Four Big Ten Offseason Storylines to Follow

Posted by Brendan Brody on April 27th, 2017

Now that the 2016-17 college basketball season has been put to bed, it’s time for hoopheads to peer into the future and prepare for the 2017-18 season. There is a fair amount of intrigue attached to how the Big Ten will look next season, so here’s a quick look at the biggest stories to consider within the league over the next several months.

The draft decision of Miles Bridges set the bar for the 2017-18 Big Ten championship. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

  • The Return of Miles Bridges: Michigan State’s uber-talented forward decided to stay in school for his sophomore season, making the Spartans the clear favorite to win the Big Ten and enter next season ranked among the nation’s top five. Plenty of solid pieces were already slated to return to East Lansing next season — sophomores Nick Ward, Cassius Winston, and Joshua Langford — but having the future lottery pick back means Tom Izzo is smiling this offseason.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Rushed Reactions: #7 Michigan 73, #2 Louisville 69

Posted by rtmsf on March 19th, 2017

Rush the Court will be covering the NCAA Tournament from start to finish over the next three weeks.

Michigan’s Wild Ride Continues to the Sweet Sixteen (USA Today Images)

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Michigan shot lights out in the second half. Michigan had a difficult first half and ended up at 36% from the field. They came out of the locker room to start the second half hot and shot 63%. Moritz Wagner had 17 points in the half and seemed to have an answer to silence the Cardinals each time they started to make a run. When it mattered most down the stretch, Wagner and team answered each time Louisville mounted a charge.
  2. Michigan can win the Midwest. Louisville was a fantastic team all season and Michigan played a solid game to knock them out. They were out-rebounded 37-30 and only shot 36% in the first half, but roared back to erase an eight point deficit to win by 4. Derrick Walton Jr. had a decent game but was only 3-13 from the field. He played the part of the  emotional leader on the court, but will need to step it up to get Michigan past Rhode Island or Oregon next week.
  3. When you’re 7 feet tall and can’t dunk… Anas Mahmoud missed two dunks in a close game. I wouldn’t go as far to say that his failure to put the ball down – twice – lost the game, but those 4 points sure would have helped the Cardinals cause in the four point loss. Louisville didn’t show up in the second half until it was too late. They ended up 1-10 from 3 point range in the second half and Quentin Snider ended with no points shooting 0-7 from behind the arc. You can’t win when your second leading scorer, averaging 12.9 PPG, is a non-factor.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Michigan’s Defense is the Difference Between NCAA and NIT

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on January 23rd, 2017

It doesn’t take a hoops junkie to recognize that a good, balanced effort on both sides of the ball generally equates to success. And maybe it would be overly simplistic to offer an unbalanced team such advice as “be better on defense.” For this year’s Michigan squad, however, there may not be a more apt prescription. The Wolverines—the Big Ten’s most efficient offensive unit—simply haven’t had a defense to match this season, ranking dead-last in conference play on that end of the court. On nights when they have defended well, the offense has taken a step back. Put simply, the pieces have rarely come together. After an inspired wire-to-wire victory over Illinois on Saturday, however, John Beilein’s group appears to be taking some steps in the right direction. Michigan was stout defensively, received contributions up and down the lineup, and—for perhaps the first time since November—played a complete game against a quality opponent. With a crucial five-game stretch coming and an NCAA Tournament berth still far from guaranteed, the Wolverines’ newfound balance has arrived just in the nick of time.

On Saturday, Michigan looked like the team that pounded SMU and Marquette back in November. (mgoblue.com)

“Blue-collar” defense. Following Illinois’ 85-69 thrashing of Michigan on January 11, Illini center Maverick Morgan referred to the Wolverines as a “white-collar team,” a comment which—at least at the time—seemed completely on point. Due to a mixture of lax perimeter defense and some bad luck, Michigan entered the weekend surrendering an astounding 52.4 percent from three-point range (53-for-101) against Big Ten opponents, including a 9-of-14 effort against the Illini in that first meeting. On the whole, Beilein’s team after came into Saturday’s game surrendering more than 1.2 points per possession, and yet, on the heels of an encouraging effort at Wisconsin, the defensive tide shifted drastically. Michigan held Illinois to just 0-of-5 from three-point range in the first half, and 2-of-12 for the game. Illini ball-handlers were forced into a Big Ten-high 17 turnovers, and Morgan, who made all but one shot from the field in the first meeting, was held in check underneath the basket. “We were active, we were in gaps, swarming to the ball, flying around,” Beilein said after the game. “That was as hard as we’ve played on defense all year.” Before the weekend, Wolverines’ guard Zak Irvin lobbied his team to wear its road blue jerseys to represent the “blue-collar” attitude with which it intended to play. And Michigan didn’t disappoint, holding Illinois to 0.86 points per possession in its strongest defensive effort since the calendar turned to 2017.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Six Big Ten X-Factors Heading Into Conference Play

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 26th, 2016

Conference play is almost here, and after a 138-42 (.767) combined non-conference start, Big Ten teams will begin squaring off against each other tomorrow afternoon. As of right now, it looks like three front-runners (Wisconsin, Purdue and Indiana) have emerged, followed by a group of good-not-great teams competing for the top of the next tier — a glance at the most recent KenPom ratings reveals eight teams ranked within the NCAA Tournament at-large sweet spot of #29-#68. With things so relatively even, a number of x-factors around the league could very well swing the race with improved performances. Here are six players who could heavily influence how the Big Ten standings ultimately end up.

