Big Ten Tournament: Friday Recap/Saturday Preview

Posted by Walker Carey on March 15th, 2014

With the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament in the books, we take a look at a few of the big takeaways from Friday, as well as storylines to keep in mind on Friday.

What went down on Friday:

The Top-Seeded Wolverines Survived an Upset Bid by Illinois Friday

The Top-Seeded Wolverines Survived an Upset Bid by Illinois Friday

  • Top-seeded Michigan survived a scare from a tenacious Illinois squad. The Wolverines saw a 13-point lead completely disappear before senior forward Jordan Morgan converted a layup with seven seconds left to give Michigan the 64-63 victory. The Wolverines were able to build their 13-point lead thanks to great assertiveness from sophomore Glenn Robinson III and the play-making ability of Big Ten Player of the Year, Nik Stauskas. The team’s fortunes, however, changed in the second half when Illinois dropped into a 2-3 zone that utterly frustrated Michigan throughout a majority of the second half.
  • Ohio State advanced to the semifinals with an epic 71-67 comeback victory over Nebraska. The Buckeyes trailed by 18 points with just over 13 minutes to play, but junior forward LaQuinton Ross and their suffocating defense took over and allowed Thad Matta’s squad to come all the way back to earn the victory. Senior guard Aaron Craft did not have the best game statistically, but he once again showed how valuable it is to have a confident, heady leader at the controls.
  • Wisconsin was very impressive in its 26-point mauling of a Minnesota team that could not find its way off the bubble. Senior guard Ben Brust turned in a career-best performance for the Badgers, finishing with a game-high 29 points. Bo Ryan’s squad also received a significant contribution from its bench, as guard Bronson Koenig and forward Nigel Hayes combined for 29 points. There have been questions all season about Wisconsin’s defense, but the Badgers were outstanding on that end of the court, limiting Minnesota to just 32.8 percent shooting for the game. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten All-Tournament Team: Quarterfinal Friday

Posted by Brendan Brody on March 15th, 2014

After the second day of action, the most unpredictable league in the country got kind of predictable. The four semifinalists are the the four teams that we on the microsite picked to finish in the top four of league play this season. It sets up some tremendous match-ups for Saturday, but first, here are five standouts from Friday’s quarterfinals in Indy.

LaQuinton Ross posted another double-double as Ohio State knocked off Nebraska. (Lucy Nicholson, Reuters)

LaQuinton Ross posted another double-double as Ohio State knocked off Nebraska. (Lucy Nicholson, Reuters)

  • LaQuinton Ross, Ohio State: Ross makes an appearance on the honor roll for the second day in a row because he had a double-double for the second day in a row. He shot the ball better yesterday, (9-of-18 from the field), snagged 13 rebounds, and also contributed two steals. He also picked up a technical foul for shoving Walter Pitchford at the 14:58 mark in the second half while his team was down 13 points. He scored 16 of his 26 points from that point forward, almost outscoring Nebraska (21 points) all by himself.
  • Ben Brust, Wisconsin: If someone had told me that Ben Brust scored 29 points in a game, I would have had to assume that he went nuts from behind the three-point line and hit something like six or seven bombs. His scoring last night, however, was a little more diversified. He hit all nine of his free throws, went 4-of-10 from deep, and was able to get to the basket after some nifty shot fakes. Brust also chipped in a trio of steals, doing a nice job pressuring Minnesota’s guards.

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Rushed Reactions: #8 Michigan 64, Illinois 63

Posted by Walker Carey on March 14th, 2014

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Thursday afternoon’s Big Ten Tournament action between Michigan and Illinois in Indianapolis.

