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Xavier 86 – Michigan 70

November 21st, 2015 by Sam Sedlecky

Beilein vs Xavier(

Last night was supposed to be the start of a season-long comeback party for Michigan after underperforming last year. It was supposed to be a game to help the team, coaches, and fans start forgetting about some of the horrors of a season ago.

Instead, it was anything but the start of that comeback party. All last night’s loss to Xavier did for the Wolverines was bring back those same demons.

After cruising to two easy victories against overmatched competition to open the gates on the new season, Michigan took one massive step back against a very good Musketeer squad that made the Crisler Center feel like their home away from home, dumping the Wolverines 86-70 with a balanced attack that saw four Musketeers score at least 14.

Throughout the night, Xavier simply looked like the better, stronger, and more prepared team. They dominated the paint from just after the opening tip, when Detroit native Jalen Reynolds cleared out the lane, posted up starting Wolverine center Mark Donnal, and blew by him for an easy and-1 finish just 10 seconds into the game.

Four Factors
Michigan Xavier
50 eFG% 48
19 OReb% 45
16 TO% 13
50 FTR 39

That would be an ominous sign for the four Michigan big men who saw minutes Friday, as they struggled to contain Reynolds and fellow Musketeer big James Farr – who combined for 23 points on 15 shots and 22 rebounds (eight offensive) – and racked up fouls left and right. By halftime, Donnal, Ricky Doyle, D.J. Wilson, and Moritz Wagner all had at least two fouls but only combined for five points and one rebound in an opening stanza that saw Michigan trailing 45-36 at the break.

The visitors also looked like they simply wanted the win more. Time and again, 50-50 balls ended up in Xavier’s collective hands, and by the end of the blowout, it seemed that Michigan might never get another rebound, with the Musketeers more than half of their misses in the second half.

Michigan showed some promise early on, grabbing a 16-12 advantage nine minutes in after Reynolds was tagged with a technical foul for hanging on the rim, but they lost that lead within the next minute and never got it back.

Caris LeVert showed off an impressive array of drives to try to keep the Wolverines afloat, and he had his shot all night on his way to 29-point outburst, but none of his teammates were able to crack double digits. LeVert’s seven rebounds and three assists also led the team.

It looked as if Michigan would take control of the game a couple times midway through the second half, twice cutting Xavier’s lead to two points behind a pair of triples (I dare you to see how many variants of two you can use in one sentence), but every time the Wolverines showed life, the Musketeers answered with triples of their own.

At one point, Duncan Robinson made two straight threes, and had a third would-be go-ahead trey go down only to be taken away by an illegal screen call.

But it wasn’t meant to be. For his part, Robinson looked like he should ably fill the role of instant microwave off the bench, but he’s never going to be a dynamic playmaker – he recorded just one rebound to go along with his nine points, zero assists, zero steals, and zero blocks.

The production simply wasn’t there from the rest of this potentially deep squad, and the defense struggled to get any stops. Zak Irvin, back in the starting lineup after missing offseason time following back surgery, was clearly a step slow and only managed seven points, while fellow starters Aubrey Dawkins and Derrick Walton Jr. had five and four points, respectively. No other Wolverine had more than five points, and only LeVert and Walton had multiple assists.

From here, the road doesn’t get much easier in the near term, but it’s clear that Michigan’s defense must improve if they are to be competitive in next week’s Battle 4 Atlantis, where they will open up with Connecticut on Wednesday and could potentially see Syracuse in the second game. As LeVert repeatedly said after the game, Michigan needs to lock down its defense and limit the fouls going forward – they had 23 called against them in this one that led to 23 made free throws for Xavier. It’s unusual for a John Beilein-coached team to have such a high foul rate, but new emphasis on contact rules will take some adjusting. LeVert also thought that Michigan should win most games when they put up 70 points, but they may not be at that point yet.

Luckily, Michigan is far from the only squad to lose an early season matchup, and this one shouldn’t hurt the resume too much, as Xavier looks to add to an impressive run in March Madness from last season with a more dynamic, experienced squad.

At the same time, the Wolverines will need to show that they can win some of these big games in the near future – or else memories of last year just might creep up on them again.

Three Stars

***Caris LeVert***
29 points (8-of-16 FG, 5-of-8 3pt, 8-of-10 FT), seven rebounds (one offensive), three assists, two steals, three turnovers in 36 minutes

**Duncan Robinson**
9 points (2-of-5 FG, 2-of-4 3pt, 3-of-3 FT), one rebound, zero turnovers in 19 minutes

*Spike Albrecht*
5 points (1-of-1 FG, 1-of-1 3pt, 2-of-2 FT), one rebound, one assist, zero turnovers in eight minutes

Season Three-Stars Standings

Caris LeVert – 4
Duncan Robinson – 4
Derrick Walton – 3
Spike Albrecht – 1
Quick Hitters

• This isn’t the first time Michigan has lost a game despite a scoring outburst from LeVert. The Wolverines fell to NJIT last season despite 32 points from their star, while also dropping games against Duke and Wisconsin two seasons ago when LeVert scored 24 and 25 points, respectively. In all of these cases, LeVert scored more than one-third of the team’s total points.

• I thought Zak Irvin and Spike Albrecht looked close to 100 percent on Monday, and Irvin said himself that he felt he was at 100 percent physically, but they clearly both have a ways to go. Albrecht only got eight minutes on the night, and though he threw his body around for loose balls, he’ll be seeing a lot more time when Beilein feels the senior point guard is fully back. Irvin was noticeably slow on the floor, at one point just jogging to a crucial long rebound late in the game that he was easily outrun for despite having perfect position.

• The rotation once again included all 12 scholarship players on the team, but that won’t last much longer. Mark Donnal struggled all night, recording zero points and zero rebounds while committing four fouls and turning it over once in just six minutes of time. Kameron Chatman and Albrecht only got eight minutes a piece (I expect Albrecht’s minutes to go up, but Chatman’s may disappear), Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman only saw 10 minutes, and D.J. Wilson and Moritz Wagner played just seven and five minutes, respectively.

Beilein Coachspeakometer

John Beilein is always quick to praise Michigan’s opponent – whether playing against the worst team in the country or one of the best. Here’s a look at a Beilein quote from this game’s press conference followed by a rating from Completely Objective and Fair (1) to Pure and Utter Coachspeak (10) on the John Beilein CoachSpeakometer

“We’ve seen good teams come (to Crisler Arena). Sometimes we were able to win, sometimes we weren’t, and that was as good a team as I’ve seen come in here at any time. They got all the pieces, they’re just really good. They hit the backboards obviously much better than us, they got loose balls, they got tremendous grit, and then they got a great mix of guys that can drive the ball, guys that can shoot the ball, (along) with the big men. So they’re sitting on something great right now, and they have for a long time at Xavier. They have a really experienced team that knows how to win…they’ll vie for a Big East Championship is what I think and they’ll be a team that is very good all year long.”

Verdict: 8

John Beilein is right to a certain point here – Xavier is a really good team that should be in the thick of the Big East race along with Villanova, Providence, and Butler. But to say that they are as good a team as he’s seen play at Crisler is quite the stretch. Along with a handful of excellent Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Ohio State teams (and many other very solid conference foes in the past eight years), Michigan has also welcomed #1 Arizona (2013), #3 Kansas (2011), and #4 Duke (2008) to Ann Arbor in Beilein’s tenure, not to mention plenty of other very good ranked and unranked conference and non-conference foes. Xavier will most likely be ranked in the next poll (and rightfully so), and coach Chris Mack has established a program that can compete with any team on any night, but they are certainly not on the same level as other recent home opponents. Excellent coachspeak yet again.

