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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Set Your DVR: Week of 01.21.13

Posted by bmulvihill on January 21st, 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.

We just had one of the most memorable weekends in recent memory in college hoops. Every game seems to be up for grabs and it’s making for an exciting season. This week should be no different as each conference has its share of important match-ups. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

Cincinnati at #3 Syracuse – 3:30 PM PM EST, Monday on ESPN (***)

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Jim Boeheim’s Team Looks Great After This Weekend

  • Cincinnati barely snapped a three-game home losing streak on Saturday with an overtime win against Marquette. The Bearcats were without star guard Cashmere Wright as he continues to heal up from a knee injury. Wright is day-to-day so we don’t know quite yet if he will be available against Syracuse, though. If he is unable to play, his three-point shooting will be missed greatly against the Orange’s match-up zone defense. Although, even if he plays, the size of the Orange backcourt will surely create issues for the 6’0″ guard. In its huge win at Louisville over the weekend, Syracuse proved its size and length on defense makes Jim Boeheim’s team a clear title contender. Both of these teams excel on the offensive glass, so keep a close eye on which team is getting more second-chance opportunities and making the most of them — this could be another place where the Syracuse size makes a difference. More than likely this game will be won on the defensive end.  However, if the Bearcats don’t find a better shooting stroke quickly, this game will not be close regardless of their defensive effort. They shot 41.4% eFG against Marquette, so a shooting number like that won’t cut it against Syracuse.

#12 Michigan State at Wisconsin – 7:00 PM PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN (****)

  • It felt like Iowa was due for a big win at home and it happened to come against Wisconsin on Saturday. After the Badgers’ huge win against Indiana last week, the weekend loss to Iowa brought the team back to reality, but they don’t get much rest with the Spartans coming to town. In order for the Badgers to beat the Spartans, they must play their typically great defense. Bo Ryan‘s squad is 1-4 against teams that shoot over 50% eFG against them so it’s clear that they do not have the offense to go back and forth with teams. Luckily, the Spartans are not a great shooting team with nine games under 50% eFG themselves on the season. This should make for a very close defensive-oriented contest in Madison. Keep an eye on free throws, as they will be a major factor in determining the outcome. Wisconsin must play good defense without fouling; if they are sending Michigan State to the line early in each half, they could very easily drop two games in a row. Look for Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix to be all over Wisconsin forward Jared Berggren, forcing someone else on the Badgers to beat them. This should be another slugfest in the Big Ten.

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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on January 18th, 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.

The top teams in several conferences go head-to-head and a non-conference mid-major battle in the midwest should provide a spectacular weekend of college hoops. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

#6 Syracuse at #1 Louisville – 4:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (*****)

Jim Boeheim and Rick Pitino Meet on Saturday Again...

Jim Boeheim and Rick Pitino Meet on Saturday Again…

  • The cream of the Big East crop lock up in what should be an epic defensive battle. This may be the best defensive match-up we will see all season. Jim Boeheim’s match-up zone versus Rick Pitino’s press will be fun to watch. Louisville is known for its ability to create lots of turnovers, but Syracuse is almost just as good at causing teams to make mistakes. Additionally, Syracuse blocks a bunch of shots and locks down the perimeter. Louisville counters with its own shot-blocker deluxe in Gorgui Dieng. The question for Syracuse is how they will break the Louisville press — look to see if they use their length to make passes over the top of the Cardinals’ defense to get down the court.  Also, watch the guard match-up between Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams of Syracuse and Peyton Siva and Russ Smith of Louisville. Triche and Carter-Williams have a significant size advantage that could make scoring from the Louisville backcourt limited, although Smith just seems to find ways to score anyway. Ultimately, this game will come down to whose defense plays better, but this game is shaping up to be a classic.

#17 Missouri at #8 Florida – 2:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (****)

  • Florida is coming off a dominant win against Texas A&M and is beginning to separate itself from the rest of the SEC. A win by Missouri on the road would be huge for the Tigers as they head into a stretch of games against the bottom tier of the league. Missouri needs to find a way to control the offensive boards without Laurence Bowers available if they are going to have a shot at winning this game. The Gators have been one of the toughest teams to shoot against this season, so don’t expect the Tigers to get a lot of great looks. However, as one of the better offensive rebounding teams in the country, the Tigers have a chance if they can get put-backs and tip-ins. The key will be the battle down low between Alex Oriakhi and Patric Young so pay close attention to those two big men battling inside. Also, keep an eye on Missouri’s perimeter defense. Florida is taking 40% of its total shots from three — if the Gators’ shooters  are hitting from the outside, it’s going to be tough sledding for Missouri in its first SEC trip to Gainesville.

