Big Ten M5: 1.09.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on January 9th, 2014


  1. A lot of people have questioned exactly how good Ohio State is this season. With a non-conference schedule that ended up being weaker than originally expected with Marquette, Notre Dame and Maryland all looking mediocre, the marquee win hasn’t come yet. After the Buckeyes overtime loss at Michigan State, Aaron Craft wasn’t shy about it either. The senior said “we haven’t really done much this year,” as their first loss came against their best opponent. It’s a good sign Craft and the other Ohio State players are questioning themselves after Tuesday night and not satisfied with an overtime defeat. This team may not have had a daunting non-conference schedule, but losing in that way with minimal contributions from Lenzelle Smith Jr. and LaQuinton Ross shows this team has the talent and ability to be a contender.
  2. It shouldn’t be a surprise at this point to see games like Tuesday night from Adreian Payne. He has proven to be Michigan State‘s stud on the inside all year, but doing what he did through extreme foot pain? Well, that just adds another layer to the growing lore surrounding the Spartan big man. Payne apparently was in near tears before the Ohio State game while taking shots in the practice gym just an hour before the game. His ability to come out and obviously go through the pain and produce on a high level is something everyone would like to emulate. It also likely adds a nice marquee moment early in the Big Ten season as Payne is taking an early lead for the conference’s Player of the Year.
  3. The beginning of Mitch McGary‘s journey back to the basketball court is done. The Michigan sophomore had surgery Tuesday on his back that has caused him pain since before the season began and started the second semester of classes Wednesday. McGary now starts his rehab, which does not include traveling with the team for most road trips. The stress of sitting in a plane or bus for hours is something John Beilein puts secondary to making sure he recovers quickly.
  4. We’ve all complained (or at least heard someone do so) about the new rules this season. Fouls and free throws are up across the country and for a team like Nebraska this has been an especially big issue. The Cornhuskers committed 51 personal fouls in its first two conference games. For a team that is usually the less talented team on the court, fouling and giving its opponents free throws is something it simply cannot do. While no one expects Nebraska to compete for the Big Ten or to make the NCAA Tournament, a few wins here and there could get them into the CBI or maybe even the NIT, so it is still important they play smart and not help their opponents win the game.
  5. It’s become a familiar thing to hear in West Lafayette. Matt Painter said his team needs to “show maturity” as the Big Ten season progresses while it has the week off before playing Nebraska. For fans of Purdue, this line has become as common as hearing about the team’s youth. It certainly doesn’t lack that, playing three freshmen, one redshirt freshman and only having two seniors on the roster. Still, at this point, everyone on the roster has experienced at least half a college season and the lapses Purdue seems to show in games is perplexing (like the first 30 minutes at Minnesota). Painter never seemed to figure out the issue last year, so if the Boilermakers have any chance of turning the season around and going to the NCAA Tournament he needs to find a way this season. That or Purdue’s looking at the NIT, if not the CBI.
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D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera Ready to Become a Household Name

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on January 6th, 2014

Markel Starks is the leader; Joshua Smith is the enigma; and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (DSR) is the scorer. These are the identities of each of Georgetown’s three best players this season. In Saturday afternoon’s blowout win against St. John’s, Smith-Rivera fulfilled his role by dropping 31 points on a remarkable 12 shots. It was a big game for the sophomore guard from Indianapolis — not only did he score in buckets, but he also grabbed six rebounds and dished out three assists. After watching Georgetown through several games, it’s hard to conclude otherwise that Starks, the senior point guard and unquestioned leader of the team, is the most important player on the Hoyas’ roster. He was the reason Smith-Rivera was able to score as much as he did, by setting him up with clean passes right as he came off screens with enough space to get his shot off. But it’s equally just as difficult to come away from the weekend game without realizing the offensive powerhouse that Smith-Rivera has become and concluding that he’s poised to join the national conversation as  an elite scorer.