Final Game Stats
34 Mark Donnal* 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 4 0 0 1 0 0 6
10 Derrick Walton Jr.* 1-5 0-3 2-2 0 5 5 1 4 2 2 1 4 31
21 Zak Irvin* 3-6 1-4 0-1 0 1 1 3 7 0 2 0 0 22
23 Caris LeVert* 8-16 5-8 8-10 1 6 7 2 29 3 3 0 2 36
24 Aubrey Dawkins* 1-6 1-5 2-2 0 6 6 2 5 1 0 0 1 36
02 Spike Albrecht 1-1 1-1 2-2 0 1 1 0 5 1 0 0 0 8
03 Kameron Chatman 1-3 0-1 0-0 1 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 8
05 D.J. Wilson 1-2 0-0 1-2 0 0 0 2 3 0 1 1 0 7
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman 0-2 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 2 0 1 1 0 0 10
13 Moritz Wagner 1-3 0-0 0-1 1 1 2 2 2 0 0 0 0 5
20 Duncan Robinson 2-5 2-4 3-3 1 0 1 2 9 0 0 0 0 19
32 Ricky Doyle 2-3 0-0 0-3 1 0 1 3 4 0 1 0 0 22
Totals 21-52 10-26 18-26 7 22 29 23 70 8 11 2 7 200
Xavier 27-66 9-21 23-26 18 29 47 25 86 13 9 2 3 200
Full Stats
Beilein tie watch
(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Michigan’s College Football Playoff rooting guide: Nov. 21

November 21st, 2015 by Derick Hutchinson

Cardinals Stadium

Upsets around the country kept Michigan’s razor thin playoff hopes alive in Week 11 as four top 10 teams lost, two of which fell below the Wolverines in the rankings. But the playoff committee still isn’t sold on Jim Harbaugh’s team, which moved up only two spots to No. 12.

Michigan will have its eye on another deep slate of games around the country Saturday, highlighted by a pair of Big Ten matchups necessary to keep its East Division title hopes alive. Can the Wolverines win in Happy Valley and slip into the top 10?

Here are the teams Michigan should root for:

“I really, really need you”

In honor of Sanka Coffie from Cool Runnings, these teams completely hold Michigan’s fate in their hands. These are the teams that Michigan absolutely needs victories from on Saturday in order to keep the Wolverines’ CFP hopes alive. If even one of these teams falls, Michigan’s CFP dreams die.

No. 12 Michigan (away) against Penn State (12pm, ABC): It goes without saying that the most important game of the weekend for Michigan is its own. Penn State is undefeated at home this season and Christian Hackenberg is playing likely his last game at Beaver Stadium. A loss would end the Wolverines’ national relevance.

Result: Michigan 28 – Penn State 16

No. 3 Ohio State (home) against No. 9 Michigan State (3:30pm, ABC): Does it feel dirty to read this? It should, but that’s what happens when you lose to MSU at home and put your destiny in someone else’s hands. Without an OSU win Saturday, Michigan can kiss its Big Ten title hopes goodbye.

Result: Michigan State 17 – Ohio State 14

“It could happen!”

In honor of JP from Angels in the Outfield, this is the “It could happen” group. These are the teams Michigan is rooting for that have a legitimate chance to win on Saturday. Wins by these teams either help the Wolverines move up in the rankings or improve their resume (in order of kickoff time).

Virginia Tech (home) against No. 17 North Carolina (12pn, ESPN): Despite an opening season loss to terrible South Carolina and a pair of cupcake wins over FCS schools, North Carolina is shooting up the playoff rankings. The Tarheels could be dangerous if they head into the ACC title game on an 11-game winning streak, so Michigan will be rooting for the Hokies.

Result: North Carolina 30 – Virginia Tech 27

No. 5 Iowa (home) against Purdue (12pm, ESPN2): This should be an easy win for Iowa, a team Michigan needs to stay unbeaten into the Big Ten championship game if it has any hopes of jumping into the top four.

Result: Iowa 40 – Purdue 20

No. 20 Northwestern (away) against No. 25 Wisconsin (3:30pm, BTN): I can’t stress how important this game is for Michigan’s resume. With a win, Northwestern would establish itself as a no-doubt top 15 team with four solid wins on the season. That would make Michigan’s 38-0 win over the Wildcats so much more impressive. Unfortunately, a loss might (unfairly) knock Northwestern out of the top 25 altogether.

Result: Northwestern 13 – Wisconsin 7

No. 13 Utah (home) against UCLA (3:30pm, FOX): Now that the Utes have dropped below the Wolverines in the rankings, Michigan needs Utah to keep winning. As long as Utah stays in the top 15, that loss back in Week 1 doesn’t look too bad.

Result: UCLA 17 – Utah 9

No. 22 Ole Miss (home) against No. 15 LSU (3:30pm, CBS): The College Football Playoff committee loves to overreact when one overrated SEC team beats another overrated SEC team. Michigan could get jumped by LSU if the Tigers win on the road against an average Mississippi squad, so Michigan needs this one to go to the Rebels.

Result: Ole Miss 38 – LSU 17

No. 6 Oklahoma State (home) against No. 10 Baylor (7:30pm, FOX): Unfortunately for most of the ranked teams currently on the outside looking in, the Big 12 played a cupcake-laden schedule through the first nine weeks of the season to inflate its rankings before matching up with any real competition. So Michigan finds itself behind three Big 12 teams with only two weeks to go. The problem is, the Big 12 teams are all playing against each other, so they can’t all lose. I won’t go over the entire scenario here, but there is a way Michigan can vault ahead of all four (Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Baylor and TCU). That scenario begins with an Oklahoma State win over Baylor Saturday.

Result: Baylor 45 – Oklahoma State 35

“It’s just not believable, Cotton”

In honor of Pepper Brooks, from Dodgeball, these are the true underdog stories. These teams have almost no chance to win, but if they do, it would really help Michigan.

Florida Atlantic (away) against No. 8 Florida (12pm, SECN): Well, the Gators did almost lose to Vanderbilt two weeks ago. If Florida Atlantic doesn’t take care of Florida, Florida State probably will.

Result: Florida 20 – Florida Atlantic 14 (OT)

Boston College (away) against No. 4 Notre Dame (7:30pm, NBCSN): This game will probably be over by the end of the first quarter.

Result: Notre Dame 19 – Boston College 16

No. 18 TCU (away) against No. 7 Oklahoma (8pm, ABC): Yes, TCU is ranked in the top 20, but I just don’t see the Horned Frogs having any chance on the road against the Sooners. TCU barely held on against a putrid Kansas team last year as the injuries appear to have caught up with the Frogs. Oklahoma has no business being in the top 10 after losing to Texas and playing only one ranked team in its first 10 games, but that’s how the committee operates.

Result: Oklahoma 30 – TCU 29

California (away) against No. 11 Stanford (10:30pm, ESPN): Apparently having better wins, better losses and better outcomes against common opponents isn’t enough to boost Michigan ahead of Stanford in the rankings. Unfortunately, it’ll be up to a bad Cal team to help the Wolverines change that this week. If the Cardinal loses this weekend, Michigan can root for it to knock off Notre Dame next Saturday.

Result: Stanford 35 – California 16

Charleston Southern (away) against No. 2 Alabama (4pm, SECN): This would never happen, but it would be hilarious if Alabama lost after Nick Saban’s rant about how good Charleston Southern is. Hey, maybe losing to an FCS school would drop Alabama out of the top 5.

Result: Alabama 56 – Charleston Southern 6

M&GB staff predictions: Penn State

November 20th, 2015 by Justin Potts


It’s simple, really. The winner of tomorrow’s Michigan-Penn State matchup remains in the Big Ten title hunt for at least another few hours, while the loser is relegated to playing spoiler next Saturday. Both teams know what they have to do and what’s on the line. Penn State got an extra week to prepare and gets the benefit of home field advantage. Michigan gets a red-hot quarterback-receiver tandem and a chance to play a meaningful Ohio State game for the first time in years. Let’s take a look at our picks.


While the more high profile Big Ten game with title implications is expected to be played in a cold Columbus rain, State College calls for no precipitation, a light breeze, and 47 degrees. In other words, a perfect mid-November Saturday for football.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Penn St.
Justin 23 20
Derick 30 24
Sam 22 19
Josh 24 27
Joe 27 24
M&GB Average 25 23

Michigan’s newfound passing game will be put to the test against a strong Penn State defense that hasn’t allowed more than 251 passing yards in a single game this season. Will the loss of Lucas provide a weak link for Jake Rudock to exploit? It all depends on how well the Michigan line holds up against one of the best defensive lines in the country. If he doesn’t have time to throw Michigan will have trouble moving the ball consistently.

