Who Won The Week? A Nebraska Sharpshooter, the Wolverines, & Rick Barnes…

Posted by Kenny Ocker on January 24th, 2014

Who Won the Week? is a regular column that will outline and discuss three winners and losers from the previous week. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), a Spokane-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game. But he’s not biking anywhere with a sub-zero wind chill.

WINNER: Ethan Wragge

Creighton’s starting center/three-point assassin/reason why there’s no trees left in Nebraska had a performance for the ages Monday night at Villanova. The Wildcats thought it would be wise to double-team fellow Bluejay Doug McDermott – you know, the best player in college basketball – and left Wragge open. BAD. IDEA. Wragge came out and made his first seven three-pointers as the Jays shot the Wildcats to smithereens in a 96-68 game that was 90-50 before Greg McDermott’s team took its foot off the gas. Wragge wrapped up the game with 27 points on 9-of-14 three-point shooting, and also had the time to dish out three assists without a turnover. Creighton’s team stats from that game are almost as ridiculous as their bearded center’s: 33-of-58 shooting from the field, 21-of-31 from three-point range, 25 assists on the 33 made shots.

Ethan Wragge had a game to remember against Villanova. (AP)

Ethan Wragge had a game to remember against Villanova. (AP)

The Bluejays came into Monday night’s game ranked 13th  in Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency rankings and the Wildcats came in second. Because of Creighton’s ludicrous 1.4 points per possession against a team that had only given up more than a point per possession once in 17 games, the two teams flipped spots in the rankings, despite the college basketball season only half over. The difference between Creighton’s top-ranked offensive efficiency and Duke in second is equal to the difference between Duke and 16th-place Oregon. (Back to Wragge for a bit: Let’s just overlook Saturday’s eight-point performance in Creighton’s 81-68 loss versus Providence. He obviously had to save his three-pointers for a bigger game.)

(Related winners: Creighton; Providence, who also beat Butler on Tuesday; Doug McDermott, who still had 23 points despite the double-teams and the performance of Wragge. Related losers: Any voter who thought Creighton wasn’t worth ranking because of neutral-court losses to George Washington and San Diego State, and a road loss to a 14-5 Providence team; Villanova, for which there’s not enough ice left on the north pole to soothe its burns.) Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning Five: 01.24.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 24th, 2014

morning5

  1. Minnesota got some relatively good news yesterday when Andre Hollins was diagnosed with what has been described as a “severe ankle sprain” after x-rays and later a MRI on his left ankle came back negative. A “severe ankle sprain” might not sound like good news on the surface, but with the way Hollins went down it would not have been unreasonable to think he might have broken a bone or suffered significant ligament damage. Instead, Hollins will be evaluated daily according to the coaching staff and has not been ruled out of their game against Nebraska on Sunday. Given how easy the Gophers upcoming schedule is and how important Hollins is to the team it would seem like they would be more likely to give him more time to recover.
  2. At this point we are not sure if we are going to see this Michigan State team completely healthy the rest of this season. It seems like as soon as they are about to get back to full strength. The latest addition to the injury list is Branden Dawson, who broke a bone in his left hand after slamming it into a table during a film session. Dawson claims that he was upset at himself and in particular at comments that Dan Dakich had made about the team’s effort. The long bright spot for the Spartans with this injury is that Dawson is only expected to be out for 4-5 weeks, which means he should be back in time for March.
  3. Yesterday, the US Basketball Writers Association released its Oscar Robertson Trophy Midseason Watch List that features what the USBWA considers the top 23 players in the country. As you might expect this list is fairly similar to the one put out by the Wooden Award the day before. The one notable inclusion in this group is Xavier Thames, who has been putting up ridiculous advanced metric numbers, but has been largely ignored because he plays at San Diego State. Other than Thames the list also has most of the same snubs as the Wooden list and like the Wooden list it also does not eliminate players from postseason consideration for awards.
  4. Kentucky basketball tickets are among the most coveted in all of college basketball so it should come as no surprise that somebody is reportedly trying to make money off counterfeit tickets. According to reports, Lexington police are investigating a woman’s claim that she was sold counterfeit tickets to Tuesday night’s game against Texas A&M. Lexington police have already identified an individual that they would like to question about the case.
  5. We have no idea how this even became a controversy, but yesterday Nik Stauskas apologized for comments that his father made about Nik potentially turning pro after the season. Nik’s father, Paul, had recently told SI.com that there was a “really good possibility” that Nik might enter the NBA Draft after this season. At this point we would consider Stauskas as a borderline first round pick so while he might enter this year’s Draft it is too early for him to be thinking about it and way too early for him or his family to talk about it. While this is a different circumstance than the one that Russ Smith’s father put him in after the NCAA Championship Game it follows a similar pattern of a family member deciding to use some of his or her son’s fame to get a little bit of media attention too.
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Want to Win in the Big Ten? You’d Better Get Your Offense Right

