well that's just, like, your opinion, man
Columbus (OH) Marion-Franklin WR Jaron Dukes may have grown up deep in enemy territory, but he's a lifelong Michigan fan. His childhood favorites extended a scholarship offer on signing day and the Wolverines immediately jumped to the forefront of his recruitment. The 6'5", 200-pound junior also holds an offer from Toledo and has interest from several prominent Midwest schools, but other suitors might have to hurry if they want a say before he makes a decision. I talked to Jaron last night and he made it very clear which team leads for him in a big way:
ACE: How is everything going with your recruitment, and which schools are going after you the hardest right now?
JARON: Everything's going great. I'm starting to hear from Ohio State, all of a sudden I'm starting to hear a lot more from Michigan, Michigan State, and I'm getting letters from Nebraska now and Illinois.
ACE: You got your Michigan offer recently. What was your reaction to that and what are your thoughts on the school and the program?
JARON: Ecstatic. (laughs) I'm going up there for a visit on Friday. When I first got the offer my mind was blown.
ACE: I know you're coming out of Columbus. Did you grow up as a Michigan fan or were you an Ohio State guy?
JARON: I was a Michigan fan all my life. I got a lot of criticism, you know, being a Michigan fan in Ohio.
ACE: Is that going to play a factor at all when it comes down to making a decision?
JARON: I think I kind of have my mind set on where I want to go. I think all I can do is pray on it and make sure, hope I make the right decision.
ACE: You said you've got your mind set on it. In terms of a timeline, when do you think you're going to make that decision?
JARON: I'm not sure. I'd like to talk it over with my coaches and everything and make sure that's what I really want to do—[see if I should] visit the college more than once, see it in different environments like dorm food, after school, and on weekends, make sure that's where I officially want to be, and do the same for other schools.
ACE: How did your junior season go and what kind of numbers did you put up?
JARON: I thought my junior season went very well. I didn't know it was going to be that good. My freshman year my coaches always said "you can't catch a cold," and I dropped everything that came towards me. Other than that, I think it went very well. I had 663 or 673 yards, 18.5 yards per catch, 36 catches, and seven touchdowns.
ACE: If you had to evaluate your game, what would say are your biggest strengths on the field and what are you trying to work on for your senior year and beyond?
JARON: My biggest strengths are being able to read the secondary, keeping a level head, going out there and having fun and being able to go out and catch, just catch the ball. I would love to get faster. They keep telling me speed kills, so I want to be the fastest one out there. I want to be the fastest one on the field.
ACE: I know it sounds like you're leaning towards Michigan right now, but in terms of when it comes down to making your choice, what are you looking for in a school specifically?
JARON: Academics, somewhere where I can be happy. The technique of the game, if they're a passing team, if they're going to pass me the ball when it's there or if they're just going to keep running the ball. Somewhere where it just feels right.
ACE: Moving off the field, what's one thing you'd want people to know about you that has nothing to do with football?
JARON: (laughs) Oh, man, I don't really know. I draw a lot. I love music. I like sitting—sometimes I just like being by myself and just relaxing.
ACE: What kind of music?
JARON: I listen to all types of music. Country, rock, metal, rap, R&B. The funny thing is, a lot of times, I don't like the new generation of rap now.
ACE: I'm with you there. I like the old school stuff, but the new stuff isn't really my thing.
JARON: Yeah, it's not mine, either.
This wasn't a bad year, was it?
|Scout (4th)||247 (8th)||ESPN (7th)||Committed|
|Ben Braden||OL||5.7 (3-star)||3-star||85 (3-star)||79 (3-star)||Mar 24|
|Kaleb Ringer||LB||5.7 (3-star)||3-star||88 (3-star)||78 (3-star)||Apr 12|
|Royce Jenkins-Stone||LB||5.8 (4-star)||4-star||93 (4-star)||80 (4-star)||Apr 16|
|Devin Funchess||TE||5.7 (3-star)||4-star||90 (4-star)||80 (4-star)||Apr 22|
|A.J. Williams||TE||5.7 (3-star)||4-star||86 (3-star)||77 (3-star)||Apr 22|
|Joe Bolden||LB||5.8 (4-star)||4-star||96 (4-star)||80 (4-star)||Apr 29|
|James Ross||LB||5.8 (4-star)||4-star||95 (4-star)||80 (4-star)||May 2|
|Mario Ojemudia||DE||5.7 (3-star)||4-star||89 (3-star)||80 (4-star)||May 7|
|Matt Godin||DT||5.7 (3-star)||3-star||91 (4-star)||79 (3-star)||May 12|
|Terry Richardson||CB||5.8 (4-star)||4-star||95 (4-star)||81 (4-star)||May 19|
|Allen Gant||S||5.6 (3-star)||3-star||85 (3-star)||75 (3-star)||May 31|
|Erik Magnuson||OT||5.9 (4-star)||4-star||96 (4-star)||79 (4-star)||Jun 10|
|Tom Strobel||DE||5.8 (4-star)||4-star||93 (4-star)||78 (3-star)||Jun 10|
|Jeremy Clark||DB||5.7 (3-star)||3-star||85 (3-star)||76 (3-star)||Jun 24|
|Blake Bars||OL||5.8 (4-star)||3-star||89 (3-star)||79 (3-star)||Jun 26|
|Jarrod Wilson||S||5.8 (4-star)||4-star||91 (4-star)||80 (4-star)||Jul 8|
|Kyle Kalis||OL||6.1 (5-star)||5-star||96 (4-star)||80 (4-star)||Jul 10|
|Sione Houma||FB||5.5 (3-star)||3-star||83 (3-star)||74 (2-star)||Jul 25|
|Chris Wormley||DE||5.7 (3-star)||4-star||96 (4-star)||80 (4-star)||Jul 31|
|Ondre Pipkins||DT||6.1 (5-star)||4-star||96 (4-star)||80 (4-star)||Aug 8|
|Drake Johnson||RB||5.6 (3-star)||3-star||85 (3-star)||72 (2-star)||Nov 10|
|Amara Darboh||WR||5.8 (4-star)||4-star||93 (4-star)||78 (3-star)||Dec 4|
|Jehu Chesson||WR||5.6 (3-star)||3-star||89 (3-star)||79 (3-star)||Dec 21|
|Willie Henry||DT||5.6 (3-star)||3-star||83 (3-star)||75 (3-star)||Jan 31|
|Dennis Norfleet||RB||5.8 (4-star)||4-star||94 (4-star)||75 (3-star)||Feb 1|
Considering how good things looked last July, people on the boards and whatnot are kinda disappointed that the class finished as only consensus Top 10. This was back when nobody but Ohio State thought its cars-for-commitments program would continue, if there even would be such a thing as Columbus when The Law was through with them.
