Two Burning Questions: Previewing Kansas vs. Florida

Posted by Brian Goodman & David Changas on December 5th, 2014

The Big 12/SEC Challenge will wrap up tonight at 9:00 ET as Kansas looks to exact revenge for a loss in Gainesville last year. Meanwhile, the Gators are in need of a signature non-conference win, and what better venue to get that win than in a raucous Allen Fieldhouse? RTC contributors Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman) and David Changas (@dchangas) are here to break down a tilt between two of the millennium’s best programs.

BG: The Jayhawks may finally have their answer at point guard after Frank Mason enjoyed a very successful Orlando Classic as freshman Devonte’ Graham continued to heal from a shoulder injury. The sophomore posted averages of 11.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game last week and has been the primary reason why Kansas has regained its footing despite Graham’s troubles, Wayne Selden‘s shooting slump, and Kelly Oubre‘s failure to find his way onto the court for more than a few minutes a night. In the other backcourt, Kasey Hill has come up big for a Florida team that has otherwise struggled out of the gate. How important is this match-up to the outcome of the game and how do you see it turning out?

Another steady game from Frank Mason would lend an added sense of security for a Kansas team that has occasionally struggled to find consistency in its backcourt. (AP)

Another steady game from Frank Mason would lend an added sense of security for a Kansas team that has occasionally struggled to find consistency in its backcourt. (AP)

DC: Mason was absolutely terrific in Orlando, and Kansas looked nothing like the team that Kentucky embarrassed two and a half weeks ago. On the other hand, Florida came away from the Battle 4 Atlantis with two losses and a mediocre win over UAB to show for it. Thus far, the Gators have a long way to go to become a good offensive team, shooting a highly inefficient 44.1 percent in effective field goal rate. With Eli Carter injured and likely to miss this game, Hill, who has finally begun to look more comfortable in his role as the team’s primary ball-handler, will need to have a big night for Florida. He showed some signs of offensive life with 20 points in Sunday’s loss to North Carolina, shooting the ball well and getting to the line 12 times (making 10) against the Tar Heels. If he can do the same against Mason while simultaneously taking care of the ball, Florida will have a chance at pulling off the big upset.

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Five Impressions from Florida’s Loss To Miami

Posted by Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) on November 18th, 2014

There are several ways that you can frame Florida’s home loss to Miami. The popular way nationally is that yet another SEC team lost a non-conference game. That this loss included one of the league’s two flag-bearers just fuels the ubiquitous “sky is falling” narrative. There’s certainly no sugarcoating it: The SEC is off to a disastrous start. But all things considered, I don’t think this loss falls into a worrisome category. Florida’s frontcourt was decimated last night, with Dorian Finney-Smith, Alex Murphy and Chris Walker all out of the lineup for various reasons. This meant Billy Donovan had to provide 36 minutes of action to former walk-on Jacob Kurtz and 31 minutes to transfer Jon Horford, who was strictly a role player at Michigan. Horford played great (17 points, seven rebounds) and Kurtz more than held his own (six points, eight rebounds) but these are not the roles Donovan envisioned for this pair. With a full squad on the floor, Florida would have had a decided advantage on the glass against a smaller group of Hurricanes. Here are a handful of thoughts on a loss that shouldn’t leave Gators fans hanging their heads.

  • Michael Frazier. The Gators scored just one point over a four-minute stretch starting at the eight-minute mark in the second half, and this stretch coincided with Angel Rodriguez’s three-point barrage that got the Hurricanes back in the game. This was already an area of concern for Florida: When the Gators need a basket, who would go get it? Last year a combination of Scottie Wilbekin and near-flawless execution solved that problem. This year the de facto answer seems to be Frazier, the most experienced and accomplished scorer on the team. But the junior couldn’t answer the bell against Miami, missing four shots over that drought, including a few desperation jumpers late in the shot clock. One game doesn’t make a season, but Rodriguez got the better of Frazier last night.
The Gators need more from Michael Frazier, especially in crunch time (tampabay.com).

The Gators need more from Michael Frazier, especially in crunch time (tampabay.com).

