Impact of Transfers on the ACC Narrative

Posted by Christopher Kehoe on January 9th, 2014

There has been a multitude of change in the college basketball landscape this season and the ACC is no exception. Incoming teams Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame have had good to great success in their inaugural ACC seasons, with the Orange and Panthers looking like two of the conference’s most elite teams. Even Notre Dame, likely the weakest of the three after losing star guard Jerian Grant, has had its shining moment in defeating Duke last weekend. While the ACC has taken some hits and cannot lay claim as one of even the best two conferences in the nation, those three teams have done their fair share to elevate the overall profile and are not to blame. And as the college basketball landscape shifts, so too do the tactics and strategies used by coaches and programs to keep up with competitive trends. The utilization of transfers was once something of a rarity among power conference teams and an equalizer for mid-major programs, but it is now becoming a more widespread commodity. The ACC is not unique in that regard, as the league has its fair share of transfers playing major roles on its teams this year.

Rodney Hood drives past two Kansas defenders (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Rodney Hood drives past two Kansas defenders (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Transfers can often be viewed as damaged goods, and some people tend to shy away from them as a result. But with many young athletes bouncing between high schools for various reasons, it has become more of a collegiate trend in recent years for players to seek instant gratification elsewhere. Coaches have learned that some transfers can bring an instant dose of maturity to a team and provide leadership and experience to propel a team to the next level. Many successful programs today have used that to great effect, including 14-0 Iowa State and 13-1 Oregon. It is difficult for a coach bring in new players and get them to mesh properly, and sometimes it backfires. UMass senior guard Chaz Williams is a great example of a successful transfer on an Atlantic 10 contender who has played a large role in turning Derek Kellogg’s program around. While the ACC doesn’t have any of those this season, the seven ACC transfers listed below have been meaningful contributors and are not too shabby in their own right.

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ACC Team Preview: Maryland Terrapins

Posted by Chris Kehoe on November 2nd, 2013

Last year, Maryland had an impressive 13-game winning streak after an opening-night three point loss to the defending champions, Kentucky. Most of that run can be attributed to soft scheduling by head coach Mark Turgeon, but nonetheless it showed promise. Maryland finished out the regular season with a solid record of 20-11 and was rewarded with an NIT bid for its troubles. In addition to a run to the NIT semifinals (losing to Iowa), the Terps had a couple of signature wins on their résumé over #2 Duke late in the season. After the season was finished, they lost Ukrainian center Alex Len to the NBA Draft, but he struggled with inconsistency under Turgeon and never quite lived up to his potential.

Maryland Preview 2013

This season the Terps will be bolstered on the interior by Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz, a versatile 6’8” junior who can play as a stretch-four for this athletic Maryland team. They also have a powerful 260-pound tandem of interior sophomores in Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell, who are expected to shoulder the majority of the rebounding and post defense responsibilities this season. How they are able to perform as two of the biggest players on the Maryland roster will go a long way in determining this team’s ultimate success. This may also speak to Maryland’s lack of frontcourt height, seeing as Cleare is 6’9” and Mitchell is only 6’8”. Going against larger ACC frontcourts, some with legitimate seven-footers, may prove to be a problem for this relatively inexperienced duo. Another particularly relevant story surrounding this year’s Terps will be their pending move to the Big Ten, which will show up in press conference quotes and in the form of cheers (and jeers) from opposing fan bases. Maryland will want to leave the ACC on a positive note, and this team certainly has the requisite talent to make an NCAA run in its ACC finale. If last season proves as any indicator, Maryland’s fate is inextricably tied with Dez Wells‘ output and performance.

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If a Coach Says Something Interesting at a Media Day, Does It Make a Sound?

Posted by Bennet Hayes on October 18th, 2013

There is nothing quite like media day season, is there? Well, okay there is, but amidst all the generic answers and meaningless chatter are tiny, real pieces of actually interesting information – I swear. In case you haven’t spent the week sifting through sound bites and press releases, here are a few of the more noteworthy revelations from recent media days in the AAC, ACC, and Pac-12.