Oregon at #21 UCLA – 4:00 PM EST, Saturday on CBS (****)

  • The Pac-12 is looking like a three team battle between Arizona, UCLA, and Oregon. With the Ducks already knocking off the Wildcats, they can make a huge statement early in the conference season with a road win against the Bruins. It won’t be easy, however, as UCLA has quietly put together a 10-game winning streak including back-to-back road wins against Utah and Colorado. Keep a close eye on turnovers in this game. Oregon is turning the ball over frequently at a rate of over 21% of its possessions. We have seen road teams get down early recently because of multiple mistakes in a hostile environment. If the Bruins can create turnovers early with some tough defense, it will make things very difficult for the Ducks in Pauley Pavilion. Also, watch the rebounding numbers. The Ducks are a far superior team on the glass at both ends. UCLA’s Kyle Anderson and the Wear brothers need to box out. Rebounding will keep Oregon in the game and could prove to be the difference if they are able to avoid turnovers.

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Big Ten M5: 01.16.13 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on January 16th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. Despite a valiant comeback effort that nearly resulted in a win at Assembly Hall, Minnesota ended up falling to Indiana in its first Big Ten loss on Saturday. The Gophers fell behind by 23 at halftime due to a slow start, and Tubby Smith said part of that was due to a lack of aggressiveness. The Indiana game wasn’t the only slow start Minnesota has had. The Gophers also got into an early hole against Illinois before coming back for an impressive win. They did the same against some inferior competition in non-conference season. Minnesota has the talent to hang with anyone in the country, but in games against top teams,the Gophers must make sure they are strong from the start.
  2. The Big Ten has some fairly active coaches on Twitter. Indiana’s Tom Crean tweets a lot of biblical passages while Nebraska’s Tim Miles tweets about his games at halftime. But don’t expect Tom Izzo to join Twitter any time soon as the Michigan State coach hates the social media platform. There are a lot of good quotes in that article from Izzo, who said he thinks his players listen to criticism more because of it. He has also had conversations with Derrick Nix, who searches his name after every game to retweet fans who criticized him during the game.
  3. In Tim Miles’ first season in Lincoln, nobody expected Nebraska to make much noise in the Big Ten. And while the Huskers have still yet to win a conference game, they have kept things close with both Michigan and Michigan State on the road, thanks to stellar defensive play. Tom Izzo came away impressed with Miles’ squad and said, “I don’t think anybody wants to play them home or away.” Even more impressive, Nebraska held its own against Michigan State without top player Brandon Ubel.
  4. Ohio State has struggled to score this year, and that was very evident at Illinois in a lopsided loss. The Buckeyes have been able to score in transition and have gotten points in the paint at times, but they don’t have consistent shooters. However, the defense was outstanding in their win over Michigan on Sunday and the offense was good enough. Aaron Craft frustrated Trey Burke and the Buckeyes did the same to freshman stars Nick Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III. The Wolverines admitted to noticing the pressure. Considering how inconsistent the offense is, Ohio State’s season outlook could depend on how the defense plays from here on out.
  5. When Wisconsin arrives at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday, Iowa will be facing the Big Ten’s lone undefeated team. That plus the prospect of playing a rival makes the game a good one, but an added emotional dimension will be in play, as well. The Hawkeyes will be honoring the legacy of former player Chris Street, who died in a car accident 20 years ago. Rick Brown of The Des Moines Register has a nice story on Street’s legacy, his family, and the impact he has left on the University of Iowa.
