Monday, February 23, 2009

More Pairwise Math

At the moment, Saturday's loss to OSU looks to be harmless. Michigan is still tied for #2 in the Pairwise. Sure, Notre Dame replaced Vermont as the team we're tied with, and since they have the tiebreakers on us, that means we're on the outside looking in at the Grand Rapids regional. But they flipped their comparison with the Catamounts and there was nothing we could do about that. The real damage is in the Michigan vs. Miami Pairwise comparison, which is now like a Sword of Damocles hanging over the Wolverines.

This is what the Michigan/Miami comparison looks like today:

     Michigan vs. Miami     
   0.5706 RPI 0.5477    
0.6154 Win % vs. TUC 0.6250 
17 0.7391 Win % vs. COp 0.7750 14 

Look at the "Win % vs. TUC" category again. Miami has a better record, but since they haven't reached the 10-win threshold (when the head-to-head series is taken out) it isn't counted. This weekend, they play OSU. A team under consideration. If they sweep, they win the category and the comparison, even if we sweep Ferris State. This is how the table will look then:

     Michigan vs. Miami     
   0.5706 RPI 0.5477    
0.6154 Win % vs. TUC 0.7000 
19 0.7600 Win % vs. COp 0.7955 16 

This would've been different had the Wolverines swept Ohio State. They still would've had a chance to control their own destiny. Assuming a Michigan sweep over Ferris and a Miami sweep over OSU, Michigan still would lose the TUC comparison (by .0077), but would've held onto the Common Opponents category by the barest of margins: 0.8000 to 0.7955. It would've been almost insignificant, but just enough, giving Michigan the 4-3 overall edge.

What has to happen now for Michigan to maintain the edge over Miami is 1.) Sweep Ferris and 2.) Ohio State has to take one game over Miami in regulation/standard OT. If that comes to pass, Michigan takes a very strong 5-2 lead over Miami in the eyes of the Pairwise.

All of this can still be rendered academic by the CCHA conference tournament. Even if Miami sweeps OSU and hangs onto the TUC and COp categories, they'll be hard-pressed to catch us in RPI. If Michigan holds an RPI advantage and defeats Miami in the semi-finals, that's another win added to the head-to-head comparison, which would put Michigan back into a tie, which would be broken by RPI in Michigan's favor.

In conclusion: This sucks, but the suckage can be rendered moot by winning. Go Blue.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Live-Blog: Hockey @ Ohio State

Thanks to

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Liveblog: Basketball vs. Minnesota

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Marlin Wears a Different Ring These Days

I've often wondered why college basketball statheads haven't adopted KRACH. It seems ideal for the sport: Lots of data points, and it's harder to manipulate than RPI by beating up on weak competition. There's a site out there that performs the analysis, but their latest edition is a month old.

The Ann Arbor News also has a few interesting items up today:

First, Marlin Jackson was in court to testify in the dueling lawsuits surrounding a 2003 fight.

[Shahin] Farokhrany, 33, sued Jackson for $10 million, alleging the injuries he suffered in the June 1, 2003, altercation required long-term medical care and limited his ability to work.

Jackson pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge, but he claims that was just an expedient so he could keep playing; if he had a possible felony hanging over his head he would've been suspended. Now the money quote:

Behan also said when Jackson punched Farokhrany with his Outback Bowl championship ring, it exacerbated a degenerative condition in Farokhrany's right eye that required a cornea transplant in 1994.

Designated hockey guy Kevin Ryan has some fluffy fluff on David Wohlberg's season and how he's far outpaced expectations for a guy who was demoted to the U-17 team last year.

Ryan also has a piece up on the impending OSU series that's OK, but shows the limitations of the newspaper format, only giving the broadest description of what's at stake. It could really use those two or three paragraphs that were probably cut to get it down to size.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Mathematics of Beating OSU

Another week, another titanic shift in the Pairwise rankings. As far as we're concerned, the big news is Michigan jumping up to #2 after Notre Dame's split with Ohio State. The Wolverines are tied with Northeastern for that spot, but own the comparison with the Huskies, and thus the tiebreaker. It really is a knife's edge, though. Take a look at the full chart at CHN: Michigan, Northeaster, Vermont, and Notre Dame all have 21 or 22 comparison wins over the field. Lose a game, and suddenly you're the #5 overall seed. And sometimes you don't even have to lose to have a comparison flip on you. Remember the TUC cliff?

