Rushed Reactions: #4 Michigan State 93, #13 Delaware 78

Posted by Kenny Ocker on March 20th, 2014

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Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion@RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregionKenny Ocker is an RTC correspondent. He is covering the Spokane pods of the East and West regionals this week. He wrote this after 4-seed Michigan State beat 13-seed Delaware 93-78 in Spokane on Thursday afternoon.

Three Key Takeaways.

Adreian Payne Put On a Superstar Show on Thursday in Spokane

Adreian Payne Put On a Superstar Show on Thursday in Spokane

  1. Adreian Payne played the best half of basketball I’ve ever seen in person. Michigan State’s star forward hit back-to-back three-pointers in the first half, then went inside for an old-fashioned three-point play, taking the game from Michigan State six-point lead to 33-18 in two minutes, then capped his personal 12-0 run with another three-pointer. He finished the first half with 23 points on 6-of-8 three-point shooting and was perfect on four three-pointers and seven free throws. Just outstanding.
  2. Delaware got the pace it wanted. The Blue Hens came into the game with the 10th-fastest tempo in the nation and the Spartans were somewhat below average in their game speed. The 93-78 score reflects the up-and-down nature of this battle. Unfortunately for Delaware, there wasn’t much else that went the Blue Hens’ way, as a four-guard team built on shooting the ball made only 20-of-54 field goals. Don’t let the Blue Hens’ 78 points fool you; the Spartans had a strong defensive showing here today.
  3. Will they get the lights replaced in Spokane Arena by the time the next game tips off? The Spartans shot 53 percent from the field, 53 percent from three-point range, and 92 percent from the free-throw line this afternoon. Granted, defense isn’t exactly Delaware’s forte, but even still, this result should send chills down the spine of any team that may have to face the Spartans down the line in the East Region.

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Bracket Prep: Florida, Virginia, Michigan State

Posted by Bennet Hayes on March 17th, 2014

Championship Week has found its close, but here are a few final short reviews of each of the automatic qualifiers to help you fill out your bracket this week. None of these titans really needed the “automatic bid” portion of their Tournament title gift package, of course, but with each figuring to play a key role in the weeks ahead, here’s what you need to know about a trio of Championship Week’s final victors.

Florida

Billy Donovan And The Gators Are SEC Champions Twice Over, But Florida Has Their Sights Set On A Greater Prize

Billy Donovan And The Gators Are SEC Champions Twice Over, But Florida Has Their Sights Set On A Greater Prize

  • SEC Champion (32-2, 21-0)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #2/#3/#3
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +16.1
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #1

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. In the final minutes of basketball before the 2014 NCAA Tournament bracket was unveiled, Florida survived Kentucky to claim the SEC crown, complete their 21-game conference sweep, and keep alive a 26-game win streak. Quite a tidy going away package for the Gators, who will enter the Tournament as a #1 seed and among the two or three favorites to cut down the nets in Dallas. The one-point victory Sunday was only the fifth time this season that the Gators have won by three points or less – a testament to the workmanlike attitude that has extended this win streak time and time again.
  2. The Gators led the SEC in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Defensive weaknesses are hard to spot with the Gators, but despite the high overall level of offensive efficiency, there is a weak spot or two that opponents will seek to exploit. Florida’s free throw shooting is shaky (66.2% as a team, 295th nationally), and even primary ballhandlers Scotty Wilbekin (72%), Casey Prather (68%) and Kasey Hill (63%) are anything but sure things at the charity stripe. Three-point shooting isn’t a concern for Florida at first glance – they shoot 37% as a team, 73rd best in the country – but Wilbekin (58 3PM, 40%) and Michael Frazier (107 3PM, 46%) have combined to make over 70% of the team’s three-point field goals. The rest of the team shot just 27% from distance, so if an opponent can find a way to take away looks from either Wilbekin or Frazier – especially the latter, who is strictly a perimeter shooter – things could get pretty one-dimensional for the Gator offense.
  3. Florida is the perfect example of a team that used the entire season to grow into an elite squad. For much of November and December, Billy Donovan was just trying to keep proverbial head above water with his team, as pieces shifted in and out of the Gator lineup. Wilbekin, Prather, Dorian Finney-Smith, Kasey Hill, and Chris Walker all missed time for various reasons, but save for road losses at Wisconsin and Connecticut (and no shame in those, either), the Gators kept on winning. Prather grew into an unlikely All-American candidate, Wilbekin has staked his claim as the best point guard in America, and Frazier is now second to none when it comes to perimeter shooters. None of these things happen without one of the best coaches in the game pressing all the right buttons from the sideline, but Donovan has spent the last four months constructing a team poised for even greater things in the NCAA Tournament. And after winning 26 games in a row en route to a sweep of the SEC titles, that, my friends, is saying something.