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Big Ten M5: 01.03.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on January 3rd, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. Wisconsin guard Ben Brust injured his lower leg during practice on Wednesday but is supposedly “fine” after going through a few tests. Brust is averaging 11.8 PPG and 6.8 RPG as the starting guard while playing a very important role in the Badgers’ offense after the loss of Josh Gasser for the season. The junior guard will be ready to play against Penn State to open conference play on Thursday in Madison. Bo Ryan needs his experience and three-point shooting (42% 3FG) during Big Ten play in order to finish in the top half of the league and win 10 games.
  2. Wolverines’ guard Tim Hardaway Jr. is questionable for Michigan’s conference opener against Northwestern on Thursday. He was on the sidelines with an ankle brace against Central Michigan over the weekend and the UM training staff will not be sure about his status until Thursday’s practice. Hardaway had started 81 games in a row in the maize and blue but his streak was snapped on Saturday. He is averaging 15.8 PPG but has not practiced since last week. The Wildcats will be seeking some revenge after their overtime loss to the Wolverines the last time they met in Evanston during the 2011-12 season.
  3. While John Beilein might miss his best wing on Thursday night, Northwestern’s Bill Carmody will not have his best forward on Thursday either as Reggie Hearn hasn’t practiced since twisting his ankle against Stanford on December 21. Hearn had been averaging 14.5 PPG and 5.5 RPG this season and had clearly stepped up since Drew Crawford was declared out for the season, scoring 18 points in a tough loss to the Cardinal in Evanston. The Wildcats have a very tough schedule ahead – five out of their first six games are against Big Ten teams currently ranked in the top 11 teams of the AP poll. When the head coach was asked about Hearn’s injury, Carmody replied, “Three weeks ago, we had Drew and Reggie and they gave me 30 a game. Who are you going to get it from?” Sophomore guard Dave Sobolewski (11.3 PPG) and Jared Swopshire (8.8 PPG) will need to carry the offensive load while Hearn is out.
  4. Tom Izzo‘s big frontcourt of Derrick Nix, Adreian Payne, and Branden Dawson did not work too well against Minnesota earlier this week as the Spartans lost 76-63 in Minneapolis. Izzo said “Payne did not play very well” because he could not stay out of foul trouble. Nix shot just 5-of-15 from the field in scoring 10 points and appeared to be too “relaxed” in the second half as he missed a couple of easy shots around the basket. The Spartans play the Boilermakers on Saturday which won’t be an easy game especially after Painter’s team beat Illinois at home to open the conference season. A little bit of home-cooking should help Nix and Payne after a rough outing on the road against a Gophers team that at this point looks like a solid candidate to win the Big Ten title.
  5. Speaking of Minnesota, the Gophers made a bold statement in their win against the Spartans. The Star Tribune’s Amelia Rayno outlines the key factors from their big win on New Year’s Eve. Tubby Smith’s squad showed that they are tough by holding Michigan State to just 32 rebounds and dominating the glass, with Trevor Mbakwe leading the charge by pulling down 12 rebounds in just 28 minutes. Depth is a huge asset for Smith but he chose not to use it during the game as Julian Welch only played four minutes. The Barn will be a tough place to win for visiting teams this season but the Gophers need to prove that they can be as effective on the road if they want to compete for a conference title.
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Big Ten M5: 12.26.12 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on December 26th, 2012

