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Archive for the ‘Preview/Prediction’ Category

Michigan hoops preview: #10 Michigan State

Saturday, February 6th, 2016


UM-MSU
Michigan vs Michigan State
Saturday, Feb. 6 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 2 p.m. EST | CBS
Line: Michigan +3.5
Offense
76.9 Points/gm 79.0
(627-1,296) 48.4 Field Goal % 47.8 (651-1,362)
(240-588) 40.8 3-pt FG % 41.4 (195-471)
(275-372) 73.9 Free Throw % 72.4 (320-442)
12.0 FT Made/gm 13.9
32.7 Reb/gm 43.1
15.7 Assists/gm 10.4
9.8 Turnovers/gm 12.0
Defense
65.0 Points/gm 62.4
(551-1,287) 42.8 Field Goal % 36.7 (492-1,341)
(161-481) 33.5 3-pt FG % 28.2 (120-426)
32.2 Opp. Reb/gm 30.4
5.5 Steals/gm 4.3
2.4 Blocks/gm 5.4
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (17.6), Duncan Robinson (12.5) Points/gm Denzel Valentine (18.5), Bryn Forbes (13.6)
Derick Walton (5.8), Caris LeVert (5.4) Reb/gm Matt Costello (8.3), Denzel Valentine (7.8)

Michigan’s Big Ten title hopes suffered a big setback on Tuesday night when Indiana came into the Crisler Center and humbled the Wolverines with a 80-67 rout. The final score doesn’t reflect just how far apart the two teams were. Indiana shot the lights out and put themselves in great position to play for the conference title.

Michigan gets a chance to bounce back this afternoon when in-state rival Michigan State comes to town. The Spartans are a game behind Michigan in the Big Ten standings at 6-4, but since a three-game losing streak they have rattled off three straight wins. One of those was a 74-65 win over No. 7 Maryland and the last two were by a combined 65 points over Northwestern and Rutgers.

Michigan State is led by senior Denzel Valentine (6-foot-5, 220), who averages 18.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game. He’s pretty much a lock for Big Ten Player of the Year unless he falls apart the rest of the season. He ranks second in the Big Ten in scoring, fifth in rebounding, and first in assists. His 3.2 three-point field goals made per game are tied with Duncan Robinson for tops in the conference, though he has made 16 fewer. He has two triple-doubles and four more double-doubles this season with a high of 32 points against Boise State on Nov. 27. In his last four games he has made 19-of-34 three-point attempts including six in two of those.

Senior guard Bryn Forbes (6-foot-3, 190) ranks second on the team in scoring with 13.6 points per game and leads the team with a 48.2 percent three-point average. He has been a hot and cold scorer in Big Ten play. In the Spartans’ four losses, he averaged just five points per game on 6-of-27 (22.2%) shooting from the field and 3-of-18 (16.7%) three-point shooting. In the six wins, he has averaged 18.2 points on 38-of-73 (52.0%) shooting from the field and 26-of-44 (59.1%) three-point shooting. Michigan can let Valentine get his points, but must focus on holding Forbes in check.

Redshirt junior guard Eron Harris (6-foot-3, 185) is the third Spartan averaging double figures at 10.0 points per game. He’s a capable three-point shooter at 39.7 percent, though he attempts half as many Valentine and Forbes. Harris has raised his scoring during Big Ten play, averaging 11.9 points per contest after averaging 8.5 in the non-conference.

Senior forward Matt Costello (6-foot-9, 245) is the brute down low, averaging 9.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. The rebounding ranks second in the Big Ten behind only Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan and he leads the Big Ten with 2.7 offensive rebounds per game. Like Harris, Costello has raised his play in the conference season, averaging 12.3 points and 10.8 rebounds since Dec. 29 with six double-doubles in 10 games.

Freshman forward Deyonta Davis (6-foot-10, 240) has started the last five games in place of sophomore guard Lourawls Nairn Jr (5-foot-10, 175), who has been sidelined with plantar fasciitis. Davis hasn’t been a big scorer as of late — 16 points combined in his last three games — but does average eight points per game on the seasons. He ranks third in the Big Ten with two blocked shots per game and second with a 63.6 percent field goal rate. Nairn, meanwhile, started all 18 games before his injury, averaging 4.1 points and 4.5 assists per contest.

Junior forward Gavin Schilling (6-foot-9, 250) is another big body inside, averaging 4.3 points and 3.5 boards per outing. He missed the first 11 games of the season due to turf toe and has averaged 12.4 minutes per game since his return. His most important asset for Tom Izzo is his interior defense where he has both size and quickness to defend other bigs.

Freshman guard Matt McQuaid (6-foot-5, 190), junior guard Alvin Ellis (6-foot-4, 205), and redshirt freshman forward Kenny Goins (6-foot-6, 225) are the other regular contributors off the bench. McQuaid is a three-point shooter, averaging 42.2 percent, but has attempted only 45, which would rank sixth on Michigan’s team. Ellis isn’t a great shooter at 38.6 percent from the field and 35 percent from three-point range. He averages 2.6 points. Goins provides 9.7 minutes per game, but averages just 1.7 points and 2.8 rebounds.

As a team, Michigan State has the Big Ten’s best defense, allowing just 62.5 points per game and holding opponents to 36.7 percent shooting from the field and 27.8 percent from three-point range. Michigan struggled with Indiana’s defensive pressure on Tuesday and the Hoosiers rank in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten defensively. If Michigan is forcing the same bad shots they did against IU, it will be a long day. If they move the ball and get off good shots they can compete with the Spartans, and if they can avoid the long drought that doomed them against IU and keep the home crowd into the game, Michigan can come away with a win. But I think Michigan State has too much size and will hand Michigan its second straight defeat.

Michigan hoops preview: #22 Indiana

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016


UM-Indiana
Michigan vs Indiana
Tuesday, Feb. 2 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 9 p.m. EST | ESPN
Line: Michigan -3
Offense
77.4 Points/gm 85.2
(600-1,234) 48.6 Field Goal % 51.7 (667-1,291)
(233-565) 41.2 3-pt FG % 43.2 (220-509)
(269-361) 74.5 Free Throw % 71.8 (321-447)
12.2 FT Made/gm 14.6
32.8 Reb/gm 38.2
16.0 Assists/gm 16.7
9.8 Turnovers/gm 14.6
Defense
64.4 Points/gm 68.5
(518-1,221) 42.4 Field Goal % 43.4 (558-1,287)
(151-451) 33.5 3-pt FG % 33.3 (125-375)
31.6 Opp. Reb/gm 30.0
5.7 Steals/gm 7.4
2.5 Blocks/gm 4.3
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (17.6), Duncan Robinson (12.5) Points/gm Yogi Ferrell (17.5), James Blackmon (15.8)
Derick Walton (5.9), Caris LeVert (5.4) Reb/gm Troy Williams (6.5), Thomas Bryant (5.5)

After sweeping its easiest four-game stretch of the Big Ten season, Michigan returns home Tuesday to kick off a much more difficult second half of the conference slate against Indiana. Meanwhile, the Hoosiers come into the game after a pretty worry-free first half of their own.

Seven of Michigan’s last nine games will come against teams with a winning conference record, and none will be bigger than Tuesday’s matchup against an Indiana team currently tied at the very top. The Hoosiers, though they’ve yet to play any of the Big Ten’s top six teams, are 8-1 and winners of 13 of their last 14 games.