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Will Michigan State Ever be the Team We Thought It Could Be?

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 3rd, 2014

Branden Dawson’s return on Saturday was supposed to be the first positive step towards a full-strength resurgence for Michigan State, a “welcome back” moment for a bona-fide National Championship contender. Instead, the Spartans looked more like a fledgling team with a disorganized collection of talent than a veteran bunch ready to make a deep March run. “We didn’t play like a Michigan State team is supposed to play,” Tom Izzo said after the  53-46 home loss to Illinois. But with only a handful of games remaining before the stakes are significantly raised, the question has suddenly become two-fold for Izzo and his struggling group: Will they hit their peak before it’s too late? And—perhaps more ominous—is their peak even as high as first thought?

The concerns are piling up for Tom Izzo and the Spartans. (Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports)

The concerns are piling up for Tom Izzo and the Spartans. (Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports)

Despite his noticeable rust on the offensive end, Dawson’s first game back was actually encouraging in a lot of ways for the Spartans. The athletic junior seemed just as aggressive on the glass and tenacious on defense as he did before suffering the broken hand that kept him out a month. In 25 minutes of action, Dawson was energetic and unafraid, pulling down a team-high four offensive rebounds to go along with a pair of steals and a blocked shot—all-around pretty good, considering the long absence. The larger, more glaring concern was the play of Keith Appling; only recently back from an injury himself (wrist), the point guard remains nowhere near the player he was before the affliction. The Appling of old would confidently (and accurately) launch from behind the arc, explosively attack the basket, and knock down free throws when he earned trips to the line. It’s the reason he scored in double figures for seven straight games earlier this season and was in the conversation for Big Ten Player of the Year. But since his three-game hiatus in mid-February? The senior leader has attempted only three three-pointers, seldom penetrated the lane, and has gone just 2-for-8 from the charity stripe in 103 minutes of combined action. Among his misses were several potentially game-altering attempts against the Illini on Saturday that might have changed the outcome had they gone in. Whether it’s the lingering wrist injury or something else, Appling cannot continue to play at this level if the Spartans are going to make a run in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournament—he’s simply too important, both as a scoring option and a facilitator, to remain a non-factor.

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Big Ten Award Spotlight: Does Denzel Valentine Deserve Recognition?

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 20th, 2014

The phrase “glue guy” is used almost to the point of it being a cliche. It’s thrown around by announcers almost every game to describe players, many of whom simply aren’t very good or have much of a lasting impact. Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine has been neither of those things this season: He’s been very good in his sophomore campaign, and he has made a significant and necessary impact for the 21-5 Spartans. He’s been the almost-literal definition of a glue guy, as he’s one of only two Michigan State players to have played in all 26 games during an injury-riddled season for a team that still has a chance to make the Final Four in Arlington and cut down the nets. But has he done enough to merit all-Big Ten consideration?