morning5_bigten

  1. It’s been hard to convince anyone who has watched or covered Hawkeye basketball for much of the past decade to jump onto the “Iowa is back” bandwagon just yet, and for good reason; the Hawkeyes have been inconsistent at best. But this year, after an 11-2 start, Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids Gazette is ready to jump on the bandwagon. The Hawkeyes have a very young team and have been inconsistent at times, but they have impressive wins against Iowa State and Northern Iowa, and they’ll be a tough out at home this year. The Big Ten slate starts off against Indiana at home and then with two on the road against Michigan and Michigan State, so it certainly won’t be an easy task to get to March. Still, with a Big Ten slate that is easier than most teams’ schedules in the conference, this may finally be the year Iowa returns to the NCAA Tournament.
  2. Non-conference basketball means cupcake season for the most part, and that has led to criticism of top teams like Indiana that play so many guarantee games in November and December. However, Terry Hutchins of the Indianapolis Star said that the criticism is misguided, because much of the reason for the easy schedule is revenue-driven. The Hoosiers need to make sure that they have 18 to 20 home games per year, and an easy way to do that is to pay teams a fee to come to Assembly Hall for a beatdown. That leads to more home games and more ticket sales, which is what non-conference games are all about. The Hoosiers always go to some early season non-conference tournament, play an ACC/Big Ten Challenge game, and, this year, will have a very difficult Big Ten schedule. Playing a few cupcakes in the first two months of the season certainly isn’t something to get up in arms about.
  3. Minnesota has a history of starting fast in the non-conference season and then slumping at the start of Big Ten play, but this year’s Gophers have put together an impressive resume and look like the real deal. The Minneapolis Star Tribune recently handed out a report card on Minnesota’s non-conference schedule, and a lot of the focus is on Trevor Mbakwe, a player who is starting to look like he did before last year’s ACL injury. He is gaining strength and could potentially re-enter the starting lineup which already features stars Andre Hollins and Rodney Williams. The Gophers have so much depth that this certainly looks like Tubby Smith’s best team yet in Minnesota. Now, with conference play about to start, we’ll get some more answers about a team that has a lot of potential but still also some unknowns.
  4. When eight-year-old Mackenzie Kelley found out that her favorite player, Penn State star Tim Frazier, might not be able to play next year if he isn’t granted a medical hardship waiver, she decided to take the matter up with Santa by asking him to put a good word in with the NCAA. Kelley is a diehard Penn State fan and has met Frazier a couple of times. After she met him initially at a preseason event, she met him again and was excited to find out that “out of all the people he meets he remembered me.” Frazier got a hold of the letter and thanked Mackenzie on Facebook; luckily for Mackenzie — and Frazier — the injury happened early enough in the season that Frazier should be back on the court next year, a gift from old St. Nick indeed.
  5. Derrick Nix has been asked to take on more of a leadership role for Michigan State this year after the departure of Draymond Green, and he’s still improving, as exhibited by a career high 25 points to go along with 11 rebounds in a win on Saturday against Texas. However, the area in which Nix has improved the most isn’t something you would expect from a man his size — free throws. Nix was a bad free throw shooter when he first got to MSU, but endless hours of practice has helped him become much better, improving from a 27 percent free throw shooter as a freshman to a 70 percent free throw shooter this season. Nix said that coach Tom Izzo would rather he was moving around more before practice, but he’s always at the free throw line practicing his shot, and it’s paid off for the Spartans in the long run.
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Big Ten M5: 12.05.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on December 5th, 2012

  1. Entering this season, there hardly seemed a more unlikely candidate to be a Michigan State captain than Derrick Nix, who had a somewhat eventful offseason. The senior center, who had gradually slimmed down since he arrived on campus, was arrested on drug charges in early April and was suspended indefinitely. But the past is behind him and now he’s focusing on leading his team, something he admits has been harder than he anticipated while balancing it with his own personal performance. “It is hard,” Nix told Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press. “I’m just trying to stay level-headed and stay positive.”
  2. Patrick Chambers has changed the relationship between Penn State basketball and in-state recruits for the better, StateCollege.com‘s Ben Jones writes. For years, Philadelphia products were assumed to be heading to either Villanova or Temple, but Chambers — who played at Philadelphia University and was later an associate head coach under VU’s Jay Wright — has the right ties to the area to potentially bring some of those top players to State College. It’s no easy task but with the Big Ten’s further expansion east into the big Atlantic seaboard markets, Philadelphia recruits in particular may not be as hesitant to consider the league’s schools as another viable destination.
  3. Nebraska coach Tim Miles secured a commitment this week from an international player who may be able to soon help the Cornhuskers on the local front. Miles shored up his fall recruiting class with New Zealand native Tai Webster — a four-star recruit, according to ESPN – who averaged 13.5 PPG in the 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament while playing for his country’s national team. He will join Nick Fuller and Nathan Hawkins in the class. “I’m excited to have Tai join us,” Miles said, according to the Omaha World Herald. “He is an excellent player who will thrive in our style of play and has high-level international playing experience which will help him acclimate to basketball in the U.S.”
  4. Sharing is caring for Minnesota, which has burst onto the national scene this fall with an impressive start to a season filled with promise. The Gophers have had a variety of leading scorers over their first 10 games of the year, a balance that could provide Minnesota with its first starting five to average in double figures since way back in the 1965-66 season. “This is definitely the most balanced team that we’ve had since I’ve been here,” senior Rodney Williams said. “You never know who it’s going to be on any given night.” It is that balance that could allow the Gophers to aspire to greater things even if forward Trevor Mbakwe never quite recaptures his dominance from before his injury.
  5. There is something that’s worked at home for Iowa this season that has resulted in some dominating performances at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. But if coach Fran McCaffery has figured out that magic formula, he’s not quite ready to share it. McCaffery continues to keep his lineup under lock and key in the early going, tinkering with things in advance of the Big Ten season. It’s a good problem for a coach to have — to be able to mix and match to create match-up problems or to better fit your opponents — and the Hawkeyes have been able to utilize experience, youth, size and speed at different points this season.
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Big Ten M5: 11.30.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 30th, 2012

