Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Michigan vs. Wisconsin Basketball!

LISTEN LIVE as the Michigan Wolverines take on the #12 Wisconsin Badgers at Crisler Arena! Tyler Bruens, Eitan Neumark, Adam Wilensky, and Steve Davenport with the call at 6:30 pm!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Michigan Hockey vs. Western Michigan: Senior Night!

LISTEN LIVE as the Wolverines' seniors, including Carl Hagelin, attempt to finish the weekend sweep of the Broncos at Yost Ice Arena during tonight's Senior Night contest. John Zaccardelli and Tyler Bruens with the call, starting at about 7:30 pm EST.

Friday, February 18, 2011

LISTEN LIVE Michigan Hockey takes on the Broncos of Western Michigan. Mike Lewandowski, Adam Brewster, and Kevin Carpenter on the call.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gotta Beat the Badgers to Get to March Madness

Like many Michigan basketball fans, I have begun to shuffle through different scenarios in my head regarding potential ways that the Michigan Wolverines can make it to March Madness. Before I get going, here's Michigan's remaining schedule for reference:

CURRENT RECORD: 16-10 (6-7 conf.)

02/16 (Tonight) @ Illiniois
02/19 @ Iowa
02/23 #10 Wisconsin
02/26 @ Minnesota
03/05 Michigan State

In the Big Ten, Michigan is currently ranked 6th.

Now, down to the nitty gritty:

Now, I'm not Joe Lunardi, but I do know a few things about how teams generally qualify for the the NCAA tournament. These things are:
- 20 wins is generally a must.
-Winning your conference tournament gets you an automatic bid.
-Strength of schedule helps.
-You need marquee wins.
- Joe Lunardi, the real guy for ESPN, is basically never wrong when it comes to predicting brackets.
- Joe Lunardi does not think that Michigan is currently a March Madness team.

This all taken into consideration, you will see that below I have plowed through a few realistic scenarios that could decide the season. In regards of Big Ten Tourney play, I have made the (dangerous) assumption that Michigan will win the games in which it will be the higher seed:

Scenario 1: Michigan wins the games that it will be favored in.
This means victories at Iowa and at home against Michigan State. It also means that Michigan will win one game in the Big Ten tournament, where they will likely face one of the two worst teams in the Big Ten.
Result: 19-14 OUT of March Madness

Scenario 2: Michigan wins every game except for the Wisconsin game.
While the idea of Michigan winning every game against non-ranked teams looks good on paper, when you dive into the numbers, the outcome is not as favorable as one would think. If Michigan won every game except for the Wisconsin game, they would be flirting with danger by not getting a marquee win and by capturing a seed in the Big Ten Tournament that would force them into a bye in the first round of the tournament, and then pit them against a 4-6 seed in the second round. A one and done in the Big Ten Tournament, therefore, would be very likely.
Result: 21-12 IN/OUT (With no marquee wins it depends on who they beat in the second round of the tourney... this is dicey) or 20-12 OUT

Scenario 3: Michigan beats the Badgers and wins two other games.
if Michigan beats the Badgers their tournament resume is greatly improved. By beating Wisconsin and 2 other teams (preferably Illinois, MSU, or Minnesota), Michigan would improve its record to 19-12 entering the Big Ten Tournament. Once again, Michigan would likely get a bye in the first round of the Big Ten Tourney and would run into a 4-6 seed.
Result: 20-13 IN (good strength of schedule & Marquee win) or 19-13 OUT

Scenario 4: Michigan beats 2 0f MSU, ILLINOIS, MINNESOTA and beats Iowa.
If Michigan wins three out of their next five games, but does not beat Wisconsin, it will put them in a very tough spot. The Wolverines will improve their record to 19-12, but they will probably capture a 5 or 6 seed in the BTT, which, once again, will give them a bye and force them to play a tough 3 or 4 seed in round 2.
Result: 20-13 OUT (Unless their win in the tournament is against #3 seed likely to be Wisconsin) or 19-13 OUT

Since I realize the above scenarios are chaotic, let me summarize what they mean:
- If Michigan beats the Wisconsin Badgers in the regular season they greatly improve their chances of making the tournament, and could keep their tournament hopes alive by only winning 2 other games in the regular season.
- If Michigan does not beat the Wisconsin Badgers (but beats every other team) in the regular season they will put themselves in a position where they have 20 wins, but no marquee wins. In the second round of the tournament (after a first round bye), they may get a shot at a marquee win, but the standings indicate that it will probably be against Wisconsin.
- Michigan can put themselves in a really crappy scenario by getting a 5 or 6 seed in the tournament by beating 3 teams not named Wisconsin. Not only would the Wolverines only have 19 wins going into the tournament, but they would once again score a first round bye in the BTT, and, if they were extremely lucky, would get a crack at the 3 seed (probably Wisconsin). A 20th victory against a team like current 4 seed Illinois really wouldn't do the trick for getting Michigan in the big dance.

