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Posts Tagged ‘Big Ten’

Comparing the Big Ten’s returning production from 2015: Defense

Friday, July 29th, 2016


Don Brown Michigan

Yesterday we outlined how each team’s returning offensive production compares throughout the Big Ten. Today, it’s time to take a look at the defensive side of the ball and tie it all together.

A year ago, Ohio State returned the most defensive production with 74 percent of its 2014 tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, and takeaways back. It paid off as the Buckeyes finished third in the Big Ten in total defense and second in scoring defense. However, the team right behind them with 71 percent returning — Illinois– finished just ninth in total defense and eighth in scoring defense. The top two defenses in the conference, Wisconsin and Michigan, began the year with just 61 percent (seventh-most) and 63 percent (fifth-most) of their 2014 production returning.

Aside from Illinois, the teams with the most returning defensive production fared better than those with the least. The seven worst defenses in the conference were the same seven that returned the least from 2014.

Interestingly, the opposite was true the previous season. Maryland, Indiana, and Rutgers returned the most production from 2013, but produced three of the four worst defenses in the conference. Conversely, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Ohio State returned the lease production and turned out four of the top six defenses. So what does that tell us? (Shrug).

Let’s take a look at what this season looks like.

Defense

Returning defense
Team Percent Returning 2015 Total Defense Rating
Purdue 79% 110
Indiana 77% 120
Nebraska 69% 64
Michigan State 65% 26
Wisconsin 64% 2
Northwestern 63% 13
Iowa 63% 22
Minnesota 60% 24
Penn State 59% 14
Rutgers 59% 111
Michigan 54% 4
Maryland 52% 90
Ohio State 46% 9
Illinois 40% 30

Entering this season, two of the three worst defenses in the Big Ten a year ago return the most production by far. Purdue, which ranked 110th nationally in total defense and 111th in scoring defense, returns 79 percent including a whopping 88 percent of its tackles for loss and 83 percent of its sacks. Indiana, which ranked 120th in total defense and 116th in scoring defense, returns 77 percent including 80 percent of its total tackles and 19 of 22 takeaways. However, the Hoosiers do have to replace defensive end Nick Mangieri, who led the team in tackles for loss and sacks.

Nobody expects Purdue or Indiana to factor into the Big Ten race for obvious reasons, but the next few teams with the most returning defensive production certainly will. Nebraska returns 69 percent of its defense which ranked 64th nationally last season. Five of the top six tacklers return as do all but three takeaways. But the Cornhuskers ranked ahead of only Michigan in takeaways.

Michigan State (65 percent), Wisconsin (64 percent), Iowa (63 percent), and Northwestern (63 percent) were all ranked among the top 26 defenses in the country and return two-thirds of that production. Wisconsin has to replace linebacker Joe Schobert, who ranked second in the Big Ten with 19.5 tackles for loss and fourth with 9.5 sacks, and safety Tanner McEvoy, who ranked second in the conference with five interceptions and also added two fumble recoveries. Michigan State has to replace defensive end Shilique Calhoun’s 10.5 sacks and 15 TFLs but returns four of its top five tacklers. Iowa lost tackles for loss leader, defensive end Nate Meier, and three of its top four tacklers but returns all but three of its 27 takeaways — a number that ranked second only to MSU’s 28 a year ago. Northwestern returns leading tackler, linebacker Anthony Walker, who led the Big Ten in tackles for loss, but will have to make up for the loss of defensive end Deonte Gibson, its sack leader, and the next three leaders in TFLs.

Minnesota, Penn State, and Rutgers all return the same amount of production at 60, 59, and 59 percent, respectively, but one of these is not like the others. While Penn State’s defense ranked 14th nationally and Minnesota’s 24th, Rutgers’ was near the bottom at 111th. Minnesota brings back 70 percent of its tackles for loss, but lost two of the top three tacklers. Penn State has work cut out in replacing end Carl Nassib and tackle Austin Johnson, who combined for 34.5 tackles for loss and 22 sacks. Rutgers, meanwhile, returns all but three of its sacks, though the Scarlet Knights ranked dead last in that category last season.

Michigan brings back 54 percent of its fourth-ranked defense but has to replace its top three tacklers, linebackers Joe Bolden and Desmond Morgan and safety Jarrod Wilson. But replacing tackles is much easier than replacing impact plays, and the Wolverines bring back three of their top four tackles for loss leaders and two of their top three sack leaders from 2015.

Maryland returns just over half of its 90th-ranked defense but lost linebacker Yannick Ngakoue and tackle Quinton Jefferson who were the Terps’ top two leaders in tackles for loss and sacks.

Ohio State, which returns the least offensive production, returns the second least on the defensive side thanks to six NFL Draft picks from that side alone. But like on offense, the cupboard is far from bare. Defensive end Tyquan Lewis led the team with eight sacks and was second only to Joey Bosa in tackles for loss. Linebacker Raekwon McMillan is a tackling machine who ranked fourth in the Big Ten last season. And while end Sam Hubbard only recorded 28 total tackles, 8 of them were behind the line of scrimmage, including 6.5 sacks.

