Looks like the NCAA is following pro sports' examples and pulling events out of North Carolina due to their sexual orientation and gender identity laws.
Affected championship games:
2016 Division I Women’s Soccer Championship, College Cup (Cary), Dec. 2 and 4.
2016 Division III Men’s and Women’s Soccer Championships (Greensboro), Dec. 2 and 3.
2017 Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, first/second rounds (Greensboro), March 17 and 19.
2017 Division I Women’s Golf Championships, regional (Greenville), May 8-10.
2017 Division III Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships (Cary), May 22-27.
2017 Division I Women’s Lacrosse Championship (Cary), May 26 and 28.
2017 Division II Baseball Championship (Cary), May 27-June 3.
The release does mention that if a North Carolina team earns the right to play a championship game in their home state, it will be held there.
MOD EDIT - One way you can avoid controversy is not post Breitbart articles generally, or indeed inject more politics into the discussion when there is already politics in the discussion. - LSA
I’ve been wanting to write up a diary on the ridiculously early start dates for spring sports and how they affect the lacrosse, baseball and softball programs.
Personally, I’m excited the season is here so soon and that lacrosse already has a significant win under its belt. But, it sucks when May rolls around and their season is already over. And for a sport that is always seeking new audiences, it doesn’t make sense that they pit themselves against the still-ongoing winter sports season.
I believe the February start dates are hampering these sports’ popularity. The structure of the semester as well as the sports’ postseasons are creating a situation in which the first games creep earlier and earlier and significant portions of their schedules are played in the depths of winter. It’s miserable for the athletes to play these games and even more miserable for the fans to watch them. As a result, spectators don’t show up and this makes it difficult for these programs to get the attention and support they deserve.
Yesterday was Valentine’s Day and softball and lacrosse have already played multiple games. Baseball starts on Friday. But the winter sports season isn’t close to being over yet. March Madness doesn’t start for another month and the Frozen 4 won’t be played for another seven weeks. Let’s take a look at these team’s schedules to see just how ridiculous they are. **I left the golf, tennis and track & field programs out of this analysis primarily because I don’t understand their seasons. Plus, I am more familiar with lacrosse, baseball and softball which I consider to be more spectator-oriented**
Lacrosse is already 1-1, opening their season last weekend, February 6th at UNC. It was clear and cold. Despite the early February weather, 2,000 fans came out to see the game, which isn’t bad (and yesterday they had the fortune of playing in the friendly climate-controlled confines of Oosterbaan Fieldhouse). UNC is a program that usually brings in good crowds, especially in late-spring warm-weather matchups versus its hated rivals Duke and UVA. But, look at what the Michigan game was up against: that night the top 10 Tar Heels hoops team was hosting ACC foe Notre Dame. The lacrosse game wasn’t streamed either - the athletic department’s streaming service showed a gymnastics meet instead. Even if it was streamed the game was on at the same time as Michigan’s only regular season basketball game vs in-state rival Michigan State, so the small community of Michigan lacrosse fans on this board likely would’ve focused on that instead. Oh and the Carolina Panthers were in the Super Bowl that weekend. If you were a casual observer of UNC sports who had an interest in lacrosse, you likely had much bigger things on your plate that weekend.
This year, Michigan plays five games in the month of February, and a total of seven games before the ides of March. That’s half their schedule. This was unheard of in Division 1 even just a few years ago. They also only play one game on their spring break trip and they play zero regular season games in the month of May, when it’s actually nice.
Why does the season start so early you ask? Well, the college lacrosse season is built around Memorial Day which has been the traditional date for the national championship game. The schedule is created backwards from that. But, in the last several years the NCAA tournament field expanded to 16 teams and then again to 18 with play-in games. Also, the ever-shifting conference landscape has created bigger and bigger conferences and now most of them hold end-of-the-year conference tournaments to determine their champions and AQ bids. As a result there are virtually no dates in late April/early May to host home games. Teams compensate for this by scheduling games earlier and earlier which is how we end up with pre-Super Bowl lacrosse. If we’re playing lacrosse games before the NFL is even finished, then there’s something wrong.
Here are some examples of how this is hurting the game. On Saturday, #11 Loyola beat #7 UVA in Charlottesville in 25 degree weather. Only 1,200 fans were in the stands - in milder weather later in the season, that game brings in another thousand fans at least. Even worse, last week Hopkins and Navy played another chapter in their historic rivalry - on a nasty cold Tuesday night. Inside Lacrosse reported that in several recent meetings of the two teams attracted more than 10,000 fans. Hopkins-Navy is basically the equivalent of the Michigan-Notre Dame football rivalry, but on an awful, cold Tuesday night in February 2016, only 665 fans came out to see it. They might as well have played it on Christmas morning in a dark basement with the lights out.