Michigan and Levert Survived Friday Afternoon

Michigan and Levert Survived Friday Afternoon

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Illinois showcased great resilience. When the Illini fell behind by 13 at the 16:13 mark of the second half, they could have easily wilted under the pressure that was being strongly applied by top-seeded Michigan. Instead Illinois switched up its defense, made some timely shots, and battled to the very end. After Michigan shot 52 percent in the first half and made its first four shot attempts of the second against Illinois’ straight man-to-man defense, Illini coach John Groce switched into a 2-3 zone for nearly the rest of the game. This switch caused major issues for the Michigan offense, as it only made four of its final 18 shot attempts. The strong defense led to an effective offense and those coupled together led to Illinois being in the game until the final buzzer sounded.
  2. Michigan is terrific at keeping its composure in late-game situations. When Michigan has needed to make a winning play this season, it has succeeded and that is one of the major reasons why John Beilein‘s squad took home the regular season outright Big Ten title. For example, Michigan needed to make a winning play with 2.9 seconds left in overtime at Purdue in late February and the team executed a play to perfection that resulted in a game-winning buzzer-beating shot from Glenn Robinson III. Michigan needed a winning play again Saturday when it trailed 63-62 with 19 seconds left. Out of a timeout, Wolverines sophomore guard Nik Stauskas drove the lane before dishing a gorgeous pass to senior forward Jordan Morgan for what turned out to be the game-winning field goal. Read the rest of this entry »
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The RTC All-Big Ten Team: Nik Stauskas

Posted by Brendan Brody on March 13th, 2014

We gave reached the end of our week long unveiling of our RTC All-Big Ten team. The head of our seven-man squad is none other than the player also selected as Player of the Year by both the coaches and the media. Michigan sophomore Nik Stauskas takes home top honors here as well. Stauskas went from a complementary shooter, to the main option on a team that many thought would struggle when preseason All-American Mitch McGary was lost for the season due to injury.

Nik Stauskas is our Player of the Year at RTC. (Gregory Shamus, Getty)

Nik Stauskas is our Player of the Year at RTC. (Credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty)

Why Nik Stauskas is the best player in the Big Ten: The simple answer would be because he’s the best player on the team that won the regular season championship, but it goes much deeper than that. In his freshman year, he averaged 11.0 points and 1.3 assists per game on 44.0% three-point shooting. These are very good numbers for a freshman on a team that went to the National Championship game, but Stauskas masterfully handled the transition from a complementary role to a primary one. He went from a usage rate of 16.2% to 23.5%, and his offensive rating went up from 122.8 to 126.0. He had the ball in his hands on a much more frequent basis with the defense focusing on him and still was more efficient. He proved that he can still shoot the ball with the best of them, but added a nice mid-range game, showcased an ability to get to the rim, and to set up his teammates. He led the Wolverines with 3.4 assists per game while also leading them in scoring at 17.4 points per game.

