Three Takeaways from Michigan State’s Champions Classic Performance

Posted by Max Jakubowski on November 13th, 2013

Youth or experience? It was the key question posed going into Tuesday night’s showdown between Michigan State and Kentucky, and the Spartans’ experience won out after holding on for a 78-74 win over Kentucky. The Spartans will presumably be the new #1 in the polls next week, but before that, here are a few takeaways from the huge Michigan State win:

Gary Harris knows his Spartans are the new number one.

Gary Harris knows his Spartans are the new number one.

  • Michigan State will only go as far as its point guard play this season, and boy, did Keith Appling silence the critics with an incredible stat line of 22 points, seven assists, seven rebounds, four steals, and only three turnovers. Appling has been known to have turnover issues and a showing like last night will go a long way to raising the senior ‘s confidence with the ball and running the team effectively. Appling’s backcourt mate Gary Harris also contributed a huge 15-point first half performance. Along with the combined 42 points from the two Michigan State guards, both were active in intercepting the passing lanes of Kentucky and causing a total of 17 turnovers. After Kentucky had tied the game with 4:48 left, Appling hit a huge three from the corner and then Harris stole the ball and finished with a layup to put MSU up for good. Guard play in March wins championships, and if Appling and Harris can continue to make major plays like those, Tom Izzo’s squad has as good a chance as any team to make it to Dallas for the Final Four.

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2013-14 RTC Class Schedule: Michigan State Spartans

Posted by BHayes on September 6th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler. Periodically throughout the preseason, RTC will take an in-depth look at the schedules of some of the more prominent teams in college basketball.

Watch out for Sparty in 2013-14. Tom Izzo returns nearly every key contributor from his Sweet 16 squad of a year ago, with only bruising big man Derrick Nix since departed. More good news for East Lansing’s finest: the Big Ten shouldn’t prove quite as challenging as it did last season as fellow top-four finishers Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio State all suffered major personnel losses in the offseason. That may mean some turnover at the top, especially with a number of teams in the bottom half of the conference looking improved from a season ago. So, sure – you can expect a little reshuffling at the top of the Big Ten. But with the returns of Keith Appling, Gary Harris, and Adreian Payne (among others) to East Lansing, you should also feel pretty safe in believing that Sparty will be right where they always are come March – in the hunt for a Big Ten title, preparing themselves for a sustained Tournament push.

The Emergence Of Spartan Big Man Adreian Payne Makes Michigan State A Scary Team

The Emergence Of Spartan Big Man Adreian Payne Makes Michigan State A Scary Team (Getty Images)

  • Team Outlook: Despite the arrival of a relatively underwhelming freshmen class – neither center Gavin Schilling nor shooting guard Alvin Ellis has the look of a minute-eating freshman, Tom Izzo’s cupboard is fully stocked. The backcourt features the Spartan’s two top scorers from a year ago in Keith Appling (13.4 PPG, 3.3 APG) and Gary Harris (12.9 PPG, 41% 3PT). Both battled nagging injuries throughout last winter, so an offseason of rest and rehabilitation may have been just what the Spartans needed although Harris appears to have suffered a temporary setback with a sprained ankle that will keep him out until at least the start of practice. With another year under their belt and improved health (knock on wood), there should be an expectation of increased, or at least more efficient, contributions from the duo. The third centerpiece of this Spartan club is center Adreian Payne, who broke out in his sophomore season posting season averages of 10.5 PPG, 7.6 RPG, and 1.3 BPG as the big man even showed an unexpectedly refined touch from deep. After only attempting two three-pointers in his first season in East Lansing, Payne went 16-42 from beyond the stripe last season, giving Izzo (and NBA scouts) hope that he might progress even further here in year three. Branden Dawson (8.9 PPG and 5.9 RPG) is the fourth Spartan returning starter, while versatile sophomore Denzel Valentine (5.0 PPG and 4.1 RPG) would seem like the top candidate to occupy the starting slot left open by the departure of Nix, an insertion that would necessitate a slide to the power forward position for Dawson. Sophomore Travis Trice (4.8 PPG, 1.9 APG) should operate as a capable backup for Appling at the point, but Tom Izzo will have decisions to make in rounding out the bench rotation beyond Trice. Matt Costello and Alex Gauna only averaged about six minutes per game each a season ago, but both could be thrust into larger roles this time around. Junior Russell Byrd and the freshman Schilling may also be options for Izzo in his quest to sort out the frontcourt rotation, as he seeks to at least partially replace the physicality and production that Nix brought to the table last season. Payne and Dawson should take care of plenty of that by themselves, and let’s also remember that this is Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans – if you can’t rebound you don’t see the floor, so expect the old coach to find some tough role players somewhere on the roster. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your DVR: Week of 03.04.13

