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Jim Harbaugh’s party guests, ranked

February 2nd, 2016 by Derick Hutchinson


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

February 1st, 2016 by Maize and Go Blue


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 79 – Penn State 72: Season low six threes can’t stop Michigan in MSG

January 30th, 2016 by Sam Sedlecky


Robinson vs PSU(Julie Jacobson, AP)

John Beilein’s Michigan teams have always gotten the “live by the three, die by the three” saying tacked onto them – but sometimes mistakenly so. In today’s matchup with Penn State at Madison Square Garden, an uninformed observer would have been forgiven if he thought the saying applied more to the Nittany Lions, as Michigan attempted only 20 triples (versus 35 two-point attempts) and made just six of them.

That’s in stark contrast to the Wolverines’ normal trend of taking nearly half of their field goal tries from distance – at 46.9 percent, they attempt more threes per field goal attempt than all but seven other teams in the country.

The Wolverines, however, still managed to get the job done with a 79-72 victory to bring their conference record to 7-2 halfway through Big Ten play.

With Penn State selling out to guard the deep shot, Michigan was content to drive inside and take what was left to them, led by Zak Irvin and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman’s efforts, who combined to make 12 of their 19 (63.2%) attempts inside the arc. The duo paced Michigan with 35 total points on an array of hard takes to the rim while Derrick Walton and Mark Donnal added 13 and 10 points, respectively, and cleaned up the boards to the tune of 16 rebounds.

Four Factors
Michigan Penn State
51 eFG% 49
32 OReb% 36
11 TO% 17
56 FTR 24

Duncan Robinson was the odd man out as the only starter to not reach double figures, and the one Wolverine neutralized most by Penn State’s aggressive defensive tactics. The pure shooter only got one trey to fall – the first time he’s failed to make multiple threes since a late November loss to UConn – on a measly (for him) five attempts, which ties for his lowest triple tries in a single Big Ten game.

Throughout the first half, the two teams happily traded punch for punch as each seemingly scored at will after a couple quick steps into the lane. But an Irvin corner three at the buzzer put the “visiting” Wolverines up by 12.

Penn State would never get closer than five in the second half despite some beyond-NBA-range threes falling for sophomore Shep Garner late; Michigan pushed the lead to as many as 15.

As soon as it seemed that the Nittany Lions could threaten to take the lead following a 9-0 run late in the second half, Robinson made his biggest shot of the game on a beautiful drive and left-hand finish before Walton threaded a dime – one of his game-high seven assists – to Rahk on the fast break to bring the lead right back to nine points with just over four minutes remaining.

Penn State’s magic proceeded to run out and Michigan made nine of their 10 free throws over the final 1:49 to put the clamps on their third straight win.

The Wolverines continued to play without star senior Caris LeVert, as he was dressed in street clothes for the eighth straight game, but his left ankle is reportedly getting close to full strength.

His return over the next week would be a major boon for a Michigan team that has impressively navigated through the first half of their conference schedule but faces Indiana and Michigan State this coming Tuesday and Saturday, respectively.

Nonetheless, Beilein’s squad has held serve against the teams they’ve been expected to beat and has looked competitive in their two losses.

Today’s win in the first half of a basketball/hockey double-header in the heart of the Big Apple was another expected victory for Michigan, but perhaps a step in the right direction, complete with proof that Beilein doesn’t need to see his team drain everything from deep to remain in control.

Michigan’s Three Stars

***Zak Irvin***
20 points (5-of-8 2pt, 2-of-4 3pt, 4-of-7 FT), two rebounds, one assist, one turnover in 34 minutes

**Derrick Walton Jr.**
13 points (2-of-5 2pt, 1-of-4 3pt, 6-of-6 FT), 10 rebounds (one offensive), seven assists, three steals, zero turnovers in 39 minutes

*Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman*
13 points (7-of-11 2pt, 0-of-2 3pt, 1-of-2 FT), three rebounds (two offensive), one assist, one steal, two turnovers in 35 minutes

