no wonder we hired Hunter Lochmann
WOOOOOOO! WOOOOOO! MUPPET
BRAIN OFF WOOO ZACH GIBSON WOO MANY HARRIS WOOO
ONE… OTHER! WOOO
Perhaps the greatest legacy the Pistons have given to the metro Detroit area is an area-wide affection for the greatest hair metal hype-up song in the history of ever. The run-up to an important basketball game is incomplete without it:
It obviously hasn't sunk in yet, as I'm not nervous. Northridge and Memphis are tied at 13, the NCAA tournament is underway, and Michigan plays tonight and I don't even have the normal level of jitters you might have before a Michigan-Northwestern football game or a random midseason hockey game.
The only explanation is that the idea Michigan will participate in this excessively large, bombastic, chaotic, sort-of-merit-based-but-also-kind-of-not American institution has been proposed to the brain and been rejected. Rejected like Andy Katzenmoyer's NFL career. Like the Michigan State student body's collective application to Michigan. Like sanity as it applies to Ekpe Udoh's decision as to where he should spend his college career. You get the idea.
This will evaporate a nanosecond after Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims share a split screen and "7 Clemson Tigers vs 10 Michigan Wolverines" is superimposed over the wide shot of the arena, and then I'll be terrified and angry for two solid hours. Woo sports! Looking forward to it.
Some items of interest to complete your tourney prep:
Next up: a monkey, one glove, and pedophilia accusations. Reader Fred Simmons points out something… unusual about the SI cover with Manny Harris lost in a sea of players*:
Hello tinting! If (when) Michigan makes it next year, Michigan's representative on the SI cover:
*(Anyone notice that of late SI has gone away from SI-curse triggering covers? Part of it is regionalization and so forth, but now they don't even pick a national champion for football, they just put six different teams on six different covers. What a cop out. I blame that "Arizona is No. 1" debacle.)
- Wojo on where the instate programs find themselves:
Michigan opens its first NCAA Tournament in 11 years in the land of barbecue, hoping to lick its chops and stick its long shots. If you saw the giddy reaction when the players learned they were in, facing favored Clemson tonight, you know this is one excited team taking its important first step.
- Excellent diary breaks down Michigan's performance against top-100 opponents with variable amounts of rest. Correlation is not causation, but it's not exactly bad news to find out that Michigan on 4+ days of rest is ridiculously better than Michigan on three or fewer. (Until we get to the second round (hypothetically).)
- Dylan is in the house; he posts a final preview, and has had excellent content all week.
- Maize 'n' Brew interviews Clemson blog Block C about goings-on.
- There is plenty of Clemson-centric content at The OP.
- Rosenberg recaps the drought.
Early returns say: screw Kenpom, yo. Cal State is now leading tempo-free #1 Memphis; BYU is getting housed, and LSU is edging Butler. Let the defiance of nerd expectations last all day.
Tom's having computer problems so he forwarded this along to me. Don't be fooled by the name on it: it's his interview, as per usual.
Some background on Riley: he's got a wide array of impressive offers to play… somewhere. Michigan seems to like him best as a RB but he could play WR or DB or maybe LB in college. Conventional wisdom has USC the current leader.
Photo from the LA Times.
DIETRICH: I’m a team player. I’m not worried about the individual stats, and I don’t want the attention all on me. I want to compete and make my teammates better. I attack life every day. I go 110% on the field, and in whatever I do in life. I’ve got these scholarship offers, but it’s important to stay humble. Football wise, I can read plays on the field, and I can go both ways. Really my speed and size are my biggest assets.
TOM: You were just in Vegas for the 7 on 7 there. How did you and your team do?
DIETRICH: Our team had some great talent, and it was fun being on the field with those guys. We had Brennan Clay, DJ Morgan, Shaq Richardson, and a few other big name guys on our team. We lost in the first round to another California team. It was a bad call by the ref. They called pass interference on me when I intercepted a ball. It was more about having fun, learning, and getting to know each other though.
TOM: You’ve already got a number of big time scholarship offers. Which one were you most excited about?
DIETRICH: I got another one on Monday from Nebraska, so I’m at 10. Of course USC is up there, but Oklahoma and Tennessee was exciting. Competing in bowl games, championships, and the tradition those schools have is great. That just surprised me more than anything. It just shows the hard work is paying off. Not necessarily interest wise, but I was excited.
