Big Ten M5: 11.13.13 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 13th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. Indiana‘s Tom Crean may have been on to something when he questioned the consistency of his extremely young team shortly before the team barely escaped LIU-Brooklyn, 73-72, on Tuesday night. Crean believes that the Hoosiers are far from a finished product, but that he likes how the early-season schedule sets up as they play seven games in 19 days early on. Indiana is extremely long and athletic, but some of the younger players seem as though they will be prone to slumps and growing pains early on as they figure out their respective roles. Expect moments of brilliance combined with head-scratchers like Tuesday night from this extremely young squad.
  2. On a team filled with potential All-Americans and others who have been starters and been in the spotlight for a couple of years, Travis Trice often goes overlooked. That’s why news of the mysterious illness he was dealing with in the summer of 2012 never really made it into the national consciousness. It’s pretty amazing how he’s come back from not only that, but suffering two concussions and a broken nose last season as well. With Trice fully healthy again, Michigan State will be in great hands at the point guard spot with either Trice or Keith Appling on the court.
  3. Michigan has a decent sized leadership void to fill with Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. moving on to the NBA. They decided on Tuesday to try and fill their player leadership roles for 2013-14 with three players being named tri-captains: Jordan Morgan, Jon Horford, and Glenn Robinson III. On a team loaded with freshmen and sophomores, it makes sense that Horford and Morgan were given this honor since they’re the only upperclassmen they have. Robinson seems to be a little bit more of a reserved type who doesn’t get overly excited on the floor, so it remains to be seen whether he can handle this responsibility and both lead verbally and by example.
  4. A.J.Hammons was arguably the most talked about Purdue player in the buildup to the season tipping off. News of his suspension for the Boilermakers’ home opener was kind of glossed over, as it was assumed Purdue would handle Northern Kentucky with or without the burly center. Hammons felt like he let the team down as they struggled to pull out a win last Friday, however, and vows to come back and get on the same page with his teammates. Hammons being out was felt mainly on the glass, as Northern Kentucky matched Purdue’s 35 rebounds and generally played more physical. The suspension could really lead to Hammons coming back better than ever if he’s properly motivated from the benching.
  5. The preseason watch list for the John Wooden Award was released on Tuesday, and it included ten players from the B1G. This year was the first time that freshmen and transfers could appear on the preseason list, and Indiana’s highly-publicized Noah Vonleh made the cut. Other players from the league included players from Michigan State (Keith Appling, Gary Harris, and Adreian Payne), Ohio State (Aaron Craft and LaQuinton Ross), Michigan (Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III), Minnesota (Andre Hollins), Wisconsin (Sam Dekker), and Vonleh. One notable omission is Penn State’s senior guard Tim Frazier. Players can still get added to the watch list during the season, and Frazier made a claim to be one of these mid-season additions with his 25-point, 10-rebound effort in Penn State’s opening game victory against Wagner.
Share this story

NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.03.13 Edition

Posted by WCarey on April 3rd, 2013

RTC_final4_atlanta

The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

Michigan

  • Michigan freshman forward Mitch McGary, who has exploded onto the scene in the NCAA Tournament, said Tuesday that he will return to the Wolverines for his sophomore season.
  • The Wolverines are basking in their “rock star status” around Ann Arbor as they prepare for this weekend’s Final Four.
  • To replicate the challenges of the length of Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, coach John Beilein is having reserve forwards Jon HorfordBlake McLimas, and Jordan Morgan challenge the Wolverines’ jump shooters during practice this week.
  • Very interesting story from Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports about how coach John Beilein is a descendant of the soldiers who inspired the film, Saving Private Ryan.
  • During last summer’s workouts, guard Tim Hardaway Jr. scared his teammates with his intensity and his relentlessness helped set the tone for the team’s successful run through the season and into the Final Four.