The good news is I don’t expect Penn State’s offense to be able to move the ball consistently either. Michigan will place an emphasis on stopping Barkley on first and second down, forcing Hackenberg into third and long situations where the Nittany Lions have struggled mightily all season.

Remember last year’s 18-13 Michigan win? This one will be similar to that. Not many sustained drives, low scoring, and good defense both ways. Michigan will need its dynamic return game to give its offense good starting field position as it has done so well this season and that will make the difference against a Penn State kick return defense that ranks 118th nationally.

In my season preview back in August I predicted that Michigan would finish 9-4 with losses to Utah, Michigan State, Penn State, and Ohio State. The first two of those have come true, but 11 weeks into the season I’ve had a change of heart. Michigan pulls it out and then has to hope the team down south can beat the team up I-96.

Michigan 23 – Penn State 20


For the second straight week, Michigan hits the road to play an extremely dangerous team. In the final road game of the season, Michigan will play against a 7-3 Penn State team that has no wins against winning power five teams. On paper, Michigan has been much better than PSU this year, but road games have really given Jim Harbaugh’s team trouble.

Penn State is a much better team than Minnesota or Indiana, two teams that easily could have beaten Michigan over the last month. The Nittany Lions are also undefeated at home, and Saturday will be the final game in Happy Valley for Christian Hackenberg and the seniors.

Unlike last weekend, this should be a defensive battle, though probably not of the magnitude we expected three weeks ago. Hackenberg is the X-factor for Penn State. If the future first-round draft pick plays one of his best games of the season, he will torch a Wolverine secondary that’s been exposed throughout the conference season. And if the defensive line gives Hackenberg as much time as it gave Nate Sudfeld, Michigan will need another 40 points to win the game.

I think Michigan can stop the run and make Penn State’s offense one-dimensional. The question becomes whether or not Jourdan Lewis and Jabrill Peppers can make enough plays to keep Jake Rudock and company out front. If Michigan runs the ball at all and plays with a lead, I like its chance to close things out and pick up a fourth road win. Michigan will escape Happy Valley with a narrow victory.

Michigan 30 – Penn State 24


The tables seem to be turning themselves of late for the Wolverines, as the once-dominant defense has slipped up lately behind a banged up defensive line while the once-shaky offense is rounding into form with back-to-back marvelous performances from Jake Rudock. At the same time, the tale of the opponents’ tape is also pulling a 180-degree turn over a course of two weeks. The good news for Michigan is that Penn State’s offense is not run nearly at the pace of Indiana’s, and their offensive line is mediocre. The bad news is that the Nittany Lions boast an impressive defense that should make things much more difficult on Rudock. I think Michigan’s defense will bounce back just enough to hold on at the end and give themselves a shot at the conference championship in The Game. Give me the Wolverines.

Michigan 22 – Penn State 19


Wow, what a scare last week was but we pulled out the win! Now on to Penn State, who presents a different challenge. Thankfully, it’s not at night. State College is a very intimidating venue at night, I love noon kickoffs.

On offense: Jake Rudock and the passing game has come on very strong as of late, and just in time since the run game seems to be lacking for whatever reason. However, Penn St. has an excellent front four and if they can pressure Rudock it will be a very long day with very little scoring. While I didn’t hold my breath for Rudock’s ability to complete some long balls it was apparent last week that he is more than capable, given time. I’m not so sure he’ll have that luxury against the Nittany Lions. If Michigan is to win this game they’ll need to keep Rudock upright, at least long enough to get some passes off, and that will be tough against guys like Anthony Zettel and Carl Nassib. I’d expect 2-3 sacks by Penn State, maybe more. That said, they will be without stud safety Jordan Lucas, leaving a hole in the back of the defense, limiting the blitzing package that they usually employ.

I think Jake Rudock will lead Michigan in rushing, again. For whatever reason the run game has been stagnant, part of that is the offensive line not opening holes and part of it is our running backs not being able to find the holes. Against a very stout defense I expect another lackluster run game again. But at least now we know we can count on Rudock to win the game with his arm. Then again, this isn’t the Rutgers or Indiana defense.

On defense: Indiana, yes Indiana, absolutely gashed us on the ground last week to the tune of 300-plus yards. Yet that doesn’t concern me against a team like Penn State, despite having one of the top three backs in the Big Ten in Saquon Barkley. Why? Because Penn State is a slow pace team. A very slow pace team. Part of the reason IU had such success, aside from missing Ryan Glasgow, was their tempo was such that it didn’t allow Michigan to substitute as much as they may have wanted, leading to very gassed defensive linemen as the game wore on. That won’t happen with PSU. Sure, they’ll try to run temp to take advantage of that but they’re not built to run a tempo offense so I don’t think that will be much of an issue. That said, I still think Barkley approaches 150 yards on the ground, he’s just too good not to get those yards and our linebackers haven’t shown the ability to get to the edge quickly enough.

As far as Hackenberg is concerned I think he’s better than we’ve seen but he’s still susceptible to sacks, and lots of them. I’m pretty sure no one else in the Big Ten has been sacked more than him. If Michigan can get a good pass rush, and be able to rotate their line to keep them fresh, then expect to see more #SACKenberg than Hackenberg. The Penn State offense wouldn’t normally worry me but the last few games have exposed some massive holes in this defense and has shown it to not be an elite unit. Couple that with a big loss in Ryan Glasgow (this defense is only average without him IMO) and Penn State’s odd proclivity for big plays with Saquon Barkely and receiver Chris Godwin and you have a recipe for an upset.

I said in my season preview that I thought Michigan would lose to Utah, MSU, OSU and then one of the 50-50 games. PSU was one of those. After needing a last second goal line stand (made even easier with the Hoke-ian clock mismanagement) and double overtime to beat Minnesota and Indiana, respectively, I think Michigan’s late game luck finally runs out in Happy Valley. Penn State makes a few big plays (which they are very good at despite all their other struggles) and pulls off the upset. Sorry folks, but Michigan won’t be playing for a Big Ten East division title against the Buckeyes next week.

Michigan 24 – Penn State 27


This is a huge week H U G E ! ! !  I will assume that coach will have this team geared up and ready on both sides of the ball along with special teams. There is no way they start peeking ahead. This unranked PSU team is 7-3 and has the potential to put up some big numbers. Defensively, we have a big advantage and should control them up front. Rudock has progressed each week and will limit his mistakes. I think Butt will get his along with Chesson and Darboh. I have no idea who will get the bulk of carries as long as we mix in some Jabrill along the way. He is a GAME CHANGER and GAME BREAKER that we have not seen in a very long time. I think this one is closer than we all would like, but the good guys will come out on top. I have Michigan winning by three.

Michigan 27 – Penn State 24

Michigan hoops 3 thoughts: Xavier

November 20th, 2015 by Derick Hutchinson

Michigan vs Xavier
Friday, Nov. 20 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 9:00 p.m. EST | BTN
79.0 Points/gm 79.5
(58-112) 51.8 Field Goal % 42.1 (48-114)
(19-40) 47.5 3-pt FG % 33.3 (13-39)
(23-30) 76.7 Free Throw % 79.4 (50-63)
11.5 FT Made/gm 25.0
32.0 Reb/gm 41.0
17.5 Assists/gm 14.0
11.5 Turnovers/gm 14.0
56.0 Points/gm 69.0
(40-101) 39.6 Field Goal % 43.3 (45-104)
(14-40) 35.0 3-pt FG % 34.9 (15-43)
29.5 Opp. Reb/gm 26.5
3.0 Steals/gm 9.0
0.5 Blocks/gm 2.5
Individual Returning Leaders
Caris Levert (14.5), Derrick Walton (14.0) Points/gm J.P. Macura (16.5), Edmon Sumner (15.5)
Aubrey Dawkins (4.5), Caris Levert (4.0) Reb/gm James Farr (9.5), Jalen Reynolds (8.5)

As if the Big Ten – ACC Challenge wasn’t awesome enough, now we have the Big Ten – Big East Challenge as a preview. With conferences constantly trying to improve their early-season schedules, the Big Ten agreed to match up with what used to be the best college basketball conference in the country.