TOM: Which one were you most surprised by?
DIETRICH: Michigan. It’s the Big Ten. I wasn’t expecting that. They were sending me letters and everything. They told me about their players currently in the NFL. I was like wow; I can’t believe they offered me. Washington is also really catching my attention. The new staff up there is nice, and the graduation rate is 86%. That’s most important, my education.
TOM: What kind of offense does your team run now?
DIETRICH: We mix it around. Pro and spread, but it’s pretty balanced. Coach gave me some new plays to get me the ball this year. It’s going to be a whole different story. I’m bigger stronger and faster, and I’m just ready to go.
TOM: Would you like to find an offense similar to that, or will you adapt?
DIETRICH: I’ll adapt wherever I go. I like a mixed offense, with a little play action, and spread. Not too many teams in the NFL run the spread, so I like an offense that will prepare me. I do think Michigan’s offense would prepare me for the NFL. When looking at Pat White, he’s getting attention. My coach puts me in position to make things happen, and when I’m not, I make sure I pass block. I’m not selfish, and I want to do what’s best for the team.
TOM: What relationships have you built so far with coaches?
DIETRICH: The strongest relationship is with the USC coaches, we email every day or so. Second is Coach Morgan from Washington. He watched me grow up, and it’s a blessing to have him recruiting me. Coach Neuheisel from UCLA too. He was my coach’s quarterback coach when he played at UCLA.
TOM: Michigan recently offered you. What are they saying as far as where they want you to play, and how you fit in?
DIETRICH: They want me primarily as a running back, but also split me wide. They don’t have that complete back that can break the long run. I can either get out in space, or bust through and make room.
TOM: Being from California, what do you know about Michigan?
DIETRICH: I know that they’re on TV a lot, which is good. I’d be on TV all the time. They have a history of sending guys to the next level, getting guys their degree, great athletics, and the stadium is expanding. That’s pretty amazing. The weather, it’s cold, but I’ll get used to it. I’m going to have to someday.
TOM: You’re a bigger back already; do you plan on getting even bigger for college? Is that part of how you run?
DIETRICH: Coach Rodriguez told me they’re looking for the back with size and speed. I’m 6’ 1” and 195 pounds. I might be losing some of that weight. I don’t want to lose my speed and bulk up too much. I would like to stay around 205, no higher. I’m not really concerned about size though, just my playing ability, and keeping my lateral quickness.
TOM: Who are your leaders so far? Who are you still hoping to hear from?
DIETRICH: The schools I still want to hear from are Florida, Texas, LSU, and Alabama. I don’t really have a top list. All the schools that have offered so far I really like, and I’m honestly interested in. Once I take visits I’ll know more.
TOM: What camps and junior days will you be going to?
DIETRICH: Notre Dame’s in April. I've been saying I’ll go there for awhile. Oregon state, because my brother Kevin Walker goes there. The camps are definitely USC Rising star and FBU. I got invited to a 7 on 7 Academy at the Disney facilities, which is pretty cool. I’ve been talking with Markeith Ambles, and we’re going to try to set up some visits together. We’re friends, so it would make it easier to go through that together.
TOM: When are you planning on making your decision?
DIETRICH: National signing day. Depending on how many offers are on the table, maybe march. There’s going to be a lot of pressure, but I’m not worried about it. I’m already prepared for it. There’s going to be a lot of people in my ear about where to go, so I’ve got to develop a way to filter that out, and make my own decision.
Michigan Basketball: So how's the tourney, man?
NCAA Tourney: You don't know? Of course, you don't know anything. There's a 65th team.
MBB: A 65th team?
Tourney: Yeah, there was this new conference that got an autobid and no one wanted to take an at-large away… they play in Dayton. It's ugly. It's usually some .500 team that won its conference tourney against the third-place SWAC team.
MBB: How's Billy Packer? He ever get over that midmajor thing?
MBB: That ever work out?
Tourney: Come on, man, Packer's heart is a lump of carbon. They fired that guy. Last I heard he was working at Pizza Hut.
MBB: So let's not go there.
MBB: So… you look good.