Denzel Valentine has been stuffing the stat sheet all season long for Michigan State. (Eric Gay, AP)

Denzel Valentine has been stuffing the stat sheet all season long for Michigan State. (Eric Gay, AP)

Before laying out the case statistically for Valentine and his impact, here’s a comparison to consider:

  • Player A: 25.5 MPG, 9.9 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.9 BPG
  • Player B: 29.0 MPG, 7.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.4 BPG

Player A is Draymond Green’s sophomore numbers, and player B is Denzel Valentine’s sophomore numbers. As you can see, they aren’t all that different. Green played more out of the post, but both players have filled similar roles early in their careers. Neither were asked to score, but they were both counted on by Tom Izzo to distribute the ball, hit the glass, and defend their butts off. Green was named to the all-Big Ten third team in his sophomore season, so it’s not all that far-fetched that Valentine would earn similar recognition this season. Consider his impact: He’s currently the only player to rank in the league’s top 10 in both rebounds and assists; he’s in the top 20 in steals (13th); and he’s fifth with a 2:1 assist to turnover rate. Whether his numbers are a bit inflated because of how many players Michigan State has had injured is irrelevant — his level of production is still quite solid.

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Key Questions Heading into Michigan vs. Michigan State Today

Posted by Brendan Brody & Alex Moscoso on January 25th, 2014

Well, this is it. The final two undefeated teams in conference play will go head-to-head tonight in East Lansing. The Spartans will have the advantage of playing in the raucous Breslin Center, but they’ll be shorthanded since both Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson are expected to miss the game. Michigan, on the other hand, doesn’t have Mitch McGary to man the post, but Nik Stauskus has been red hot offensively and the team appear to have moved on from its early season troubles. Two of our Big Ten microsite writers, Brendan Brody and Alex Moscoso, tackle the big questions headed into the game.

All eyes are on the Big Ten this weekend, as Michigan and Michigan State face off for first place in the league.

All eyes are on the Big Ten this weekend, as Michigan and Michigan State face off for first place in the league.

Michigan State is a top 10 defensive unit but their two best defensive players (Dawson and Payne) are likely to be out for the game. Michigan, on the other hand, is an elite offensive team. Will the Spartans be able to slow down the Wolverines given their injuries?

BB: The Michigan offense has been really impressive lately, and Michigan State might have had problems slowing them down even with Dawson and Payne in uniform tonight. Without those two seeing action, I just don’t know how they can hinder the Wolverines from scoring essentially whenever they want. Stauskas has been the best player in the conference over the last several weeks, but this team has much more weaponry than their sophomore assassin to call upon. Caris LeVert and/or Glenn Robinson III should have a huge advantage as the Spartans are going to have to use either a small guard like Travis Trice or with some combination of Kenny Kaminski/Russell Byrd to defend them. Big men like Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford aren’t strong offensively, but everyone else that gets significant playing time can score the ball from a multitude of different spots on the floor. Unless they go into some horrific shooting funk where they can’t make anything, Michigan will not be slowed down offensively tonight.

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Key Questions in Advance of Minnesota vs. Michigan State

Posted by Brendan Brody and Alex Moscoso on January 11th, 2014

One of the best games of the Big Ten weekend slate should be in East Lansing this afternoon. Minnesota (13-3, 2-1) takes on Michigan State (14-1, 3-0) in a game that pits a team looking to climb into the the top half of the league against a team looking to get healthy and find some consistency on its way to a national title. RTC Big Ten microsite columnists Brendan Brody and Alex Moscoso decided to take a look at some key questions heading into this interesting match-up.

Andre Hollins needs a big game for Minnesota to pull off an upset in East Lansing.

Andre Hollins needs a big game for Minnesota to pull off an upset in East Lansing.

1. Both teams are relatively equal nationally with Minnesota ranking 44th in offensive rebounding rate, and Michigan State checking in at 45th in defensive rebounding. Who wins the battle of the boards?