Posted by bmulvihill on March 5th, 2013


Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

For some teams, the Championship Fortnight (as Kyle Whelliston would call it) begins this week. For most others, this is the final week of the regular season. Many teams sit squarely on the bubble and need to impress in their final two contests to show they deserve to be in the Tourney. We’ve waited all year for March. It’s finally here and all indications tell us it’s going to be a wild month. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

Illinois at Iowa – 7:00 PM EST, Tuesday on BTN (***)

illinois john groce

It looks like John Groce and Illinois are in but a couple more losses might change the equation

  • This is a hugely important game for both teams. At 7-9 in the Big Ten, Iowa is need of two wins to make its case for an at large tournament bid. They close the regular season at home against Illinois and Nebraska. If they can pick up the two victories and get to .500 in conference, Fran McCaffery and company make a decent case to get in. For Illinois, it looks like they will get in however they can ill afford to drop their next two games. In addition to this game at Iowa, they must travel too Ohio State. A loss against the Hawkeyes puts a ton of pressure on John Groce’s team heading into the last game of the season, so this one is critical. Look to see if Iowa’s size bothers the Illini. Illinois is a much better two-point shooting team than they are at three-point shooting team. However, getting points inside against Iowa’s length could be tough to come by. Regardless, Brandon Paul, Tracy Abrams, and D.J. Richardson must be aggressive in taking the ball to the basket and trying to get to the line. If Illinois is settling for jumpers on the outside, they will lose. Iowa needs to win this game with defense. Their offense just isn’t strong enough to win it for them. Protecting the ball and playing good defense without fouling are their top priorities. If they are turning the ball over and fouling, Illinois will win. The team that wins the free throw battle should come out on top in this match-up.

#13 Ohio State at #1 Indiana – 9:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN (****)

  • In the first match-up this season between these two squads, Ohio State had no answer for Cody Zeller and Victor Olidipo. They combined to go 16-of-21 from the field and 17-of-21 from the line, grabbed 16 rebounds, and scored 50 of the 81 points. Throw in Christian Watford’s 20 points and IU’s front line obliterated OSU. If the Buckeyes want any chance to win this game in Bloomington, they must get way better defense from Evan Ravenel, Amir Williams, DeShaun Thomas, and LaQuinton Ross. Offensively, they can’t run with Indiana, however OSU’s half-court offense is suspect at best. So while their defense must create turnovers and get out on the break, they must be careful not to turn this game into a track meet. OSU’s ability to win this game sits squarely on the shoulders of their frontline. They need better defense and more scoring. If they can get that, they have a chance to win. Otherwise, this could be a blowout. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten M5: 02.12.13 Edition

