Four Thoughts From The Big Ten Tournament Semifinals

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 11th, 2012

Well, that didn’t turn out to be too exciting.  The top four seeds of the Big Ten Tournament made it to the semifinals yesterday but only two teams were clear about their intentions – Michigan State and Ohio State.  Neither squad is satisfied about sharing the regular season title but there will be nothing shared on Sunday as they face off in the Big Ten Tournament final in Indianapolis.  The Spartans ground it out to beat Wisconsin, 65-52, despite the Badgers jumping out to an early 20-9 lead in the first half.  Ohio State, on the other hand, wasted no time as they came out firing right from the tipoff.  Their hot shooting in the first few minutes put them up 16-3 against Michigan and continued their dominance to beat the Wolverines 77-55.  Here are a few thoughts from Saturday’s action in Indy.

Deshaun Thomas has been stepping up for Ohio State lately.

  1. Deshaun Thomas is ready for March – Thomas has been on fire offensively over the past five games, averaging 19.6 points per game.  Michigan did not have any player who could match Thomas’ aggressiveness or athleticism.  Thomas must have finally realized that few players in the conference can match his size and quickness, and he is beginning to take full advantage of the matchups. Michigan had no answer for his 22 points and six rebounds on Saturday.  Thad Matta is elated to see his group of sophomores fired up for the final stretch of the season.  Aaron Craft obviously never takes a play off, but Thomas and Jared Sullinger have shown a sense of urgency during the last two weeks. Sullinger is averaging over 22 points per game since the loss to Wisconsin in Columbus two weeks ago.  Sunday’s matchup against the Michigan State forwards will tell a lot about Sullinger and Thomas’ leadership.
  2. Draymond Green looks for other ways to make an impact – Speaking of Michigan State forwards, Draymond Green did not seem to play his usual style during the first half against Wisconsin.  Green had seven turnovers yesterday and could only put up two points by halftime.  Senior guard Austin Thornton nailed consecutive threes to keep the game from slipping away. A sign of a true senior, Draymond Green did not let his rough day bring him down because he crashed the boards instead.  The forward ended up with 16 boards and five assists to make up for his poor shooting.  Green went to the hoop consistently to finish with 12 free throw attempts. That’s what seniors do for a Tom Izzo team that has not won the conference tournament since 2000. If Michigan State were to win on Sunday, they could potentially grab a #1 seed into the Tournament because Kansas and Duke lost before getting to the finals of their respective conference tournaments.  The fourth #1 seed is still up for grabs after Syracuse, Kentucky and North Carolina.  Missouri is still in contention for the #1 seed after winning the Big 12 conference tournament.  The committee will be watching the Sunday afternoon games.
  3. Wisconsin needs consistent scoring – Bo Ryan has heard this critique several times about his Badgers.  This season however has been a legitimate concern for Ryan’s team as they struggle to find consistent scoring to back up Jordan Taylor’s contributions.  Rob Wilson scored 30 points against Indiana on Friday but could only produce six against Michigan State.  Ryan Evans however stepped up with 18 against Michigan State but during the late stretches of the game, Badgers need a third scorer to help out.  This has been a problem for Wisconsin all season long.  They averaged 1.19 points per possession during conference play last season but in 2012, the average dropped to 1.03 points per possession.  Everybody is aware that Ryan’s teams play a slow tempo but they have always been efficient with their scoring.  Taylor is consistent but Evans, Wilson and Josh Gasser need to contribute together in every game if Wisconsin wants to make a run towards the second weekend of the Tournament.
  4. Michigan’s reliance on Trey Burke – Saturday was not fun for Burke.  He was 1-11 from the field and could not hit a shot from long-range, going 0-7.  Because his shot was not falling, he forced a few possessions which resulted in eight turnovers and this resulted in a thumping of Michigan by Ohio State.  Tim Hardaway Jr. can contribute but he needs to be set up and when Burke struggles, he won’t always find the best shots.  The postseason play of Michigan has strongly indicated that Michigan goes as far as Burke takes them.  Against Minnesota on Friday night, Burke pulled them back into the game with 30 points.  The Wolverines will most likely end up with a #3 or #4 seed in the Tournament, which means they will probably face a mid-major team.  But a trip past the first weekend into the Sweet Sixteen will require not just one, but both Wolverines (Burke and Hardaway Jr.) to have consistent outings without any shooting slumps.
Deepak Jayanti (270 Posts)

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