D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera is JTIII's most efficient scorer. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera is JTIII’s most efficient scorer. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Smith-Rivera is part of a superb 2012 recruiting class from the state of Indiana that includes names like Yogi Ferrell, Gary Harris, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III. Not as highly regarded as his Hoosier State peers, several Big Ten coaches recruited Smith-Rivera but did not make him a top priority. As a result, he decided to stay east, where he was attending Oak Hill Academy, ultimately committing to Georgetown. We need only look at Smith-Rivera’s performance for the season to understand the impact he’s had on the Hoyas’ offense. According to, he leads the Big East in offensive efficiency (1.27 points per possession) and effective field goal percentage (59.7%). Among conference players, he is in the top five in the following categories: field goal percentage (48.2%), three-point field goals made (32), points per game (17.1), and win-shares (.231 per 40 minutes). These numbers alone would be impressive for any sophomore playing in a major basketball conference, but it is even more so from a player who’s considered a longshot to make the NBA (DSR is listed as the 74th-ranked sophomore at due to his physical shortcomings.

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Morning Five: 01.06.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 6th, 2014


  1. After pleading guilty to third-degree felony marijuana possession charges on Friday, Utah State star Jarred Shaw was reinstated to the team. Shaw, who was arrested on December had missed five games before his reinstatement. Prior to his arrest and suspension, Shaw was leading the team in points (16.1), rebounds (7.8), and blocks (1.4) per game so this is clearly huge news for the Aggies. The Aggies actually did fairly well during their time without Shaw as they went 4-1 with their only loss coming by one point on the road at Air Force. With Shaw back, they should be competitive with anybody in the Mountain West.
  2. Few college basketball players have been as injury-prone as LIU-Brooklyn star Julian Boyd, who tore his ACL again in non-contact drill the day after Christmas. This injury, which is Boyd’s third, is expected to end Boyd’s college career. Boyd, who was the 2012 NEC Player of the Year, first injured his knee on December 12, 2012 and then re-injured it in July. According to the school, Boyd was close to coming back before his latest setback. While his college career appears to be over, perhaps Boyd, who was averaging 18.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game last season before injuring his knee, might have a career overseas if he can ever get healthy
  3. Over the weekend our SEC microsite talked about South Carolina’s resurgence. Now they will have try to maintain that without the services of Bruce Ellington, who has opted to forgo his final season of college basketball eligibility to focus on the NFL Draft. Ellington, a two-sport star at South Carolina, averaged 12.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 3.2 assists as a freshman in the 2010-11 season, but has seen his production drop each season as he has spent more time focusing on football. This season, he only played three games (between the end of the regular season and the football team’s bowl game) averaging 5.7 points, 1.7 assists, and 1.3 rebounds per game. Ellington is reportedly a top-20 wide receiver prospect so it certainly makes sense for him to focus on football at this point and not risk an injury playing basketball.
  4. Mitch McGary will undergo back surgery tomorrow, which is expected to keep him out for the rest of the season. As we stated last week the school’s official position is that McGary is “out indefinitely,” but it seems like everybody expects him to be out for the season. In fact, given McGary’s potential NBA future bringing him back this season might even be negligent. For the Wolverines, McGary’s surgery means the end of their hopes of making a run deep into the NCAA Tournament, but they still have enough talent to make the NCAA Tournament.
  5. It didn’t take very long for Indiana transfer Luke Fischer to find a new home as the former Hoosier has decided to transfer to Marquette. Fischer, who grew up about 30 minutes away from the Marquette campus, only averaged 2.8 points and 2.1 rebounds in 13 games this season after coming back from a preseason injury. Unlike nearly every other transfer that we have heard of in the past few years it appears that Fischer will not be applying for a hardship waiver of some sort so he will not be eligible to play until next December after sitting out a year.
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Three Thoughts on Michigan’s Road Win at Minnesota

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on January 3rd, 2014

About one year ago, an undefeated Michigan squad went to Minneapolis to face a Gophers team that was also ranked in the top-15 of the national polls. Both teams were highly touted before the match-up, and ultimately Trey Burke’s team muscled its way to an 83-75 win. One year later, the game was equally important, but for different reasons. John Beilein’s team needed to prove that it could survive a tough Big Ten road trip without Mitch McGary available, and Richard Pitino’s Gophers needed to prove that its 11-2 non-conference record was not just a result of a soft schedule. Even though the game last night was not nationally important, it was instrumental for each team to tip off the conference season with a strong start. Each team played like it mattered, so the following are three thoughts from a sneaky good game which resulted in a 63-60 Michigan victory.