As a refresher, the Pairwise Rankings consider four factors when comparing two teams: head-to-head record, RPI, record against common opponents, record against teams under consideration (TUCs), but you have to have played 10 TUCs for that comparison to be used.

For instance, let's consider Michigan and Miami. Head-to-head record is 2-2, so two points to each team for that. Michigan's RPI is better, so they get a point. Miami's record against common opponents is better: point, Redhawks. Miami has only played 8 TUCs, so that comparison is not used. Michigan and Miami are tied 3-3 here, and we use RPI to break the tie. Michigan takes the comparison. HOWEVA. Miami has played 8 TUCs, which are defined as the top 25 teams by RPI. They play Ohio State twice to close out the season. As OSU is currently a TUC, that would allow them to meet the 10-game requirement. If both teams win out, Miami's record against common opponents is still better and now their record against TUCs is better, flipping the comparison over to them. Maddening, I know, but that's the way the Pairwise works.

What that means is that this weekend's series against the Buckeyes is much bigger than even a regular UM/OSU brawl: It's fighting for position at the top of the Pairwise, fighting for a spot in the Grand Rapids regional against the soft underbelly of Atlantic Hockey or College Hockey America. Win, get a Miami loss, and life is looking a lot easier. If not, drop below Notre Dame and you have to fight harder to not get sent to Minneapolis.

So, what are our chances? KRACH is here to answer that. KRACH is meant to use ratios between teams' KRACH ratings to give a predicted winning percentage. For example, the expected winning percentage of a team with a KRACH of 150 playing a team with a KRACH of 50 is .750.

Michigan's expected win pct. vs. OSU = Michigan KRACH / (OSU KRACH + Michigan KRACH)

Michigan currently sports a shiny KRACH rating of 402, while OSU is up to a rather healthy 197.8. That gives Michigan an expected winning percentage of .6702. The probability of two independent events both occurring is the product of the probability of either one occurring separately (i.e., P(A and B) = P(A)*P(B)). Michigan has a 67.02% chance of winning on either night against OSU, so the probability of a sweep is 44.92%, going by KRACH. Not great odds, but I'll take 'em. OSU only has a 10.88% chance of a sweep, leaving a 44.2% chance that we split.*

Michigan's been playing decent hockey since the Bowling Green loss, while OSU has been doing weird things, like only getting a pair of ties out of four opportunities against Western and State (though they got a win againt Western in the shootout) while beating Notre Dame and almost sweeping them but for some late-period heroics by the Irish.

Meanwhile, root for Northern to upset Miami down in Oxford. We'll take any help we can get. And really pull for the Bucks when Miami comes calling.

*Odds of Michigan winning out for the rest of the season? A moderately robust 30.1%.

UPDATE: Excellent catch/clarification by Brian, reproduced here verbatim: "Miami's TUC record is actually 6-4-2, but head to head games are excluded from that category in each individual comparison, leaving Miami at 4-2-2 for the purposes of its Michigan comparison." So for the purposes of everyone not in the CCHA, Miami is a TUC.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Daring Columnist Believes Tradition More Important To Winning Than Scoring More Points Than The Other Team

I really shouldn't read anything on MLive before I go to work, because it throws me off all day when I inevitably read something stupid. However, yesterday morning I ended up taking a look at their section on Wolverines Sports, and under the basic articles on the basketball team's loss to MSU was an article by one Howie Beardsley of the Grand Rapids Press. Per our policy of not rewarding anything this stupid with extra page-views, I won't be providing a link.


Promising beginning...

It made no difference Tuesday night which team had the most All-Big Ten performers...

And now you've lost me. This might be some sort of record. While something like "number of All-Big Ten performers" isn't a perfect measure of team quality, it does give you some indication of how good a team is, and being good at basketball almost assuredly helps you win basketball games. It is exceptionally unhelpful to your thesis when the team with more (likely) All-Big Ten performers won the damn game.