Syracuse

  • Jim Boeheim is well-known for his no-nonsense approach to coaching and that approach has served him well as he has the Orange back in the Final Four for the first time since 2003.
  • The Orange’s 2-3 zone has successfully stifled its opposition due to the fact that they have a height advantage at every position. Guards Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams are 6’4″ and 6’6″, respectively, and that gives them a height advantage over nearly every backcourt they play.
  • Jim Boeheim famously blew up at ESPN‘s Andy Katz after a loss to UConn in February, but the coach is back on speaking terms with Katz and he even appeared on Katz’s ESPNU show Tuesday.
  • Forward Baye Moussa Keita does not fill up the stat sheet for the Orange on the offensive end of the court, but he has emerged as a key cog in the team’s stingy zone defense.
  • USC made waves when it announced late Monday night that it had hired Florida Gulf Coast coach Andy Enfield to fill its coaching vacancy. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was a bit perturbed by the move, saying that his associate head coach Mike Hopkins, who interviewed for the position, was by far the best candidate for the job.
 Louisville
  • Guard Russ Smith is turning in an historic NCAA Tournament. The junior is averaging 26 points per game and is shooting an impressive 54.1% from the field.
  • Injured guard Kevin Ware was released from an Indianapolis hospital Tuesday afternoon. His first stop following his release was to the team’s practice facility to return the Midwest Regional trophy coach Rick Pitino had left with him in his hospital room.
  • The positive attitude that Kevin Ware has shown in the face of his serious injury has earned him worldwide support from a multitude of people.
  • With Ware sidelined, coach Rick Pitino is mulling the possibility of shifting small forwards Wayne Blackshear and Luke Hancock to the backcourt in some defensive situations for Saturday’s game against Wichita State.
  • Louisville mayor Greg Fischer declared Friday as Cardinal Red Day in Louisville to honor the school’s men’s and women’s Final Four teams.

Wichita State

  • Redshirt freshman guard Ron Baker has taken an improbable journey from a lightly-recruited prospect to a walk-on to a key player in the Shockers’ unexpected run to the Final Four.
  • Coach Gregg Marshall serves as a reminder that coaches can have a “good life” away from the attention that coaching in a high-major conference brings.
  • With the team’s run to the Final Four, the players are becoming much more comfortable with all the media attention that is being levied on the squad.
  • After transferring from Oregon, guard Malcolm Armstead had to pay his own way at Wichita State and he did this by detailing cars for an area car dealership.
  • Gregg Marshall confirmed Wednesday that UCLA had contacted his representative last week, wanting to talk to the coach about the then-vacant coaching job.
Share this story

NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.02.13 Edition

Posted by WCarey on April 2nd, 2013

RTC_final4_atlanta

The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

Louisville

  • Many people around the country are very surprised that Wichita State has advanced to the Final Four, but Louisville coach Rick Pitino is not one of them. “I picked Wichita State to go to the Final Four,” Pitino said Monday during a conference call.
  • Louisville junior guard Russ Smith was named a third team All-America selection by the Associated Press.
  • When Louisville guard Kevin Ware suffered his horrific compound fracture Sunday, one teammate rushed to be by his side as he laid on the court writhing in pain; that teammate was swingman Luke Hancock.
  • With the injury to guard Kevin Ware, Louisville’s backcourt depth took a bit of a hit. Walk-on Tim Henderson will be called upon to play increased minutes in Ware’s absence and Cardinals coach Rick Pitino expects him to step up in his unexpected role.
  • The injury to Ware definitely has caused and will continue to cause some adversity for Louisville, but as Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports explains, this injury is not the worst adversity head coach Rick Pitino has had to handle.