No Speed Limit At USC -- If You Want To Play Slow, Andy Enfield Thinks You Should Head Across Town

No Speed Limit At USC — If You Want To Play Slow, Andy Enfield Thinks You Should Head Across Town

Let’s start out west. While some may have been disappointed by the lack of intra-LA fireworks at Pac-12 media day, we’re going to count the continued discussion of the UCLA-USC “rivalry” as a step in the right direction. Earlier in the week, Andy Enfield was quoted as saying “we [USC] play uptempo basketball here – if you want to play slow, go to UCLA.” He took a predictable shot at softening the blow of those words on Thursday, but let’s focus instead on his tacit admission that the quote is real. Sarcastic or not, those words exited his mouth. Steve Alford played nice and refused to bite in response to the comment, but you better believe that the architect of those grinding, tough New Mexico teams would love nothing more than a snail-paced 65-35 beat-down of his cross-town foes come January 5. The tempo clash will be a constant subplot to the rivalry as long as these two coaches are at the helm, and despite the niceties of yesterday’s media day, don’t expect Enfield’s declaration to disappear from memory anytime soon.

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Morning Five: Tax Day Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 17th, 2012

  1. Three sophomores from the Big Ten announced that they were moving on from their current locations. The big move is comes from Ann Arbor where Evan Smotrycz announced that he was transferring from Michigan to Maryland. During his sophomore season, Smotrycz averaged 7.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game including making 43.5% of his three-pointers. Having a big man who can grab a few rebounds and step out to hit outside shots should be a big addition for Mark Turgeon’s squad that lacked size last season. The other moves should have a much smaller impact as Ohio State announced that two sophomore would be transferring: J.D. Weatherspoon and Jordan Sibert. Weatherspoon only averaged 3 points and 1.4 rebounds per game while Siebert averaged 2.5 points and 1.4 rebounds per game last year so their numbers should not be missed too much. No information has been released about where either player is planning on going so where they will end up is anyone’s guess.
  2. Even with those transfers the Big Ten got a little tougher next season as Trevor Mbakwe was granted a sixth year of eligibility and will be returning to Minnesota. Mbakwe, who went down with a knee injury last season, was expected to consider entering the NBA Draft, but decided to return to handle “some unfinished business” (or his questionable NBA Draft stock). In either case, Mbakwe’s return should make the Gophers one of the better teams in the conference even if they are still probably just below the absolute upper-tier of the conference. At the very least, his return does mean that there should be some pressure on Tubby Smith to guide the Gophers back into the NCAA Tournament.
  3. The face of the SEC could change drastically over a 24-hour period. Well sort of. Yesterday, Alabama junior/transfer Tony Mitchell announced that he would be entering the NBA Draft. Mitchell is certainly athletic enough to get the attention of NBA scouts, but there are enough questions about his maturity and his all-around play that he is probably looking at a second round spot. As for that other team in the SEC–Kentucky–they will have a press conference tomorrow at 2 PM ET where five of their underclassman (Anthony DavisMichael Kidd-GilchristTerrence JonesDoron Lamb, and Marquis Teague) will announce their decision as to whether or not they will enter the NBA Draft. The first three players have always seemed like sure things to enter the NBA Draft, but the latter two seemed to be a little less clear. Now that they are announcing at the same time it seems almost certain that all of them will head to the NBA. This will be a huge loss for Kentucky who should feel the effects all the way until their next ridiculous recruiting class comes in.
  4. While the rumors surrounding a potential move that would bring Larry Brown to Southern Methodist persist we know that at least one member of his coaching tree will not be on his potential staff as Buzz Peterson announced that he will be staying on as head coach at UNC-Wilmington. Peterson, who will probably go down in history as Michael Jordan’s roommate at UNC, will remain a head coach for his 15th season during which time he has only been to the NCAA Tournament once (back in 2000 with Appalachian State). With Peterson firmly in place in Wilmington it seems like the new issue will be who Brown will bring along with him if he does indeed head to SMU.
  5. Two of the most successful programs in  college basketball had freshmen announce that they would be transferring and the effect should be negligible. Even though there should be a little more playing time available in the Duke backcourt next season Michael Gbinije has decided to transferring from Duke. Gbinije, who was a top 30 recruit coming in, only averaged 1.8 points and 0.9 rebounds while playing 5.8 minutes per game. Given his pedigree and the type of teams that were recruiting him he should have plenty of suitors. On the other hand Merv Lindsay may have a harder time finding minutes at a school of the caliber of Kansas after deciding to transfer from Kansas. Lindsay, who was much less hyped as a 3-star recruit, managed to land a scholarship at the school, but only averaged 0.9 points and 0.3 rebounds in 2.2 minutes per game this season. While most freshmen transfers from a program as prominent as Kansas who leave without injuries or significant behavioral issues would usually be guaranteed a spot at another major Division I program that may not be the case for Lindsay who had few suitors of the caliber of Kansas prior to matriculating there.
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ACC Morning Five: 04.09.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on April 9th, 2012

