Big Ten Weekly Five: 05.03.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on May 3rd, 2012

  1. Illinois head coach John Groce is wasting no time on the recruiting trail as he recently lured Champaign native Rayvonte Rice away from Drake. Rice will sit out one season but will become eligible in the fall of 2013 and have available playing time after senior guards Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson graduate. Rice led Drake by scoring 16.8 points per game last season as a sophomore and put up solid rebounding numbers for a guard by averaging 5.8 boards per game.
  2. Most college hoops fans believe that conference expansion will only hurt traditional rivalries in football but not necessarily basketball due to the longer non-conference schedule. But the Indiana – Kentucky rivalry may be in jeopardy as the SEC has expanded with the addition of Missouri for the upcoming season, as Tom Crean and John Calipari have been in discussions about keeping the annual game on their schedules despite all the changes. The key issue seems to be whether the game will continue to be a home-and-home or will revert back to a neutral court situation as it was for many years. Regardless of the venue, college basketball fans should not be deprived of a great regional game every season.
  3. One of the most underrated coaches in the nation, Bo Ryan, was recently rewarded with a contract extension at Wisconsin through 2017. The terms were undisclosed but the Badger fans will be happy to see him scowling on the sidelines for another several seasons. Ryan has been in Madison for 11 seasons already and has obviously turned Wisconsin into a perennial Big Ten contender.
  4. Michigan basketball fans would love to skip the next six months and get the new season started. Why wouldn’t they? Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr., are back in Ann Arbor in addition to freshmen studs Mitch McGary and Glen Robinson, III. Robinson and McGary have played together in the past and can’t wait to begin a new chapter of Michigan basketball. With Burke returning, John Beilein has a legitimate contender for another Big Ten title and a Final Four appearance next season.
  5. Tom Izzo’s players continue to face legal trouble during the offseason. First it was Derrick Nix and now it is Brandon Wood. Wood faces misdemeanor charges after being arrested recently in Chicago. Izzo will need to replace Wood’s spot because he has already graduated and will look forward to Travis Trice to mature into a consistent guard in addition to Keith Appling. The last couple seasons have been unusual off the court for Michigan State, but Izzo has made it clear that discipline will not be compromised as he suspended Nix and also let go of Korie Lucious for off-court issues.
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Big Ten Season Wrap-Up: Michigan State

Posted by jnowak on March 29th, 2012

Besides the fact that Michigan State bowed out of the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet Sixteen as a #1 seed, it was an incredible year for Tom Izzo‘s group for no other reason than the fact that the Spartans were  a #1 seed at all. Michigan State began the year unranked and lost its first two games but worked its way to a share of the Big Ten regular season title, the Big Ten Tournament title, and the program’s fourth #1 seed in the Izzo era. And as far as that era is concerned, this year’s group may be one of its best in terms of chemistry, defensive tenacity, and the other qualities that have come to define Michigan State basketball. Here’s a look back at the year that was:

Draymond Green helped Michigan State to a fantastic season nobody saw coming. (AP)

  • In a nutshell: It sounds like a broken record by now, but this team really recaptured what has made Michigan State basketball so great over the years — defense, rebounding, toughness, and chemistry — after it had been lacking, particularly with last year’s group. Draymond Green emerged as one of the best players in college basketball, not to mention the most valuable, with his incredible arsenal of capabilities. Role players like Austin Thornton and Brandon Wood as well as freshmen Travis Trice and Branden Dawson produced. Izzo was not shy in saying how much he loved this team and he had good reason to.
  • Overachievement: Without Delvon Roe, who “retired” before the season after battling chronic knee injuries, it wasn’t clear how the Spartans’ frontcourt would fare. Green is a talented forward who can produce from the left block pretty much at will, but the inside presence of Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne together was really what took the Spartans to the next level. Nix has slowly been progressing over the last two years, but Payne really took a giant leap from his freshman season. Nix jumped from 8.2 minutes per game and 2.7 PPG last year to 18.9 and 8.1, respectively, this season. Payne jumped from nine minutes to 17.9 and 2.5 PPG to seven a night. What made them particularly dangerous, though, was their contrast in styles. Nix is a more traditionally-styled, big-bodied center while Payne is a long, athletic big man. Read the rest of this entry »
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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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Five Bold Big Ten Predictions For the NCAA Tournament

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on March 14th, 2012

It’s my favorite sports time of year!  The NCAA Tournament is here!!!  While we all feverishly try and figure out with first round upset to pick, I have some thoughts on how the Big Ten will perform.  Will the best conference in the country find success in the Big Dance?  Here are Five Bold Predictions

Will Draymond Green have a chance to cut down the nets in another Final Four? (photo: Reuters)

#1 – Hello, Big Ten.  Allow me to embrace you:  The Big Ten was the best conference in college basketball this year, and while the league only got six teams into the Tournament, it has five teams seeded as a #4 seed or higher.  Purdue is the only seed not “favored” in their game, but don’t be surprised if Purdue is favored in Vegas against St. Mary’s.  If you are participating in a pool in Big Ten country, don’t listen to those who call you a homer.  All six Big Ten teams will win in their opening game matchups, and I believe that two of them are headed to the Final Four.