But with no 'Pryor' testimony available, the NCAA effectively rubber-stamped the automotive business, OSU turned in their slightly used Tresselwagon for a shiny refurbished Urban model and the Big Ten race went from this in July:
…today. The above is a visualization of Michigan's 2012 class final rankings by Rivals and doesn't count Caleb Stacey and Anthony Standifer, who were in the class at the time. The red is 6.1, the yellow 5.8, yellow-green 5.7, everything right of the line is 3-stars. The link takes you back to July 18, when I used the same graphical representation to show just how good it was to be a Michigan Wolverine.
It wasn't just Ohio State blue was beating. Michigan was killing in the conference. This was then:
…and this is now:
Penn State's scandal turned them into Northwestern, while Ohio State's wasn't enough to counter the Urban effect. Michigan held steady but those late whiffs ended up with a class that's largely balanced between blue chips and the 60%-likely-to-be-"solid"-or-better-as-upperclassmen guys.
That's still good for among the top teams in the country:
Now this is Michigan, fergodsakes. More importantly Michigan, who by last July was already well extended into Ohio territory didn't seem to fall victim to the great Buckeye Reclamation of home state products late in the process. Gant, a legacy, and Wormley were Toledo-ish guys long considered Michigan's barring strange circumstances. Kaleb Ringer, A.J. Williams, and Willie Henry come from schools and have profiles that might have been automatic Buckeyes in a typical Tressel cycle but were probably second options for Meyer's late push. But I have to imagine Jarrod Wilson received a desperate phone call before he enrolled at Michigan in January, and we know Kyle Kalis did. In return Meyer convinced Bri'onte Dunn, a Tressel commit worried about the sanctions, to stay in the fold and beat Michigan head to head for Armani Reeves after he shook loose from Penn State's class. That's 2 for 4 in head-to-head battles in Ohio with Ohio State's new coach. This is important; if we're going to travel back in time to battle Buckeyes on their own turf, it's important to plant Woody Hayes or one of his ancestors in manure every 30 years or so.
So did we make it? Are we back?
We're back, but it's an alternate 2005, when 4-stars are just plain 4-stars not Taylor and Jamison and Antonio Bass, and the 3-stars are mostly the good type of 3-stars—Gordon-like 3-stars as opposed to lots of Mister Simpsons and Nerd Terminators. More importantly there's just more of everybody, and the old defensive line coach is rich and powerful and the head coach at Michigan, and the guy at West Virginia has been committed.
Many of the key contributors from the classes before this experienced above normal attrition. By some of the decisions made during this year's cycle—backing off Yuri Wright after his expulsion, and seemingly backing off a rumored grade risk in one of the top in-state prospects, hopefully Hoke's excellent class of of 2012 will make up for in staying power what it lost by the slow close.
The glory of signing with Alabama. Three-star DT Darius Philon announced he'd be going to Alabama on Signing Day. He did it like this:
If that seems unusual, it's because Philon had probably just been told that he wasn't actually going to Alabama. Alabama swung a decommit and pulled his offer; Philon ended up signing with Arkansas, a school he hadn't so much as visited. The actual video is… weird:
The AJC says the "moral of the story" is…
If you commit to Alabama, it’s safe unless you get injured or Alabama has the opportunity to upgrade at your position before you officially sign the paperwork.
Horford redshirt update: happening. Jon Horford's injury redshirt has been increasingly likely with every game he misses and now seems all but certain. Horford himself says as much:
"If coach said, 'We absolutely need you to come back,' I could come back," Horford said Sunday following Michigan's 64-54 loss to Michigan State. "But other than that, I've missed so many games that I feel like coming back at this point would almost be a waste of a season."
In the long run that's probably a good thing for the program as it will move Horford out of Jordan Morgan's class and give the team a fifth-year senior to rely on after he departs (and who knows what Mitch McGary's going to do). That will help bridge the gap between this generation of posts and the Bielfeldt/Donnal setup. Speaking of Bielfeldt…
Bielfeldt hype. Beilein talked up the redshirting freshman in a conference call recently:
He came in here with really bad tendonitis in his knees and was not nearly as athletic as he (had shown in the past)," Beilein said during the Big Ten coaches teleconference. "He was really just struggling. But he's young, with a young birthday, and given the fact that we were still evolving with some positions here, it did not make sense for him or for us to burn a redshirt."
The tendons have gotten better and allowed him to play scout-team center:
"He's a big man with good hands, and those aren't a dime a dozen," Beilein said. "He's a tremendous rebounder. Where he's not gifted vertically, he's really good in small spaces."
It'll be interesting to see what he plays like… and where. He doesn't seem like either a four or a five at 6'7", 240. Presumably he'll be a backup at both spots for his first couple seasons.
The move. I'm not in agreement that Belichick's decision to let New York score in the waning moments of the Super Bowl was "the ballsiest call in Super Bowl History." It was obvious. The choices there are between watching an NFL kicker attempt a virtual extra point with no time on the clock or giving Tom Brady a minute with which to attempt the comeback.
It would have been ballsy if Belichick had come out of the two-minute warning with a red carpet and instructed his defense to bodily carry any Giant with the ball into the endzone. It also would have been correct:
The smartest play of all would've been for Belichick to have allowed the touchdown even earlier. The Patriots certainly could have done so on the play prior to Bradshaw's touchdown run, when he was stopped for a one-yard gain, forcing New England to burn its second timeout. In fact, they probably should have allowed a touchdown as early as the two-minute warning.That's the point at which the Win Probability of receiving a kickoff down by four or six points (0.23) exceeds the Win Probability of trying to stop the Giants from bleeding the clock dry (0.2). The Patriots would have had almost two minutes, two timeouts, and all four downs available to get a touchdown and steal the win. The lesson: New England didn't lie down soon enough.
Always quit, son.
The difference. There are many reasons I couldn't give two craps about the NFL. Many derive from the fact that merely contemplating Tom Coughlin's staid, fun-murdering face seriously damages my quality of life.
