Can an Injury-Free Gary Harris Become the Big Ten POY?

Posted by Jonathan Batuello (@jcbatuello) on October 30th, 2013

Michigan State has a lot of talent coming back this season, but on a loaded roster, sophomore Gary Harris is likely the best of them all. Harris has already been picked by CBSSports.com as the preseason Big Ten Player of the Year, and it certainly won’t be the last preseason accolade he receives. Last season he averaged 12.9 points per game while shooting a robust 41 percent from 3-point range. His play had many speculating he would head to the NBA Draft last spring, but he returned to the Spartans to play alongside Keith Appling, Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson to push toward a B1G and national title. His return is a major reason Michigan State is No. 2 in the country to open the season.

A healthy Harris and a fantastic cast of complements makes Michigan State a true title contender in 2013-14 (Getty).

Gary Harris is on the Short List for Big Ten POY in 2013-14 (Getty).

The biggest thing to remember about Harris last year, though, is that he was never really fully healthy with a right shoulder injury. This year, he has already been battling an ankle injury that put him at an estimated 75 percent effectiveness in early October, according to ESPN. This caused him to be held out of full contact practice when it started last month, but it appears he is finally back to his former self and ready to show what he is capable of without those nagging injuries.

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Bracket Prep: Michigan State, Florida State, Vanderbilt, St. Bonaventure, Long Beach State, & New Mexico State

Posted by EJacoby on March 11th, 2012

Selection Sunday is here! We’ve been providing you with summaries of every automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, and this post concludes all of the conference tourney winners. Big Ten, SEC, ACC, A-10, Big West, and WAC were the last ones to complete their championships. Here’s everything you need to know.

Michigan State

Draymond Green is the Force Behind the Spartans' Strong Attack (AP Photo/A. Goldis)

  • Big Ten Champion (27-7, 16-5)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #4/#3/#3
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +17.3
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #1

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. After winning the Big Ten Tournament, expect Michigan State to steal the last #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. There’s nothing that this team hasn’t done to deserve the top line. 27-7 against the #1 strength of schedule, co-champion of the best conference in the country, and Big Ten Champions. This is a classic Tom Izzo team that’s ferocious on the boards and executes efficiently on both offense and defense. The Spartans run through their Big Ten Player of the Year, but this is a deep team that relies on many contributors in different areas. A late season ACL injury to blossoming freshman forward Branden Dawson was horrible news and is potentially devastating. But Dawson was still not much of an offensive factor and the team won the Big Ten Tournament without him, showing an ability to adapt.
  2. Draymond Green is the Big Ten Player of the Year who does everything that you want in a senior star leader. 16.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.0 blocks per game is what Green provides. The 45% field goal percentage doesn’t look great until you realize that Green does much of his work on the perimeter, including hitting the most three-pointers on the team. The rest of this team is loaded with strong athletes and defenders, from the interior duo of Derrick Nix and Adriean Payne to the perimeter players Keith Appling and Brandon Wood, and beyond to the reserves. Appling is crucial to this team as the playmaking point guard with explosive agility to make plays for his teammates and himself.
  3. Most things in March Madness are unpredictable, but one of the few guarantees is that Tom Izzo’s teams will play their best basketball in the NCAA Tournament. This Izzo team is loaded and ready to dance with as difficult a combination to beat as nearly anyone in the country. A +17.3 adjusted scoring margin is the fourth best in the nation, led my MSU’s elite defense. The Spartans allow just 37.7% defensive field goal shooting, the second best in the land. Their 89.9 defensive efficiency also ranks in the top 10. Throw in their own 47.7% field goal shooting, and this team’s shooting percentage disparity is fantastic, which is always a top formula for success. Their 55.2% rebound percentage is top 10 in the nation, as well. The numbers look great for Michigan State. But this team just lost its best athlete to the ACL injury and it doesn’t have the amount of elite scorers that a usual #1 seed does. Instead, this team is so efficient defensively that it will be difficult to knock off. Teams that gave Michigan State trouble were those that caught fire from the outside while holding their own defensively, like Indiana. Expect an awesome clash of styles between MSU and its opponent in a Sweet Sixteen matchup, if it can avoid an upset from the 8-9 seed, or 10-7 seed if it receives a #2 seed.

Florida State

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Set Your TiVo: 02.22.12

Posted by EJacoby on February 22nd, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

There are a lot of good teams in action on Wednesday, but most of them are strong favorites in their games. The two best matchups of the night are taking place in the Big East and Big Ten.

Here’s the breakdown and what else to watch for:

West Virginia at #17 Notre Dame – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2 (****)

Mike Brey's Team Has Won Eight in a Row and Looks Really Strong (AP Photo/J. Raymond)

  • It seems like every game that West Virginia plays is a toss-up, and this one is no different. The Mountaineers have lost five of their last seven but are coming off a big win at Pittsburgh where they were slight underdogs. They are once again slight underdogs in South Bend to take on the red-hot Fighting Irish. WVU usually plays strong perimeter defense, which will force the Irish guards into running more difficult offense, but will the Mountaineers’ own guards provide enough scoring punch? Truck Bryant has been a good secondary scorer at 16.6 PPG in Big East play, but no other guard averages more than eight points per night. They need someone else to step up to complement Bryant and Kevin Jones. Jones remains a stud this season and you can all but lock up 20 points and 10 rebounds from him. The Mountaineers will try to out-tough the Irish by controlling the boards with their 54.1% rebounding percentage in Big East games, tops in the conference.
  • Notre Dame hasn’t lost in over a month, winning eight straight games and all in impressive fashion. They didn’t look great in their Saturday night game at Villanova, but the Irish still came back from a 20-point deficit and closed out a road game in overtime. Five different Notre Dame players have led the team in scoring during its winning streak, and the offense has been tremendously well-rounded. They can pound the ball inside to Jack Cooley (12.2 PPG, 9.3 RPG), find surging Pat Connaughton from the outside (12.6 PPG in his last five games), or use strong guard duo Eric Atkins (13.0 PPG) and Jerian Grant (12.9 PPG) to make plays. The question will be whether Mike Brey‘s team can execute against WVU’s tough defense or grab any offensive boards against the strong defensive rebounding team.
  • West Virginia is the best rebounding team in the Big East while Notre Dame’s 49.4% rebound percentage is just 13th in the conference. The Mountaineers could control this game if they dominate the boards, but otherwise the Irish should find a much easier time scoring with their diverse offensive sets. Notre Dame is just a three-point favorite in what is expected to be a tight matchup.