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Big Ten M5: 03.13.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on March 13th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. The Big Ten Tournament starting today certainly has the focus of everyone following the conference’s basketball scene except for one head coach. Iowa‘s Fran McCaffery announced in a statement that his son has a tumor on his thyroid. Thirteen-year-old Patrick discovered the tumor last week and will undergo surgery next Wednesday, the day before he turns 14. While we may all have our focus set to basketball and brackets this weekend, McCaffery’s certainly could be elsewhere.
  2. There are plenty of tournament predictions out there and Ken Pomeroy released his log5 thoughts yesterday. He gives the top two seeds the most respect in Michigan and Wisconsin while dropping the Cornhuskers plenty with only a 5 percent chance to win the whole thing. That chance is closer to least-probable Northwestern’s chances than it is to Iowa’s, which is one step above Nebraska. Beyond that the prediction is pretty straight forward in nearly following the seed lines. Some teams may be a tad bit high or low for everyone’s thoughts, but with how this conference season has went, it makes sense to not have any heavy favorites.
  3. The season may not be over for any Big Ten teams this morning, but that doesn’t mean the coaching searches haven’t started for programs that are finished. With this in mind, Sports Illustrated’s Brian Hamilton took a look at the top assistants in the country that could be looking to take their first head coaching job. The Big Ten has three names on the list: Ohio State‘s Jeff Boals, Wisconsin‘s Greg Gard, and Michigan‘s LaVall Jordan. All of the names are solid considerations and have been linked to jobs the past few seasons and certainly could be headed out soon. There was one name that we were surprised not to see – Michigan State‘s Dwayne Stephens. Some may expect him to eventually succeed Tom Izzo, but if Gard’s name is coming up, certainly Stephens should, too. This is a guy who has developed big men Adreian Payne and Draymond Green and been named a top 15 recruiter and assistant coach in the past two years. Really, though, there are plenty of assistant and associate head coaches in the Big Ten that could find head coaching gigs in the near future.
  4. Ohio State got back to winning ways against Michigan State, but that didn’t mean an easy week of practice. The Buckeyes have prepped for the Big Ten Tournament with a challenging week, despite it being the first time they will play on Thursday in the BTT since 2005. This tournament has plenty of intrigue for Ohio State who drew a Purdue team it swept to open the tournament. The games will be important to determining exactly where the Buckeyes end up in the seeding line of the NCAA Tournament, win a few games and a five or six seed is possible, loss to Purdue and it could fall to the dreaded 8-9 game.
  5. The Big Ten Tournament has never treated Indiana well. It has lost in the quarterfinals or first round 11 times in its 16 years of existence. The Hoosiers only have one championship game appearance and have never won the whole thing. That doesn’t matter to this year’s team, who just wants to focus on its first game against Illinois today. Still, this Indiana team needs history to change (and make history in itself by being hte lowest seed to win the tournament) if it wants to play in the NCAA Tournament. Indiana is likely only going if it wins the whole thing, so either history is changing or the Hoosiers are going to start paying close attention to NBA Draft announcements regarding Noah Vonleh.
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Big Ten M5: 03.12.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on March 12th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Nik Stauskas of Michigan was named Big Ten Player of the Year on Monday by both the coaches and the media. He went from primarily a spot-up shooter to someone who put in a tremendous amount of work to become the best player in the league. It’s been documented often about the strength training that he and fellow sophomore Caris LeVert went through in the off-season, and it quite obviously paid off for both. Stauskas managed to still be able to knock down plenty of three-pointers, yet added the ability to drive and distribute on a much higher level than many expected. He is a worthy Big Ten POY.
  2. Playing in the shadow of a famous father is never easy. Playing in the shadow of a father that not only played in the NBA for 14 years, but also serves as an analyst for the network that covers your conference is borderline impossible. But Wisconsin point guard Traveon Jackson has made things work both on and off the court due to a renewed sense of spirituality. Jackson struggled with the responsibilities after unexpectedly having to take the reigns from Josh Gasser once the guards tore his ACL. He turned to drinking and partying as a way to escape from the stress on the court, but has found that things like scripture reading and attending church services have helped him on and off the court.
  3. It’s the eve of the Big Ten Tournament, and not many people within the college basketball community can figure out Michigan State. Coach Tom Izzo feels the importance of the tournament this year more so than in past seasons because, as he says, “we’re just trying to bring back some of the magic we had early in the year when we had everybody playing together.” It will be extremely interesting over the course of the weekend to see if the team can start clicking like they did early on before injuries ruined any sense of flow and cohesion the team had.
  4. The main architect for the Nebraska basketball facelift was named Coach of the Year by his coaching peers on Monday. Coach Tim Miles worked his way up from coaching Division II in obscurity, to potentially coaching in the Big Dance next week. He credits his players for keeping a positive attitude, not letting the porous basketball history of the program prohibit them from changing things.  If they can win three games this weekend, the change will be even further magnified.
  5. After seeing him play in the non-conference part of the season, no one would have guessed that Kendrick Nunn would earn a spot on the Big Ten All-Freshman team. Nunn did just that however, and Illinois has gone 5-3 since he and fellow freshman Malcolm Hill were inserted into the starting five. Indiana Coach Tom Crean has taken notice, as he likened Nunn to Victor Oladipo when asked about preparing for the Illini on Thursday when the two teams square off in first-round play of the Big Ten Tournament.  Nunn has averaged double-figures in those 8 games, and can enhance his ever-growing reputation even more if he continues his solid play, and Illinois wins a game or two in Indianapolis.
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Big Ten M5: 03.11.14 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on March 11th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. It’s been an outstanding, yet unusual, season for Michigan. Unlike last season where things fell into place for the Wolverines under the leadership of Trey Burke, this season’s squad dealt with early adversity with the loss of Mitch McGary. On Saturday, the usually mild-mannered John Beilien let his emotions fly against Indiana. He has had to use an unusual set of motivational tactics to reach this “uncommon” team. But as unusual as this team may be, they also managed to do something last year’s national championship runner-up never did, win an outright Big Ten title. They’re also projected to be a #2 seed (according to bracketmatrix.com), which is two full seeds higher than last season — a feat that might earn Beilien Coach of the Year.
  2. Michigan may have exceeded expectations this season, but Michigan State’s season has hit a bumpy road the last several weeks. Tom Izzo has made public his frustrations with his team to the press. In Nicole Auberach’s profile of the Spartans coach in USA TODAY, his frustration extends not only his to current squad, but with the demands of his job in general and how they affect his family specifically. Possibly adding fuel to the fire is the rumor that the owner of the Detroit Pistons would like Izzo to coach his professional team next year. It’ll be interesting to see how things turn out in East Lansing during the off-season.
  3. As inconsistent as the Michigan State has played, Iowa has all but fallen apart. The Hawkeyes have lost five of their last six games and although they are easily projected to be included in the NCAA Tournament, they’re bound for a low seed. This from a team who was thought to have a legitimate chance to make the Final Four earlier in the season. It’s no mystery what has gone wrong for Iowa: their defense has been abysmal the last few games. Specifically, they have been unable to stop penetration and their zone has allowed teams to shoot effectively from deep. The Hawkeyes have a chance to turn their fortunes around in the Big Ten tournament; first against Northwestern and then against Michigan State. If they can register another Top 50 win, they’ll be able to better position themselves for the Big Dance.
  4. Moving on from the disappointing teams, Nebraska culminated their special year by beating Wisconsin in front of a rowdy home crowd during their senior night. While the celebration after the game may have been for the magical season that Tim Miles, Terran Pettaway, and the rest of the Cornhuskers were able to put together, the foundation for this success was put in well before November. Dirk Chatelain from the World-Herald writes a great article about the scene on the court after the win with Miles and athletic administrator Marc Boehm. He also describes where they had to come from to get here. If anything, Nebraska showed that you can turn around a program if you’re willing to make the investment.
  5. Minnesota has had an up-and-down season, but on the whole it has been mostly positive with the Gophers knocking on the door of the NCAA Tournament. On Sunday, Minnesota had their senior night and said goodbye to their steady hand, Austin Hollins. He has received praise from both his current and former coach as one of the hardest working players on the team. Minnesota had to transition into a new coaching system in the beginning of the season; Hollins’ even-tempered personality and maturity may have helped the adjusting period. That, among other factors, may have helped the Gophers find some success early in Richard Pitino’s tenure.
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Three Initial Thoughts on the Big Ten Tournament