With top-five duo Maryland and Iowa setting the pace, Michigan will have to put together a string of quality wins in February to earn a double bye in next month’s Big Ten Tournament. That journey begins Tuesday night.

Here are three keys to the game.

1. Bielfeldt is back

It’s been a wild ride for former Michigan forward Max Bielfeldt over the last 12 months, going from bench warmer to rotation center to starting big man at Indiana.

Calves came out of nowhere in 2015, playing more than 20 minutes in eight of Michigan’s final 14 games. The redshirt junior topped 20 minutes only once in the team’s first 18 games: A four-point effort against Detroit.

But now Bielfeldt is a major contributor for the Hoosiers, averaging 8.1 points and 4.6 rebounds in 17 minutes per game. He’s also raised his field goal percentage by more than 10 percentage points, shooting a stellar 58.2 percent from the floor.

As a graduate transfer, this will be Bielfeldt’s last game at the Crisler Center, but Michigan fans will see a much different player than the one who came off of John Beilein’s bench with a minute left in blowouts. Bielfeldt is more involved on both ends of the floor with the Hoosiers and has scored in double figures nine times this season.

Beilein said on Monday that he didn’t agree with the NCAA allowing Bielfeldt to transfer to another Big Ten school. That quote alone will tell you Bielfeldt’s old coach understands the veteran’s value on the court.

2. To Caris, or not to Caris?

While the mysterious absence of Caris LeVert in Michigan’s backcourt continues to drag on, both sides of Tuesday’s matchup are focused squarely on one question: Will he play?

But regardless of LeVert’s status, the more appropriate question for Michigan fans might be, “Should he play?”

That’s no knock on LeVert. The senior guard is clearly the team’s most valuable player, leading the way in points, assists and rebounds before his “lower leg” injury. But it’s worth wondering if such a big stage is the right time for Beilein to pull the trigger.

Since LeVert hit the bench, Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton have really stepped up their play. Irvin is making a concerted effort to drive to the basket and find his teammates while Walton is filling LeVert’s absence on the defensive boards.

With the offense starting to click in its current rotation, is it the right time to reinsert a player like LeVert, who not only demands the basketball in his hands on most of the team’s possessions, but also might be knocking off a month’s worth of rust?

The obviously problem is that, with Michigan’s upcoming schedule, there’s really no good time to make the transition. The Wolverines only have two opponents left on their schedule — Northwestern and Minnesota — that they can beat without playing a solid game. With having LeVert ready by March as Beilein’s primary goal, he might have to bite the bullet and accept the growing pains that’ll come from putting LeVert back on the court.

Would the future first-round draft pick agree to come off the bench? If so, that might be a good way to ease him back into the flow of things. LeVert has never suggested to be a player with a huge ego, but coming off the bench would definitely be a transition for the third-year starter.

Michigan has been very vague about the nature of LeVert’s injury, so we probably won’t get an answer to our questions until he trots onto the court.

3. Protect this house

Michigan will play perhaps the most difficult second-half schedule in the Big Ten, but it can at least watch its destiny play out on its own turf.

Over the next five weeks, Michigan will host Indiana, Michigan State, Purdue, Northwestern and Iowa at the Crisler Center. That means before the conference title is decided, four of Michigan’s five greatest competitors for the conference crown will take a trip to Ann Arbor.

If the Wolverines can take care of business on their home court, the path to the Big Ten championship will run along Stadium Boulevard.

The Hoosiers didn’t make the trip north last season as the only meeting between these two teams came at Assembly Hall. In fact, last time Indiana saw Crisler, Michigan was cutting the nets and getting ready to raise another banner.

Michigan’s 84-80 win over the Hoosers on March 8, 2014, put the cherry on top of another Big Ten title for Beilein’s squad. Michigan polished off a 23-7 regular season with a 9-5 run in the final minute to hold off Tom Crean’s upset attempt. After a Stanford Robinson bucket tied the game at 75 with under 90 seconds to go, a Glenn Robinson 3-pointer and six perfect free throws sent Michigan into the conference tournament with a No. 1 seed.

Tuesday night’s game will begin with a much different feel. Michigan, for one, is unranked and expected to be a middling seed when it heads to Indianapolis. Meanwhile Indiana, at 18-4 overall, has its eyes set on a top-three seed in the Big Dance.

But those differences don’t change the importance of this game. Michigan can’t afford to drop home games like this if it hopes to emerge as a true contender. This appears to be a bit of a validation game for two teams hoping to keep pace with loaded rosters like the Hawkeyes and Terps.

Michigan’s guards will have their hands full with Ferrell on defense, but Indiana’s athleticism in the front court might be the biggest deciding factor in this contest. With eyes on LeVert, Bielfeldt, Crean and Ferrell in his last trip to Crisler, it should be an entertaining matchup to kick off February in the Big Ten.

Jim Harbaugh’s party guests, ranked

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016


Harbaugh(Getty Images)

Jim Harbaugh sure knows how to throw a party.

Whether it’s a sleepover on the floor of a high school senior’s bedroom, an appearance on Judge Judy, or a National Signing Day celebration, Harbaugh only knows how to do it one way.

He does it BIG.

On Wednesday, Harbaugh will return from a fortnight of country-wide tree climbing and birthday cake baking to officially welcome his first full recruiting class to the halls of the Maize and Blue. But he won’t be sitting beside the fax machine, chewing his fingernails in anticipation of LOIs from high school players.

Instead, Jim Harbaugh will be hosting a few special guests.

What kind of guests? I’m glad you asked.

From current NFL stars to pop culture idols to chain-smoking former MLB managers, this party is sure to have it all. Naturally, I’m going to put these guests into a special edition of the M&GB power rankings (we’ll be sure to update this list as soon as Donald Trump and Bruce Jenner RSVP).

20. Todd McShay
Todd McShay

It’s only fitting that our list kicks off with a savvy little under-the-radar invite from Harbaugh. Although McShay isn’t exactly an American household name, he fits two of the major criteria that 21st Century recruits crave: national television and the NFL.

What better way for Harbaugh to compliment his NFL pedigree than bringing in half of ESPN’s draft debating duo? McShay is an immediate reminder that playing for Harbaugh means a chance to move on to the next level — just ask Jake Rudock.

19. Lou Holtz
Lou Holtz

Thpeaking of sporth broadcathterth, Lou Holth ith altho heading to Ann Arbor. Holtz adds something even Harbaugh doesn’t have to the party: A college football national championship.

If you can look past his “Notre Dame is still 1940s dominant” mentality and the fact that he once compared Rich Rodriguez to Adolph Hitler on national television, Holtz is actually a pretty nice addition.

Just don’t ask him to blow out the candles on the cake.

18. Derek Holland

Derek Holland(AP)

For the non-baseball fanatics, Holland is one of the hidden gems on this guest list. Sure, a simple ESPN search will tell you he’s a soft-throwing, oft-injured southpaw with mediocre career stats. But off the field, Holland has the social arsenal to be the life of the party.

As the five-star recruits pour in from all over the country, Holland can christen their unity with Ann Arbor in the soothing drawl of Harry Caray or the dulcet tones of Tim Kurkjian. Holland’s impression game is so strong, he even does impressions of celebrities doing impressions of other celebrities.