#5 Michigan State at Minnesota – 8:30 PM ET on Big Ten Network (***)

  • Michigan State has won five straight, seven of its last eight, and looks like a strong candidate for an NCAA #1 seed. Draymond Green is fully healthy and continues to state his case for Big Ten Player of the Year, but it’s the secondary players that have come along. Freshman Branden Dawson continues to improve and has massive upside as a swing forward, while bigs Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix continue to play better and better as the season progresses. The Spartans remain one of the strongest defensive teams in the country and seem incredibly difficult to score on during stretches. There’s no reason to expect anything different against a struggling Golden Gophers offense. Tom Izzo‘s team is peaking yet again in the late stage of the season.
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Night Line: Freshman Guard Trey Burke Keeping Michigan Afloat in Big Ten

Posted by EJacoby on January 18th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC contributor and correspondent. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

If Michigan wanted to stay alive in the Big Ten conference title race, Tuesday night’s home game against in-state rival and top 10-ranked Michigan State was a must-win. The Wolverines came away with a one-point victory in a nailbiter thanks to another strong performance from their leader – Trey Burke. It’s not a typo or an overstatement to say that the Wolverines’ freshman point guard has already turned into their go-to guy and overall best player this season. The Wolverines have gone uncharacteristically cold from three-point range and talented guard Tim Hardaway, Jr. has not been the expected consistent star player this year, but Burke’s heady play at the lead guard spot has helped Michigan remain a threat in the Big Ten race.

John Beilein is Pleased with his Freshman Point Guard's Development (AP Photo)

While improving to 5-2 in the Big Ten and 15-4 overall with Tuesday’s win, the Wolverines experienced the same troubles that they’ve been having in conference play, but it was again the strong play of the freshman Burke that carried the team to victory. Michigan, shooting 29.5% from deep in Big Ten action, shot 6-21 from three and Hardaway, Jr., scored only 10 points on 3-9 shooting without contributing much else to the game. But Burke had a game-high 20 points on 8-11 shooting with four rebounds, three assists, two steals, and two blocks, and made nearly all the key plays down the stretch of a tight game. Coming off a bad 16-point loss to Iowa, Michigan needed this win and now sits tied for second in the conference standings.

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Set Your TiVo: 12.28.11

Posted by EJacoby on December 28th, 2011

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See the bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Tonight’s action offers a variety of 4-star matchups, including some exciting conference openers and one of the last top-25 non-conference showdowns. Carve out some time tonight to catch these great games.

Perry Jones and Undefeated Baylor Face Their Final Non-Conference Test Tonight Against Mississippi State (AP/T. Gutierrez)

#12 Georgetown at #10 Louisville – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN2 (****)

  • One of the biggest surprises in the country thus far, Georgetown is now looking to prove it can hang with the top teams in the Big East. Given how the Hoyas have played recently, they should have a great chance to add another impressive win to their resume tonight in the KFC Yum! Center. Georgetown has already won a true road game over then-top-15 Alabama, and tonight it heads west looking to rely on a veteran big three that have been consistent all year. Hollis Thompson and Jason Clark are getting it done from the perimeter, each averaging about 15 points per game and hitting exactly two three-pointers per game to lead the team from deep. Henry Sims, the most unlikely assist man in the nation, has executed his point forward role to perfection in Coach Thompson III’s Princeton-style offense. Sims leads the team with 3.7 assists and 1.6 blocks per game while continuing his low-post impact to the tune of 12.5 points and 5.5 boards per contest. If Georgetown can continue its current pace of 1.16 points per possession, which is ninth best in the country, then they will have a shot to pull off the road win tonight.
  • Before taking on Kentucky later this week in a massive in-state powerhouse showdown, Louisville has this fierce test to begin Big East play. Rick Pitino’s team has been well-prepared all season leading to an undefeated record, but they have been vulnerable at home and have nearly been upset several times at the Yum! Center. The Cardinals, though, continue to collect wins thanks to a spectacular defensive effort. Louisville’s defensive efficiency of 83.0 is the fifth-best number in the nation, and they are also ranked top-10 defensively in field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, points per possession, and rebounding. Coach Pitino will run out a nine- or ten-man rotation and look to speed up the Hoyas’ efficient offense by implementing high pressure and different defensive looks throughout the night. How guards Kyle Kuric, Russ Smith, Chris Smith, and Peyton Siva shoot from behind the arc will be the key to the Cardinals’ offense.
  • This should be a tremendous game, as two red-hot conference foes do battle with their conflicting styles of play. Louisville is a five-point favorite at home, and their depth across the board will give them an advantage tonight. But the Hoyas are able to counteract any opponent’s strengths when their offense is clicking. Keep an eye on who can establish their style of play early in the game.
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