Assorted Tidbits Copout Post: Iowa Basketball, MSU Hockey Comment Count

Brian January 31st, 2011 at 5:16 PM

image I don't have anything sweeping to say about last weekend's basketball and hockey games that's not a replica of what I said over the past couple weeks. Depending on whether the hockey team is flinging in seemingly unplanned goals or not the team is either okay or difficult to watch, but they are winning just about as much as anyone else in the country so that's an improvement from last year. The basketball team is desperately young and looks it unless it's flinging in half its three pointers, which it has the last couple games.

But I did go to the Joe and Crisler over the weekend, so some assorted items.


Make it rain. I thought "7 of 17 is pretty good" at halftime, and then Michigan went 7 of 9 in the second half, finishing a second straight game with a 3PT% of essentially 50%. This is obviously unsustainable. The top shooting team in the country is Northern Arizona. They're making 45% from behind the arc… and are 312th in 3PA/FGA. Michigan's sixth in that category. The rims will go clang again when opponents are getting out on Michigan's shooters.

But they count just as much as all those jacked up threes they clattered off rims earlier in the year. Michigan's three point shooting has been steadily improving and now they can claim to be above average for what I believe is probably the first time in the Beilein era. They're up to 34.8%, good for #147. Smotrycz, Vogrich, Novak, and Douglass are all at or above 37%. The only sources of three-point shots that aren't net benefits are Morris, who's at 29% on slightly more than two per game, and Hardaway, who's at 31% with nearly six attempts per.

BTW, Michigan State is enduring an agonizingly similar stretch on defense—opponents are shooting essentially 50% on their last 71(!) attempts from three.

Hardaway volume redux. I don't think I had a problem with more than a couple of Hardaway's many, many shots against the Hawkeyes since he was either launching wide-open threes or dealing with a short shot clock. It's tough to complain when he was 5-10 from behind the arc.

After Beilein said he "almost" has a green light to shoot, which seems like a diplomatic way to say "has a little Stu Douglass disease going on" since apparently everyone else on the team has said light. Hardaway's got the worst two point pecentage on the team* to go with his below-average three pointers.

This isn't a knock on Hardaway's potential—if he can just get himself a little more under control and trust in the guys around him, those numbers should increase drastically. The individual stat that will bear the closest attention as Michigan goes into an important 2011-12 season is Hardaway's offensive efficiency rating. I'm betting it takes a big step forward and Michigan suddenly becomes a tough offense to deal with.

*[Colton Christian's 2-for-11 season excluded.]

imageNot Hassan Wasabi. I vaguely remember John Gasaway praising some Iowa freshman that Fran McCaffery took with him when he left Siena for Iowa, but didn't remember the name. So I spent a big chunk of the first half alternately angry at Michigan's defense and wondrous that a man named "Hassan Wasabi" was playing for Iowa instead of getting kicked in the face by Bruce Lee. (Or Vogrich @ right).

It eventually dawned on me that the guy's name was "Melsahn Basabe," which is still pretty awesome but doesn't quite live up to my misconceptions.

Also awesome: Basabe himself. If Iowa hadn't hired McCaffery he'd be destroying the MAAC, as Gasaway said. Hell, he's already doing that to the Big Ten: he's shooting 57%, around 100th nationally in OReb%, DReb%, and Blk%. He's a black hole with no assists and plenty of turnovers but dang, man. How was this guy ticketed for Siena?

Defense slowly evaporating. Of course, Michigan's defense had something to do with that. Whenever someone shoots 9 of 11 you've been pwned. Halfway through the conference schedule Michigan has flipped their scouting report from the nonconference—the defense is the relative weak point.

I couldn't tell you why other than to go "youth," but remember earlier in the year when I suggested Michigan would actually be a relatively big team this year? That's not happening because McLimans has played himself out of the rotation, Smotrycz has been erratic, and the two centers have been foul-prone. This results in quite a bit more of Zack Novak at the 4 than anyone wanted or predicted. The kicker: a good chunk of the time that lineup features Smotrycz as a hilariously undersized center. Result: effective height in the bottom third of the nation despite having an average height that's 42nd.

It's going to be up to the freshmen over 6'7" to make this better next year since both recruits are guards. The main problem to my eyes is that Smotrycz doesn't really have a backup. It's either Novak or Christian, neither of whom is a great option.



no blue line for you, except that means all blue line for everyone
Salam Rida/Daily

Guuuughghghr. Michigan's played some entertaining low-scoring games—Friday against Alaska was one—but they've also played some clunkers, like that OT loss against Ohio State. That was a grunting nothing of a game played mostly between the blue lines that turned on some terrible goaltending. The game against the Joe was the latter. Scoring chances were few and far between anda lot of them were due to error more than someone actually doing something right.