Many others are summarized by the Lombardi trophy presentation. Michael from Braves & Birds contrasts Barca's celebrations after winning the Champions League with the ceremony last night:
Instead of a football icon handing the trophy over, we get Roger Goodell, a life-long NFL suit who is most noted for giving himself the power to suspend players for any reason he sees fit and for persuading Peter King to write the most sycophantic cover story that I can recall reading in Sports Illustrated. Instead of a [Barcelona FC] totem like Puyol or a cancer-survivor like Abidal accepting the trophy, we had the New York Giants' owners getting the honor. Puyol and Abidal got the right to hold the trophy aloft because they established themselves as some of the best players in the world at their positions; John Mara and Steve Tisch got the right to hoist the Lombardi Trophy because they inherited the team from their parents.
The Michigan equivalent would be handing the Sugar Bowl trophy to Dave Brandon. This, thankfully, does not happen. Instead we get Junior Hemingway breaking down.
Juxtaposing a Michigan-MSU game at Breslin with the Super Bowl on the same day really drove the point home.
I am much more invested in the stories of people who have reasons to do what they are doing other than "I have a contract."
Tooley. Derek Dooley is amazingly hypocritical:
“I’m still trying to figure out what I’m missing,” he said. “You have these contracts. It’s called quid pro quo. We give you this. You give us that. But if they don’t give us that and we decide not to give them this, then it’s the worst thing you can do. I’m still struggling to understand that issue…”
This verges on "I'm not even mad, I'm impressed" territory.
Etc.: Jim Herrmann might be coming back to be Iowa's DC, which would be the most Kirk Ferentz move ever. NCAA president urges school presidents to support multi-year scholarship offers. 2012 hockey recruit Justin Selman's stock seems to be on the rise.
According to 24/7's Steve Wiltfong, Michigan has picked up their third commitment in the class of 2013 in Detroit Crockett TE Khalid Hill. Hill received his offer from the Wolverines today and also had one from Central Michigan. He joins Maximum Exposure 7-on-7 teammate Shane Morris and Dymonte Thomas among Michigan's 2013 commits.
|NR TE||NR WDE||NR TE||3*, 86, NR TE|
Hill doesn't have rankings from three of the four recruiting services yet, but that shouldn't be of major concern—it's still very early in the process and the vast majority of juniors still haven't been evaluated. Three of the four list Hill at 6'2" (Scout has him an inch taller) and his listed weight ranges from 223-235 pounds—I'd guess he's closer to the higher number based on the picture above.
Hill was a standout at the Maximum Exposure combine at the Silverdome in December and he apparently developed a strong rapport with his future quarterback ($):
The other Hill at Crockett, Khalid Hill, already has good size. At 6-2, 230 he is big enough to be a good blocker in the run game, but what is most intriguing about him is his ability to run routes and catch passes like a receiver. Hill was clearly one of the top pass-catchers in attendance and has seemingly developed a real chemistry with Shane Morris.
In case you're wondering what "the other Hill" refers to, Khalid's brother Khalil—I'm sure that never gets confusing—plays cornerback for Crockett. Khalid's highlight tape, which you'll see below, jives with this evaluation; he's very adept at finding space over the middle and displays soft hands for a high school tight end. Rivals.com's Josh Helmholdt was also impressed by Hill at Maximum Exposure, naming him among the top performers of the event ($):
Hill has all the physical tools to be a Division I tight end, he just is a little on the short side at 6-foot-3. We'll see how he grows, but Division I programs are already showing interest.
Magnus has his evaluation of Hill up over at Touch the Banner, and he praises Hill's route-running and hands while having this to say about his future position and blocking ability:
With a short frame, it's likely that he's headed for the U position, which is an H-back type role. His size might be an advantage when playing in space or lead blocking from the move position, but he may struggle to add enough weight and strength to be an every-down tight end. He gets a little bit lackadaisical with his blocking at times, and he's going to have to be more consistent with his effort in the running game. That can be fixed with coaching, though.
Hill has the body to be able to play as a freshman if needed. He's not the most fundamental or explosive player, but he's not wispy like Devin Funchess and might be more college-ready immediately. I expect him to play a role somewhat like that of former Michigan tight end/H-back Aaron Shea.
Hill also took home MVP honors among tight ends at Michigan's summer camp in 2011, so the coaches were able to get an up-close evaluation that surely helped him land an offer. ESPN has yet to write up a scouting report on Hill and a tap-dancer of the same name is making a Google-stalk difficult, so for now the above camp reports are as much as I can find on Michigan's newest commit. Now that he's made his decision, I'm sure we'll read much more on him in the very near future. Since he plays at Detroit Crockett, I'll also likely be checking out at least one of his games in the fall.
Hill held one offer—from Central Michigan—before he pledged to Michigan today. Michigan State also reportedly showed interest. Considering how early in the process it is and the fact that Hill's camp appearances were in-state, the short offer list shouldn't be of much concern. His Michigan camp MVP honor says all you need to know about what the coaches think of his ability.
Hill caught 29 passes for 448 yards and six touchdowns in 2011. He also added 55 tackles, nine TFLs, and six sacks while playing defensive end.
FAKE 40 TIME
Hill posted a 5.11 40-yard dash time at the Nike SPARQ Combine in Massillon (OH) last February, where he also recorded a 4.84-second shuttle and a 28.5" vertical leap. He looks faster than that 5.11 on film, and since that's an electronic time at a combine I'll give it a one FAKE out of five. If anything, he's probably a little faster at this point.
From a quick perusal of the film, Hill impresses with his ability to go over the middle and his soft hands, though he could do a little better at catching the ball away from his body. It's tough to evaluate his blocking from the few highlights available, but he seems pretty powerful while also possessing surprising athleticism for a player of his size.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
The evidence at this point is flimsy indeed, but Hill looks like a solid all-around tight end who's a real threat as a receiver. He's a little shorter than ideal for the position, which may limit his effectiveness as a downfield threat. Hill has solid bulk for a junior, however, and he shows no fear in going across the middle and extending to make the tough catch. Michigan will once again be in need of an infusion of depth at tight end after Brandon Moore graduates following the 2012 season, so Hill will have every opportunity to contribute early in his career, especially if A.J. Williams eventually outgrows the position.
Without much to go on beyond one camp appearence and his junior film, I can't say much more about how he projects, though his lack of height will likely limit how high he can go when full class of 2013 rankings are released. That said, this is a nice pickup at a position of need, and Hill fits the mold as a versatile player who can line up along the line, at H-back, or even split wide. Given that he has over a year-and-a-half to add weight before his freshman season, Hill should have the size to be an immediate contributor by the time the 2013 season rolls around—we'll just have to wait and see if he has the ability.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
It's still too early in the process to really project the number of open spots, but expect Michigan to end up with around 20-22 scholarships to fill for 2013, and they've now landed three commits. Given the need at tight end, I expect the Wolverines to take one more player at the position, so this commitment doesn't mean that they won't continue pursuing players like Adam Breneman, Jake Matuska, and Jake Butt.