Finally, Illinois returns just 40 percent of its 2015 defensive production, the least of any team in the Big Ten since at least 2014 when we started tracking. The Illini were a very respectable 30th a year ago, but lost the conference’s leading tackler, safety Clayton Fejedelem, as well as their next two leading tacklers. If there’s a silver lining it’s that 71 percent of their sacks are back, most notably linebacker Dawuane Smoot.

So what does it all mean? The following chart plots each team by both offensive and defensive production.

2015to2016 Returning Production Chart

If the trend of the past two seasons continues there are two teams in ideal position to win the Big Ten, plotting very similarly to Ohio State in 2014 and Michigan State in 2015. One is Penn State and the other is Michigan. And while both have room for optimism heading into the season Michigan is better positioned for two reasons: the two biggest weaknesses — quarterback and linebacker — have been addressed.

First, Jim Harbaugh did wonders for Jake Rudock in a short time a year ago and now he gets the luxury of having a quarterback — whether it be John O’Korn or Wilton Speight — who already has more than a year of his tutelage to build on. Looking at Harbaugh’s track record coaching quarterbacks, from Rich Gannon to Josh Johnson to Andrew Luck to Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick and most recently Rudock, it’s clear that he could essentially take a tackling dummy and turn it into a serviceable quarterback.

The second issue has been addressed by bringing in Don Brown, a.k.a. Dr. Blitz, to run the defense. He promptly moved the dynamic Jabrill Peppers to a hybrid linebacker position that perfectly complements Brown’s scheme and Michigan’s defensive strengths — the line and the secondary.

The biggest roadblock to Michigan’s title hopes is its schedule that takes the Wolverines to East Lansing, Iowa City, and Columbus in a span of five weeks. The good news is that those all fall in the latter half of the season, after Michigan works out any kinks it may have at the start of the season.

Does this mean Michigan will win the Big Ten? Absolutely not. Since we just started tracking returning production in 2014, it’s a very small sample size to draw any definitive conclusions from. And just because Michigan falls right within the returning production sweet spot that produced Big Ten champions each of the last two seasons it doesn’t guarantee anything. After all, Rutgers and Minnesota were within that sweet spot last season as well. But it should at least provide a little extra dose of optimism for a Michigan team that already enters the season with plenty of it.

Comparing the Big Ten’s returning production from 2015: Offense

Thursday, July 28th, 2016


MSU 2015(Joe Robbins, Getty Images)

With less than six weeks remaining until college football returns the Michigan hype train is in full force entering Jim Harbaugh’s second season at the helm. The main questions the Wolverines face are at the quarterback position — Harbaugh’s specialty — and linebacker where do-it-all burgeoning superstar Jabrill Peppers will step in. But how does Michigan compare to the rest of the Big Ten in terms of who’s coming back?

It’s time to take our annual look at how each team in the Big Ten compares in terms of returning production. Of course, this is just one metric to use to predict each team’s success in the upcoming season, not the be all end all, but we’ll take a look at how it panned out the past two years as well and see if we can make any predictions on outcomes this fall.

The first year we tracked this, 2014, eventual champion Ohio State returned 60 percent of both its offense and its defense from the previous season. Last season, Big Ten champion Michigan State returned 54 percent of its offense and 67 percent of its defense, or just over 60 percent of its total returning production from 2014.

The teams with the most returning production both years — Maryland in 2014 with 90 percent and Ohio State in 2015 with 81 percent — both failed to reach the Big Ten championship game. Maryland finished third in the East with a 7-6 overall record and a 4-4 conference record, while Ohio State finished second in the East with a 12-1, 7-1 record.

Will this season follow the trend of the past two? Let’s take a look at this year’s returning offensive production.

Offense

Returning offense
Team Percent Returning 2015 Total Offense Ranking
Nebraska 88% 34
Minnesota 85% 103
Northwestern 82% 115
Rutgers 79% 84
Maryland 79% 87
Purdue 72% 95
Illinois 71% 88
Iowa 71% 72
Penn State 54% 105
Michigan 53% 69
Indiana 45% 14
Wisconsin 43% 79
Michigan State 38% 73
Ohio State 28% 41
Returning scoring offense
Team Percent Returning 2015 Scoring Offense Ranking
Nebraska 86% 43
Minnesota 85% 106
Maryland 78% 95
Northwestern 75% 114
Iowa 75% 54
Illinois 73% 103
Rutgers 72% 78
Purdue 69% 92
Wisconsin 60% 81
Penn State 54% 101
Michigan 54% 50
Michigan State 48% 60
Indiana 40% 24
Ohio State 32% 28

