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 »
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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.
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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.

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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.
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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.
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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

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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.
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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.

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Morning Five: 02.01.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 1st, 2012

  1. Clemson‘s fading postseason dreams were dealt a setback yesterday when it suspended junior Milton Jennings indefinitely for academic reasons. Jennings, who averaged 8.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game, was having the best season of his college career and had several solid games recently including scoring 16 points against Duke and having a 9-point, 12-rebound performance at Boston College. This is the second time that Jennings has been suspended this season as he was also suspended earlier this season after yelling at Brad Brownell during the Diamond Head Classic. Clemson is expected to use several players to fill Jennings’ minutes, but should expect to see a significant drop-off in production.
  2. We thought we had heard the last of the Bernie Fine investigation for at least a few months, but now his primary accuser (Bobby Davis) claims that Laurie Fine, Bernie’s wife, and another coach’s wife discussed having had sex with multiple Syracuse players. Although we did not think that the situation could get any worse, the report that another coach’s wife was involved should only make the Syracuse athletic department feel even more uncomfortable. Initially they could bury this under the idea that it was a single dysfunctional family, but now that it extends beyond that it will only raise more questions as well as undoubtedly bringing up plenty of message board rumormongering about who the other coach’s wife was.
  3. To celebrate the 35th anniversary of its McDonald’s All-American Game, McDonald’s released its list of the 35 greatest McDonald’s All-American. The list is a veritable who’s who of American basketball royalty over the past 35 years. While all of the names on the list, which is based on “high school career and performance in the McDonald’s All American Games, success at the collegiate and professional level, and post-career accomplishments”, are recognizable a few made us do a double-take when we first saw them. Two that stood out the most were Clark Kellogg (more on him later in the day) and Kenny Smith both of whom have had exceptional broadcasting careers, but probably would be pretty far down the list of the greatest players of the past 35 years although they were solid players in their own right (Kellogg’s stats and Smith’s stats). As for the relative merits of each individual in high school, ESPNHS provides an interesting ranking of the 35 players based just on their high school accomplishments.
  4. While most people were celebrating the BrackBuster matchups, there was at least one individual who voiced his displeasure with the current system. In his weekly Bubble Watch column, Andy Glockner criticized the system for being a net loss for the mid-majors as the losing team was often hurt more than the winning team was helped. He does give them credit for nailing the two biggest matchups of this year’s Bracketbuster. As usual, we tend to agree with Andy (acutally he agrees with us most of the time) and we would like to see the focus more on helping mid-majors get into the NCAA Tournament rather than just trying to schedule ideal matchups for TV.
  5. Two of the top teams in the country may be without their big men for longer than expected. Michigan and Syracuse may end up missing Jon Horford and Fab Melo, respectively, for longer than initially anticipated. Horford has stated that he and the Wolverine coaching staff have began to think about the possibility of redshirting even if he was able to play later this season as they feel that time he would get to play would not be worth a season of eligibility. Meanwhile, the news is less clear in Syracuse where sources say that Melo could be out for “a while” as he gets his academic issues straightened out. While neither player would be classified as a star, both could be vitale pieces to their team’s postseason success.
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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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BGTD: Maui Musings, Act IV

Posted by rtmsf on November 24th, 2011

The environment in tonight’s Maui Invitational championship game was phenomenal. Duke and Kansas both had the strong support of fans passionately cheering for their teams, and it was a shame to see either one go home a loser after what was a great tournament. The ESPN-funded tournaments in Puerto Rico, Orlando and Anaheim this week are all are fine and well, but the organizers haven’t figured out that teams playing in front of crowds with more empty seats than filled ones loses much of what makes college basketball exciting and special. Sure, Maui is in a preferred situation in that it can engineer fabulous matchups like Kansas vs. Duke, but the tweets from around the country raving about the environment in Lahaina tonight suggest others should strive more to mimic what they have.

Let’s jump into some musings on the Duke-Kansas championship game first, followed by the Michigan-UCLA third-place game.

Duke 68, Kansas 61

Thornton's Biggest Shot of His Life Gave Duke Its Fifth Maui Title (Kemper Lesnik/B. Spurlock)

  • Tyshawn Taylor is such an enigmatic player. In the first half of tonight’s game, he was mostly spectacular, with 13 points and three assists to lead KU to a nice four-point lead over Duke. In the second half, he quite literally self-destructed, committing a ridiculous eight turnovers and only adding a single assist as Duke kept pushing forward. Think about it, in a game played in the 60s for both teams, that’s eight additional second half possessions that Taylor single-handedly gave to Duke. The most crushing error Taylor made was at just under a minute to go when he simply lost control of his dribble on a Ryan Kelly hedge with Kansas down two points. It wasn’t a disastrous turnover by itself, but it allowed Duke to gain the possession where Tyler Thornton received a pass under duress (arguably after a Seth Curry travel) and dropped in a closeout three from the corner. Kansas will once again win a lot of games this year, as they always do, but the knock on the Jayhawks coming in has been whether you can trust Taylor to get it done when the heat is on — tonight’s second half performance is highly suggestive that you cannot.
  • Moving back to that game-winner, what can you say about the onions on Tyler Thornton tonight? Not only did Mike Krzyzewski sub in the sophomore over his all-world freshman Austin Rivers at the end of the game, but a kid who had attempted a grand total of nine shots all season coming into tonight’s game made Coach K once again look like a genius by hitting not one, but two, contested threes from the corners. Krzyzewksi said that Thornton essentially won the game for Duke, and no doubt the image of his scissor-kick jumper will cause KU fans nightmares for years. As Bill Self said in Tuesday’s press conference, Kansas came to Maui to play the Blue Devils. KU fans probably felt like they had a pretty good chance to knock off Duke, a team that has now beaten the Jayhawks in four of the schools’ last five matchups dating back nearly two decades. But Taylor’s erratic mishandling of the basketball in combination with Thornton’s confidence in his jumper resulted in yet another crushing blow against Coach K for the school from Lawrence.
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