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on January 23rd, 2014

This isn’t your father’s offensively challenged but physical Big Ten. This year the league houses three of the top five efficient offenses in the nation (Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin). In fact, certain teams’ offenses, or obvious lack of offense, have challenged our preconceived notions of how the league might shake out over the next two months. Two weeks ago, I wrote that Ohio State, after its overtime to loss to Michigan State, still had a great shot to win the Big Ten title because of its soft conference schedule. On Monday night, the Buckeyes lost to perpetual bottom-dweller Nebraska, extending their losing streak to four games. Four weeks ago, Michigan looked dead in the water when news broke that center Mitch McGary would have season-ending back surgery. Last night, the Wolverines put on an offensive show in their defeat of Iowa by eight points in Ann Arbor. They now find themselves tied for first place with a 6-0 record in league play. Each team’s change of fortune can be explained through the evolution (or devolution) of their offense.

Shannon Scott hasn't been the offensive weapon the Buckeyes have hoped. And it may be costing them losses in the conference. (Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports).

Shannon Scott hasn’t been an offensive option off the bench. And it may be costing them losses in the conference. (Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports).

While physical play and strong defenses are still league constants, some teams are now surging due to their offensive prowess while others are sinking because of their offensive fecklessness. Take the case of Michigan, a team that has surprised the Big Ten with its undefeated record through the first third of conference play. The Wolverines racked up four losses in non-conference play, but their offense has hit another gear since. In the last five games, Michigan has not had an eFG rate below 58 percent and has averaged approximately 1.2 points per possession. Sophomores Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III have led the way by averaging 34.8 PPG combined in those five games. Robinson has been especially surprising after his mediocre start to the season. On the flip side is the case of Ohio State. The Buckeyes have the best defense in the league by a significant margin, but at best a middle-of-the-road offense. The Buckeyes were hoping Shannon Scott would contribute in the scoring department off the bench, but that has not come to fruition. In their four consecutive losses, Scott is averaging a measly 4.0 PPG and Ohio State as a team has shot below 45 percent from the field in each of those games.

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Morning Five: 01.23.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 23rd, 2014

