2013-14 hockey season
jonvalk's Wallpaperpalooza (1/4)
Things in the Past. There were some great diaries that would have been required reading if this was yesterday. Paps previewed Wofford (this you saw on the front page), Erik_in_Dayton tackled the history of 15 seeds upsetting two seeds; it's happened seven times since 1991. That may be more fun to visit now that the danger is passed, if only to relive 2012 Duke.
The game was played only 55 miles from Duke’s campus, but it was also the site of the first round game for UNC. Tar Heel fans gladly joined in rooting for the Mountain Hawks.
Oh man, Duke. That was two years ago. Is it still acceptable to laugh about it?
It is considered acceptable to still laugh about this game.
Speaking of way-back, remember the Big Ten Tournament? LSA has stats on that.
Meanwhile MGoBlueline put a ton of effort into reintroducing the hockey team for the Big Ten Tourney and then who-knows in the plinko playoff system. But those guys lost to Penn State in double-OT (finishing 2-3 on the year against the hockey equivalent of our lacrosse team) and will need to be lucky to earn a tourney bid. There were plenty of things to go wrong, including really bad turnovers and the now-requisite game-winner that almost went in but didn't.
The hockey guys (Brian, Center Ice and Blueline) will cover the most unsurprising upset ever in more detail, but there was one thing that infuriated me all game, and that was Penn State's defensemen were pinching despite being rather bad backwards skaters, and only a few times did Michigan challenge this by speeding through the neutral zone. When they did move up-ice with any kind of urgency in the 3rd period, DeBlois and Nieves split defenders and got off great scoring opportunities.
Since we're now left watching tourneys and hoping the unworthy don't steal autobids, here's a handy graphic of the tournaments.
Things in the Future or Never. Interesting, quickly consumed diary by saveferris looks at the history of 1-4 seeds in the NCAA tournament. Survey says:
I just stole his lede here, so I'll tell you that there's a Burke gif at the top if you take the link. My guess is the closer seeds are to each other the more this will look like 50-50, i.e. the reason two-seeds won just 4 of 12 Finals games since 1985 is only 12 two-seeds have made the Finals.
|The other Sierra (soph. OF Sierra Lawrence) has a .462 OBP going into Big Ten play.|
And Softball. I could probably say this about the softball team most years, but I really really mean it this year: pay attention because they're on a new level of awesome fun awesome. They've carried a 19-6 record so far through an epic brutal schedule. South Bend Wolverine provided the update as the team is (finally) going into Big Ten play.
Thing to Know 1: Pitching is huge in softball; one great one will put a team in the Top 25. Michigan has three(!) such towers. I'll stop comparing junior Haylie Wagner to Verlander because her 0.93 ERA/13-0 record is more like Walter Johnson. Freshman sensation Megan Betsa has 63 strikeouts in 49 innings. Something's been off with junior Sara Driesenga, who was All-Big Ten both previous seasons, and picked up the slack last year when Wagner was out. If Sara returns to form the pitching is just going to be unfair.
Thing to Know 2: Star shortstop Sierra Romero's looks like Miguel Cabrera at the bat and in the field; in the comments Hail to the Blue points out her glove is fine but her arm's been erratic.
[Jump for Best of the Board]
My fellow Americans, the state of the union is lol. Abroad we have seen the greatest extension of three-point hegemony in our history. We have looked unto the face of Bo Ryan and lol'ed. Our troops deployed to the darkest reaches of Breslin, where the favored Izzo complained about every which thing, and we lol'ed. At home we have faced adversity and Hawkeyes, and won a great battle, and afterwards we lol'ed.
So I ask you, fellow Americans: how do we ensure the security of these lol's that we cherish?
- How long will Michigan remain atop the Big Ten standings?
- How long will the Big Ten remain the nation's best basketball conference?
- How long will the basketball team remain superior to the football and hockey teams?
Mathlete: With Michigan State's win at Iowa, this year has all the makings of a two horse race with Michigan State. In Big Ten play, anything is possible, but at least a share of the title is highly likely at this point. With McGary, Robinson and maybe Stauskas leaving early, next year could be a tough hill to climb, but Beilein has done more with less. Even though Michigan has been recruiting at a higher level, they've missed on several of their top targets and that will likely keep them from being a perennial elite, first tier team. But based on the track record of Beilein, this team isn't going to be far from the top of the conference any time soon.
|What's wrong, kitty cat? [Fuller]|
Last year's conference lineup was incredible, this year's may still be the best, but the teams do seem to be down a bit from last year. Last season the Big Ten had 7 of the KenPom top 26 and 8 of the top 40. This year the eighth best team is Nebraska at #74. Indiana is in the process of rebuilding, Illinois is wandering in the desert, Purdue has turned into a football sch-can't even finish typing that joke. The top of the Big Ten is outstanding but there is a little more breathing room in the mid and lower tiers than last season.