How did this unlikely union between Holland and Harbaugh come to be? It all started on a fateful August evening in downtown Detroit. Harbaugh was set to throw out the first pitch at a Tigers game, and Holland was in right field wearing a Winged Helmet. The rest is a story for another time.

17. Jack Kennedy
Jack Kennedy

No, not THAT Jack Kennedy.

Among the Michigan football alums returning for this remarkable gathering is one of the most efficient passers in the school’s history. Kennedy finished his Michigan career with a perfect completion percentage and an average of six yards per rush.

Even more impressively, the quarterback-turned-rapper opened for Lil’ Wayne back in June when Weezy came to Joe Louis Arena. If he can rock the “Big Show at the Joe,” he can probably handle Hill Auditorium.

16. Randy Sklar
Randy Sklar

Randy Sklar enters the party as a rare five-tool social talent. He went to Michigan, joined a frat, worked for ESPN, became a professional comedian, and appeared on several huge T.V. shows. Harbaugh just couldn’t pass on such a well-rounded talent.

Sklar appeared on shows like CSI, Law & Order, Entourage, Grey’s Anatomy, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. He’ll be asked to play the charismatic Michigan-salesman on this episode of Signing of the Stars.

15. Jim Leyland

Jim Leyland(Ronald Martinez)

Ah yes, the Skipper. Can you imagine a conversation between these two Jims? Harbaugh would put so much effort into understanding Leyland’s mumbling and bumbling that he’d probably blow a gasket. Harbaugh’s post-talk slap on the back would send the former Tigers manager to his knees.

Luckily, Hill Auditorium has exits to the left, right, and center of the main entrance, so Leyland can avoid most of the young’uns and take plenty of smoke breaks.

14. Jon Jansen
Jon Jansen(Taylor Baucom, The Players’ Tribune)

Jansen is valuable in that he brings an almost Harbaugh-level enthusiasm for Michigan football. As emcee of the Michigan Football Bust last year, he brought an enthusiasm unknown to mankind in his sendoff for Coach Brady Hoke.

Jansen adds to the NFL experience in the room. He was drafted in the second round in 1999 and played 137 games on the offensive line.

13. Jessica Szohr
Jessica Szohr

If you were starting to think, ‘Wow, there are a lot of dudes going to this party,’ fear not, because Jessica Szohr will also make an appearance.

I won’t even pretend that I know how Harbaugh managed to bring Szohr to Ann Arbor for this event. Maybe she’s an undercover hardcore football fan? Or simply couldn’t say no to Harbaugh’s boyish charm?

Either way, Szohr has some impressive credentials. Her biggest role was Vanessa Abrams — which I think will especially appeal to Gossip Girl diehards like Rashan Gary — and even guest starred in an episode of Drake and Josh, which takes the cake for me.

12. Mayer Hawthorne
mayer-hawthorne

Now that I’ve done a little research and confirmed that Mayer Hawthorne isn’t actually a mayor, I think he’s a strong addition to Harbaugh’s party list.

Lame jokes aside, this guy is all over the music industry. He’s a singer, songwriter, producer, rapper, and DJ and he plays a ton of instruments. I’m not sure how Harbaugh got in touch with the Mayer, but it’s another notch on his popularity belt.

11. Josh Gracin
Josh Gracin

Let’s face it, country music has made a huge comeback over the last several years and it’s not going away.

Not only is Josh Gracin a product of Westland, Michigan, but he also went to school at Western before joining the Marine Corps. He’s a big-name musician in his prime and that’s a major plus on National Signing Day.

Oh yeah, and he picked up bonus points for being on American Idol way back when it was cool. There’s no shame in losing to the likes of Clay Aiken.

10. Phil Hellmuth
Phil Hellmuth

It’s almost like Harbaugh is trying to collect the best of the best in every sport (or activity). Hellmuth has a record 14 World Series of Poker bracelets and won the Main Event in 1989 and the World Series of Poker Europe in 2012.

The Poker Brat might just sit at a table in the corner with his sunglasses on, staring menacingly at the rest of the room with his fingers interlocked, but anyone who musters up the courage to start a conversation with him will surely learn a lot about overreaction and intimidation.

9. David Portnoy
Milton, MA 022511 Dave Portnoy (cq) is the publisher of Barstool Sports empire which he puts out his Milton office. He and his blogger / vlogger Jenna Mourey (cq) were photographed at his office on February 25, 2011. (Essdras M Suarez/ Globe Staff)/ MET

This is one of the unbelievably amazing names that might be unappreciated on the list. El Presidente did the entire world a huge favor when he started Barstool Sports and he’s one of the best follows on Twitter.

Portney will be an easier guy to approach at the party, but I think a conversation with him will be the most entertaining on campus. This’ll also be a bit of a reunion for Portney, who went to high school with McShay in Massachusetts.

8. Denard Robinson

(Daniel Brenner, AnnArbor.com)

He may not be the biggest name on this list, but there’s no way Shoelace wasn’t making my top 10.

Denard Robinson was the single player who made watching Michigan football bearable from 2009-2012. In an offensive era defined by terrible coaching and broken plays, Denard turned bad snaps and missed blocks into 60-yard touchdown runs. He was the best athlete every time he took the field, and didn’t make a peep when he lost his starting job due to injury.

And in a world of domestic violence, drunk driving, and banned substance abuse, it’s refreshing to remember a character like Denard Robinson.

7. Migos
Migos

All you need to know about this hip hop trio is they call themselves Migos and their names are Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff. They work under the former manager for Gucci Mane, which I think makes them pretty cool, and I’m sure Harbaugh heard their name on the recruiting trail a few times.

Hey, they’re no 2 Chainz, but they’ll have to do.

6. Brad Keselowski
Brad Keselowski(Geoff Burke, Getty Images)

I’m certainly not much of a NASCAR expert, but a quick Google search told me Keselowski finished seventh in the Sprint Cup standings last season.

If top 10 is good enough for Harbaugh, it’ll be good enough for the recruits. Keselowski has won at some of the biggest racetracks in the country and even has a Sprint Cup championship under his belt. As NASCAR’s biggest Michigan football fan, he’ll fit right in.

5. Mike Shanahan
Mike Shanahan(Getty Images)

We’re getting down into elite territory now, and my top 5 will start with the most accomplished coach attending the event.

Shanahan has been out of the NFL for a few years now, but his nearly two decades of head coaching experience is highlighted by three Super Bowl championships and 178 career wins.

In a building full of football fanatics, Shanahan’s three rings will shine even brighter than Quavo’s chains.

4. Desmond Howard
Desmond Howard

This was probably the easiest sell of the year for Harbaugh, but that doesn’t take away from how valuable Howard’s presence will be.

Howard is one of the greatest players in Michigan history as a Heisman Trophy winner and author of one of the program’s most memorable moments. He’s an unabashed homer for the Wolverines on the most popular football pregame show in the world and won’t hesitate to do whatever he can to help Harbaugh in his pursuit of the best players in the country.

Des will give new Michigan players an early taste of what Ann Arbor love really looks like.

3. Ric Flair
Ric Flair

Ever since Harbaugh said he would love to host WrestleMania at the Big House, he’s been a popular guy in professional wrestling circles. He specifically said he wanted to referee a bout between Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan, which likely kicked off the relationship that brought the former wrestler onto this list.