Wichita State

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Five Thoughts From the Big Ten Tournament: Thursday Afternoon Edition

Posted by WCarey on March 14th, 2013

Walker Carey attended the afternoon session (Minnesota vs. Illinois and Penn State vs. Michigan) of the Big Ten Tournament at the United Center on Thursday afternoon and filed this report. Follow him on Twitter @walkerRcarey

Illinois head coach John Groce talks to his players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big Ten tournament against Minnesota (AP)

Illinois head coach John Groce talks to his players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big Ten tournament against Minnesota. (AP)

  1. Both Illinois and Minnesota are probably far too inconsistent to make any noise in the NCAA Tournament. The Fighting Illini and the Golden Gophers have struggled with consistency issues all season and all Thursday’s game proved was that neither team has alleviated those issues. If you recall, both teams started the season red hot — the Illini were once 12-0 and the Gophers were once 15-1 — but after Big Ten play commenced, both squads began to struggle. Both teams finished their conference slates with an 8-10 record. While such a record would usually not raise many eyebrows, Illinois and Minnesota have grabbed a lot of national attention due to some impressive victories and some head-scratching defeats. The Illini scored great victories over Ohio State and Indiana, but they also were defeated at home by a Northwestern team that finished 11th in the conference. Minnesota notched wins over Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Indiana, but Tubby Smith’s squad also suffered setbacks to Northwestern and Nebraska. It is fair to assume that both teams are solidly in the field of 68, but when you have to question what version of both teams will show up, it is also fair to assume that both teams will not be in the tournament for long.
  2. Illinois is going to miss Brandon Paul next season. While the senior guard has had an up-and-down career in Champaign, he once again showed Thursday that he is plenty capable of taking over a game and leading his team to victory. Paul scored 25 of the team’s 51 points and drained an 18-footer to beat the buzzer and give the Illini the 51-49 victory. Paul, whose legacy might be tarnished a bit due to his place on some subpar Illini teams, should be remembered for his ability to take over games like he did Thursday. Paul’s performance against Minnesota was quite memorable, but it was not the most memorable of the season. In Illinois’ December 8 win over currently top-ranked Gonzaga, Paul exploded for 35 points, shooting 10-of-16 from the field and 5-of-9 from deep. Paul’s talent and play-making ability is something that had been missing from the Illinois program since the days of Dee Brown, Luther Head, and Deron Williams, and because of that, the Illini are really going to miss him after their season ultimately concludes.  Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Three Thoughts on Michigan’s Win Over Purdue

Posted by WCarey on March 6th, 2013

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Wednesday night’s game between Michigan and Purdue. You can follow him at @walkerRcarey.

Michigan and Purdue both entered Wednesday’s game fresh off huge victories from Sunday. Michigan notched an important 58-57 home victory over Michigan State. Purdue went into the Kohl Center in Madison and spoiled Wisconsin’s Senior Day with an impressive 69-56 win. While Purdue entered the game at just 14-15 overall, its recent play (winners of two of its last three) coupled with Michigan’s recent conference woes made for an intriguing matchup. Prior to Wednesday evening, Michigan carried a solid 24-5 record and a #7 national ranking. The Wolverines have a plethora of talent and their strengths far outweigh their weaknesses, but their play on the road this season has been below average. While losing on the road is essentially part of life in the ultra-competitive Big Ten, a team of the caliber of Michigan carrying a 3-5 road record certainly raises some questions — especially true because in the road game prior to this contest, Michigan lost to a Penn State team that had previously been 0-14 in Big Ten play. With Purdue playing hard and Michigan looking to remain in the race for the Big Ten title, Wednesday night’s action was definitely memorable with the Wolverines battling back from a 12-point second half deficit to defeat the Boilermakers, 80-75. The following are three thoughts from Wednesday evening’s action from West Lafayette.

