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NCAA Preview: Michigan

Michigan became the team that everybody forgot about once they got placed in a bracket with North Dakota and Minnesota. The Wolverines don't even have the positive karma of having made the NCAA quarterfinals in every tournament appearance after North Dakota shattered that record last year.

The Sioux exposed Michigan's defense and goaltending last year when they beat Michigan 5-2. It was assumed that Michigan would be better the following year because goalie Billy Sauer would get better, and Michigan would have an experienced defense. As it turned out, Sauer has held up his part of the bargain, but the defense in front of him hasn't been that consistent. Jack Johnson and Matt Hunwick were both all-CCHA defenseman, but also have the propensity to gamble offensively. As a result, Sauer has been left hung out to dry by his defense many times this year. If his defenseman play solid in front of him, Michigan might be able to keep the offense quiet.

Everyone is familiar with Michigan's top line which features Hobey candidate T.J. Hensick, and Kevin Porter, who is third in the country in scoring. The problem for the Wolverines isn't their top line. They can match up with anyone. But what might do the Wolverines in in this regional is that their third and fourth lines aren't as strong as North Dakota or Minnesota. A shorter bench, plus a higher altitude is not a good combination. That's not to say that it is impossible for Michigan to come out of this regional, but it will certainly be difficult for them.