Wrestling isn’t as popular as it used to be, but Harbaugh’s sudden in with pro wrestlers is one of the things that is so Harbaugh you can’t help but admire it. Flair, like Keselowski and Holland, demonstrates another corner of the sporting world Harbaugh has taken over.

2. Derek Jeter
Derek Jeter

Every fanbase has its crowned jewels, and Derek Jeter is one Michigan fans hold close to their hearts. When Jeter shows his support for the Wolverines, Michigan football gains even more credibility.

It couldn’t have been difficult to get Jeter to Ann Arbor for this party after he spent a full night partying at Rick’s in the fall. The Captain also came to the Big House for a game this season and stood on the Michigan sideline. It’s obvious that Harbaugh is working to keep Michigan’s most famous fans in the loop.

1. Tom Brady
Tom Brady(AP)

Nobody on this list even comes close to matching Tom Brady. Even though he only started for two seasons at Michigan and fell to the 6th round of the NFL draft, Brady is one of the greatest players to ever step on the field.

When Brady walks into the hall with his four Super Bowl rings, two MVP awards, 11 Pro Bowls, and nearly 60,000 career passing yards, he’ll be the absolute center of attention. Brady alone has turned half the state of Michigan into devoted Patriots fans and when his face pops up on the Big House scoreboard, the responding cheer is unmatched.

Brady is probably the most loved Michigan player of all time, and might retire as the greatest football player in history, so he grabs the top spot on this star-studded list.

While the event is drawing big names from all corners of the sports and entertainment world, I would be remiss not to mention the ChadTough Foundation, which will be the biggest beneficiary of the event. Proceeds from tickets sold to the event will go to the foundation, and Michigan donor Ira Harris announced that he will match any donation at the event up to $50,000. Whether you’re going to the event, following The Players’ Tribune’s live stream, or stuck at work, head on over to the foundation’s website and make a donation to help fight DIPG.

Wednesday is sure to be a big day for Michigan football, wrapping up one of the top recruiting classes in the country with a party full of stars on hand and all benefiting a great cause.

Who’s got it better than us?

No-body!

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Feb. 2

Monday, February 1st, 2016


Power Rankings_header

Despite losing to Maryland, Iowa hangs on to the top spot, but the Terrapins gained ground and leaped Indiana. Michigan and Michigan State both also moved up a spot, while Purdue dropped two. The rest of the power rankings remained the same with the exception of Penn State and Illinois trading places for the second straight week.

1. Iowa (17-4, 8-1) – Even – 1.3 (Last week: 1.0)
Last Week: Lost to #8 Maryland 68-74, Beat Northwestern 85-71
This Week: Wednesday vs Penn State, Sunday at Illinois

“Iowa dropped a tight game on the road at Maryland but still looks to be in great shape for the conference crown,” said Sam.

“There aren’t many losable games remaining on Iowa’s schedule, and certainly none this week,” said Justin. “The Hawkeyes should hold onto the top spot for another week, but will then face Indiana next week.”

2. Maryland (19-3, 8-2) – Up 1 – 1.7 (Last week: 3.7)
Last Week: Beat #3 Iowa 74-68, Beat Ohio State 66-61
This Week: Wednesday at Nebraska, Saturday vs #18 Purdue

“Maryland had an immensely impressive week, knocking off undefeated Iowa and following it with a win in Columbus,” said Derick.

3. Indiana (18-4, 8-1) – Down 1 – 3.0 (Last week: 2.0)
Last Week: Lost at Wisconsin 79-82 (OT), Beat Minnesota 74-68
This Week: Tuesday at Michigan, Saturday at Penn State

“Indiana has a chance to really solidify itself as a contender with a win at Michigan, which is staring down the barrel of a gauntlet schedule,” said Derick.

4. Michigan (17-5, 7-2) – Up 1 – 4.0 (Last week 5.0)
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 68-57, Beat Penn State 79-72
This Week: Tuesday vs #22 Indiana, Saturday vs #10 Michigan State

“A couple more unimpressive wins from Michigan keeps them in the competition for now, but a tougher stretch beckons,” said Sam. “The Wolverines look to have the most to gain this week with monumental home matchups against Indiana and Michigan State – win one and they hold serve, win both and they are serious Big Ten contenders and will vie for a top-5 seed; lose both and things get interesting…in a bad way.”

“This is a make or break week for Michigan’s Big Ten title hopes,” said Justin. “The Wolverines are solidly in the NCAA Tournament, barring a complete collapse down the stretch, but won’t be able to win the conference if they lose to Indiana and Michigan State this week. Beat both and suddenly they’re one of the frontrunners.”

5. Michigan State (19-4, 6-4) – Up 1 – 5.3 (Last week: 4.3)
Last Week: Beat Northwestern 76-45, Beat Rutgers 96-62
This Week: Saturday at Michigan

“While MSU’s Big Ten title hopes were probably dashed two weeks ago, their shooting is coming along as the calendar turns to February,” said Sam.

6. Purdue (19-4, 7-3) – Down 2 – 5.7 (Last week: 4.0)
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 68-64, Beat Nebraska 89-74
This Week: Saturday at #4 Maryland
7. Wisconsin (13-9, 5-4) – Even – 7.0 (Last week: 7.0)
Last Week: Beat #19 Indiana 82-79 (OT), Beat Illinois 63-55
This Week: Thursday vs Ohio State
8. Ohio State (14-9, 6-4) – Even – 8.0 (Last week: 8.3)
Last Week: Beta Penn State 64-44, Beat Illinois 68-63 (OT), Lost to #8 Maryland 61-66
This Week: Thursday at Wisconsin

“Michigan State and Wisconsin are starting to round into form, while Ohio State keeps falling just short of a statement win,” said Derick.

“It’s becoming clearer by the week that this conference is poised to get six teams into the Big Dance, but Wisconsin and Ohio State could hypothetically play themselves in with incredible finishes in the back half of their conference seasons,” said Sam. “I wouldn’t put money on it, however.”

9. Nebraska (12-10, 4-5) – Even – 9.0 (Last week: 8.7)
Last Week: Lost to #21 Purdue 74-89
This Week: Wed vs #4 Maryland, Saturday vs Rutgers
10. Northwestern (15-8, 3-7) – Even – 10.7 (Last week: 10.0)
Last Week: Lost to #12 Michigan State 45-76, Lost at #3 Iowa 71-85
This Week: Thursday vs Minnesota
11. Penn State (11-11, 2-7) – Up 1 – 11.0 (Last week: 12.0)
Last Week: Lost at Ohio State 46-66, Lost to Michigan 72-79
This Week: Wednesday at #5 Iowa, Saturday vs #22 Indiana
12. Illinois (10-12, 2-7) – Down 1 – 11.3 (Last week: 11.0)
Last Week: Lost to Ohio State 63-68 (OT), Lost to Wisconsin 55-63
This Week: Wednesday at Rutgers, Sunday vs #5 Iowa
13. Minnesota (6-16, 0-10) – Even – 13.0 (Last week: 13.0)
Last Week: Lost to #21 Purdue 64-68, Lost to #19 Indiana 68-74
This Week: Wednesday vs #21 Purdue, Saturday at #19 Indiana
14. Rutgers (6-16, 0-9) – Even – 14.0 (Last week: 14.0)
Last Week: Lost at Michigan 57-68, Lost at #12 Michigan State 62-96
This Week: Wednesday vs Illinois, Saturday at Nebraska

“Northwestern’s season has crumbled into irrelevance, and Minnesota and Rutgers are still winless,” said Derick.