  1. Tubby Smith’s Gophers are rolling and have shown great depth but Trevor Mbakwe’s playing time has been limited. Gopher fans might wonder why Mbakwe isn’t starting but Smith is trying to shape the other players’ roles as Mbakwe returns to 100% game shape. Elliott Eliason has earned his spot at the forward position during Mbakwe’s recovery and plays a bruising style of basketball that Smith appreciates. Mbakwe will eventually return to the starting lineup and his athleticism will certainly improve the Gophers, but Eliason provides a different type of game that can complement Mbakwe”s skill set. Eliason pulled down 10 rebounds against a tough Florida State squad on Tuesday night and showed why he can add value. Regardless of when Mbakwe returns to the starting lineup, Eliason’s development will only help Minnesota as they appear to be one of the top five teams in the B1G this season.
  2. Tom Izzo prefers to play a traditional lineup with a center and a power forward rather than four guards and a center. He has played Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne together for most of the Spartans’ games this season but he might move away from that lineup soon. Nix has great post moves and Payne can run the floor with the best of them; together, they can cause unique match-up problems to opposing teams but it could also lead to spacing issues on the floor with both of them cloggin the lane inside. Nix and Payne struggled on the road against Miami earlier this week and Izzo might try to experiment by playing four guards on the court at the same time to mix things up over the next few games.
  3. Is there a “Free Laquinton Ross” movement waiting to happen? Ohio State played an excellent game for 34 minutes on the road against Duke on Wednesday night but fans might be wondering when the sophomore wing will get more playing time. Ross only played 11 minutes but scored nine points against the Blue Devils while another sophomore wing, Sam Thompson, played 25 minutes. Thompson is a bit more mature on the defensive end but Ross can put up points quickly if given a chance. If Ross improves defensively, Matta might give him more minutes but it is only a matter of time before he has a big impact on games. The Duke game proved that the Buckeyes will be a very competitive team throughout the season in large part due to their depth at the wing position.
  4. Speaking of players who have been let loose this season, Illinois’ Tyler Griffey looks like a brand new player in Champaign. Griffey is not a traditional forward who likes to play in the paint but he has a great jumpshot and the new coaching staff has convinced him to pull the trigger from beyond the arc whenever he wants this season. Griffey has been shooting a whopping 56% from beyond the arc thus far and he hit the game winning shot against Gardner-Webb at home last Sunday afternoon. He will continue to play a significant role in the Illini resurgence as head coach Johen Groce’s offense relies on players who can consistently shoot the ball from anywhere on the floor.
  5. Michigan’s Trey Burke could have entered last year’s NBA Draft and probably would have been picked in the first round but he decided to come back for another season in Ann Arbor to lead his team to a Final Four. After a hot start during the first two weeks of the season, he is quickly rising up the NBA Draft boards as one of the best point guards eligible for next year’s draft. Burke has been shooting 48% from the field but his assists have gone up from 4.5 to 7.6 APG as well this year. The sophomore has adapted very well to playing as a true point guard and it should continue to bolster his position on the draft boards especially if Michigan makes a deep run in March.
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Set Your DVR: Week of 11.27.12

Posted by bmulvihill on November 27th, 2012

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

The ACC-Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday/Wednesday nights will give us some of the best non-conference match-ups we’ll see this season. It should be a great battle between two of the top conferences in the nation. We sneak in Kentucky vs. Notre Dame also later this week. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

The ACC-Big Ten Challenge gives us some of the best games of the season so far.

#23 Minnesota at #25 Florida State – 7:15 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN2 (****)

  • Minnesota comes into this game battle tested from a tough, early non-conference schedule. With the exception of the Gophers’ loss to Duke, Tubby Smith’s squad is winning with defense. Typically, we would say the same thing about Florida State’s defense, but it’s their offense that is winning their games this season. The Seminoles are shooting 56% from two and 41% from three. While Minnesota has only allowed opponents to hit 29.6% of their three-point attempts this season, they have been susceptible to the long ball in their last three outings. Additionally, they have been poor on the defensive glass, allowing teams to grab 37% of their misses. FSU has four players that shoot over 40% from beyond the arc and they are actually taller than the Gophers, particularly in the backcourt. Pay close attention to FSU’s three-point shooting and offensive rebounding in this one. Because Minnesota is not a great shooting team, they are going to have to figure out a way to deal with the Seminoles’ size on the offensive glass. Thus far, the Gophers are grabbing 47.3% of their missed shots on the offensive end, which is good for fourth in the nation. The winner of this game will be the team that owns the offensive glass.