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on March 10th, 2014

There aren’t many things clear as we head into this week’s Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis. We know that the Wolverines are the best team in the league, but several question marks remain about the other 11 teams. The following are three initial thoughts about the tournament’s draw.

Tom Izzo needs to make sure his team gains confidence before the NCAA tournament.

Tom Izzo needs to make sure his team gains confidence before the NCAA tournament.

  1. Two teams that have a lot to prove in Indianapolis: Iowa and Michigan State. Both of these squads are limping into the tournament and they need to gain some confidence before they head to the Big Dance. The Hawkeyes were stunned at the buzzer by Jon Ekey’s Illini on Saturday and appear to have no clue on the defensive end anymore. Devyn Marble continues to impress, but the rest of his teammates need a jump start soon or this group will be an early upset in both tournaments. Under the assumption that the Hawkeyes beat Northwestern on Thursday, they will then face the Spartans on Friday, a team that has its own set of issues. Against Ohio State, Michigan State played fairly well, but Tom Izzo’s team didn’t seem to have a clear leader on the floor at the end of the game. This shouldn’t be very surprising because it has been a while since all of their starters have played together, but they need to use their time this weekend in Indy to figure out any lingering issues with team chemistry. From a seeding perspective, both teams could stand to win a couple of games here to shore up their positions — for Iowa, to get away from the #8/#9 game; for Michigan State, to remain a protected top-four seed and possibly move up to a more favorable #3 draw. Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC Top 25: Regular Season FINAL Edition