  1. ACC Sports Journal: We know he’s coming back, but Jim Young took a look at the pros and cons of James Michael McAdoo‘s decision whether or not to return to Chapel Hill for his sophomore campaign. The strongest argument, in my opinion, is building his confidence through collegiate success. It’s a way for a guy like McAdoo, who looked like a late lottery pick based on most draft projections, to sneak into the top five (where he’d get a much nicer contract), and also make it more likely for him to succeed. That said, I think it’s a little risky (see: Harrison Barnes).
  2. Tar Heel Blog: With the roster pretty much set, Brian Barbour went to work trying to guess North Carolina‘s lineup for next year. I would only add a couple of things: (1) I think Dexter Stickland will be hugely important to next year’s team; (2) I think North Carolina may play small a good amount of the time, possibly putting Reggie Bullock at the four and McAdoo at the five to create mismatches.
  3. Testudo Times: Speaking about potential ACC transfers, Maryland is getting serious about Evan Smotrycz, inviting the Michigan transfer on a visit this week. I agree that while Smotrycz isn’t the perfect player, he brings a valuable skill set to the Terrapins. This is especially true for a team that currently really struggles scoring, so having a stretch four could make a very big difference.
  4. Duke Basketball Report: I feel like I’ve mentioned this several times (albeit looking at Duke big men from a little further back), but this article goes straight at the oft-repeated knock against Duke coming from high-profile recruits that the Blue Devils can’t coach bigs (namely, Mitch McGary and Tony Parker). One piece of ammunition — ironically for both sides of the argument — is Lance Thomas. I think the real question comes from the article’s final “proviso that what anyone does in high school is irrelevant to the college game.” Obviously, to some extent that’s true (especially of big men), but that’s the gap current recruits see between Mason Plumlee‘s high school dominance and freshman and sophomore year incompetence.
  5. Staunton News-Leader: I agree with this article in all but one respect. I think Duke fans (and logical North Carolina fans) will be pulling for NC State next year. This isn’t to say they’ll put the Wolfpack ahead of their own teams, but it’s good for the ACC when the whole conference is up, and that means having another national contender outside of the usual suspects. Assuming Florida State can keep playing at a high level and that Maryland improves significantly, the ACC could be almost wide open depending on Duke’s last-ditch recruiting.

EXTRA: The UConn Blog – There’s a little unrest in Storrs, as Alex Oriakhi‘s dad publicly called for reprimands towards Jim Calhoun by saying, “I have no qualm in calling on the [AD] to relieve Calhoun of this position.” Wow. Not exactly going out with a whimper. Mr. Oriakhi may want to wait for his son to pick a school before ripping into the Huskies’ legend, as Connecticut could ultimately make his son’s transfer much more difficult.

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Surprising Michigan Departures Raise Questions About Next Season

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on March 22nd, 2012

For Michigan basketball fans, the NCAA Tournament loss stunk. There’s no getting around that. But the hope for the future was legitimate and tangible, given a strong recruiting class and a returning core group of successful players. Freshman sensation Trey Burke (now wavering?) and sophomore wing Tim Hardaway, Jr., have said they will return to Ann Arbor next year, and while seniors Zach Novak and Stu Douglass will be sorely missed, John Beilein’s rotation was supposed to expand, not shrink, with the addition of three highly-touted freshman and sophomore center Jon Horford returning from a broken foot. However, with yesterday’s announcement that Evan Smotrycz, Colton Christian, and Carlton Brundidge are all leaving the program, the excitement for the 2012-13 era of Michigan basketball has certainly been dampened.

Evan Smotrycz is leaving the Michigan program (photo: Michigan Daily)

Now, I am not saying that these departures are earth-shattering, or that Michigan can’t recover from losing these three players.  To be perfectly honest, it wasn’t unexpected to see a guy like Christian leave, because he was not going to play in the regular rotation.  Brundidge has denied transfer rumors as recently as a couple weeks ago, and many had hoped he would develop into Burke’s backup at the point guard spot next year.  That obviously isn’t going to happen now, and it’s disconcerting for fans to see a highly-touted Detroit-area player (Southfield High School) wash out so quickly from the program.