Now I'm full-on worried. Michigan got outshot for the third straight game, this one against the tenth-place team in the CCHA. They've scored two goals in the last three games that weren't shots from the point, and while Caporusso's goal against MSU was a nice effort play by Scooter it was a play where a puck bounced fortuitously, not something Michigan had intent behind. You're going to get your share of those goals over the course of a season but it seems like teams that are Frozen Four good have more goals where plans were successfully executed. Michigan's had very few of those.

Lynch penalty shot. I had no real expectation he'd score, but the way that went down is a depressing summary of where the team is right now. Time was Michigan's second round picks were offensive machines; Michigan's are just guys. Lynch, Rust, Brown, Caporusso—all of them are second or third round draft picks that don't seem to do much in the offensive zone. All are getting outscored by Scooter. That's the big issue with the team—the guys who are supposed to carry the water offensively aren't. They've gotten away with it much of the year thanks to the defensive corps and Rust and Hagelin being an NHL checking line already.

Pairwise. One bad loss and Michigan slides down to ninth. As I said, when I first started looking at the thing a couple weeks ago Michigan was close to their apex with a lot of teams nipping at their heels. They cannot afford to struggle down the stretch.

Hello, Hunwick. Never say Shawn Hunwick can't take advantage of someone else's groin injury. His save percentage was hovering around .900 when Hogan went out. A couple months later he's at .923. Hogan's save percentage this year? .923. Hogan was dressed as the third goalie on Saturday and is close to returning but at this point it's hard to go with him over Hunwick—he's only played nine games in about the past year.



January 31st, 2011 at 7:37 PM ^

I could not stop smiling to myself and trying to stifle a chuckle since I found the notion so damn ridiculous. Of course, being in a crowded airport, not everyone looking at you can understand why a person standing by himself smiling, trying to turn a laugh into a cough. I am sure TSA will be following me onto my next flight.


January 31st, 2011 at 6:28 PM ^

a horrible, sloppy, relatively boring game.  Just far too many missed opportunities that were actually good and everything we got was due to a lucky bounce (story of our season, if we had this kind of luck in 2008-2009, or 2007-2008, or... or... or... I can't even imagine how good we might have been.  Imagaine, good luck and actually creating scoring chances!).

EDIT:  This ended up far longer than I intended... sorry

Rust, Brown, Lynch and Cappy have GOT to start scoring.  I think that the offensvie production from our defense is perfectly sustainable.  Probably not to the level it was in the Alaska series, but it's been pretty good all year and I'd expect that to continue.  Several of the best opportunities we had last night were tips or point shots that just missed.  But the forwards (sans Hagelin and to some extent (assisting) Rust) have to start creating something, anything, down low on their own.  The reason we didn't ourshoot Alaska and barely outshot MSU is becasue our forwards aren't shooting, aren't getting into scoring areas and all too often aren't around the net enough to get a shot off, instead they send a prayer of a centering pass directly to an opposing player. .  And when they do get a chance, through luck, skill or whatever, they're too surprised that they have a scoring opportunity to bury it.  That's why Scooter's extremely loveable 4th line self is outscoring just about everybody, because he works hard and can generally clean up after somebody else throws the puck somewhere.  There is plenty of puck whizzing around the net, but precious little of it going to, much less into, the net.  Brown is setting up around the net, but even when he has the puck directly on his stick and an out of position goalie, he can't get it home to save his life.  It's extremely frustrating.  The playmaking (passing wise) is there most nights, but nobody except Carl is finishing with anythinng resembling consistency. 

Hunwick has been our saving grace most of the last few games.  His rebounds are what they are, but he does do a really good job of stopping the initial shot, no matter how good of an opportunity it is, it seems (ignoring the first State game and Alaska's shorthanded goal), which gives our normally (ocassionally?) capable defense a chance to get to it.  You can't really ask for much more than he's giving from him. 

I thought that Bennett looked really good Saturday night, for most of his shits.  A turnover or two, but none were particularly dangerous, created some offense and didn't give up much defense to do so.  Merrill looked good not great to me, a couple times someone passed the puck back to him in the defensive zone and he took so long to move it, that a State forechecker closed in on him and Michigan was stuck in their zone again.  I don't remember if any of those led to a goal and maybe he didn't have any decent passes, but he needed to do something with that puck on those ocassions.  I thought Moffatt looked really good again in this game.  He made a couple plays that make me think he's going to be really good when he gets some more ice time in future years.  Isn't it sad that far too often our best players are our (former?) walk-on goalie,  various freshmen and Carl?  Somebody else needs to step up if this team is going to win consistently, but that's been said most of the year and it hasn't happened yet.  We'll see.