John Beilein's Wolverines pulled out a tough win no the road against Minnesota.

John Beilein’s Wolverines pulled out a tough win no the road against Minnesota.

  1. McGary’s absence was felt on the defensive glass. The Michigan front line of Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford was outrebounded by 10 on the offensive glass. The Gophers were all over the boards on the weak side because Horford consistently lost his man off the pick-and-roll, leading to several easy layups by Elliott Eliason. Horford and Morgan regularly pounced on the penetrating guards, leaving their men completely open either for rebounds or easy dropoff passes. Andre Hollins and Deandre Mathieu racked up seven assists, most of them to the big men in the paint in those situations. With McGary on the shelf, it’ll take some time for Horford to get used to these defensive sets and become more comfortable with how to communicate during the pick-and-roll. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten M5: 12.30.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on December 30th, 2013


  1. As we get ready to kick off the conference season, expect to see the statistic which shows Bo Ryan’s stunning record in the Big Ten: Wisconsin has never finished worse than fourth in the conference during his tenure. Numerous hypothesis have been tested to understand his secret to success – everything from the swing offense to their tempo to their home court advantage at the Kohl Center. So, why not just ask Ryan about the secret? “The way we play hasn’t changed,” Ryan said. He added, “We just try to get the best look we can. I’m going to record me saying that and the next time I’m asked that question, I’m going to push the button and it will say that we take what the defense gives us.” Whatever it may be, barring any injuries, we can expect Wisconsin to finish in the top-3 again this year.
  2. Back injuries, specifically spasms, can get the best of any basketball player, especially big forwards. Severe ankle sprains may be the only other injury that could nag a player for months, in addition to spasms. When Mitch McGary finally decided to undergo back surgery, it wasn’t a total surprise because of his history with the back problems over the past six months. McGary said, “My back problems have been a daily challenge ever since late August. We have worked hard rehabbing the injury and I thought that everything was proceeding in the right direction until the last two weeks.”  Even though there is a small chance that he returns this season, he shouldn’t be expected to make an immediate impact because it might just take a couple of months of rehab for the back issues to completely disappear.
  3. Speaking of injuries and their lasting impact on a player, Branden Dawson, may still have a few issues from his knee injury that he endured almost 20 months ago. Dawson continues to play a significant role for Michigan State – averaging 10.3 PPG and 9.3 RPG – but Tom Izzo still plays it safe with his minutes to keep him fresh. During the win 101-48 win over New Orleans, Izzo benched Dawson during the game for precautionary measures because he collided with a teammate during practice. Izzo said, “He’s fine, there’s no bones cracked or anything like that. He just got a bad bruise. He should be no problem.” A healthy Dawson and more importantly an assertive Dawson will help Michigan State contend for a Big Ten title and a Final Four appearance.
  4. Predicting a team’s performance over the first two weeks of Big Ten play based on their final set of non-conference games can be tough, especially if the final games include weaker competition. Outside of the comeback win over Notre Dame, Ohio State‘s competition over the past two weeks included UL-Monroe and Delaware. Even though these games don’t mean much with regards to preparation for the conference season, they can still be used to fine-tune certain aspects of the game such as the half-court offense. After the win over UL-Monroe, Lenzelle Smith iterated this notion; he said, “Today was about establishing ourselves. We know what’s getting ready to come down the pipeline with the start of the start of the Big Ten. (Our opponents) have real bullets now.”  Smith (13.4 PPG) will need help offensively from LaQuinton Ross if Ohio State hopes to contend for the Big Ten title.
  5. Indiana‘s offense has been versatile under Tom Crean’s watch over the past two seasons, but their defense remains a consistent question mark. Victor Oladipo, who is one of the best rookies in the NBA, was able to shut down the best player on the team last season, but the Hoosiers defense appears to be porous this season. Big Ten Geeks describe some of their concerns with the Hoosiers’ defense, specifically their inability to stop the opposition from attacking the basket. Noah Vonleh and Troy Williams are excellent shot blockers, but the first layer of perimeter defense is letting the wings get into the paint too easily, which could get the freshmen into foul trouble during conference play. Vonleh’s 9.5 RPG are very important for Indiana and if he gets into foul trouble, they will lose one of their main advantages on the offensive end – offensive rebounding.
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Morning Five: 12.30.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 30th, 2013