morning5

  1. The case of Bubu Palo is one of the more unique ones that we can remember. Palo was charged with second-degree sexual assault in May 2012, but the charges were eventually dropped. Iowa State’s Office of Judicial Affairs determined that Palo had violated student conduct rules and he was dismissed from the team. Last week a district court ruled that Palo should be able to rejoin the team. Now Iowa’s attorney general, on behalf of school’s Board of Regents, filed a motion to essentially prevent Palo from rejoining the team. Palo’s case will likely be heard by Iowa’s Supreme Court as the Board of Regents is claiming that the district court decision essentially stripped the school of its power to decide who can represent its university. There have been several other cases like this (Dez Wells and Michael Dixon come to mind), but we cannot remember one where the school had to go to such extreme lengths to prevent a player from coming back to a team.
  2. In the past few weeks we have seen quite a few coaches have loud outbursts both on and off the court. This is nothing new and coming at this point in the season it should not be too surprising. What is new is the contrition that some coaches are showing. John Groce is only the latest example to come out and apologize for his outburst. And he is not alone as Frank Martin, Fran McCaffery, and others have come out in the past month and publicly apologized for their outbursts some of which may have cost their teams games. Are we seeing a kinder, gentler coach or just a more politically correct one?
  3. Yesterday the Wooden Award Advisory Board released its Midseason Top 25 featuring the front-runners for the end of the year award. The usual suspects are on there (McDermott, Parker, etc.), but most of the focus for lists like this is on who got snubbed. In this case, the names that jump out are Nik StauskasGary Harris, and Joel Embiid not to mention Xavier Thames and Sean Kilpatrick. We have no idea how anybody could put together a group of the 25 best players in the country and not include those five, but the one saving grace of this list is that being absent from it doesn’t eliminate the players from consideration for end of the season awards.
  4. As we have pointed out before the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week award continues to confuse us as it has been almost exclusively awarded to players who have no shot of receiving any postseason honors. Obviously this award is meant to reflect a single week’s work rather than a season’s contribution, but it is striking to see that just two of the seven winners (Doug McDermott and DeAndre Kane) this season will even be in contention for any national honors at at the end of the season. This week’s winner was Naadir Tharpe, who at this point is not even assured of having his starting point guard job secure at Kansas.
  5. We are not sure what to make of Mark Titus’ newest power rankings. Gone is the usual ridiculous non sequiturs and instead we have an interesting set of rankings that is backed up by actual analysis (still a little light on the numbers). The thing is looking at these rankings it is pretty clear how big of a mess it is after the top two teams because we would totally rearrange the next ten spots on the list, but we don’t necessarily have any significant issues with Titus’ rankings because we can see his reasoning too.
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Let’s Open the Wooden Watch List’s Doors Just a Bit Wider

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 22nd, 2014

Earlier today, the Los Angeles Athletic Club released its Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 list, a veritable collection of this season’s top performers who are in the running for the sport’s highest individual honor. While the organization got most of the list right, this is sports coverage in 2014, so the proper response to the released list is to immediately poke holes in it and state cases for those who were overlooked. Of course, the way the season is shaping up, this might just serve as a list of Doug McDermott and the players he soundly beat on the way to taking Wooden Award honors in “The Year Of The Freshman.” But if the purpose of the list is to acknowledge players based on their performance thus far this season, there are five who deserve more consideration than they were granted by the LAAC.

Lamar Patterson has led Pitt all season and his Panthers are in first place. That isn't enough for Wooden Watch List spot? (Charles LeClaire/USA Today)

Lamar Patterson has led Pitt all season and his Panthers are in first place in the ACC. That isn’t enough for a Wooden Watch List spot? (Charles LeClaire/USA Today)

  • Lamar Patterson, Pittsburgh: 17.4 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.4 SPG, 122.8 ORtg, 59.8% eFG, 44.3% 3FG – It seems like everything about the Panthers this season has been criminally underrated, including its star forward. The senior has had just one bad game all season long (November 12 against Fresno State), and on the rare occasion when he isn’t an efficient scorer, he still finds ways to help Jamie Dixon’s offense.
  • Joel Embiid, Kansas: 11.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 2.8 BPG, 67.9% FG, 115.3 ORtg, 68.4% eFG, 12.7% BLK – The Cameroonian freshman exploded onto the scene early in the season, and depending on whom you ask (as well as what time it is), is the leading prospect to be selected with the top pick in this June’s NBA Draft. With Tarik Black combating foul trouble and Perry Ellis fighting inconsistency on a regular basis, it’s tough to picture where the Jayhawks would be if not for its stud rookie center.

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Two Questions About Michigan vs. Iowa This Evening

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) & Jonathan Batuello on January 22nd, 2014

Nik Stauskas’ pull-up jumper to stun Wisconsin on the road has raised eyebrows around the Big Ten because it appears that Michigan has figured out how to play without Mitch McGary in the lineup. Iowa, on the other hand, doesn’t have any injury issues of its own and appears to be one of the best teams in the country. Two of our Big Ten writers – Deepak Jayanti and Jonathan Batuello – address a couple of key questions heading into Wednesday night’s big game in Ann Arbor.

Both and Nik have been awfully impressive to start the season. These two meet up tonight in Ann Ar

Both Devyn Marble and Nik Stauskas have been awfully impressive to start the season. These two meet up this evening in Ann Arbor.