Season Three-Stars Standings

Derrick Walton Jr – 23
Duncan Robinson – 16
Caris LeVert – 15
Zak Irvin – 10
Aubrey Dawkins – 5
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman – 4
Mark Donnal – 1
Spike Albrecht – 1
Moritz Wagner – 1
Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
34 Mark Donnal* 2-4 0-0 6-8 4 2 6 3 10 1 1 1 0 25
10 Derrick Walton* 3-9 1-4 6-6 1 9 10 2 13 7 0 0 3 39
21 Zak Irvin* 7-12 2-4 4-7 0 2 2 1 20 1 1 0 0 34
22 Duncan Robinson* 2-6 1-5 4-4 1 1 2 3 9 2 0 0 1 27
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman* 7-13 0-2 1-2 2 3 5 2 15 1 2 0 1 35
05 D.J. Wilson 0-2 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 4
11 Andrew Dakich 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1
13 Moritz Wagner 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 2
24 Aubrey Dawkins 2-5 2-4 1-2 1 1 2 2 7 1 1 0 2 19
32 Ricky Doyle 2-4 0-0 1-2 1 2 3 1 5 0 0 1 0 16
Totals 25-55 6-20 23-31 11 23 34 14 79 13 7 2 7 200
Penn State 26-62 9-29 11-15 13 23 36 23 72 13 11 4 3
200
Full Stats

Michigan hoops preview: Penn State

January 30th, 2016 by Justin Potts


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.

New in Blue: 2016 TE Nick Eubanks

January 28th, 2016 by Justin Potts


Nick Eubanks(Scout.com)

Nick Eubanks – TE | 6-6, 230 | Fort Lauderdale, Fla. – American Heritage
ESPN: 4-star, #2 TE-H Rivals: 4-star, #9 TE 247: 4-star, #11 TE Scout: 3-star, #29 TE
Other top offers: Alabama, LSU, USC, Georgia, Oregon, Florida, Auburn, Texas, Miami, Nebraska

A day after landing Winter Garden, Fla. receiver Eddie McDoom and McKeesport, Pa. athlete Khaleke Hudson, Michigan’s recruiting class grew again with a somewhat unexpected commitment from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. tight end Nick Eubanks. The American Heritage product tweeted his commitment just before 5pm Eastern time.

Eubanks is a four-star according to ESPN, Rivals, and 247, but just a three-star according to Scout. ESPN ranks him the highest as the second-best tight end/H-back and 258th-best overall product. 247 ranks him as the 11th-best tight end and 269th-best player in the class, while Rivals has him ninth-best, but not ranked nationally. Scout is the outlier, listing him as the 29th-best tight end.

Scout lists his strengths as red zone weapon, running ability, and size, while listing his areas to improve as blocking ability and hands and concentration. As of now at least Scout’s analysis sounds quite a bit like Devin Funchess:

“A tight end with a great frame and the ability to play on the line or to be flexed out. Has great length, he knows how to extend for the football, and he can use that to his advantage. He will fill out, add weight, and get stronger. Solid blocker, but can get better at the point of attack. More comfortable now flexed as a big wide receiver going out for passes. Has good athleticism. Solid hands, but he can be more consistent there.”

Eubanks caught 23 passes for 344 yards and three touchdowns during his senior year at American Heritage this past fall. The year before, he caught 26 for 408 and four scores.

Prior to his commitment, Eubanks was projected to go to Alabama, which had 57 percent of his crystal balls on 247. Florida had 29 percent, Baylor nine percent, and Miami the remaining seven. But he visited Michigan on Wednesday and committed to the Wolverines based on the way Jim Harbaugh told him he would be used, per 247’s Steve Lorenz.

“I chose Michigan because it’s a better fit for me,” Eubanks said. “I can play right away as a true freshman. It’s best for my future and for my work ethic. Plus coach Harbaugh coached Vernon Davis so I know he knows how to use the tight end. Michigan showed me stuff I’ve never seen before. Not at Florida or at Alabama. How they throw the ball to their tight end. How they flex the tight end out and use the position as a hybrid. No other school I was considering does that. That shocked me and shook my mind.”

Harbaugh has been targeting a second tight end in the class to join Sean McKeon, and after top target Isaac Nauta chose to stay in his home state of Georgia, attention turned to Eubanks, Concord, Ca. native Devin Asiasi, and Nixa, Mo. native Chase Allen. The latter is expected to announce between Michigan, Nebraska, and Iowa State on Friday, but Eubanks preempted it with his own commitment to the Wolverines. Asiasi will announce his decision on National Signing Day next Wednesday along with defensive tackle teammate Boss Tagaloa.

