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Monday, March 03, 2008

The cloaking mechanism broke. I blame Romulan saboteurs. It should now be repaired, which means will work again. If this happens in the future, will still work.

Hockey split against Michigan State and Ferris State. Results: one CCHA title, one lost #1 ranking in the Pairwise, and burgeoning concerns about how good the team really is. Other than a lackluster pair of 4-2 wins over Lake State, each of which was a close game that looked more comfortable than it was because of an empty-netter, Michigan hasn't swept an opponent since the mid-January Notre Dame series. There are plenty of mitigating factors -- the Kolarik injury, some questionable play by Bryan Hogan, atrocious refereeing in the Miami series, and plain bad luck in spots -- but a 5-3-4 stretch run is quite a comedown for a team that was 22-2 before that.

Michigan's hold on a top-two spot is now extremely tenuous. Before Saturday's games they had ceded the #1 spot in the PWR to Colorado College; a CC loss to Minnesota State repaired the damage but the comparison remains terribly close. Meanwhile, an OT goal salvaged a 2-1 victory over Minnesota-Duluth for North Dakota, pushing their RPI ahead of Michigan's and giving them the #1 overall spot.

Michigan is now second with CC breathing down their neck. If CC passes Michigan, they'll miss the opportunity to take on a CHA or Atlantic Hockey autobid team. Worse, Wisconsin continues to linger around the edge of the tourney. They're currently the last #4 seed, and if that holds up Michigan's almost definitely going to draw them in the first round at home, for the following reasons:

  • CC has to play at home since they're hosting,
  • in this scenario NoDak is one of the top two seeds and has earned the right to get an autobid team, which they will do out East because Wisconsin is also hosting,
  • UNH would be the other #1 seed and will almost definitely end up in Worcester for attendance purposes,
  • the tournament selection committee always finds a way to screw Michigan since the back-to-back Yost regionals.
This last reason may be mad ravings, but the others are solid. Of course, given the way Michigan's game against Wisconsin went at the Showcase a first-round matchup with UW might not be the worst thing in the world.

Both CC and NoDak have two more regular season games before the WCHA playoffs; you want them to lose against Denver and Saint Cloud, respectively. Splits would be enough to temporarily send Michigan to #1.

As for the rest of the comparisons, Michigan's meh final two weeks hasn't lost them any ground but it hasn't guaranteed them anything, either. They have secured comparisons against State and Denver, but CC and NoDak are now neck and neck with M. UNH and Miami could conceivably pass Michigan if M flops in the playoffs. My ballpark estimate of what will happen:
  • Fail to get to the Joe: Unless another of the top five implodes in similar fashion, M falls into the #5 slot and becomes the top two seed. Since Michigan will be playing at best the #8 team in the league, this is unlikely.
  • Get to the Joe and go 0-2. See above. Winning those two games against a weak, non-TUC CCHA team isn't going to help them much.
  • 1-1 at the Joe. Could be the #5 if the rest of the top five wins out (at least, as much as possible in the UND/CC cases), but probably the #3 or #4 seed; very probably going to be in Madison.
  • Win CCHA Playoff top two seed, autobid foe in the first round.
There's plenty left to play for. One relief: there's no goddamn way we end up in a regional with North Dakota and Minnesota.

Elsewhere: Yost Built on the weekend. The Saturday game at Ferris wasn't televised, so I can't say anything. On Friday I don't think Ferris had more than one or two even strength scoring chances the whole game, but the penalty kill gave up three goals. Hill, the referee, was fine through a period, then started calling all manner of weird stuff including an interference call on Michigan after someone hit a guy who either still had the puck or had released it a split second before. Woo refs.

The Pairwise went crazy. There are ten teams in the WCHA. If the season ended today, eight of them would be in the tournament. Since these teams will continue to beat each other up in the final two weeks of the season and three of them must lose first-round playoff series, one or two will probably drop out. But at this point it would be a huge upset if only half the conference made the tournament. Which is, of course, insane.

Yost Built covered this in-depth. The WCHA's impressive nonconference winning percentage is largely built many games against the weaker conferences. Head-to-head against HE and the CCHA it's different:
Still, the top eight are 14-11-4 against the CCHA and Hockey East (and the top 4 are 8-7-2). That doesn't paint the picture of WCHA dominance that people would have you otherwise believe.
College hockey's system has always been strictly numerical and that's been both blessing and curse. The "curse" bit: rampant over-rating of a scanty few nonconference games. Most of the difference in a team's SOS comes from the wins and losses its opponents rack up in the six or eight nonconference games they play, and many of these are against the Bemjidi States and Wayne States and RITs and Alabama Huntsvilles of the world.