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Big Ten Morning Five: 03.22.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on March 22nd, 2012

  1. The Fighting Illini, it seems, will not be getting their man. Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas has been throwing everything at VCU coach Shaka Smart — it turned out to be a contract offer of $2.5 million a year to succeed Bruce Weber — and Smart turned him down, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. With the most high-profile candidate out of the picture (and others like Cuonzo Martin and Anthony Grant reportedly also not showing interest), what other options will Thomas have?
  2. Is John Beilein sitting somewhere wondering, “Is it something I said?” In a matter of hours Wednesday, it was announced that three Michigan players — including Evan Smotrycz, who started 18 games this season for the Wolverines — were leaving the program and that freshman phenom Trey Burke was testing the NBA draft waters. Those departures would leave some gaping holes but, with the way Beilein has been recruiting lately, there is potential for a silver lining.
  3. In other offseason news, there’s another coaching situation in the state of Illinois drawing some attention. The Chicago Tribune‘s Teddy Greenstein notes that the silence surrounding Bill Carmody‘s performance evaluation is leading some to speculate that there may be something bubbling in Evanston. Carmody has failed to lead Northwestern to that elusive NCAA Tournament berth. Is it time for a change?
  4. Back to teams who are actually still playing basketball, the Lansing State Journal‘s Joe Rexrode does not mince words when discussing the honors Draymond Green deserves this season. Rexrode says Green has been the best player in the country, particularly in the last month or two, and he knows he’s not the only one that feels that way. Green has already been named to multiple All-American first teams. But he’s got a few tall trees in Kansas and Kentucky uniforms to topple before being recognized as the country’s best.
  5. Throughout Will Sheehey‘s high school career, there may have been questions about whether he could compete at the highest college level. Tom Crean never had doubts. And now, the Indianapolis Star‘s Terry Hutchens writes, Indiana fans feel the same way. The Indiana guard’s jumper sealed the win against VCU to send the Hoosiers to the Sweet 16 and he has had 12 double-digit scoring games despite missing five games early in the season with an ankle injury.
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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Second Round – Friday Evening

Posted by EJacoby on March 16th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East), Kevin Doyle (South), Evan Jacoby (Midwest) and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.

#8 Memphis vs. #9 Saint Louis – West Region Second Round (at Columbus, OH) – 6:50 PM ET on TBS

Nice to See Rick Majerus Back in the Dance (AP)

It may be an 8/9 game, but according to advanced metrics, this is anything but your typical 8/9 game. Both teams are among the top 15 teams in the country according to Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, outscoring opponents by about 0.2 points per possession over the course of the season. Still, looking back over the schedules, the Billikens’ only have four wins over NCAA Tournament teams (Vermont, St. Bonaventure and two over Xavier), while the Tigers have just three (Belmont, Southern Miss and Xavier) – not exactly stunning resumes. However, SLU head coach Rick Majerus is no stranger to NCAA Tournament success, and his ability to scout and gameplan for an opponent is legendary. And while Memphis is used to playing at a fast tempo, you can bet Majerus will effectively slow this game down, using 25 seconds or more on every offensive possession, mostly forgoing any attempts at offensive rebounds in an effort to get back on defense, and making Memphis score over a stingy SLU defense. While Memphis has been killing teams over the past month or so, the two games they’ve lost have been down-tempo affairs (UTEP and Southern Miss), and if they get frustrated against the deliberate Billiken pace, it could spell an early end to the Memphis season. Still, the Tigers will have a significant athletic advantage and while Majerus has a decent matchup for lightning quick guard Joe Jackson in the form of Kwamain Mitchell (and Jordair Jett), it remains to be seen how effective they will be against sophomore win Will Barton. If Barton can find space inside the SLU perimeter defense, he could create serious problems. Of course, that’s a big if.

The RTC Certified Pick: Saint Louis

#2 Duke vs. #15 Lehigh – South Region Second Round (at Greensboro, NC) – 7:15 PM ET on CBS

Located less than an hour’s drive from Cameron Indoor, Duke will do battle with Patriot League champion Lehigh in what is practically a home game for the Blue Devils. Duke is limping into the NCAA Tournament have lost two of their last three games, one of these losses coming in blowout fashion against arch rival North Carolina. Despite having many holes on the defensive end and Ryan Kelly uncertain for the game against Lehigh, Duke does have one of the more potent offensives in the tournament. Austin Rivers and Seth Curry can score from virtually anywhere on the floor, and the Plumlee brothers make for a formidable frontcourt. It is not often that a Patriot League team can put a player on the floor that has the ability to go shot-for- with one of the best teams in the nation, but C.J. McCollum will prove he belongs running side by side with Austin Rivers. The junior guard from Canton, OH ranks top ten nationally in scoring and has the ability to take over a game for long stretches. Although Duke will no doubt focus much of their effort on the defensive end on McCollum, it is no secret that the Blue Devils struggle guarding around the perimeter. McCollum will get his points, but it is just a question if his teammates will be able to follow suit. If Lehigh gets production from Gabe Knutson and Holden Greiner, don’t be surprised if the Mountain Hawks hang with Duke for much of the game.

