"It's not about last year or who's here or who's isn't here," says your head coach. "It's about getting out here and competing and seeing who is here, and that's where we're gonna go."
Unverified Voracity: I Feel Much Better Edition
First... FYI: full-fledged hockey blowout coming tomorrow, con video both good and bad. Also: someone convinced me a basketball UFR would be a good idea, so I will do one for the upcoming UCLA game. Watch me stumble my way in a sport I know even less about(!).
Speaking of the basketball team, trust me when I say that you can take very little away from their blowout win over USF. The Bulls started Functional Dani Wohl at point guard--a development Michigan was well prepared for after starting Actual Dani Wohl at times last year--and appear headed to the Big East basement, express-style. Michigan played to rapidly developing stereotype by pounding the boards, suffocating their opponents on defense, shooting well, and turning the ball over with alarming regularity.
Joey is tentatively happy but has logical reservations:
I don't want to take anything away from Michigan because its start has been admirable, but I can't shake the feeling that UM is going to look a lot worse when it plays teams with some, like, talent. The UM big men have pretty bad hands; Courtney Sims is not going to be effective against better "bigs"; and Dion Harris has lost his mid-range game.
I'm also holding back from declaring this team to be a Big Ten contender, but I was pleasantly surprised at Courtney's performance against ND's Torin Francis and the Miami posts. The 'Canes were fairly crappy, granted, but they were definitely big mofos. Michigan is making a concerted effort to go to Sims when he's fronted--too many times last year the guards would just give up when someone got in front of him. Now they're trying to go over the top, which is risky but required.
(Mostly) non-partisan observer Big Ten Wonk plays Devil's Advocate against himself:
Reasons to finally believe. Two words: Graham Brown. This was his line Saturday: two points on 1-of-3 shooting, two assists, one turnover, 25 minutes--and 10 boards. He exists only to rebound and, assuming a night of reality-based board work for Ohio State's J.J. Sullinger tonight against Norfolk State, Brown will likely wake up tomorrow morning atop Wonk's list of the Big Ten's best rebounders.
Reasons to again disbelieve. Right now the Wolverine offense is a high-turnover, kinda-low offensive rebound production being carried by OK shooting (and overshadowed by outstanding defense). History suggests the "high-turnover" part of the equation is likely to continue--the shooting and defense will need to stay strong.
Obligatory "but Brent Petway's out" in 3... 2... 1... but, Wonk, Brent Petway's out! If you ask me, the outstanding defense (tops in the league in defensive rebounding, second in opponent eFG percentage) will be the key. Is it a mirage based on playing the Delaware States and USFs of the world, or is it actually quite good? As Wonk says, defense "tends to be a more loyal companion than that fickle mistress called outside shooting." Michigan will sink or swim based on it.
The college hockey world resumed spinning on its axis as Michigan swept UNO 4-2 and 7-3, though the Saturday night game featured the weakest fighting major I've yet seen. Since all fighting majors in college hockey are accompanied by a minimum one-game suspension, David Rohlfs, the recipient of said weak call, will miss the opening game of the GLI against... yep, CC and the Wonder Scoring Midgets. That's three defensemen gone for that game with Johnson and Mitera off at the WJC. Left are Hunwick, Dest, Cook, and, um, nobody. Yeah. Kevin Porter and (almost assuredly) Andrew Cogliano will also be gone. I would strongly suggest watching the GLI on TV. With the TV off.
In less frustrating news, tbarr scouted 2008 hockey recruit AJ Jenks at his latest game for Honeybaked Midget and was kind enough to provide a detailed scouting report. Also, Yost Built has a set of bullets on the 4-2 win on Friday with an interesting idea that I endorse:
-I think they need to split up Johnson and Hunwick. Yeah they're probably our two best dmen, but they're also our two best offensive dmen, and there's not a ton of production out there from the other guys. One of them would look great with Mitera because he's always in position on defense. Put the other with Dest or Rohlfs.
Seconded. Prior to this year I had regarded Hunwick as a steady, conservative defenseman well suited to any situation, but he appears to be absorbing Johnson's hyper-aggressivity via osmosis. At times it looks like there are two giant, mean Eric Werners out there, which is certainly... uh... exciting, but maybe one giant, mean Eric Werner is enough per pairing and the non-Werner could, you know, prevent the D from getting split towards the end of close games.
Glass! Glass! Rasheed Wallace was in full insane blossom against Andres Nocioni and the Bulls a week or so ago, causing this particular blogger to use the "rewind live TV" function of his DVR for the first time ever. Graphics-intensive Pistons blog Need 4 Sheed assembled a highlight video of said whipping, if you're interested. And you are.
Delegation. Sweet. NKOTB Winged Helmets took some weight off my shoulders by adding up the defensive +/- from this year's Upon Further Review archive and posting a colorful chart. I'm struck by a few things:
- The +/- numbers are biased towards +. This is something I was well aware of. Most plays that ended up with a net 0 were either screwups by the offensive team, 2-4 yard runs, or downfield completions that were difficult to blame on any one player. When Michigan gets a stop there will invariably be some plusses along the way, but it's possible no one to be cited for a long touchdown drive with a series of plays that yield large chunks of yardage.
- The numbers for the defensive backs are muted because it's only infrequently that the video provides enough data to make an assessment of the coverage. The prevelance of zone also had something to do with it. Who is at fault when four guys are three yards from the receiver?
- A comparison of Burgess' and Graham's numbers is interesting. Neither exactly covered themselves in glory (Burgess was +1, Graham -5), but what stands out to me is the sheer quantity of points on Burgess' chart, both good and bad. Graham did little all year; Burgess did a ton, half good, half ugh. I think that implies that Burgess has the potentia
l to improve greatly but Graham not so much.
- Overall the chart seems accurate in its assessment of the best players on the Michigan defense. There are three very good players (Branch, Woodley, Harris), a bunch of okay to good ones, and then a couple of gaping holes.
Things that should be linked. BC&RS describes the Best. Call. Ever. Postmodernists will be happy since it is, in fact, no call at all. SMQ busts out the stat wonkery in not one but two places; petulant complaining about linkage lack begone! (PS: that huge picture used for the "rap sheet" is very, very large in my RSS reader! Make it small, I beg.)