#2 – Don’t buy all this Memphis stuff when it comes to MSU:  Michigan State earned its #1 seed with a great Big Ten tournament performance, and now everyone’s feathers are all ruffled because they think Memphis could upset the Spartans early.  I watched Memphis play earlier this year when they lost to Michigan, and did not come away impressed.  They have great athletes, but I have no faith in Josh Pastner as a big-time coach.  When it comes to quick turnarounds, no one can scout and adjust like Tom Izzo.  It’s almost an art form how well Izzo and his staff prepares MSU for their next NCAA game in less than 48 hours.  Finally, Conference USA is no Big Ten, and when Memphis played outside of their conference they lost to Georgetown (twice), Murray State, Louisville, and Michigan.  Their best win over a tournament team is against Xavier. Michigan State, meanwhile, just won the Big Ten tournament by beating Wisconsin and Ohio State, two wins much more impressive than anything the Tigers have on their resume.  Why should the Spartans be scared again???

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Bracket Prep: West Region Analysis

Posted by AMurawa on March 12th, 2012

Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (9 AM), South (11 AM), Midwest (2 PM), West (4 PM). Here, Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) breaks down the West Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC West Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCwestregion).

You can also check out our RTC Podblast with Andrew breaking down the West Region here.

West Region

Favorite: Michigan State, #1, 27-7. This is the fourth time in the Tom Izzo era that Michigan State has earned a #1 seed. The previous three times (1999, 2000, and 2001), they advanced at least to the Final Four, winning the national title in 2000. Led by likely All-American senior forward Draymond Green, this is, almost without question, the best Spartan team since those teams at the turn of the century. They do have to go forward without injured freshman Branden Dawson, out for the year with a torn ACL, but senior Brandon Wood stepped into his starting spot and he shot the ball well in the Big Ten Tournament this weekend. You can say that there are more talented teams in this region (Missouri and Marquette come to mind), but beating Izzo in March is always easier said than done.

Draymond Green And Michigan State Are The Team To Beat In The West Region (AP)

Should They Falter: Missouri, #2, 30-4. While the Spartans are the favorite, the Tigers are a solid 1-A. The Selection Committee had Mizzou as the #8 overall seed, but they have been excellent all season long behind the most efficient offense in the nation. The Tigers are undersized (only two players taller than 6’6” are in the rotation) and lack depth (they only play seven guys), but head coach Frank Haith gets every last drop out of the guys who do play. And with guards like Marcus Denmon, Kim English, Phil Pressey, and Michael Dixon, they have enough talent on the perimeter to cause plenty of trouble.

Grossly Overseeded: BYU, #14 (First Four), 26-8. I don’t have a whole lot of problems with any of the seeding this year; I think the Selection Committee by and large did a pretty good job. But I’m not sure why BYU is in the tournament. Their lone quality win of the season is over Gonzaga, a team who doesn’t have much in the way of quality wins itself. I would rather have seen a team like Drexel or Oral Roberts (teams admittedly without a ton of big wins either) get the Cougars’ spot. The Dragons and Golden Eagles both had better records against top 50 RPI teams, and both excelled in their conference regular season. I will even take Iona, their First Four opponent, over the Cougs despite a complete lack of quality wins on the Gaels’ resume. The committee gave Iona credit for scheduling a tough non-conference slate, and their strength of schedule out of conference even exceeds BYU’s.

Grossly Underseeded: Missouri, #2, 30-4. I’m having trouble working up a whole lot of outrage about anything in the bracket, but Missouri should not have dropped to the #8 overall seed. To me, they were right in the conversation with Kansas for the #5 overall seed (and I might have given Missouri the edge, although the committee docked them for a relatively tame non-conference schedule). The only difference for the Tigers in terms of their placement in the bracket is that had they earned the #5 overall seed, they would have been dropped in the St. Louis regional instead of being shipped West. But the good news is that they still are in the bracket with the lowest #1 seed. It all works out.