“Rutgers seems set to maintain their cold spot in the gutter throughout the season while Minnesota has shown signs of life while still seeking their first win after losing by six or fewer at Michigan, vs. Illinois, vs. Purdue, and at Indiana over the last two weeks,” said Sam.

Michigan hoops preview: Penn State

Saturday, January 30th, 2016


UM-PennState
Michigan vs Penn State
Saturday, Jan. 30 | New York, N.Y. | 12 p.m. EST | Big Ten Network
Line: Michigan -10
Offense
77.3 Points/gm 65.7
(575-1,179) 48.8 Field Goal % 41.3 (476-1,153)
(227-545) 41.7 3-pt FG % 29.9 (120-402)
(246-330) 74.5 Free Throw % 69.4 (308-444)
11.7 FT Made/gm 14.7
32.8 Reb/gm 34.6
16.1 Assists/gm 9.5
10.0 Turnovers/gm 11.2
Defense
64.0 Points/gm 68.5
(492-1,159) 42.5 Field Goal % 42.1 (482-1,145)
(142-422) 33.6 3-pt FG % 37.0 (153-413)
31.4 Opp. Reb/gm 35.6
5.6 Steals/gm 5.0
2.5 Blocks/gm 4.4
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (17.6), Duncan Robinson (12.6) Points/gm Brandon Taylor (16.0), Shep Garner (13.5)
Derick Walton (5.7), Caris LeVert (5.4) Reb/gm Brandon Taylor (5.8), Payton Banks (5.1)

Michigan invades Madison Square Garden on Saturday afternoon for the final game of the “easy” portion of its schedule. It’s foolish to call any conference game easy, but compared to the final nine games this is one of the likeliest remaining wins. With Indiana and Michigan State on the docket next week, Michigan needs to take care of business against the Nittany Lions in New York on Super Saturday.

Michigan beat Penn State 79-56 in Ann Arbor on Jan. 2 with a balanced effort of 16 points from Zak Irvin and Mark Donnal, 14 from Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, and 13 from Aubrey Dawkins. Penn State, meanwhile, had just one player in double figures, senior forward Brandon Taylor (6-foot-6, 225), who scored 18. Taylor leads the team with 16 points per game. He scored a season high 29 points against Kent State in the final game before conference play and has scored in single digits just twice all season, not at all since Dec. 22.

Sophomore guard Shep Garner (6-foot-1, 185) is the team’s second leading scorer, averaging 13.5 points per game. He managed just six points — his second fewest in Big Ten play to date — on 2-of-10 shooting in the first meeting. He’s the team’s best three-point shooter at 35.5 percent, but has made just four of his last 21 attempts over the last five games.

Sophomore forward Payton Banks (6-foot-6, 220) averages 10.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. He was held scoreless the last time these two teams played on 0-of-5 shooting and has had an up and down conference season. He followed up his goose egg with a 24-point outing against Minnesota, but then scored just five against Michigan State and two against Purdue.

Freshman guard Josh Reaves (6-foot-4, 190) scored six in the first meeting, which is right on his season average of 6.4, but is out with mono. Senior guard Devin Foster (6-foot-2, 205) starts in his place, averaging four points per game. He scored four in 20 minutes in the first meeting.

The fifth starter is senior center Jordan Dickerson (7-foot-1, 245), who averages just 3.2 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. He leads the team with 1.7 blocks per game. Despite being a starter and despite his size, he averages just 17.7 minutes per game and hasn’t reached double figures yet this season.

Sophomore forward Julian Moore (6-foot-10, 235), senior forward Donovan Jack (6-foot-9, 210), freshman forward Deividas Zemgulis (6-foot-6, 220), and redshirt freshman guard Isaiah Washington (6-foot-3, 160) are the other contributors. Washington was the team’s second leading scorer against Michigan on Jan. 2 with nine points, but he hasn’t scored more than five in any other game this season. In fact, he hasn’t scored a point in his last four games.

As a team, Penn State averages 12 fewer points per game than Michigan and allows 4.5 more. Their offense ranks last in the Big Ten in points per game and 10th in scoring defense. Penn State is also the worst shooting team (41.3 percent) and three-point shooting team (29.9 percent) in the conference.

Michigan won the first meeting by 23 points and is favored by 10 in this one. With a big alumni base in New York, the crowd will be far more pro-Michigan than if the game was in State College, and Michigan typically plays well in Madison Square Garden. The Wolverines should win comfortably and move to 17-5 overall and 7-2 in the Big Ten.

Michigan hoops preview: Rutgers

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016


UM-Rutgers
Michigan vs Rutgers
Wednesday, Jan. 27 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 7 p.m. EST | Big Ten Network
Line: Michigan -23.5
Offense
77.8 Points/gm 67.8
(555-1,130) 49.1 Field Goal % 41.9 (493-1,176)
(216-517) 41.8 3-pt FG % 31.4 (99-315)
(229-310) 73.9 Free Throw % 68.2 (272-399)
11.5 FT Made/gm 13.6
33.0 Reb/gm 35.4
16.1 Assists/gm 11.5
10.0 Turnovers/gm 13.6
Defense
64.3 Points/gm 78.0
(470-1,109) 42.4 Field Goal % 45.2 (576-1,273)
(139-404) 34.4 3-pt FG % 33.7 (141-418)
31.5 Opp. Reb/gm 41.0
5.8 Steals/gm 6.0
2.5 Blocks/gm 3.7
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (17.6), Duncan Robinson (12.4) Points/gm Corey Sanders (14.1), Deshawn Freeman (13.1)
Derick Walton (5.8), Caris LeVert (5.4) Reb/gm D.J. Foreman (6.2), Deshawn Freeman (5.3)

One of the Big Ten’s two conference unbeatens fell on Tuesday night when Indiana lost to Wisconsin in overtime. That’s good news for Michigan, which is still very much in the conference title race. The Wolverines host Indiana next week and will look to get to 7-2 before then, beginning tonight with Rutgers, which has yet to win a Big Ten game.

Rutgers is 0-7 in conference, fighting with Minnesota for last place. The Scarlet Knights are 6-14 overall with wins over Rutgers-Newark (72-59), Howard (82-70), Central Arkansas (87-84), Central Connecticut State (75-59), Fairleigh Dickinson (72-64), and UMass Lowell (89-66). Since starting conference play, Rutgers has lost by an average of 25 points per game. Last week, they were blown out by Purdue 107-57 and then lost to Iowa by 14.

Rutgers is led by freshman guard Corey Sanders (6-foot-2, 175) who averages 14.1 points and 3.6 assists per game. He’s the second-best three point shooter on the team, shooting 34.1 percent. He scored a season high 23 points against Purdue on 10-of-20 shooting, but went just 4-of-16 overall and 0-for-6 from three-point range against Iowa last Thursday.