Eubanks will join a talented pass tight end crew in Ann Arbor, led by senior Jake Butt, who was named the Kwalick-Clark Big Ten Tight End of the Year this past season after catching 51 passes for 654 yards and three touchdowns. However, after Butt, the tight end who caught the second-most passes last season, A.J. Williams (12 for 129 yards), is out of eligibility, leaving senior Khalid Hill (four for 71), junior Ian Bunting (five for 72), senior Henry Poggi (one for two), and sophomore Tyrone Wheatley. Since he’s not an early-enrollee, it will be hard for Eubanks to grab a lot of time in the regular rotation this fall, but if he can prove he can catch he will at least get a chance to contribute before stepping into a bigger role in 2017 and beyond.

Michigan 68 – Rutgers 57

January 27th, 2016 by Sam Sedlecky


Irvin-Robinson vs Rutgers(MGoBlue.com)

Remember last week’s message from Richard Pitino to his own team that Michigan enacted by winning ugly? Well…Michigan did it again, this time against the cellar-dwelling Scarlet Knights of Rutgers in a 68-57 win.

It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t all that encouraging. But it was a win. That’s the message the Wolverines seemed to be preaching in the aftermath of a sloppy victory that saw the home squad stumble, brick, and crawl its way to an 11-point win with only 20 made field goals (and only nine two-pointers) in a game they were favored to win by 25.

After the win, John Beilein did not hide his displeasure with the way things went, saying that he saw a big family hanging out by the main staircase and hoped that they had a good time, because Beilein “did not”.

“So somebody had to have a good time today,” he went on. “You have those games where we’re fortunate to get a win based on your performance, but we’ll just grow from it and learn from it and see where we go moving forward.”

Fortunate is a pretty apt word to use in this case, given that Michigan very well may have lost to any other team in the Big Ten with the way they played this evening. To say that Rutgers is bad this season would be putting it kindly. Eddie Jordan’s Scarlet Knights are undermanned, undersized, and in over their heads. They are now 6-15 on the season and 0-8 in conference play, with not much hope of pulling a win out of their hats before the end of the year. Rutgers sits at a woeful #274 on kenpom.com, flanked by the almighty New Hampshire Wildcats and Fairleigh Dickinson Knights, and a whopping 74 spots behind the next-worst team in the Big Ten in Minnesota (also winless in conference play). They shoot a lowly 45.6 percent from inside the three-point line and an even lowlier 30.9 percent outside the arc. You get the point – Rutgers is a poor excuse for a Big Ten basketball team this year.

Four Factors
Michigan Rutgers
52 eFG% 47
17 OReb% 17
15 TO% 22
41 FTR 28

And the Wolverines could not slam the door on them all night.

Duncan Robinson led the way in the scoring column with 18 points on 14 shots, but was just 1-of-5 from two-point range with a pair of ugly turnovers.

Derrick Walton added 14 on 10 shots while missing all four of his attempts inside the arc and also coughing it up twice.

Zak Irvin did well to tally eight assists and 12 rebounds, but he too struggled to knock down shots, going 1-of-6 from distance on his way to just eight total points and two turnovers.

Mark Donnal was the beneficiary of many of those assists, finishing with 10 points on six shots, but also gave it away twice.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman rounded out the starting lineup and did not turn the ball over, but he remained quiet offensively, missing all three of his shot attempts (all triples) and collecting a single assist in 29 minutes.

Perhaps Aubrey Dawkins was the best overall performer for the Maize and Blue with an efficient 11 points (1-of-2 2pt, 3-of-4 3pt) in just 19 minutes. But even he missed a wide open, violent tomahawk jam attempt down the heart of the lane when he tried to finish with a one-handed flourish and instead sent the ball clanging off the heel all the way back to half court.

There’s good reason to believe that Michigan took this one lightly, and it’s hard to blame them for it given the competition level. A loss here, however, would have been absolutely devastating. And though tonight’s matchup had all the makings of a trap game, Rutgers is not quite good enough yet to win on the road versus a talented Michigan squad even when they are off.

Still, this one never felt in great doubt despite Michigan trailing for 14+ minutes of the first half and never leading by more than 14 throughout.