The RTC Certified Pick: Duke

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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.02.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on February 2nd, 2012

  1. Both Purdue and Michigan have been trying some lineup experiments over the last few days, and one team is seeing immediate benefits while the other may still be trying to work out the kinks. The Wolverines are now 3-2 with senior guard Stu Douglass in the starting lineup after beating Indiana on Wednesday night, and sophomore forward Evan Smotrycz starting on the bench. Purdue, meanwhile, is a perfect 1-0 with a smaller lineup that features basically Robbie Hummel and four guards. The new-look Boilermakers will surely be tested this weekend against Indiana’s Cody Zeller down low.
  2. Jordan Taylor receives a bulk of the credit when it comes to Wisconsin‘s backcourt — and rightfully so — but Taylor knows fully well that he wouldn’t have his level of success without a lesser-known Badger: George Marshall. The freshman, a redshirt this season, has been instrumental on the scout team, writes Jim Polzin of the Wisconsin State Journal, particularly in imitating opposing teams’ best backcourt player. This week, that meant Penn State’s Tim Frazier. Marshall must have done his job well, as the Badgers rattled off their sixth straight win with a victory against the Nittany Lions.
  3. Nebraska coach Doc Sadler has a simple explanation for why his club’s free throw percentage is at 75%, considerably higher than the average of 69.1% in his first five seasons. “The right guys are getting fouled, I guess,” he told the Omaha World-Herald. Nebraska leads the conference in free throw shooting and is 21st in the country in that statistic. The Huskers only have three Big Ten wins to their credit, but if they keep up that performance from the charity stripe, it could help account for a few more.
  4. Michigan State fans are surely thrilled with the news that senior Draymond Green‘s knee injury does not appear to be serious and that he could practice this week before a big Sunday showdown against Michigan. Green tweaked his left knee in the final minutes of Tuesday night’s loss to Illinois and did not return to the game. The versatile forward is averaging 14.9 points, 10.3 rebounds (tops in the conference), 3.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game this season for the Spartans.
  5. Minnesota, which is capitalizing on every spark it can find as the Golden Gophers try to bounce back from a discouraging Big Ten start, is relying heavily on the burst of Chip Armelin. “He’s one of our worst three-point shooters, but now since we’ve been playing in the Big Ten he’s been one of our better three-point shooters and he’s got a lot of confidence,” coach Tubby Smith said of the sophomore, who had six points and four rebounds Wednesday against Iowa.
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Set Your TiVo: 02.01.12

Posted by EJacoby on February 1st, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC correspondent and regular contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Two previously Top 10 teams (UConn and Indiana) are in major slides right now and have a chance to regain confidence with road wins tonight, though both are in very difficult spots. Also, perhaps the biggest game of the C-USA season takes place this evening. Here’s what to look for:

#22 Indiana at #20 Michigan – 6:30 PM ET on Big Ten Network (****)

Can Indiana Stop Trey Burke's Dribble Drive Tonight? (AP Photo)

  • The Hoosiers have lost four of six games and are rapidly descending in the rankings. However, they are coming off a 103-point scoring performance in a win over Iowa and they hung tough at Wisconsin in their previous game before coming up short. If Tom Crean’s team is really turning the corner in the Big Ten, then they need to prove it tonight with nothing other than a victory. Cody Zeller has been outstanding in conference play and will be the go-to man tonight against a suspect Wolverines interior defense that allowed the freshman to go 8-10 with 18 points in their first meeting, a slim Indiana win at home. IU has been efficient offensively lately without being overly reliant on the three-point shot, which is a good formula on the road. But their chances at winning tonight really boil down to  their ability to stop Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.’s penetration, as both players have the ability to carve up soft defenses. Indiana has an insanely high 110.4 defensive efficiency in conference, which will not cut it tonight. An improved defensive effort, however, will give them a great chance to win.
  • The Wolverines have held serve at home this season at 12-0 and will look to feed off the Ann Arbor crowd. As discussed above, this game is all about Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. for Michigan. The two guards are the only players in double-figure scoring (14.1 PPG and 15.2 PPG, respectively) and should have plenty of opportunities to penetrate a weak Indiana half-court defense. If they are making plays and setting up Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, and Evan Smotrycz for open threes, UM is right where they want to be. Michigan has played much better defense at home this season and should not allow Indiana to shoot the lights out like they have been able to in some games.
  • It’s probably getting repetitive, but this game completely comes down to Indiana’s defensive intensity in the half-court. Michigan has the advantage at home and is a four-point favorite, but this would be no upset if Indiana won. If early in the game you see Burke bouncing the ball for 20 seconds during possessions and struggling to get into the paint, you’ll know IU is doing a good job on the perimeter. Prediction: Michigan comes through with a slim victory.