Posted by jnowak on February 12th, 2013


  1. There is no better indication of how tough this conference is than how often we have marquee games that draw major national attention. The latest in line is the significant rivalry game between Michigan and Michigan State tonight in East Lansing. It’s the first time the two teams have met while both ranked in the top 10, and it may very well be a must-win for both squads. The Spartans need it because with two losses already they have to defend home court in the Big Ten, and because the Wolverines’ schedule the rest of the way is more favorable. Michigan needs it because the Wolverines are the only one of the four primary contenders — including Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State, all of which have a minimum of two conference losses — without a road win against another. After Tuesday, the Wolverines have only two games remaining against those contenders (MSU and Indiana), and both are in Ann Arbor. Still, a fourth loss at this point could put their backs up against the wall.
  2. On the Michigan State side, the Spartans will be short-handed — yet again — as it appears unlikely that backup point guard Travis Trice will be healthy enough to play. Trice, who suffered a head injury for the second time this season when he took a shot on January 31 against Illinois, is one of the Spartans’ best three-point shooters and will be sorely missed on the defensive end against the talented Wolverines’ backcourt. This injury will, again, have a tremendous trickle-down effect — meaning more minutes for reserve players like Russell Byrd, Matt Costello and Alex Gauna, and more pressure on regular guards Denzel Valentine and Keith Appling. For the most part, the Spartans have survived the games in which Trice has missed this season, but none have come against such quality competition.
  3. For years now, when you think of the best of Big Ten basketball and even the country, Ohio State comes to mind. But are they “elite” this year? Columbus Dispatch columnist Bob Hunter writes that after another loss to a top program, the Buckeyes may just be closer to “good” than “great” this season. OSU is 1-4 against Michigan (with which it split games), Indiana, Duke and Kansas. Those are all quality losses, but at some point, you have to see enough consistency out of the Buckeyes to believe that they are as likely to reach a Final Four as any of those other teams. When it comes to championships, quality losses and “good” but not “great” just doesn’t cut it.
  4. There’s something to be said for the most challenging times also being the most rewarding. That could very well be the case at Wisconsin this season, where Bo Ryan has once again proven that you can never consider the Badgers out of Big Ten contention no matter what you see on paper. Ryan’s mentor, Ron Rainey, says that this might be Ryan’s best year at Wisconsin, rivaling his debut 2001-02 season when the Badgers were chosen to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten but won a share of the program’s first conference title in 55 years. With the early absence of Mike Bruesewitz and the season-ending injury to point guard Josh Gasser, few thought Wisconsin would find a way to be in such a position. Think again.
  5. Northwestern will need all the help it can get against Ohio State on Thursday, but it looks like the Wildcats will instead be short-handed. Neil Hayes writes that Bill Carmody is waiting on the final word from the medical staff, but the coach believes the team will be without the services of forward Jared Swopshire (knee) and center Alex Olah (concussion) in Columbus. Both were injured in Sunday’s loss to Iowa, and this will likely mean increased minutes for Kale Abrahamson, James Montgomery III, Mike Turner and Nikola Cerina.
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Big Ten M5: 02.05.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on February 5th, 2013


  1. The Michigan – Ohio State rivalry is arguably the best in college football but a new generation of basketball players has taken the rivalry to the hardwood as well. Trey Burke and Aaron Craft take the game personally as tonight’s matchup will be the first between the two programs with both teams ranked in the top 10. Burke said, “I love playing against him. He makes me work, and he makes me better,” when asked about his counterpart. The Buckeyes have beaten the Wolverines in three of their last four games so Burke will be looking to avoid a losing skid to keep his team ranked in the top five in the polls.
  2. With a healthy Jordan Morgan in the lineup, the Wolverines would feel much more comfortable heading into tonight’s game against Ohio State. But with their center still recovering from a sprained ankle, forwards Mitch McGary and Jon Horford have done a great job filling in for him during the last three games. McGary scored 10 points against the Hoosiers and did an excellent job off the pick-and-roll while trying his best to defend Cody Zeller on the other end. Morgan practiced only a “little bit” and his status is in “doubt” for this evening’s match-up. The Buckeyes’ post pair of Amir Williams and Evan Ravenel don’t look for their shots in the paint very often, so McGary and Horford may manage to stay out of foul trouble, which was not the case against Indiana.
  3. Speaking of Indiana, Hoosiers’ head coach Tom Crean is back in Bloomington after a “short night” in New Orleans to support his brothers-in-law – Jim and John Harbaugh – at the Super Bowl on Sunday. Crean was with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell when the power went out in the Superdome. When asked about his experience with the commish, Crean replied, “To watch the commissioner of the NFL deal with that with such grace and calmness under pressure was amazing.” The Hoosiers have regained the #1 ranking in America and will visit Champaign to play an Illinois team that badly needs a win to stay in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament bid.
  4. While the Hoosiers had a great weekend on the hardwood, the Illini are hanging by the thinnest of strings after losing to Wisconsin at home on Sunday afternoon. Illinois head coach John Groce believes that most of his team’s issues stem from their defense. The Badgers shot 55.6% in the second half, leading Groce to say, “Right now, our defense has too many holes in it.” Brandon Paul and D.J.Richardson need to do a better job of moving the ball around in the half-court because only 37% of the Illini’s field goals have been a result of an assist in Big Ten play.
  5. The Big Ten season tipped off with a Minnesota win over Michigan State on New Year’s Eve, but Spartans head coach Tom Izzo is preparing for the rematch without the availability of guards Travis Trice and Gary Harris. Both players had the weekend off and Trice will be evaluated on Tuesday regarding his status for the game. Harris (41% 3FG) and Trice (40% 3FG) are Izzo’s best shooters this season and both will need to stay healthy if the Spartans plan to make a serious run at the Big Ten title and beyond. Each has missed a couple of games during the non-conference season but have been a key part of Michigan State’s success in league play.
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Big Ten M5: 11.27.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on November 27th, 2012

