Big Ten M5: 12.17.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on December 17th, 2012

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  1. Michigan redshirt sophomore Jon Horford injured himself again during the Wolverines’ game with West Virginia game on Saturday. Horford, who had already missed 25 games last season because he broke his foot, dislocated his knee cap against the Mountaineers and had to be helped off the court into the locker room. The Michigan coaching staff hopes that Horford can return to action within three weeks, but because of his history with injuries, John Beilein may take his time to put his big man back into the rotation. Horford has averaged 2.1 RPG in 8.7 MPG so far this season, but he is experienced and his injury puts more pressure on freshman forwards Mitch McGary and Max Bielfeldt to continue to produce.
  2. More injury news, as Bill Carmody and the Northwestern coaching staff believe that Drew Crawford will be granted a fifth year of eligibility by the NCAA after being sidelined this season. Crawford described his back and neck injury as “searing pain” and will not have an opportunity to push the Wildcats towards their first NCAA Tournament bid this year. The Wildcats are 7-3 and will need seniors Reggie Hearn (14.1 PPG) and Jared Swopshire (9.1 PPG) to step up in Crawford’s absence. Without Crawford on the floor, Carmody needs a go-to guy who will take the clutch shots and provide leadership, and besides his seniors, sophomore Dave Sobolewski (11.4 PPG) also has the potential to step into that role.
  3. Indiana head coach Tom Crean was not in a good mood after the Butler Bulldogs upset his team on Saturday, 88-86. The Bulldogs’ Alex Barlow drove the ball into the lane during the final 10 seconds for the go-ahead basket but the Hoosiers did not have their big man, Cody Zeller, in the paint to alter the shot. Crean had substituted Remy Abell for Zeller and said that they were in a defensive set where everybody “switches up” and made it clear that he does not regret his decision to keep Zeller on the bench. Zeller scored 18 points in 37 minutes against the Bulldogs and shot 10-of-14 from the charity line. But without Butler’s Andrew Smith in the game (he fouled out), Zeller would have had to defend quicker players on the switches during the final seconds, making it a tough call for Crean. When a #1 ranked team loses to a smaller school from the same state, it is likely that the coach’s decisions will be questioned afterward by the assembled pundits and writers.
  4. After 12 games this season, it is increasingly obvious that Tubby Smith’s guards – Austin Hollins (11.2 PPG), Andre Hollins (13.5 PPG) and Joe Coleman (10.0 PPG) – can score with the best of them. But Austin Hollins has grown into a very tough defensive player for the Gophers as well and cherishes his role as a defensive stopper while his fellow guards carry the offensive load against tougher competition. Hollins has the length that allows him to guard opposing point guards and also taller wings in the half court as Smith’s Gophers continue to impress with an 11-1 record heading into conference play.
  5. Speaking of guards who understand their role and are intense on the defensive end, Michigan State’s Brandan Kearney has quickly become one of Tom Izzo’s favorite players this season. The sophomore guard has averaged 18.2 MPG and even though he only scores a couple of points per contest, he plays within the offense and has the “team-first” attitude which Izzo appreciates. With the recent injuries to guards Gary Harris and Travis Trice, Kearney has stepped into every spot as needed and done all of the little things such as grabbing a key offensive rebound or taking the wide-open shot off the double team. Kearney may not carry the scoring load for MSU this season, but he will continue to grow in Izzo’s system as long as he improves his game and stays committed to defense.
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Big Ten Team Previews: Michigan State Spartans

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 29th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Big Ten microsite will be rolling out the featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Michigan State Spartans.

Where We Left Off: Tom Izzo’s Spartans were poised for another postseason run last March but their plans took a hit when guard Branden Dawson went down with an ACL injury. Dawson injured his left knee against Ohio State on March 4 meaning that the Spartans had lost their best defender for rest of the season. Nonetheless, State finished conference play with a 13-5 record and beat Ohio State a week later to secure the Big Ten Tournament title. Izzo was able to regroup his team after the injury but they fell short in the Sweet Sixteen against Rick Pitino’s Louisville squad on its way to the Final Four. The Spartans struggled to find consistent offense during the second weekend of the postseason and finished with an overall record of 29-8. Even though MSU fans expect nothing less than a Final Four every March, Draymond Green’s final season should be considered an overall success.