Nebraska is this year’s Maryland and Ohio State with the most returning production in the conference. That returning production falls in between the Terrapins and Buckeyes in terms of the previous season’s total offense rating (34th versus Ohio State’s 9th and Maryland’s 75th) and scoring offense rating (43rd versus OSU’s 5th and Maryland’s 84th). Both of those offensive units actually went backwards the following season even with so much returning production. Maryland slid 34 spots to 109th in total offense, while Ohio State slid seven spots to 41st. It is important to note that the Maryland comparison is apples to oranges since the Terps moved from the Atlantic Coast Conference to the Big Ten between the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

The good news for Nebraska is that the offense returns quarterback Tommy Armstrong, who ranked second in the Big Ten in passing last season. In 2014, Maryland had to replace quarterback CJ Brown. Last season Ohio State returned J.T. Barrett, but Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Tim Beck played musical chairs with he and Cardale Jones, which held the offense back from what could have been much more potent.

Minnesota returns the second most offensive production (85 percent) and scoring (85 percent) but ranked near the bottom nationally in both categories a year ago at 103rd and 106th, respectively. Aside from leading receiver K.J. Maye, everyone of importance is back for the Gophers offense. However, the offensive line returns just one player who started all 13 games, right tackle Jonah Pirsig. That means 115 career starts are gone and only a combined 37 return.

The next four teams with the most returning production are all pretty much in the same both. Northwestern (82/75 percent), Rutgers (79/72), Maryland (79/78), Purdue (72/69), and Illinois (71/73) return a lot of offense, but all five ranked between 84th and 115th nationally in total offense in 2015. All five return their primary quarterback, so that’s good news, but they all have too big a hill to climb to make a serious challenge for the Big Ten title.

Iowa returns 71 percent of its offense that ranked 72nd last season and 75 percent of its 54th-ranked scoring offense. Quarterback CJ Beathard figures to be one of the best in a down year at the position in the Big Ten, but the Hawkeyes have to replace leading rusher Jordan Canzeri and two of their top three receivers. Like Minnesota, Iowa has major losses to replace along the line with All-Big Ten performers, right guard Jordan Walsh and center Austin Blythe, taking 86 career starts with them to the NFL.

Penn State and Michigan are neck-and-neck in terms of returning offensive production this season. Penn State returns 54 percent of its offense and 54 percent of its scoring, while Michigan returns 54 and 53 percent, respectively. The big difference, however, is what that production accomplished in 2015. Michigan’s offense ranked 69th nationally and 50th in scoring, while Penn State’s ranked 105th and 101st. Both have to replace their starting quarterbacks, but all bets should be on Harbaugh to produce a better one than James Franklin. Michigan returns 72 percent of its rushing and 92 percent of its receiving, while Penn State returns 78 and 85.

Indiana and Wisconsin both return approximately the same (45 percent and 43 percent of offense respectively). Offense has never really been an issue for the Hoosiers under Kevin Wilson and there’s no reason to think this year will be much different. Defense is another story. More on that later. Wisconsin has to replace quarterback Joel Stave, more than 50 percent of its receiving production, and second-team All-Big Ten left tackle Tyler Marz.

Michigan State and Ohio State round out the returning offensive production. The Spartans bring back 38 percent of the nation’s 73rd-best offensive unit and 48 percent of the 60th-best scoring offense. They have to replace quarterback Connor Cook, 65 percent of their receiving production, and center Jack Allen and left tackle Jack Conklin’s combined 85 career starts. The three-headed rushing attack of L.J. Scott, Gerald Holmes, and Madre London will have to carry the load until the passing game finds its stride.

Ohio State’s mass exodus for the NFL leaves just 28 percent of its offense and 32 percent of its scoring behind. The good news for Meyer is that he still has Barrett behind center without Jones to muddle things and the Big Ten media picked Barrett as the preseason offensive player of the year. The other good news is that Meyer’s recruiting dominance over the past few seasons means he has plenty of talent waiting in the wings. Just how well it will step up is the question. Only 132 rushing yards return from the running back position (Barrett is the returning leader with 727) and only 19 percent of last season’s receiving yards return.

Stay tuned for our defensive breakdown and conclusions coming soon.

Michigan hoops preview: #10 (1) Indiana

Friday, March 11th, 2016


UM-Indiana
Michigan vs #10 Indiana
Friday, March 11 | Indianapolis, Ind.. | 12 p.m. ET | ESPN
Line: Indiana -6
Offense
74.8 Points/gm 82.7
(849-1,809) 46.9 Field Goal % 50.2 (910-1,811)
(314-803) 39.1 3-pt FG % 41.9 (312-745)
(383-520) 73.7 Free Throw % 72.0 (432-600)
12.0 FT Made/gm 13.9
32.4 Reb/gm 37.4
14.9 Assists/gm 16.1
9.8 Turnovers/gm 13.6
Defense
67.2 Points/gm 68.8
(791-1,788) 44.2 Field Goal % 44.1 (795-1,803)
(232-666) 34.8 3-pt FG % 34.5 (194-562)
32.6 Opp. Reb/gm 30.3
5.5 Steals/gm 7.0
2.2 Blocks/gm 3.9
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (16.5), Derrick Walton (11.9) Points/gm Yogi Ferrell (17.1), James Blackmon Jr. (15.8)
Derick Walton (5.7), Caris LeVert (5.3) Reb/gm Troy Williams (6.0), Thomas Bryant (5.8)

Michigan stayed alive with a 72-70 overtime win over Northwestern in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday afternoon. Their reward? A matchup with Big Ten champion Indiana, who beat the Wolverines 80-67 on Feb. 2 in the season’s only meeting to date.