  1. With another big non-conference game looming with Michigan State’s trip to play at Miami on Wednesday, Tom Izzo said Monday that there’s a chance sophomore guard Travis Trice and possibly even freshman wing Gary Harris could get some minutes. The Spartans have missed the two badly — Harris is nursing a sprained shoulder and Trice has had concussion symptoms since the season opener — in their recent games. MSU snuck by Boise State and Louisiana-Lafayette at home and it’s been clear that the team is fatigued and more turnover-prone without two of its best run-and-gun players. Harris, also the team’s leading scorer, was expected to miss 2-3 weeks, but Izzo says his healing has progressed well.
  2. With this year’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge — the conference’s premier early-season event — on the horizon this week, is ranking the best games from this year’s Challenge. The ACC handled the Big Ten in the first 10 renditions of the Challenge before the Big Ten came storming back to take the crown the last three years. It seems as if the Big Ten is poised for an excellent all-around season, with Indiana, Ohio State and Michigan making a case for early Final Four picks, and depth is at an all-time high. Which games are you most looking forward to this week?
  3. Many didn’t know what to expect from Illinois this season under first-year head coach John Groce, but the early returns have been stellar. The Illini are undefeated after winning the always-prestigious Maui Invitational and, as the Chicago Sun-Times’ Herb Gould points out, every Maui Invitational champion since 1986 has gone on to the NCAA Tournament. Groce said he’s seen a lot of character in his young team, particularly in coming from behind in a few games. “Is [Maui] the end-all, be-all? No,” Groce told the Sun-Times. “We still have work to do. We have to rebound better. We have to foul less. We have to execute some things better offensively. By no means have we arrived. At the same time, we feel blessed to have had a chance to play for that trophy and to have won it.”
  4. It’s hard to imagine any single player means more to one team in the Big Ten than Tim Frazier does to Penn State. And now that he’s out for the season with a ruptured Achilles, the Nittany Lions are learning how to move on without him for the time being. “We can’t feel sorry for ourselves,” coach Patrick Chambers said Monday, according to “The text messages I received when he went down, the text messages I still receive, I went to the football game the other day and everybody is like, ‘I’m so sorry.'” Chambers says the team needs to find ways to work through it, and that starts with the flow of the offense finding its way without its natural point guard and senior leader.
  5. Purdue is certainly rebuilding this year, and the team’s long-term future may have taken a bit of a hit with an injury to recruit Kendall Stephens, a 6’5″ senior guard at St. Charles (IL) East High School. The Indianapolis Star‘s Jeff Washburn reported Monday that Stephens, who scored 30 points and was named MVP of a recent holiday tournament, is playing with a torn labrum in his right shoulder that is expected to require surgery. If so, he’s likely to miss summer workouts before his senior year, which can be a critical time in a freshman’s development if he is to contribute early.
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Morning Five: 11.27.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 27th, 2012