2/5/2012 – Michigan 54, Michigan State 64 – 17-7, 7-4 Big Ten
Playing in Breslin without any tall people was exactly as frustrating as you would expect; Kenpom nailed that particular game down to the point. The way things played out was equally as easy to predict. Michigan struggled immensely to generate shots after Izzo locked down most of Michigan's tricks and niblets. Easy buckets reduced, State annihilated Michigan on the boards, and that was that.
It's hard to get worked up about that after the fact. It was painful during; after it was obvious. The four factors graph might as well read "chalk":
Michigan lost this game on the boards.
This is the kind of thing I was talking about after the Ohio State game. There's only so much you can do when you're running out one guy taller than 6'5" against very large men in a hostile environment. Michigan is at a severe disadvantage against teams with elite size and athleticism.
That's no shame. It does make games like Sunday's uphill battles dependent on lighting it up from three. If this was part of, say, a decade-long slump with no light at the end of the tunnel it might be an occasion to rend the garments a little further. In the context of the last two years of Michigan basketball it's just another indication that Michigan isn't quite there yet.
Since the direction is clear, patience is easy. Two or three hours after the game, anyway.
Michigan has pulled through their brutal Kenpom stretch 3-3 with only the first ten minutes against Arkansas a real disappointment. At this point a tournament bid is basically in the bag. They need two more wins to hit .500 and have seven opportunities to do so, two of which are against Nebraska and Penn State. After fighting through six games against Kenpom top ten opponents in the first 11 games, they have just one in their final seven. Realistic goals include a 12-6 conference record—Beilein's best ever in a power conference—and a Sweet 16 seed.
I'll take it.
Oh, Hardaway. That game was the tipping point when the internet stopped whispering about what's going on with Tim Hardaway Jr. and started yelling uncomplimentary things. And… after going 1 for 10 and meekly saying "thank you sir" on a first-half MSU layup in the midst of months and months of clanged long shots it's hard to disagree with even the foamiest internet commenters.
Hardaway has been a huge disappointment. Burke is a freshman and not Darius Morris. He can only do so much. He needs help and he's getting more of it from Stu Douglass than Hardaway over the past six or seven games. It would be one thing if Hardaway was just in a shooting slump; add in the bad defense and bad shot selection and it's… well, it's not good.
I'm at a loss as to where to go from here: Hardaway is hugely inefficient and his defense is indifferent at best but the main option off the bench in his stead is a three-point specialist shooting 21%. There's nothing you can do except ride the lightning and hope some of those twos from right inside the three point line go down. Michigan just has to live with it and hope he starts finding a scoring touch.
At least the NBA isn't a threat, amirite?
BONUS disappointment: Michigan really needs Hardaway to rebound in this small lineup since he's the second-biggest and most-athletic guy; he had one offensive and one defensive as MSU grabbed almost half of their misses. On the season he's rebounding almost exactly as well as Trey Burke. I just don't know, man.
Novak and Douglass. Nails in this game just like they've been in virtually every other game. Novak was 5 of 8 for 14 points; Douglass only had five points but put up five assists and no turnovers. That's especially impressive when Michigan only had 19 made field goals.
Novak had a hand in Green's face as he knocked down a ton of tough fallaway jumpers; not much you can do about that.
There is small and there is too small. The Smotrycz at the five thing is maybe something you can get away with for a few minutes per game. It is not suited for all of Evan's minutes. Blake McLimans may not be great but at least putting him out there is less of a hilarious mismatch against whoever the post dude is.
Assuming the OSU game is a longshot this will not be hugely relevant down the stretch except against Illinois, whose best offense is tossing it to seven-footer Myers Leonard in the post and seeing what happens. The rest of their offense is Brandon Paul running around being inefficient. Michigan needs to find a way to neutralize the Leonard matchup, and that's not putting Smotrycz on the block.
Well fine then. Draymond Green backed it up.
It is difficult enough to win on the road, but with the current makeup of this team, we will lose to teams like Michigan State and Ohio and even some lesser teams--like Arkansas--that are able to surgically pinpoint our major weaknesses via their own specific approach to the game of basketball. I realize that is a little bit of an unfair (and crude) point to make, as teams like MSU and Ohio are very good teams; most teams lose to them. That is why they are ranked so highly. With that said, after these sorts of games have ended, I've been fairly at ease. As fun as this season has been, we are not even close to being on the same level as these sorts of opponents. Perhaps that will change next year when talented reinforcements will bring skills sets that Ann Arbor hasn't seen in some time. I guess this is all a roundabout way of saying that the way the Spartans beat us was not at all surprising, and that I guess this isn't so negative after all since I'm not all that upset. If you can't tell, sometimes I devote many more words to a simple concept than are probably necessary; it's a personal flaw of mine.
UMHoops recap. I don't think "chemistry" is the problem with Hardaway's play. It doesn't take chemistry to rebound and play D, or choose good shots. Photos from UMHoops. Baumgardner on how MSU slowed Burke. UMHoops rounds up Big Ten action.
2/4/2012 – Michigan 4, Miami 1 – 16-9-4, 10-7-4 CCHA
2/5/2012 – Michigan 3, Miami 0 – 17-9-4, 11-7-4 CCHA
Pull the string on a college hockey observer and you'll get a torrent of profanity about the latest refereeing injustices. Do it again and you'll get a statement about how it's a weird year. Do it a third time: more torrents of profanity. A fourth time and you get this: "there are no elite teams this year." Don't bother going any further. It's torrents all the way down.
It's just that… I don't know. I'm definitely not saying this, you know… but… would they be saying that if Jon Merrill hadn't been suspended for the first half of the year?
Consider Michigan's season. When Merrill came back from suspension Michigan was 11-8-3 and yielding 2.6 goals a game. Since, 1.25. They've gone 6-1-1 in that stretch against four opponents fighting for tourney bids with all but one win coming by multiple goals. Nine of Michigan's eleven non-wins in the first half were one-goal contests.
How many of those does Merrill—and the marginalization of Michigan's third pair—swing to the positive? How many goals per game is having him worth? The answer can be a lot less than 1.35 and still be enough to propel Michigan's season record into territory only Minnesota-Duluth is scraping this year. Past it, maybe. The idea I am creeping up to gingerly and fleeing in fear from after considering its audacious blasphemy is obvious.
What if Michigan is this year's elite team?