Both Devyn Marble and Nik Stauskas have been scorching hot from the field lately. Do you expect them to continue their hot shooting in this game, or is there any way one of them and their teams can be slowed down by the opposing defense?

JB:  It isn’t just recently these two have been shooting and scoring well. Both have been the stars for their teams all season and have put themselves squarely in the Big Ten Player of the Year conversation. Granted, their play in the conference season has been particularly superb — in the past two games alone, Stauskas has scored 44 points and Marble 38 of his own. It seems safe to say they both will continue their strong play tonight as it is doubtful the other team can slow them down (Iowa and Michigan are both significantly better offensive teams than defensive ones). The only way they won’t be scoring much is if either team moves its offensive game plan away from them, an unlikely scenario.

DJ: I don’t disagree that both Marble and Stauskas have been carrying the offensive burden from day one, but I’d be a bit concerned if the former falls in love with his three-pointer. Shooting 37 percent from beyond the arc is impressive, but his strength is really his ability to get to the basket. Sometimes when a player is hot from long range, he develops a false confidence that will backfire against tougher competition, especially in games on the road. If Marble attempts more than five three-pointers, that’s cause for concern because instead of going inside-out with his offensive game, he’ll waste possessions without forcing Jordan Morgan or Jon Horford to defend him in the paint. On the other hand, it is equally likely that Stauskas could go cold from the field, but he has shown some maturity during this season in that he’s willing to beat defenders off the dribble when his shot isn’t dropping. He was excellent in pulling up from the mid-range off of picks against Wisconsin over the weekend, so he has proved that he can find a different scoring angle if his three-point jumper isn’t falling.

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Can Michigan Upset Wisconsin in Madison Today?

Posted by Brendan Brody & Alex Moscoso on January 18th, 2014

Michigan has slightly fallen under the radar after starting the season in the top 10 of the national polls, even though they’ve jumped out to a 4-0 start in conference play without All-America candidate Mitch McGary. This unblemished record will be challenged mightily when the Wolverines travel to Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon (5:00 CST, ESPN). Big Ten microsite columnists Brendan Brody and Alex Moscoso answered some questions in advance of this key contest that will help determine who will ultimately win the league.

Coming off of a season high 21 points against Indiana, Traveon Jackson should get open looks against Michigan as well (Darren Cummings, AP).

Coming off of a season high 21 points against Indiana, Traveon Jackson should get open looks against Michigan as well (Darren Cummings, AP).

Both teams are in the top seven nationally in both offensive efficiency and in turnover percentage, yet they both play at a relatively slow tempo. Who wins the battle of these potent offenses on Saturday?

AM: Wisconsin is coming off of an inexplicable loss to Indiana on Tuesday night. The Hoosiers shocked the college basketball world by upsetting the Badgers and exposing a weakness in their 25th-ranked defense by driving effectively to the rim. About 60 percent of Indiana’s shots were at the cup, where the Badgers are allowing opponents to shoot 52 percent. Michigan, however, is much more of a jump-shooting team as only 24 percent of their shots are under the rim. Wisconsin’s defense thrives at making their opponents take bad looks when they are shooting jumpers (less than 35 percent). For this reason, I’m betting the Badgers stifle Michigan’s offense on Saturday while their own offense takes care of business.

BB: Every team in the B1G other than Wisconsin and Michigan have seen their offensive efficiency numbers plummet once they’ve started playing conference games. This won’t be a shootout in the traditional sense because neither team plays fast, but they’ve both demonstrated that they can put points on the board. Indiana could have won by more than it did had they (mainly Yogi Ferrell) made more than 4-of-14 of their shots from behind the three-point line. If Wisconsin allows Michigan the same opportunities from outside the arc, they have much better shooters than the Hoosiers and will make the Badgers pay.

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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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Examining Volume Shooters in the Big Ten: Why Jarrod Uthoff Should Shoot More

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on December 14th, 2013

Who among college basketball fans hasn’t been frustrated by a volume shooter on their team? We all know the volume shooter, right? That player who hasn’t seen a shot he didn’t like. He starts off the game, seemingly, unable to buy a bucket. But then, all of a sudden, he gets hot and makes everything, maybe even the game-winning shot. Wash, rinse, repeat. The emotional roller coaster a volume shooter puts his fans through, while frustrating, is another example of the up-and-down nature of college basketball that diehards love about the sport. But how many players are really “volume” shooters? To clarify, how many players become more efficient the more often they shoot the ball? According to the numbers, the answer is not many, and they’re likely not the players you’d expect.