  1. The big news of the day was that Gorgui Dieng, Louisville’s anchor on the inside, would be out for 4-6 weeks with a fractured scaphoid. In the grand scheme of things it isn’t a huge setback for the Cardinals  as they will still probably be a top two seed when Selection Sunday rolls around barring some collapse. Rick Pitino is pointing towards the start of Big East play as the target date for Dieng’s return, but we are looking for a return a little bit before that–on December 29 at home against Kentucky. Louisville has a couple of interesting games between now and their match-up with the Wildcats, but they should be able to win all of those games relatively easily with the possible exception of a game against Missouri in a little under two weeks.
  2. We wondered how long Jamie Dixon would suspend Trey Zeigler after Zeigler’s DUI arrest over the weekend and we are still wondering as Dixon handed down the ubiquitous, but nebulous indefinite suspension. Zeigler was found asleep at the wheel of his Hummer (likely from his dad before any of you start talking about NCAA investigations although it is a different sort of hardship we guess) with a subsequent blood-alcohol content of 0.129 (above the legal limit of 0.08) and then reportedly vomited in his holding cell. Zeigler, who was expected to have an immediate impact for the Panthers, has been limited to a reserve role, but may have cost himself a shot at getting any meaningful minutes before the start of conference play. Zeigler’s preliminary hearing is set for February 5, but we expect that Dixon will come to a decision on the length of Zeigler’s punishment well before that.
  3. With the ACC-Big Ten Challenge nearly upon us there are several fairly big injuries to catch up on. The one that is the most certain involves North Carolina’s P.J. Hairston, who will miss today’s game against Indiana after spraining his left knee during a practice over the weekend. Hairston’s absence will hamper the Tar Heels’ hopes of pulling off an upset at Assembly Hall in what already was an extremely challenging environment for the young Tar Heels to come out of with a victory. The other two significant injuries come from the Big Ten and the state of Michigan specifically, but according to reports both Tim Hardaway Jr (recovering from a knee to his head–possibly a concussion, but the reports are vague) and Travis Trice (concussion) are expected to play in their games against North Carolina State and Miami, respectively.
  4. We have talked quite a bit about conference realignment in this space, but Denver appears to be taking it to an extreme as they are reportedly on the verge of moving to the Summit League from the WAC next year making it their third conference in three years. On some level we can understand Denver’s move as they went to the WAC that was hemorrhaging teams, but then realized they were in a failing conference so they had to move on for the sake of the athletic department, but on some level (ok, many levels) it just feels wrong.
  5. Over the past year we have seen quite a few players transfer from a program to be with an ailing family member. Unfortunately for North Carolina State’s Thomas de Thaey, a native of Belgium, that was not an option as he announced that he would be leaving the school to return to Belgium to be near his father, who is battling cancer. He will reportedly pursue a professional career in Belgium while being near his father. As for the Wolfpack, they will have to adjust their already short rotation to absorb the loss of de Thaey, who was averaging 9 minutes per game this year.
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Big Ten M5: 11.13.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 13th, 2012

  1. Michigan State guard Travis Trice is questionable for the Spartans’ game tonight against Kansas due to “concussion symptoms.” Trice played 18 minutes against Connecticut and had to leave the game after getting hit on the head. The Spartans flew back from Germany to Atlanta and may not have one of their experienced guards ready for tonight’s game against the top 10 Jayhawks. Brandon Kearney played only seven minutes in the first game and is still recovering from a sickness as well. Freshman guard Denzel Valentine will have to step up with the likelihood of increased playing time. Tom Izzo will need whatever he can get from the younger guards to avoid another 0-2 start for the season (recall that MSU started with the same record last season).
  2. Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan is very impressed with freshman wing Sam Dekker after the home opener. The Badgers led 43-17 but during his halftime speech, Ryan asked Dekker if he knew the score of the game. Dekker replied “zero-zero” which caught his head coach by surprise in a positive way. Dekker is a 6’8″ wing who perfectly fits in Ryan’s offense and will have plenty of opportunities to shine as Ryan tries to fill in the shoes of Jordan Taylor and Josh Gasser. Dekker scored eight points in just 17 minutes of his collegiate debut but will play an integral role in the offense as the season progresses.
  3. Michigan fans are extremely happy to see forward Jon Horford return from a foot injury. The fans gave him an ovation when he entered the game against Slippery Rock after missing most of last season with the December injury. Horford, a 6’10” junior forward, will back up Jordan Morgan and Mitch McGary to provide much-needed depth for John Beilein’s frontcourt. McGary can find himself in foul trouble once conference play begins and Beilein needs Horford to provide some additional size off the bench. Horford played eight minutes against Slippery Rock and five minutes against IUPUI last night but should see increased playing time as he returns to game shape.
  4. Minnesota assistant coach Saul Smith pleaded guilty for his DWI charges and has been sentenced to 40 hours of community service by a judge. Smith is supposed to re-join the Gophers today after being suspended by the athletic director following the arrest about a month ago. He registered a 0.18 blood alcohol level while driving on October 20 in Minneapolis. Tubby Smith should be glad to get all of his program’s off-court troubles in the past as the Gophers begin their campaign to contend for the conference title and make a run at the NCAA Tournament. The Gophers beat Toledo 82-56 last night at home.
  5. Illinois head coach John Groce has the Illini off to a 2-0 start and continues to lock up quality talent for next season. Another top 100 recruit, Austin Colbert, verbally committed to the Illini on Monday. Colbert is ranked in the top 100 by ESPN and is a 6’9″ forward who also considered Villanova and Miami. Groce has put together a class that will likely be ranked in the top 30 or 40 next season. Guards Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill will join Colbert in Champaign along with another big man, Maverick Morgan. In addition to the freshmen, Groce will also add wing Rayvonte Rice, a transfer from Drake.
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A Closer Look: Michigan State vs Louisville