Also Lynch... I was really high on him coming into the season and for the first month or two he lived up to what I expected from him.  Then he stopped scoring, or even getting many chances and the last 2 games I've thought that his defense hasn't been very good either (except for one defensive play against Alaska Saturday that was really nice).  Since Red's logic for taking the penalty shot instead of the penalty (from his postgame quotes on MGoBlue) was to try to get Lynch going, I'd like to see Lynch and Brown switch lines this weekend.  Lynch has had success against Miami with Carl and Rust, Brown's still not really producing on the top line and he might have done more on the third line with Treais and Moffatt.  Brown's a decent defensive player (though I think that when he's on his game, Lynch is better defensively) and given the way Lynch has been playing all around, he'll be an upgrade on that wing on both sides of the ice, whereas the defensive capabilites of Carl and Rust should make up for Lynch's defincies though with this being Miami, if Camper and Miele are on the same line, maybe this is not such a good idea.  But, maybe just the change will jumpstart Lynch's defense, if not his offensive, in which case the top line should be more effective against Miami's and normal-Brown on the third line is better than what-did-you-do-with-the-real-Lynch, so both lines are better.  Obviously Red knows his team far better than I do, but that's the thought I had.


January 31st, 2011 at 6:35 PM ^

For hoops, I think I'll play the youth card when formulating my opinions for the rest of the year. After all, McLimans is young, and his youth is part of why the team has to go smaller.  There is a lot of young height on the team.  Big guys are like little guys, but more extreme.  Some succeed and some don't, but the relative successes and failures of the bigs seem to be, well....bigger.

There are four players 6-8 or larger who count as freshmen this year.  If two develop into Big Ten-caliber starters by their junior year, it will be about average.  If, as I think, they get three starters and one capable bench player by their junior years, it will be above average.  

I said at the beginning of the season that I expected a lot of ups and downs, and both inexplicable wins and inexplicable losses.  I haven't really seen anything to change my original assessment.  I'm having fun watching the team grow, and when surprises like the MSU game happen, it's even better.

The Squid

February 1st, 2011 at 12:00 AM ^

McLimans isn't young, though. He did a 5th year of prep school and then redshirted, so he's actually older than Novak. Douglass is the only contributor who's older than him. He does *seem* really young, though. And inexperienced. Whatever the case, though, he's having a really hard time finding any playing time, which doesn't bode well for a 6'10" guy on this team.


February 1st, 2011 at 4:12 AM ^

Yea McLimans shows little potential. I wouldn't count on him ever being a significant contributer. If he can play 10 mins/game in the post without being manhandled when Morgan and Horford get in foul trouble/need a breather I'll be satisfied. That's his ceiling. 


(Now he'll shockingly prove me wrong.)

Clarence Beeks

January 31st, 2011 at 8:46 PM ^

"Time was Michigan's second round picks were offensive machines; Michigan's are just guys. Lynch, Rust, Brown, Caporusso—all of them are second or third round draft picks that don't seem to do much in the offensive zone.  All are getting outscored by Scooter. That's the big issue with the team—the guys who are supposed to carry the water offensively aren't. "

I don't think this assessment (and the one in the post above this one) is particularly fair with respect to Lynch, Rust and Brown.  Just because they were second, second and fourth round draft picks, respectively, doesn't have any bearing, really, on what their offensive productivity should be at the NCAA level.  The long term projections on all three of them are laden with the words upside and potential when describing their offensive game.  In other words, they were drafted because of the non-offensive skills that they already bring to the table and the offensive abilities that they might develop are a bonus.  I don't think, in terms of long term development, that there is anything wrong with the game that any of the three of them are playing right now.  I think the problem is almost completely with fan expectation (i.e. the expectation that because they were draft picks, in the case of Lynch and Brown, relatively high draft picks, that they should have a boatload of offensive ability).  The fact of the matter is that those three are not guys that we should reasonably expect to carry the scoring load for this team.  Lynch, Rust and Brown are all very likely to be third and fourth line players at the NHL level.  I'm not exactly sure why the expectations have become so out of whack with regard to Lynch and Brown.


February 1st, 2011 at 2:20 AM ^

to do with draft status, it has everything to do with Rust and Brown both had 13 goals last year and have only 4 each so far this year.  I don't think it's unreasonable to expect their older and more experienced selves to at least match those numbers.  They both have been playing better as of late, at least.  Lynch I expected more from because he ended last year and started this year so well, though I actually haven't had a problem with him until the last two weekends, in which I think he's been a downright liability most of the time, recently and has really disappointed me lately.  I was really high on him in the off season and he showed glimpes early, but he really needs to find his game and fast, on the defensive end at the very least. 