Here is a great discussion on how even the coaches and players hate it. http://www.insidelacrosse.com/article/video-coaches-on-february-lacrosse/33897
Winter and early spring in North America, especially in places like Big Ten country, is not a particularly nice time to do things outside. Nor is it a nice time to do summer-time activities like play baseball. This of course is a major obstacle for the northern teams, most of whom spend the first month of the season on the road in warm places like Florida, Texas and California.
College baseball is ruled by southern schools and those in places like California and Arizona. They can play outdoors year round and can recruit talent that often times is in its own backyard. A look at the past winners of the College World Series show that a northern team has not won the title since Ohio State in 1966 (Fresno St, Oregon St, Wichita St, Vandy and UVA are all non-super warm climate teams who have won, but in that time period there are no winners from east of the Mississippi and north of the Mason-Dixon).
The warm weather schools also don’t suffer road fatigue the way the northern schools do. Look at Michigan’s first month of games - they play five straight weeks of road games. That’s 19 consecutive away games including a pair of Saturday doubleheaders. Before they play their first home game on March 25th, they will have logged thousands of miles going to Florida, Hawaii, Oklahoma and five different cities in California. Contrast that with the schedules of teams like Texas, LSU and UCLA who host games in February and hardly have to go anywhere when they do go on the road.
Michigan baseball has a nice long homestand in April, but they play 36 games of their 50 regular season games on the road. If they make the tournament and CWS they could be playing as late as June 29th.
Like baseball, softball spends the first several weeks of their season in far-off warmer corners of the planet because it’s simply too cold to play in the midwest in February.
This year, Michigan kicked off the season in Tampa. Then they go to Tallahassee. Then it’s on to Palm Springs, Los Angeles, Fullerton and then Louisville. They finally play their first homestand on March 16. Out of 50 regular season games on the schedule, 34 of them are somewhere other than Ann Arbor. Their last home game is May 8 before finishing up the regular season on the road and then heading to the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.
Softball is dominated by Western teams. Before Michigan won its first national championship in 2005, no team east of the Mississippi had ever won the Women’s College World Series. A look at the past winners of the WCWS shows that Michigan is the only northern team that consistently competes for the national title. Having one of the best coaches in all of sports may be the thing that helps Michigan get over its climate handicap.
If Michigan goes deep this year, as expected, they could be playing as late as June 8th.
From a markets perspective, the spring sports season is saturated. The month of March is dominated by the NCAA basketball tournament, to the point that most people stop paying attention to the NBA and NHL (I definitely do). After that we have Major League Baseball’s Opening Day. Later in April, the NHL and NBA begin their marathon playoff slags that go to June. Also in the spring we have other American sports traditions like the Masters, the Triple Crown, the Indy 500 and the NFL Draft. Niche and non-revenue sports are going to have a hard time trying to compete in this media landscape.
But there is a simple solution - move the seasons back, even just a few weeks. If these sports play most of their meaningful games when people will see them, their popularity is likely to grow. While the field is crowded in spring, there is a significant drop-off in late May. By the end of May the NBA and NHL have whittled down to only a few teams and their games are often few and far between. They’re done in mid June at the latest and unless it’s an Olympic or World Cup year, there is only pro baseball for the next three months until football starts up again.
Sports-wise there is little to do on college campuses once the basketball and hockey programs finish up their regular season. But, by the time it’s actually nice enough to sit outside and take in a game, the baseball, softball and lacrosse teams are wrapping up their seasons. Summer in AA is great, but I would’ve loved to have played some home lacrosse games in early May and been able to go see some baseball and softball games in June.
For lacrosse, the answer is simple - just move the championships back a week. Memorial Day can still be a huge weekend for the sport - they can even play the first two rounds of the tournament on the Saturday and Monday - the way they do with the Final 4 now. This would essentially shorten the tournament and open up more days in early May for on-campus games. More importantly, it would eliminate the need for early February games. They could also create a hard start date of March 1st (more realistically February 21st) and require all teams to play 3 or 4 games on their spring break.
Baseball/softball should also push back a few weeks. I would love to see them start the season in March and play both the CWS and WCWS on the July 4th weekend or even later. The northern teams should lobby hard for a calendar change like this so they don’t have to spend the first six weeks of their seasons on the road.