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on March 21st, 2012

For some pundits on the national scene, Michigan State is thought of as the team “after Kentucky” most likely to win a national championship. The Big Ten co-champs and Big Ten Player of the Year Draymond Green have a tough task ahead of them with #4 seed Louisville. It’s a rematch of the 2009 Elite Eight when Michigan State upset Louisville 64-52.  What will happen this time around?  Let’s take a look:

Can Tom Izzo lead Michigan State to another Elite Eight? (photo: AP)

1.  How will Louisville approach this game?  Last time these two teams met in 2009, Louisville came out with Rick Pitino‘s bread an butter–the full-court press. However, the Spartans were able to break the press and get some easy baskets, so the Cardinals backed off. Will Louisville decide to attack the Spartan guards again this time around? My guess would be yes. While Keith Appling is a solid ball-handler, he can be turnover-prone at times, as evidenced by his seven-turnover performance against Ohio State on February 11 and his five-turnover game in a loss to Illinois on January 31. The other guards charged with handling the pressure will be senior Austin Thornton (a shooter not known for his handle), Brandon Wood, and true freshman Travis Trice. Don’t be surprised if Draymond Green takes an active role in bringing the ball up the court in an effort to negate the speed and trapping abilities of the Cardinal guards. Louisville relies heavily on guys like Russ Smith (84 steals on the year) and Peyton Siva (63 steals) to create opportunities, and they will need their guards to be better than the Spartan guards if they hope to score the upset.

2.  Will Keith Appling once again be dared to shoot? In a surprising turn of events against Saint Louis, Keith Appling turned into Rajon Rondo. Meaning, the Biliken defense routinely sagged off Appling at the three-point line, daring the Spartan point guard to shoot the ball. It was perplexing to those who have followed Appling’s career because Keith has always been known as a scorer and a guy who certainly has three-point range. In fact, he started the year shooting 52% in the first six games of the year even going 3-5 in a win over Florida State. But the scouting report in this season cannot be denied: Appling hasn’t hit more than one three in a game since December 28. He admitted after the Saint Louis game that he felt disrespected by the defense, yet he was able to knock down a big outside shot late in the second half. Will Louisville employ the same strategy? And if they do, will Appling be willing to pull the trigger to try and make them pay?

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Big Ten Tournament Second Round Recaps

Posted by jnowak on March 10th, 2012

Here’s a breakdown of how things went down in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals on Friday in Indianapolis:

Wisconsin senior Rob Wilson was practically unstoppable on Friday. (AP)

Wisconsin 79, Indiana 71
  • The Hoosiers were playing this quarterfinal game without the services of senior Verdell Jones III, who tore his ACL in the team’s win on Thursday, but did have a hometown crowd behind them. As it turned out, it wouldn’t be enough to silence the unlikeliest of assassins: Wisconsin’s Rob Wilson. The senior, who came into the game averaging just 3.1 points per game, went off for 30 to give Bo Ryan his school record 266th victory. The win for the Badgers was also significant in that the program avoided its fourth straight one-and-done appearance in the tournament, setting a date with Michigan State on Saturday. Now can Wisconsin avoid losing three times in one season to the Spartans?
Michigan State 92, Iowa 75
  • It was a game many were watching to see how the Spartans would respond without freshman wing Branden Dawson, who was lost for the year with a torn ACL suffered on Sunday against Ohio State. Those questions were answered by a number of Dawson’s teammates. It was a balanced scoring attack for Michigan State — led by Draymond Green‘s 21 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in just 24 minutes of play — that had 10 players score in the game. If Adreian Payne (16 points, seven rebounds), Travis Trice (nine points) and Brandon Wood (10 points) can all contribute like this, the Spartans are as much a threat as ever. For Iowa, it’s the end of the road for senior Matt Gatens, who averaged 15.7 PPG this year and finishes sixth all-time in career scoring at Iowa.

