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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Mitch McGary Out Indefinitely and What It Means For Michigan

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on December 28th, 2013

Some bad news came out of Ann Arbor on Friday night. Sophomore big man Mitch McGary has elected to have surgery on his lower back and is out indefinitely for the Wolverines. McGary has been dealing with this nagging injury since late summer and has, up until now, played through the pain. Thus far this season, McGary has not looked like the player he did in last March’s tournament (averaging 14.3 PPG and 10.7 RPG) and has fallen short of expectations this season (averaging 9.5 PPG and 8.3 RPG). Apparently, the McGary family decided collectively over the holidays that, in order for McGary to reach his full potential, his previously unaddressed injury needed immediate attention. So, they opted for the surgery. This decision affects Michigan as a team, and McGary as an individual player, in both the short- and long-term.

Mitch McGary's decision for surgery leaves a lot of uncertainty for the Wolverines' season expectations. (Getty Images).

Mitch McGary’s decision for surgery leaves a lot of uncertainty for the Wolverines’ season expectations. (Getty Images).

For Michigan as a team, this is obviously a major setback. When healthy, McGary is probably the most talented frontcourt player in the Big Ten. Michigan, ranked #7 in the Preseason AP poll, has had four losses already and were dropped out of the Top 25 earlier this month. Despite the slow start, the Wolverines were still thought of as legitimate Big Ten contenders. The best case scenario for them would have been McGary and Glenn Robinson III eventually growing into their bigger roles (since the departure of Trey Burke). Then by March, John Beilien and his squad would have put it all together. With McGary gone, they lose their only legitimate inside scoring threat which will put more attention and pressure on the perimeter players. Beilien’s job of getting this team to gel just got significantly more difficult.

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Breaking Down Pac-12 Non-Conference Schedules: Arizona and Arizona State

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on November 6th, 2013

In order to prepare you for the first two months of the season, we’ve been breaking down all 12 non-conference slates over the last few weeks. To close out the series, we take a look at the Arizona schools.

Teams are listed in order of which they will be played. Last season’s RPI in parenthesis. Potential opponents (one round in advance) are italicized. All times listed are Pacific.

Arizona

Sean Miller, Arizona

Sean Miller Would Like To Cut Down The Nets Once Again After The Season, But First He And The Wildcats Will Have To Navigate A Balanced Non-Conference Slate. (AP)

Cream of the Crop: @ San Diego State (#30), UNLV (#23), @ Michigan (#21)

All three of these will be must-see television. This isn’t as good of a San Diego State team as Steve Fisher has had the last couple of years, but it will still finish in the top four of the Mountain West and compete for an NCAA bid. The Aztecs and their raucous student section, The Show, will be waiting for the top-10 Wildcats for a 7:05 PM tip-off less than a week after the season begins. The Rebels started last season 13-2 but dropped a heart-breaker, 64-61, against California in their NCAA Tournament opener. The toughest of the marquee group will be a road trip to Michigan, which the AP has ranked seventh nationally in its preseason poll. The game will be a 9:00 AM start on the west coast and will be televised nationally by CBS on December 14. The Wolverines lose two premier guards from last year’s team but will still compete with rivals Michigan State and Ohio State for the Big Ten title behind forwards Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III.

Solid Names: Cal Poly (#164), Long Beach State (#115), New Mexico State (#56), Southern U. (#180)

Long Beach State plays the toughest non-conference schedule in the country, and Arizona joins the likes of Michigan, Creighton and NC State to play the 49ers this season. LBSU loses three key players off last year’s team but still boasts enough talent to give the Wildcats a game. Three days before Sean Miller’s team hosts Long Beach State, Cal Poly will visit the McKale Center on opening night. Senior Chris Eversley is the top forward in the Big West and returns from a team that made its first postseason appearance in Division I history. Still, the Mustangs struggled on the road last season and the trend will continue at Arizona. New Mexico State will make the short road trip on the night of December 11 to face Arizona, and Southern U. rounds out the group by coming to Tucson on December 19 for a game that will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks at 6:00 PM. The Jaguars are picked by most to win the SWAC a year after winning 23 games.