Jarrod Uthoff is the type of player who gets more accurate the more shots he puts up.

Jarrod Uthoff is the type of player who gets more accurate the more shots he puts up.

For this post, we did a quick analysis to determine the Big Ten’s volume shooters. To start, we only looked at players averaging double-figure points per game and measured player efficiency by using true shooting percentage to take into account the full spectrum of scoring opportunities: three-pointers, two-point field goals, and free throws. We used “true” shots (the denominator of true shooting percentage) as the measure of quantity or “shots taken.” Next, we counted each game as one observation and plotted each player’s game efficiency and quantity of shots on a graph. Lastly, we ran a simple regression analysis for all players to determine which ones had the most positive relationship between efficiency and the number of shots taken. From this analysis, we found that Iowa’s Jarrod Uthoff (10.3 PPG), Wisconsin’s Ben Brust (12.0 PPG), and Frank Kaminsky (14.7 PPG) were the three players with the most positive relationship between efficiency and shots taken. To illustrate this, the graph below maps each player’s regression line with one another. As a comparison, we included the regression lines of the Big Ten’s leading scorers: Michigan’s Nik Stauskas (18.9 PPG) and Penn State’s D.J. Newbill (18.5 PPG). Keep in mind that a regression line maps a player’s expected efficiency given the number of shots he takes in a game. Click on the graph for a larger view.

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Big Ten M5: 12.02.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on December 2nd, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. Tom Izzo is not afraid to discipline his star players. Over the past few seasons, he benched Korie Lucious and eventually kicked him out of the team. He benched Kris Allen midway through the season and dealt with the consequences with the media. A few days ago, he benched Keith Appling, Adreian Payne, and Branden Dawson because they skipped classes during the finals week. Not starting the three stars did not affect the Spartans as they beat Mount Saint Mary’s 98-65 at home. When asked about the decision, Izzo said, “It’s not about missing a class or two. It’s about you get here to finals week and there’s certain things you’ve got to take care of. Unless you’re dead, you’ve got to get ‘em done.”
  2. Nik Stauskas may have the most scrutinized ankle in the Big Ten. He didn’t start against Coppin State over Thanksgiving weekend because he sprained his ankle against Charlotte. Stauskas did not play against Coppin State, but he wasn’t needed because freshman Zak Irvin chipped with 24 points as the Wolverines won the game. John Beilein is unsure about Stauskas’ status for the game against Duke, which is part of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. “I don’t know,” Beilein said. He added, “Until he’s practicing 100 percent, he won’t go in there. He’s got to be pretty close to 100 percent to go in there.” Without Stauskas, it will be extremely difficult for the Wolverines to beat Jabari Parker’s Blue Devils in Cameron. Stauskas is averaging 20.3 PPG and has clearly been the best scoring option for Beilein so far this season.
  3. Illinois freshman, Jaylon Tate, was impressive against UNLV by dishing five assists during the game. Tate has surprised the fan base so far, but junior guard’s Tracy Abrams‘ toughness is still more important this season. After an impressive win over the Rebels on the road, the Illini struggled to beat Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne 57-55 at home. Abrams was pivotal in leading Groce’s team to a win by scoring 15 points. Groce on Abrams: “This guy right here, without him we probably don’t get it done. He willed us. He had that look in his eyes.” Abrams doesn’t have a great jumper but he wills his way into the paint to bang against the big guys and get to the free throw line off the pick-and-roll play.
  4. Even though Ohio State is ranked in the top 10 in the country,  it is unclear who their best player is this season. We know Aaron Craft is a defensive forcem but he isn’t always reliable to put up points to lead his team against formidable competition. LaQuinton Ross is supposed to succeed Deshaun Thomas as the main offensive scorer this year, but he has averaged just 8 PPG so far this season. So the question remains: who is Ohio State’s “alpha dog”? Despite Ross’ slow start, he still remains the best option for Ohio State, otherwise, they will have a tough time scoring against tougher competition.
  5. Three weeks into the regular season, are we ready to say that Indiana is a contender in the Big Ten? Or are they still “rebuilding,” despite their excellent freshmen: Noah Vonleh and Troy Williams? USA Today interviewed head coach Tom Crean to get his view on this season. When asked about Vonleh, Crean responded, “I think he wants to be one of the best players in the country. He’s well-aware of what other guys are doing because he’s played against those guys.” Vonleh is an absolute beast on the boards (10.4 rebounds per game) and could average a double-double this season. With consistent three-point shooting, the Hoosiers have a legit shot to compete for a Big Ten title, or at least be competitive at home against the top teams from the conference.
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It’s Time to Discuss If Michigan Was Overrated Coming Into the Season