Look at it from a neutral observer's perspective: here's this team tied for second in RPI and PWR, third in KRACH. It's 10-1-2 in its last 13 games and midway through that stretch added a top-pairing defenseman from the WJC team. Their goalie has entered a new plane of existence in which it's reasonable to put up a .980 over a month. They are surging towards the top of what looks like college hockey's toughest conference. If not Michigan, then who?
Mentioning that point in November when it looked like the team was dead and buried and marveling at the huge distance from that point to this one is obligatory and discharged here. The shift has been abrupt and dizzying.
What changed? Merrill is obvious but Michigan was already on a 4-0-1 move when he re-entered the lineup. The formation of a thunderous top line helps a lot, as does Hunwick going from "still a guy you can win with," as I termed him in a post around the midseason mark, to a surefire Hobey finalist*. And then there's just… this feeling. Of competence and confidence.
Whatever it is, Michigan has rarely found themselves threatened since the halfway point. If it's still a little shocking that this Michigan team is rolling everyone not named Notre Dame, it's true, and the longer it goes on the more confident you can be in your delicate assertions that Michigan might be pretty good at hockey this year.
*[As in top ten, not necessarily top three. That's a possibility, though.]
The throbbing pestilence
The fetid sore on hockey that is Keith Sergott cannot be better summarized than by the meaningless penalty to Blake Coleman with one second left in Friday's game. After they'd let Miami run Hunwick twice without putting Miami on the penalty kill, a pissed-off Coleman plows Hunwick. Sergott does what Sergott does by Sending A Message and making this guy's penalty a major.
This infuriated me. One: the penalty was not a major. It was not dangerous at all, not much of a hit, and warranted two minutes. Two: twice earlier in the game Hunwick had gotten run harder and Sergott either ignored it or evened penalties up. Since the player did not get a DQ, the net result is to make it look like you're being strict without actually penalizing the behavior on the ice in any way whatsoever.
That's Sergott's MO. That's why he was on the ice when Conboy and Tropp assaulted Steve Kampfer, and his inability to keep tempers in check is indirectly responsible for the suspensions handed out at the end of Saturday's game. His incompetence is total, which shouldn't be surprising since he is Bull from "Night Court."
Yost Built has a good summary of this guy's track record:
You'll remember that Sergott was the official a few weeks back at Notre Dame, when he let the Irish run Hunwick at every opportunity and usually just evened things up on the rare occasion that he did call anything. He was also the official when Steve Kampfer was attacked by Andrew Conboy and Corey Tropp. He was also the official of the ND/WMU game when the wrong player got ejected. Even if you set the bar for your officials at "Don't endanger players with your incompetence", Sergott fails in a big way. He shouldn't be reffing BGSU/Alabama-Huntsville, let alone high-profile games.
His existence as a referee is on the same plane as the CCHA adopting "gongshow" as a title sponsor.
Antidote. Denard was at the Friday game:
Further highlights from Friday:
Bullets That Shawn Hunwick Perceives As Lackadaisical Watermelons
Hobey? Yost Built lays out the case for Hunwick:
Hunwick moved into 4th place in the history of the program with his ninth-career shutout. He also now ranks second nationally in wins, is fifth in save percentage, and ninth in goals-against. Hobey. Seriously.
Of the eight guys in front of him in GAA, four come from minor conferences (Union, Niagara, RIT, Quinnipiac), and he's played twice as many minutes as Knapp and CJ Motte. Only Douglas Carr from UML and Kent Patterson from Minnesota are from major conferences, have played around as many minutes, and have a better GAA. And Patterson is only .01 ahead.
The four guys ahead of him in save percentage play for Niagara, Union, RIT, and Robert Morris. And none of them are within 225 saves of him.
He is obviously the best candidate amongst goalies. Can he win against the usual parade of scoring forwards?
Baseball standings. Here you go:
|4||Notre Dame||11||8||3||36||22||1 2/3|
|Ohio State||10||9||5||36||24||2 2/3|
|9||Northern Michigan||7||9||6||30||22||3 2/3|
|11||Bowling Green||4||14||4||19||22||7 1/3|
The conference title race is still competitive, but Ferris State has a clear edge since they're in first place and have a BGSU series left. Michigan will either have to fly through the last three weeks or hope for Ferris to drop some points this weekend at Notre Dame.
The final week could be a barn-burner: WMU plays a home and home with Ferris as Michigan travels to BGSU. If the standings look like they do right now that could be a weekend where a split in FSU/WMU gives M the title.
The call out. Red Berenson is not a guy who expresses much emotion publicly, so a relatively gentle statement like this…
"We'll keep sending the information to the league but the league has to respond. I don't know that they've done a good job of it so far."
…says a lot about how frustrating it's been to watch the league ignore opponents making the Hunwick a target part of the gameplan without consequences. After Saturday, Red's opening statement was this:
"Don't ask me about the officiating."
So people figured out ways to ask him about the officiating without really asking him about the officiating. It was like watching JoePa interviewed at Media Day, when every question was not about retiring (nudge nudge wink wink). So Red said "we should not have to kill that many penalties in a game like that" when asked about the penalty kill and "it was the way the game was being handled" when asked about the emotions escalating at the end.
Legion of Boom! Top line nickname? No? Maybe? Yes? Needs more brutal hits, probably. Whatever.
Level up. When AJ Treais got a pass from Lee Moffie, held it… held it… held it(!) and then passed it back to Moffie at just the right moment for him to bang it into the net I was not surprised.
This was surprising. After a couple years of watching Treais be not Mike Comrie I'd resigned myself to the fact that he wasn't going to be the devilishly entertaining short guy that is my favorite hockey archetype*. But dang if he isn't basically all of Michigan's secondary scoring in the Legion of Boom era.
A lot of this has come from sniping. See his first goal Friday above. Yeah, Reichard could have done better there but Treais had about a square inch of real estate to make that relevant and nailed it. Then he zinged himself:
I saw a very small spot. I was just trying to get it to that spot, and the puck went in. I haven't done that since juniors. Usually my goals are back-door tap-ins.
This has not been true of late. High-variance shooting percentage aside, Treais has started walking dudes and generating chances. It seems like the light has gone on.
Moffatt and Brown are also contenders in this category.
*[Austin Czarnik's a good example. Western's captain this year is the best I've seen, though.]
You knew this was going to be in the post halfway through Saturday's game. I find it inexplicable that Lindsay Sparks ever gets scratched. He makes that line with Moffatt and Hyman so much more dangerous. Multiple times against Miami he set up excellent scoring chances by driving into the offensive zone and then pulling up to survey guys diving to the net or setting up in the slot; he also rang the post on a wrister.