The wild card in all of this is the performance of the #11 Purdue Boilermakers. Michigan does not play Purdue, but there is a distinct possibility that if Michigan wins 3 or more regular season games from here on out , they will play, and have to beat, the Boilermakers in their first game (in the second round) of the BT tournament. Unless, of course, Michigan beats Wisconsin on February 23...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Michigan Hockey

LISTEN LIVE Michigan takes on the Ohio State Buckeyes at Yost tonight at 7:35. Mike Lewandowski and Kevin Carpenter have the call.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Michigan vs. Northwestern

Listen Live! as the Michigan Wolverines Men's Basketball team takes on the Northwestern Wildcats at 6:30 at Crisler Arena! Can the Wolverines claim their 4th win in five games, including an impressive come-from-behind effort over Penn State on Sunday that featured the premiere of Tim Hardaway Jr's "beast mode"? Tune in to find out!

Reasons Why Michigan Will Win the NCAA Title and Reasons They Won’t

This has been nothing if not an up and down season for the Wolverine hockey team. Through most of the year we have had to deal with “The Friday Problem”, which may have originally had something to do with goaltending, but even after Bryan Hogan went down with a groin injury and our little friend Shawn Hunwick took over full time, the team came out flat in almost every Friday game, even when they won. On the other hand, there was an eleven game stretch in which we saw nine wins and two OT losses (one of which to our little brothers from East Lansing had to be one of the most poorly officiated games in CCHA history, but I digress) only to drop one to State of our own accord and look simply poor during a 0-2 trip to Miami(OH). So in light of our flip-flopping team I’d like to shell out a few reasons why Michigan hockey will go all the way to an NCAA title at the end of this season and a few why, when all is said and done, we will all be left with that bitter taste in our mouths yet again.

St. Paul Here We Come. Why Michigan Will Win The NCAA Title

Four Lines – This team may not have as much talent as we have seen at Yost in the past but there do not seem to be any gaping holes anywhere on the line sheet no matter who Red Berenson decides to toss out there. Michigan can roll four lines and three D-pairings without feeling vulnerable whenever a certain group is on the ice. The splitting of Louie Caporusso and Carl Hagelin at the beginning of the year along with the stellar play of lesser known players like Scooter Vaughn and AJ Treais has made the Wolverines one of the deepest teams in the country. Even if you nit-pick you can’t really take many shots at Lindsay Sparks, Jeff Rohrkemper, or Derek DeBlois when they suit up. On the back end there are times when Mac Bennett and Kevin Clare look like freshmen but the blue line is pretty solid all the way through.

Carl Hagelin – The Swedish future Ranger has been nothing short of spectacular in the hefty majority of Michigan’s games this season. I hate to make the comparison so early in his career, but the similarities to Red Wings star Henrik Zetterberg are nearly un-avoidable. It’s the fact that he does so much in all facets of the game that make a lot of think of his fellow Swede. His 35 points in 30 games (12 ahead of the next closest Wolverine) are not even close to the most significant contribution he has made to this team. What he does in the defensive zone is incredible for someone who is counted on so heavily on the other end of the ice. The Michigan penalty kill is fourth in the CCHA at 86% and there is no player who has more to do with any penalty that Michigan kills off than Hagelin. During a 5-on-3 against Alaska in the third period a few weeks ago, Carl was on the ice for more than two thirds of the kill. The total hockey player would not be complete without the leadership skills that, as a captain, Hagelin brings into the locker room. It is not possible to accurately put into words what the Swede means to this team.

Lack of an Unbeatable – Let’s be honest if Michigan had gotten the regional victory over Miami that they deserved last year they would have gone into Ford Field with an entire state behind them in what could only be described as a home series in the Frozen Four… and proceeded to have their tails whipped by Boston College. That team was one of the fastest and most offensively scary teams I have ever seen in college hockey and they were going to raise the trophy regardless of who was on the other side of the ice. There is no team like that this year in the country. BC sits on top of the rankings at 19-6, which is impressive but not mind blowing. In the one opportunity I had to see the Eagles play this season they looked good but nowhere near where they were last year. It doesn’t appear as though anyone else has decided to step into that role. Yale looked good for a while but as soon as the Bulldogs ran into some other top teams they looked decidedly average. Out west Denver has been very effective but again have not shown that swagger that last year’s BC took all the way to the top.