Carsen Edwards (USA Today Images)

Carsen Edwards is a Possible X-Factor For Purdue (USA Today Images)

  • Carsen Edwards, Purdue: One of the reasons why Purdue is a perceived title threat is because the majority of their players are reasonably consistent. Edwards, however, is the biggest wild card in the rotation, and his continuing development could be the key for the Boilermakers in March. Since the freshman moved into the starting lineup on December 3, he has averaged 9.3 PPG and a couple assists per outing. His shooting can stand to improve, but he’s a blur in the open court and causes havoc defensively on the perimeter. If Edwards can become a more efficient scorer during Big Ten play (95.0 Offensive Rating on 24.9 percent usage), Purdue’s offense (as well as the team) could move into the top 10 nationally.
  • D’Mitrik Trice, Wisconsin: With five returning starters this season, little was expected from Wisconsin’s lone true freshman. And yet Trice has been an efficient and capable third guard off the bench, including some outstanding shooting from deep so far (18-of-30 3FG). He has basically stolen the minutes that were going to Jordan Hill last season, and if he continues to give the Badgers another backcourt option beyond Bronson Koenig and Zak Showalter, Wisconsin could make another run at the Final Four.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Emerging Frontcourt Providing Michigan With New Ways to Win

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on December 8th, 2016

Michigan’s 53-50 victory over Texas on Tuesday night was anything but vintage John Beilein basketball. The Wolverines—usually an offensive-leaning unit heavily led by guard play—scored 0.87 points per possession against the Longhorns, with its veteran starting backcourt combining for just 13 points on 4-of-19 shooting. Instead, Beilein’s group relied upon two facets of the game seldom mentioned in the same breath as Michigan basketball: stingy team defense and major offensive production from its big men—namely, sophomores Mortiz Wagner and D.J. Wilson. For a team short on depth and struggling to find a consistent scorer, the newfound production in the paint was a welcome surprise. To understand just how uncharacteristic the victory was, consider this: Michigan had not won a game in which it scored fewer than 0.90 points per possession since February 23, 2008—Beilein’s first year on the job. Much like that contest—a 49-43 win over Illinois—Tuesday’s affair came down to which team could eke out enough late buckets without compromising its defensive intensity. For the Wolverines, both the late buckets and the intensity were supplied by Wagner.

Forward Moritz Wagner was instrumental in Michigan's win on Tuesday (AP Photo/Tony Ding)

Forward Moritz Wagner was instrumental in Michigan’s win over Texas (AP Photo/Tony Ding)

“I thought [Wagner] was the best player on the floor tonight,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said afterwards. “He can shoot, he’s 6’11”, he can put the ball on the floor… Tonight he was constantly in attack mode.” Not only did the German import lead Michigan with 15 points on 7-of-13 shooting, he came up with both the go-ahead putback and the game-winning block in the game’s closing seconds, his emotions pouring out as the clock hit zeroes. The sequence was a testament to both his rare offensive skill set and his improving defensive discipline. “Mo’s blocking shots really for the first time in his life,” Beilein said of Wagner. “He’s learning to be a bigger presence at the rim. I think he’s making major steps defensively right now.” Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Michigan Starts Finding Answers on Opening Weekend

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on November 14th, 2016

When Michigan was again forced to adjust to life without star shooting guard Caris LeVert — whose college career ended after suffering a season-ending leg injury last December — it posed two silver linings. On the one hand, it was a blessing in disguise. The Wolverines still snuck into the NCAA Tournament, and the increased workload for guards Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin gave the experienced duo more to build on entering 2016-17. LeVert’s exit, however, also marked the first in a series of unforeseen departures which have created more questions than answers entering this season, even with the team’s starting five fully intact. If its opening weekend victory over IUPUI is any indication, Michigan’s questions will take some time to fully answer—but the blueprint for progress is there.

Derrick Walton and the Wolverines looked sharp over the final 30 minutes vs. IUPUI. (Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

Derrick Walton and the Wolverines looked sharp over the final 30 minutes vs. IUPUI. (Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports)

Emerging Frontcourt Depth

The Wolverines’ chief concern is depth, and not just because LeVert is gone. 2013 Final Four hero Spike Albrecht briefly retired last December because of a hip injury before eventually heading to Purdue. In April, guard Aubrey Dawkins (6.5 PPG) transferred to Central Florida to play for his father. A month later, frontcourt role players Ricky Doyle and Kameron Chatman—whose clutch triple against Indiana last March helped Michigan reach the Dance—also departed. The spate of transfers has left John Beilein with a short and inexperienced bench; on Sunday, only seven players saw meaningful minutes. The good news? One of those players, forward D.J. Wilson, looked like a breakout star. After barely seeing the floor last season, the springy sophomore scored seven points and ripped down 14 rebounds in a career-high 30 minutes against the Jaguars, providing a much needed spark off the bench. Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Men Standing Out Among Big Ten Freshmen