Tourney: Thank you, you may have, uh—
TEN YEARS, MAN! TEN! Where have you been for ten years?
MBB: I freaked out… hired Brian Ellerbe. Recruited Avery Queen and Kevin Gaines and Maurice Searight. Got put on probation for kids taking money from a Detroit gambling kingpin. Fired Ellerbe and hired a guy who took a Sweet 16 team that returned virtually everyone and added an NBA lottery pick to the NIT: Tommy Amaker. Recruited Anthony Wright and Kendrick Price and Reed Baker. Turned the ball over on every other offensive possession for six years. The one year I was going to be back everyone got injured and the starting point guard got suspended for some sort of domestic violence thing. Walk-ons started at point guard. Then I hired John Beilein. We have basically one guy taller than 6'5", we still have walk-ons at point guard, and we're here.
Tourney: Oh, sure. And Indiana hired Kelvin Sampson, too, and that's why they're mysteriously absent.
MBB: I think they did, actually.
Tourney: That's good… wow, yeah…
TEN YEARS, MAN— TEN— TEN YEARS! TEN! TEN YEAAAARS!
MBB: I freaked out, hired Brian Ellerbe, Recruited Avery Queen and Kevin Gaines and Maurice Seawright, got put on probation for kids taking money from a Detroit gambling kingpin, fired Ellerbe and hired a guy who took a Sweet 16 team that returned virtually everyone and added an NBA lottery pick to the NIT: Tommy Amaker. Recruited Anthony Wright and Kendrick Price and Reed Baker, turned the ball over on every other offensive possession for six years, the one year I was going to be back everyone got injured and the starting point guard got suspended for some sort of domestic violence thing, walk-ons started at point guard, then I hired John Beilein, we have basically one guy taller than 6'5", we still have walk-ons at point guard, and we're here.
THAT'S WHAT I DID.
Tourney: Can I join up?
Tourney: Come on, man… how's your mom?
"OP has a posse" from Clemson b-ball blog the OP.
What Say Tempo Free Stats?
Tempo free stats say we gon' die. Clemson's ACC performance on a possession-by-possession basis was better than anyone not named Duke or North Carolina:
Opp. Pace PPP PPP EM 1. North Carolina 74.7 1.16 1.01 +0.15 2. Duke 69.2 1.08 0.98 +0.10 3. Clemson 70.5 1.09 1.01 +0.08 4. Wake Forest 74.3 1.07 1.01 +0.06 5. Florida St. 69.1 1.00 0.98 +0.02
Meanwhile, Michigan was actually in the red in the Big Ten:
5. Ohio St. 60.8 1.07 1.05 +0.02 6. Minnesota 62.2 0.98 0.98 0.00 7. Michigan 61.0 1.01 1.03 -0.02 8. Penn St. 59.7 1.00 1.04 -0.04 9. Northwestern 59.6 1.03 1.07 -0.04
If you hold that the ACC and Big Ten are basically equivalent this year—generous—this bodes very unwell. I guess there's an argument that Clemson got way up there by whipping some teams badly and their week-in week-out performance is too erratic to take that number seriously, but, man, that's a big gap.
Kenpom also says this is a crappy draw for Michigan. It has Clemson the #22 team in all the land, which corresponds to a solid six seed in Tempo Free Ability Land, not the seven they got in reality. (This is not an attempt to imply the committee was wrong to make Clemson a 7; sometimes teams under- or over-perform their overall ability in the actual wins and losses. For example: Michigan, as you'll see.)
Michigan, meanwhile, is #49. If we took the top 65 teams by their ratings and broke them into seeds, this matchup would be a 6 versus a 13. Kenpom says we have a 32% chance of victory. This is considerably lower than the other ten seeds: Maryland has a 38% shot at Cal, Minnesota a 42% shot at Texas, and USC is actually a tempo-free favorite (65%) over BC.
Of course, these are just simple averages that take every possession in every game, adjust them for difficulty, and project future games based on that and a home/road adjustment. They don't take matchups into account.
Clemson Defense vs Michigan Offense
Turnovers. Clemson's major distinguishing characteristic is a 40-minutes-of-hell full press that sees Clemson force a butt-ton of turnovers: 24.1 percent of opponent possessions end without a shot. That's 16th nationally. You can see the costs of this strategy in a couple spots: a generous 2PT FG percentage allowed (46.1%; 89th) and horrible defensive rebounding.