Since then, the Big East underwent quite a transformation. Gone are powerhouses like Louisville, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Connecticut and even Cincinnati. The conference also lost South Florida and Rutgers. How did the Big East survive? It added small, but competitive, basketball schools Butler, Creighton and Xavier to form a new-look 10-team league.

On Friday, Michigan draws a matchup with the Xavier Musketeers. Xavier is already 2-0 with a solid win over Missouri this season. Last year the 6th-seeded Musketeers knocked off Ole Miss and Georgia State to make it to the Sweet 16 before falling to Arizona, 68-60.

Let’s take a look at some of the keys for this matchup.

1. Beef up that resume

It’s obviously still very early in the season, but in today’s age of college basketball, it’s never too early to start constructing an NCAA Tournament resume. Michigan fans seem to be taking the tournament for granted this season, a mistake many made last year after two straight deep runs under John Beilein in March.

Xavier offers a rare opportunity for Michigan to knock off an almost sure-fire tournament team. Xavier makes the field of 68 nearly every season and would give the Wolverines an excellent early RPI boost.

After Xavier leaves town, Michigan’s only chances to pick up quality non-conference wins will come in the Battle 4 Atlantis, the Big Ten – ACC Challenge and a road game against SMU. That means Xavier is the only quality team outside the Big Ten to visit Crisler Arena this season. Beilein’s team can’t afford to waste such an excellent opportunity.

2. Points in the paint

We all know Beilein’s offense is predicated around the three-point jump shot, but Michigan was stagnant at times against Northern Michigan and Elon when the long-range jumpers weren’t falling.
Against strong defensive teams like Xavier, Michigan needs to establish an inside presence to keep defenders honest around the arc. If Michigan settles for 24 three-pointers Friday, it’ll need to make around 40 percent to make up for a lack of scoring inside.

Ricky Doyle is obviously the team’s best option inside, but he hasn’t really emerged as an offensive threat during his short time in Ann Arbor. His calling card is efficiency, as most of his shots come off of dump down passes and offensive rebounds. He took only four shots off of the bench against Elon but scored eight points.

Ironically, the burden of scoring in the paint will fall on two of the team’s best outside shooters: Derrick Walton and Caris LeVert. The two guards have settled for outside jumpers against a pair of inferior opponents this season, but now it’s time for them to work their way to the basket.

At his best, LeVert’s slashing ability opened the door for his outside game in the 2013-14 season when he averaged 12.9 points on just 10 shot attempts per game. Working in the reverse order is much tougher when the first few outside shots don’t drop.

Walton knocked down eight of 10 shots for 24 points against Elon as he found his long-range jumper for the first time this season. If he can pair that shot with the driving ability he showed early last season, he’ll tear his way to first-team All-Big Ten honors.

3. Defense off the bench

The second unit will be vital for John Beilein Friday against a pair of Xavier bench players who can really score the basketball. James Farr and J.P. Macura came off the bench to roast Missouri for a combined 31 points Tuesday, which proved to be the difference in the game.

Macura is a tough matchup at 6 foot 5 and he plays off of his ability to get to the free-throw line. Fourteen of his 33 points through two games have come from the charity stripe, where he’s yet to miss a shot.

Farr, on the other hand, is Xavier’s best inside scoring presence. The 6-10, 247-pound senior scored 15 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the win Tuesday, setting up a crucial matchup with Doyle inside. Beilein won’t be able to count on Mark Donnal, who’s been soft on the defensive glass again to start this season.

It’ll be Doye, D.J. Wilson and Michigan’s deep group of guards assigned with containing Macura and Farr Friday. If they can slow down those two on the offensive end, it’ll go a long way towards a Michigan win.

Alarming CFP ranking mistakes cast shadow over wonderful weekend

November 20th, 2015 by Derick Hutchinson

CFP banner

Week 12 of the 2015 college football season embodied everything that’s great about college sports. Four of the top 10 teams fell in upset fashion and seven additional games featuring ranked teams were decided by a single score. Two teams, Michigan and Utah, played into double overtime on the road. Kansas, 0-10 on the season, had three chances to knock off one of the Big 12’s best teams on the road.

The weekend was perfect, but Tuesday night was not.

At this time of year, Tuesdays become almost as important as what happens on the field on Saturdays. Tuesday nights are when the College Football Playoff committee releases its weekly rankings and reveal which teams have the chance to play for the National Championship.

The committee is given the most important job in college sports. I won’t bore you with details, but thousands of students and coaches dedicate their lives to each season. Hundreds of millions are spent (and more importantly, earned) through games, travel, television deals and merchandise. This entire process is held together by the common aspiration of every major program in the country: To win championships.

Despite all the chaos that happens on the field, the committee’s job is relatively simple. They put two resumes next to each other, and the better one is ranked higher. Is it the committee’s job to guess which teams are the best? No. The ranking process should be all about resumes. If it’s not, then what’s the point of playing the games?

In spite of the beautiful simplicity of this process, the committee still manages to make baffling mistakes each and every week. It harks on criteria like head-to-head outcomes, scores against common opponents and strength of schedule, yet when the rankings are released, those factors seem to take a back seat to a more ambiguous placement process.

It’s not the committee’s job to get most of the rankings right, it’s the committee’s job to get all of the rankings right. If you disagree, just talk to the players who poured their hearts and souls into 12 fall Saturdays only to finish below a team that didn’t have as strong of a season. When the committee can’t correctly rank Nos. 10-25, why should we have any faith it’ll pick the right teams for the final four?

Before you read any further, remember: This is my opinion on the rankings, and yes, I know only the final top 25 matters. But the weeks leading up to that reveal are important because they set the stage and give us a look at how the committee operates.

Take a look at some of the problems I found in this week’s rankings.

(3) Ohio State ranked above (5) Iowa
Ohio State logo new  Iowa logo
10-0 (6-0) Record 10-0 (6-0)
0-0 vs Top 25 2-0
59 SOS 53
22.6 Scoring Margin 15.2
1 Record vs P5 teams over .500 3
Penn State
N. Illinois
W. Michigan
Best Wins at #20 Northwestern
at #25 Wisconsin

One of the simplest mistakes the committee has made in the first three weeks concerns the Big Ten, which features four top-12 teams.

The conference’s remaining undefeated teams, Ohio State and Iowa, would eventually have to meet in the conference championship game, should they both continue to win. But even so, their placement is an example of the committee refusing to use solid evidence in the rankings.

Do I think Iowa is a better team than Ohio State? Absolutely not. But Iowa has three wins over power five teams with at least seven victories, two of which came against ranked teams on the road. Ohio State, on the other hand, has only one win against a winning power five team: A home win over 7-3 Penn State. The best three wins on Iowa’s resume came at (20) Northwestern and (25) Wisconsin and against Pittsburgh. Ohio State’s best three wins came at home against Penn State, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan.

So how does Ohio State land in the top four while Iowa sits on the outside looking in? There really isn’t a good answer. The Hawkeyes went on the road and dismantled the 20th-ranked Wildcats by 30 points last month. The only teams Ohio State beat by 30 were Hawaii and Rutgers.

Sure, this will work itself out on Dec. 5 if the teams meet in Indianapolis. But what if these teams weren’t in the same conference? It’s alarming that the committee feels it can take matters into its own hands instead of letting the play on the field determine who makes the top four.

(11) Stanford ranked above (12) Michigan
Stanford Logo Maize M
8-2 (7-1) Record 8-2 (5-1)
2-2 vs Top 25 1-2
40 SOS 37
15.0 Scoring Margin 17.8
at #22 USC (41-31) Best Win #20 Northwestern (38-0)
at #20 Northwestern
#23 Oregon
Losses Current #13 Utah
#9 Michigan State

Here’s the most indefensible example of the committee completely whiffing on teams with identical records and completely different resumes.

Let’s break down both bodies of work. Michigan’s two losses came to the 9th and current 13th-ranked teams in the country and Stanford’s two losses came to the 20th and 23rd-ranked teams in the country.

Was Stanford more competitive in those loses? Well, the Cardinal lost its season opener by 10 points. The Wolverines lost their first game of an entirely new system by a touchdown. Stanford lost to Oregon after being outplayed from start to finish. Michigan lost to Michigan State after outplaying the Spartans start to finish.

Okay, so it’s not because of the losses.