Connecticut at #15 Georgetown – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2 (****)

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Set Your TiVo: 01.27 – 01.29

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 27th, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

There aren’t too many big time matchups on the schedule this weekend but it’s still a decent slate of games to keep you occupied.

Mississippi State @ #12 Florida – 1:30 PM EST Saturday on ESPN FullCourt/ESPN3.com  (***)

Florida May Struggle to Contain the Mississippi State Big Men

  • It has gone largely unnoticed but Florida has won six of its past seven games since losing at Rutgers in December. The Gators bring the top-rated offensive efficiency to the table and are a threat to win any game they play because of it. However, Billy Donovan’s team is thin up front and lacks the lockdown defense elite teams exhibit. Against Mississippi State, Florida could very have major problems dealing with the Bulldogs’ front line. Patric Young attempted double figure shots for only the fifth time this season against Mississippi on Thursday. Without a go-to guy in the post, Florida’s offense revolves around Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton with Brad Beal and forward Erik Murphy, a pick-and-pop specialist. Florida will attempt plenty of threes, connecting 40.7% of the time. Scoring from outside shouldn’t be a major problem against Mississippi State but stopping the Bulldogs inside will be.
  • Rick Stansbury has a huge advantage in this game with Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney in his frontcourt. Florida can’t match those two players and the Bulldogs should be pounding the ball inside all day long on Saturday. However, Dee Bost has to be able to create and get into the lane in order to get Moultrie and Sidney going early and often. If Bost isn’t able to penetrate Florida’s defense, the Gators can pack it in and dare Mississippi State to beat them from the outside. Of more concern to Stansbury has to be his defense. In SEC play, the Bulldogs are allowing opponents to shoot 43.4% from beyond the three point arc. If Florida shoots anywhere near that percentage, it’s likely going to be a long afternoon at the O-Dome for the visitors from Starkville.
  • In order to steal an important road win, the Bulldogs have to rebound and score in the paint as well as in transition off long rebounds since neither team turns the ball over much. Fast break points will be at a premium in this game but whichever team wins that category will have an advantage. However, the most important part of Mississippi State’s game plan has to be defending the three point line. If the Bulldogs can’t, they won’t win in Gainesville. Even with all that said, this is a game Mississippi State can win with a strong effort. Florida needed a second half rally to defeat Ole Miss in its last game and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Mississippi State could spring the upset.
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Night Line: Freshman Guard Trey Burke Keeping Michigan Afloat in Big Ten

Posted by EJacoby on January 18th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC contributor and correspondent. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

If Michigan wanted to stay alive in the Big Ten conference title race, Tuesday night’s home game against in-state rival and top 10-ranked Michigan State was a must-win. The Wolverines came away with a one-point victory in a nailbiter thanks to another strong performance from their leader – Trey Burke. It’s not a typo or an overstatement to say that the Wolverines’ freshman point guard has already turned into their go-to guy and overall best player this season. The Wolverines have gone uncharacteristically cold from three-point range and talented guard Tim Hardaway, Jr. has not been the expected consistent star player this year, but Burke’s heady play at the lead guard spot has helped Michigan remain a threat in the Big Ten race.

John Beilein is Pleased with his Freshman Point Guard's Development (AP Photo)

While improving to 5-2 in the Big Ten and 15-4 overall with Tuesday’s win, the Wolverines experienced the same troubles that they’ve been having in conference play, but it was again the strong play of the freshman Burke that carried the team to victory. Michigan, shooting 29.5% from deep in Big Ten action, shot 6-21 from three and Hardaway, Jr., scored only 10 points on 3-9 shooting without contributing much else to the game. But Burke had a game-high 20 points on 8-11 shooting with four rebounds, three assists, two steals, and two blocks, and made nearly all the key plays down the stretch of a tight game. Coming off a bad 16-point loss to Iowa, Michigan needed this win and now sits tied for second in the conference standings.

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