  1. Michigan’s dreams of making another March run were dealt a major blow on Friday when the school announced that sophomore Mitch McGary would be out for the rest of the season after electing to have surgery on his lower back. McGary, who was one of the top recruits in the country coming out of high school even after a late slide down the rankings, started slowly as a freshman before turning around things late in the season to become perhaps Michigan’s second most effective player in the run to last season’s title game. Had he elected to enter the NBA Draft there is a good chance he might have been a lottery pick, but slowed by a back injury that had been bothering him since late August he was less effective (9.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game) than the Wolverines would have hoped. Although we have seen college players make some strange decisions we assume that this will probably mean that McGary will return to Michigan next season to prove he is healthy unless some agent convinces him to leave with a guaranteed first round spot.
  2. In a somewhat similar way, but for a completely different reason, we may have seen the last of suspended Utah State forward Jarred Shaw this season after he was charged with felony drug distribution. Shaw, the team’s leading scorer, rebounder, and shot blocker, had already been suspended after police found marijuana after responding to a call at his residence. According to police, the amount of marijuana that they found was “more than personal use.” Given the latest information, we would be surprised if we saw Shaw, a senior, back in an Aggie uniform. Our best guess is that Shaw is headed overseas for a pro career assuming he is not playing in a prison league first.
  3. Seton Hall has already suffered several significant setbacks including both injuries and an Israeli military call-up, but those pale in comparison to what happened to Gene Teague on Friday night. Early in the second half of the team’s win over Lafayette, Teague went up for a lay-up and was undercut by a Lafayette player leading to an ugly fall (video here). Teague was immobilized, put on a stretcher, and taken to a local hospital when he was diagnosed as having suffered a concussion. The overall outcome is somewhat fortunate because based on the way he fell it could have been a lot worse. For now, Teague will be undergoing a series of tests as part of the standard concussion protocol to determine when he is fit to play again.
  4. Many of our younger readers might not be familiar with King Rice, the former North Carolina point guard from 1988-91. If they are familiar with him, it would either be through replays of old games or his history of arrests that continued up through his coaching days. So it was good to read a New York Times profile on Rice that appears to indicate that he may have turned a corner. Now the head coach at Monmouth, Rice has been arrested on several occasions including once as a junior at UNC on charges of assaulting his then-girlfriend, resisting arrest, and destroying public property. Many of Rice’s issues, including that arrest, appear to have revolved around alcohol. According to Rice, he has been sober for 17 years, but as anybody who has ever interacted with an alcoholic knows that can change very quickly so we hope Rice can continue on the new track that he appears to be on.
  5. This season has been a challenging one for Marquette and head coach Buzz Williams so it would not have been entirely shocking to see them try to get heralded freshman Duane Wilson healthy in order to try to salvage the season. Wilson, a top-100 recruit coming out of high school, has been sidelined with a stress fracture in his left leg since the preseason. On Friday, the school announced that Wilson would be taking a medical redshirt. Regardless of the status of Wilson’s recovery, which we have to rely on Marquette’s reports for, it seems like a redshirt is the best option for both parties as we doubt Wilson would have been unable to turn this team around and it seems reckless to throw away a year of eligibility on this Marquette season.
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Mitch McGary Out Indefinitely and What It Means For Michigan

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on December 28th, 2013

Some bad news came out of Ann Arbor on Friday night. Sophomore big man Mitch McGary has elected to have surgery on his lower back and is out indefinitely for the Wolverines. McGary has been dealing with this nagging injury since late summer and has, up until now, played through the pain. Thus far this season, McGary has not looked like the player he did in last March’s tournament (averaging 14.3 PPG and 10.7 RPG) and has fallen short of expectations this season (averaging 9.5 PPG and 8.3 RPG). Apparently, the McGary family decided collectively over the holidays that, in order for McGary to reach his full potential, his previously unaddressed injury needed immediate attention. So, they opted for the surgery. This decision affects Michigan as a team, and McGary as an individual player, in both the short- and long-term.