  • Backcourt Potential. It was a mixed bag for the Florida guards last night. Eli Carter stole the show for the Gators, pouring in 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting and scoring from all over the floor. It was he, not Frazier, who got the Gators’ final shot (although it ended in a charge). Frazier had a pedestrian night (13 points) and Hill had a miserable shooting performance, including a crucial missed layup late in the second half, but he still handed out eight assists. Despite the so-so results, Carter’s return to the scorer he was at Rutgers gives Florida a dynamic-looking backcourt. We know Frazier will make shots and Hill will be able to break down the defense, so Donovan will have a dangerous backcourt that can score in bunches if Carter’s leg holds up and freshman Chris Chiozza proves serviceable.

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SEC M5: 11.05.14 Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell on November 5th, 2014

SEC_morning5

  1. The preview train rolls on at CBSSports.com, and this time Matt Norlander gives his list of the top 20 transfers for the upcoming season, with Auburn’s Antoine Mason, Florida’s Jon Horford and Tennessee’s Dominic Woodson all making the cut. This is an interesting group because each player finds himself in a different position on his team. Mason will be heavily-relied on to score and help Bruce Pearl set a competitive tone for the Tigers in year one. Conversely, Billy Donovan isn’t looking for superstar numbers from Horford, but he’ll need him to be a complementary piece up front. Woodson, as Norlander points out, is a wildcard for Donnie Tyndall because it’s not hard to envision him either as a load on the block or a player glued to the bench for large chunks of time (more on him below). No matter the situation, each of these transfers should have an impact in the SEC this season.
  2. College Basketball Talk released its preseason All-America teams and only two SEC players popped up among the three teams and group of honorable mentions: Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns (third team) and Aaron Harrison (honorable mention). I don’t think this particular lack of an SEC presence deserves an outcry, though. The article points out that Towns is extremely talented but may not get the minutes to rack up All-American numbers. That numbers crunch may also hurt the individual statistics of someone like Dakari Johnson, who at most any other school would probably be getting more preseason hype. The closest non-Wildcats to this list are probably Arkansas’ Bobby Portis and LSU’ Jordan Mickey, but even with my SEC bent I can’t make an argument for their inclusion.
  3. The first Bob Cousy Award watch list, on the other hand, had plenty of SEC flavor. The annual award given to the best point guard in the country included Kentucky’s Andrew Harrison and Tyler Ulis, Texas A&M’s Alex Caruso, Florida’s Kasey Hill and Ole MissJarvis Summers on its initial list. Duke also had two entrants on the 50-man list, and I’d be interested to know if two teams have ever had multiple lead guards on the list before. All the choices make sense, though, and I can’t come up with any omissions. Caruso is a deserving selection since he led the SEC in assist rate last season (36.7 percent), even if he should get more time off-the-ball now with the addition of freshman Alex Robinson. Billy Kennedy needs to put a better offense on the floor and that means having his best players out there regardless of position.
  4. If SEC commissioner Mike Slive has a doghouse for basketball coaches compiling soft non-conference schedules, there is no way Anthony Grant is in it. For the second year in a row, Alabama has one of the more challenging pre-SEC slates. Last season the Tide’s games against Oklahoma, Wichita State, Duke and UCLA fueled the 11th best strength of schedule nationally, according to KenPom. This season the Tide gets return games against Wichita State and UCLA, as well as Xavier, Iowa State and either Maryland or Arizona State. The challenge of course will be winning one of those marquee games, which would be a big stepping stone in what needs to be a bounce-back year for Grant.
  5. You always have to pump the brakes before delving too far into exhibition games, but as Will Shelton at Rocky Top Talk writes, it’s hard to not pay attention at Tennessee given all the new faces vying for playing time. The Vols beat NAIA opponent Pikeville, 80-62, in their exhibition opener, and there were stats galore. One interesting tidbit is that Tyndall started the immediately-eligible Woodson (mentioned above) at center, suggesting his level of conditioning may not be as big an impediment as some thought. Another notable statistic is that Armani Moore, who is coming into his junior year with a 3.1 PPG career scoring average, led the Vols in scoring with 17 points.
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One on One: An SEC Preview With Chris Dortch

Posted by Walker Carey on November 4th, 2014

RTC interviews one on one

Rush the Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you throughout the preseason with previews of each of the major conferences.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. As part of our national preview with the SEC, RTC correspondent Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) recently had the pleasure of speaking with an SEC expert in Blue Ribbon College Yearbook editor Chris Dortch (@cdortch).

Rush the Court: How good is Kentucky and what makes it that good? The Wildcats begin the season as the overwhelming favorite to win the SEC title. Do you expect them to win both the conference title and the national title?