Alex Moscoso: For once, I’m going to disregard the numbers and predict that Michigan State wins the rebounding battle under its own basket. When it comes to rebounding, I’m not betting against Tom Izzo, especially when the Spartans are at home. While Michigan State has Adreian Payne as its only consistent low-post presence, wings Branden Dawson and Denzel Valentine have stepped up and are accounting for 5.7 and 4.3 defensive rebounds per game, respectively, as well. This should work to their advantage against Minnesota, who shoots a ton of threes (12th in the nation in attempts), and allow them to go after long rebounds. Add to the fact that Payne’s ankle is getting healthier every day, and I think Sparty wins the battle of the boards in this game.

Brendan Brody: Rebounding for Minnesota starts and ends with Elliott Eliason. He’s been pivotal in the Gophers’ efforts on the glass, and with Payne still struggling with some foot issues, look for Eiliason to continue to clean up Minnesota’s misses at a high level. He’s second in the league in grabbing offensive rebounds (13.5%), and he along with Maurice Walker will enable the Gophers to get second-chance opportunities if the Gophers aren’t hitting from deep.

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Michigan State’s Loss to North Carolina: Three Questions Sparty Must Answer

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 5th, 2013

Michigan State’s run as the number one team in the land is likely over after losing convincingly to North Carolina in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge Wednesday night. The Spartans went down 79-65 in a game in which they were outrebounded, outhustled, and just generally beaten down by the enigmatic Tar Heels. While not an excuse, the Spartans’ three best players all suffered some sort of ailment in the contest, as Gary Harris tweaked his injured ankle, Keith Appling suffered a hip pointer from a nasty spill, and Adreian Payne had a muscle cramp that he couldn’t shake. But nobody else stepped up, as the team shot only 35.9 percent from the field, allowed the Tar Heels to score 1.09 points per possession, and were whipped on the defensive glass (UNC grabbed 39 percent of its offensive rebounding opportunities). None of this will happen to Tom Izzo’s team very often as the season plays out. To answer the titular question, though, the loss isn’t all that meaningful in that it was to a team that very well may spend a good portion of the season in the Top 25. But questions remain that Michigan State will have to answer if it is really to prove that it is a serious national title contender. Here are three in particular.

Roy Williams got the last laugh Wednesday night against Tom Izzo and Michigan State

Roy Williams got the last laugh Wednesday night against Tom Izzo and Michigan State

  1. Does Michigan State have the depth it needs to contend for a national title? This game would have been the perfect opportunity for someone like Branden Dawson, Travis Trice, or Denzel Valentine to take over, but it didn’t happen. Dawson was silent to the tune of scoring only two points and more importantly grabbing only three rebounds. Trice had five steals, but along with only two assists and four turnovers. Valentine shot 1-of-4 from the field and didn’t do anything else to make an impact. If your three best players are struggling with injuries or just off nights, someone else has to come through and none of these likely candidates stepped up. This team is built on the big three of Harris, Payne and Appling, a trio that might be the best group in terms of combined talent and experience of any team in the country, but the others will have to contribute more consistently if Sparty is to reach the final weekend of the season. Read the rest of this entry »
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Three Takeaways from Michigan State’s Champions Classic Performance

Posted by Max Jakubowski on November 13th, 2013

Youth or experience? It was the key question posed going into Tuesday night’s showdown between Michigan State and Kentucky, and the Spartans’ experience won out after holding on for a 78-74 win over Kentucky. The Spartans will presumably be the new #1 in the polls next week, but before that, here are a few takeaways from the huge Michigan State win:

Gary Harris knows his Spartans are the new number one.

Gary Harris knows his Spartans are the new number one.

  • Michigan State will only go as far as its point guard play this season, and boy, did Keith Appling silence the critics with an incredible stat line of 22 points, seven assists, seven rebounds, four steals, and only three turnovers. Appling has been known to have turnover issues and a showing like last night will go a long way to raising the senior ‘s confidence with the ball and running the team effectively. Appling’s backcourt mate Gary Harris also contributed a huge 15-point first half performance. Along with the combined 42 points from the two Michigan State guards, both were active in intercepting the passing lanes of Kentucky and causing a total of 17 turnovers. After Kentucky had tied the game with 4:48 left, Appling hit a huge three from the corner and then Harris stole the ball and finished with a layup to put MSU up for good. Guard play in March wins championships, and if Appling and Harris can continue to make major plays like those, Tom Izzo’s squad has as good a chance as any team to make it to Dallas for the Final Four.