Also, out of curiosity, if it's unreasonable to expect our forwards with NHL "offensive upside" to score in college, who is supposed to score? 

Clarence Beeks

February 1st, 2011 at 12:56 PM ^

"Rust and Brown both had 13 goals last year and have only 4 each so far this year.  I don't think it's unreasonable to expect their older and more experienced selves to at least match those numbers."

Well, I think that's pretty easy to explain, actually.  First, Rust isn't remotely expected to be a goal scorer at the next level, so I think it's pretty safe to assume at this point that his higher production last year was an outlier.  As for Brown, it is very common (for some reason) for players to have significantly diminished production from freshman year to sophomore year.  There are a lot of factors that go into it, and the reasons seem highly individualized, but it happens more often than not.  To me, it's hard to be discouraged by two situations which were quite foreseeable.

"Also, out of curiosity, if it's unreasonable to expect our forwards with NHL "offensive upside" to score in college, who is supposed to score?"

I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not, so I'll bite.  There really isn't much, if any, correlation between scoring at the college level and scoring (both actual and anticipated) at the professional level.  The players that are projected to be solid goal scorers at the NHL level just aren't going to college, or it's very rare if they do.  That's something that really shouldn't come as a surprise.  Typically, excellent goal scorers who go the college route do so because they have some significant flaw in their game that needs the discipline and attention that the college game affords them, plus it gives the team that owns their rights more time to monitor the progress.  Either that, or they are excellent goal scorers who have little to no shot at playing professional hockey.  This is probably the more direct answer to your question.  Just look the list of top scorers at the NCAA level in any given year.  They aren't major (or even minor, usually) professional prospects.  Most often, they are significantly undersized.  For example, if you look at the goal scoring leaders this year, half of the top ten (and well over half of the top twenty) are undrafted players.  That's really normal.  Again, to answer your question, because the players with "offensive upside" are there to develop that offensive upside (i.e. going back to my prior point, they are in the NCAA to address a major flaw in their game).  On that basis, while I do believe that you were being sarcastic/snarky with your comment, it really is unreasonable to expect those players to carry the scoring load, for the reason that I just stated.

To me, the far more effective approach, in terms of who the top notch programs rely on for goal scoring is to seek out the undersized, extremely talented players who are highly unlikely to leave before their eligibility is up and surround those players with the professional prospects who have work to do on their game.  That's what Miami typically does, that's what Boston College typically does, that's what Boston University typically does, etc. and so on.  Again, typically the players that carry the goal scoring load for the top teams are not highly regarded prospects.  Sure, other teams do rely on highly regarded prospects to carry the scoring load, but that game gets dicey because the players with those abilities who go the college route are much fewer and those players are also much more apt to leave early.


February 1st, 2011 at 2:00 PM ^

in his first three seasons here, scored 12, 11 and 13 goals, respectively.  13 goals is not so much an outlier. The 7 or so he's on pace for this season would be a much bigger outlier.  Also, of the upperclassman on this team, the only one I would classify as having a sophomore slump is Burlon.  Wohlberg's numbers decreased, but he had his back problems.  Everybody else increased in production from freshman to sophomore year, except for Winnett who stayed about the same and Rust who stayed the same, but significantly decreased his PIM and increased his +/-.  Maybe it's a 2nd round thing, but I really don't expect players to get worse their sophomore years.  And even if it's forseeable, reducing expectations probably isn't the answer to fixing it.

As to the second question, you're totally right.  It was like 2 a.m. and I wasn't thinking very much.  But I still don't see why my expectations are too high.  It's not like I'm expecting them to be a Cammy, or even a (sophomore or junior, hopefully soon to be or senior) Cappy, but something would be nice.

Clarence Beeks

February 1st, 2011 at 2:31 PM ^

I understant what you're saying.  You're definitely right about Rust.  I was thinking more about career projections than what he's done at Michigan (which was an illogical way to think about it on my part, given the topic of conversation).  Sorry about that!  I also should have been more clear about the "sophomore slump" thing: I was thinking specifically of higher drafted players.  It's not something that I have any data on, it's just a personal observation, but it really seems like, for some reason, players that are drafted higher typically have good freshman seasons, a down sophomore season, and then explode in years three and four (if they stay that long).  For the record, I really don't think that those players "get worse" as sophomores, but rather it's something different: their offensive production goes down because they are being asked to assume more responsibility with the rest of their game, which ends up taking the focus off of the offensive game.  That might very well be the case with Burlon, which, if it is, is something to watch out for with Merrill.