Chris Dortch: It would not surprise me at all if Kentucky wins both the SEC title and the national title. I think the team is so good that you can rank both its first five and its second five in the Top 25. The team has nine McDonald’s All-Americans and more talent than I can remember any team in the SEC possibly ever having. Having said that, the Wildcats do have a weakness or two. They have to prove that, other than Aaron Harrison, they have someone who can make outside shots. If they cannot do that, teams are going to try to pack it in the lane and negate their size and dribble-drive. I have said this a few times on some radio shows: If Kentucky shoots 35 percent or better from the three-point line for the season, I think the Wildcats will be undefeated going into the Final Four.

It's Gators and Wildcats at the Top of the SEC, Again

It’s Gators and Wildcats at the Top of the SEC, Again

RTC: Florida’s personnel losses are notable with Scottie Wilbekin, Patric Young, Casey Prather and Will Yeguete all moving on from Gainesville. However, Billy Donovan’s squad seems primed to have another impressive season. What is it about this year’s Gators that will make them a force to be reckoned with in the conference?

Dortch: I think Florida has some experienced personnel and some young guys who I believe are ready to step. Someone like Kasey Hill, who understudied Wilbekin last season, seems poised to take over the point guard position. I think Michael Frazier is one of the best shooters in the country and he is ready to take the next step in his development. Dorian Finney-Smith, who was eligible last season after transferring from Virginia Tech, is so versatile that he was used at the point a few times. He is going to be a guy who is going to be asked to do a lot more than he was last year. There are also a couple transfers who will help. Jon Horford comes over as a fifth-year eligible from Michigan and Alex Murphy comes over from Duke. I think those two will help fortify the team’s front line.

RTC: Arkansas is still waiting on its breakthrough campaign in the Mike Anderson era. With a talented team featuring star big man Bobby Portis, will this finally be the season that the Razorbacks find a way back to the NCAA Tournament?

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SEC M5: 10.20.14 Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell on October 20th, 2014

SEC_morning5

  1. The ability to recruit was (and still is) a big question mark surrounding first year Missouri head coach Kim Anderson. To address this expected deficiency, Anderson added Huntington Prep coach Rob Fulford to his staff, and that decision has already paid immediate dividends in landing four-star wing Montaque (“Teki”) Gill-Caesar from – you guessed it – Huntington Prep. Fulford told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the time Gill-Caesar spent playing with Andrew Wiggins at Huntington was invaluable. “Teki would never back down from Andrew. Now, there were points in practice where Teki would get the better of Andrew until Andrew decided, ‘OK, enough’s enough.’” The Tigers will need that kind of confidence from Gill-Caesar as they replace Jordan Clarkson, Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross, three players that accounted for virtually all of the team’s scoring last season.
  2. Luke Winn and Dan Hanner continue their intricate, raw number modeling at SI.com, this time predicting which transfers will have the biggest impact at their new schools. Texas A&M’s Jalen Jones (SMU) lands the second spot on the list as the model predicts he will score 13.9 points per game for the Aggies. This infusion of scoring talent is vital for Billy Kennedy since his team was at times difficult to watch offensively last season. The addition of Jones and a healthy Davonte Fitzgerald should give Texas A&M the offensive boost that it needs. Florida’s Alex Murphy (#70) and Jon Horford (#90) check in pretty far down the list, but each will be heavily relied upon in the frontcourt while Chris Walker serves his three-game suspension, and they could shoot up this list if Walker’s off-court problems persist into the season.
  3. LSU junior guard Joseph Gray checked in at #12 on the SI.com list, and his journey to Baton Rouge has been tumultuous and at times heart-breaking. The Louisiana native, whose mother passed away while he was in high school, was spurned as a prep recruit by former Tigers coach Trent Johnson and ended up Texas Tech. He left the Red Raiders after one productive season (9.3 PPG, 3.2 APG) for Odessa Community College, where he averaged 34.7 PPG in his single season of JuCo action. New LSU head coach Johnny Jones gave Gray the chance to return home and he has a massive opportunity in front of him. He should be in position to earn a lion’s share of the minutes at point guard with Andre Stringer (graduation) and Anthony Hickey (transfer to Oklahoma State) now out of the picture. And despite all the movement in his young career, Gray has two years of eligibility to establish himself as a star at LSU.
  4. Unfortunately for Alabama, one of its transfers won’t see the court at all this season. Christophe Varidel, a graduate transfer from Chaminade, will miss the season because of a pre-existing knee injury, thus ending his collegiate career. Varidel was a part of Florida Gulf Coast’s Sweet Sixteen team in 2012-13, but transferred to the Islands when Andy Enfield left for USC after that season. First and foremost, it’s a sad situation for Varidel, as he will miss out on his only chance to play basketball in a power conference. It’s also an early blow for Anthony Grant since Varidel, a career 38.5 percent three-point shooter, would have played a part in trying to replace the scoring production that left with Trevor Releford.
  5. Frank Martin is angry — this time about criticism leveled at the lack of fan support for basketball at South Carolina. “It’s hard to tell me people don’t care, and yet you’re in the top 40 in the country in total attendance, you’re fifth in the SEC, and there’s an opinion that people don’t care,” Martin told the Charleston Post and Courier. The article points out that South Carolina was actually 41st in attendance with an average of 10,074 fans per game last season, but Martin’s argument is still well-taken. It’s rather impressive that a team without much success in recent history can post that kind of attendance figure, because winning leads to crowds no matter the sport and no matter the level. If Martin can turn the Gamecocks around, Colonial Life Arena and its 18,000-seat capacity will become a daunting challenge. For his part, Martin is about determined as a person can be to reach that point. “I’m not going to stop until the good Lord either takes me, or we put 18 [thousand] in that building when we play,” he said. Touche.
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Morning Five: 04.11.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 11th, 2014