The Hoosiers have high hopes of making a deep NCAA Tournament run after winning the outright Big Ten title and look to capture the Big Ten Tournament crown as well. Michigan can clinch an at-large bid with an upset of Indiana, but will likely have to settle for the NIT if they lose.

Senior guard Yogi Ferrell led Indiana with 17 points and nine assist in the first meeting, while sophomore guard Robert Johnson added 16 points. Ferrell is the Hoosiers’ unquestioned leader, averaging 17.1 points per game, but Johnson has missed the last three games with a high ankle sprain he suffered against Purdue on Feb. 20.

Freshman forward OG Anunoby came off the bench to match his season-high of 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting and senior guard Nick Zeisloft — a three-point specialist — scored eight.

Michigan made just 7-of-23 three-point attempts in that first meeting and will need to do better than that if they want a chance of winning. More importantly, Michigan must play with the same defensive intensity that it did against Northwestern on Thursday. Indiana made 33 shots in that first meeting — only 10-of-30 from downtown — and if Michigan can’t hold the Hoosiers below 27 field goals today they’ll find themselves in the NIT next week.

Michigan 72 – Northwestern 70 (OT): Wolverines keep tourney hopes alive

Friday, March 11th, 2016


Irvin vs Northwestern(MGoBlue.com)

It took an extra five minutes, but Michigan kept its NCAA Tournament hopes alive on Thursday afternoon with a 72-70 overtime win over Northwestern in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.

In the season’s first meeting, Derrick Walton, Zak Irvin, Duncan Robinson, and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman went a combined 1-of-11 from three-point range. But on Thursday, the four combined to make 10-of-22 from downtown to lead the Wolverines to the win in Indianapolis.

Four Factors
Michigan Northwestern
48 eFG% 45
23 OReb% 32
12 TO% 11
34 FTR 18

In the first meeting, Northwestern stormed out to a 17-6 lead and Michigan had to fight back. This time, Michigan raced out to a 18-5 lead and took a 34-25 lead into the locker room. But Northwestern used a 12-3 run over a span of more than five minutes midway through the second half to battle back and tie the game at 52.

Michigan led 59-55 in the final minute, but Alex Olah hit a three to bring the Wildcats within one. On the ensuing inbounds pass, Michigan had to call timeout twice to avoid five-second calls. On the third try, Robinson caught the pass in the corner near Northwestern’s bench and appeared to travel, but it wasn’t called. Instead, he drew a foul and made one of two. But Olah made a put-back at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.

Robinson kicked off the extra period with a three and then tied the game at 70 with another with just 46 seconds remaining. Northwestern guard Bryant McIntosh missed a shot, giving Michigan a chance to win it. Irvin dribbled to his right and pulled up from the right elbow to hit the game-winning shot.

Michigan made 12-of-19 threes for the game and 16-of-20 free throws, outscoring Northwestern from the charity stripe 16 to nine. Robinson led the Wolverines with 21 points on 6-of-10 shooting and 4-of-6 three-point shooting. Irvin added 19 points and eight rebounds, while Abdur-Rahkman scored 14 on 4-of-7 three-point shooting, in addition to eight rebounds. Walton was held to just two points on 0-of-7 shooting, but did add seven rebounds and led the team with five assists.

Northwestern got 21 points from Tre Demps, 20 from Olah, and 19 from McIntosh. Olah also pulled down 13 rebounds. The rest of Northwestern’s lineup combined for just 10 points.

Michigan will face top-seed Indiana in the quarterfinals in a win-and-you’re-in contest. The game tips off at 12pm Eastern on ESPN.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
34 Mark Donnal* 1-3 0-2 0-0 2 1 3 5 2 1 1 1 0 18
10 Derrick Walton* 0-7 0-3 2-2 0 7 7 1 2 5 3 0 1 41
21 Zak Irvin* 6-16 2-6 5-6 0 8 8 0 19 2 1 0 2 42
22 Duncan Robinson* 6-10 4-6 5-7 0 3 3 2 21 1 1 0 0 37
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman* 5-13 4-7 0-1 1 7 8 1 14 3 0 1 0 41
03 Kam Chatman 1-2 1-2 0-0 0 0 0 1 3 0 0 0 0 6
05 D.J. Wilson 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0+
11 Andrew Dakich 1-1 1-1 0-0 1 0 1 1 3 1 0 0 0 6
13 Moritz Wagner 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 2 0 0 1 0 0 2
24 Aubrey Dawkins 1-3 0-2 0-0 1 0 1 1 2 1 1 0 0 8
32 Ricky Doyle 1-3 0-0 4-4 2 1 3 1 6 0 0 0 0 24
Totals 22-58 12-19 16-20 9 30 39 15 72 14 8 2 3 205
Northwestern 25-68 11-27 9-12 14 31 45 18 70 16 7 2 2
205
Full Stats