Maybe Stanford has a better win? Strike two. Stanford’s best victory came over the 24th-ranked team in the country. Michigan blew out the 20th-ranked team in the country.

How about their performances against common opponents, which is specifically outlined as one of the main criterion of the rankings? Michigan finished 2-0 against the common opponents (Northwestern and Oregon State) with a combined score of 73-7. Stanford finished 1-1 with a combined score of 48-40. The Wolverines beat Northwestern by 38 points and Stanford lost to Northwestern by 10 points. That’s a 48-point difference.

But it’s not enough for the committee. Jeff Long and company can’t even build a top 25 by the standards they created. Michigan has a far better resume than Stanford, but the committee threw the Cardinal one spot ahead of the Wolverines. Strike three.

(17) North Carolina ranked above (20) Northwestern
 UNC NorthwesternLogo
9-1 (6-0) Record 8-2 (4-2)
0-0 vs Top 25 1-2
101 SOS 21
22.6 Scoring Margin 15.2
at Pittsburgh (29-16) Best Win #15 Stanford (16-6)
South Carolina Losses at #14 Michigan
#6 Iowa

Now I’ll give you an example of the committee completely overreacting to one week. On Tuesday, it announced that North Carolina, previously ranked 23rd, jumped up six spots to 17th.

You’re probably thinking, ‘Wow, which top 10 team did the Tarheels knock off to earn such a jump?’ Actually, all UNC did was knock off one of the biggest dumpster fires of the season, Miami, at home. How does a win over a team that’s lucky – and I mean LUCKY (see Miami’s win over Duke) – to have an above .500 record vault North Carolina over a team like Northwestern?

North Carolina hasn’t played a single ranked team this season. In fact, UNC’s best win came over a Pittsburgh team that has one win over an above .500 team. The Tarheels spent their preconference season playing two FCS schools and two bottom-feeder power five teams. Oh yeah, and they lost to a 3-7 team.

Meanwhile, Northwestern already played three teams ranked in the top 12 of the playoff rankings, including a comfortable 10-point win over Stanford. The Wildcats also won at Duke before the Blue Devils had the wind taken out of their sails by the officials in the Miami game. For good measure, Pat Fitzgerald’s team won at Nebraska and knocked off seven-win Penn State.

Sure, Northwestern has two losses and North Carolina only has one. But as we’ve seen in Alabama’s rise to No. 2, that isn’t the most important factor in the rankings. It’s flooring that a win over a team as bad as Miami can boost North Carolina over a team that’s played a much better schedule and has much better wins.

(21) Memphis loses… but doesn’t fall

When I saw Memphis ranked at No. 21 in this week’s polls, I couldn’t help but laugh.

After getting dumped by Navy – by a score of 45-20 – Memphis fell eight spots to No. 21 in week 11. This weekend, the Tigers blew a huge 4th-quarter lead to Houston and lost their second straight game. But despite the two-game losing streak and the clear exposing of this team’s defense (80 points allowed in the last two weeks), Memphis didn’t fall a single spot in the rankings.

Here’s the kicker: Memphis didn’t even lose to a team ranked higher in the rankings. The committee ranked undefeated Houston 24th in week 11 and Memphis lost to Houston. Clearly, that means Memphis isn’t as good as the committee thought. But there isn’t any accountability for the loss.

How can you lose a game and not be penalized? That’s a world of college football I don’t want to live in. Most of these teams will have a chance to move up over the next few weeks, but that doesn’t change the clear miscues the committee has made through three weeks.

College football deserves a committee that can get this right. Every season is a clean slate and teams that earn the right to compete for a title this year should be given the chance to do so by the committee. If not, the playoff is no better than the BCS.

#12 Michigan vs Penn State game preview

November 20th, 2015 by Justin Potts

Game Preview_PennState_banner

Only two games remain in the regular season and Michigan is still very much in play for a Big Ten championship. A lot still has to go their way — some of it out of their control — but it’s a nice spot to be in after the past seven years. Tomorrow is essentially the Big Ten East division semifinal taking place in State College, Penn. and Columbus, Ohio. Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan State all have varying degrees of a chance to face the West division champion in Indianapolis on Dec. 5, and all four face only each other this week and next.

Quick Facts
Beaver Stadium – 12p.m. EST – ABC
Penn State Head Coach: James Franklin (2nd season)
Coaching Record: 38-24 (14-9, 6-8 at PSU)
Offensive Coordinator: John Donovan (2nd season)
Defensive Coordinator: Bob Shoop (2nd season)
Last Season: 7-6 (2-6)
Last Meeting: Michigan 18 – PSU 13 (2014)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 11-7
Record in State College: Michigan 5-4
Jim Harbaugh vs Penn State: 1st meeting
Last Michigan win: 2014 (18-13)
Last Penn State win: 2013 (43-40)
Current Streak: Michigan 1

For Michigan to have a shot at a likely date with Iowa in Indianapolis, the Wolverines need to beat Penn State and need Ohio State to beat Michigan State. That would set up The Game on Nov. 28 as a winner take all affair. The winner of that one would go to the title game and the loser would have to wait until bowl season to play again.

A loss to Penn State would put Michigan out of the race and leave next Saturday as an opportunity to play spoiler.

Penn State comes in at 7-3 overall and 4-2 in the conference. In James Franklin’s second season, the Nittany Lions have defeated Buffalo (27-14), Rutgers (28-3), San Diego State (37-21), Army (20-14), Indiana (29-7), Maryland (31-30), and Illinois (39-0). They lost to Temple (29-10), #1 Ohio State (38-10), and #21 Northwestern (23-21).

At the start of the season the Temple loss looked like a bad one. But the Owls are currently 8-2 with a close, 24-20 loss to fourth-ranked Notre Dame. Suddenly, that Week 1 loss doesn’t look so bad. Yet the Nittany Lions have lost to the only two ranked teams they have faced — Ohio State and Northwestern. The Buckeyes routed them by four touchdowns while the Wildcats got a 35-yard field goal with nine seconds remaining to steal a two point win in Evanston.

When looking at common opponents, one that sticks out is Indiana, who Penn State beat easily, 29-7, and Michigan snuck by in double overtime last Saturday. However, an important distinction is that Indiana was without quarterback Nate Sudfeld and running back Jordan Howard for that game. Yes, the two Hoosiers that accounted for 466 of the team’s 527 total yards and three of four field goals against Michigan.

So Penn State is really still looking for its first quality win of the season, an improvement in bowl position, and yes, still a slight chance at winning the Big Ten East. Although San Diego State (7-3) is the only team Penn State has beaten that currently has a winning record, Franklin’s squad could win the East by beating Michigan tomorrow and Michigan State next week, and seeing Michigan State beat Ohio State tomorrow.

With both teams playing for a chance to remain in the Big Ten title hunt, the White Out in Beaver Stadium is sure to be rocking. Thankfully for Michigan, which has lost its last three trips to State College, it’s a noon kickoff rather than a night game, but the Wolverines haven’t been sharp on the road yet this season. Let’s take a look at the matchups.

When Penn State has the ball

Penn State ranks 103rd nationally and 12th in the Big Ten in total offense (350.6 yards per game), 98th and 11th in rushing (143.2 yards per game), 89th and 11th in passing (207.4 yards per game), 66th and 7th in pass efficiency (131.0), and 93rd and 9th in scoring (25.2 points per game).

Third-year starting quarterback Christian Hackenberg still hasn’t quite lived up to the hype he arrived with. He currently ranks 9th in the Big Ten in passing with an average of 199.2 yards per game and 8th with a 128.4 passing efficiency. However, his completion percentage of 54.2 percent is better than only Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson (52.6) and Maryland’s Perry Hills (50.0). By comparison, Jake Rudock leads the conference with a 64.2 percent completion rate. One thing Hackenberg has done is limit interceptions, having thrown just three this season.

Hackenberg’s favorite target has been sophomore receiver Chris Godwin. He leads the team with 49 receptions for 808 yards and also has three touchdowns. After a consistent first six games in which he caught either four or five passes for 65 yards, Godwin has broken out with 100-yard games in three of the last four, including a four-catch, 135-yards, one touchdown performance against Maryland. Redshirt sophomore DaeSean Hamilton is the second leading receiver with 31 catches for 426 yards and he leads the team with five touchdown receptions. He hasn’t hit the century mark in a game yet this season but came close with 96 yards against Maryland. Sophomore tight end Mike Gesiki has the third most catches on the team with 12, but just 116 yards and one touchdown.