The difference in ninth-ranked Michigan State's 54-42 win against a desperate (in terms of a possible NCAA tournament bid) Michigan team came down to tradition, past success and a little bit of basketball mystique.

Congratulations, that is remarkably dumb. You don't get extra points because of the Final Fours you've been to in past years, and "basketball mystique" won't earn you another trip to the foul line. Michigan State won because they have two viable big men and we're playing with a 6'4" power forward. They out-rebounded the Wolverines, played stifling defense, and when Michigan got an open look at a 3 they couldn't knock them down consistently. Not one item on that list has anything to do with program history. But maybe I'm wrong; maybe Tom Izzo agrees with Howie's thesis.

"We did a good job out of our timeouts. We ran good stuff,'' MSU coach Tom Izzo said.

Clearly the man feels that the reason they had success out of timeouts has nothing to do with him being a fantastic basketball coach. The plays came out of thin air, brought into being by the spirits of Mateen Cleaves and Shawn Respert.

Michigan's poor play wasn't so much going against the ninth-rated team in the country as much as it was playing against the tradition of MSU.

This argument is so astonishingly stupid that I question any editor who let it in the paper. This is why your medium is dying, choked off because people have outlets that believe that the players on the floor and the coaches on the sidelines have far more to do with winning than mythical ghosts or "tradition". Do you think that Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims were in any way intimidated by the number of NCAA appearances the MSU program has racked up? Did Delvon Roe grow another inch when he put on that Spartan jersey?

The closest Beardsley could possibly come to a coherent argument would be to argue that past success and tradition helped them get the recruits who actually played the basketball game, but he goes nowhere near that argument. He includes this quote from Delvon Roe because it mentions the T word:

"I'm going to keep working toward it to keep helping this program be a tradition-rich one."

Swish! thinks Beardsley, while I roll my eyes. So the guy mentioned "tradition." Who cares? Winning the game is a method of furthering that tradition, not a result of it. It's not even post hoc, it's pre hoc.

Any argument that tradition or past success or "mystique" has anything to do with winning in college athletics is inherently flawed. Just ask 2007 Notre Dame or 2008 Michigan football, and Kentucky isn't exactly rolling through the SEC these days. Recruiting and coaching are the lifeblood of collegiate sports. Michigan State won because they have a loaded roster of better players, a coach who could use them effectively in a well-designed system, and were a little luckier. End of story.

Finally, Beardsley's headline writer isn't even trying. "Spartans' Tradition Trumps Michigan's Inexperience". Really? This is what you're going to go with? Shouldn't both sides of that headline be something equally valuable, with the latter specific to Michigan? Choose one: Home Court Advantage. System. Grit. FREEEE PIZZZAAAA!!!!

PS: DeShawn Sims was a beast in that losing effort. Too bad the supporting cast couldn't get Michigan the victory.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

HSR Bracketology

If you've been keeping a close eye on the NCAA Pairwise Rankings for college hockey, you might have noticed that, after this weekend's sweep of Lake Superior State, Michigan slid up into a tie with Notre Dame for 3rd. And if you already knew that, you're well aware of the volatility of the Pairwise. Well, after last night's Beanpot win by Boston University, there have been some additional shuffles. Notre Dame is now tied with Vermont for second (the Catamounts hold the tie-brekers), leaving us alone in fourth.

I started to think about what that means for us. The NCAA assigns the #1 seeds to their closest regional and does so in order of overall ranking. BU would go to Manchester, NH, and Vermont to Bridgeport, CT. Next up is Notre Dame. By virtue of their one place advantage in the Pairwise, the Irish are sent to Grand Rapids and Michigan is sent up to Minneapolis. Where Minnesota is hosting. At a TOTALLY NEUTRAL SITE that's 7.5 miles from their home rink. (UPDATE:  They're at Mariucci this year, then at the X in 2010 and 2011. Three years in a row hosting. Un-friggin'-believable)

The Gophers aren't the same team we played in the College Hockey Showcase and beat 6-4. They've long shed that #1 ranking, and they're hanging on by a thread to the last available at-large birth in the tournament. But they're still a dangerous team and I don't want to play them on their home turf in the first round, especially if Don Lucia can get his health back in order by then (We sincerely wish you good luck with that, Coach).