Trey Burke Led His Team Back Against Purdue

Trey Burke Led His Team Back Against Purdue

  1. Trey Burke Should Be The Leading Candidate For National Player Of The Year. With his team trailing by 12 points almost midway through the second half, the sophomore point guard grabbed control of the game and led his team to the victory. After a rough first half with just four points and two assists, Burke exploded and finished the night with 26 points and seven assists. While Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Georgetown’s Otto Porter are both worthy candidates for National Player of the Year as well, you would be hard-pressed to make a case that either have outperformed Burke this season. In the best conference in the country, Burke has scored 15 or more points in every conference game. That statistic shows that win or lose, Burke is still giving the Wolverines a chance. Even after last week’s bad loss at Penn State, the Wolverines still have a chance to win a share of the regular season Big Ten title and that chance is thanks in very large part to the play and leadership of Trey Burke. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Big Ten M5: 02.05.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on February 5th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. The Michigan – Ohio State rivalry is arguably the best in college football but a new generation of basketball players has taken the rivalry to the hardwood as well. Trey Burke and Aaron Craft take the game personally as tonight’s matchup will be the first between the two programs with both teams ranked in the top 10. Burke said, “I love playing against him. He makes me work, and he makes me better,” when asked about his counterpart. The Buckeyes have beaten the Wolverines in three of their last four games so Burke will be looking to avoid a losing skid to keep his team ranked in the top five in the polls.
  2. With a healthy Jordan Morgan in the lineup, the Wolverines would feel much more comfortable heading into tonight’s game against Ohio State. But with their center still recovering from a sprained ankle, forwards Mitch McGary and Jon Horford have done a great job filling in for him during the last three games. McGary scored 10 points against the Hoosiers and did an excellent job off the pick-and-roll while trying his best to defend Cody Zeller on the other end. Morgan practiced only a “little bit” and his status is in “doubt” for this evening’s match-up. The Buckeyes’ post pair of Amir Williams and Evan Ravenel don’t look for their shots in the paint very often, so McGary and Horford may manage to stay out of foul trouble, which was not the case against Indiana.
  3. Speaking of Indiana, Hoosiers’ head coach Tom Crean is back in Bloomington after a “short night” in New Orleans to support his brothers-in-law – Jim and John Harbaugh – at the Super Bowl on Sunday. Crean was with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell when the power went out in the Superdome. When asked about his experience with the commish, Crean replied, “To watch the commissioner of the NFL deal with that with such grace and calmness under pressure was amazing.” The Hoosiers have regained the #1 ranking in America and will visit Champaign to play an Illinois team that badly needs a win to stay in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament bid.
  4. While the Hoosiers had a great weekend on the hardwood, the Illini are hanging by the thinnest of strings after losing to Wisconsin at home on Sunday afternoon. Illinois head coach John Groce believes that most of his team’s issues stem from their defense. The Badgers shot 55.6% in the second half, leading Groce to say, “Right now, our defense has too many holes in it.” Brandon Paul and D.J.Richardson need to do a better job of moving the ball around in the half-court because only 37% of the Illini’s field goals have been a result of an assist in Big Ten play.
  5. The Big Ten season tipped off with a Minnesota win over Michigan State on New Year’s Eve, but Spartans head coach Tom Izzo is preparing for the rematch without the availability of guards Travis Trice and Gary Harris. Both players had the weekend off and Trice will be evaluated on Tuesday regarding his status for the game. Harris (41% 3FG) and Trice (40% 3FG) are Izzo’s best shooters this season and both will need to stay healthy if the Spartans plan to make a serious run at the Big Ten title and beyond. Each has missed a couple of games during the non-conference season but have been a key part of Michigan State’s success in league play.
Share this story

Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on February 1st, 2013

setDVR

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 biggest game of the season thus far is upon us, as the top two teams in the Big Ten collide in what could be an epic battle of offensive efficiency. There are some important match-ups in the other conferences as well that should keep your Super Bowl weekend packed with great sports. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

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

Darius Morris may be gone, but Tim Hardaway Jr. is primed for big things in 2011-12. (Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com)

Tim Hardaway Jr.’s defense could be the key to a Michigan win. (Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com)