Maybe he's not the greatest defensive player in the world but he's a chance generator. Against the flailing bottom sixes of the CCHA he's got to be a net positive.
Next up on "I can't believe this guy is a scratch": Mike Chiasson.
The Keith Sergott of power plays. A salute to the Miami PP, which sunk further into the depths after going 0/12 on the weekend. They dip to 13% on the year even without considering the shortie; Michigan's penalty kill is up to 16th.
Miami is now 8 of 94 on CCHA power plays.
Goal controversy. I will trade Blasi the goal they got double-reviewed Saturday for Fort Wayne, and I'll include Tayshaun Prince.
Vogelhuber. I'm little surprised "Vogelhuber" is not a rank in Vogon society.
I did mention that Michigan's bye-week fall was mostly illusory and a strong weekend would see them pop up. I didn't think it would be all the way to second, and it really isn't all the way to second: they're in a three-way tie with Mass-Lowell and UMD that sees each competitor take one comparison and lose one from the other. Michigan wins the tiebreaker by the hair on its chinny-chin-chin.
There's not a whole lot of complexity here. Michigan will win comparisons based on RPI against virtually everyone with two exceptions:
- #1 BU. Michigan probably has to have BU get at most a tie out of a weekend series with Northeastern to pass them before the playoffs give people a bunch of unplanned series not accounted for in the TUC stuff.
- #4 Duluth. M is going to have a hard time winning this comparison unless Duluth spits the bit down the stretch and they play very well. COP is basically Duluth's without very specific events unfolding and they have a ~1.5 game edge in TUC.
If M goes 3-1 in the next two weeks they're in great shape; 2-2 and they are probably going to drop to fourth or fifth. The margins here are very narrow, just like they are in the CCHA. Michigan is assured of nothing but has positioned itself well.
Random factoid: every game Michigan has played has been against a TUC (above .500 in RPI) save for their opening swing against Bentley, SLU, and Niagara. This will be an even more impressive statement in two weeks because both MSU and Northern are also TUCs.
Despite forbidding any questions on the matter, that Berenson spent much of his time speaking about officiating and taking shots at Blasi (after a dominating sweep, no less) says quite a lot.
Referees Brian Hill and Keith Sergott lost control of the game, Blasi lost control of his players, and Michigan was the team getting penalized.
For those keeping track at home, yes Keith Sergott is that Keith Sergott, the one who presided a particularly touchy and physical Michigan-Notre Dame series two weeks ago.
So, in honor of Berenson and in the spirit of reticence, I too ask that you not question me about the officiating.
So after the first 13:50 of the game, the RedHawks had had nearly eight full minutes of power play time. In that 7:57 span with Miami up a man, shots were 5-5 and goals were 1-0 in favor of the Wolverines. That is some penalty killing!
There is also a quality ref rant in that post.
New Lenox (IL) Lincoln-Way West OL Colin McGovern is one of the standouts among a loaded class of offensive linemen in the state of Illinois. The 6'6", 280-pound junior recently picked up a Michigan offer to go along with early offers from Illinois, Indiana, Northwestern, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. McGovern, rated as a four-star tackle to 24/7, has the potential to play either guard or tackle at the collegiate level and displays some very impressive run-blocking ability in his junior film (above). I got the chance to talk to Colin over the weekend and here's the full transcript of the interview:
ACE: First of all, how is everything going with your recruitment, and who do you have offers from?
COLIN: It started off back in December, Northwestern was the first one to offer me. It was kind of slow [for a while]. After that, I was talking with Michigan a lot and it was just a lot of talking with schools, no offers. Then about two weeks ago Tennessee came in, Coach [Sam] Pittman, and he offered me, and from there it just picked up. That was two weeks ago, so within the last two weeks I picked up six more offers, and I got one today from Indiana—you probably haven't seen that yet because I haven't told anyone about it.
ACE: Of the schools that have been in contact with you so far, do you have any early favorites?
COLIN: I'm pretty much neutral on all the schools because I never really grew up a fan of a certain team. I just grew up watching all games. Going into the recruiting process I don't really have a favorite.
ACE: With Michigan, I know they just offered you. Who have you been in contact with the coaching staff and how did you learn about getting the offer?
COLIN: Coach Funk is the only coach that I've been talking with and I actually called him yesterday—he was the one that offered me.
ACE: What are your impressions of Michigan as a school and a program?
COLIN: Well I only caught one game this year and that was the Ohio State game. From what I saw it was a pretty great game—two great football teams going at it and Michigan came out on top. Just from after the game you saw, once they did beat Ohio State, you saw the celebration and all that kind of stuff; all the fans getting into it and all the tradition. Obviously they're the most winningest team in college football history, they have a great educational school—everything's great about Michigan.
ACE: How would you describe your game on the field? What are your main strengths and what are you trying to work on for your senior year and getting to the next level?
COLIN: For being so tall one of my strengths is being able to get and stay low through the whole block—I don't get too high. I need to work on maybe getting a little lower, finishing through the block, and maybe my explosiveness off the ball too.
ACE: The early returns on the offensive line class from the state of Illinois for 2013, there are some really good prospects coming out of there. Have you been in contact with any of the guys like Logan Tuley-Tillman, Ethan Pocic, Kyle Bosch, and Colin Goebel? Do you talk to those guys at all and is there any feeling among you guys of trying to go to the same school?
COLIN: I haven't really talked to them all that much. I have been doing Core 6—I did the Core 6 practice and showcase with Tillman, but I haven't really talked that much with him. Pocic I haven't really had a chance to talk to even though he was at the showcase. I'm really not even that acquainted with the guys, so I wouldn't really be able to say, with either of the two, whether we're out really for ourselves or trying to get together or whatever.
ACE: I was going to ask you about Core 6. What's it like being able to have all these high-caliber high school athletes all together in one place working out? How much does that help your development?
COLIN: Well, I've only been to one, like I said, and then the showcase. As of right now I don't think I'm going to be working with them just because I had prior commitments. I think I'm just going to keep on going with what I'm doing. When I did go to those two things, it was pretty cool having all those other, not only great football players, but recruits there too, because they're going through the same thing and you could relate to them. At the same time they helped me get better when you're practicing with them, too. It seems like a great thing.
ACE: So what are your plans in terms of training over the offseason? Do you have any plans for going to any camps or visiting any schools over the summer?
COLIN: I was planning on visiting a lot of places, I'm not exactly sure what the schedule for that is yet. In terms of workouts, I'm going to be working with [former Northwestern and NFL lineman] Matt Ulrich and Ron Potonic* and just doing my football team lifts during the week.