morning5

  1. California has targeted Xavier coach Chris Mack to replace Mike Montgomery. Mack has some experience replacing a successful coach as he took over for Sean Miller when Miller left Xavier to take over at Arizona. Mack has led the Musketeers to four NCAA Tournament appearances in his five years as a coach as well as two Sweet Sixteen appearances. He would appear to be an ideal candidate for the job except that Montgomery has been pushing for Travis DeCuire, an assistant at Cal, to get the job.
  2. Tennessee junior Jarnell Stokes is expected to announce that he will be entering the NBA Draft. Stokes, who averaged 15.1 points and 10.6 rebounds this season, has scheduled a press conference for this afternoon to make the announcement. Despite Stokes’ output he is considered to be a late second round pick, which would make us question his decision to enter the NBA Draft. It is possible (ok, probable) that he wouldn’t improve his stock by returning since the main concerns about his game are his size, but he should be prepared to spend some time in the D League or overseas next season.
  3. Michigan sophomore Nik Stauskas and Kentucky freshman Julius Randle are both denying reports that they will enter this year’s NBA Draft. From our perspective we would expect both to do so as they are both definite first round picks. Stauskas is expected to be a mid-first round pick while Randle might even end up in the top five. Many expected that Randle would enter this year’s NBA Draft even before he played a college game while Staukas was much less certain, but with his rapid improvement this year it would seem reasonable that he would leave early too.
  4. While Staukas’ immediate plans are unclear another Michigan player–Jon Horford–is leaving the program as he announced that he will be transferring for his final season of eligibility. Horford, who is best known for being the son of former NBA player Tito and brother of current NBA player Al, is expected to graduate in May so he will qualify for the graduate transfer waiver meaning that he will be eligible to play immediately. Although it is not particularly surprising to see someone transfer this late in his career particularly one who averaged 3.8 points and 4.2 rebounds in 13.8 minutes per game last season it is strange to see someone who was a co-captain last season transfer.
  5. So the Kelvin Sampson era at Houston is off to a bit of a rough start. A year after losing their top scorer (Joseph Young) to transfer when his father was reassigned (not under Sampson’s watch), this year’s top two scorers–TaShawn Thomas and Danuel House–have announced their intent to transfer, but were reportedly denied. Thomas averaged 15.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game while House averaged 13.6 points per game last season. We are not completely clear on what they mean by denied (to certain schools? all schools?), but one catch here is that the school did allow Jaaron Simmons, a much less productive player, to transfer. We can understand the program’s frustration with all of the transfers, but that probably says more about the program than the players and as always the school never ends up looking good in these situations.
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Rushed Reactions: #2 Michigan 73, #11 Tennessee 71

Posted by Walker Carey on March 28th, 2014

RTC_tourneycoverage

Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) is the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Region correspondent. He filed this report after #2 Michigan’s 73-71 win over #11 Tennessee. RTC will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight.