  • Michigan versus Indiana should be one of the best offensive duels we see in college hoops this season. Both teams have scoring options all over the floor, shoot the lights out from two and three, and have proven to be incredibly efficient all season long. There is very little that separates these two teams on paper. One factor that could play huge role even before the game starts is the availability of Michigan forward Jordan Morgan. Morgan rolled his ankle early in the game against Illinois and sat out against Northwestern on Wednesday. Morgan gives the Wolverines another sneaky offensive threat and size on the inside. He is a key player on the defensive glass, which will be very important for the Wolverines. If Indiana gets too many second chance points, it will be a long night for John Beilein and company. You will also want to keep an eye on the potential match-up between Tim Hardaway Jr. and Victor Oladipo. Oladipo is clearly the Hoosiers most valuable player at this point and is filling up the stat sheet recently. Michigan must find a way to lock down Oladipo. Additionally for Michigan, keep an eye on Jon Horford. Horford has been very solid in the last two games making up for the loss of Morgan. The Wolverines will need Horford to be at the top of his game, if they want to win. Finally, keep a close eye on Michigan’s demeanor early in the game. If you recall, the Wolverines came out rattled and uninspired against Ohio State on the road. Early mistakes put them behind big. If that happens in Bloomington, it’s unlikely Michigan can bounce back against an offense as good as Indiana’s. If Indiana gets off to a fast start, you won’t see the Wolverines panic.  However, if the fast start is due to mistakes and uninspired play, it’s curtains. While the offenses will be at center stage in this game, the winner will be the team that plays better defense. Watch perimeter defense closely as both teams are excellent from distance. Whoever is able to defend the perimeter better will win the game.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten M5: 02.01.13 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on February 1st, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. Before the season, Keith Appling wasn’t even a Michigan State captain. Tom Izzo was looking at the veteran point guard to become a leader on an off the court for the Spartans, who had lost last year’s emotional leader Draymond Green. Appling has now earned captain status and Izzo has noticed a big change from his junior point guard. Izzo said Appling is doing a better job of communicating on the floor and showing his confidence after sitting down with former MSU point guard Mateen Cleaves. Appling learned to fight through adversity after a rough past, and now he’s doing it on the court, becoming the leader Izzo had hoped for at the beginning of the season.
  2. Ohio State has had trouble finding players outside of Deshaun Thomas, Sam Thompson and Aaron Craft to step up this season. The Buckeyes certainly have talent, but its supporting players — Shannon Scott, Amir Williams and LaQuinton Ross, to name a few — haven’t been consistent. That has resulted in inconsistent playing time among that bunch. OSU has been searching for an alternative offensive option to Thompson and it appears it may have found its answer in Ross. Ross has seen the court much more recently, and part of that is due to his improved listening to coach Thad Matta. He’s taking in more direction from the coaching staff, and subsequently seeing more of the floor.
  3. There aren’t many legitimate criticisms of No. 1 Michigan right now, considering how the Wolverines have been playing. However, people are always trying to find something wrong with top teams, so the common criticism of UM in recent weeks is that its roster isn’t deep enough. After all, the Wolverines rank 326th in the country in bench minutes, according to Ken Pomeroy. But part of the reason the Wolverines don’t go to their bench much is that the starters have played so well. Now though, in the wake of Jordan Morgan’s injury, Michigan is proving that it has enough depth. Jon Horford started the Wolverines’ game against Northwestern earlier this week and gave his team solid minutes, while freshman Mitch McGary also played well. Michigan may not have a star big man, but its frontcourt has proven it can play well this year, even without Morgan manning the paint.
  4. The press has been Minnesota’s best friend and its worst enemy this season. After struggling with its execution earlier in non-conference play, the Gophers’ press worked very well against Nebraska, returning to the form we saw during the non-conference season. Minnesota struggled to press against teams that like to slow things down like Northwestern and Wisconsin, but the Gophers were able to be successful against Nebraska, which employs the same tempo strategy. The bigger issue against the Wildcats and Badgers was their failure to execute in other areas of the game, such as free throw shooting. That prevented the Gophers from ever going all out with the press in those contests.
  5. It’s tough to find a bright spot out of a 97-60 loss, especially a home loss to your rival when coming off a solid win. However, Purdue’s A.J. Hammons was a bright spot for the Boilermakers in their drubbing at the hands of Indiana earlier this week. Hammons was a highly-touted recruit coming out of high school, but like most freshman big men, he has been inconsistent in his first college season. However, he was exceptional against Indiana, scoring 30 points and blocking five shots in 28 minutes, showing the potential we’re likely to see from him down the road. While he didn’t get much help against the Hoosiers, his consistency will be key to how Purdue finishes its season.
Share this story