True freshman running back Saquon Barkley is the Big Ten’s third leading rusher, averaging 104.5 yards per game, which falls behind only Indiana’s Jordan Howard (149.9) and Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott (142.5). Barkley missed two games in the middle of the season and also got just one carry in the season opener. If you remove Week 1 — his first collegiate game — his average jumps up to 119.3 yards per game in the seven he has fully played. Last year’s leading rusher, redshirt junior Akeel Lynch, has seen his carries plummet to just 54 this season, though he’s still averaging 5.1 yards per.

The offensive line is one of the reasons Hackenberg has struggled. The Nittany Lions rank dead last in the Big Ten with 33 sacks allowed, an average of 3.3 per game. By comparison, Michigan has allowed 14. In fact, Penn State’s offensive line has allowed an astounding 99 sacks during the Hackenberg tenure.

When Michigan has the ball

Penn State’s defense ranks 13th nationally and 4th in the Big Ten in total defense (311.2 yards per game), 48th and 8th against the run (152.2 yards per game), 2nd and 1st against the pass (159.0 yards per game), 11th and 5th in pass efficiency defense (104.09), and 13th and 5th in scoring defense (17.7 point per game).

Senior defensive end Carl Nassib is the danger man along a tough defensive front that leads the Big Ten with 42 sacks. Nassib leads all conference individuals with 15.5 sacks of his own. His 19.5 tackles for loss and six forced fumbles are also tops in the conference. Mason Cole will have his hands full. But it’s not all just Nassib. The other defensive end, redshirt sophomore Garrett Sickels, and senior tackle Anthony Zettel have three sacks apiece. And we can’t forget redshirt junior tackle Austin Johnson, who ranks second on the team with 5.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss. All told, that’s 27 sacks from the starting defensive line alone. By comparison, Michigan has 25 as a team.

Sophomore middle linebacker Jason Cabinda leads the team in tackles with 71 and also has 2.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss. He’s also tied for the team lead with six passes defended and leads the team with five pass breakups. Outside linebacker Brandon Bell, a junior, has 4.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss of his own in eight games, while the other outside linebacker, Troy Reeder, has yet to record a sack but has 5.5 tackles for loss and an interception.

The secondary suffered a major loss when senior safety Jordan Lucas — a captain — was lost for the year against Northwestern. He ranked fourth on the team with 56 tackles. The other starting safety is sophomore Marcus Allen, who has 57 tackles and one sack. In Lucas’ place will likely be redshirt junior Malik Golden, who has 17 tackles and an interception as Lucas’ backup. The corners are sophomore Grant Haley and senior Trevor Williams, who have combined for 51 tackles, four for loss, three interceptions, six pass breakups, and nine passes defended.

The other third

Kicker Joey Julius has made 10 of 12 field goal attempts with a long of 40, though the hefty redshirt freshman was pulled in favor of redshirt sophomore Tyler Davis after having two extra points blocked by Illinois. Davis is 3 of 3 on the season with a long of 42. Sophomore punter Daniel Pasquariello ranks 9th in the Big Ten with an average of 40.2 yards per punt. He has booted eight of 43 punts over 50 yards with a long of 60 and landed eight inside the 20.

Redshirt freshman running back Nick Scott and redshirt freshman safety Koa Farmer are the main kick returners, averaging 23.8 and 28.1 yards per return, respectively. Fellow redshirt freshman receiver DeAndre Tompkins averages eight yards per punt return.


While the more high profile Big Ten game with title implications is expected to be played in a cold Columbus rain, State College calls for no precipitation, a light breeze, and 47 degrees. In other words, a perfect mid-November Saturday for football.

Michigan’s newfound passing game will be put to the test against a strong Penn State defense that hasn’t allowed more than 251 passing yards in a single game this season. Will the loss of Lucas provide a weak link for Jake Rudock to exploit? It all depends on how well the Michigan line holds up against one of the best defensive lines in the country. If he doesn’t have time to throw Michigan will have trouble moving the ball consistently.

The good news is I don’t expect Penn State’s offense to be able to move the ball consistently either. Michigan will place an emphasis on stopping Barkley on first and second down, forcing Hackenberg into third and long situations where the Nittany Lions have struggled mightily all season.

Remember last year’s 18-13 Michigan win? This one will be similar to that. Not many sustained drives, low scoring, and good defense both ways. Michigan will need its dynamic return game to give its offense good starting field position as it has done so well this season and that will make the difference against a Penn State kick return defense that ranks 118th nationally. Michigan pulls it out and then has to hope the team down south can beat the team up I-96.

Michigan 23 – Penn State 20

Their time is now: 2015-16 Michigan basketball season preview

November 19th, 2015 by Sam Sedlecky

UM BBall(

A few years back when I was just a young college student in the then-miniscule Maize Rage, Michigan was coming off John Beilein’s miserable first season in Ann Arbor. No one thought much of the young Wolverines’ chances in Beilein’s second year either, but that didn’t stop them from believing in themselves.

The song that blasted throughout the Old Crisler Arena* before games that year was one that could be applied to just about any team playing any sport, but it seemed to carry extra weight for Michigan that season.

The first few lines went something like this:

“Go hard, today
Can’t worry bout the past cause that was yesterday
I’ma put it on the line cause it’s my time
I gotta stay on my grind cause it’s my time.”

It’s certainly not one of the best songs of the last decade, but it always gives me chills when it unexpectedly comes on the radio or blares out of some party’s speakers.


The Wolverines had to forget about the struggles of their first season under their new head coach, and though nearly every outsider doubted them, they grinded out one of the most memorable basketball seasons of my life, earning their way to a berth in the Big Dance and upsetting Clemson in the first round before bowing out to an over-powering Oklahoma squad.

You won’t hear Fabolous’s “My Time” any time soon at the new Crisler Center, but the message once again holds weight in Ann Arbor.

When I was walking down the Crisler tunnel to pick up my press pass earlier this week, getting the same tingly excited feeling I always do at the start of the college basketball season, an usher greeted me with a warm smile at the credentialing table and quipped “another season, huh?” in a mostly blasé tone.

Yes, it’s just “another season”, but it’s a season of renewed opportunity for the Michigan Wolverines. It’s a season of not worrying about the past and working to make the most out of an extremely talented and deep roster. In many ways to me, it’s also a season that represents the end of a mini-era.

That’s not to say that the Wolverines’ last chance to win the Big Ten and make the Final Four hinges on this year alone; nay, the future certainly appears bright under Beilein and a handful of talented sophomores and juniors.

But it wasn’t until this season’s senior class was in its first year that the Maize and Blue truly found its way back on the college basketball map with a magical run through the NCAA Tournament that ended in heart-breaking fashion in the championship game.



The only two members of that storied five man class who hung around long enough to see their time as seniors arrive are Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht. Their old classmates have all gone on to the bright lights and superstardom of the NBA, leaving two of the unlikeliest heroes carrying the team back in Ann Arbor.

If Michigan can make another deep run in the postseason this year, Albrecht just might break Jordan Morgan’s total games played record at the University, which would be quite the consolation prize for the under-sized point guard who will likely be the sole 2012 recruit to not play at the next level.

The past for those two, of course, has been a bit of a bumpy ride. Three seasons ago saw the wondrous tournament run, the year after that saw Michigan fall just a basket short of another Final Four appearance, while last season saw the Wolverines stumble early on in the non-conference before the wheels completely fell off with LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr. missing a significant portion of the season with foot injuries.

There’s always a silver lining, though, and it seems to be shining brightly so far. As a result of the season-ending injuries, a number of freshmen were forced into big minutes and played about as well as could be expected. One of those freshmen, Aubrey Dawkins, seems to be a shoo-in to start this year after coming on strong in February on the offensive end, while Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman has the potential to be a lock-down defender. Kameron Chatman is another sophomore that will be competing for minutes after struggling to find his way last season, while Ricky Doyle and D.J. Wilson are big men that appear primed for breakout seasons. Duncan Robinson, a sophomore transfer from the DIII level, should also shoot his way into plenty of action.