Now, if Michigan were to drop down a spot or two, there's an excellent chance that we'd be sent to Grand Rapids, in keeping with the NCAA's new emphasis on keeping teams close to home to reduce travel expenses. So this could be like two years ago, when our reward for beating Michigan State in the CCHA semi-finals was a trip out to Denver and the Regional of Death. This year's Minneapolis offering doesn't project to quite that level of hellaciousness, but for selfish reasons I'd definitely rather see them in Grand Rapids.

Speaking of that Minneapolis regional, let's figure out who'd be there as things now stand.

Start with the current Pairwise and fill in according to basic bracketing. I've penciled in Air Force and Niagara as the highest-ranking teams by KRACH in the CHA and Atlantic Hockey, respectively, and thus most likely to grab their conferences' auto-bids.

1BU2Vermont3Notre Dame4Michigan
16Niagara15Air Force14Minnesota13OSU

We now assign the top seeds to their closest regional in order of overall seeding; BU to Manchester, Vermont to Bridgeport, Notre Dame to Grand Rapids, and Michigan to Minneapolis. Next, we have to ensure host insitutions are sent to that regional (New Hampshire in Manchester and Minnesota at their NEUTRAL SITE home rink in Minneapolis). UNH is a straight-up swap with Miami. We can't do the same with Minnesota, as placing OSU in the Grand Rapids regional creates an intra-conference first-round matchup with Notre Dame. OSU is bumped over to the Bridgeport regional and Air Force is sent to Grand Rapids. Final result:

 Manchester  Bridgeport  Grand Rapids  Minneapolis 
1BU2Vermont3Notre Dame4Michigan
16Niagara13OSU15Air Force14Minnesota

There a couple of factors still looming out there. If the NCAA were to recognize the huge gulf between Minnesota and the CHA and Atlantic Hockey champions, they might put bracket integrity ahead of avoiding an intra-conference matchup, sending OSU to Grand Rapids.

Another factor in play is the new emphasis on travel costs. Right now we have 7 teams who would be traveling more than 400 miles, meaning they get to fly (Note: It's unclear to me whether the barrier is 400 miles by road or as the crow flies): Michigan, Denver, Cornell, Northeastern, Niagara, OSU, and Air Force. Michigan can't be touched, and Denver and Air Force will have to fly no matter what. But if our emphasis on bracket integrity (and the perfection of the Pairwise) is lessened, we can save a couple of flights. If we flip Denver into Grand Rapids for Cornell, we create an intra-conference matchup with Yale, but save a flight. We could also put OSU back into Grand Rapids at the expense of putting three CCHA teams in one regional, or flip Air Force with Niagara if we don't care about potentially screwing over BU.

Lurking out there is also the issue of New Hampshire. If they slip down to a #4 seed, that will create a mandatory intra-conference matchup in the first round and will force BU to play a much better opponent than the CHA/Atlantic Hockey can provide. Conceivably, the committee could opt to send BU down to Bridgeport and force Vermont to play UNH. At least Manchester and Durham are a little farther apart than Minneapolis and Minneapolis. It would be like Michigan hosting a regional at the Joe. We'll see how this plays out.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Recap: Hockey vs. Lake State

It was a solid weekend for the hockey team, as they swept Lake Superior State 6-2 and 2-1. Craig and I (with an assist from Tim of The Blog That Yost Built) live-blogged Friday's game for MGoBlog, and then on Saturday night I took the helm following the basketball game over at Varsity Blue (thanks to Paul and Tim over there for that privilege).