Junior forward Deshawn Freeman (6-foot-7, 220) leads the team with 6.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks and ranks second with 13.1 points per game, but has been out since Nov. 30.

Sophomore guard Mike Williams (6-foot-2, 190), sophomore forward D.J. Foreman (6-foot-8, 240), fifth-year senior forward/center Greg Lewis (6-foot-9, 240), and senior guard Omari Grier (6-foot-4, 180) are the other starters. Williams averages 11.7 points, Foreman 8.3, Grier 7.2, and Lewis 4.3. Senior guard Bishop Daniels (6-foot-3, 185) has started eight games and averages 9.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.

As a team, Rutgers has the Big Ten’s second-worst scoring offense (67.8 points per game) and worst scoring defense (78 points per game). Their scoring margin is minus-10.2 points. The next closest is Minnesota at minus-4.3. Rutgers is the third-worst shooting team (41.9 percent) and second-worst three-point shooting team (31.4 percent). They’ve made a conference-low 99 three-pointers. By comparison, Michigan has made 216. Rutgers also has the second-worst field goal defense in the Big Ten, allowing opponents to shoot 45.2 percent.

Per Vegas, Michigan is favored by 23.5 points. Whether or not Michigan covers, it should be a comfortable win and Michigan should improve to 6-2.

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Jan. 26

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016


Power Rankings_header

Last week we introduced our Big Ten power rankings and this week we get on our normal schedule of posting them every Tuesday morning. We see a slight shakeup at the top with Indiana leap-frogging Maryland for the second slot. Four through six remain the same, but Northwestern tumbles three spots. The bottom four remain the bottom four.

1. Iowa (16-3, 7-0) – Even – 1.0 (Last week: 1.0)
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 90-76, Beat #22 Purdue 83-71
This Week: Thursday at #8 Maryland, Sunday vs Northwestern

“Again, there is really nothing to argue over the top two teams and the bottom four or so. I think Iowa is significantly better than Indiana right now despite the Hoosiers’ 12-game winning streak,” said Sam.

2. Indiana (17-3, 7-0) – Up 1 – 2.0 (Last week: 3.7)
Last Week: Beat Illinois 103-69, Beat Northwestern 89-57
This Week: Tuesday at Wisconsin, Saturday vs Minnesota

“It looks like the Big Ten title is a two-horse race, as Iowa and Indiana sit at 7-0 and two games ahead of the pack,” said Derick.

“ndiana is winning big when it should, but there’s no denying their insanely easy early conference schedule and really their conference draw overall (single plays against Purdue, Maryland, Michigan, and Michigan State),” said Sam.

3. Maryland (17-3, 6-2) – Down 1 – 3.7 (Last week: 2.0)
Last Week: Beat Northwestern 62-56 (OT), Lost at #11 Michigan State 65-74
This Week: Thursday vs #3 Iowa, Sunday at Ohio State

“Maryland, perhaps the most talented team in the conference, has suffered two disappointing road losses and thrown away any room for error if it hopes to be back in contention,” said Derick.

4. Purdue (17-4, 5-3) – Even – 4.0 (Last week 4.3)
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 107-57, Beat Ohio State 75-64, Lost at #9 Iowa 71-83
This Week: Wednesday at Minnesota, Saturday vs Nebraska
5. Michigan (15-5, 5-2) – Even – 4.3 (Last week: 5.0)
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 74-69, Beat Nebraska 81-68
This Week: Wednesday vs Rutgers, Saturday vs Penn State (in NYC)

“One more week of breathers before the final stretch begins. Michigan is still in the Big Ten title race and will need to take care of business against two cellar dwellers, Rutgers at home and then Penn State in Madison Square Garden.” said Justin. “Get through those and next week will be fun with Indiana and Michigan State coming to town.”

6. Michigan State (17-4, 4-4) – Even – 6.0 (Last week: 5.7)
Last Week: Lost to Nebraska 71-72, Beat #7 Maryland 74-65
This Week: Thursday at Northwestern, Sunday vs Rutgers

“Purdue, Michigan and Michigan State are the only true fringe contenders who, with a long winning streak, could reenter the conversation,” said Derick.

“Purdue probably has a slight upper had on the third spot while Michigan, Michigan State, and Maryland appear to be very close right now,” said Sam. “If Caris LeVert returns healthy before an up-and-down closing stretch to the conference season, the Wolverines might even move up a couple rungs on the ladder, but it’s tough to see anyone catching Iowa and/or Indiana at this point.”

7. Wisconsin (11-9, 3-4) – Up 1 – 7.0 (Last week: 8.0)
Last Week: Beat Penn State 66-60
This Week: Tuesday vs #19 Indiana, Sunday at Illinois
8. Ohio State (12-8, 4-3) – Up 1 – 8.3 (Last week: 8.7)
Last Week: Lost to #22 Purdue 64-75
This Week: Monday vs Penn State, Thursday at Illinois, Sunday vs #8 Maryland
9. Nebraska (12-9, 4-4) – Up 1 – 8.7 (Last week: 9.3)
Last Week: Beat #11 Michigan State 72-71, Lost to Michigan 68-81
This Week: Saturday at #21 Purdue

“Wisconsin, Nebraska and Ohio State have put their NCAA Tournament hopes on life alert, all hovering around .500 overall,” said Derick. “Those teams, along with an immensely disappointing Northwestern squad, have to be almost perfect the rest of the way to have any hope.”

10. Northwestern (15-6, 3-5) – Down 3 – 10.0 (Last week: 7.3)
Last Week: Lost at #7 Maryland 56-62 (OT), Lost at #25 Indiana 57-89
This Week: Thursday vs #12 Michigan State, Sunday at #3 Iowa

“Wisconsin, Ohio State and Nebraska would need something approximating a miracle to play their way into the Dance, while Northwestern looks poised to once again miss out on its Cinderella shot for about the 214th straight season,” said Sam.

11. Illinois (11-8, 2-4) – Up 1 – 11.0 (Last week: 12.0)
Last Week: Lost at #25 Indiana 69-103, Beat Minnesota 76-71 (OT)
This Week: Thursday vs Ohio State, Sunday vs Wisconsin
12. Penn State (11-9, 2-5) – Down 1 – 12.0 (Last week: 11.0)
Last Week: Lost to Wisconsin 60-66
This Week: Monday at Ohio State, Saturday vs Michigan
13. Minnesota (6-14, 0-8) – Even – 13.0 (Last week: 13.3)
Last Week: Lost to Michigan 69-74, Lost to Illinois 71-76 (OT)
This Week: Wednesday vs #21 Purdue, Saturday at #19 Indiana
14. Rutgers (6-14, 0-7) – Even – 14.0 (Last week: 13.7)
Last Week: Lost to #22 Purdue 57-105, Lost to #9 Iowa 76-90
This Week: Wednesday at Michigan, Sunday at #12 Michigan State

“What’s hurting the Big Ten’s overall strength this season, however, is a brutal basement comprised of Illinois, Penn State, Minnesota, and Rutgers,” said Sam. “I would be surprised if we don’t see at least two of those four teams fire their coaches following such disappointing seasons (and my money’s on Pitino and Groce at this point).”

