Set Your DVR: Week Of 02.11.13

Posted by bmulvihill on February 11th, 2013


Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

If we’ve learned anything so far this season, the rest of the season will be anything but predictable. Almost every conference is still up for grabs, so we are in for an exciting few weeks as we head towards March. The games this week provide us several battles at the top of each conference that will go a long way in determining who will stand alone at the end of the regular season. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

#18 Marquette at #16 Georgetown – 7:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN (****)

  • Six teams still have a legitimate shot at winning the Big East regular season title. Marquette currently sits on top of the standings with Syracuse and Georgetown only one game back. In their previous match-up this season, the Golden Eagles outlasted the Hoyas 49-48 on the strength of their rebounding and free throw shooting. The game was anything but pretty. While shooting was poor on both sides for that contest, the Hoyas have significantly improved their shooting during their current five game win streak. If Georgetown can combine better shooting with a defense that is holding Big East opponents to 42.3% eFG, they become a very difficult team to beat. The Golden Eagles have been living inside the three-point line. They are first in the Big East in two-point field goal percentage at 51.8%. The Hoyas length bothered Buzz Williams’ squad last time out so keep a close eye on how they are shooting on the road this time. However, because Marquette was steadfast in getting into the paint, they got fouled and went to the line. That was the difference in the game. If the Hoyas can play good defense without fouling and hit the boards, they can win the rematch in D.C.
Otto Porter Will Be on Every Gator's Mind In This One (AP/R. Sutton)

Otto Porter and the rest of the Hoyas have improved their shooting significantly during their five game win streak. (AP/R. Sutton)

#14 Kansas State at #13 Kansas – 9:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN (****)

  • Kansas was going to eventually lose at home. However, three straight losses and a game behind Kansas State in the Big 12 standings seemed pretty far-fetched even just 10 days ago. This is a big game for the Jayhawks as they look to tie Kansas State at the top of the Big 12 and avoid back-to-back home losses. Kansas stopped the Wildcats 59-55 in Manhattan a few weeks ago by locking down the interior on defense and preventing second-chance points. In their most recent loss to Oklahoma, the Jayhawks improved their two-point shooting considerably over the last several games hitting 51% of their attempts inside the arc. Look for Bill Self’s squad to continue to take the ball into the paint where they have a size advantage. For Kansas State to win, they need to hit the three-ball. Kansas has shown vulnerability to the three and the Wildcats must take advantage if they want to build on their lead in the Big 12.

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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on February 1st, 2013


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/

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

  • 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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A Clash at the Top: Previewing Saturday’s Indiana-Michigan Game

Posted by jnowak on February 1st, 2013

It’s been a while since we’ve had a Big Ten game as highly anticipated as this weekend’s showdown in Bloomington between Indiana and Michigan. We knew both teams were going to be top 10-caliber teams, but the opportunity to see No. 1 and No. 4 square off in front of a Saturday night audience is a real treat. There’s going to be no shortage of excitement and things to watch for, but here are a few key match-ups that will have an impact on the game and which team will take over sole possession of first place in a few days.

Watching Trey Burke and Victor Oladipo square off will be a treat for basketball fans. (

Watching Trey Burke and Victor Oladipo square off on Saturday night will be a pleasure for Big Ten fans. (

  • Victor Oladipo vs. Trey Burke — There may not be a more enticing individual matchup in the conference than Burke versus Oladipo. Burke is arguably the conference’s top overall player and certainly one of the best point guards in the country. Oladipo is dynamic on both ends of the floor, but has emerged as perhaps the Big Ten’s top defender. It’s not just Burke’s scoring that impacts a game; it’s his passing, his leadership on the floor, and his ability to control a game. But Oladipo has a way of throwing everything off for an opponent. He gets in the passing lanes, makes deflections and loose balls, and makes you work just as hard to defend when he’s got the ball in his hands. Whichever player wins this head-t0-head matchup and affects the tone of the game in doing so will likely lead his team to victory.
  • Cody Zeller vs. Michigan’s Frontcourt — Zeller, the consensus choice for preseason National Player of the Year, leads Indiana in scoring (16.1 PPG) but still has been unimpressive at times. He’s often failed to assert himself in big games and down the stretch, and went through a really tough period when he scored just 11 points combined in the Michigan State and Penn State games last week. He bounced back with a 19-point, 11-rebound performance against a talented Purdue frontcourt, though, and should have an easier time against Michigan. Jordan Morgan is not exactly a huge force in the paint but has experience and logs usually between 20-25 minutes per game; he sat out the Northwestern game Wednesday because of an ankle injury. That leaves freshmen Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III — who are both talented, but inexperienced — to handle Zeller. Here’s where the Indiana big man’s experience should pay off.

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Big Ten M5: 02.01.13 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on February 1st, 2013


  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: 01.30.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on January 30th, 2013


  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


  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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