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Evaluating Four of the Top Big Ten Sixth Man Candidates

Posted by Max Jakubowski on November 6th, 2013

Ed. Note: this list isn’t meant to be inclusive. Every team will have at least one solid sixth man candidate. These are meant to highlight only four of them.

Last year’s Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year Will Sheehey provided a huge spark to Indiana off the bench, averaging 9.5 points per game to go along with nearly 35 percent shooting from three. The Hoosiers lost four starters from last year, so that means not only will Sheehey need to start but also a new winner for for this award will be crowned. Here’s a look at some of the players who have a great shot to capture it this season.

Shannon Scott Leads a Strong Group of Big Ten Sixth Men This Season

Shannon Scott Leads a Strong Group of Big Ten Sixth Men This Season

  • Shannon Scott - Ohio State, junior point guard – Scott possess all the skills of a starting point guard in a big time conference, but due to Aaron Craft starting at the position, Scott begins the game on the bench. He still sees plenty of playing time, as his defensive guard skill set is a perfect complement to Craft’s. Both guards allow head coach Thad Matta to pressure the opponents’ guards up and down the floor, making even dribbling the ball past half-court a difficult test. Matta is also not afraid to use Scott on the offensive end with Craft playing off the ball. Last year the Buckeyes frequently enabled a lineup of Craft, Scott, Lenzelle Smith Jr., Deshaun Thomas and Sam Thompson. That is a small lineup, but it creates match-up nightmares as all five players can score from the perimeter. Scott will need to pick up his scoring average (4.9 PPG) as well as his 33 percent three-point average to make him an even more valuable offensive player off the bench.
  • Denzel Valentine – Michigan State, sophomore small forward – Comparisons of Michigan State great Draymond Green have been made with Valentine’s all-purpose game. But Valentine has not shown he can be the type of inside-out post player Green was. Keith Appling will be backed up by Valentine, who is a very good ball-handler for his size. He has shown in flashes that he can contribute in a number of ways for Tom Izzo, like when he put up nine points, six rebounds and six assists against Memphis in the third round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Valentine’s 4.1 RPG and 2.4 APG should increase this season, but the main area he needs to develop is his three-point shot.  He shot a dismal 28 percent from deep last season and the Spartans really need someone to become a three-point threat other than Gary Harris. If Valentine can push his percentage up to around 35 percent, it will be hard for Izzo to keep him off the court.

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2013-14 RTC Class Schedule: Michigan State Spartans

Posted by BHayes on September 6th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler. Periodically throughout the preseason, RTC will take an in-depth look at the schedules of some of the more prominent teams in college basketball.

Watch out for Sparty in 2013-14. Tom Izzo returns nearly every key contributor from his Sweet 16 squad of a year ago, with only bruising big man Derrick Nix since departed. More good news for East Lansing’s finest: the Big Ten shouldn’t prove quite as challenging as it did last season as fellow top-four finishers Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio State all suffered major personnel losses in the offseason. That may mean some turnover at the top, especially with a number of teams in the bottom half of the conference looking improved from a season ago. So, sure – you can expect a little reshuffling at the top of the Big Ten. But with the returns of Keith Appling, Gary Harris, and Adreian Payne (among others) to East Lansing, you should also feel pretty safe in believing that Sparty will be right where they always are come March – in the hunt for a Big Ten title, preparing themselves for a sustained Tournament push.

