Big Ten M5: 01.30.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on January 30th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. Michigan State forward Adreian Payne showed his versatality on the offensive end against Indiana by scoring 18 points from several different spots on the floor. He drained a couple of shots from beyond the arc and had a jaw-dropping reverse dunk off a pass from Travis Trice. If Payne continues his offensive explosion, he may work himself up to the NBA Lottery of next summer’s draft. The junior forward has averaged 9.4 PPG and 6.9 RPG in primarily playing the power forward position for Tom Izzo, but Cody Zeller also had a tough time scoring (nine points) against Payne’s defense which will also impress the NBA scouts.
  2. Michigan forward Jordan Morgan tweaked his ankle in the first couple of minutes of the game against Illinois on Sunday. Head coach John Beilein confirmed that nothing is broken in his ankle which is great news for Wolverines fans. According to the staff, it is “just a sprain” but his playing time will be determined based on how he feels during practice over the next couple of days. Morgan has averaged 5.2 RPG this season but his defensive presence will be needed as Michigan visits Bloomington for arguably the biggest game of the 2012-13 season. Mitch McGary filled in for Morgan against Illinois, but he will have an extremely tough time keeping up with Cody Zeller and defending Christian Watford off the screens.
  3. Speaking of the Hoosiers, they have a big week ahead of them as they visit West Lafayette to play the Boilermakers tonight and then play Michigan at home on Saturday. The coaching staff is taking a “fresh” approach to these games and wants to manage fatigue effectively as the team heads into February. Head coach Tom Crean said, “What we’ve done is we’ve started to back off the practices a little earlier than we did last year.” He has plenty of depth at the wing position with Will Sheehey (10.4 PPG) and Remy Abell (5.3 PPG) available, but he doesn’t have much depth in the frontcourt considering Derek Elston’s injury to begin the season. But if the Hoosiers run their offense through the perimeter and look for scoring opportunities in transition, they may be able to give Zeller some rest over the next few weeks.
  4. In case you missed it, Illinois has lost six out of its last nine games but head coach John Groce remains positive. When asked about the Illini’s slump, Groce said, “We’re focusing on getting better. That’s the culture and environment we want.” His team has more turnovers (261) than assists (225) right now, and as a result most of the Illini guards settle for poor shots from beyond the arc. The lack of a true point guard on this team hurts its ball movement and even though Tracy Abrams (11.3 PPG and 3.2 APG) handles the ball in most half-court sets, he is still learning to play the position as exhibited by his 2.9 turnovers per game.
  5. After getting hammered by Iowa in Evanston two weeks ago, the Wildcats went to Champaign to pull off an upset against the Illini and then comfortably beat Minnesota at home. After losing Drew Crawford for the season due to a back injury, the Wildcats have showed no particular pattern this season in their performance. Sophomore point guard Dave Sobolewski said, “We should get up for every game, especially in this league.” They will have a shot against the #1 ranked team in the nation this week as they visit Ann Arbor tonight to play the Wolverines for the second time this season (the first contest was a 28-point Michigan blowout).
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Morning Five: 01.30.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 30th, 2013

