Jack Becker shoots against Michigan State's Drew DeRidder
The possession numbers and jerseys are throwbacks to the heyday of Red's tenure, but the goal-scoring isn't there yet [James Coller]

Welcome to the first in a three-part series intended to take a closer look at the six most important topics of the hockey season thus far. In case your attention and time were siphoned by football and basketball, this year’s hockey team is in a similar place to last year’s at the same point. That squad limped into the GLI at 7-7-2, then lost in the first round of that tournament to Bowling Green. I remember thinking after that game that the season was more or less over, so of course they went on a Frozen Four run.

This year’s team has a fairly similar record (6-7-4) and has taken a step forward in its execution of Mel Pearson’s possession-oriented system. Though they’ve been adept at hanging onto the puck and generating attempts they haven’t been able to turn those attempts into high-quality scoring chances, and the roster composition is such that the list of candidates for a second-half breakout isn’t as long as it was last season. This team seems to be a more fully formed one, for better and worse. They are one of the nation’s best teams at generating shots at even strength and on the power play, and the first unit power play has to be one of the best puck moving squads in the nation. Michigan’s desperately needed them to be that, too, as they can’t find a way to score five-on-five despite a bevy of shot attempts. Just how good is Michigan’s power play, and what’s going on at even strength? We’ll use some of the shot-tracking data David’s been diligently inputting after the break.

[After THE JUMP: Quantifying the difference one guy makes]

Things discussed

  • Florida's same things are exactly the opposite: mitigated the pass pro problem, up and down season
  • McElwain leaves and Michigan's receiver recruiting ticks up
  • Who's playing? Gary's out. Bush might not but he's the heart of the defense. The corners don't have enough tape. Other guys weighing their options: Metellus, Hudson.
  • Stueber was alright vs OSU, the TEs were not
  • More Florida: they will blitz and get after you up front
  • Caller: Does Saban just enjoy tormenting Harbaugh? Addressing crootin cynicism
    -Malik McDowell's mom was right about Michigan State
    -Craig's theory: Tyrell Pryor strung Michigan along to make it harder for Rodriguez to sign a 2008 QB
    -Aubrey Solomon: Committed to Michigan the day after the "FU" video
    -Daxton Hill committed at the trough of the season. When the dust settles, Sam will lay out the timeline but he isn't going to make things more difficult for Michigan in an ongoing recruitment
  • Don Brown: $2 million. Pay the players. Big XII has interest in him of course. We're paying Pep Hamilton $1.45 million (highest-paid OC?)
  • Sam goes through Michigan's real time playcalling, which is weird and leads to fighting the clock
  • Developing the short game, and the Evans game
  • Promise next time will be basketball

You can catch the entire episode on Michigan Insider's podcast stream on Podbean.

Segment two is here. Segment three is here.

THE USUAL LINKS

I wrote it down while writing about the Lions

this blog does not acknowledge WMU's revamped mascot and never will

THE ESSENTIALS

WHAT #4 Michigan (9-0) vs
#222 Western Michigan
WHERE Crisler Arena
Ann Arbor, MI
WHEN 2 PM Saturday
LINE Michigan –24 (Kenpom)
TV BTN

THE US

Michigan has reached their annual near-dormant mid-December. The next three opponents are all buy games that Kenpom favors Michigan in by absurd margins. This is in part because the teams are bad, but they're not as bad as they usually are. Last year's trio of Detroit, Jacksonville, and Alabama A&M were all 319th or worse in Kenpom. A&M was a 3-28 SWAC team.

This year's slate is more respectable, and Michigan might be slightly disappointed that they're getting slightly down versions of WMU, which is usually around .500 in the MAC but seems headed for the bottom of the league this year, and Air Force. Even somewhat weak versions of those two programs are (probably) much better for NET purposes than the confused time-traveling Mongol squads of yesteryear.

Binghamton? Well, can't win 'em all.

Michigan should cruise past all three of these opponents in dominating fashion, but Michigan's seven-man rotation is looking a little vulnerable to foul trouble and injury so there will be moments of import for down the road when Jon Teske, in particular, exits.

THE LINEUP CARD

Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.

Pos. # Name Yr. Ht./Wt. %Min %Poss ORtg SIBMIHHAT
G 12 Michael Flowers So. 6'1 195 76 23 106 No
PG shooting pretty well and getting to line; TOs an issue. Mansome DREB PG.
G 4 Jared Printy Jr. 6'4, 185 68 12 117 No
Just A Shooter.
G 3 Josh Davis Sr. 6'5, 200 79 24 95 No
Senior's uptick in usage is almost all turnovers. Shooting almost the exact same, TO rate nearly doubles to 28, ORTG 95.
F 11 Kawanise Wilkins So. 6'5 235 60 18 119 Maybe
JUCO transfer shot 37% from 3 last year. Struggling from there so far but solid all-around game otherwise. Getting his own shots.
C 50 Seth Dugan Sr. 7'0, 240 79 27 115 Yes
Traditional C has taken big leap forward in his final year. Shooting up, assists up, rebounding up. Very good at rim (75%, half assisted). 14% on other twos. Not a shotblocker.
G 2 Adrian Martin Fr. 6'3 170 41 16 49 Yes
FR shooting 14/15 from floor. Not a typo. On 41 shots!
F 15 Patrick Emilien Fr. 6'6, 190 39 15 80 Yes
Uh this guy is at 27/19. Gets some OREBs at least?
G 20 William Boyer-Richard Fr. 6'1, 185 32 16 77 Meh
Hey this guy's at 40/33! … with a 42 TO rate.
F 24 Adida Ikongshul Jr. 6'6, 265 13 22 76 Yes
Ye gods: shooting 3/24 from two for his career.

[Hit THE JUMP for A STUNNING PREDICTION.]

Former Michigan commit Daxton Hill

didn't expect Rocky V to play a prominent role in deciphering what exactly is going on but here we are

RIP Versailles of Thighs 

of course Liberty hired Hugh Freeze

They aren't playing badly, but they're playing as well as they can.

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