ACE: In terms of a timeline for your recruitment, do you know when you want to narrow things down and wrap it up?
COLIN: I've been thinking about that and I was planning on hopefully getting committed somewhere before next season starts, but if I don't have my school picked out I'm not going to rush such a big decision.
ACE: What are you looking for in a school when it comes down to decision time?
COLIN: The number one factor for me is the education. If a school doesn't have a good education that's going to be a major turnoff towards a school. It would be great to play in the NFL but honestly you always have to have that backup plan and I'm going to need a good degree. So, I'd say the educational standing of a school and then of course the football program, because if I'm going to go play football at a school I might as well be on a good football team. Those are pretty much it. If I had to pick a third, I'd say maybe playing time or conference, maybe, but they wouldn't be huge deciding factors.
ACE: Going away from football, what's one thing that you want people to know about you that goes outside of the football field?
COLIN: Actually, Allen Trieu from Scout.com just talked with my coach and he wrote an article about what my coach had to say about me. What he was saying is not only am I a hard worker on the field and off the field in the classroom and in the weight room, but he said the number one thing is that I've kept my head on straight and I've stayed humble throughout this whole process. I haven't let it go to my head.
*I believe this means he's training at Winning Edge Athletics in Chicago.
Barring a late-breaking commitment—say, Alex Kozan—these are your final Big Ten recruiting rankings for the class of 2012. After Ohio State's late charge under Urban Meyer, the Buckeyes finish atop the rankings; Michigan is a relatively close second and from there it's a precipitous drop to Notre Dame and the rest of the Big Ten. You can find the previous edition of the rankings here—changes are not listed because there were far too many.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||ESPN Avg||24/7 Avg||Avg Avg^|
*ESPN doesn't rate JuCos, so they are counted as unranked recruits for the sake of consistency (trust me, it makes sense when you look at the spreadsheet).
^The average of the average rankings of the four recruiting services (aka the previous four columns). The figure is calculated based on the raw numbers and then rounded, so the numbers above may not average out exactly.
On to the full data, after the jump.
[ed: whoops. This was supposed to publish 12 hours ago.]
|WHAT||Michigan at MSU|
|WHERE||Breslin Center, East Lansing, MI|
|WHEN||1 PM Eastern, Sunday|
|LINE||MSU –10 (Kenpom)|
Right: Izzo's permanent expression should Michigan win this game.
Pretty much the same team already covered in the post dedicated to the game at Crisler, with two major exceptions.
Exception one: Draymond Green's knee. Green and Izzo have been telling everyone only death will prevent him from going and he'll be essentially fine. Green's mom keeps popping up in these stories to say less optimistic things, though. The most recent:
“I think he’d play if he still had a crutch,” Babers said.
Green does still have some swelling, she said, and he’s still feeling the effects of the stomach flu that he picked up over the weekend. Babers said she wouldn’t be surprised if Green comes off the bench and plays less than usual Sunday.
While Green's health is important, he's not an electric athlete and is short for a PF, so Michigan's four-guard lineup has been effective against him in the recent past. He struggled to seven points in Crisler earlier this year. If he's limited, Michigan will see a lot more of Branden Dawson.
Dawson's an intimidating athlete who is a horse on the offensive boards and will likely take up a bunch of Green's slack on the other end of the floor if he's replacing him in the lineup. He is not a three point shooter, however, and lacks Green's point forward skills. He's also a freshman and may be vulnerable to defensive lapses against Michigan's complicated offense.
Exception two: Brandon Wood has been booted from the starting lineup in favor of senior walk-on Austin Thornton:
Senior Austin Thornton was told he'll start in Wood's place, with both players finding out about the lineup change halfway trough Friday's practice. … Wood's issues, as Izzo sees them, are mostly on the defensive end. When the 6-foot-2 veteran of four college basketball programs was hitting shots, those deficiencies were somewhat masked.
Michigan scorched MSU's interior defense to win by a point despite ugly outside shooting in the first matchup, so Izzo goes with gritty stereotype and coaches' favorite to staunch the bleeding.
Thornton doesn't provide much offensively aside from three-pointers but he is hitting 40 percent this year on admittedly infrequent attempts. His usage is miniscule; Izzo's plan may not hold up to reality if Green is not effective and he has to find shots.
Since losing to Michigan the first time out MSU has throttled Purdue and Minnesota at home and lost a horrendously ugly game at Illinois by a single point.
Conference four factors:
|Factor||Offense (Rk)||Defense (Rk)||Avg|
|Effective FG%:||53.0 3||43.5 3||49|
|Turnover %:||19.4 8||18.9 8||20.8|
|Off. Reb. %:||38.8 1||29.1 3||32.5|
|FTA/FGA:||34.7 7||34.6 6||36.5|
Another notable number: opponents are hitting just 28 percent of their threes in conference play. Despite this, they shoot buckets of them (35%). Opponents don't shoot well from two, either—Michigan's 17 of 24 in the first game much have driven Izzo nuts.
Test Green. Obviously. Michigan should run him around the court as Novak gets a bunch of screens and see how he reacts. Actually they should do that anyway: Novak's inability to get shots off has been a major drag on offensive efficiency.
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE: if Green is fine, go to page 21. If Green is not fine, go to page 25.
PAGE 21. Draymond Green is basically himself. This is bad since MSU has played very well this year and is at home. Unless Michigan gets hot from three it's hard to see them keeping up when they have to fight the usual road woes. Where do the points come from if Michigan is abdicating offensive boards, MSU isn't giving up the relentless parade of easy buckets they did in Ann Arbor, and the free throw line is a rumor?
PAGE 25: Draymond Green is severely limited. This still isn't great but removing Green from the equation puts a lot of pressure on Keith Appling to create all the shots. That's a dicey proposition with Appling 2 of 19 in his last two games and apparently incapable of playing 31 minutes a game without passing out from exhaustion. Travis Trice and Brandon Wood will just about have to split 40 minutes in that event to give Michigan State a second ballhandler. That could lead to additional easy twos for Michigan.
Novak would get to double hard on any post stuff since Dawson is not a shooter, but the downside would be Dawson clubbing Michigan on the boards even more than he is already expected. Defensive rebounding has gone poorly for Michigan the last two times they've played State and a Green injury just means even more time for a dynamic guy on the offensive glass.
Non-Green related items? Non-Green related items.
Hardaway versus Thornton needs to be a win. Hardaway has closed out lackadaisically for much of the year; if he's got a Thornton matchup he needs to close out hard, hard, hard. Thornton's shooting 39% from two and is not much of an assist threat. If he gets an open shot just within the line, fine.