Three Key Takeaways.

Stauskas Carried His Team for Another Round (Gregory Shamus, Getty)

Stauskas Carried His Team for Another Round (Gregory Shamus, Getty)

  1. Michigan’s first half explosion was the reason it was able to win. The Wolverines have been an extremely high octane offensive unit all season and that continued against Tennessee. Michigan scored 45 points in the first half. It shot 61.5% overall and 77.8% from three in the opening 20 minutes. John Beilein’s squad was moving the ball around so easily and efficiently that it was easy to see why its shooting numbers were so good, as they were getting such open looks. In a game that came down to the wire, Michigan being able to use its phenomenal offense to grab an 11-point halftime lead was a ridiculously huge factor in it ultimately being able to leave with the victory.
  2. Tennessee stormed back with great tenacity. The Volunteers fell behind by 15 with 10:56 to play before storming back to trim Michigan’s lead to just one with 10.8 seconds to play. Tennessee was led on the comeback trail by senior guard Jordan McRae, who recorded 16 of his 24 points in the second half. McRae’s ability to both hit shots and get to the rim had the Michigan defense in disarray for a good portion of the final 20 minutes of the game. After pretty much allowing Michigan to do anything offensively over the first 30 minutes of the game, Tennessee made adjustments to lock down defensively and force several key turnovers late in the game. Cuonzo Martin’s squad is probably hurting now because its season is over, but those players have nothing to hang their heads about. Michigan was given everything it could handle and then some. That was a gutty and resilient second half from the Volunteers.
  3. John Beilein deserves more attention for his coaching job this season. Michigan went to the National Championship game last year due in large part to the contributions from guards Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. and the emerging force of Mitch McGary. After the season, both Burke and Hardaway Jr. wisely declared for the NBA Draft and Michigan was left with a lot of inexperience in its backcourt. The Wolverines’ winning experience took another hit in late December when McGary was lost with a back injury. Somehow, Michigan is still advancing to its second straight Elite Eight and a majority of that credit should go to coach John Beilein. Under Beilein’s guidance, Michigan has become an extremely cohesive unit that has time and time again, found a way to win this season.

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Some Key Questions Heading into Minnesota vs. Michigan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Big Ten M5: 01.07.14 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on January 7th, 2014

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  1. For the second year in a row and the first time this season, Illinois has cracked the AP Top 25. John Groce was lauded for turning around the Illini last season, but what he has been able to do this year with this roster is more impressive. This is a deeply flawed team. They do not shoot the ball well from deep, have no semblance of an inside scoring threat, and do not get to the free throw line very often. They do, however, play excellent defense and get offensive rebounds, which, along with Groce’s philosophy of Toughness and Togetherness (T-N-T), have kept the Illini competitive against more talented teams. A huge test awaits them on Wednesday when they head up to Madison to play undefeated Wisconsin.
  2. In the preseason, everyone named Gary Harris as the Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year. But the sophomore star has been hampered by injuries and has not made the impact most of us thought he would by this point of the season. Despite these setbacks, Harris has managed to lead the Spartans in scoring and appears poised to live up to the expectations we all placed on him. This past weekend, the Indiana native returned to his home state to play the Hoosiers and scored 26 points. After the game, Harris made it clear he’s ready to take off, saying about his performance: “I was more aggressive with my shot. I was ready to shoot more.”
  3. For college basketball diehards like us, we know how impressive the job Thad Matta has done at Ohio State has been. But for most of the sports-watching general public, Ohio State will always be associated with football dominance. Matta knows this and is OK with it. In ESPN.com‘s Dana O’Neil’s interview with him, the Buckeyes’ head coach made it known that he is concentrated on his players and becoming the best basketball program Ohio State can be. That’s not always true for an occupation as eg0-driven as coaching high level sports, as some coaches would prefer to be the main attraction at their respective school. But Matta seems to know his place in the grand scheme of things in Columbus and that suits him just fine.
  4. Michigan‘s season has not gone as it had hoped. In addition to having four losses already, they also lost Mitch McGary to back surgery for an indefinite amount of time. While no one on the roster can replicate what McGary does when he’s 100 percent, Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan have managed to fill the role admirably with their two very different styles. Horford has a more advanced offensive game, while Morgan commands the defense. What both players provide that McGary may not have had, is the leadership that comes with experience. Both upperclassmen have been with the program not just during its very successful season in 2012-13, but with some of the missed opportunities from seasons past. Their tenure gives them the perspective needed to lead this team through adversity.
  5. On Monday, Fran McCaffery once again apologized for his Sunday outburst when his Hawkeyes were playing Wisconsin. It’s not the first such explosion for the Iowa head coach, as he has had a previous episode of slamming chairs. Apparently, this latest incident was a step too far for McCaffery’s boss, athletic director Gary Barta, who made a strong statement where he said that his coach “crossed the line of acceptable behavior” with his conduct. It’s unclear whether McCaffery’s ejection had any real effect on Sunday’s game (besides the five immediate free throws) or the season going forward, but not angering your boss should be reason enough for him to change his behavior and keep his cool on the sidelines going forward.
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Three Thoughts on Michigan’s Road Win at Minnesota

