard Carlon Brown, who was a liability shooting the ball, but assisted others at a good clip, while pulling down a ton of rebounds, and Luka Drca, another big guard (both are 6-5) who led the team in assists and was a good shooter. 6-11 Frenchman Kim Tillie will likely occupy the middle in his senior season, and sophomore wing Jace Tavita will hope to get more playing time than he did last year. Redshirt sophomore David Foster hasn't played for Utah yet, but he is an enormous center at 7-3.
Key Losses: Center Luke Nevill played the most minutes on the team, absorbed the most possessions, and led the team in rebounding, blocks, and drawing fouls. He is a big loss, both literally and figuratively. Wing Lawrence Borha and guard Tyler Kepkay played the second- and third-most minutes on the team, respectively. Forward Shaun Green had the team's best offensive rating, as he led in shooting and turnover percentage, and was third in assists.
Notes: Though Utah lost a ton of talent from last year's team, this is still Michigan's first true road game, which should be a good test. The Utes have lots of size, and that could cause matchup problems for Michigan's slightly-smaller team.
December 13: Detroit
Home, Big Ten Network
2009 Record: 6-23, 2-17 Horizon
2009 Final RPI: 281
2009 Final Pomeroy: 279
Key Players: 6-7 forward Thomas Kennedy, a senior, used the most possessions (and took the most shots) of any Titan last year. Alas, he wasn't particularly good at shooting, which is pretty much the same story for the rest of the team. 6-7 forward Xavier Keeling returns after missing most of last year with a foot injury. Senior guard Woody Payne played the most minutes on the team, leading in assists, steals, and free throw rate. Fellow senior guard Eulis Stephens has better size at 6-5, but took a lot of shots and didn't make very many of them.
Key Losses: Forwards Nemanja Jokic and Michael Harrington are no longer with the team, and Harrington was a key part of the Titans' effort last year. He led in rebounding on both ends of the floor, and also drew a bunch of fouls from the opposition.
Notes: Detroit was a bad team last year, and there's no reason to expect any thing other than that for this year as well. Having Keeling all season might help, as he played one season for Indiana back before the Hoosiers were a laughingstock. Still, he's not a can't-miss prospect, on a team that direly needs one.
December 19: Kansas
2009 Record: 25-7, 14-3 Big 12
2009 Final RPI: 11
2009 Final Pomeroy: 10
Key Players: Oh god, just take your pick. Point guard Sherron Collins is on the (very) short list of Naismith candidates, Center Cole Aldrich is a terror in the paint, guard Tyshawn Taylor is exceptional at getting to the basket (or getting fouled on the way there), and guard Brady Morningstar is not only Lucifer, but a deadly 3-point shooter. This team is frickin' loaded.
Key Losses: Nobody. The Jayhawks didn't lose a single important contributor.
Notes: Oh, so that's why they're the consensus number one team in the country, huh? If there's one thing the Jayhawks don't have, it's a ton of size. Still. Kansas is freakin' loaded, and Michigan's goal will probably be not getting blown out.
December 22: Coppin State
2009 Record: 12-19, 10-8 MEAC
2009 Final RPI: 221
2009 Final Pomeroy: 266
Key Players: Sophomore wing guard Michael Harper was Coppin State's most effective offensive player last year, and also the team's best shooter. He'll probably lead Coppin this year. Guard Vince Goldsberry will play a bigger role, and senior Sam Coleman will hold down the middle after leading the team in rebounding and blocks last year.
Key Losses: Guard Tywain McKee did everything for Coppin State last year, playing nearly every available minute, taking up a ton of possessions, leading in assists, stealing the ball a bunch, and drawing fouls. Yeah, he's gone, as is Chuka Iloegbu, a 6-3 forward who played about half of the team's minutes.
Notes: One really interesting thing pops out about Coppin State - they don't foul a whole lot, with 4 players from last years roster coming in ranked for fewest fouls committed per 40 minutes. They're also a pretty small team, and MIchigan should be able to take care of them pretty easily.
January 17: Connecticut
2009 Record: 27-4, 15-4 Big East
2009 Final RPI: 8
2009 Final Pomeroy: 3
Key Players: Senior guard Jerome Dyson led the team in steals last year, and was pretty good at drawing fouls. He was pretty good (though not great) in a number of other categories as well, though he missed 12 games for the Huskies. Sophomore guard Kemba Walker was a good assist man, and got to the line at a decent clip. Senior forward Stanley Robinson has been a good offensive rebounder and blocker.
Key Losses: You may have heard of this Hasheem Thabeet fellow, who went #2 overall in the NBA draft. Guard AJ Price was also drafted, though in the second round. Other losses include forward Jeff Adrien, who actually played the most minutes of anyone on the team, and guard Craig Austrie, who took very good care of the ball last year.
Notes: Michigan fans may remember that, despite Thabeet getting the full Blake Griffin treatment from the officials, the Wolverines lost by just 8 at UConn this year. The 2009-10 Huskies are not nearly as good (though they still do have a couple projected draft picks on their team), and MIchigan has them at home. This should be a tough battle, and it's too bad it has to come in the middle of a tough conference stretch with Wisconsin, Purdue, and Michigan State.