#21 North Carolina State at #5 Michigan  7:30 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN (*****)

  • Both of these teams are in the top 20 in effective field goal percentage thus far in the season. Three-point shooting will be a key factor in this match-up with both teams hovering right around the 40% mark. The Wolfpack is led by Rodney Purvis and Scott Wood on the outside, shooting 58.8% and 44.8% respectively. Those are the only two players on NC State who have attempted more than 10 three-point shots on the season. The Wolverines, however, have four players – Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas, and Glenn Robinson III – who have attempted 10+ threes and all are shooting at over 30%. Both teams are middle of the pack at defending the outside shot, so it will be interesting to see who is able to take this advantage. While offensive firepower seems to be the key in this game, defense will ultimately determine the winner. Michigan has held all of its opponents under a point per possession this season and has proven it can win ugly against Pittsburgh. NC State is the best offense UM has faced thus far, though, but the question remains if the Wolfpack can hold off the plethora of Wolverines who can score. NC State is coming off a shellacking at the hands of Oklahoma State and a very close win against UNC-Asheville, where they allowed an eFG of 56.3%. If they don’t improve that field goal defense against Michigan, they will get crushed again.
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Big Ten M5: 11.20.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on November 20th, 2012

  1. The news of the day in Big Ten land was the formal announcement that Maryland would be leaving the ACC and joining the conference for the start of the 2014-15 school year, and that Rutgers was expected to announce a similar move to the Big Ten from the Big East on Tuesday. Such realignment would have a profound impact on the state of basketball in the conference, with the Terrapins known as the perennial No. 3 team in the ACC (Rutgers is a Big East bottom-feeder). Michigan State coach Tom Izzo admitted he enjoys the tradition-rich Big Ten and worries about the increase in travel (New Jersey to Nebraska, anyone?) but says he’s pleased about the proactive approach Jim Delaney and the conference presidents/chancellors have taken during realignment. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said the location of the two schools opens the conference to a new market and a new world of recruiting that can help not only those additional two schools, but also the universities already positioned in the Big Ten.
  2. Here’s an unfamiliar and somewhat odd concept to come out of basketball camp in Lincoln: High expectations. That’s what coach Tim Miles has for center Andre Almeida, who certainly has a physically imposing presence in the post as he clocks in at 6’11″, 310 pounds. As for what Miles expects? “19 and 7,”he said, according to the Lincoln Journal Star. “Realistically, we need somebody to step up, so it might as well be him,” Miles said. “Why not? Seriously, why not? Because he hasn’t done it in the past, right? That’s why not. But why live that self-fulfilling prophecy? Let’s get him the dang ball where he deserves it and see what he can do with it.” Almeida averaged 5.2 PPG and 3.3 RPG last season as a junior, but his 19/7 against Nebraska-Omaha was exactly what Miles hopes to see out of the big man this season.
  3. One of the most concerning aspects for Wisconsin in last week’s blowout loss at Florida was how the Badgers were handled on the defensive end, allowing the Gators to dictate the pace of the game nearly throughout. That was a point of emphasis in the Badgers’ bounce-back win against Cornell, as Wisconsin provided suffocating defense while holding Cornell to 26.2 percent shooting from the field and 13.3 percent from long range. The win not only helped put to bed the Florida loss, but also a previous Cornell upset. In the second round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament, the Big Red shot 61.1 percent overall and 53.3 percent from three to end the Badgers’ season, 87-69.
  4. The absence of true freshmen Peter Jurkin and Hanner Mosquera-Perea was noticeable in Indiana‘s win against Georgia on Monday night in Brooklyn as the Hoosiers found themselves in a bit of early foul trouble before rallying to avoid the upset. But Indiana may not be without the duo as long as originally expected — the NCAA suspended the two for nine games, meaning they wouldn’t be eligible until the December 15 game against Butler, but that suspension could be reduced on Tuesday, ESPN‘s Andy Katz first reported. The two were suspended right before the Hoosiers’ first regular-season game for receiving improper benefits as AAU players for Indiana Elite.
  5. For a cupcake game — a 69-41 win over Texas Southern — there was a bit of drama in Michigan State‘s home opener, concerning both a big man who was on the floor and one who was not. Derrick Nix did not start after opening Michigan State’s first two games, and Matt Costello made his season debut in a bit of a lineup shakeup for Tom Izzo’s group. The freshman had four points and three rebounds in 11 minutes after returning from a tailbone bruise, while fellow big man Alex Gauna got the nod in favor of Nix. Izzo had hinted at the idea earlier in the month that he might like to switch up the starting lineup and a lesser opponent may have given him just the opportunity to do so. He likes to experiment with his rotation early on and whittle it down later into the year, but a deep frontcourt that also includes Adreian Payne and potentially Branden Dawson and Russell Byrd at the four gives Izzo and the Spartans a wealth of options down low.
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Four Thoughts on Michigan State vs. Kansas…