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Big Ten Morning Five: 03.12.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on March 12th, 2012

  1. Michigan State is the Big Ten Tournament champion and Draymond Green is the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. And with that, the Spartans are also the #1 seed in the West region of the NCAA Tournament. But to get there, a multitude of things needed to go right. Michigan State got important help down low from Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne, as well as crucial contributions from senior wings Brandon Wood and Austin Thornton. Without Branden Dawson, there were questions about how far this team could go. What about now? And how about this great photo of Green hoisting the Big Ten Tournament trophy via The State News photographer Justin Wan?
  2. On the other end of that championship game spectrum falls Ohio State, which got a #2 seed in the East region of the tournament. The Buckeyes, who were shooting for an unprecedented third straight Big Ten tournament championship in their fourth consecutive title game, were hindered by foul trouble to Jared Sullinger in the first half and Aaron Craft in the second. The Buckeyes stumbled in conference play, but certainly showed they are capable of playing in New Orleans in a few weeks.
  3. Michigan State and Ohio State aren’t the only two teams dancing. Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Purdue also made the tournament field. BTN.com’s Tom Dienhart takes a look at those Big Ten teams in the field — who’s hot, who’s not, who has the easiest road, who’s likely to be upset, and more.
  4. Notice that none of those teams mentioned above was Northwestern? Once again, the Wildcats are on the outside looking in on the Big Dance, missing out on yet another golden opportunity to break through into the tournament field. The Big Ten Network‘s Tim Doyle chats here with Northwestern coach Bill Carmody about his squad being left out of the NCAA Tournament.
  5. As the Indianapolis Star‘s Bob Kravitz points out, the state of Indiana is full of good stories as it relates to the NCAA Tournament. (The fact that there’s basketball-related excitement coming out of Indiana should come as a shock to no one). From Purdue‘s successes and the determination of Robbie Hummel to the rejuvenation of the Hoosiers under Tom Crean, there is plenty to cheer for at this time of year in the Hoosier State.
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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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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: 03.02.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on March 2nd, 2012

  1. Because of a couple of injury setbacks, Robbie Hummel isn’t the physical player he once was, or he would likely be challenging Draymond Green and Jared Sullinger for Big Ten Player of the Year honors. But the senior has kept his head up through it all and deserves recognition for the way he has finished his career at Purdue. Hummel has really turned it on the last few games, determined to end his time in West Lafayette with a bang.
  2. For weeks, we have been marveling at all the things that Tom Izzo has his Michigan State squad doing right. Now, we are looking at all the things that must change in order for the Spartans to finish the season undefeated at home with a win against Ohio State this weekend and secure the Big Ten title outright. What a difference a loss makes. True enough, Izzo has been saying all season that this team has a high ceiling, but its margin for error can be quite small. Those errors were at work this week in a 70-55 loss to Indiana. Matt Charboneau asks whether Keith Appling can regain his confidence, Brandon Wood can play consistently, and Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne can defend regularly? And can they do it in time to make it count?
  3. Heading down to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Tournament? Tickets? Check. Hotel? Check. Places nearby to eat and enjoy the game? Check. The Indianapolis Star has the all-important guide to where Big Ten fans can enjoy the tournament (outside of Conseco Fieldhouse, of course) during the Tournament. Make sure you check it out so you don’t accidentally stumble into your rival’s bar.
  4. If only Indiana could play all of its NCAA Tournament games at Assembly Hall, then it would certainly be a favorite to reach the Final Four. Still, Grantland’s Shane Ryan says, the Hoosiers could be difficult to deal with come the Big Dance. Indiana has beaten three Top 5 teams this year (Ohio State, Kentucky, and Michigan State) and Ryan says this group is similar to a past Indiana team that garnered some March success. Can Tom Crean replicate that magic?
  5. If you could become just the fifth player in your program’s history to score 1,000 points, pull down 500 rebounds and register 150 blocks and still have your career be considered “underwhelming,” would you take that? That’s how Chip Scoggins sees Ralph Sampson III‘s career at Minnesota as it comes to a close. Scoggins says that, despite having started 113 games for the Golden Gophers, Sampson’s impact on the program has been minimal. What do you think? Would you have expected or hoped for more?
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Big Ten Game On: 02.25.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on February 25th, 2012

Six games this weekend in the Big Ten, and tonight features two of the conference leaders.  Let’s get to it.

Purdue @ #11 Michigan, 6 PM, BTN

Michigan's Senior Night against Purdue will be a big game for Zach Novak and Stu Douglass (US Presswire)

  • The Boilermakers need a win over a ranked opponent really bad.  Like, really, REALLY bad.  That’s because Purdue is 1-5 against teams in the RPI Top 25 and 4-7 against the Top 50.  A win would obviously help those stats out, and possibly put an end to the bubble talk surrounding the Boilermakers’ chances for an invite to the NCAA Tournament.  Robbie Hummel is doing his part, shooting 50% from the field and averaging 24.8 PPG over his last four contests. He also dropped a stat line of 16 points, five boards, and six assists the last time these two teams met, and will be expected to lead again.  Matt Painter will have to devise a plan to slow down the smoking-hot Wolverines, who have won five of their last six and have yet to lose at home this season.  It will be an emotional Senior Night in Ann Arbor, as fan favorites Zach Novak and Stu Douglass will be honored.  Douglass hasn’t missed a game in his Michigan career, while Novak was named the program’s first Academic All-American since 1984.