Meanwhile on the other end of the floor, Hardaway needs to be a productive user of the energy he won't be spending on defense. Michigan has not figured out how to get Hardaway effective shots much this year but the above three point defense and Hardaway's cold shooting makes it seem clear what he should do: go inside.
Hope they're not shooting well from outside. Michigan is resigned to giving up a fair number of open threes as they try to fight their lack of size.
Get handsy and take care of the ball. Michigan beat Indiana largely because turnovers were 14-6. With MSU projected to have a huge offensive rebounding advantage, it gets really hard to win if Michigan isn't winning turnovers by a significant amount. Turnovers cannot be rebounded and often lead to good transition shots on the other end.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
MSU by ten.
MIAMI IS HOCKEYBEAR TIME
[If this seems like excessive Hockeybear, It's a scheduling quirk: he blows up OSU, Miami, and MSU.]
|WHAT||Miami at Michigan|
|WHERE||Yost Ice Arena|
|WHEN||7:35 PM Friday/Saturday|
|LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
|TV||Friday: FSD Plus
Saturday: CBS Sports
Record. 15-11-2, 11-9-2 CCHA. A preseason CCHA favorite, Miami has been a disappointment. Like Michigan they endured an awful stretch in the first half of the season. They were 2-6 out of the gate, splitting against Bemidji State and Colgate before being swept by Ferris State and Lake Superior.
While they have slowly recovered it's taking them longer to get back to the level expected of them than it has Michigan, and their final three conference series are doozies: Michigan, Notre Dame, and Ohio State. Throw in a no-win situation against Alabama-Huntsville (UAH is so bad wins against them actually hurt your RPI and are therefore excluded from calculations) and Miami is in a battle for its tournament life. They're currently 11th; any stumbles down the stretch will threaten their bid.
The good news for the Redhawks is that they are hot now, 6-2 in their last eight, all against the fierce pack of contenders in the CCHA.
As noted on Monday, this is a matchup of the top two teams in conference goal differential. Michigan's climbed to +13 in two fewer games, did it largely without Merrill, and has an easier closing stretch, so you would give them a slight advantage on paper, where all games should be played.
Previous meetings. The Redhawks had a slight advantage in a home series during Michigan's awful stretch, winning 2-1 on Friday before a 3-3 tie Saturday. Miami outshot Michigan 29-21 on Friday and 41-28 Saturday. Merrill, obviously, was not available.
Reilly Smith lights the lamp
Dangermen. There actually is one. This unusual for a very good and very defensively-minded CCHA. He is Dallas draftee Reilly Smith, who is averaging just over a PPG. His 19 goals are fourth nationally. As you might imagine, he's a sniper. The third goal in this LSSU-Miami game from a couple weeks ago is Smith popping the water bottle from just outside the crease:
Letting him shoot is a bad idea.
Austin Czarnik (yes that Czarnik) is his primary setup man with 7-16-23. Miami has a bit of depth behind those two—another three guys have eight goals and a fourth has six—but is just 29th nationally with 2.86 goals per game. Michigan is ninth (yes, yes, SLU and all that).
This would be a game to sic the checking line on Smith and company, but Michigan doesn't really have one.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. The Reichard/Knapp platoon continues into both goalies' senior years. Reichard has a slight advantage in starts and Knapp a large advantage in save percentage (.928 to .901) and GAA.
Knapp started both games against Western; the two split series against LSSU and Northern. It's getting towards put up or shut up time for the Redhawks, so I expect Knapp on Friday and, if things go well in net, Saturday.
As far as their defense goes, they don't get much offense out of them but senior Chris Wideman will plunge down from time to time. Their opener against NMU was reminiscent of the goal Moffie manufactured in Michigan's OT GLI win over MSU:
He's got 1-14-15 on the year and given the state of the Miami power play it's safe to assume a larger fraction of those goals are even strength that you might expect.
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
|PP For / G||4||3.9|
|PP Ag / G||5.1||4.1|
Miami's special teams have been poor. They end up shorthanded more frequently than their opponents and are struggling to score on the power play. They're even worse than Michigan (46th versus 43rd). In the CCHA they are converting at an under 10% rate. That's probably the most inexplicable stat of the season.
Their PK is pretty good (12th) and significantly better than Michigan's (26th). Merrill, etc.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Even those shots out. While Merrill should help in this regard, Michigan is still giving up a ton of shots even after his return to the lineup. Maybe they're not all spectacular but asking Hunwick to keep up his blistering pace (.975 in the past four games!) is a bit much.
Match Pateryn with Smith. Pateryn is Michigan's best defenseman when the puck is on the other guys' sticks; his size, reach, and reliability should help cut down on opportunities for Smith to loose his deadly shot.
Go ahead and goon it up. Miami is undisciplined (last in the league in penalties taken) and their power play is awful. A few tweaks may get you an extra power play or two and they're not going to hurt you if the random number generator goes against you.
Hunwick: keep playing out of your mind. It would be nice, right? .975 will do just fine.
The Big Picture
CCHA baseball standings again:
|Ohio State||10||7||5||1||36||22||1 1/3|
|Notre Dame||10||7||3||0||33||20||1 1/3|
|Lake Superior||9||9||4||4||35||22||1 2/3|
|8||Michigan State||8||9||3||2||29||20||2 2/3|
This is a huge series because all series are huge in the tightly-packed CCHA. Michigan wants to finish fourth or better to guarantee themselves a home series and can put themselves in a good spot by getting anything better than a split this weekend. A split leaves them where they are.
As far as the Pairwise goes, I believe a 6-2 record down the stretch will see Michigan occupying a one seed when the conference playoffs roll around*. You'd hope BGSU would be a slam dunk, leaving them with the task of sweeping one of their other three series and splitting the other two to get there. Miami is the toughest opponent left; getting the sweep this weekend would be a huge step towards both a potential left-field CCHA title and that one seed. Easier said than done.
*[They would have to defend that by reaching the Joe and going at least 1-1 there. They'd be in a good spot, though.]
Hunwick’s no longer just a good story; he’s legitimately among the best netminders Michigan’s ever had – boasting the best save percentage and goals-against average in program history at this point. And as the Wolverines find themselves in an interesting psychological position – seventh place in the standings but just five points out of first – Hunwick finds himself with the opportunity to do more than inspire walk-ons everywhere, he’s got the chance to put this team on his back as they attempt to end a national title drought that’s fast approaching a decade and a half.