Big Ten Tournament bracket set, Michigan to face Northwestern

Sunday, March 6th, 2016


Big Ten Tournament

The Big Ten Tournament gets under way on Wednesday with Minnesota against Illinois and Rutgers against Nebraska. The top two seeds, Indiana and Michigan State, get double byes into the quarterfinals and won’t play until Friday.

Michigan (20-11, 10-8) will face ninth-seed Northwestern (20-11, 8-10) in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament at 12pm on Thursday in Indianapolis. A win would pit the Wolverines against top-seed Indiana at noon on Friday.

Michigan won the season’s only matchup against Northwestern, 72-63, on Feb. 24. The Wolverines made just four three-pointers in that game, but outscored the Wildcats 20-5 at the free throw line. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman led Michigan with 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting, while Derrick Walton added 16 and Aubrey Dawkins 11.

Northwestern, meanwhile, has won three straight since that loss, beating Rutgers, Penn State, and Nebraska by an average of 20 points. In the first meeting, Michigan had no answer for Alex Olah, who scored 19 points, while Tre Demps and Aaron Falzon each scored 14.

Big Ten Tournament
First Four First Round Quarterfinals Semifinals Championship Champion
Wed, Mar. 9 Thu, Mar. 10 Fri, Mar. 11 Sat, Mar. 12 Sun, Mar. 13
9. Northwestern 70
12pm BTN 8. Michigan 72
8. Michigan 72 12pm ESPN 8. Michigan
1. Indiana 69
13. Minnesota 52
4:30pm ESPN2 12. Illinois 68 1pm CBS
12. Illinois 85 2:25 BTN 12. Illinois 58
5. Iowa 66 2:25pm ESPN 4. Purdue
4. Purdue 89
10. Penn State 75  3pm CBS
6:30pm ESPN2 7. Ohio State 54
7. Ohio State 79 6:30pm BTN 2. Michigan State
2. Michigan State 81
14. Rutgers 72 3:30pm CBS
7pm BTN 11. Nebraska 70
11. Nebraska 89 8:55pm ESPN2 11. Nebraska 86
6. Wisconsin 58 8:55pm BTN 3. Maryland
3. Maryland 97

Evaluating Michigan’s tourney chances: a Q&A with 1-3-1 Sports

Friday, March 4th, 2016


UM bball(MGoBlue.com)

Joe Cook from 1-3-1 Sports is a good friend of mine, a friend of the blog, a Michigan grad and fan, and a bracketologist that you need to know. Since starting his NCAA Tournament projections in the 2011-12 season, Joe has been one of the best bracketologists (who project both which teams gets in and what seed they will receive) anywhere in the world – hands down (and forget about Lunardi and Palm, as you’ll see below).

Today, Joe has graciously agreed to answer a few questions for Maize & Go Blue about Michigan’s chances of Dancing later this month with just one more regular season game to go, how the Selection Committee works, Michigan fans’ rooting interests down the stretch, and much more.

Q: Joe, let’s get right to the people’s question: What needs to happen for Michigan to make the field of 68 on March 13? Do the Wolverines still control their own destiny?

Answering this question has become a little tricky with Iowa’s recent slide. The Hawkeyes have lost four in a row, and holding court against them in Ann Arbor will no longer carry the weight we thought it would two weeks ago. It’s hard for me to sit here and say that a win on Saturday night locks up an at-large bid for Michigan, because that’s misleading.

In the hypothetical scenario where UM beats Iowa and loses in the first round of the Big Ten tourney, they would ruin the one pristine portion of their resume remaining – no bad losses. If we see this unfold, I believe Michigan is roughly a coin flip to make the field on Selection Sunday. If it happens that Michigan loses to the Hawkeyes, and wins one game in the B10 Tournament before bowing out, I believe they’ll have about a 1 in 4 chance of making the field. In any scenario where Michigan wins at least two more games, they will not be left out of the tournament. Similarly, in the event that Michigan loses two straight to close the season, they can make plans to host some NIT games.

Michigan’s NCAA Tournament scenarios
Scenario Beat Iowa and win 1st Big Ten Tournament game Beat Iowa, lose 1st Big Ten Tournament game Lose to Iowa, win 1st Big Ten Tournament game Lose to Iowa and 1st Big Ten Tournament game
Tournament Odds In 50% 25% Out

Q: As it stands today, where does Michigan land in your projections? What are the chances John Beilein’s squad will have to play an extra game in Dayton?