Big Ten M5: 12.17.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on December 17th, 2012

morning5_bigten

  1. Michigan redshirt sophomore Jon Horford injured himself again during the Wolverines’ game with West Virginia game on Saturday. Horford, who had already missed 25 games last season because he broke his foot, dislocated his knee cap against the Mountaineers and had to be helped off the court into the locker room. The Michigan coaching staff hopes that Horford can return to action within three weeks, but because of his history with injuries, John Beilein may take his time to put his big man back into the rotation. Horford has averaged 2.1 RPG in 8.7 MPG so far this season, but he is experienced and his injury puts more pressure on freshman forwards Mitch McGary and Max Bielfeldt to continue to produce.
  2. More injury news, as Bill Carmody and the Northwestern coaching staff believe that Drew Crawford will be granted a fifth year of eligibility by the NCAA after being sidelined this season. Crawford described his back and neck injury as “searing pain” and will not have an opportunity to push the Wildcats towards their first NCAA Tournament bid this year. The Wildcats are 7-3 and will need seniors Reggie Hearn (14.1 PPG) and Jared Swopshire (9.1 PPG) to step up in Crawford’s absence. Without Crawford on the floor, Carmody needs a go-to guy who will take the clutch shots and provide leadership, and besides his seniors, sophomore Dave Sobolewski (11.4 PPG) also has the potential to step into that role.
  3. Indiana head coach Tom Crean was not in a good mood after the Butler Bulldogs upset his team on Saturday, 88-86. The Bulldogs’ Alex Barlow drove the ball into the lane during the final 10 seconds for the go-ahead basket but the Hoosiers did not have their big man, Cody Zeller, in the paint to alter the shot. Crean had substituted Remy Abell for Zeller and said that they were in a defensive set where everybody “switches up” and made it clear that he does not regret his decision to keep Zeller on the bench. Zeller scored 18 points in 37 minutes against the Bulldogs and shot 10-of-14 from the charity line. But without Butler’s Andrew Smith in the game (he fouled out), Zeller would have had to defend quicker players on the switches during the final seconds, making it a tough call for Crean. When a #1 ranked team loses to a smaller school from the same state, it is likely that the coach’s decisions will be questioned afterward by the assembled pundits and writers.
  4. After 12 games this season, it is increasingly obvious that Tubby Smith’s guards – Austin Hollins (11.2 PPG), Andre Hollins (13.5 PPG) and Joe Coleman (10.0 PPG) – can score with the best of them. But Austin Hollins has grown into a very tough defensive player for the Gophers as well and cherishes his role as a defensive stopper while his fellow guards carry the offensive load against tougher competition. Hollins has the length that allows him to guard opposing point guards and also taller wings in the half court as Smith’s Gophers continue to impress with an 11-1 record heading into conference play.
  5. Speaking of guards who understand their role and are intense on the defensive end, Michigan State’s Brandan Kearney has quickly become one of Tom Izzo’s favorite players this season. The sophomore guard has averaged 18.2 MPG and even though he only scores a couple of points per contest, he plays within the offense and has the “team-first” attitude which Izzo appreciates. With the recent injuries to guards Gary Harris and Travis Trice, Kearney has stepped into every spot as needed and done all of the little things such as grabbing a key offensive rebound or taking the wide-open shot off the double team. Kearney may not carry the scoring load for MSU this season, but he will continue to grow in Izzo’s system as long as he improves his game and stays committed to defense.
Share this story

Set Your DVR: Feast Week

Posted by bmulvihill on November 19th, 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.