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Big Ten M5: 10.09.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 9th, 2012

  1. The preseason accolades continue to flow in for the Indiana Hoosiers. Sophomore forward Cody Zeller was selected to the pre-season All-American team by CBSSports.com and was also selected as their player of the year. Zeller’s selection should come as no surprise but he is accompanied by a few other talented teammates who are just as important if Indiana hopes to make a run at the title – freshman Kevin (Yogi) Ferrell, senior guard Christian Watford and junior wing Victor Oladipo. Ferrell will need to share point guard duties with senior guard Jordan Hulls and Oladipo needs to assert himself as the defensive stopper for the Hoosiers. The Hoosiers gave up 1.06 points per possession last season and need to be more consistent on defense against teams that have similar offensive talent.
  2. Wisconsin’s big men have always been unique in their style but also very efficient. Bo Ryan’s former players such as Jon Leuer and Mike Wilkinson had amazing shooting range but also improved their inside game as they progressed through their college careers. Senior forward Jared Berggren hopes to have a similar impact during his final upcoming season for the Badgers. ESPN interviewed the big man about the upcoming season and his experience in playing for Bo Ryan. Berggren improved his game tremendously during last offseason by increasing his average from 2.5 PPG during his sophomore campaign to 10.5 PPG during his junior season. By Ryan will need Berggren to contribute heavily on the offensive end to pick up the slack after Jordan Taylor’s departure, especially during the non-conference season until stud freshman Sam Dekker gets acquainted with the offensive schemes.
  3. The Jared Uthoff saga at Wisconsin has been well documented over the last few months. He wanted to transfer out of Wisconsin but there were certain restrictions in place with respect to his final destination. But after an intense offseason, Uthoff will finally begin practicing with Iowa this week. Uthoff is very excited to be at Iowa and believes that he can add depth to Fran McCaffery’s frontcourt. The 6’8″ wing should fit in well with an up-tempo Hawkeyes offense that averaged 65.8 possessions per game last season and ranked first in the Big Ten. He was also named Iowa’s Mr. Basketball in 2011 but will be not be able to play this season due to NCAA transfer rules. Uthoff will learn a fair amount during practice from such key returning players as Roy Devyn Marble who averaged 11.5 PPG and 3.6 APG and is hoped to lead Iowa back to the NCAA Tournament over the next two seasons.
  4. Speaking of new faces on campus in the Big Ten, the Michigan freshmen class is considered as one of the best in the country. Featuring two top 75 players - forward Mitch McGary and wing Glenn Robinson III – the class is supposed to aid an already star-studded roster for the Wolverines. MGoBlue.com has compiled a video that introduces the five freshman to Big Ten fans. McGary will add some size to the frontcourt in addition to junior forward Jordan Morgan who averaged 5.6 RPG game last season. The Wolverines ranked tenth in offensive rebounding (25.8%) in conference play last season and will need a more consistent presence in the paint if they hope to make a run at the Final Four. Robinson will add depth to the scoring attack in addition to Tim Hardaway, Jr., who averaged 14.6 PPG last year.
  5. In addition to compiling videos to introduce the freshmen to the fan base, schools also host events as part of  Midnight Madness celebrations to let the fans get their first peek of the team in live action. And when it comes to this annual event, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo never ceases to surprise Spartan fans with his antics. What will Izzo’s grand entrance be this year? Nobody knows. In the past, Izzo has shown up to the event on a motorcycle, on a horse and in the old-school Volkswagen van. Izzo’s demeanor on the sidelines can be very intimidating during the games but he has always shown his lighter side during these opening practice events. MSU will host their latest event this upcoming weekend which is also Homecoming weekend in East Lansing.
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