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  1. For the NCAA, the Ed O’Bannon likeness case is the gift that keeps on taking. The latest procedural twist in the case — which will not even go to trial until 18 months from now — is that the players will have the right to make a legal claim against the billions in television revenue that the NCAA earns through the broadcasting of its football and basketball games. The plaintiffs are hoping to become certified as a class-action representation, which would allow every former and current NCAA athlete a slice of the pie if the case is eventually won on the merits. There’s a long way to go before that outcome, but by and large, the case has thus far been more favorable to the O’Bannon team than the suits in Indy.
  2. We may never get the original Magic Eight as its creator Grant Wahl abandoned us to write books about male underwear models, but there have been a number of individuals who have tried to fill the void including Luke Winn who received the Magic Eight ball in a care package from Grant two years ago. Peter Tiernan is trying to follow in those footsteps with his own formula for picking a champion. Looking back at data from the last 12 champions, he claims to have found eight key criteria a champion must have. Using his formula he has found eight teams that as of Tuesday morning meet those guidelines. Obviously the numbers from each of these teams can change over the next 45 days until we get to Selection Sunday (or is it technically the last Monday of the season?), but this could provide you with a good thing to keep in mind when you are filling out your brackets in March.
  3. We usually have to report injuries here so we enjoy being able to report that players are coming back from injuries. The biggest positive news on that front comes from Missouri where Laurence Bowers is expected to return to play possibly as early as tonight against LSU. Bowers has been out since January 8 with a sprained MCL and the Tigers have struggled in his absence going 3-2 including an embarrassing loss at Florida where it seemed like the entire team forgot to get on the plane to Gainesville. Missouri will need Bowers to be back at 100% if they are going to challenge Florida’s control in the SEC this season. Fortunately the Tigers have a relatively easy stretch (ok, you could say that about the entire SEC schedule) to get Bowers back to form before they get another shot at the Gators on February 19 in Mizzou Arena.
  4. Michigan also got some good news yesterday when it was announced that Jordan Morgan had a sprained ankle after x-rays on his right ankle did not reveal any fractures. This is obviously big news for the Wolverines with their showdown in Bloomington on Saturday night looming. Morgan will be particularly important against the Hoosiers because he would be matched up against Tyler Zeller, who would be a tough match-up even if he has had a relatively disappointing sophomore season. Before that game, the Wolverines play against Northwestern tonight, but we don’t have much information coming out of Ann Arbor except for this insightful analysis: “If he can play, he’ll play. But if he’s still hurt, he won’t.”
  5. The news for Louisville was more mixed as they announced that Wayne Blackshear will be returning from a shoulder injury to play against Marquette on Sunday, but Kevin Ware will “not be coming back anytime soon” from his suspension. We still are not sure why Ware has been suspended and schools are so secretive with this information that it could be pretty much anything. Blackshear’s return is more important for a team that has been more offensively challenged that usual in the past week, but it would be short-sighted to dismiss the contributions of Ware who has played 15.3 minutes per game. At this point Louisville could use all the help it can get to right their sinking ship.
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B1G Weekly Question: Which Player Needs To Step Up?

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on December 13th, 2012

Every week the Big Ten Microsite writers – Deepak Jayanti, Joey Nowak and Kevin Trahan – will address a specific question about the conference. This week’s question: which player needs to step up his game to improve his team? 

Amir Williams (left) needs to be more consistent in the paint for the Buckeyes.

Amir Williams (left) needs to be more consistent in the paint for the Buckeyes.

  • Ohio State: Amir Williams – Sooner or later, teams are going to recognize that if they shut down Deshaun Thomas (observe Kansas in last year’s Final Four) the Buckeyes’ scoring ability wanes dramatically. Both Lenzelle Smith Jr. and LaQuinton Ross can both do more to share the scoring load, but the Buckeyes need production in the post from the sophomore Williams. He came to Ohio State as a highly-touted recruit and hasn’t blossomed in his time in Columbus thus far. He’s averaging just under 16 minutes a game this year, but scoring fewer than 4 PPG isn’t going to do enough to keep opponents’ big men honest.
  • Indiana: Maurice Creek – There isn’t really anybody on Indiana’s team that needs to be doing much better than they are right now, but if we’re picking someone who could potentially give the Hoosiers a little more, it would be Maurice Creek. Creek sat our last year due to a ruptured Achilles tendon, but he has been slow to get back into the swing of things and win minutes from the players ahead of him. IU already has tremendous depth, but Creek could provide yet another strong option for the Hoosiers at guard.
  • Michigan: Jordan Morgan – This is nitpicking, really, because Michigan has played just about as well as anyone could ask up to this point. The highly touted freshman class has lived up to its billing so far, which has caused a drop in minutes and stats for Jordan Morgan. Of course, if everyone else in front of him is playing well, it’s tough to fault Morgan, but he needs to make sure he keeps improving in case the Wolverines need to call on a veteran at some point. Morgan could help Michigan by becoming more of a scorer when he’s in the game, as he’s seen his scoring average drop in each of the past two years. Read the rest of this entry »
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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 Team Previews: Michigan Wolverines

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 7th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Big Ten microsite will be rolling out the featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Michigan Wolverines.