Three-pointers. Bad news for Michigan: Clemson does a good job of protecting the three-point line. Only 28% of opponent's shots are threes, which is 26th nationally. They do allow a good percentage when opponents get a look.
Inside the arc. As mentioned, Clemson's two-point percentage allowed isn't good despite (yet another) huge block percentage: 14%, 14th nationally. They offset that with a healthy rate of fouls.
Specific People Who Are A Specific Height. The good news for Michigan is that Clemson's main lineup isn't Illinois huge or anything: the starting lineup has a 6'7" guy and a 6'9" guy but no 7-foot menace, despite the shotblocking prowess. Sims defied earlier predictions here about an inability to combat seriously large posts when he tore up Minnesota, but he tore up Iowa even worse and was then reduced to a wide array of outside shots against very large Illinois, none of which went down. I'm still much more comfortable when Sims is dealing with an opponent of approximately the same size.
The big question. Grady? Kelvin Grady, once Michigan's starting point guard, struggled badly in Michigan's ugly stretch midway through the season and got benched in favor of CJ Lee and David Merritt. Grady's limited but has one grade-A skill: handle. Attempting to press him is a futile waste of time. Merritt and Lee… eh, not so much. Beilein's not likely to start Grady or anything, but if Clemson forces a couple of ugly turnovers early he might get exhumed.
Michigan Defense vs Clemson Offense
How much of the Tiger offense is turnover based?
Opponent turnovers don't translate directly into offense unless it's a steal, which can lead to a fast break opportunity. This took forever and came out with bupkis, but it took forever so look at the graph you bastards:
That's a scatter plot of Clemson's steals against their points per possession. Correlation: eh, eyeballing it… just about zero. Where the pressing will tell is in Michigan's offense, it appears.
Their turnovers. Eh… they're mediocre, turning the ball over on exactly 20 percent of their possessions. That's about the national average. Michigan forces opponents into 21% turnovers.
Three-pointers. Clemson's Terrence Oglesby (the near-albino guy at right) is an excellent shooter hovering around 40% on his long range attempts; this is a major component of Clemson's excellent three-point percentage: 38%, which is 35th nationally. They take a slightly above-average number of them.
Michigan's been surprisingly effective at shutting down the three point line, though: 43rd in opponent makes and opponents get off a below-average number of triples. That might have something to do with…
Two pointers. Michigan is horrible at defending them, allowing opponents to shoot over 50%. Clemson is very good at getting them, making 51.4% of their attempts. Clemson's offense is mostly just good all around, with a high eFG and a very high offensive rebound percentage offsetting a crappy ability to get to the line and meh turnovers.
Past performance, future results. I kind of hate the "X-factor" as a concept/cliche, but there's an X-factor here in how the teams react to styles they haven't seen before. Michigan hasn't been pressed consistently all year; Clemson hasn't seen the Beilein offense or the 1-3-1. A lot of people are banking on Beilein's tendency to overperform in the NCAA tournament to see Michigan through, and that's usually attributed to his unusual style.
Here's some Debbie Downer: it could just be chance. Beilein's only made it a few times and has done well, but he's pulled a couple fortunate matchups, with Northwestern State blowing up Iowa before the Mountaineers had a chance; WVU also missed the three-seed in '05 and had an opportunity against an 11 in '98.
The other side of the coin: Clemson coach Oliver Purnell is 0-fer in five trips to the tourney:
- 1992: 15 seed Old Dominion, a 15-15 team is clunked by #2 Kentucky.
- 2000: 11 seed Dayton loses to 6 seed Purdue by one point.
- 2003: 4 seed Dayton loses to 13 seed Tulsa by 13.
- 2008: 5 seed Clemson loses to 12 seed Villanova by 6.
The 1992 and 2000 trips don't raise eyebrows, but Purnell's suffered two straight upsets at the hands of inferior competition.
There's a case the coaches' historical performance is more than a fluke.
Sliding. Though Michigan hasn't exactly burned up the nets of late, they are 3-2 in their last five with wins over Purdue and Minnesota. Clemson, meanwhile, has been in free fall: 1-4 to finish the season with the win over horrible Virginia and the final loss an opening-round ACC tournament matchup against last place Georgia Tech.