Perhaps no player looked better carrying the decimated Wolverines teammates, however, than Zak Irvin. Now a junior, Irvin blossomed from being a knock-down shooter his freshman season to an all-around offensive threat to close an otherwise disappointing campaign a year ago.

Match this depth up with somewhat proven commodities in LeVert, Walton, and Albrecht and you could be staring at another offensive juggernaut in Ann Arbor. Defensively, there may be some questions, but John Beilein has always been one to out-score with offensive fireworks.

A new season has dawned, and things are looking up for Michigan. It might not all go according to plan, as last year clearly did not. It might not look like the runner-up team from these seniors’ freshmen year. But it most certainly will be fun. Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht deserve a wonderful sendoff, and the supporting cast will grind hard to make sure it happens.

After all, their time has come.

*Unless it was the 2009-10 season – either way, the song still applies

Top Five Scorers Top Five Rebounders
Caris LeVert Caris LeVert
Zak Irvin Ricky Doyle
Derrick Walton Jr. Derrick Walton Jr.
Aubrey Dawkins Mark Donnal
Spike Albrecht D.J. Wilson
Top Five Assists Top Five Three-Point Shooters (%)
Derrick Walton Derrick Walton Jr.
Caris LeVert Spike Albrecht
Spike Albrecht Duncan Robinson
Zak Irvin Zack Irvin
Kameron Chatman Caris LeVert
Most improved player: D.J. Wilson
Most valuable freshman: Moritz Wagner
Most valuable player: Derrick Walton Jr.
Final record: 27-10 (12-6 Big Ten)
Conference finish: 2
Postseason: NCAA Tournament, Elite Eight

2015 Big Ten power rankings: Week 11

November 19th, 2015 by Derick Hutchinson

Power Rankings_header

The Big Ten featured six games this weekend and none of those ended in an upset, though many were too close for comfort.

Now, with only two weeks remaining, the Big Ten will watch a three-horse race in the East Division unfold as the top four teams duke it out. The highly-anticipated Michigan State-Ohio State game is finally here, with more than a chance at the conference title on the line.

Tuesday’s rankings kept six Big Ten teams in the top 25, but some of them are clearly being devalued by a questionable committee.

Here’s how the conference stacks up with two weeks to play.

East Division
1. Ohio State (10-0, 6-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Illinois 28-3 This Week: Sat vs #9 Michigan State (9-1, 5-1), 3:30pm, ABC

This year’s battle for Illibuck was one to forget, as Ohio State rolled the hapless Illini, 28-3, to take home the trophy. Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns to pace a Buckeye offense that welcomed starting quarterback J.T. Barrett back to the field. Now OSU faces the two toughest competitors in the East, starting at home against Michigan State.

2. Michigan (8-2, 5-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Indiana 48-41 (2OT) This Week: Sat at Penn State (7-3, 4-2), 12pm, ABC

The road date with Indiana smelled like danger from a mile away, and it took heroic efforts from Jake Rudock and Jehu Chesson to keep Michigan’s slim Big Ten title hopes alive. Rudock threw for 440 yards and six touchdowns. Chess on caught 10 passes for 207 yards and four touchdowns. Unfortunately, the defense allowed 41 points to a Jordan Howard-led offense that bullied the Wolverines at the point of attack. If it takes two overtimes to beat the 4-6 Hoosiers, next weekend’s matchup with Penn State looks that much tougher.

3. Michigan State (9-1, 5-1) – Even
Last Week: Bear Maryland 24-7 This Week: Sat at #3 Ohio State (10-0, 6-0), 3:30pm, ABC

The Spartans got back on track Saturday, smacking Maryland by 17 despite playing most of the second half with Connor Cook on the sideline. Cook injured his throwing shoulder and looked like he was battling significant pain on the sideline. Luckily for MSU, Perry Hills was dreadful for the Terps, who mustered only one score, which came on their first drive. If Michigan State knocks off OSU in the Horseshoe, it’ll erase memories of that ugly loss to Nebraska.

4. Penn State (7-3, 4-2) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs #12 Michigan (8-2, 5-1), 12pm, ABC

Penn State took a late bye week to prepare for incoming Michigan on Saturday. The Nittany Lions are coming off a two-point loss to Northwestern and looking to finish strong against two top 12 teams in Michigan and MSU. Christian Hackenberg is likely playing his final game in Happy Valley, and he has the skill set to go out with a huge bang.

5. Indiana (4-6, 0-6) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #14 Michigan 41-48 (2OT) This Week: Sat at Maryland (2-8, 0-6), 12pm, BTN

Indiana might be the best 0-6 conference team in the country, but it’s obvious why this group is struggling to finish an upset. It took Michigan three plays to score two overtime touchdowns, the second of which came without a single defender in the same area code as Amara Darboh. All the offense in the world, even from Howard, couldn’t make up for those defensive lapses.

6. Rutgers (3-7, 1-6) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Nebraska 14-31 This Week: Sat vs Army (2-8), 12pm, CBSSN

Rutgers stuck with Nebraska for awhile, but a late push from the superior Cornhuskers ultimately crushed the Scarlett Knights’ slim bowl hopes.

7. Maryland (2-8, 0-6) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #13 Michigan State 7-24 This Week: Sat vs Indiana (4-6, 0-6), 12pm, BTN

Not only is Maryland awful, the revolving door at quarterback makes the Terps nearly impossible to watch. The defense kept the game close for most of the first half, but Perry Hills just couldn’t make any throws after an up-tempo touchdown drive to kick things off.


B1G East Week 11

West Division
1. Iowa (10-0, 6-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 40-35 This Week: Sat vs Purdue (2-8, 1-5), 12pm, ESPN2

The undefeated Hawkeyes were the latest group to get a score from a pesky Gophers team. Despite exploding for 40 points against a solid defense, Iowa needed 13 fourth-quarter points to hold off the Fighting Tracy Claeys. Saturday’s battle with Purdue will be a nice tuneup for a season finale that’s looking much more interesting now that Nebraska’s turned its season around.

2. Northwestern (8-2, 4-2) – Even
Last Week: Beat Purdue 21-14 This Week: Sat at #25 Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1), 3:30pm, BTN

Survive and advance, or something like that! Northwestern looked sluggish Saturday against Purdue and needed a score with under five minutes in the game to grab a third straight victory. It shouldn’t still be in doubt, but the Wildcats can finally prove themselves Saturday if they win at No. 25 Wisconsin.

3. Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs #20 Northwestern (8-2, 4-2), 3:30pm, BTN

The only thing easier than Wisconsin’s schedule this season was their week off to prepare for No. 20 Northwestern this season. The Badgers have knocked off five straight cupcakes since losing the conference opener to Iowa and could pick up their first quality win of the season Saturday.

4. Nebraska (5-6, 3-4) – Even
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 31-14 This Week: Bye (11/27 vs Iowa)

Is Nebraska finally making its run? Mike Riley’s chances to make a bowl game looked so slim after a loss to Purdue dropped his team to 3-6, but wins over MSU and Rutgers have put the Cornhuskers in position to save the season, if they can knock off undefeated rival Iowa.

5. Minnesota (4-6, 1-5) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to #5 Iowa 35-40 This Week: Sat vs Illinois (5-5, 2-4), 12pm, ESPNN

In three weeks since Jerry Kill retired, Minnesota has played tough against Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa. Unfortunately, the Gophers fell short all three times. Illinois presents a much easier task on Saturday.

6. Illinois (5-5, 2-4) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #3 Ohio State 3-28 This Week: Sat at Minnesota (4-6, 1-5), 12pm, ESPNN

Wes Lunt and company just didn’t have it Saturday against Ohio State, managing just three points in the blowout loss. It’ll take a win over Minnesota or Northwestern for the Illini to play in December.

7. Purdue (2-8, 1-5) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #18 Northwestern 14-21 This Week: Sat at #5 Iowa (10-0, 6-0), 12pm, ESPN2

David Blough has been a nice surprise for Purdue this season, putting together another solid performance against Northwestern — 287 yards passing and a touchdown. Next up: An Iowa team fighting for a national championship and a Minnesota team fighting for a bowl game.