Where we left off: The Wolverines entered last season with reasonable expectations but few expected them to contend for the Big Ten title. Freshman guard Trey Burke surprised the Maize and Blue faithful by starting off with a bang early and became arguably the best offensive guard in the league during conference play. As a result, Michigan finished with a 13-5 record in a three-way tie with Michigan State and Ohio State at the top of the conference. Expectations were very high heading into the NCAA tournament as a #3 seed but Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr’s youth caught up with them during their second round game against the Ohio Bobcats. Ohio’s D.J. Cooper shot the lights out against the Wolverines in the early round upset to finish off a disappointing postseason. Nonetheless, an overall record of 24-10 proved that Michigan Basketball is again relevant in the college hoops world.

Can Trey Burke lead Michigan to a National Title? (AP Photo)

Positives: The Wolverines can score with the best of them and they can score from different positions on the floor. Burke (14.8 PPG) and Hardaway (14.6 PPG) are a great backcourt tandem who don’t have the greatest range on their jumpers but still find ways to score. Junior forward Jordan Morgan (5.6 RPG) may not look to score so much but he is an efficient rebounder and provides a good presence in the paint that results in easy layups when one of the guards is doubled. The incoming top 25 freshman class provides additional firepower for John Beilein and depth in his rotation. Forward Mitch McGary will add more size to complement Morgan in the post but Glenn Robinson III has the athleticism and skill set to be the best scoring freshman in the Big Ten. Another freshman guard, Nik Stauskas, has a reliable jumper and he is expected to play the role of the designated gunner in Beilein’s offense.

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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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Big Ten Season Wrap-Up: Michigan

Posted by jnowak on April 25th, 2012

John Beilein continues to bring Michigan basketball back into the upper echelon of the Big Ten, and this past season was another major step forward. The Wolverines had a group that included important upperclassmen (Stu Douglass and Zack Novak), as well as steady, talented young players (Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Trey Burke). Things are only getting better for the Wolverines, who will be lucky enough to have Burke returning for another season (he flirted with the NBA Draft) and established a strong home-floor advantage this year during Big Ten play. A first-round NCAA Tournament exit is a tough pill to swallow given that the Wolverines were Big Ten regular season co-champions, but Ohio proved to be more than a flash in the pan. To take the next step, though, those postseason games have to be victories.  Before looking ahead to next year, here’s an evaluation of the year that was:

Trey Burke has been key in bringing Michigan to the upper echelon of the Big Ten. (AP)

  • In a nutshell: This was a talented Big Ten team that could give opponents inside or outside the conference fits with its style of play. The Wolverines had leadership, scoring and could defend. Their Achilles heel was consistent interior play and their play on the road never matched their performance in Ann Arbor. They didn’t have as difficult a schedule as co-Big Ten champs Michigan State and Ohio State, but the bottom line is that they did everything that was asked of them to share the title and that can not be taken away.
  • Overachievement: Burke was highly touted coming out of high school but few thought he could immediately become an All-Big Ten type of player who could take over late in games. He ran Michigan’s offense well and knew when to take it upon himself to create for himself. The Wolverines should consider themselves lucky he snubbed the NBA Draft, because they could be looking at a contender for Big Ten Player of the Year sometime in the near future.
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Big Ten Writer Roundtable: Four Questions As the Regular Season Winds Down

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on March 1st, 2012

Big Ten contributors Joey Nowak (@joeynowak) and Ryan Terpstra (@terphimself) give their thoughts on four conference questions as just a few more games remain in the regular season, and the Big Ten champion has yet to be decided.

1) Will we see an outright Big Ten champion?  Or is the conference title possibly going to be shared?

Joey:  In other words, will Michigan State beat Ohio State this weekend? I think the answer is yes. It’s hard to watch the Spartans, after how badly they tanked last season, and try to avoid becoming too enamored with them this year. But time and time again they have proven that this really is a special squad that gets it and is tune with so many important factors required to win.