January 31st, 2011 at 6:57 PM ^

Basabe seems to genuinely be very good.  He had like 20 and 10 against Sullinger and OSU.  I have no idea how he fell under the radar.  He looks like a future NBA player.

The Squid

February 1st, 2011 at 12:04 AM ^

Basabe surprised the heck out of me. But what was even more surprising was his absence for a long stretch of the 2nd half. I kept looking up at the scoreboard and wondering why #1 wasn't in there because he'd pretty much been unstoppable in the 1st half. I thought maybe he'd had more fouls than I thought, but when he finally did come in, he only had 1. Total headscratcher of a coaching decision, IMO.


February 1st, 2011 at 4:56 AM ^

He is good. We all need to thank Coach McCaffery for taking him out of the game in the first half (!), w/o foul trouble (!!), moments after a timeout (!!!), at a time we had no answer for him (!!!!). Basabe never found the same groove again, eliminating Iowa's only chance to win the game. Baffling indeed. Thank you, Fran. 


January 31st, 2011 at 7:02 PM ^

Brian sure is sucking out the joy of the hockey and basketball seasons. Honestly, would anyone disagree if I said both teams are outperforming expectations at this point, be it ever so slightly? I fear that the Rich Rod era and ensuing coaching search has made Brian so cynical he may never fully return.


January 31st, 2011 at 7:56 PM ^

was supposed to be a national contender this year.  They're not hugely underperforming, but they're underperforming.  The win-loss column is good, but not as good as I thought it could be entering the season and the actual level of play is a decent amount below what I expected out of this team.  We won 5 in a row (before Saturday), but both Alaska wins were driven by some luck and Hunwick standing on his head  and none of the teams we beat (Ferris, Alaska, MSU) are particularly awesome teams.


January 31st, 2011 at 9:38 PM ^


I agree with the article in the Michigan Daily today that this loss was necessary to wake our team up. Caporusso said that his team was playing overconfident...I agree with him. I didn't see as much "want" as I would have hoped.

Also, anyone else wondering what "The Enlightened Spartan" has to say about our big win against his school in basketball? And do you think he realizes that the name of his blog is a perfect example of an oxymoron? My guess is that he will just pretend the basketball game did not happen...and then talk about how his hockey team F*CKED MICHIGAN UP...and then start cursing about how biased the media coverage a true professional. I really wish he would make a post that I can once again see how not to write intelligent analysis of sports.

Kilgore Trout

January 31st, 2011 at 10:12 PM ^

 As hard as it is to believe, I think we need to all just realize that Novak is the best 4 on this team.  He's 6'3" and there are other guys that seem more obvious, but when it comes down to it, he makes the most plays at the position.  I was actually sitting there watching the MSU game saying, "they need to put Novak on Green."  They did, and he essentially shut him down.  We should just stop thinking and worrying about it and accept it.  

It doesn't matter who starts, when the game is on the line, you can guarantee the lineup is going to be Morris, Douglass, Hardaway, Novak, and random big guy.  


February 1st, 2011 at 4:43 AM ^

Hardaway angers me because he has the ability to penetrate but usually settles for contested jumpers.  If he'd pick up the aggression we wouldn't have to rely on Darius to create a play every single possession. Not until Tim recognizes his strengths (driving, creating space) and weaknesses (taking bad shots, not rotating on defense) will he begin to reach his potential. 

I don't get as mad at a guy like Douglass for taking but missing a lot of jumpers because he's basically just a shooter. So if he's not going to bother shooting then he's essentially just a person who passes the ball around the perimeter. But watching Hardaway, who has a more complete offensive package, take and miss a lot of jumpers just seems lazy. 

Sparkle Motion

February 1st, 2011 at 12:03 PM ^

The way the team has played the last two games, I am excited for the stretch run.  Going 6-3 would mean a .500 record in the conference and 19 wins before the B10 tournament starts (I can't believe i just typed that). While it may not be likely or something I would bet my house on, it is certainly not out of the realm of possibilities... 

If you assume a loss at OSU (sorry), the rest of the schedule looks like this (with current RPIs - Michigan RPI is 74)

 at PSU (45), NW (87), IND (150), at ILL (40), at Iowa (158), WISC (27), at Minn (20), MSU (36)

the PSU game is huge.  to go 6-2 in these 8 dropping that game is not an option.  Beat PSU, take care of business against NW, IND, and Iowa.  then just need to split with ILL, WISC, Minn, and MSU which probably means winning the home games.  Not easy but certainly doable given the way this team CAN play.