The ACC has 5 of KenPom's top 22 right now and next year they swap out Louisville for Maryland. Once North Carolina finds their way again, they might be good enough to keep Dicky V at home and out of Michigan. Even if the Atlantic Coast steps up their game, no sport is more dependent on coaching and the B1G's best aren't going anywhere. Izzo, Matta, Beilein, Ryan and Crean are all firmly established winners with no indication of jumping ship. Over the next five years, I would be shocked if any other conferences were close to as good as the Big Ten and ACC.
Now this is the tricky question. Football has the capacity to narrow the gap, possibly as soon as this year. The roster is finally in place, all signs point to a good defense getting better in 2014 and the offense has been written about enough at this point. I'm not going to go picking a Rose Bowl or anything, but this season is the first that's 100% on Hoke. The pieces will be there and the excuses will be gone. If the football team can't get to 9 wins this season, that's probably another 3-5 years of basketball superiority as Michigan would be facing another football coaching spiral. I'm not even qualified to write about random number generating playoff hockey, but my guess is that its going to be easier for Michigan to sustain the basketball success under Beilein than re-establish the elite level at hockey. So I guess the 2014 football season will write the story on whether or not we've become a #basketballschool.
[Jump: more answers, and then Ace and I argue for like 6,000 words]
10/10/2013 – Michigan 3, Boston College 1 – 1-0
I once watched a YouTube video of Luke Moffatt scoring five goals in one game. He'd just committed to Michigan and was still playing AAA with Little Caesars or Honeybaked or whatever, and I was told that he was the best 15-year-old playing hockey in the world. I believed it, and Luke Moffatt believed it.
Every waking moment since has been something of a disappointment after that high, for both of us. For me, at least, that's a compartment. For Moffatt it's been his life. Moffatt's prospect status slid until he was a seventh—and last—round draft pick. At Michigan he trundled through seasons that were matched and surpassed by guys who never thought they were the best player on their team, let alone in the country: 5-8-13 as a freshman, 6-10-16 as a sophomore. Last year he was an idling third-liner who finished –8 as the team he probably thought he'd be leading to a national title and incidental Hobey Baker missed the tournament for the first time since evolution was a thing.
My buddy who grew up playing hockey and still knows way more about it than I do heaped derision on him: no check, no effort, no defense, no care. I thought that was a little unfair. But only a little. Luke Moffatt kind of symbolized everything that was wrong with last year's team.
Boston College is fast. Michigan was fast; Boston College is still. Michigan has little bursts of fast. Boston College lives on it, and whenever you see them live it jumps off the ice. Boston College is fast. Get your back turned at the wrong time and throw the puck the wrong way in your defensive zone and you are in for a harrowing minute and a half as they swarm you, talons out.
Michigan endured a few shifts like that, and when that happens the mind turns to old games in the tournament against these guys where Michigan was just able to keep up for a while before collapsing, exhausted, as soon as BC tied it. You know that one game I'm thinking about. The one with nine minutes without stoppages.
When I felt that coming on, Michigan lifted a stick. Boston College, which is fast, would be coming out of the defensive zone and then a Michigan guy would have the puck and not quite know what to do with himself. After the puck hit the corner, Michigan would pen Boston College in their zone for a change. I kind of expected this. I've been talking up Andrew Copp and JT Compher for six solid months now.
I did not expect my confirmation-bias riddled self to fist pump because Luke Moffatt was shouldering his way through to keep possession, finishing checks, and playing like the best goddamn 15-year-old on the planet, seven years later. Forget the two power-play snipes. Forget everything about them except Moffatt's comically exaggerated goal celebrations after. Those were Jean Claude Van Damme-level overacted. They were wrestling heel moves. Forget the snipes. Remember the reactions, and apply it to Luke Moffatt plundering through the offensive zone to acquire or re-acquire possession.
Why is Luke Moffatt on the second line next to the all-effort freshmen? Go to hell, that's why. Luke Moffatt is tired of being a guy who was a prospect. Luke Moffatt is tired of my buddy popping on message boards to trash his effort level. Luke Moffatt is tired of being a third liner. Luke Moffatt is done with that crap. Go to hell, says Luke Moffatt. He says it directly to me and my hissy fit last year. And I say yes, sir.
Luke Moffatt's going to get a major and game misconduct he deserves. And I'll say yes, sir.
After Moffatt buried the 3-1 goal, Michigan had a relatively easy time of seeing Boston College off the ice in the third period. They were desperate; they managed five shots. Michigan put the clamps down, as the clock ticked down and an odd feeling of security descended, last year momentarily seemed like a hazy dream. After that moment it was real, and still bleeding in front of you because Michigan had taken its stick and sliced it across the throat.
Afterwards, Michigan gathered at center ice as they always do. I always watch this. It feels different every time. This time, it was rocket-fueled resentment and a chin held high. We are not them, despite largely being them. That is not us. This is us.
They lifted their sticks as they had Boston College's, and announced their presence. This is not last year's team. An ice shavings-covered, slavering Luke Moffatt is plenty of evidence of that.
[After the JUMP: tracing the outlines of what happened at RIT, Coppwaii.]