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Big Ten Morning Five: 03.08.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 8th, 2012

  1. College Basketball coaches are used to selling their program all the time.  Marketing is usually geared towards recruits but March can be a time for lobbying for an NCAA bid if you live on the bubble.  But Northwestern Head Coach Bill Carmody refuses to do that this week.  He understand that the Wildcats control their own destiny if they can beat Minnesota on Thursday.  That won’t make them a shoe-in but should certainly help their case especially if they also give Michigan a great game on Friday. Carmody’s team split the season series against Minnesota as each team held server on its home court.  If Drew Crawford continues to be a force offensively — 23 points against Ohio State and 18 against Iowa — the Wildcats might finally make it to the NCAA Tournament.
  2. With Branden Dawson out for the season, Tom Izzo needs every other Spartan to be healthy and ready to step up over the next few weeks.  Travis Trice re-injured his ankle during practice on Wednesday and had to be carried from practice by a trainer. Trice should get more than 17 minutes per game which has been his average this season.  Look for Izzo to use Brandon Wood as the primary ball-handler and run more offensive plays for Keith Appling.  Whatever it may be, the veteran coach will be trying out a few rotations during the B1G tournament before the Big Dance.
  3. Has any other Big Ten coach received more national coverage over the last month than Bruce Weber? Sports Illustrated published an article about the Illinois coach on Wednesday. Michael Rosenberg makes the case that Weber is being forced out despite having a solid record in the Big Ten (albeit skewed towards the early years).  He also makes a great point that the Big Ten has been a “coaches league,” so the best of the best are going against each other which makes the job very stressful and as a result, programs expect consistent titles in the conference.
  4. Michigan fans have been celebrating all season long, all the way until its shared Big Ten title on Sunday. Whatever happens over the next few weeks, Wolverines fans will be happy for what they got this year.  But they would ask only one more thing from their sophomore star, Tim Hardaway Jr. — to come back for a junior season. Hardaway, Jr., dodged the question about his future in an interview with Grantland, but if he does come back, the trio of himself, Trey Burke and the highly recruited Mitch McGary, the Wolverines might just have their sights set on the 2013 Final Four.
  5. Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger came back for one more season to make something happen in March.  Winning the regular season championship is just one of his checklist items but he has been waiting for postseason play ever since the Buckeyes’ loss to Kentucky a year ago.  Sullinger is anxious to go further than the Sweet Sixteen round, and the sophomore definitely put in the work during the offseason. Thad Matta hopes it will continue to pay off as Ohio State looks to get back to the Final Four for the first time since 2007.
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Big Ten Writer Roundtable: A look at the Big Ten Tourney

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on March 7th, 2012

Big Ten contributors Joey Nowak (@joeynowak), Ryan Terpstra (@terphimself), and Deepak Jayanti (@10thyearseniors) put their heads together and discussed some key questions heading into the Big Ten Tournament.  Here are their thoughts:

1.) What school playing on Thursday has the best shot to win the Big Ten Tournament?

Joey:  I really think any team besides Nebraska and Penn State (though if Tim Frazier heats up, Penn State could have a repeat of last year) has a chance to do damage. Minnesota and Illinois both have talent and nothing to lose. Purdue is playing better, with the experienced Robbie Hummel at the helm, and has a bit of a chip on its shoulder. Iowa has a guy in Matt Gatens they can ride to a win or two. And Northwestern should come in as focused as any team in the tournament, given what’s at stake for the Wildcats.

But the team I would least like to play this weekend is Indiana. The Hoosiers have won four in a row (the last three against quality Big Ten opponents) and seven of their last eight. They should handle Penn State before taking a great shot at Wisconsin on Friday. They are better on defense than they were early in the Big Ten schedule, and can still score with the best of them, thanks to a solid inside-out game. But the intangible of playing in front of a friendly Indianapolis crowd could be a huge boost. It won’t give them the same advantage they’ve held at Assembly Hall this season, but if the last few years are any indication (when they were terrible), the Hoosier faithful will be out in full force. Don’t be surprised to see them playing Sunday.
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