B1G West Week 11

Michigan basketball 2015 season preview: The seniors

November 18th, 2015 by Sam Sedlecky

Spike and Caris(Melanie Maxwell, The Ann Arbor News)

While we’re in the midst of football season – a season of rebirth and return of the Michigan of old – college basketball is here! With the year now underway, let’s take a look at the most experienced of the Wolverines – the seniors.

#2 Spike Albrecht
Class Senior Spike headshot
Major General Studies
Measurements 5’11”, 175
Hometown Crown Point, Ind.
High School Northfields Mount Hermon (Mass.)
Position(s) Guard (1, 2)
Committed April 6, 2012
Fun Fact Earned nickname “Spike” after he wore baseball spikes everywhere as a kid
Career Stats
Pts Reb Ast Stl TO Min FG% 3Pt% FT%
2012-13 2.2 0.8 0.7 0.3 0.4 8.1 47.5 54.5 83.3
2013-14 3.3 1.1 2.0 0.5 0.4 14.7 40.4 38.7 77.8
2014-15 7.5 2.3 3.9 0.9 1.3 32.0 40.4 36.5 91.3
Career 4.1 1.4 2.1 0.6 0.7 17.2 41.5 39.9 81.4

Career Highs: 18; Rebounds: 6; Assists: 9 (twice); Steals 4: Turnovers: 4; Minutes: 47
Favorite Big Ten Opponent: Michigan State

Career to Date: Spike Albrecht came to Ann Arbor as the over-shadowed no-name prospect in a class replete with a trio of stars who all moved on to the NBA after two seasons. After failing to earn any major college interest while playing for his hometown high school in Northwest Indiana, Albrecht decided to take a prep year in the elite New England Prep School Athletic Conference, where he played against the likes of Mitch McGary and plenty of other top-notch prospects. And though the under-sized point guard held his own – even earning MVP honors in a major tournament – he went largely unnoticed.

When it came time to choose a school, Albrecht’s options were Appalachian State and no one else. But Albrecht didn’t want to play outside of Division I; following a conversation with his father, he decided that he’d go to Indiana University to be a regular student.

That is, until John Beilein stepped in with the unlikeliest of offers – an offer that, reportedly, Beilein thought would potentially make or break his career.

The rest, as they say, is history that many of us are aware of. Albrecht has never been a star player – outside of a first-half outburst in the National Championship game his freshman year – but he’s been a steadying force for three seasons. He’s a guy that can be called upon to run the offense efficiently, make smart passes, and not turn it over. Albrecht will never be a world beater because of his lack of size and elite athleticism, but he makes up for it with heady play. Every coach would love to have a veteran point guard to bring off the bench who knows the offense like the back of his hand, will knock down a good deal of threes, and doesn’t try to do too much. That is Albrecht in a nutshell.

Now back for his senior season, Albrecht is still getting back to full strength after a pair of offseason hip surgeries (he’s the oldest guy on the team at 23, but managed to play through the pain last season) following a junior year in which he was asked to carry much of the load later on with Derrick Walton and Caris LeVert sitting out injured. He has likely seen his last career start barring further injuries, but should prove to be an invaluable spark off the bench and will undoubtedly be a leader both on and off the floor. For a kid who will most likely be the only recruit of his five-man class to not be drafted into the NBA, that’s just fine.

Area to Improve: Defense

I know, I know – Spike Albrecht is never going to be a plus player defensively, but if he can just be average in man-to-man defense, he’ll see a lot more of the floor. John Beilein loves the leadership, confidence, and shooting that his veteran guard brings to the game, but quick opposing players will make it difficult to play Albrecht big minutes night in and night out. With strong positioning, Albrecht can at least minimize his defensive deficiencies and bring his playing time from a floor of around 15 to around 20-25.

Stat Predictions: 6.0 points (45.0 FG%, 41.0 3-PT%, 88.0 FT%), 2.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists in 20 minutes per game

#23 Caris LeVert
Class Senior Caris headshot
Major General Studies
Measurements 6’7″, 205
Hometown Pickerington, Ohio
High School Pickerington Central
Position(s) Guard/Wing (2, 3)
Committed May 11, 2012
Fun Fact Nickname is “Baby Durant”
Career Stats
Pts Reb Ast Stl TO Min FG% 3Pt% FT%
2012-13 2.3 1.1 0.8 0.2 0.3 10.8 31.5 30.2 50.0
2013-14 12.9 4.3 2.9 1.2 1.7 34.0 43.9 40.8 76.7
2014-15 14.9 4.9 3.7 1.8 2.2 35.8 42.1 40.5 81.0
Career 9.5 3.2 2.4 1.0 1.3 25.8 41.9 38.9 76.6

Career Highs: Points: 32; Rebounds: 11; Assists: 9; Steals: 4 (three times); Turnovers: 5 (three times); Minutes: 42
Favorite Big Ten Opponent: Wisconsin

Career to Date: Much like classmate Spike Albrecht, Caris LeVert was a very late addition to Michigan’s 2012 recruiting class after the coach he originally signed with, John Groce, left Ohio University for the University of Illinois. Groce wasn’t interested in bringing his former commit to the Big Ten, but his peer, John Beilein, saw something in him and decided to take a flyer on the young, lanky shooter.

In the years that followed, LeVert has made that look like a fabulous decision on his coach’s part. Once a gangly, stick-thin, and off-balance freshman that resembled a bowl of Jell-O more than he did a basketball player, the senior has blossomed into one of the best wings in the country. The Columbus native is an excellent shooter and a deceptive athlete. LeVert is comfortable driving to the rack and finishing or squeaking through two defenders and finding an open teammate for an easy finish. He’s a terrific finisher in the open court and a quiet leader, but also a top NBA prospect that will look to back up his own decision to return to school for one last season in Ann Arbor.

Following a junior year that was already headed down the wrong path and eventually cut short by injury, LeVert will look to bring his team back to the land of the Big Dance – a tournament in which LeVert has already experienced runs to the Championship game and the Elite Eight.

He’s added the requisite weight for a third straight offseason and appears to be fully healthy. Now, the ball is in LeVert’s court – can he seize one last season of opportunity?

Area to Improve: Decision making

I am not accusing Caris LeVert of being a bad decision-maker or a ball hog, but there were times last season when it felt like the then-junior was trying to do a bit too much. He had talent around him in the form of Derrick Walton, Zak Irvin, Spike Albrecht, and company, but often dribbled a bit too much and bore too much of the load before going down with a foot injury. This season, LeVert needs to display a comfort level with deferring to his more-than capable supporting cast – a cast that now not only includes the aforementioned veterans, but also a group of sophomores that got plenty of live action a year ago.

Stat Predictions: 15.0 points (44.5 FG%, 40.5 3-PT%, 83.0 FT%), 5.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.3 steals, in 33 minutes per game

Five Spot Challenge: Penn State

November 18th, 2015 by Justin Potts


We have our first repeat winner of the season and it just happens to be back to back. Congratulations to Jaeschke for winning his second straight week in a row. Typically, just one of the five questions each week yields a large variance, but this week we changed it up a bit and added two — Michigan’s total yards and Indiana’s total yards. A third turned up with Jordan Howard’s rushing total, and all of that resulted in a range from the winner’s total deviation of 324 to last place deviation of 872.

Jeschke was the closest to Howard’s rushing yards (238) with his prediction of 130, and was consistently close across the board. He was third closest to Michigan’s total offense (581 yards), second closest to Indiana’s total offense (527 yards), and second closest to Blake O’Neill’s longest punt (45 yards).

Kashkaav‘s prediction of 450 was closest to Indiana’s total offense. Jim Mackiewicz was the closest to Michigan’s total offense with his prediction of 550, Michigan’s total combined yards of touchdowns (164) with his prediction of 175, and one of three contestants to correctly predict O’Neill’s longest punt. Kashkaav and tooty_pops were the other two. Unfortunately for Jim Mankiewicz, he was 227 away from Indiana’s total offense, which is why he came in third.

The weekly results and overall standings have been updated.

This week, Michigan travels to Penn State to face a very good defense and a so-so offense. Here are this week’s picks.