Posted by jnowak on November 14th, 2012

With a 67-64 win against No. 4 Kansas in the Champions Classic in Atlanta on Tuesday night, No. 8 Michigan State avoided starting consecutive seasons 0-2 for the first time since the first two years of Spartan basketball (1899 and 1900). Now, after a grueling five days that included two games on a national stage — on Friday at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany and Tuesday at the Georgia Dome — the Spartans can settle in to a more manageable non-conference slate with a 1-1 start. There’s plenty to feel good about with this group of Spartans, but still some early-season concerns. Here are a few thoughts from Tuesday night’s game:

Keith Appling took over late in Michigan State’s 67-64 win over Kansas on Tuesday. (Paul Abell/US Presswire)

  1. Keith Appling might just be ready to lead – In more ways than one, perhaps. The Spartans desperately need a go-to scorer, and they desperately need a leader this season after the departure of Draymond Green. Appling showed on Tuesday that he can be both, turning in a game-high 19 points — including a late 3-pointer that appeared to be the dagger, and then a beautiful drive-and-scoop off the glass that ultimately was — and taking control of the game when the Spartans needed leadership. Appling had a realization of sorts after the UConn game that the offense was going to have to run through him this season. It can be a difficult thing to harness, particularly since he’ll be shifting between the one and two when Travis Trice is healthy and in the rotation, and because the Spartans want to run the fast break but also have a wealth of half-court sets. But Appling’s ability to shoot the ball presented itself on Tuesday (6-for-9 from the field and 3-for-3 from deep) and he turned the ball over just twice in 38 minutes. But most importantly, those shots came in crunch time. The Spartans needed big baskets a couple times against Connecticut and never got them. Tuesday, Michigan State’s go-to scorer obliged. Read the rest of this entry »
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Night Line: Spartans Find Their Offense, Rebound With Huge Win Over Kansas

Posted by EJacoby on November 13th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @EJacobyRTC on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

With the departure of first team All-American and do-it-all superstar Draymond Green from this year’s Michigan State roster, the Spartans figured to take a new offensive approach this season away from the high post, Draymond-centric attack they featured last year. What they didn’t expect was a surprising season-opening loss to depleted Connecticut last Friday in which they shot just 37.5% from the field. Tuesday night presented another massive challenge in defending national runner-up Kansas, and Tom Izzo’s team found a way to change the narrative by converting 52.1% of their field goals and defeating the Jayhawks, 67-64, in the Champions Classic in Atlanta. In the process, Michigan State found a new go-to offensive player in Gary Harris and a clutch late-game playmaker with Keith Appling. Replacing the versatile Green isn’t an easy task, but this year’s Spartans team learned a lot about its potential to do so with the impressive offensive performance on Tuesday night.

Michigan State leaned on Keith Appling, left, down the stretch in Tuesday’s win over Kansas (AP Photo/D. Martin)

The Spartans couldn’t have looked any different in their first two tilts of a five-day stretch to open this season. A trip to Germany to play in an aircraft hangar might have something to do with that. A Hall of Fame head coach with an understanding of how to make quick adjustments might, too. Izzo understood that his team struggled to score in the 66-62 loss to Connecticut to open the season, and it needed better production from the players expected to carry this team offensively. The freshman Harris played tentatively with a “deer in the headlights” look in the season opener, according to Izzo, en route to a 4-for-13 shooting night for 11 points. Harris was much more assertive from the get-go on Tuesday, looking to score early and often with smooth moves to the hoop and a soft touch from the perimeter, and he finished with 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting. Harris was aggressive and productive in attacking Kansas’ guards, so much so that the Jayhawks switched their top defensive player, Travis Releford, to guard Harris in the second half. Nonetheless the frosh still found ways to score without forcing the issue.

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