The Emergence Of Spartan Big Man Adreian Payne Makes Michigan State A Scary Team

The Emergence Of Spartan Big Man Adreian Payne Makes Michigan State A Scary Team (Getty Images)

  • Team Outlook: Despite the arrival of a relatively underwhelming freshmen class – neither center Gavin Schilling nor shooting guard Alvin Ellis has the look of a minute-eating freshman, Tom Izzo’s cupboard is fully stocked. The backcourt features the Spartan’s two top scorers from a year ago in Keith Appling (13.4 PPG, 3.3 APG) and Gary Harris (12.9 PPG, 41% 3PT). Both battled nagging injuries throughout last winter, so an offseason of rest and rehabilitation may have been just what the Spartans needed although Harris appears to have suffered a temporary setback with a sprained ankle that will keep him out until at least the start of practice. With another year under their belt and improved health (knock on wood), there should be an expectation of increased, or at least more efficient, contributions from the duo. The third centerpiece of this Spartan club is center Adreian Payne, who broke out in his sophomore season posting season averages of 10.5 PPG, 7.6 RPG, and 1.3 BPG as the big man even showed an unexpectedly refined touch from deep. After only attempting two three-pointers in his first season in East Lansing, Payne went 16-42 from beyond the stripe last season, giving Izzo (and NBA scouts) hope that he might progress even further here in year three. Branden Dawson (8.9 PPG and 5.9 RPG) is the fourth Spartan returning starter, while versatile sophomore Denzel Valentine (5.0 PPG and 4.1 RPG) would seem like the top candidate to occupy the starting slot left open by the departure of Nix, an insertion that would necessitate a slide to the power forward position for Dawson. Sophomore Travis Trice (4.8 PPG, 1.9 APG) should operate as a capable backup for Appling at the point, but Tom Izzo will have decisions to make in rounding out the bench rotation beyond Trice. Matt Costello and Alex Gauna only averaged about six minutes per game each a season ago, but both could be thrust into larger roles this time around. Junior Russell Byrd and the freshman Schilling may also be options for Izzo in his quest to sort out the frontcourt rotation, as he seeks to at least partially replace the physicality and production that Nix brought to the table last season. Payne and Dawson should take care of plenty of that by themselves, and let’s also remember that this is Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans – if you can’t rebound you don’t see the floor, so expect the old coach to find some tough role players somewhere on the roster. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: #3 Michigan State 70, #6 Memphis 48

Posted by Will Tucker on March 23rd, 2013

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Will Tucker is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 32 NCAA Tournament game between #3 Michigan State and #6 Memphis from Auburn Hills. You can also find him on Twitter @blrdswag.

Three Key Takeaways:

Michigan State Ran Away From Memphis This Afternoon

Michigan State Ran Away From Memphis This Afternoon

  1. Michigan State’s brute force in the interior was too much for Memphis to handle. As athletic as the Tigers are, they don’t have enough size to defend the post against 6’9: Derrick Nix and 6’10: Adreian Payne, who weigh a cumulative 510 pounds. The Spartans’ imposing duo combined for 27 points and 18 rebounds, while Payne recorded five blocks. Tarik Black and Shaq Goodwin are the only players in Josh Pastner’s trusted rotation who measure at least 6’8″ and 240 pounds, and the two combined for 4 points and 6 rebounds. Despite his size, Goodwin went scoreless and played with the tentativeness of a freshman in his first huge college game, and Black played much of the second half with 4 fouls. Pastner afterward called MSU “probably the best in the country at offensive rebounding,” but it was on the defensive end that the Spartans established their +20 rebound margin, courtesy of Memphis shooting 30% from the field.
  2. Free throw shooting finally caught up with the Tigers. Inability to cash in at the charity stripe nearly derailed Memphis against Saint Mary’s on Thursday, when they shot 9-18. Down 12 with 5:13 remaining, Tarik Black went to the line after a Flagrant 1 was assessed to Derrick Nix. Moments after Geron Johnson had drilled a three, with an opportunity to turn the momentum and stage a final push, Black unceremoniously missed both free throws. Michigan State would go on a 12-2 run to close the game, despite losing Keith Appling to a shoulder injury. The Tigers finished at 66% on the season after shooting 5-10 from the line today.
  3. The Spartans’ backcourt depth is suspect. While their starting five is undeniably one of the best in the country, today’s game illustrated the dearth of talented depth behind Gary Harris and Keith Appling. Harris had a huge first half, heading to the break with 16 points and 4 threes, but only played 8 minutes after halftime once saddled with four fouls. Keith Appling didn’t show up on the box score, ending with 2 points and 2 assists, but he managed the game well until aggravating his right shoulder and leaving the game with 8:35 remaining. At that point Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine were left to orchestrate things, and while they combined for 9 points and 7 assists as MSU pulled away, there was a substantial drop-off in explosiveness in the Spartans’ backcourt. It wasn’t an issue in this game, but it could portend problems in a closer contest against potential regional opponents Duke or Louisville.