They are one of  just 12 teams in Division I that is undefeated at home (three in the power conferences) and there are too many intangibles working in their favor this weekend: playing at home, Senior Day honoring Draymond Green, Austin Thornton and Delvon Roe, and the motivation to win a title outright while denying Michigan and Ohio State, of all teams. Not to mention how entirely out of sorts Ohio State has seemed lately. It will be a dogfight, but I think the Spartans beat the Buckeyes and claim a completely unexpected Big Ten title all for themselves.

Can Ohio State stop Michigan State's quest for an outright Big Ten Title? (Associated Press)

Ryan:  As much as people in Ann Arbor are hoping to sneak in and grab a share of a conference title (wow, Michigan fans rooting for Ohio State?  Can it be true?), I think that Michigan State is going to get to job done because they are so potent at the Breslin Center. The only thing I would worry about for the Spartans is getting TOO hyped up, which can happen when young men are trying so hard to defeat a quality opponent. The Spartans obviously don’t lack for motivation, and the bigger question to me is what’s going on with the Buckeyes? Jared Sullinger had to bail them out against Northwestern; a team that is very tough this season, but on paper can’t handle Ohio State’s frontcourt. With Sullinger admitting that he has been thinking out the referees and how they are officiating his post game, I’m wondering if that will come back into play in what I would expect to be a very physical game in East Lansing. I think Michigan State hangs another Big Ten banner for Tom Izzo.

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Big Ten Game On: 02.21.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on February 21st, 2012

It’s a big night for the second place teams in the Big Ten as both Ohio State and Michigan look to keep pace with conference leader Michigan State.  It’s an equally big night for two teams that are desperately trying to make their way into the NCAA tournament as well.  Game On!!!

Illinois at #8 Ohio State, 7 PM, ESPN/ESPN3

Ohio State will be looking for revenge against Illinois at home. (Neal C. Lauron/Columbus Dispatch/MCT)

  • The Buckeyes are smarting after recent losses to MSU and Michigan, and now is the time to gather themselves and bounce back.  The Big Ten Conference title is still very much within their grasp if they can get back on the winning track en route to a showdown against the Spartans in East Lansing on March 4.  However, they must figure out a way to use the talents of Jared Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas, and William Buford properly.  There is no question that OSU possesses plenty of talent, but mentally the Buckeyes need to find themselves.  They were out-toughed by Michigan State and made too many mistakes against Michigan.  Illinois is a team prone to making mistakes, and the Buckeyes need to take advantage.  It won’t be easy, though, because if Bruce Weber has any inclinations on saving his job, he must finish the season strong and make the NCAA Tournament, and that includes beating Ohio State.  The Illini have already done it once this season back on January 10, and even thought they’ve struggled mightily since then (1-8 in the following nine games), would it be ridiculous to suggest that Illinois is the team with the least pressure to win?  Not much is expected of Brandon Paul and his crew, and they have to have confidence that they can upset a team that they’ve beaten once before just a little more than a month ago.
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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.20.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on February 20th, 2012