Mitch McGary's decision for surgery leaves a lot of uncertainty for the Wolverines' season expectations. (Getty Images).

Mitch McGary’s decision for surgery leaves a lot of uncertainty for the Wolverines’ season expectations. (Getty Images).

For Michigan as a team, this is obviously a major setback. When healthy, McGary is probably the most talented frontcourt player in the Big Ten. Michigan, ranked #7 in the Preseason AP poll, has had four losses already and were dropped out of the Top 25 earlier this month. Despite the slow start, the Wolverines were still thought of as legitimate Big Ten contenders. The best case scenario for them would have been McGary and Glenn Robinson III eventually growing into their bigger roles (since the departure of Trey Burke). Then by March, John Beilien and his squad would have put it all together. With McGary gone, they lose their only legitimate inside scoring threat which will put more attention and pressure on the perimeter players. Beilien’s job of getting this team to gel just got significantly more difficult.

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Big Ten M5: 12.23.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on December 23rd, 2013


  1. After a disappointing non-conference season, Michigan will need to have a healthy Mitch McGary in the lineup to compete for a Big Ten title. McGary, who was plagued with back issues throughout the offseason, did not play against Stanford over the weekend. He will visit the doctors to understand the reasons for his back’s continued soreness, but the timetable for his return is indefinite at this point. His team was able to eke out a win against the Cardinal, 68-65, but McGary’s presence will be a requirement against powerful Big Ten competition. Back problems can nag for a while and this situation may linger throughout this season, but Wolverines’ fans still have hopes that they can make another deep run in the postseason if McGary can play injury-free by March.
  2. Speaking of McGary’s much-needed presence, the Wolverines will especially need him when they play Michigan State, led by senior forward Adreian Payne. Payne is averaging 18.1 PPG and 8.0 RPG this season, but his improvement over the last three years is more impressive than his numbers this season. Two years ago, Payne was still learning his role, playing alongside star forward Draymond Green. But after exploding halfway through his junior season, Payne still continues to polish his game on both ends of the floor. Shooting 45.7 percent from beyond the arc this year shows his progression from a player reliant on his athleticism to a well-rounded offensive threat whose jumper must be respected.
  3. Is there any highly-ranked team more under the radar than Ohio State this season? The Buckeyes used a miraculous late comeback against Notre Dame on Saturday to remain undefeated despite still trying to figure out their offensive identity. After getting off to a slow start, LaQuinton Ross has averaged over 18 PPG over the last three games and appears to be on pace to find his offensive rhythm. He scored 19 against Notre Dame and the Buckeyes will need him his consistent offensive production to provide a solid foundation if they hope to remain ranked in the top 10 and compete for a Big Ten title.
  4. Speaking of consistent offensive production, Iowa needs to develop a consistent outside shooter if the team wants to achieve all of its goals this season. Josh Oglesby, one of the Hawkeyes’ designated gunners, will return to the lineup after missing some time due to an ankle injury. During non-conference play, Zach McCabe has provided a long-range spark from deep (43%), but the Hawkeyes need another deep threat and Oglesby should help in that department. Even though he only made a pedestrian 27 percent from deep last season, he has the ability to get hot and score in bunches which should only add to the offensive firepower of the Hawkeyes.
  5. Illinois’ Tracy Abrams can be frustrating to watch during late-game possessions, but John Groce has shown that he will stick with him when the game is on the line. Against Oregon, Abrams repeatedly tried to to do much with the ball and ended up turning it over several times during the final minutes of the game. But his toughness and gritty attitude — what Groce likes about the guard — were on display against Missouri over the weekend, when he nailed two free throws to win the game with just five seconds remaining. Abrams is not likely to ever turn into a true point guard who takes care of the ball first and foremost, but he has the support of his coach and his teammates during the final minutes of games and it paid off over the weekend.
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Otskey’s Observations: Episode VI