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on November 29th, 2013

One game doesn’t prove anything is drastically wrong with a team, but after Michigan‘s 63-61 loss to Charlotte last weekend, the preseason top 10 team’s struggles have already raised some eyebrows. The Wolverines now sit at 4-2, which could have very easily been 3-3 given its comeback overtime win over Florida State in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, but the loss certainly exposed plenty of issues across the board against an inferior opponent (Pomeroy had the 49ers rated 196th coming into the game). Michigan was outrebounded, it only had eight assists, and shot only 30 percent from the field and 22 percent from three-point range in the loss. The two players who everyone expected to lead this team were dismal, with Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary combining for 10 points. Robinson was particularly rough, failing to connect on any shot in his nine minutes of playing time. Nik Stauskas continued his season-long strong play with 20 points, but Zak Irvin’s 3-of-14 effort offset anything Stauskas was able to do.

Glenn Robinson III has struggled out the gate for Michigan. (US Presswire)

Glenn Robinson III has struggled out the gate for Michigan. (US Presswire)

So the real question is to wonder how much is this cause for concern for a team most analysts had picked to be second or third in the Big Ten? Does the Charlotte loss represent just one really bad night or was Michigan overrated as a top-10 team after losing two NBA draft picks and the reigning Player of the Year in Trey Burke? The easy answer is yes to both questions. Michigan likely had a really bad collective night to cause the loss, but the Wolverines haven’t really shown yet this season that it deserved to be so highly touted. Read the rest of this entry »

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Is Michigan Better With Nik Stauskas at the Point Guard Position?

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on November 21st, 2013

Halfway through the 2011-12 Big Ten season, Trey Burke was still a freshman and was more comfortable playing off the ball instead of focusing on learning the art of playing point guard. As a result, Michigan head coach John Beilein inserted Stu Douglass into the starting rotation to play the point in the half-court. It was a position that didn’t naturally come to Burke during his first year, and even though Douglass was not a traditional one by any means, he was comfortable handling the ball with either hand and he understood Beilein’s offensive system very well. This subtle but meaningful change catapulted the Wolverines over the last six weeks of the season.

Nik Stauskas (Left) should be able to handle point guard duties until Derrick Walton is ready. (USA TODAY Sports)

Nik Stauskas (Left) should be able to handle point guard duties until Derrick Walton is ready. (USA TODAY Sports)

Flash forward to the present and Beilein might find himself in a similar predicament. Derrick Walton Jr. is an excellent guard who will eventually figure out the art of playing the point guard position, but for now, he may be more effective playing off the ball and doing what he is most comfortable with — putting the ball in the basket. There is no need for the Wolverines to panic after just three games including a road loss at Iowa State, but based on what we have seen so far, Nik Stauskas may be the only player confident enough to take on the team’s new leadership role. Against the Cyclones, the Wolverines were limited to a three-point shooting squad that couldn’t find decent looks from the perimeter. Michigan shot 8-of-29 (28%) from beyond the arc and Stauskas contributed four of those eight long-range buckets. Once Mitch McGary is completely healthy and can adequately man the post, that dynamic may change, but in the near-term – specifically the non-conference season – Stauskas appears to be the one who will carry the Wolverines’ offensive burden. Read the rest of this entry »

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