Posted by Patrick Engel on December 24th, 2015

Fall semesters have wrapped up across Big Ten campuses, and that means that league freshmen have now played 11 to 13 games and put a full semester of the collegiate experience behind them. As usual, their contributions run the gamut. Some have become invaluable parts of their teams; others are playing well but still going under-appreciated in fan circles; while a number of others haven’t yet cracked their teams’ rotations. As we enter the holiday break and look forward to league play starting on Tuesday next week, here is a look at how some of the Big Ten’s freshmen have performed so far this season.

Caleb Swanigan's addition to Purdue has taken this team to new heights in the early season. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)

Caleb Swanigan has been one of the Big Ten’s best freshmen and has helped make Purdue’s interior defense among the nation’s best. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)

Five Freshman Stars

(Note: Scout.com used for player ratings)

  • Caleb Swanigan, Purdue: This former five-star recruit has made Purdue’s front line even tougher than it already was. Purdue likes to play the 6’9″, 260-pounder alongside A.J. Hammons or Isaac Haas, which creates a special circle of hell for opposing teams and allows for more big-to-big passing on offense. Swanigan is averaging 11.2 PPG, 2.5 APG and a league-best 9.3 RPG, but he has exhibited a bit of a turnover problem (3.4 miscues per game).
  • Diamond Stone, Maryland: The No. 6 overall prospect in the class of 2015, Stone hasn’t been quite as good as fast as many thought he would be. Nevertheless, he has still put together a fine young season, averaging 10.7 PPG and 4.6 RPG as top-10 Maryland’s starting center. His 18.0 percent offensive rebounding percentage ranks ninth in the country, per KenPom.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten M5: 12.11.15 Edition

Posted by Patrick Engel on December 11th, 2015

morning5_bigten

  1. Hilton Coliseum still isn’t so magical for Iowa. The Hawkeyes got a whopping 30 first-half points from Jarrod Uthoff, 17 points in the first five minutes of the second half from Peter Jok and led by 20 early in the second half. Sounds like enough to win, right? No. The Hawkeyes shot 36.4 percent from the field in the second half, got only two points from Uthoff and turned the ball over three times in the final 65 seconds as the Cyclones came back for an 83-82 win. Iowa State’s Monte Morris hit the game-winner with 8.9 seconds left. The bigger controversy was The Des Moines Register reporter Randy Peterson’s broken leg suffered during the court-rushing after the game. His injury prompted more talk about the dangers and necessity of rushing the court.
  2. Thursday’s only other Big Ten game was Penn State’s 81-67 win over Canisius. The Nittany Lions shot 56 percent from the floor, but their 21 turnovers allowed Canisius to hang around until the end. The biggest storyline was freshman Josh Reaves dropping a series of vicious dunks on the Golden Griffins and finishing two points shy of his first career double-double. Penn State also played the game in its former home arena, Rec Hall, as part of a two-game series called Return to Rec.
  3. After a 24-point loss to SMU Tuesday night, Michigan once again saw its frontcourt exposed on both ends of the floor. The Wolverines’ four post players – Ricky Doyle, Mark Donnal, D.J. Wilson and Moritz Wagner – produced a total of four points and eight rebounds against a much more athletic SMU front line. A closer look at Michigan’s frontcourt woes shows that those four players have a combined eight defensive rebounds, nine offensive rebounds and eight made field goals in Michigan’s three losses. Weak production like that will lead to similar results against big teams like Maryland and Purdue.
  4. Ten years after becoming head coach at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Rob Jeter finally beat his former mentor and boss, Bo Ryan. His Panthers erased an 11-point halftime deficit en route to a 68-67 win on Wednesday night. Not only was this just the second loss to Milwaukee in Wisconsin history, but it defied all statistical odds. Among the defied statistical trends: The Badgers have only lost 24 home games in Ryan’s 15 seasons, have lost just 33 games after leading at halftime and have won all but 13 games when they had a better field goal percentage than their opponent. Despite the statistical advantage over the Panthers, Wisconsin’s shooting and depth woes persisted.
  5. Purdue’s defensive numbers are impressively low through the season’s first 10 games. The Boilermakers have allowed just 89.4 points per 100 possessions, which ranks second nationally, per KenPom.com. Opponents also shoot just 35.7 percent on twos (first) and have a 37.3 effective field goal percentage (second). While Purdue has knocked off three KenPom top 65 teams, Matt Painter and his players wanted a challenge before having to face elite point guards like Melo Trimble and Yogi Ferrell in conference play. They figured to have one Wednesday night in high-scoring Howard guard James Daniel, who is averaging 28.4 points per game. However, Daniel didn’t play due to injury and Purdue steamrolled the Bison, 93-55.
Share this story