I currently have the Wolverines as an 11-seed and one of my last four at-large teams in the field, slotted for a play-in game against Cincinnati. Piggybacking off of my answer above, I believe that the only scenario that is likely to put Michigan in Dayton on Selection Sunday is the one where they beat the Hawkeyes and lose in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. My hunch is that the Wolverines will be on the outside looking in if they only garner one more mediocre win. Lose twice in a row, and they’ll be in Ann Arbor; win twice or more, and they shouldn’t have to deal with the extra game.

Q: Who are the four or five teams that Michigan fans should really be pulling for down the stretch and the four or five teams that Michigan would really like to see flounder late?

Down the stretch, Michigan fans really need to pull for any team that Johnny B. and company have played already, as this will improve their RPI and SOS. In particular, Michigan fans should root for NC State, Penn State, Texas, and Maryland.

Rooting Interests
Root for Root against
N.C. State St. Bonaventure
Penn State Butler
Texas VCU
Maryland Tulsa
St. Mary’s Temple
Wichita State

NC State (116) and Penn State (111) closing the season well could potentially boost their RPIs into the top 100, giving Michigan three more “solid” wins on their tournament team sheet. Texas finishing strong could show the committee that Michigan is capable of beating a top 25 team on a neutral court (though they need to forget the part where this was in November and Michigan had Caris LeVert for this particular game). If Maryland can climb their way up to a 2-seed come Selection Sunday, that would “add” a win over a true powerhouse to Michigan’s resume.

Furthermore, cheering for teams like St. Mary’s and Wichita State to win their conference tournaments to avoid bid stealing is also important. In terms of teams to cheer against, it would help Michigan most to see fellow bubble teams struggle. This list is chock-full of mid-majors, including St. Bonaventure, Butler, VCU, Tulsa, and Temple.

Q: The Big Ten has clearly been one of the top, if not the best, conferences in college basketball for a couple years running, but this season we’ve heard all sorts of conjecture and debate about which conference is king. Based on your bracketology and your formulas, what conference do you see getting the most teams into the NCAA Tournament and which conference do you think has everyone else looking up to it this year? How many teams do you expect the Big Ten to get in?

I honestly believe this is the most balanced I’ve seen power conferences spread since I’ve started my bracketology work. In my most recent bracket, released today (Friday, March 4th), there are seven teams apiece coming from the ACC, the Big Ten, the Big 12, and the Pac-12… how’s that for balance!? Barring some miraculous conference tournament run by an underdog, I don’t see any of these conferences getting any more than seven in the final field, so I think a three- or four-way tie is the most likely scenario. With six locks to make the tournament (Michigan State, Maryland, Indiana, Purdue, Iowa, and Wisconsin), Michigan will be the deciding factor on whether or not the Big Ten can get half of its teams in the field.

Q: I don’t want you to give away all of your prized secrets and formulas, but can you give us an idea of what your models take into account when projecting the field and their seed lines?

In years past, I was relatively busy with credentialing tasks related to furthering my career as an actuary, so I didn’t have as much time to watch college basketball as I would have liked. In those days, I used some simple linear regression models involving RPI, SOS, KenPom, etc. to develop a baseline for projecting the seeding of teams. Now that I’m at a point where I have a little more free time, I’ve used it to add in a lot more of my own “eye test” to really balance the qualitative analysis of a team with the quantitative analysis. Nonetheless, I want to make it clear that as a bracketologist, I’m not seeding teams based on my own personal judgment of the team’s merits; rather, my goal involves trying to go inside the minds of the committee members to attempt to analyze the teams the way the committee has in the past.

Q: Speaking of Committee members, from your research and experience, what does the Selection Committee factor into their decisions when filling out the bracket? And if you could, would you change anything about that process?

When you take a look at the list of the people who make up the Selection Committee, you’ll realize that they are some busy folks who probably don’t watch that much college basketball. Thus, it’s totally understandable for them to rely heavily on rating metrics to analyze and distinguish the teams they’ve had little exposure to during the season. That being said, I believe the committee is a dinosaur in that they still rely way too much on the outmoded rating system that is the RPI rankings. Ken Pomeroy, Jeff Sagarin, and Kenneth Massey have all come up with ranking and rating systems for college basketball that are far more nuanced and indicative of the quality of a team; it would be nice if the committee focused more on these metrics.

Q: Obviously there are many factors that the Selection Committee weighs when deciding the field, but what would you say is the single best indicator of whether a team will make the Tournament? And what do you think should be the best indicator?