Alternatively, they could move to a summer season. There has been talk on mgoblog that the Big Ten should consider scrapping baseball/softball as spring sports and create a summer season. Of course the downside of this would be that B1G teams wouldn’t be able to compete in the NCAA tourney/CWS. And it would make it difficult for these student-athletes to rest and get important summer jobs and internships. Nevertheless, I am intrigued by this idea. I think it would add an interesting feature to college towns in the summer and would make the sports more popular.
And while these sports are non-revenue, I wonder if they would make more money if they were played in the summer. And that’s really the only language the NCAA understands.
Of course, these sports will always have to compete with other college and pro sports for the hearts, minds and eyes of fans. But, I think the current set-up makes it difficult for these programs to succeed. The NCAA should make it easier for athletes and fans to enjoy the spring sports season.
Hey if you're in AA and looking for something to do this afternoon head down to Oosterbahn at 1 to check out men's lacrosse vs. Notre Dame. The Irish are #2 but this is a huge opportunity for 2-0 Michigan to really turn the corner and pick up that signature win. It would be nice to get it against an archrival.
This is also the first official varsity matchup with the Irish (I believe they played in the old days when the rules of varsity vs club were much looser).
Oosterbahn can also be an extraordinarily difficult place to play for a team that has never experienced it. A lot of good teams, even superior teams, come into the fieldhouse and have trouble adjusting. For example, Michigan took highly ranked Cornell to overtime last year in Oosterbahn.
ND struggled against G'town last week, a program that has been down lately, and only came away with a 14-12 victory. So, its possible they haven't hit their stride yet and may be susceptible to an early-season upset.
Unfortunately, it won't be broadcast or streamed so you'll have to go see it for yourself.
Since the program's inception, I've made a lot of predictions that have proved to be wildly off base. But here's another one: Michigan pulls the upset 14-13! GO BLUE! BEAT THE IRISH!
The Michigan Softball and Women's Lacrosse teams played today (well, yesterday technically) and both won in dominating fashion.
The softball team won at CMU 11-0 in five innings. Romero hit a home run on her very first pitch and Sierra Lawrence and Kelly Christner each had home runs. Megan Betsa and Sara Driesenga were both solid on the mound for Michigan's 3rd straight shutout. Michigan has now won 20 straight, the sixth time in program history that has happened. The team has a big weekend against Big Ten #2 Minnesota this weekend. Winning at least one would be big, winning two or three would be huge.
Michigan Women's Lacrosse also won its third game (second straight) of the year against Detroit, 16-6. This is the most goals Michigan has scored this year and the fewest allowed this year. Detroit has had a team for longer than Michigan, so winning 16-6 is certainly a good sign for the future.
Greetings, lacrosse faithful. It's snowing outside and we're much closer to the memory of minus-13 temperatures than the technical start of spring, but it's time for spring sports anyway. (Perhaps this is part of the reason the South is picking up on lacrosse faster than real Big Ten schools.) Since the official season opener is just a week away, and Michigan scrimmaged Marquette just today, here's a look at the opponents Michigan will face this season in stickyball sport. Some are familiar by now, some are not.
A word on the landscape, which changed this year as it does every year in lacrosse. Michigan's conference, the ECAC, lost two of its best teams (Denver and Loyola) and is down to five schools from eight (Hobart left for the NEC) and in its last year of existence. Despite dropping below six members, the ECAC retains its tourney autobid due to a grace-period rule. The tourney has expanded to 18 teams to accommodate the higher number of autobids - the ACC and the newly formed Atlantic Sun now earn them. 10 autobids and 8 at-large spots are at stake. Not that this affects Michigan much, but it has the practical benefit of expanding the at-large field by one since the ACC champ always took an at-large.
So Michigan will play a four-game ECAC schedule and, depending on how things go, could have a shot at actually making the four-team ECAC tourney, since only one team will be left out. Michigan will also play four of their five future Big Ten rivals. Below is a guide to the grid in each team's section:
|Preseason rank||Media poll and USILA coaches poll, respectively|
|2013 computer||LaxPower's computer ranking, out of 63 teams|
|2013 result||What happened when we played them|
|2013 O-rating||see below|
|2013 D-rating||see below|
The O-rating and D-rating are concoctions of my own devising, similar to a KenPom number. They represent goals per game of 100 possessions (50 each.) I threw some tempo-free stats into a formula, adjust for schedule, and come up with a number. The national raw average was 15.33 last year, highest in any of the years I've tracked these stats. Top and bottom quartiles are roughly above 16.5 and below 13.5.