  1. Michigan got an exhilarating win Saturday night against Ohio State giving themselves a legit chance at the school’s first Big Ten title since 1986. Not only was the game itself memorable, but the atmosphere at the new Crisler Center was a “special one” according to John Beilein. The crowd helped spur the Wolverines on an early 6-0 run, and played a big factor on defensive possessions down the stretch. Another factor was sophomore center Jordan Morgan getting a double-double with 11 points and 11 boards while battling all night with Jared Sullinger.
  2. After Ohio State’s fall on Saturday, Michigan State answered the bell by beating Purdue, and putting themselves in great position in the conference standings by going a game up in first place. But the Spartans comeback win would not have happened if it weren’t for a challenge laid out to Draymond Green by Tom Izzo. Robbie Hummel torched Michigan State for 18 in the first half, and Izzo tasked Big Ten Player of the Year candidate Green to slow the Boilermaker star down. Day-Day was able to do so, proving once again his leadership ability along with a great stat line of 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists.
  3. This weekend the Big Ten had it all: big wins, big statements, and a big upset. Iowa scored the big upset with an unexpected 12-point win over Indiana. Matt Gatens is a senior who has stayed around and dealt with a lot of turnover during his Hawkeye career, but he is making the most out of the final stretch of games, dropping 30 points in a career-high effort against the Hoosiers. Iowa is now 14-13 overall, 6-8 in conference, and needs a surge to get invited to postseason play.
  4. Wisconsin has been an effective team this year, just not at shooting. The Badgers have struggled with their offense all season long, and it has been a battle to win games in the Big Ten only averaging just over 60 points per game. On Sunday, the lids came off the rims for the Badgers as they drained 5 three-pointers in 2 minutes and 34 seconds. Bo Ryan’s club held a 33-12 advantage from three-point land, which was a key in the victory over Penn State.
  5. As much action as there has been on the court lately, there has been just as much in the circus that has been the Bruce Weber – Mike Thomas quote battle. Many expect this to be the last season for Weber on the Illinois sidelines, but if there is a new search for a coach, some introspection should be in order. There are reasons why a quality Big Ten program is struggling, and not all of them have to do with the X’s and O’s of what happens out on the floor.
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Set Your TiVo: 02.17.12 – 02.19.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 17th, 2012

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

While BracketBusters is always solid, the overall slate over the next few days is full of good, but not great, games. Still, tune in to these games as conference races head down the stretch and the NCAA Tournament field begins to take shape.

#13 St. Mary’s at #24 Murray State – 6:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN (****)

  • Since losing to Tennessee State, Murray State has rebounded with two wins over Austin Peay and Southeast Missouri State. On Saturday night the Racers will get their chance to show the nation they are for real. Playing at home in front of a juiced up crowd on national television, there is no excuse for Murray State to come out anything less than fired up. The three point line is this team’s best friend on both ends of the floor and it will be important against St. Mary’s. Murray State shoots 41% from deep (#8 nationally) and defends the arc very well. Against a St. Mary’s team that ranks a putrid #305 against the triple, that’s a huge advantage for the Racers at home. Steve Prohm should do everything in his power to ensure Isaiah Canaan (47.3%) and Donte Poole(39.3%) get quality shots from the arc against the porous Gaels’ defense. Defensively, the Racers must lock down the arc as they usually do. St. Mary’s shoots a lot of threes and while they don’t make a great percentage they do get just a shade under 30% of their total points from the arc.

    Isaiah Canaan And Company Could Have A Big Day From Behind The Arc Against St. Mary's Average 3-Point Defense (Getty)

  • St. Mary’s has lost two of its last three games after starting the season 22-2. The Gaels are still a likely NCAA Tournament team, but a win here would ensure their place in the field of 68 for sure. In order to win on the road in a tough environment against a good team, St. Mary’s must use its edge on the offensive glass, make threes and get to the foul line. With strong rebounders like Rob Jones and Brad Waldow, St. Mary’s has a clear size edge over Murray State. Only Ivan Aska and Ed Daniel see significant minutes for the Racers inside, two of only three players on the roster who are at least 6’7” tall. While the Gaels have a huge edge inside, they’re going to have to overcome Murray State’s strong perimeter defense. Matthew Dellavedova and Clint Steindl are going to have to hit threes for Randy Bennett’s team to come out on top. Thirdly, St. Mary’s should look to take advantage of a Murray State defense that ranks in the bottom half of Division I in defensive free throw rate. The Gaels get to the line fairly well and make 71.9% of their free throws. It’s so important to control tempo and keep the crowd out of the game and getting to the charity stripe while controlling the boards definitely helps in achieving that goal.
  • This should be a very close game but the edge has to go to the home team. St. Mary’s is struggling a bit right now and Murray State seems to have righted the ship since suffering its first loss. One concern for the Racers is their turnovers (14 per game). If Murray State controls the ball, plays well on the perimeter and gets to the free throw line at its usual clip, this will be the Racers’ game to lose.
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Set Your TiVo: 01.27 – 01.29

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 27th, 2012

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

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

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

Florida May Struggle to Contain the Mississippi State Big Men

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