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on December 18th, 2013

Battle For Iowa Lived Up To Its Billing

For my money, the best game in recent days was Iowa State’s thrilling win over Iowa on Friday night at Hilton Coliseum. This game was the true essence of what college basketball is all about. It was a heated in-state rivalry between two quality teams in a crazy atmosphere, smack dab in the middle of a basketball-crazed state. It is simple: This was a fun game, period. Although Fred Hoiberg’s Cyclones came away victorious, you may be somewhat surprised to find out that my biggest impression taken from this game was just how good Iowa is. I actually thought the Hawkeyes were the better team for most of this contest. Don’t get me wrong, Iowa State played really well. After all, it beat a team I thought was very impressive so that should tell you something about the Cyclones as well. I thought Iowa had a terrific game plan and evidence of top-notch coaching and scouting was present throughout the game.

Devyn Marble

Devyn Marble and his mates were outstanding. But Iowa State was just a little bit better. (AP)

One specific example of great scouting came late in the first half when Roy Devyn Marble got in the middle of a dribble hand-off by Georges Niang and broke it up, leading to two Iowa points on the other end. Marble read the play perfectly and it paid off for his team. Fran McCaffery’s squad excelled in transition and got almost anything it wanted offensively on the low block with Aaron White leading the charge. Iowa ran some beautiful half-court sets that resulted in plenty of clean looks, especially for White and Marble. The Hawkeyes dominated the glass (but did not take full advantage of it) and answered the bell nearly every time Iowa State put together a charge, except for the final minute where it wound up costing them the game. Iowa simply didn’t make the plays it needed to win late, highlighted by Mike Gesell’s two missed free throws. McCaffery and his team can learn a lot from this game but in the end it is on the players to step up and lead down the stretch. Whether that’s Marble (most likely), White, Gesell, or someone else, Iowa needs someone to be “the man” in order to take the next step and contend at the very highest level in the Big Ten.

Michigan Back On Track?

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After a Quiet Week On College Hardwood, Weekend Action Set to Heat Things Up

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 14th, 2013

The end of the winter exam period could not come soon enough for college basketball fans. Yes, we know that it’s important for the kids to take care of their academics, but even the most fervent of followers would have to admit they could only take so many more nights of Bryant being featured in the headline contest of the evening. Nothing against the Bulldogs and their tidy 6-5 start, but this weekend’s spate of entertaining match-ups should help us all regain a little sanity Last night’s Hawkeye State battle served as a worthy appetizer for Saturday’s feast of action, but before you grab the remote and plop down in the front row seat in your living room, check out these four storylines to monitor on Saturday.

Arizona Takes Its #1 Ranking to Ann Arbor Today

Arizona Takes Its #1 Ranking to Ann Arbor Today

Chances For Validation, Redemption In Ann Arbor

It may be hard to believe now, but public perception of Arizona and Michigan was pretty comparable at the start of the year. Needless to say, that is no longer the case. The Wildcats, now also known as the #1 team in the land, get a shot at validating that ranking when they visit Ann Arbor today (12:00 EST, CBS), while the floundering Wolverines will seek to redirect the trajectory of their season. Wins over the #1 team in the country have a way of curing a lot of ills, but it will take a yet-to-be-seen vigor for Michigan to earn that antidote, even on their home floor. Mitch McGary and Jordan Morgan will clash with Aaron Gordon and the rest of that vaunted Arizona front line down low, but keep an eye on the battle of the Ni(c)ks. We saw against Duke how crippling a subpar night from Nik Stauskas can be for the Wolverines; if Nick Johnson’s rep as one of the best stoppers out West carries weight in Ann Arbor, Michigan may again find themselves searching for other scoring outlets. For Michigan, Saturday is an opportunity to prove that the Wolverines still might be who we thought they were; for the Cats, it’s another chance to show us that they are exactly who we think they are.

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