The WCHA is a fine conference, undoubtedly the best in college hockey. What the SEC believes it is to college football, the WCHA actually is to college hockey. But a couple of nonconference games here and there shouldn't be enough to override a season's worth of play in conference. Is the difference between the CCHA and WCHA so severe that we should prefer a WCHA team 5 or 6 games under .500 in conference over a CCHA team that's 6 games over .500? That's the situaton we have at the moment.

If a 12-14-6 Minnesota-Duluth or a 13-13-9 Minnesota gets in over 22-12-4 Notre Dame it'll be a terrible injustice. Though ND has struggled from time to time this year, they still sit 12th in RPI. What's holding them back is the Pairwise's stupid decision to count games against the top 25 double and ND's poor record against these foes. ND's nonconference schedule is tourney-worthy -- 7-3 with a split against Denver and a sweep of tourney bubble team Princeton -- and they aren't, like, eighth in their frickin' conference. The NCAA should declare by fiat that any team in the bottom half of its own league doesn't deserve a bid, and they should do it tomorrow.

So did the basketball coach. After Michigan's loss to Northwestern, John Beilein lost all his hair and about twenty pounds, then went bats in video you've already seen sixteen times:

Mmm, that's good crazy.

Tommy Amaker what? Some things are constant with Tommy Amaker, like his team sucking and causing Michigan to lose. Other things... what?
...[Harvard's] group of six recruits expected to join the team next season is rated among the nation’s 25 best. This is partly because Harvard Coach Tommy Amaker, who starred at Duke and coached in the Big East and Big Ten conferences, has set his sights on top-flight recruits. It is also because Harvard is willing to consider players with a lower academic standing than previous staff members said they were allowed to. Harvard has also adopted aggressive recruiting tactics that skirt or, in some cases, may even violate National Collegiate Athletic Association rules.
(I have no idea who or what rated the Harvard class amongst the top 25 in anything; it's definitely not Scout or Rivals.) Oh, sure now he starts skirting NCAA rules to haul in good recruiting classes.

Northwestern Penn State what? Bleargh! After limping through an ugly win over Illinois, Michigan was on a four-of-five roll and faced two games against perennial doormats Northwestern and Penn State. Of course, they lost these games. UMHoops highlights the downfall in both games:
Another player posts his career high against Michigan. It’s been a problem all year, whether it is Rice, Leuer, Grant,Coble, Moore, McKenzie or Battle they all do it the same way: rain three pointers on the Michigan defense. You don’t win games in the BigTen when you allow your opponents to shoot 55% from deep in a game (box score).
No, you don't. Dylan continues, asserting that a 15-0 run on five straight threes is reminiscent of the team when it was run by a certain turtlenecked, fade-sporting Duke alum. Indeed, it is, and that might indicate the problems Amaker left the Michigan program still plague it and will until Beilein gets a different sort of player in. When I looked at Beilein's 1-3-1 zone I noted that said zone was not terrible against the three:
The traditional way to beat a zone -- rain threes on it -- appears less effective against the 1-3-1 than most. West Virginia was seventh(!) in 3FG defense this year at 30.3%, and opponents didn't get off an inordinate number of them: 33.7% of opponent shots, good for a middle-of-the-pack 151st. This isn't nearly as consistent as the turnovers, thoug(h. Last year's Sweet 16 outfit was still above average at 34%, but the two years before that were ugly. However, in no year did teams get off an inordinate number of threes. WVU has hovered around the national average.
This year, Michigan opponents are making it rain: Michigan is 312th (of 341) in opponent 3PT% and 217th -- well below average -- in the percentage of three-pointers opponents launch. Opponents are also making 49.4 percent of their two pointers and getting a ton of offensive rebounds; the resulting defensive efficiency (106.7 points per 100 possesssions) is an unstirring 280th. They aren't forcing the rampant turnovers Beilein's teams usually do, and thus the defense is dead.

The offense: 49th in three point shots, 301st in making them. End of story.

Baseball tied the Mets, then sucked. Michigan tied a professional team 4-4 and led in the ninth before a two-run homer. For some reason, an attempted Kevin Cislo bunt (in the fourth inning!) enraged Mets closer Billy Wagner:
If he got that bunt down, I would have drilled the next guy. Play to win against Villanova.
Uh... what kind of weird bunting bushido lesson did I and the rest of the free world miss? If anyone needs further evidence this Wagner guy is mental: Jim Rome enthusiastically agreed with him. QED.

Michigan, coming off a season-opening three game sweep of Villanova, proceeded to go 1-3 in the next four, getting smoked by #1 Arizona State twice and losing in extra innings to Portland. There was a win against Hawaii in there somewhere.

Elsewhere: Colin of Yet Another Michigan Sports Blog asked penetrating questions of a Baseball Prospectus fellow and got interesting answers

Dominique Douglas ate like five grand.

Yeah, that seems like a good idea.