NIT Preview: Three Keys for Minnesota Against Florida State

Posted by Brendan Brody on April 1st, 2014

Minnesota has made the most out of its experience in the NIT, as the Gophers have made it to New York City to take on Florida State in the semifinals of the event this evening. This is a rematch of an earlier meeting in December’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge, when Richard Pitino’s team defeated the Seminoles 71-61 at Williams Arena. Despite a lack of prestige and eyeballs on this game, Minnesota is the only Big Ten team still playing basketball other than Wisconsin. In order to advance to Thursday night’s championship game, here are three things for Minnesota to concentrate on to beat FSU again.

With Elliott Eliason probably not playing due to an injury, Minnesota needs a big night Tuesday from Maurice Walker. (Pioneer Press, Ben Garvin)

With Elliott Eliason probably not playing due to an injury, Minnesota needs a big night Tuesday from Maurice Walker. (Pioneer Press, Ben Garvin)

  1. Create turnovers: Florida State turns the ball over slightly less often than Indiana, and anyone who watched any Big Ten basketball this season knows what that means. The Seminoles turn the ball over on over 21 percent of their possessions, and out of the 92 ACC players who played over 40 percent of their team’s available minutes, Devin Bookert and Ian Miller rank fourth and fifth from the bottom. Miller also uses 25.6 percent of the team’s possessions, so taking advantage of his propensity to give the ball away is a must. Minnesota needs to remain aggressive on the perimeter, forcing turnovers instead of letting the  guards — both of whom shoot over 40 percent from deep — get hot from the outside. Read the rest of this entry »
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Some Key Questions Heading into Minnesota vs. Michigan

Posted by Brendan Brody and Alex Moscoso on March 1st, 2014

Minnesota traveling to Ann Arbor for a rematch with Michigan highlights the slate of the games this weekend in the Big Ten. There is a great deal on the line for both teams, as the Gophers look to pick up what would be an enormous resume boost that would come from beating the league’s first place team in their building. Michigan would inch that much closer toward picking up at least a share of the Big Ten regular season crown with a victory. RTC’s Big Ten correspondents Brendan Brody and Alex Moscoso  look at some of what to watch for if you’re tuning in (BTN 6:oo EST).

Jordan Morgan must keep Elliott Eliason off the glass Saturday when Michigan plays Minnesota. (Adam Hunger, Getty Images).

Jordan Morgan must keep Elliott Eliason off the glass Saturday when Michigan plays Minnesota. (Adam Hunger, Getty Images).

Brendan Brody: Michigan showed how dangerous they can be when they hit threes and play at a quicker tempo in their last win over Iowa. Does Michigan try and run with them, or do they try and play at a slower pace?

Alex Moscoso: I’ve coached exactly zero minutes of organized basketball, but it would seem to me that deviating from what you do best is a recipe for disaster. And what Michigan does best is offense. Granted, Minnesota has also shown it’s at its best when they are getting up and down the court-relying on the sharpshooting of Andre Hollins and Deandre Mathieu’s ability to get to the rim. However, if I was John Beilein, I would be ecstatic if Minnesota wanted to get in a track meet with his squad on Saturday. Michigan scores more efficiently (1.21 to 1.14 points per possession), shoots the ball better (55.2% to 51.4% eFG), and virtually runs the same pace as the Gophers (63 to 64.7 adjusted tempo). The question may be, are the Gophers going to be able to run with Michigan. I mentioned Hollins earlier, and he clearly hasn’t been the same since hurting his ankle against Wisconsin. How can Minnesota still win this game if Hollins isn’t effective offensively?