Common opponents. These do not bode well, but mostly because they encompass Clemson's best performances of the year:
- Duke: Michigan split a neutral/home pair; Clemson obliterated the Blue Devils by 27 at home.
- Maryland: Michigan lost a road game; Clemson obliterated the Terrapins by 29 at home.
- Illinois: Michigan went 1-2, with a ten point win at home and ten point losses on the road and in Indy. Clemson scraped a two point road win over the Illini.
- Savannah State: Clemson clubbed them; Michigan won in overtime, barely escaping a tourney-killing loss.
This will be a big test of the Beilein-as-impossible-to-prepare-for meme, because Michigan drew a tough, tough seven seed. Fellow 10 seed USC is staring at an ACC team that managed to lose to Harvard (which who does that, really) and finished 7th in conference when it comes to efficiency margin. In contrast, Michigan draws a Clemson team that, while sliding a bit, beat some good teams absolutely raw and is a solid third in conference, above 4 seed Wake Forest.
Meanwhile, Michigan is the team that finished 7th in efficiency margin in its conference, and you can tack on some uncomfortably close victories in the nonconference to that. I think Kenpom is about right here: Michigan is a decided underdog.
Probably no reason to be alarmed. This popped up over a busy weekend: that thread on the message board has validity to it. There was an incident at Scorekeeper's over the weekend between a few football players and (presumably gel-haired) ruffians. You can extrapolate the names from context if you want.
Anyway: a couple sources indicate that the incident is very unlikely to end up in court or anything; suspensions are therefore unlikely and the punishment will probably be handled by Barwis.
About whom eeee. Will Johnson remains the scariest bald 22 year old on the planet:
Defensive tackle Will Johnson turned in the day’s most-impressive performance, wowing the scouts and onlookers with an eye-popping and record-setting 47 reps of 225 pounds. The effort eclipsed anything that has been previously achieved by a Wolverine and broke what was believed to be the NFL Combine record, 42 reps set by former U-M left tackle Jake Long last season. Johnson also clocked 4.9 second in the 40-yard dash.
Johnson's given up on the receding hairline and gone for the wholly bald look, which usually makes white guys look like cancer patients. Johnson, however…
…eh, not so much.
Marve? More like No-rve. Miami transfer Robert Marve, he of the father that really hates Randy Shannon, has a final list of schools he's considering:
Former Miami quarterback Robert Marve, who left the Hurricanes after his redshirt freshman season, hopes to choose a new school after visiting Michigan, Nebraska, Purdue, Texas Tech, South Florida and UCLA.
Uh, one of these schools is not like the other when it comes to "enjoys pocket passers": Michigan. Marve has to sit out next year and will be a redshirt junior when eligible, so bringing him in would be like taking a JUCO QB in the 2010 class. A pocket-passing JUCO who wasn't very good and has a tendency to blow up in a program-embarrassing fashion when not anointed the starter.
Michigan doesn't need drama or pocket passers who won't be eligible this year. I don't have any inside info here, I seriously doubt Marve even takes a visit, and if he ends up transferring to Michigan I'll eat my hat.
Goodbye, beautiful antagonist. Le Anne Schreiber's two-year run as ESPN ombudsman has come to an end. She was excellent, if almost always ignored, and her final column aptly sums up the frustrations many sports fans have with the Worldwide Monolith:
the message from fans that I have found hardest to impress on ESPN's executives and talent is this: The predictable day-after-day dominance on ESPN of certain marquee teams and players is making a lot of fans both heartsick and cynical.
The rest of it is right on and worth reading, especially if you're the guy who directed the Michigan-Iowa game and thought it would be a fantastic idea to miss game action for fake Tom Izzo hairstyles.
Dhani Jones: famous! True story: once when I was in college Dhani Jones came to a performance of the sketch comedy troupe I was writing for. At the time he had just had some sort of shoulder surgery and was beslinged. After the show I approached him, said hi, asked him how the arm was doing, and actually sort of patted him on the back, if I remember correctly. It was creepy. This was mortifying about 5 seconds after the fact, and remains so to this day.