Posted by Walker Carey on March 10th, 2014

With apologies to Penn and Princeton, the college basketball regular season came to a satisfying end on Sunday. This regular season was defined by unexpected results and uncertainty near the top of the rankings, but #1 Florida, #2 Wichita State, and #3 Arizona end the regular season as the consensus top three teams in America among our pollsters. The Gators capped off their 29-2 overall and 18-0 conference record with blowout wins over South Carolina and Kentucky. Will they or won’t they? That has been the question all season long about the second-ranked Shockers and their pursuit of perfection entering the NCAA Tournament. Gregg Marshall’s squad confidently answered that question over the weekend with a fairly easy stroll to the Missouri Valley Tournament title and a perfect 34-0 record. While Florida and Wichita State used the final week of the season to showcase their excellence, Arizona experienced its third setback of the season in a loss at Oregon on Saturday. However, the Wildcats still possess a sterling 28-3 overall record, which our pollsters fully agreed was good enough for the third spot in our final regular season poll. The quick n’ dirty analysis of this week’s poll is after the jump.

rtc25 reg season FINAL

Quick n’ Dirty Analysis.

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Big Ten M5: 03.10.14 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on March 10th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Everybody knew that Michigan had essentially wrapped up the outright title before the weekend had begun, but there was still something special about their win over Indiana on Saturday. UMHoops tries to summarize the Wolverines’ magical journey to the conference title, despite losing their big man Mitch McGary in early January. Jordan Morgan, an unheralded role player that helped the Wolverines, was emotional after the win. When asked about his composure during the ceremony, he said, “That was pretty calm compared to when they had to do The Journey interview, I couldn’t even finish that interview.” It is likely that the Wolverines will be a top-3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and are definitely a favorite to reach the Sweet 16 or beyond.
  2. Tom Izzo‘s press conferences have been, for lack of a better word, interesting, over the past week or so. After the loss to Illinois a week ago, he lashed about the energy levels of his squad and after the loss to Ohio State on Sunday, he didn’t hide his frustrations either. Right after the loss, he “exchanged a few words,” with a fan in Columbus and he didn’t appear to be happy at the presser. Couple of the reporters pushed him about the fan and he responded: “She was kind of a jerk.” Putting the issue with the fan aside, the Spartans lost a close game and they might need at least two wins in the Big Ten tournament to lock up a top-4 seed in the NCAA tournament.
  3. Illinois‘ roller coaster season took another turn on Saturday as Jon Ekey nailed a three at the buzzer to upset Iowa on the road. With an 18-13 record, the Illini are not sniffing the NCAA Tournament, not yet at least. But with two wins in the Big Ten Tournament, anything is possible especially if the Gophers drop their first game in Indianapolis. For starters, John Groce’s squad will be in the 8/9 game, and the Illini should be able to find a way to win especially if Kendrick Nunn continues to have a big impact. When asked about his team’s huge win on the road, Groce said, “Obviously for our team to finish with winning three in a row on the road, it kind of adds to that momentum.”
  4. Continuing with the Big Ten Tournament theme, the Illini will try to get past Indiana in the first round. So what’s interesting about the game, other than the fact that both teams are trying to end their season on a high note? Tom Crean’s team will be sporting special adidas uniforms for the game. “Our players are excited to have something that will be unique to their time at Indiana,” Crean said, when asked about the uniforms. Back to the game itself, the Hoosiers split the series with the Illini this year, but have favorable match-ups specifically at the point guard position because Yogi Ferrell should be able to get scorch the Illini backcourt, but expect Kendrick Nunn to take the primary defensive assignment of stopping him. 
  5. After a disappointing season, Purdue head coach Matt Painter is taking responsibility for his team’s performance. After a tough loss to Northwestern, Painter said,”First of all, it’s my fault. It’s my job to get guys to play together, it’s my job to get guys to play hard, it’s my job to get guys to play smart, and we don’t do any of those. And so that is my fault.” Even though the head coach appears to be very harsh on himself, the Boilermakers’ future isn’t too bleak. Two key juniors next season, A.J.Hammons and Ronnie Johnson, should be pivotal players not only for their team, but also in the Big Ten. Both of them are still learning their position, but they have the athleticism to excel as they mature in their careers.
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What’s Trending: Deonte Burton’s Dunk of the Year, Jim Harbaugh, Senior Night, and More…