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Big Ten M5: 02.28.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 28th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. For the first time in quite a while, Michigan State should have its full roster intact on Saturday when the Spartans take on Illinois. Branden Dawson will return to action for the first time in nine games, although head coach Tom Izzo doesn’t know how much he’ll be able to play. Dawson will have to wear a brace on his injured hand, but as long as said brace doesn’t hinder his ability to rebound and play defense, it shouldn’t be an issue. Even with players not necessarily playing at 100 percent health-wise, the Spartans will gain a lot of credibility with the selection committee by winning their last three with their lineup fully in place.
  2. Ben Brust has been slightly off shooting the ball as of late. He turned things around last game in the second half against Indiana however, and in the process became the 38th player in Wisconsin history to hit the 1,000-point plateau. Brust credited his teammates for this accomplishment saying, noting that “he was lucky to have good players when I got here to set an example for me.” Brust is shooting a slightly lower percentage (37.0%) on threes this season than in his last two (38.9% in both his sophomore and junior seasons), but he’s posting a much higher offensive rating and is knocking down almost 90 percent of his free throws. He could garner even more space in Wisconsin basketball lore with a hot shooting streak come March.
  3. Illinois is starting to turn things around after the Illini lost eight games in a row during conference play. They’ve now won three out of five games since they switched their starting lineup, putting Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn into the starting unit in place of seniors Jon Ekey and Joseph Bertrand. With their win against Nebraska on Wednesday night, the Illini guaranteed themselves a .500 record for the regular season. If they can miraculously win out against the likes of Michigan State, Michigan and Iowa, they may even have a remote opportunity to play themselves back onto the bubble. In this year’s Big Ten, you never know.
  4. That last statement could definitely also be applied to what happened with Minnesota forward Charles Buggs and his performance Tuesday night at The Barn. In this year’s Big Ten, you never know, and no one would have imagined or thought that someone who had played a grand total of 21 minutes all season could score 13 points and ignite a rally that may have saved the Gophers season. Buggs almost transferred in the midst of the coaching transition, but stick around because he thought his athleticism would work well in their up-tempo system. With Oto Osenieks hobbled with a knee problem, Buggs may have won himself extended time the rest of the season at the power forward spot.
  5. Anyone who saw the transition and success Northwestern had during their mid-season turnaround had to have noticed that JerShon Cobb was a huge part of their efforts. It was announced on Thursday afternoon that due to lingering knee and foot problems, Cobb will not play the rest of the season. Cobb will be heard from again as a senior leader for the 2014-15 version of the Wildcats, but for now they will struggle to win games for the rest of the 2013-14 campaign. This makes an already short bench even shorter, and hurts them defensively by losing Cobb’s length at the guard spot.
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Big Ten M5: 11.16.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 16th, 2012

  1. Michigan State freshman Gary Harris came into this season a highly touted recruit for Tom Izzo. He was ranked in the top 30 by Rivals and proved his worth against Kansas by scoring 18 points on Tuesday night. But the other freshman Spartan, Denzel Valentine, may end up being just as valuable as Harris this season. Valentine has the ability to become a great guard in Izzo’s system with his passing skills (four assists against KU) and the zeal to buckle down on the defensive end. Both Harris and Valentine may end up being a dynamic duo for Izzo over the next couple of years assuming both of them stay in school.
  2. Bo Ryan may find guards to fill in the void created by Josh Gasser’s injury on the offensive end but the defensive side might suffer a bit this season. Shane Ryan of Grantland outlines the Badgers’ defensive issues based on the road game against Florida on Wednesday night. Gasser was a lockdown defender on defense last season and his freshman replacements, George Marshall and Traevon Jackson, may have issues keeping up with superior backcourts. Both of them are athletic enough but it takes a while for freshmen to understand and communicate properly about the defensive sets. Ryan’s teams have ranked in the top 10 defensively in the nation for a long time and will need to figure out their issues soon before conference play begins.
  3. After long discussions with Minnesota’s Charles Buggs‘ family, Tubby Smith and Buggs have decided that he will redshirt this season. The 6’9″ forward’s services may not be needed because Trevor Mbakwe will play a major role in the frontcourt for Tubby Smith. Buggs weighs about 195 lbs. right now, so one of his main goals during the redshirt year will be to add some size in order to compete in the rugged B1G. Smith compared him to forward Damian Johnson who redshirted as a true freshman and became a key defensive player for Smith in Minneapolis. Rodney Williams will mostly play at the power forward position once Mbakwe is back to 100% game shape over the next couple of months.
  4. Northwestern has signed point guard Jaren Sina and guard Nate Taphorn for the 2013-14 season. Sina was also considering Seton Hall, Alabama, Memphis and Pittsburgh, while Taphorn is supposed to have great range on his jumper and should contribute from the wing next season after Drew Crawford’s graduation. Head coach Bill Carmody continues to bring in quality guards to Evanston but he will have to recruit some athletic size who can hold their own in the paint if he wants to win more than nine or 10 games in the conference season. Forward Chier Ajou may end up being a valuable big man for Carmody as he gains more experience over the course of the season.
  5. After a 2-0 start, Illinois will play Hawaii on the road on Friday night. John Groce and his Illini took a trip to Pearl Harbor and met some World War II veterans while in Honolulu. The Illini could beat Hawaii convincingly but they will have a big challenge against USC on Monday night to kick off the Maui Invitational in Lahaina. This talented group of new Trojans may not compete with Arizona and UCLA for the Pac-12 regular season title but could very well end up among the top five teams in their conference. A win against USC would be a huge confidence booster for Illinois as it learns to adjust to Groce’s up-tempo offensive schemes.
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