So the Wolverines will march on with another ‘W’ notched on their resume – no asterisk needed – for the third straight game to bring their conference mark to 6-2 and their overall record to 16-5, already reaching last year’s win total with 10 regular season games to play.

At the end of the night, a win, as they say, is a win. No matter how it comes.

Quick hitters

• Following the win, John Beilein said he got an ominous feeling when, before the game, he could not find his scouting report on Rutgers for one final pre-game read through, as he does so every game day. As of press time, he had yet to locate it, but he claims this was the first time it had ever happened to him (perhaps unsurprisingly, given the level of competition) in his many years of coaching.

• Speaking of bizarre and unique happenings tonight, Rutgers made a mental mistake that John Beilein also never remembers having seen in his career that started when, late in the game, Zak Irvin stepped to the free throw line for a one-and-one opportunity and bricked the first attempt off the rim. A Rutgers player nonchalantly caught the carom, glanced around briefly as everyone looked confused and sat still (including Irvin, it should be noted), and proceeded to toss the ball to a referee sitting out of bounds on the baseline, giving Michigan the ball back. Four seconds later, Derrick Walton drew a foul and made both his freebies.

Beilein felt it was a critical possession, given that Michigan was up just eight points with 45 seconds remaining when the gaffe occurred. It seems highly unlikely that Rutgers would have pulled off the miraculous last-minute comeback á la Virginia, but we’ll never know.

Michigan’s Three Stars

***Derrick Walton Jr.***
14 points (0-of-4 2pt, 3-of-6 3pt, 5-of-5 FT), three rebounds (two offensive), four assists, one steal, two turnovers in 38 minutes

**Aubrey Dawkins**
11 points (1-of-2 2pt, 3-of-4 3pt), one rebound, one assist, zero turnovers in 19 minutes

*Zak Irvin*
8 points (1-of-2 2pt, 1-of-6 3pt, 3-of-5 FT), 12 rebounds, eight assists, two turnovers in 38 minutes

Season Three-Stars Standings

Derrick Walton Jr – 21
Duncan Robinson – 16
Caris LeVert – 15
Zak Irvin – 7
Aubrey Dawkins – 5
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman – 3
Mark Donnal – 1
Spike Albrecht – 1
Moritz Wagner – 1
Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
34 Mark Donnal* 4-6 0-0 2-2 0 4 4 2 10 1 2 1 1 31
10 Derrick Walton* 3-10 3-6 5-5 2 1 3 1 14 4 2 0 1 38
21 Zak Irvin* 2-8 1-6 3-5 0 12 12 2 8 8 2 0 0 38
22 Duncan Robinson* 5-14 4-9 4-4 1 3 4 3 18 2 2 0 0 34
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman* 0-3 0-3 3-4 0 2 2 1 3 1 0 1 1 29
03 Kameron Chatman 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 2
11 Andrew Dakich 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0+
13 Moritz Wagner 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 2
24 Aubrey Dawkins 4-6 3-4 0-0 1 0 1 2 11 1 0 0 0 19
32 Ricky Doyle 2-2 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 1 4 0 0 0 0 7
Totals 20-49 11-28 17-20 5 24 29 13 68 17 10 2 3 200
Rutgers 22-50 3-18 10-14 5 25 30 18 57 11 14 0 6 200
Full Stats
Beilein tie watch
(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

New in Blue: 2016 ATH/S Khaleke Hudson

January 27th, 2016 by Justin Potts


Khaleke Hudson(Justin K. Aller, Post-Gazette)

Khaleke Hudson – ATH | 5-11, 205 | McKeesport, Pa. – McKeesport
ESPN: 3-star, #86 S Rivals: 3-star, #26 ATH 247: 4-star, #15 S Scout: 4-star, #24 ATH
Other top offers: UCLA, Michigan State, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, Penn State, UNC, WVU

Just hours after picking up a commitment from receiver Eddie McDoom, and just a week before National Signing Day, Jim Harbaugh added to his impressive 2016 recruiting class with a commitment from McKeesport, Pa. star Khaleke Hudson. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound safety/athlete chose Michigan over Penn State and West Virginia and announced it via Twitter on Wednesday afternoon.

