Big Ten NCAA Tourney Thoughts From SundayPosted by Deepak Jayanti on March 20th, 2012
The Big Ten has lived up to the hype. There are four teams in the Sweet Sixteen from the conference and a fifth one almost snuck in there too on Sunday night. The experts have been raving about the depth of the conference over the past couple months and it translated into postseason success over the weekend. Michigan State took down St. Louis in a bruiser on Sunday afternoon and Purdue almost pulled off a stunning upset against the Kansas Jayhawks. Both games featured excellent performances by two seniors who will go down as one of the all-time greats for their respective programs – Draymond Green of Michigan State and Purdue’s Robbie Hummel. The following are a few thoughts from the Sunday games.
Michigan State over St. Louis (65-61)
Tom Izzo is familiar with Rick Majerus’ coaching philosophy and style of play. St. Louis plays a methodical style of basketball with a strong emphasis on defense. Sound familiar? That might be the motto of practically all of the coaches in the B1G. MSU did an excellent job of containing St.Louis’ Brian Conklin by holding him to 3-9 shooting from the field. Overall, the Billikens shot only 35.3% as a team and 28% from beyond the arc, but by no means did Michigan State roll through the game. Majerus had players such as Jordair Jett who could have easily played for Tom Izzo’s team because of his intensity. Jett resembled the defensive stopper that Izzo would have embraced on his own team. As a result, the game was a defensive battle but the team with the best player on either side emerged as the winner. That best player on the court was clearly Draymond Green and it showed during the final minutes of the game.
The Billikens had no answer for Green as he took control of the offense and created open jumpers for Keith Appling from the baseline during the final possessions. One could see how much Izzo depends on the senior forward during a possession when Green dribbled all the way towards Izzo just to get some directions about the specific play that needed to be run. If Green continues to control the tempo in the half court sets, there are few players in the Tournament who can match his agility. He stuffed the stat sheet again on Sunday with 16 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists. Assuming Michigan State and Marquette can win their next games, a Draymond Green vs. Jae Crowder matchup will be one for the ages in the Elite Eight. Crowder has the physical tools to hang with Green and has the same type of “do it all” mentality. But first, State needs to get past Louisville and if Green continues to guide this team as he did on Sunday, the Spartans will get to the next round.
Kansas over Purdue (63-60)
Matt Painter and Robbie Hummel almost had the Jayhawks on Sunday night. Painter showed why he is considered one of the best young coaches in the business by drawing up a perfect game plan against Bill Self. The Boilermakers were timely in their double teams against Thomas Robinson and basically took away their outside shot, which specifically hurt Tyshawn Taylor. The Jayhawks shot just 25% from long range and the Boilers put the pressure on Robinson to beat them from the post, but he had to deal with double teams and traps throughout the night. Purdue also did an excellent job of keeping Kansas out of its transition mode, hence eliminating easy baskets for most of the game. And on the offensive side, Robbie Hummel was ready to play right from the tip.
Hummel was a matchup nightmare for Kansas. When Self designated Robinson to defend Hummel, he would be forced to come out of the paint which left the offensive glass up for grabs for rest of the Boilermakers. The Kansas wings were too small to defend Hummel even though they had the quickness to hang with him around the screens. Hummel grabbed nine boards during the game in addition to shooting 5-9 from the long-range. At the end of the night, Purdue ran out of offensive firepower as Kansas did a good job of preventing Hummel from receivin the ball during key possessions. Lewis Jackson could not provide additional scoring as he was 2-11 from the field and Terone Johnson’s inexperience showed in his 3-10 night. Regardless, Painter’s team deserves a ton of credit for giving Kansas a run for their money. The young nucleus is there for next season as both the Johnsons — Terone and Anthony — return to West Lafayette. Hummel’s leadership will be sorely missed but Sunday night’s game proved that Matt Painter’s teams can never be dismissed regardless of their talent level. Overall, Hummel’s healthy return to the court and a strong NCAA Tournament appearance headlined a solid season for Purdue.