Right then, on with the show.
Penn State - Sat., February 8 - Away
|2013 result||L, 11-5|
|2013 O-rating||15.75 (22nd)|
|2013 D-rating||11.97 (5th)|
Penn State had a really good season last year til it got derailed in the tournaments. They beat Denver, lost in OT to Notre Dame and Ohio State, and ran roughshod over the CAA until being upset in the CAA final by Towson and the NCAA opener by Yale. They relied heavily on a pair of 40-goal scorers, one of which is back this. That's T.J. Sanders, a pure scorer and deadly sniper who scored on over 40% of his shots. Seniors Shane Sturgis and Tom LaCrosse (clearly born for this, although he can probably never visit Quebec) bring very good secondary scoring. PSU also has a top-notch goalie in Austin Kaut.
The defense will be very strong, and the presence of Sanders and Kaut explain why the media thinks they're one of only two teams in the country worthy of being mentioned with the ACC. (In the preseason polls, the six ACC teams are in the top eight and top seven.) Michigan plays this game and the Ohio game for the Creator's Trophy, and PSU looks like the favorite to win it.
Mercer - Fri., February 14 - Home
|2013 O-rating||13.06 (51st)|
|2013 D-rating||19.38 (60th)|
Michigan is dipping heavily into the Atlantic Sun for opponents this year, probably in an effort to find a win or two. Mercer is the first of three teams from this conference we'll face. They've basically been awful since the inauguration of their program, but four wins is three more than they've had in a season in their history, and they're picked third of six in the A-Sun. Dangermen include 30-goal scorers Chris Baxa and Zack Ward at attack, and goalie Mike Nugent came up with a solid .553 save percentage despite an extremely porous defense in front of him. As Michigan was a meager 1-13 last year, this'll be the first decent indicator of how much our team has improved. Astute fans will remember this was the first team we ever beat, back in 2012.
Detroit - Wed., February 19 - Neutral
|2013 result||Rained out|
|2013 O-rating||12.37 (54th)|
|2013 D-rating||14.86 (26th)|
The Titans were sort of the anti-Penn State last year - mired in a lousy losing season, they snuck into the MAAC tournament as the 4th seed and then won it by upsetting Marist and then Siena, the latter in overtime. Then they went to the NCAAs and damn near knocked off 2-seed Notre Dame, actually holding a 7-3 lead after three periods.
Last year's game was washed out by a lightning storm, but Michigan was holding their own, down 4-3 in the second when the game was called. UDM will be a relatively tough out this year, though. Their defense was highly respectable for a low-major team and though they lost most of the top names from that unit, the offense is at full strength with their entire scoring core returning. They'll add Shayne Adams to that, who medically redshirted last season after starting with 10 goals in 4 games. The Titans are tied with Siena as favorites to win their conference and have a head start in the battle for state supremacy.
Johns Hopkins - Sat., February 22 - Away
|2013 result||L, 17-8|
|2013 O-rating||16.79 (14th)|
|2013 D-rating||11.17 (1st)|
We used to play this game because John Paul and Dave Pietramala are tight; now it's just as much thanks to future conference affiliation. We'll just have to get used to losing to the Hop for a while. The pollsters don't think they're among the elite teams this year, mainly due to losing their outstanding goalie and most of their scoring, but they're still Hopkins. And they've got Wells Stanwick, the youngest son of a very large and ridiculously lacrosse-blooded family. Wells, and I hate to say this, gives his older brother Steele a run for his money in the talent department, and Steele was a Tewaaraton winner. There might be one in Wells's future, too.
Cornell - Sat., March 1 - Home
|2013 O-rating||20.35 (4th)|
|2013 D-rating||11.94 (4th)|
As with Hopkins, the voters predict a fall; Cornell, too, loses a ton of scoring talent, possibly the most in the country as they'll no longer have Rob Pannell or Steve Mock. They're also finding their way with a new coach, as the fairly successful Ben DeLuca was fired in the fall in the wake of a hazing scandal. (Apparently it's no longer OK to make freshmen drink til they puke.) The Big Red will be the highest-profile visitors to visit Ann Arbor depending on your take on Maryland, and they still have scoring punch in Connor Buczek and Matt Donovan, so despite the predicted precipice and likely bubble-team-at-best status, Michigan will still have all it can handle and more.