Thanksgiving week, otherwise known as “Feast Week” for college hoops fans tuning into ESPN, provides us a bunch of viewing options while we gorge ourselves with turkey and stuffing. Several of the higher profile preseason tournaments get going or finish up this week including the Maui Invitational, the NIT Tip-Off, and the Battle 4 Atlantis. While we don’t know all the potential match-ups in those tourneys just yet, you can be sure there will be some great games. We’ll take a look today at the first round games for a few of the tournaments but definitely tune into the later rounds as they progress. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Week

#5 Michigan vs. Pittsburgh (PNIT Semifinals) – 9:30 PM EST, Wednesday on ESPN HD (****)

The battle between Michigan’s Trey Burke (above) and Pitt’s Tray Woodall could be the best point guard match-up we see all season(AP)

  • The battle between Pittsburgh’s Tray Woodall and Michigan’s Trey Burke at the point guard position could be one of the best we see all season. Woodall is averaging 14 points and seven assists through four games this season and shooting a fantastic 57.1% from inside the arc. Burke is averaging 18 points and eight assists through three games and is also shooting 57% from inside the arc. There are two areas to keep an eye on as these two battle throughout the night – turnovers and three-point shooting. Burke is turning the ball over at a slightly higher rate than Woodall – 20% vs. 15%. While both are excellent distributors of the basketball, the player who wins the defensive battle and can create more turnovers will give his team a huge advantage. Additionally, Burke is extending defenses with his 43.8% shooting from downtown. His ability to continue to hit threes against a Pitt team that has shown weakness against perimeter shooting will be vital to a Michigan victory — particularly so if Michigan wants to free up space on the inside for its frontcourt.
  • Speaking of the frontcourt battle, Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan, and Jon Horford finally give coach John Beilein some rebounding to go along with his penchant for the outside shot. Michigan has been a three-point heavy squad with very little rebounding support under Beilein. With the additions of McGary and Robinson, the Wolverines can go big and hit the offensive boards hard should their outside shooting go cold. They are going to need it because the Panthers bring their own talented frontcourt to the party in Talib Zanna, J.J. Moore, and 7’0” freshman center Steven Adams. Offensive rebounding will be a huge factor in this game. Michigan is only allowing opponents to grab 14% of their offensive rebounding opportunities, good for third in the nation. They face a much tougher Pitt frontline however whose offensive rebounding rate is sixteenth in the nation at 46%. Something has to give.
  • Given the great match-ups we are going to see in this game, it should be a close one in Madison Square Garden. The difference could be Michigan’s outside shooting. The Wolverines are currently hitting 49% of their three-point attempts. Outside pressure can come from Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., freshman Nick Stauskas, and even Robinson. If Jamie Dixon’s squad can improve its perimeter defense and get Adams more involved in the offense, they will have a chance to take down the Wolverines. Otherwise, U of M will walk out of the Garden with a victory.

Six Other Games to Watch This Week

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten M5: 11.13.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 13th, 2012