I believe the single best indicator of whether or not a team will make the tournament is whether or not they win their conference tournament. All jokes aside, including a degree from Ohio State, the single best indicator, unfortunately and without a doubt, is a team’s RPI ranking. The general rule of thumb is that a team outside the RPI top-60 should not be considered for an at-large bid. It is noteworthy that Michigan is currently ranked 58th in the RPI rankings. In a perfect world, the selection process would be one big eye test, where a group of unbiased college basketball aficionados gather together and hash it out to determine the NCAA Tournament field.

Kansas

KUAthletics.com

Q: We’ll be going head-to-head in our bracket picks again this year, but I want a little bit of an advantage after you’ve beaten me the past two years, so can you tell us one or two teams that you are really looking to perform well later this month?

I’m still looking forward to those rounds of golf you are now indebted to me! This year, I’m going to be doing a rather in-depth statistical analysis to create a model for projecting a team’s tournament success. This model will be based on factors that are correlated to the success of past tournament teams. The model is near completion, but some final tweaking needs to be performed before I input this year’s information. Thus, I’ll be relying solely on the basketball I’ve watched this year to make my picks.

I believe Kansas will be a tough out, despite Bill Self’s occasional ineptitude in March. Oklahoma’s offense built around Buddy Hield is explosive, but Lon Kruger’s 16-16 record in the NCAA Tournament makes me shy away from wholeheartedly suggesting the Sooners. I think that if the bracket shakes out right, North Carolina and Michigan State could make it a rematch of the 2009 championship game, and I doubt the Spartans would get completely housed this time around.

Q: We all see Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm on TV as we get closer and closer to Selection Sunday, and I think too many people take these guys’ word as gold because they have such a large platform, but just how good are the national bracketologists and how well have your projections matched up with theirs in the past? Are there are any national pundits that seem to stand out as doing very well or very poorly when compared to the Bracket Matrix?

In the bracketologist rankings on the Bracket Matrix website, in terms of the bracket veterans (bracketologists who have been releasing projections for three or more years), Lunardi is ranked 36th of 89 and Jerry Palm is ranked 56th of 89 in terms of accuracy. As for how my projections stack up…I’ll just say they stack up very well. The Bracket Matrix website aggregates the projections of all the bracketologists across the internet, and creates composite projections, while also ranking the bracketologists for accuracy. The blurb at the top of the rankings page explains the scoring and ranking process. Looking at the results, I have been the second most accurate bracketologist over the past four years, and the most accurate over the past three years. If this year goes as planned, I’ll be able to move into the top overall spot in the rankings and never look back!

Big Ten hoops power rankings: March 1

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016


Power Rankings_header

Michigan State held onto the top spot this week, while Iowa plummeted to sixth following their third straight loss. Indiana moved up to second after clinching at least a share of the Big Ten title, while Wisconsin continued its ascension up to third this week.

Michigan remained eighth and finds itself on paper thin ice as far as NCAA Tournament hopes are concerned. The Wolverines may need a win over Iowa and at least one in the Big Ten Tournament to earn an at-large bid.

Penn State stayed in the ninth spot, while Northwestern jumped one and Illinois jumped two to 10th and 11th, respectively. Nebraska, Minnesota, and Rutgers fill out the cellar.

“Another week, another missed opportunity for Michigan,” said Derick. “Now it’ll take a win over a desperate Iowa team on Senior Night to limp into the Big Dance.”