Hudson is a three-star recruit according to ESPN and Rivals, but 247 and Scout gave him the extra fourth star. ESPN and 247 both rank him as a safety, while Rivals and Scout rank him as an athlete. ESPN ranks him the 86th-best safety in the class, but 247 is much higher at 15th. Meanwhile, Scout lists him as the 24th-best athlete and Rivals as the 26th-best. Scout and 247 are the only services that have Hudson ranked nationally. Scout has him 274th and 247 has him 318th.

After an impressive senior season, Michigan offered Hudson on Nov. 2, and then he had a standout performance at the Semper Fidelis Bowl in early January, according to 247 Sports analyst Alex Gleitman.

“The McKeesport product had a very solid game and even played both ways for the East team,” he said. “Defense is where he did most of his damage, though, recording 7 tackles, including 2 tackles for loss, as well as 1 forced fumble and 4 pass break-ups. He was very active throughout the game and looked good both in pursuit of the ball carrier and dropping back in coverage.”

Hudson officially visited Michigan the weekend of January 15 where he made up his mind to spend the next few years in Ann Arbor. In addition to Penn State and West Virginia, Hudson held offers from UCLA, Michigan State, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina, among others.

Scout lists Hudson’s strengths as body control, closing speed, and durability, while noting his areas to improve as hip flexibility and jamming ability. Scout’s Brian Dohn expands on that.

“Hudson is being recruited as a running back and/or safety, and it is easy to see why schools are split. He has good burst and covers 10 yards in a flash. As a running back, he gets through the hole quickly. As a safety, he closes quickly. In both instances, he is physical and loves to put his shoulder into the play. He has good speed and instincts, but needs to add some flexibility.”

With such athleticism, Hudson could play any number of positions at Michigan, including safety, linebacker, or even running back, playing the Jabrill Peppers role. If he indeed sticks at safety, he fits the mold of a Harbaugh and Don Brown defense with his athleticism and physicality.

New in Blue: 2016 WR Eddie McDoom

January 27th, 2016 by Justin Potts


Eddie McDoom(247 Sports)

Eddie McDoom – WR | 5-11, 170 | Winter Garden, Fla. – West Orange
ESPN: 4-star, #23 WR Rivals: 3-star, #75 WR 247: 3-star, #67 WR Scout: 3-star, #68 WR
Other top offers: Oregon, Clemson, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Florida, Tennessee, Texas

Michigan added a piece to its all-name team — and also its 2016 recruiting class — with a commitment from Winter Garden, Fla. receiver Eddie McDoom on Wednesday morning. McDoom committed to Oregon on December 13, however, the Ducks pulled his scholarship on Jan. 17 when he told them he wanted to visit Michigan. He came to Ann Arbor this past weekend and didn’t wait long to pledge his commitment to Harbaugh’s Wolverines.

McDoom is an interesting prospect as he’s not rated very highly, but has an impressive list of offers. ESPN is the only recruiting service that has him listed as a four-star, their 23rd-best receiver and 184th-best player in the class. Scout, 247, and Rivals all rank McDoom as a three-star and the 68th, 67th, and 75th-best receiver, respectively. However, McDoom holds offers from the likes of Clemson, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Florida, Tennessee, Texas, Mississippi State, Miami, and South Carolina, in addition to Michigan and Oregon.

Michigan reportedly didn’t stop recruiting McDoom even after his commitment to Oregon and that paid off, according to Brice Marich of The Michigan Insider.

“The opportunity is there and is greater for me than Oregon,” McDoom told Marich. “They weren’t too confident about me and I feel comfortable with Michigan. I had an in-home visit with Michigan earlier this week. It was with (pass game coordinator / receivers) Coach (Jedd) Fisch and it went great, which is when we scheduled the official visit for this weekend.”

During his junior season at West Orange High School, McDoom caught 47 passes for 854 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also caught a touchdown pass in the Under Armour All-American Game on Jan. 2.

Scout says McDoom can make an impact both at receiver and in the return game and compliments his crisp route-running and running ability after the catch. His main knock at this point is his hands, but that’s something he can improve on.

McDoom joins an impressive wide receiver haul in Harbaugh’s first full recruiting class — Dylan Crawford, Brad Hawkins, Ahmir Mitchell, and Nate Johnson. — though they all likely won’t end up at receiver in Ann Arbor.

Michigan hoops preview: Rutgers

January 27th, 2016 by Justin Potts


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

January 26th, 2016 by Maize and Go Blue


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).”