High Point - Wed., March 5 - Away
|2013 result||L, 13-10|
|2013 O-rating||12.00 (58th)|
|2013 D-rating||18.91 (58th)|
With two big uglies out of the way, Michigan heads south to once again take on the Atlantic Sun. Quite probably the most disappointing result of last season was a 13-10 loss to brand-new High Point, so this can work as another benchmark game to check improvement. The Panthers have started this season with an uncompetitive loss to lately-disappointing Delaware, so hope exists. The offense is mainly keyed by playmaker Matt Thistle and finisher Dan Lomas, but it's not a high-powered one by any stretch. This is the best chance up to this point in the season for a win.
Furman - Sat., March 8 - Away
A two-game southern swing concludes in South Carolina, where Michigan again takes on a brand-new program. Being brand-new, there's not much to go on in terms of evaluation, but, being brand-new, they probably stink. They're almost entirely freshmen plus a tiny number of juco transfers and one or two D-I transfers. Still, the High Point game last year is a cautionary tale. Michigan should win, but should still be wary because reasons.
Bellarmine - Sat., March 15 - Away
|2013 result||L, 12-6|
|2013 O-rating||12.11 (57th)|
|2013 D-rating||12.12 (7th)|
This could be the most important game of the year. Of the various accomplishments by which a team measures success, the most accessible to Michigan is a berth in the ECAC tournament. It's not much of an accomplishment - five teams for four spots - but the tourney atmosphere and travel (to scenic Columbus) would be good for a growing team.
Beating just one conference team would probably do it, as anyone you beat would have to win twice to pass you, and this is the most likely spot for it. It's not easy - Bellarmine has a well-deserved reputation as a strong defensive squad. Neither is it insurmountable. The Knights lose an outstanding goalie and most of their already-anemic scoring to graduation. This is the first conference game of the year and the last time facing them as a conference foe - although, since the Knights are off to the A-Sun next year (which by then will be the SoCon) and we seem to like that conference, and furthermore as Louisville is relatively convenient to Ann Arbor, I would bet it's not the last we'll see of them.
Maryland - Tue., March 18 - Home
|2013 O-rating||18.36 (9th)|
|2013 D-rating||12.26 (8th)|
Without looking at sports I don't pay attention to (so there's a fair chance I'm off my rocker here) this is the first time Michigan will face Maryland in anything since the announcement of their move to the B1G. I guess we'll have to get used to seeing them around. I don't have to like it.
Because the B1G chose to start lacrosse by inviting two powerhouses rather than wait until more schools (MSU, Northwestern, whoever) started up their programs, Michigan will probably find itself fighting with Rutgers to stay out of the basement for the foreseeable future. But that will be then. This is now. Maryland will bring a team that'll be very tough to score on, with a standout netminder in Niko Amato behind a veteran defense. Typically the Terps have relied on balanced scoring rather than a big superstar for their offense, but most of their depth graduated, leaving Mike Chanenchuk and Jay Carlson as the only double-digit goal-scorers from last year. There's still a formidable talent gap, though, and I expect Maryland's defense to be among the very best nationally, if not tops.
St. Joseph's - Sat., March 22 - Home
|2013 result||W, 11-8|
|2013 O-rating||10.95 (61st)|
|2013 D-rating||18.53 (54th)|
St. Joe's is not a fully-funded team, so this year they've moved out of the CAA into a conference more their speed. This was Michigan's only win of last season; the Hawks are historically awful, though improving somewhat under a new coach the past two years. They had one of the nation's worst offenses last year and only four players with double-digit goals, but at least all of those players are back. Still, they'll likely be as usual, which is to say, a threat to lose to an A-Sun team.
Air Force - Sat., March 29 - Away
|2013 result||L, 10-6|
|2013 O-rating||15.55 (26th)|
|2013 D-rating||14.45 (21st)|
The Falcons have just about been the picture of average lately, with a 7-7 record last year, 6-7 the year before that, and sitting right near the top of the bell curve in O- and D-ratings. This year, with Denver and Loyola out of the picture, they're a decent possibility as a contender for the ECAC title, with all major scoring contributors returning. Mike Crampton is the top player with 34 goals and 19 assists, and Tommy McKee is an excellent finisher as well while Keith Dreyer performs well as a setup man.
Air Force, somewhat interestingly, is the only ECAC team left without a landing spot after the conference's dissolution, but rumor has it they'll follow Bellarmine into the A-Sun/SoCon. As for this year's game, though, they're a likely bet to knock off Michigan, especially in the altitude.