  1. Michigan State guard Travis Trice is questionable for the Spartans’ game tonight against Kansas due to “concussion symptoms.” Trice played 18 minutes against Connecticut and had to leave the game after getting hit on the head. The Spartans flew back from Germany to Atlanta and may not have one of their experienced guards ready for tonight’s game against the top 10 Jayhawks. Brandon Kearney played only seven minutes in the first game and is still recovering from a sickness as well. Freshman guard Denzel Valentine will have to step up with the likelihood of increased playing time. Tom Izzo will need whatever he can get from the younger guards to avoid another 0-2 start for the season (recall that MSU started with the same record last season).
  2. Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan is very impressed with freshman wing Sam Dekker after the home opener. The Badgers led 43-17 but during his halftime speech, Ryan asked Dekker if he knew the score of the game. Dekker replied “zero-zero” which caught his head coach by surprise in a positive way. Dekker is a 6’8″ wing who perfectly fits in Ryan’s offense and will have plenty of opportunities to shine as Ryan tries to fill in the shoes of Jordan Taylor and Josh Gasser. Dekker scored eight points in just 17 minutes of his collegiate debut but will play an integral role in the offense as the season progresses.
  3. Michigan fans are extremely happy to see forward Jon Horford return from a foot injury. The fans gave him an ovation when he entered the game against Slippery Rock after missing most of last season with the December injury. Horford, a 6’10” junior forward, will back up Jordan Morgan and Mitch McGary to provide much-needed depth for John Beilein’s frontcourt. McGary can find himself in foul trouble once conference play begins and Beilein needs Horford to provide some additional size off the bench. Horford played eight minutes against Slippery Rock and five minutes against IUPUI last night but should see increased playing time as he returns to game shape.
  4. Minnesota assistant coach Saul Smith pleaded guilty for his DWI charges and has been sentenced to 40 hours of community service by a judge. Smith is supposed to re-join the Gophers today after being suspended by the athletic director following the arrest about a month ago. He registered a 0.18 blood alcohol level while driving on October 20 in Minneapolis. Tubby Smith should be glad to get all of his program’s off-court troubles in the past as the Gophers begin their campaign to contend for the conference title and make a run at the NCAA Tournament. The Gophers beat Toledo 82-56 last night at home.
  5. Illinois head coach John Groce has the Illini off to a 2-0 start and continues to lock up quality talent for next season. Another top 100 recruit, Austin Colbert, verbally committed to the Illini on Monday. Colbert is ranked in the top 100 by ESPN and is a 6’9″ forward who also considered Villanova and Miami. Groce has put together a class that will likely be ranked in the top 30 or 40 next season. Guards Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill will join Colbert in Champaign along with another big man, Maverick Morgan. In addition to the freshmen, Groce will also add wing Rayvonte Rice, a transfer from Drake.
Share this story

Big Ten Summer Check In: Michigan Wolverines

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on July 11th, 2012

The 2011 NBA draft was not a pleasant experience for most Michigan hoops fans. Their best guard, Darius Morris, unexpectedly left for the NBA despite not being a guaranteed lottery pick. After taking Duke to the final seconds during the 2011 NCAA Tournament, most expected the core of the team to return for a run at the Big Ten title, but Morris’ exit left many doubts entering last season. Luckily, a confident young freshman named Trey Burke not only surprised Wolverine Nation but took the Big Ten landscape by storm as he collaborated with sophomore Tim Hardaway, Jr., to lead Michigan to its first Big Ten regular season championship since 1986. John Beilein trusted Burke with the offense and he delivered in the clutch, gaining confidence with every game.

Trey Burke may be the Big Ten player of the year in 2013.

Evaluating Last Year. Michigan finished the B1G regular season by going 6-1 down the stretch, with its only loss to a desperate Purdue team at home that was on fire from the field. Beilein’s crew won every game that it was supposed to in the home stretch despite being short-handed in the paint. Jordan Morgan did his best to defend dominant big men such as Jared Sullinger or Cody Zeller and got some help from Evan Smotrycz to hit the boards in a rugged conference. The Wolverines finished the Big Ten season at 13-5 and shared the regular season title with Ohio State and Michigan State. Michigan’s magical season ran into a hot shooting Ohio team in their first game of the NCAA Tournament, and it didn’t help that Burke and company couldn’t throw the ball into the ocean that night (shooting only 30% from beyond the arc on 23 three-point attempts). One of the Wolverines’ glaring weaknesses was magnified in the Tournament as they struggled to find offense beyond that primarily revolving on jumpers. Nonetheless, John Beilein has a great foundation in place for the 2012-13 season and has the program glowing with a winning attitude.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story