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Monday, March 10, 2008

Hockey. Michigan had a bye week as the bottom eight teams in the CCHA opened the playoffs. The top seeds all held so Michigan gets #8 Nebraska-Omaha, which is a significantly tougher draw than any of the potential matchups against teams 9-12. Despite finishing eighth, UNO was just a couple games below .500 in-conference and played Michigan tough in their series earlier in the year. Yost Built has details.

In PWR news, North Dakota finally cooled off with a pair of draws against St. Cloud and dropped behind Michigan, but Colorado College swept Denver and moved into first. Michigan remains second; third-place New Hampshire split with Vermont.

In practical terms Michigan is about a half-game behind CC and a half-game ahead of UND. I think UNH's loss means Michigan will hold the comparison against the Wildcats as long as they reach the Joe.

Operation "Let's Not Play Wisconsin" took the week off, as the Badgers had a bye. St. Cloud's split against UND did push them past UW, so the Badgers will have to travel to St. Cloud in the first round of the WCHA playoffs.

Kolarik is skating around but still in pain; I highly doubt we see him this weekend.

Bracket. FWIW, the rejiggered brackets straight 1-16:

1 CC
16 AH Autobid
8 St. Cloud
9 BC

2 Michigan
15 CHA Autobid
7 Clarkson
10 Michigan State

14 BU
6 Denver
11 Minnesota State

4 North Dakota
13 Wisconsin
5 Miami
12 Minnesota

BU is now the last team in the tournament; we still have 7 WCHA participants. Any time there are more than four teams per conference the NCAA will accept a first-round intraconference matchups, so we don't have to break the DU-Minnesota State or UND-UW games, but UNH and BU have to be split. If we flop UW and BU we break two intra-conference matchups and get an attractive bracket for Madison, but attendance nightmares in the East: Clarkson and BU are the only Eastern teams.

Does screwing Michigan help? (Remember, the committee loves screwing Michigan.) Maybe.

Option #2: If BU gets flopped with the CHA autobid, UNH can go to Worchester and Albany will have Clarkson and BU to go with the two Michigans. This scenario has an extra intra-WCHA first round game, though.

Option #3: flip Wisconsin into the M bracket, then flip BU into the UND bracket. This puts M in Madison against UW and allows UNH to stay home but creates an Albany bracket with 2 WCHA teams, Miami, and someone like Army.

Given last year's slavish adherence to their rickety system over attendance and logic, I think they'll go with the first option but swap the AH team into it for what marginal attendance and travel benefits it provides, leaving Michigan in this bracket:

1. Michigan
4. Army (-ish)

2. Clarkson
3. Michigan State

I dislike the idea of Michigan State our bracket since they clearly know how to frustrate Michigan into a bad game; other than that, fairly appealing.

As always, this exercise was wholly useless.

Basketball. I did end up using those tickets that loomed in my drawer and was rewarded with a couple of wins and generally competitive basketball (fortunately, I was hundreds of miles away from Crisler during the Northwestern debacle), but the last ten minutes yesterday left a sour note. I can't summon the energy to construct a coherent column-thingy, but that's what bullets are for:

  • Manny Harris had seven turnovers and no assists; nominal point guard Kelvin Grady had five and five. Twelve turnovers and five assist from the starting backcourt with nine points between them, all from Harris. Bleah, bleah, bleah. Did either of these guys improve as the season progressed?

    To me, the key sequence in the game -- one that was emblematic of the entire season -- came midway through the second half. The score was tied and Purdue was inbounding from behind the Michigan basket. Harris and Grady got confused, leaving a soon-to-be red hot Purdue guard with a wide open three, which he nailed. Grady then took the ball out of bounds, panicked when he saw Harris being overplayed, and threw it directly to a Purdue defender instead of taking one of the 46 timeouts allotted. Result: layup, five point deficit that would quickly balloon to ten, lost game. It was strikingly reminiscent of the Boston College game earlier in the year, wherein Michigan hung around for approximately 30 minutes, then imploded in an Amakerian spurt of turnovers and stupidity.
  • In that vein, how many times does Harris have to hold the ball directly in front of him, have it slapped away by the defender, and turn it over before he learns to take care of the thing? Turning the ball over when you're not even dribbling is a hell of a trick.
  • Udoh, on the other hand, was all-around excellent, hitting shots inside and out, blocking and altering things defensively, and generally looking like a guy to build around. Also: six assists and one turnover.
  • Ron Coleman... uh... existed.
  • Without the mountain of largely unforced turnovers and the pounding Michigan received on the offensive boards, the defensive performance would have been excellent. Purdue shot 25% in the first half and deserved to; by the time they warmed up from three the game should have been out of hand already.
  • At what point does Michigan's inability to do really simple basketball things become Beilein's fault? Probably game one next year. Actually... probably sometime midway through this season, but definitely by game one next year. It's reasonable to have your faith shaken a bit.
  • Michigan picked up a commit from another Indiana white guy, Zack Novak. UMHoops dug up something of a scouting report:
    He moves very well without the ball and also can create his own shot. But the thing that stood out the most was his passing ability, he is a very unselfish player for the high school level. I saw all those kids last year play that went to Purdue in this area and I would put him right up there with them.
    Beilein still has two scholarships left for either '08 or '09; the general thought was he would take one more '08 kid and try to balance the classes somewhat but the Novak offer and commit when a couple higher-profile guys like Kyle Cassity are still out there implies that Beilein thinks he needs help now and will be taking a fourth '08 kid.
A dispiriting year for the basketball program. No one expected miracles but beating Harvard and Central and Northwestern shouldn't fall in the category of "miracle". From time to time the team showed a semblance of offensive organization not present under Amaker. Turnovers did fall dramatically. But a number of things did not change: Michigan was awful defending the three-pointer and on the boards, and for all the complaints about the Amaker offense consisting of 30 seconds of aimless dribbling and an off-balance three pointer, at no time did Michigan decide to launch so many ill-advised bombs as they did this year. After a 7 of 26 brickfest against Purdue, Michigan is now the 45th most three-happy team in the nation... and 310th in making 'em.

But, hey... free white guys!

Pryor... hasn't decided on a school, but has gotten in another fight after a basketball game. These red flags are reproducing like chlorine-fixing bacteria in an anaerobic environment.