Anyway, Jones is now on the TV, and if he ever mentions "random Albanians" that's probably my doing. Also he won't ever do that. But he'll do other things:
Jones, a former Michigan and current Cincinnati Bengals linebacker -- and bow tie designer -- brings a nice light touch to his new Travel Channel series, which premieres at 9 p.m. Monday. [uh… yesterday.]
In future weeks, he'll take on nine more sports, including rugby in England, dragon boat racing in Singapore, Schwingen wrestling in Switzerland, hurling in Ireland and jai alai in Spain, while sampling the local culture in beautifully shot travelogues.
"They're all amazing sports," Jones said. "It's hard to say which one I enjoyed more than the others. Some are more intense than others, some are more enjoyable, but they all were life-changing."
Jones rugby exploits for the show were featured here a while back.
Etc.: Wojo on Manny and Sims.
Michigan's junior day netted a few commitments while this site was busy hoping the world didn't cave in the day before the NCAA tournament was selected.
Antonio Kinard is a 6'4", 200 pound linebacker from Youngstown Ohio. He committed to Michigan over the weekend. The details:
It's too early for all but the most preliminary rankings; basically all we have to go on is that he's not in Rivals' initial top 250. He's #22 in the state to Ohio High magazine, for whatever that's worth.
Just the one from Michigan, with that issued shortly after Signing Day. FWIW, in mid-February a BP mod asserted he was likely to receive an OSU offer within a week or so; that apparently did not transpire. Penn State and WVU may have been on the verge.
ESPN says 86 tackles and 6 sacks a year ago.
FAKE 40 TIME
We have two times here, one of which might not be fake:
Kinard combines size with speed. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds and is also on the Liberty track team. He has run the 200 meters in 22.8 seconds and also long jumps.
Video from Scouting Ohio.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Well, the evidence here is flimsier than normal: there's no scouting reports and only one ranking, that from a local, not national source. Preliminary indications—the Ohio High ranking and lack of other offers—are that Kinard will be a three-star sort. If the potential Penn State and Ohio State offers were
While that's not ideal, Michigan was familiar with Kinard after recruiting a couple of his Youngstown Liberty teammates and was quick to offer, so they obviously thought he was a talent they shouldn't wait on. One thing seems assured: a redshirt. Kinard is 6'4" and 200 pounds, so unless he puts on a ton of weight this year he'll need to bulk up some once he arrives if he's going to be effective.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
It's unclear what position Kinard is slotted in: it could be linebacker either inside or outside or DE—as Varsity Blue notes, Greg Robinson's schemes often deploy a "spinner" who's a hybrid DE/OLB. Kinard's also the first defensive commit of any sort, so he won't affect Michigan's recruiting going forward. They'll still pursue TX LB Caleb Lavey and so forth and so on.
All right: we're pretty much screwed. There is a tiny chance we can pass Notre Dame if Michigan wins the CCHA playoffs and Notre Dame gets swept at the Joe. Even in that situation (with all higher seeds winning other games) You Are The Committee shows Notre Dame taking the comparison, but the RPI edge there is tiny and could be shoved over to Michigan if a few other games go Michigan's way. (St. Lawrence, Minnesota, and Wisconsin would help out by winning, as that pushes Michigan's RPI up.)
So: have Michigan win twice, have one of the country's best teams lose to Alaska and Northern Michigan, and hope for favorable results in other conference tournaments. The chances are griiiiiim.
As for the faint hope some PWR wackiness costs ND a couple other comparisons, that's dead, too. ND's got the perfect scenario as far as TUCs go right now—they're a whopping 4-0 against Northern, which is now hanging by a thread as a TUC—and is up to 10-5 in that category, which is very strong. ND can't lose (metaphorically) against Northern: win and they, you know, win. Lose and Northern keeps its TUC status and ND gets to keep its 4-1 record against them.
Well, the good news is I can't get Michigan any lower than fourth unless they get swept at the Joe and Northeastern wins Hockey East, or they split and both Northwestern and Denver win their conference tournaments. YATC is kind of clunky and I haven't tested all possible scenarios, but Michigan's #1 seed seems 80% likely.