Michigan hoops preview: Nebraska

Saturday, January 23rd, 2016


UM-Nebraska
Michigan at Nebraska
Saturday, Jan. 23 | Lincoln, Neb. | 2 p.m. EST | ESPN2
Offense
77.6 Points/gm 74.4
(530-1,083) 48.9 Field Goal % 46.3 (529-1,143)
(205-496) 41.3 3-pt FG % 36.2 (131-362)
(209-287) 72.8 Free Throw % 71.1 (300-422)
11.0 FT Made/gm 15.0
33.0 Reb/gm 37.7
15.9 Assists/gm 12.5
9.7 Turnovers/gm 13.0
Defense
64.2 Points/gm 67.1
(422-1,051) 42.1 Field Goal % 41.6 (452-1,086)
(133-382) 34.8 3-pt FG % 33.1 (123-372)
31.9 Opp. Reb/gm 31.8
5.7 Steals/gm 7.1
2.5 Blocks/gm 3.1
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (17.6), Duncan Robinson (11.9) Points/gm Andrew White III (17.0), Shavon Shields (16.1)
Caris LeVert (5.4), Derrick Walton (5.4) Reb/gm Andrew White III (6.1), Shavon Shields (5.3)

After facing three straight ranked opponents — two of them on the road — Michigan got a bit of a breather with a win over Minnesota on Thursday night. Now, they travel to Nebraska for a Saturday afternoon tilt that fits the definition of a trap game. It falls in the middle of a four-game stretch of games Michigan should win before a key set of games against Indiana and Michigan State. But Pinnacle Bank Arena has proven to be a tough place to play, and Michigan hasn’t been great on the road.

Additionally, Nebraska is riding the high of knocking off Michigan State in East Lansing on Wednesday — their fourth straight win after opening Big Ten play 0-3.

Nebraska is led by junior guard Andrew White III (6-foot-7, 216) and senior forward Shavon Shields (6-foot-7, 225). White leads the team with 17 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Shields is second with 16.1 and 5.3. They rank fifth and eighth in the Big Ten, respectively, in points per game. Michigan State limited White to his lowest totals of the season, just seven points and one rebound, due to foul trouble, but the Cornhuskers still won the game. Shields picked up the slack with 28 points on 12-of-20 shooting. White, meanwhile, has scored 28 points twice this season — against Rutgers and Creighton — and scored a season high 30 against Abilene Christian. The Kansas transfer is the team’s best three-point shooter, shooting 43.4 percent. His 53 made threes are more than all Michigan players save Duncan Robinson’s 64.

Shields is less adept at the three, shooting just 30.4 percent, but takes more shots than anyone else on the team, averaging more than 12 per game. He scored 28 points in an overtime loss to No. 21 Miami in December, 25 against Samford, and 24 against Minnesota last week.

Behind White and Shields, junior guard Tai Webster (6-foot-4, 196) averages 9.9 points and four rebounds per game. He has two 20-point games, including a 22-point performance against Iowa, but he followed that up with six points in a 3-of-10 outing against Rutgers. He’s a capable three-point shooter, averaging 40.4 percent, but only averages one-and-a-half attempts per contest.

Freshman guard Glynn Watson Jr (6-foot-0, 165) is the team’s fourth leading scorer, averaging 8.1 points. During the current four game winning streak he’s averaging 12.5 points, including 17 against Illinois and 13 against MSU.

Senior guard Benny Parker (5-foot-9, 175) has started every game, but scores just 4.6 points per game. Despite playing 20 minutes or more in every game, he has scored just six points combined in the last four games. He has a season high 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting against Northwestern in the Big Ten opener, but has managed just 22 points combined in the six games since.

Freshman forward Michael Jacobson (6-foot-8, 222) has started 11 games, averaging 4.2 points, while fellow freshman forward Jack McVeigh has 5.4 points off the bench.

As a team, Nebraska is averaging three points fewer than Michigan and shoots slightly worse all around. They also allow three points more per game than the Wolverines, but their field goal defense is slightly better. In Lincoln, this should be a pretty even contest and Michigan will be happy to come home with a win.

The last — and only other — time Michigan came to Pinnacle Bank Arena, the Wolverines survived with a 71-70 win. Derrick Walton Jr. hit a layup with 23 seconds remaining and Nebraska missed two game winning attempts at the buzzer. They look to do the same, but with a little less drama, this afternoon.

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Jan. 19

Thursday, January 21st, 2016


Power Rankings_header

Rather than starting our Big Ten basketball power rankings at the beginning of the season or even the start of Big Ten play, we decided to wait until we had a few weeks of conference play to evaluate each team. That way we could take into account their whole body of work so far as well as their performance against each other.

Although this week’s rankings are being posted on Thursday morning, they do not take into account Tuesday and Wednesday’s games, as they were voted on prior to them. It just took a couple days to get them posted. Typically, these will be posted on Monday or Tuesday each week before that week’s games.

How it works: Each of our basketball writers (Sam, Derick, Justin) submit their rankings on Sunday night. They are averaged together and the teams are ranked based on average. While they’ll be ranked in order, one through 14, we will include their average ranking, which will show whether they are actually higher or lower than their place in the order.

1. Iowa (14-3, 5-0) – Even – 1.0
Last Week: Beat #4 MSU 76-59, Beat Michigan 82-71
This Week: Thu at Rutgers, Sun vs #22 Purdue

“Iowa is the clear front-runner while Rutgers is the clear bottom-dweller,” said Sam. “In between, there’s plenty of room for debate, but the big divide for me comes between the top six teams in the league and the bottom eight (which I also think will end up being the cut-off point to go dancing).”

2. Maryland (16-2, 5-1) – Even – 2.0
Last Week: Lost to Michigan 67-70, Beat Ohio State 100-65
This Week: Tuesday vs Northwestern, Saturday at #11 Michigan State

“Iowa and Maryland are two of the best teams in the country, but after that, the Big Ten has looked very up and down,” said Derick. “Several of the teams near the bottom are already inching toward disaster.”

“I think Maryland is still the #2 team despite looking a little shaky here and there,” said Sam.

3. Indiana (15-3, 5-0) – Even – 3.7
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 70-63
This Week: Tuesday vs Illinois, Saturday vs Northwestern
4. Purdue (15-3, 3-2) – Even – 4.3
Last Week: Beat Penn State 74-57
This Week: Monday at Rutgers, Thursday vs Ohio State, Sunday at #9 Iowa

“Indiana is on fire and one of the few teams that can truly out-score anyone in the country, while Purdue’s defense is still rock solid,” said Sam.

5. Michigan (13-5, 3-2) – Even – 5.0
Last Week: Beat #3 Maryland 73-67, Lost to #16 Iowa 71-82
This Week: Wednesday vs Minnesota, Saturday at Nebraska

“Michigan just got out of a brutal three-game stretch with an acceptable 1-2 record and will now look to run off four or five straight despite still waiting on Caris LeVert’s return,” said Sam.

“After facing three straight ranked teams, two of them on the road, Michigan has a great chance to put together a solid winning streak with Minnesota, Nebraska, Rutgers, and Penn State coming up before an important two-game stretch against Indiana and Michigan State,” said Justin.

6. Michigan State (16-3, 3-3) – Even – 5.7
Last Week: Lost to #16 Iowa 59-76, Lost to Wisconsin 76-77
This Week: Wednesday vs Nebraska, Saturday at #7 Maryland

“Michigan State is sputtering a bit despite the return of Denzel Valentine, but the loss of Tum Tum Nairns could hurt more than expected – they don’t really have a true backup point guard,” said Sam.