Posted by Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) on March 7th, 2014

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) is your weekly host.

Deonte Burton Dunk

Nevada’s Deonte Burton undoubtedly delivered the dunk of the year in college hoops. You’d probably seen it at least 15 times in the past 36 hours, but another binge watch is good for the soul.


The reaction from Twitter was swift…

burton dunk

Russdiculous

The latest chapter in the fantastic college career of Mr. Russell Smith was written Wednesday night, as the Cardinals’ senior guard scored 22 second half points (including six three-pointers) in a win over SMU.  Here’s to hoping the graphic below is used at the KFC Yum! Center on Saturday.

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Big Ten M5: 03.07.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on March 7th, 2014

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  1. Indiana more than likely saw their already slim NCAA Tournament hopes dashed by losing to Nebraska 70-60 on Wednesday night. Despite some flashes of quality play in some of their impressive wins they have gotten at home, this has really been a puzzling team to figure out through most of the season. Mediocre is a strong word to use for a team that lost two NBA lottery picks and two other senior starters, yet still has a 17-13 record. Inconsistent and unpredictable might be more apt terms to describe the 2013-14 Hoosiers. Their poor non-conference schedule hasn’t done them any favors as far as their resume goes, and it’s also lead to a team not being prepared for Big Ten play.
  2. Minnesota unexpectedly is losing a player who started 23 of their 30 games this season. Oto Osenieks is ending his basketball career after it was determined that a knee injury that he’s had multiple surgeries on simply is too damaged for him to continue on. Joey King has taken over the starting power forward spot, so look for he and Charles Buggs to continue getting the majority of the minutes at that spot.
  3. Ohio State faces a crucial test Sunday afternoon when they take on Michigan State. The game is significant because it’s Senior Day for Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. But Shannon Scott says that it’s more important to get the win “to get (us) into the best situation we can for the tournament.” Scott also said in the interview that he likes his role coming off the bench due to the fact that he can “fit in where (he) can and figure out what the team needs at the time and try and do it.” With Keith Appling of Michigan State having his best game in quite some time last night against Iowa, the Buckeyes will need big efforts from both Craft and Scott on Sunday night to make Senior Day a memorable one.
  4. Michigan’s sophomore class- especially Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert, Glenn Robinson III, and the injured Mitch McGary- garner most of the headlines and publicity for the recently-crowned Big Ten regular season champions. But you can’t overlook the contributions of freshmen Derrick Walton Jr, and Zak Irvin. They both have showed much more consistency as the season has gone along, and Coach John Beilein believes their improvement has been the key to turning things around after a shaky non-conference part of their season. Both have had played really well and they have both blended in seamlessly as the season has gone along. Michigan has had some outstanding players make substantial jumps between their first and second seasons in Ann Arbor, and if this trend continues, Walton and Irvin will be Big Ten mainstays for as long as they are donning the maize and blue.
  5. Switching over to the other Michigan school in the league, Adreian Payne and Keith Appling played their last game in East Lansing for Michigan State last night when they beat Iowa 86-76. The pair are victims of the program’s past success, as they and fellow senior Dan Chapman will have been the first senior class under Tom Izzo to have not played in a Final Four. It hardly seems fair that many will view their time with the program to have been unsuccessful unless they advance four spots into the bracket without taking a loss. The Spartans took a small step toward that goal however by impressively beating the Hawkeyes. Appling looked to be much more comfortable, and if he really is healthy finally, this team can be just as good as everyone thought in the preseason.
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