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Set Your TiVo: 02.17.12 – 02.19.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 17th, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

While BracketBusters is always solid, the overall slate over the next few days is full of good, but not great, games. Still, tune in to these games as conference races head down the stretch and the NCAA Tournament field begins to take shape.

#13 St. Mary’s at #24 Murray State – 6:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN (****)

  • Since losing to Tennessee State, Murray State has rebounded with two wins over Austin Peay and Southeast Missouri State. On Saturday night the Racers will get their chance to show the nation they are for real. Playing at home in front of a juiced up crowd on national television, there is no excuse for Murray State to come out anything less than fired up. The three point line is this team’s best friend on both ends of the floor and it will be important against St. Mary’s. Murray State shoots 41% from deep (#8 nationally) and defends the arc very well. Against a St. Mary’s team that ranks a putrid #305 against the triple, that’s a huge advantage for the Racers at home. Steve Prohm should do everything in his power to ensure Isaiah Canaan (47.3%) and Donte Poole(39.3%) get quality shots from the arc against the porous Gaels’ defense. Defensively, the Racers must lock down the arc as they usually do. St. Mary’s shoots a lot of threes and while they don’t make a great percentage they do get just a shade under 30% of their total points from the arc.

    Isaiah Canaan And Company Could Have A Big Day From Behind The Arc Against St. Mary's Average 3-Point Defense (Getty)

  • St. Mary’s has lost two of its last three games after starting the season 22-2. The Gaels are still a likely NCAA Tournament team, but a win here would ensure their place in the field of 68 for sure. In order to win on the road in a tough environment against a good team, St. Mary’s must use its edge on the offensive glass, make threes and get to the foul line. With strong rebounders like Rob Jones and Brad Waldow, St. Mary’s has a clear size edge over Murray State. Only Ivan Aska and Ed Daniel see significant minutes for the Racers inside, two of only three players on the roster who are at least 6’7” tall. While the Gaels have a huge edge inside, they’re going to have to overcome Murray State’s strong perimeter defense. Matthew Dellavedova and Clint Steindl are going to have to hit threes for Randy Bennett’s team to come out on top. Thirdly, St. Mary’s should look to take advantage of a Murray State defense that ranks in the bottom half of Division I in defensive free throw rate. The Gaels get to the line fairly well and make 71.9% of their free throws. It’s so important to control tempo and keep the crowd out of the game and getting to the charity stripe while controlling the boards definitely helps in achieving that goal.
  • This should be a very close game but the edge has to go to the home team. St. Mary’s is struggling a bit right now and Murray State seems to have righted the ship since suffering its first loss. One concern for the Racers is their turnovers (14 per game). If Murray State controls the ball, plays well on the perimeter and gets to the free throw line at its usual clip, this will be the Racers’ game to lose.
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Four Thoughts on Ohio State vs. Michigan State

Posted by jnowak on February 13th, 2012

It was a Big Ten clash of the titans, filled with big storylines and consequence, and it proved to be a telling game. Michigan State positioned itself as a legitimate threat to Ohio State‘s hopes for winning the conference title, which were once perceived to be all but a sure thing before the Spartans’ 58-48 upset win in Columbus. Here are a few things to take away from Saturday evening’s game:

Jared Sullinger and Draymond Green are in a two-horse race for Big Ten Player of the Year. (Terry Gilliam/AP)

  1. Implications For the Big Ten Race — At the beginning of the year, Ohio State was deemed the clear-cut favorite to take home the conference hardware and, despite a shaky start to Big Ten play, the Buckeyes had really started to emerge as the favorite. But Michigan State has been far more competitive this year than many expected and is now right in the thick of it. It’s easy to envision this conference race coming down to the wire, when Ohio State travels to East Lansing for Michigan State’s Senior Day on March 4. But for now, with the two clubs tied atop the conference standings (one game ahead of Wisconsin and Michigan), they’ve each got to protect the throne. Things get no easier for the Spartans, who now host Wisconsin before traveling to Purdue and Minnesota. The Buckeyes also have two road games coming up, going to Michigan and at home versus Minnesota. Both scenarios leave plenty of room for the Wolverines and Badgers to creep back into the mix, so things remain as up for grabs as ever. Read the rest of this entry »
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