Riding a Hot Streak All the Way In – Michigan has two home stands against Ohio State and Western before traveling to Northern Michigan to finish the regular season. The Broncos provide a challenge but these are six very winnable games for the Wolverines. If they can take all six and really get to the top of their game there is not a team in the CCHA that can take Michigan down when they are playing at their best. Unless Notre Dame or Miami get unbelievably hot, leaving the Michigan colors attached to the CCHA Playoff Champions banner at Joe Louis Arena seems like a legitimate possibility. If it all comes to fruition Michigan would be on a ten game winning streak as the National tourney starts and would, in all likelihood, grab a #1 seed in the St. Louis region. That kind of momentum can carry this team past anyone they might face in St. Paul and bring another title to the best program in college hockey history.

Sorry Folks Not This Year. Reasons Why Michigan Will Not Win the NCAA Tittle

Goaltending – I hate to even make this point because I am such a huge fan of Hunwick and Hogan, but neither of them ever give me that same level of confidence I used to have when the likes of Marty Turco and Al Montoya (cough cough should have stayed four years cough cough) were between the pipes. Hogan played very well at the beginning of the year and Hunwick has been ridiculous in a few since he has been the starter, but I simply do not see it. Goaltending can win you games in the tournament but it can REALLY lose them for you as well. Possibly the most talented Michigan team this side of the millennium was the 06-07 team. Conjuring memories of Hensick, Hunwick (Matt), Johnson, Porter, Cogliano, and Kolarik; this team should have been completed by goalie worthy of the talent level in front of him, instead 18-year-old sophomore Billy Sauer gave up 8 in the first round of the NCAA regional to see the Wolverines bounced by North Dakota. I’m not saying the Michigan goaltenders will have this kind of meltdown but hope does not spring eternal.

Louie, Louie? – Last year Louie Caporusso was a threat to score every time he had the puck inside the offensive zone. His two goals that gave Michigan the CCHA title over Northern at the Joe last year were a microcosm of what he could do for a team. Since the calendar turned to December 2010, Michigan’s second leading scorer has only three goals, and just eight on the season; Scooter Vaughn has nine. Not that he has completely disappeared, he still make plays in the offensive zone and works hard defensively but there are a lot of guys on this team that can do that. There are very few who can score like Louie can. If the Wolverines want to go on a run this post-season Caporusso has to take care of whatever is going on in his head and find the scoring touch he has lost.

Those Pesky Redhawks – We saw what can happen if Miami comes to play and Michigan doesn’t this past weekend. The Redhawks totally shut down Carl Hagelin and the rest of Michigan’s top two lines, leaving AJ Treais to pick up two in the first game and putting a goose egg on the board on Saturday. On the other side of ice Andy Miele and Cater Camper, the #1 and#2 leading scorers in the conference, tore the Michigan defense up, especially on the power-play. Miami’s biggest problem over the past few years has been getting up for big games, but for whatever reason when the Redhawks see Maize and Blue they catch fire. I have said that this team is much better than their record and if Michigan sees them in either the CCHA or the National tournament I will be very, very afraid.

The Unthinkable – Michigan is playing poorly. The last three games aside, they did not look great against Alaska in a series they swept, and had to come from behind the Friday before that against Ferris State. This run of bad form has been marked by a lack of offense and just enough defensive mistakes to lose, both of those things need to change quickly or Michigan could drop a game to OSU or Northern, another to WMU and find itself having to make a deep run into the CCHA playoffs or risk ‘gasp’ missing the NCAA tournament. Sitting 13th in both major polls it is easily conceivable that Michigan would fall out of the top 15 if they manage to lose two of their last six regular season games. At that point, the thinking would probably be that Michigan has to at least make it to the title game, if not win the whole thing, to be guaranteed a spot in the big one. Can anyone else see Michigan State coming to Yost in the second round with the opportunity to end Michigan’s twenty-year streak of reaching the NCAA’s and somehow managing to take two of three? Or hitting the aforementioned Redhawks in the first game in Detroit? If the Wolverines can not get back to playing up to their best before they step on the ice against the Buckeyes on Friday, the unthinkable could become a reality.