Of the two games, Friday's was decidedly more entertaining. The first period was a fairly equal one, with Lake State getting a good number of scoring opportunities on one end, while Turnbull and Wohlberg were working in tandem against Lake State goalie Pat Inglis on the other. I started to get flashbacks to last year's Friday night game between the two sides at Yost, and that was further increased when Lake State scored first, only for Michigan to get a late goal for a tie game at the first intermission. In '08, it was Gysbers with a deflected puck and Chad Kolarik with the equalizer. In '09, Hogan couldn't get across the crease fast enough to keep Will Acton's shot out of the net. With just seconds left in the period and on the penalty kill, Matt Rust stole the puck at the Michigan blue line, sped up the ice, cut around a defender and dragged across the crease to cap off his great effot with a goal. Only six seconds were left on the clock. The resemblance to '08 ends with the first period. Last season, Kolarik scored 4 goals (on the night before he suffered that hamstring injury on the 5-3 kill), but this time it was more of a team effort. Just over a minute into the second frame, Turnbull fought off a Laker for a puck behind the net and fed Wohlberg a great scoring opportunity which he capitalized on. 30 seconds later, Winnett won a face-off and got the puck to Glendening to really break the game open. We got the powerplay going when Wohlberg sent a pass up to Langlais, who found Caporusso across the ice. Early in the third, Lebler took a slashing call, but Lake State took their own hooking penalty to make it 4-on-4. Rust had a phenomenal shift. He carried the puck in, dug it out of the corner in the Lake State zone, and then took Hagelin's feed and deposited it in the back of the net. A few minutes later, the Lakers capitalized on one of their numerous power play opportunities when Rick Schofield wristed one past Hogan. After Caporusso made his way out of the penalty box for the second time in the third, Winnett hit him on a breakout pass for a pretty goal. Check out a longer take here from Yost Built.

The Saturday night game was, honestly, kind of boring. It didn't help that I was feeling exhausted by the end of the first period, having kept up with the basketball live-blog. The first period was disorganized on both sides, but the Lakers kept applying pressure. Finally, Michigan had flooded one side of their own zone, so when the rebound came off Bryan Hogan, nobody was anywhere close to former Wolverine Zac MacVoy, who tapped it in. But fortune turned remarkably quickly on the other end. Carl Hagelin dug the puck out of the corner near where the band now sits, carried it up the boards, circled across, and fired a rocket past Inglis. Just like that, tie game again. In the second, Palushaj took a shot which Inglis took care of, but the rebound landed right on Lebler's stick and he made no mistake about that one. 2-1 Michigan, and that's the way things ended. The rest of the game featured a lot of special teams time where neither Michigan nor LSSU could capitalize and a couple questionable calls at the end which went our way.

Next up is Nebraska-Omaha, who just had a brutal weekend against Western. The Broncos went into the Qwest Center and took UNO to the shootout the first night (pulling out the win there), then shutting out the Mavericks 5-0 on Saturday. UNO has had a lot of trouble putting the puck in the net since January 10: Their high-water mark was when they scored 2 against Miami on January 23. Other than that, they've suffered two shutouts and five games where they could muster only one goal.

Remember the 2007 tournament, where we won just a little too much for our own good and instead of the Grand Rapids regional, we were sent out west to the Regional of Death? A similar situation may be brewing and I hope to have a separate post on that up later tonight.

Friday, February 06, 2009

We're Over Here!

Geoff, Jeremy, and I are excited to be a part of Brian Cook's squad of minions who are filling in for him during his vacation. Since we seem to have developed a niche with our hockey liveblogs, we'll (including Tim from The Blog That Yost Built) be doing on tonight, covering the game at MGoBlog from the stream on (confusing, I know.)

You may ask yourself "Why tonight's game? Tomorrow night's game is on Comcast 900?!? Tonight's is just streaming, what are you trying to do to us?"

Well, we have a couple of reasons:

1). Tomorrow's game overlaps with the Michigan basketball game at UConn and we didn't know how many people would be trying to follow that.

2). Tomorrow night I'll be at the Michigan hockey game, meaning I would need to miss out on the liveblogging fun.

So please, join us in the fun. We promise to do what we can!

Monday, February 02, 2009

2010 NCAA Frozen Four Ticket Application

Normally with a ticket release, I would keep my knowledge under my hat until my application was in, but since it's Ford Field, I feel comfortable in letting people know:

The NCAA has released the ticket application for the 2010 Frozen Four at Ford Field (the logo is somewhat clever, what with the retro 1950s car and such, but I digress...)

The CHN story is here:

Anyway, if you want to fill out the ten page application for the right to be considered for tickets in April 2009, go to

I've been looking forward to this for a long time so I hope I can see many of my fellow Wolverines down on Brush Street.