Fairfield - Sat., April 5 - Home
|2013 result||L, 10-8|
|2013 O-rating||14.98 (34th)|
|2013 D-rating||15.69 (31st)|
The ECAC coaches figured Fairfield as the team most likely to challenge Ohio for the conference title, but it's really very close between them and Air Force. There's not a lot of difference between the two teams. Goaltending is about the same, and Fairfield only loses one of their offensive core. The top returning scorer is Jordan Greenfield with 34 goals.
In fact, if forced at gunpoint, I'd give the slight nod to Air Force, not Fairfield, which fared slightly worse in all the metrics and was Michigan's closest loss last season. With the game at home, this should be the conference game in which the Wolverines have the second-best chance, after Bellarmine. It's probably not close to a 50/50 chance, but maybe 25/75?
Ohio State - Sat., April 12 - Away
|2013 result||L, 17-8|
|2013 O-rating||17.65 (11th)|
|2013 D-rating||13.80 (19th)|
Ohio was the bloody obvious pick for the final ECAC championship; last year, they played their way to a 3-seed in the NCAA tournament. The spirited, close game that Michigan played against them in 2012 gave way to a blowout loss last season, and Ohio even shed some of its snail's reputation and played at a tempo just slightly below average.
All-American attackman Logan Schuss is gone, but midfielder Jesse King has a chance to be just as good, posting a 32-goal, 23-assist season in 2013. He's joined in the midfield by Turner Evans (26 goals) and playmaking attackman Carter Brown (27 goals, 16 assists) should be able to step into Schuss's shoes somewhat. Goalie Greg Dutton regressed somewhat last year after a very good 2012 season, but he's a four-year starter all the same.
It'll probably be a while before Michigan is ready to challenge the Buckeyes. Whether they can stay among the country's best teams remains to be seen (the pollsters are fairly divided on their quality), but coach Nick Myers has them in good position to do so. These guys are a symbol of the spreading-out of the power in lacrosse that's been going on the past few years.
Yale - Sat., April 19 - Home
|2013 O-rating||16.47 (17th)|
|2013 D-rating||11.98 (6th)|
The Elis have been on a slow and steady rise, and they've placed themselves this year as one of the Ivy's top contenders. Princeton is back on top in the polls after a longish (for them) absence, but Yale is the reigning champs; they then knocked off Penn State in the NCAAs and came within a whisker of doing the same to Syracuse.
So Cornell has the bigger name, but Yale is likely to be the best Ivy League team Michigan faces. They had a trio of 30-goal scorers last year, and two - attackmen Brandon Mangan and Conrad Oberbeck - are back this season. FOGO Dylan Levings won almost 60% of his faceoffs last year. Yale also had an excellent defense last year. In recent years, they've occupied a rung in the Ivy League one notch below Cornell and Princeton, but they're going to make some national noise and could be perhaps the 2nd or 3rd-toughest opponent we see this year.
Robert Morris - Sat., April 26 - Home
|2013 O-rating||15.43 (28th)|
|2013 D-rating||16.09 (37th)|
Unless Michigan reaches the ECAC tourney, we've reached the end of the journey. RMU was known for a powerful, up-tempo offense a couple years ago, but that reputation has eroded away somewhat. They're still up-tempo, and they had five 20-goal scorers last year (fairly rare for a low-major team) but only two of those players remain. Obviously, by the time we get to this game we'll have a much better idea of this matchup, but from here it looks at least passably winnable.
Here's a quick-reference table of the schedule's O- and D-ratings. Michigan is at the bottom.
For Michigan's part, that's a step back on offense but a slight improvement on defense.
However, I think there are more winnable games on this schedule than last year, if only because Denver and Loyola are gone and the A-Sun features so heavily. Other people smarter than me can probably preview the team itself, but let's just assume a reasonable amount of improvement and then divide the schedule like so:
Doom: Penn State, Hopkins, Cornell, Maryland, Ohio State, Yale
Not real likely: Air Force
OKish chance: Fairfield
Fair chance (but don't get your hopes too high yet): Detroit, Bellarmine, Robert Morris
Possibly favored: Mercer, High Point, Furman, St. Joseph's
Last year I predicted reasonable improvement, too, and called for three wins, and that worked out not very well. This year the schedule looks more like an hourglass. Six games against top national teams, and seven against teams potentially within striking distance. Not having goalie Gerald Logan is gonna suck, but even so, let's put on the optimism hat and call it a four-win season. Even if it has to come by feasting on the southern schools, it'd be a step in the right direction.