Then you've got a pretty weird scenario developing at the bottom of the bracket: CHA qualifier Bemidji State is the usual grab-bag foe you really want to play in the first round and will get slotted against BU. But Air Force, if it wins its conference tournament, is likely to be #13 or #14 in the PWR. IE: above the last at-large bid, possibly above two. What would the committee do in that situation?
No offense to Air Force, but they're an Atlantic Hockey team that's freakin' 30th in KRACH. If they qualify they are clearly the second most desirable first round opponent and should, by rights, be slotted against ND. But if they go by strict PWR Air Force would get matched up against… probably us, since it looks highly likely that one of the four-seeds is going to be Miami, who would get matched up with North Dakota or Vermont or whoever because they're going to protect BU and the Redhawks can't play a CCHA team.
It would be the sweetest poetic justice if Michigan got shafted out of the #2 seed only to draw that second auto-bid team and Notre Dame got Lowell or Yale or Duluth. We'd still be getting shipped, unfortunately.
3/13/2009 – Michigan 5, Western Michigan 2 – 27-10-0, 20-8 CCHA
3/14/2009 – Michigan 6, Western Michigan 1 – 28-10-0, 20-8 CCHA
This weekend's hockey series featured huge stretches of play so dominating that the above scoreboard resulted. That is the beginning of the first intermission. Michigan has three goals and 21 shots. Western has zero goals and zero shots.
Western's first shot would come at the beginning of the second when a Bronco forward, clearly instructed to get Western on the board, took a slapper from outside the blueline. It was going high, but they counted it anyway. The next shot was a clearance that dribbled in on Hogan, again from outside the blueline. That counted too: Michigan's official scorer was giving Hogan the full Jeff Lerg treatment out of pity to the visitors. By my count, the first actual shot Western launched on Hogan—certainly the first that originated from the offensive zone—came with 15:40 left in the second.
It was that kind of weekend. Total shots: 103 for Michigan and 41 for Western. Only Riley Gill's best Dominic Hasek impression kept Western from ceding 20 goals on the weekend.
So, again: this team is pretty freakin' good. They've pushed their recent non-crazy-goal-controversy record out to 19-1 since late November. Mark Mitera has been making excellent outlet passes and hasn't seemed out of place since an error that lead to Ferris State's first and only goal of the Friday game two weeks ago. They were 15-1 in NCGC games before they added last year's defenseman of the year. They're scratching an NHL draft pick every night. Our third defense pairing is either Steve Kampfer and Brandon Burlon or Tristin Llewellyn and Chris Summers, either of which pairings would be the #1 pair for any CCHA team other than Notre Dame.
When Michigan did anything other than dominate it was more because they were bored and hadn't spent any time in the defensive zone in two weeks and weren't quite sure what you were supposed to do. I am a little concerned that Michigan spends 80% of its time in the offensive zone because it leads to breakdowns and carelessness in their own end. This is a pretty good concern to have, all things considered.
Bullets Western left in the chamber:
- Holy crap was Carl Hagelin out of his mind this weekend. He singlehandedly dominated the penalty-kill, skated through the opposition like it wasn't there, and did his usual demonic backchecking. The Friday night ENG was justice for an outstanding performance. Two borks up.
- Northern Michigan upset Miami to reach the Joe, which improves Michigan's draw (they get Alaska) but hurts them in other ways: Michigan's SOS goes down as they played Miami four times, and Northern is now a TUC which brings M's 1-1 record against them into play.
- We wanted OSU to win the other series; they did not. Bizarrely, since we play now Alaska we want them to stay a TUC if we beat them since 2-1 is good for our overall percentage in that category.
- It doesn't hurt Michigan nearly as much as it does Miami, which is now the final team in the tourney and is vulnerable to an unexpected winner in any of the power conferences.
- I deeply regret that we were not allowed to trade Scooter and a recruit to be named later for Gill's services during the playoff run. That guy was insane both nights, which brings his record for insanity at Yost up to 3/3 on the year, as he was insane in a game Michigan totally dominated and contrived to lose 2-1 when Western conjured two late goals out of deflections and screening. About halfway through the Saturday game people around me started chanting "goalie-goalie" during the Temptation goalie-sieve chant, and, like, yeah. At some point Gill flat robbed Aaron Palushaj to the point where he was compelled to explain just how the hell the puck didn't go in the net to his linemates.