So which is it going to be? Will this season end with glory or pain? Your guess is as good as mine.

Taming Our Freshmen Expectations

It seems like every year under head coach Rich Rodriguez, incoming freshmen had big shoes to fill when it came to contributing early.

In '08, it felt like the whole team was new. Sam McGuffie was our starting RB, Martavious Odoms was our go-to WR, and the terrible twosome (literally) of Threet/Sheridan was at the helm of the Wolverines' offense.

In '09, we still had no quarterback. Enter the Tate/Denard freshmen showdown.

In '10, it was the year of the special teams. No more Olesnavage/Mesko tandem at place kicker and punter respectively meant that the Wolverines needed an overhaul. And boy, was it ever a wild ride with Hagerup (who I supposed wasn't terrible for a punter) and Gibbons/Broekhuizen (who were both terrible for place kickers).

And that brings us to '11. Which of Brady Hoke's young guns will we see in '11? By my guess, less than a handful will see significant playing time, but there will be a few fortunate ones and they are...

PK Matt Wile- Be forewarned: MATT WILE WILL STRUGGLE IN '11. It's not that I think Wile is bad, but you can't exactly practice kicking in front of 100,000 people, so I'm sure the freshmen will miss a few bunnies here and there while he works out the kinks. Even if Wile only makes 65% of his FGs in '11, competition (or a lack thereof) from Gibbons (who has hit on 20% of his FGs as a Wolverine) and Broekhuizen (who has hit on 33%) should be weak enough to make Matt Wile Coach Hoke's #1 guy at PK. Wile also punts, but I don't think Hagerup's going anywhere.

CB Blake Countess- Blake is the headliner of Coach Hoke's first recruiting class at Michigan, so I would expect him to at least see the field on occasion. Since we really don't know defensive coordinator Greg Mattison's depth chart for his 4-3 defensive attack, it's hard for me to say in any definite form how often Blake will see the field. If Countess is good enough in practice to surpass JT Floyd and/or Courney Avery (he will not pass Woolfolk) on the depth chart, the Wolverine secondary should actually be in pretty good shape in '11 (fingers crossed).

TE Chris Barnett- With only two scholarship TEs on the Michigan roster in '11 (Senior Kevin Koger and Junior Brandon Moore), Chris Barnett will likely see playing time in the Brady Hoke offense, which frequently includes two TEs in offensive packages. I doubt Koger will be passed on the depth chart, but a healthy competition with Moore (in which I believe Barnett will win) should give Barnett the chance to contribute to Michigan's offensive attack on Saturdays in '11.

LB Kellen Jones- In Mattison's 4-3 system there is an obvious void at linebacker, where 2010's graduating seniors Jonas Mouton and Obi Ezeh have departed. It seems to me like Kenny Demens, who will be a junior in '11, should hold down the middle linebacker spot for the next two years. This leaves availability on the outside, where I believe that freshman Kellen Jones may see significant playing time.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

National Signing Day Predictions

Big day tomorrow for the Wolverines. With Thomas Rawls already in the bag for '11, can Meeechigan score a few more recruits to improve their current Rivals position of 24? Here's the way I see things shaking down...

TE- Chris Barnett? In. Will likely decide Saturday (not tomorrow), but I'm liking Hoke's chances. (Thomas Rawls spilled the beans about Barnett's good feelings towards Michigan in a Sunday interview with Sam Webb of the Detroit News)
DL- Darian Cooper? Out. Not too little on behalf of Hoke's boys, just too late.
OT- Jake Fisher? Out. Fisher's wavering + Oregon's awesome facilities= Trouble
LB- Leilon Willingham? In. Michigan is just a better fit than Colorado for such a talent.
LB/TE/ATH- Frank Clark? In. I get the feeling Frank would have signed earlier, but it's tradition in his football-rich hometown of Glenville, Ohio to announce on Signing Day with teammates.

We'll see how things really shape up. Hopefully coach Hoke continues making us proud tomorrow.

UPDATE 9:57am: With the Snowpocalypse (AKA the Snowtorious B.I.G) drilling what seems like the entire US with snow, Willingham will decide tomorrow (Thursday) at 9am as a result of a snow day today.

Thus far, everything is going as predicted: Clark to Michigan, Fisher to Oregon. Watch out for Willingham tomorrow... rumor is swirling that he might stay home and be a Buffalo.