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on January 3rd, 2014

About one year ago, an undefeated Michigan squad went to Minneapolis to face a Gophers team that was also ranked in the top-15 of the national polls. Both teams were highly touted before the match-up, and ultimately Trey Burke’s team muscled its way to an 83-75 win. One year later, the game was equally important, but for different reasons. John Beilein’s team needed to prove that it could survive a tough Big Ten road trip without Mitch McGary available, and Richard Pitino’s Gophers needed to prove that its 11-2 non-conference record was not just a result of a soft schedule. Even though the game last night was not nationally important, it was instrumental for each team to tip off the conference season with a strong start. Each team played like it mattered, so the following are three thoughts from a sneaky good game which resulted in a 63-60 Michigan victory.

John Beilein's Wolverines pulled out a tough win no the road against Minnesota.

John Beilein’s Wolverines pulled out a tough win no the road against Minnesota.

  1. McGary’s absence was felt on the defensive glass. The Michigan front line of Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford was outrebounded by 10 on the offensive glass. The Gophers were all over the boards on the weak side because Horford consistently lost his man off the pick-and-roll, leading to several easy layups by Elliott Eliason. Horford and Morgan regularly pounced on the penetrating guards, leaving their men completely open either for rebounds or easy dropoff passes. Andre Hollins and Deandre Mathieu racked up seven assists, most of them to the big men in the paint in those situations. With McGary on the shelf, it’ll take some time for Horford to get used to these defensive sets and become more comfortable with how to communicate during the pick-and-roll. Read the rest of this entry »
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Michigan Provides an Early Test for Iowa State

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 17th, 2013

Michigan and Iowa State are both off to white-hot starts this season. While neither have played competitive teams (their four combined opponents average out to a lowly KenPom rating of #320), the Wolverines and Cyclones have looked terrific in the early going, despite each team being without their best frontcourt player. Neither Melvin Ejim nor Mitch McGary have played a single minute this season, and while that would make a dent in most teams’ rotations, Fred Hoiberg and John Beilein’s teams haven’t skipped a beat. Among the squads’ four combined games so far, the slimmest margin of victory has been 27 points. That figures to change today, however, when the Wolverines and Cyclones square off at Hilton Coliseum early Sunday evening (5:00 PM ET). While McGary and Ejim’s statuses are up in the air, we should be in for a terrific game whether or not they suit up.

Michigan's Caris LeVert has come up big for Michigan so far this season.

Michigan’s Caris LeVert has come up big so far this season.

McGary may be a preseason All-American and Ejim a preseason all-conference pick, but both teams’ offenses will still be on display in Ames even if their stars spend Sunday afternoon on the sidelines. When either Iowa State or Michigan come up in conversations, the first thing that comes to mind is the dizzying level of havoc both teams can wreak from outside. Sophomore Nik Stauskas has connected on six of his first nine three-point attempts for the Wolverines, and that isn’t even good enough to make him the best shooter on his team this year. That honor goes to fellow sophomore Caris Levert, who has spread defenses by hitting seven of his first 10 attempts beyond the arc, allowing fans to breathe easy about Michigan’s backcourt following the departures of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway. It may be early, but both Stauskas and Levert are shooting better on threes than on two-point shots, which is absolutely wild to think about (and at the same time, highly unsustainable). Throw in Glenn Robinson III and freshman Derrick Walton, who are both capable of shooting better than they have in the young season, and you have a group that can absolutely destroy teams with its firepower.

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