Gill's got a .920 save percentage, which is impressive but only 17th nationally. In context it's astounding, though. This is Western Michigan we're talking about here, always the worst defensive team in the league under Jim Culhane. He probably sees more grade-A rubber in a game than one of Mason's pedestrian .940 guys (Alban, Blackburn, etc) saw in a year; every Western goalie I've ever checked stats of is languishing around .885 or something. I'm sure Alaska's Chad Johnson is pretty good with his .939, but, man, how did Gill get left off the All CCHA Team for Jeff Lerg?
- Hey: they finally got a goal review right! Michigan's third-period goal to go up 4-2 was waved off by McInchak for no apparent reason—it was a virtual replay of the waved off OSU goal—but reviewed and declared good, largely because Shegos got in the box and was like "dude, that's his chest." Good on you, Shegos. Also, the look on Shegos' face—"not this s--- again"—was priceless.
- Last time we saw Shegos, by the way, he was with Langseth. This time no Langseth. Did he get busted down to linesman again? Or did they just tighten the crews because there were only four series to do this weekend instead of the usual six?
- I don't think we can pass ND, but I'll check.
3/16/2009 – Michigan 1, Decade Of Misery 0 … ok, 11.
So who else had a little heart attack when Arizona made the field and Wisconsin popped up as a twelve seed? I spent most of the past month reassuring everyone, including myself, that 9-9 and 1-1 in the Big Ten tourney would be good enough. But as 8, 9, 10, and 11 seeds rolled off the board with Michigan conspicuously absent, irrational concern rose.
There weren't nearly enough crazy bids deployed for Michigan to come under any threat whatsoever. As soon as two things went right on Saturday—which was about 5 PM—Michigan was in. Everyone everywhere told us so. But paranoia is a powerful thing.
Unruly sections of my brain busied themselves constructing scenarios in which the selection committee had managed to discount the Big Ten's impressive body of work outside of the conference. They'd been listening to Digger Phelps. They were going to put Providence and Notre Dame and Georgetown in. Corroboration: Mike Slive of the SEC was the head of the committee. Corroboration: Ohio State's athletic director was a member. Something could have gone wrong.
Obviously this is ridiculous, but they left us as late as possible and you can only stare at Brian/Greg/Burt Gumbel, whichever it was, so long without having your mind wander towards horrible apocalyptic events.
So when the time came…
…that reaction seemed totally appropriate. Most of the time it comes off as silly; the boredom expressed by Kansas and Pittsburgh is more reasonable than what appeared to be the entire state of North Dakota losing its mind when it found out which major conference team—the aforementioned Kansas—was highly likely to bludgeon it into submission. NDSU knew it was in. Not even the world's most inexplicable and pointless vast SEC/Ohio State conspiracy could keep the Bison out. I mean, it guess it's cool for you guys to be on TV, but it's not like there was any suspense.
The closest analogue I can think of is the reaction when a rock star says "HELLO SPRINGTON!" and the arena goes "OH MY GOD HE'S IN SPRINGTON I AM JUST REALIZING THIS NOW." Usually large groups of people assembled in a gym to be excited about something are going to be excited about something stupid. Lord knows I won't feel that way.
Ten minutes later I was again revealed to be a big huge hypocrite. Whatever. That happens all the time. Michigan making the tournament does not. Here's to future boredom with these things, and current joy.
Sandy, tired, camel-riding, joyous bullets:
- HT UMHoops for the celebration video.
- Crisler's reaction is on the front page of the Washington Post.
- A few things jumped out at me during the seedings: 1) Ohio State in Dayton against a #1 seed? Congratulations, Louisville, on your reward. 2) Siena got a 9; they were definitely in anyway. Not so much Utah State and their 11.
- Season ticket holders can get tickets online.
- At least a couple writers have Michigan as one of their tourney sleepers. Gary Parrish names Michigan one of two double-digit seeds with the best chance to make the Sweet 16. (USC is the other, and is also a ten seed. As far as double-digit seed upset predictions go that's as chalk as you can get.)
- The official site recaps Beilein's day: he goes to St. Thomas! Coffee from Caribou! He "meets family" at Bar Louie and probably enjoys a well-deserved, slightly overpriced drink!