Star of the Game. Adreian Payne left his mark on every portion of the court with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks. The junior seems to be shedding his mercurial reputation, and turned in an MVP performance after apologizing to his teammates for a disappointing showing in Thursday’s Valparaiso win. Gary Harris also deserves to be acknowledged for his career-high 23 points in only 25 minutes on 6-9 shooting. Tom Izzo noted after the game that the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year seemed to thrive on the big stage in front of a sellout crowd of 21,723.

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Set Your DVR: Week of 02.04.13

Posted by bmulvihill on February 5th, 2013

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Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

With only a month to go in the regular season, the conference pictures are still not 100% clear. Let’s take a look at six match-ups this week that will continue to clear things up as we head towards March. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

#12 Ohio State at #3 Michigan – 9:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN (****)

  • If you break games up into ten minute segments as KenPom does in his box scores, Michigan has only played two poor ten minute segments this season. The first ten minutes against Ohio State and the first ten minutes against Indiana. Both games were on the road in very hostile environments. In their last game in Columbus, Ohio State punched the Wolverines in the mouth in those first ten minutes with tenacious defense. Michigan recovered by limiting mistakes and forcing the Buckeyes to execute their half-court offense, which is virtually nonexistent  Don’t expect Michigan to be rattled like they were in Columbus but they still need to be careful with the basketball. If Ohio State wants to win in Ann Arbor, Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott are going to need to be even more disruptive on defense. Also, keep a close eye on Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III for the Wolverines. Stauskas had zero points against the Buckeyes and GRIII was virtually nonexistent in both of Michigan’s losses. If Michigan is going to win the Big Ten and make a deep run in the tournament, these two need to be at their best every night. The addition of those two as scoring threats is what makes Michigan so tough to beat. If the scoring sits squarely on the shoulders of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan becomes much easier to beat.
Round Two of OSU-Michigan Will Be Another War

Round Two of OSU-Michigan Will Be Another War

#21 Minnesota at #6 Michigan State – 7:00 PM EST, Wednesday on BTN (****)

  • After four straight losses, the Gophers have steadied a bit with wins against Nebraska and Iowa. They have avoided an Illinois-like tailspin, which is keeping them in the hunt in the Big Ten. Michigan State is sitting one game back of Indiana and is looking to avenge their New Year’s Eve loss to Minnesota. The difference in that game was offensive rebounding, free throws, and 60% two-point shooting from the Gophers. The Spartans are still having a tough time defending the two, so keep a close eye on the interior defense they get from Adreian Payne, Derrick Nix, and Denzel Valentine. These three players need to lead the way for Michigan State, if they want to win this game. In the last meeting, Nix went 5-15, Payne had 4 points, and Valentine had 5 points. All three players need to be more productive for Michigan State to keep pace not only in this game but the rest of the Big Ten season. For Minnesota, they need to stop turning the ball over and play better defense without fouling. Keep a close eye on turnovers and free throws for the Gophers throughout the game. If they can limit both, they can beat Sparty again.

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