7. Northwestern (15-4, 13-3) – Even – 7.3
Last Week: Beat Wisconsin 70-65, Lost to Penn State 62-71
This Week: Tuesday at #7 Maryland, Saturday at #25 Indiana

“Northwestern will probably have played itself out by the end of this month after a brutal home loss to Penn State, a teaser of a loss at Maryland, and a three-game stretch upcoming of at Indiana, home versus MSU, at Iowa,” said Sam.

8. Wisconsin (10-9, 2-4) – Even – 8.0
Last Week: Lost to Northwestern 65-70, Beat #4 Michigan State 77-76
This Week: Thursday at Penn State
9. Ohio State (12-7, 4-2) – Even – 8.7
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 94-68, Lost to #3 Maryland 65-100
This Week: Thursday at #22 Purdue

“Ohio State still has a big uphill climb to make the Tournament,” said Sam.

10. Nebraska (11-8, 3-3) – Even – 9.3
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 84-59, Beat Illinois 78-67
This Week: Wednesday at #11 Michigan State, Saturday vs Michigan
11. Penn State (11-8, 2-4) – Even – 11.0
Last Week: Lost to #24 Purdue 57-74, Beat Northwestern 71-62
This Week: Thursday vs Wisconsin
12. Illinois (9-9, 1-4) – Even – 12.0
Last Week: Lost to Nebraska 67-78
This Week: Tuesday at #25 Indiana, Saturday at Minnesota
13. Minnesota (6-12, 0-6) – Even – 13.3
Last Week: Lost to Nebraska 69-84, Lost to Indiana 63-70
This Week: Wednesday at Michigan, Saturday vs Illinois
14. Rutgers (6-12, 0-5) – Even – 13.7
Last Week: Lost to Ohio State 68-94
This Week: Monday vs #22 Purdue, Thursday vs #9 Iowa

Michigan hoops preview: #16 Iowa

Saturday, January 16th, 2016


UM-Iowa
Michigan at #16 Iowa
Sunday, Jan. 17 | Iowa City, Iowa | 4:30 p.m. EST | Big Ten Network
Line: Michigan +6.5
Offense
78.2 Points/gm 81.1
(482-966) 49.9 Field Goal % 46.5 (468-1,006)
(186-437) 42.6 3-pt FG % 40.2 (144-358)
(179-250) 71.6 Free Throw % 72.6 (217-299)
10.5 FT Made/gm 13.6
32.7 Reb/gm 39.2
16.2 Assists/gm 17.7
9.8 Turnovers/gm 10.3
Defense
62.8 Points/gm 67.1
(386-931) 41.5 Field Goal % 40.1 (397-991)
(117-338) 34.6 3-pt FG % 29.6 (110-372)
31.8 Opp. Reb/gm 37.6
6.1 Steals/gm 6.9
2.5 Blocks/gm 6.3
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (17.6), Duncan Robinson (12.1) Points/gm Jarrod Uthoff (18.4), Peter Jok (13.8)
Derrick Walton (5.5), Caris LeVert (5.4) Reb/gm Jarrod Uthoff (6.4), Adam Woodbury (6.3)

Michigan finally picked up its first big win of the season on Tuesday night when the Wolverines took down third-ranked Maryland 70-67. Now, they look to get their first big road win when they face the 16th-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes on Sunday afternoon.

Iowa (13-3 overall, 4-0 Big Ten) has won six straight since a 83-82 loss to in-state rival Iowa State on Dec. 10. On Thursday night, the Hawkeyes completed a season sweep of Michigan State with a dominating 76-59 win in East Lansing. They also beat the Spartans 83-70 in Iowa City to open Big Ten play. In between those two games, Iowa shocked 14th-ranked Purdue in West Lafayette, 70-63, and beat Nebraska 77-66. Iowa’s only other two losses in the season are an 82-77 defeat to Dayton in the first round of the AdvoCare Invitational and a 68-62 loss to No. 17 Notre Dame the following night.

Iowa was tabbed to finish ninth in the conference by BigTenNetwork.com prior to the season, but just four games into Big Ten play, the Hawkeyes find themselves surprisingly atop the conference standings, tied with Indiana as the only unbeaten teams.

Senior forward Jarrod Uthoff (6-foot-9, 221) is the team’s leader in scoring, rebounding, three-pointers made, and blocked shots. His 18.4 points and 3.3 blocked shots per game lead the conference and he also ranks ninth in three-point percentage (44.6 percent). He had a season-high 32 points in the loss to Iowa State and hasn’t been held below 10 points in a game yet this season. He has made at least one three in all but one game and has made two or more in 10 games.

Junior guard Peter Jok (6-foot-6, 205) is the only other Hawkeye averaging double figures with 13.8 points per game. He has a season high of 24 points against Florida State, and while Uthoff was held to 10 and 15 in two games against Michigan State, Jok scored 19 and 23 against the Spartans. He’s a capable three-point shooter, averaging 36.8 percent, and has gone 5-of-11 the last two games since an 0-of-6 outing against Purdue.

Senior guard Mike Gesell (6-foot-2, 190) has seemingly been in Iowa City forever. The Sioux City Falls, Neb. native averages 9.8 points per game and leads the team with 6.9 assists per game, which ranks second in the conference. Since Big Ten play began, he has been hot and cold, scoring 25 in the first MSU game and 22 against Nebraska, but just seven against Purdue and eight in the MSU follow-up. The common denominator in the two good games was getting to the free throw line where he made 22-of-26 attempts. In the other two, he attempted just five and made two. Despite being a guard, he has attempted just 21 threes and made 10 of them.

Senior center Adam Woodbury (7-foot-1, 250) ranks second on the team in rebounding with 6.3 boards per game to go along with 8.3 points. His season high is 15 points against Wichita State, but hasn’t scored more than eight in the past six games.

The fifth starter is senior guard Anthony Clemmons (6-foot-2, 200), who averages 8.0 points and 3.6 assists per contest. He scored a season-high 13 against Michigan State on Thursday after being held scoreless against Nebraska.

Remarkably, the same five have started every game but one this season. The only other player to record a start is sophomore forward Dom Uhl (6-foot-9, 215), who started in place of Jok against Coppin State. He made the most of it with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including 3-of-5 from downtown, and has been a good off-the-bench rotation player ever since, averaging 7.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.

Redshirt freshman forward Nicholas Baer (6-foot-7, 200), junior forward Dale Jones (6-foot-7, 220), and redshirt freshman Brady Ellingson (6-foot-4, 190) provide minutes off the bench, averaging a combined 15.2 points and six rebounds per game. Baer has attempted the fourth-most three-pointers on the team (33) and has made 16 of them and also has the second most blocked shots (16).

Coming out of Carver-Hawkeye Arena with a win is a tall task given the way the Hawkeyes are playing and Michigan’s struggles on the road. Iowa is the Big Ten’s second-best three-point shooting defense, and for a Michigan team that relies on the three ball, that’s a bad recipe away from the friendly confines of the Crisler Center, especially if Caris LeVert isn’t back from injury. A loss won’t doom Michigan, but a win would set the Wolverines up nicely with a string of softer games approaching.