Is Keith Appling ready to step in and fill the void Draymond Green will leave behind? (AP Photo)

Positives: Despite losing Green, Izzo has several players returning who understand his system and logged significant minutes last season. Forwards Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne will be excellent in the paint together and will cause match-up problems with other contenders such as Indiana and Michigan. Both players have a diverse array of post moves and can get key big men such as Cody Zeller and Jordan Morgan in foul trouble. Izzo’s teams are known to be tough on the glass and as such they ranked second in the Big Ten in rebounding last year (36% OR). The backcourt consists of an experienced Keith Appling (who averaged 11.8 PPG in 30.8 MPG last season) and sophomore Travis Trice, who has a really nice touch from the beyond the arc (evident in his 40.5% 3FG shooting). Freshman guard Gary Harris is one of the top 50 incoming recruits this year and he has the size at 6’4″ and 205 lbs. to become an excellent defender for Tom Izzo. If Dawson is back to 100% game shape by January, it will only add more depth to what appears to be a very tough, defensive minded, typical Tom Izzo team.

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Big Ten Writer Roundtable: A look at the Big Ten Tourney

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on March 7th, 2012

Big Ten contributors Joey Nowak (@joeynowak), Ryan Terpstra (@terphimself), and Deepak Jayanti (@10thyearseniors) put their heads together and discussed some key questions heading into the Big Ten Tournament.  Here are their thoughts:

1.) What school playing on Thursday has the best shot to win the Big Ten Tournament?

Joey:  I really think any team besides Nebraska and Penn State (though if Tim Frazier heats up, Penn State could have a repeat of last year) has a chance to do damage. Minnesota and Illinois both have talent and nothing to lose. Purdue is playing better, with the experienced Robbie Hummel at the helm, and has a bit of a chip on its shoulder. Iowa has a guy in Matt Gatens they can ride to a win or two. And Northwestern should come in as focused as any team in the tournament, given what’s at stake for the Wildcats.

But the team I would least like to play this weekend is Indiana. The Hoosiers have won four in a row (the last three against quality Big Ten opponents) and seven of their last eight. They should handle Penn State before taking a great shot at Wisconsin on Friday. They are better on defense than they were early in the Big Ten schedule, and can still score with the best of them, thanks to a solid inside-out game. But the intangible of playing in front of a friendly Indianapolis crowd could be a huge boost. It won’t give them the same advantage they’ve held at Assembly Hall this season, but if the last few years are any indication (when they were terrible), the Hoosier faithful will be out in full force. Don’t be surprised to see them playing Sunday.
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What Does Branden Dawson’s Injury Mean For Michigan State?

Posted by jnowak on March 6th, 2012

Michigan State knows plenty about the Kenyon Martin Effect. When Martin — the consensus 2000 National Player of the Year as a senior at Cincinnati after averaging 18.9 points, 9.7 boards, and 3.5 blocks per game — broke his leg in the Conference USA Tournament, it drastically affected the Bearcats’ hopes for a national title. The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee took notice as well, and knocked Cincinnati down to a #2 seed, when they probably would have otherwise been the #1 overall seed. It proved to be somewhat prophetic as the Bearcats were upset in the second round by Tulsa, and MSU went on to win Tom Izzo’s only national championship.

Without Branden Dawson, can the Spartans win the Big Ten Tournament or make a run in the Big Dance? (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)

Branden Dawson — the Michigan State freshman wing who tore his ACL in Sunday’s loss to Ohio State --  is no Kenyon Martin. Martin went on to be the #1 pick in the NBA Draft that year and has had a nice pro career, while Dawson still has plenty of room to grow though he likely has the highest ceiling of anyone on this Spartans squad. But how will Dawson’s injury affect Michigan State’s postseason chances and the chances the Committee gives them? The Spartans still have to play the Big Ten Tournament (they will be the #1 seed in Indianapolis this weekend), but are unlikely to receive a #1 seed in the Big Dance. If they win the Big Ten Tourney, they are likely a lock for a #2 seed. If they fizzle out, a #3 seed is possible.

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