1. Michigan State (24-5, 11-5) – Even – 1.0 (Last week: 1.7)
MichiganStateLogo
Last Week: Beat Ohio State 81-62, Beat Penn State 88-57
This Week: Wednesday at Rutgers, Saturday vs Ohio State
MSU 3-1-16
RPI: 14 | Best win: Nov. 17 vs #4 Kansas (79-73) | Worst loss: Jan. 20 vs Nebraska (70-71)
2. Indiana (23-6, 13-3) – Up 1 – 2.7 (Last week: 3.7)
IU logo
Last Week: Beat Illinois 74-47
This Week: Tuesday at #16 Iowa, Sunday vs #14 Maryland
Indiana 3-1-16
RPI: 27 | Best win: Feb. 11 vs #4 Iowa (85-78) | Worst loss: Nov. 23 vs Wake Forest (78-82)
3. Wisconsin (19-10, 11-5) – Up 2 – 3.0 (Last week: 4.7)
Wisconsin logo
Last Week: Beat #8 Iowa 67-59, Beat Michigan 58-57
This Week: Wednesday at Minnesota, Sunday at #15 Purdue
Wisconsin 3-1-16
RPI: 33 | Best win: Feb. 13 at #2 Maryland (70-57) | Worst loss: Nov. 13 vs Western Illinois (67-69)
4. Maryland (23-6, 11-5) – Even – 4.0 (Last week 4.3)
maryland-logo
Last Week: Lost at #20 Purdue 79-83
This Week: Thursday vs Illinois, Sunday at #12 Indiana
Maryland 3-1-16
RPI: 10 | Best win: Jan. 28 vs #3 Iowa (74-68) | Worst loss: Feb. 18 at Minnesota (63-68)
5. Purdue (22-7, 10-6) – Up 1 – 4.7 (Last week: 6.3)
Purdue logo
Last Week: Beat #10 Maryland 83-79
This Week: Tuesday at Nebraska, Sunday vs Wisconsin
Purdue 3-1-16
RPI: 18 | Best win: Feb. 9 vs #8 Michigan State (82-81 OT) | Worst loss: Jan. 10 at Illinois (70-84)
6. Iowa (20-8, 11-5) – Down 4 – 5.7 (Last week: 2.0)
Iowa logo
Last Week: Lost to Wisconsin 59-67, Lost at Ohio State 64-68
This Week: Tuesday vs #12 Indiana, Saturday at Michigan
Iowa 3-1-16
RPI: 22 | Best win: Jan. 14 at #4 Michigan State (76-59) | Worst loss: Feb. 17 at Penn State (75-79)
7. Ohio State (19-11, 11-6) – Even – 7.3 (Last week: 7.0)
Ohio State logo new
Last Week: Lost to #6 Michigan State 62-81, Beat #8 Iowa 68-64
This Week: Saturday at #2 Michigan State
Ohio State 3-1-16
RPI: 74 | Best win: Dec. 19 vs #4 Kentucky (74-67) | Worst loss: Jan. 10 at Illinois (70-84)
8. Michigan (20-10, 10-7) – Even – 7.7 (Last week: 7.7)
Maize M
Last Week: Beat Northwestern 72-63, Lost at Wisconsin 57-68
This Week: Saturday vs #16 Iowa
Michigan 3-1-16
RPI: 57 | Best win: Jan. 12 vs #3 Maryland (70-67) | Worst loss: Feb. 16 at Ohio State (66-76)
9. Penn State (15-14, 6-10) – Even – 9.7 (Last week: 9.0)
Penn State Logo
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 56-55, Lost at 6 Michigan State 57-88
This Week: Thursday vs Northwestern, Sunday vs Illinois
Penn State 3-1-16
RPI: 98 | Best win: Feb. 17 vs #4 Iowa (79-75) | Worst loss: Nov. 24 vs Radford (74-86)
10. Northwestern (18-11, 6-10) – Up 1 – 10.0 (Last week: 11.0)
NorthwesternLogo
Last Week: Lost at Michigan 63-72, Beat Rutgers 98-59
This Week: Thursday at Penn State, Sunday vs Nebraska
Northwestern 3-1-16
RPI: 121 | Best win: Jan. 12 vs Wisconsin (70-65) | Worst loss: Jan. 16 vs Penn State (62-71)
11. Illinois (13-16, 5-11) – Up 2 – 10.3 (Last week: 12.7)
IllinoisLogo
Last Week: Lost to #18 Indiana 47-74, Beat Minnesota 84-71
This Week: Thursday at #14 Maryland, Sunday at Penn State
Illinois 3-1-16
RPI: 163 | Best win: Jan 10 vs #10 Purdue (84-70) | Worst loss: Nov. 13 vs North Florida (81-93)
12. Nebraska (14-15, 6-10) – Down 2 – 12.0 (Last week: 10.0)
Nebraska logo
Last Week: Lost at Penn State 55-56
This Week: Tuesday vs #15 Purdue, Sunday at Northwestern
Nebraska 3-1-16
RPI: 169 | Best win: Jan. 20 at #11 Michigan State (72-71) | Worst loss: Dec. 20 vs Samford (58-69)
13. Minnesota (8-20, 2-14) – Down 1 – 12.3 (Last week: 13.0)
Minnesota-Logo
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 83-61, Lost at Illinois 71-84
This Week: Wednesday vs Wisconsin, Saturday at Rutgers
Minnesota 3-1-16
RPI: 239 | Best win: Feb. 18 vs #6 Maryland (68-63) | Worst loss: Dec. 5 vs South Dakota (81-85 2OT)
14. Rutgers (6-23, 0-16) – Even – 14.0 (Last week: 14.0)
Rutgers logo
Last Week: Lost at Minnesota 61-83, Lost at Northwestern 59-98
This Week: Wednesday vs #2 Michigan State, Saturday vs Minnesota
Rutgers 3-1-16
RPI: 283 | Best win: Dec. 23 vs Fairleigh Dickinson (72-64) | Worst loss: Nov. 19 vs St. John’s (59-61)

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Feb. 23

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016


Power Rankings_header

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new leader. For the first time since we began our power rankings on Jan. 19, Iowa has been dethroned from the top spot. Although they are two and a half games back in the Big Ten standings, Michigan State made the move to the top of our power rankings. The Spartans have climbed from six to five to two to one over the last four weeks. Since dropping three in a row in mid-January, Izzo’s squad has won six of their last seven — the lone blemish a one-point overtime loss at Purdue — and look to be rounding into form just in time to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

Iowa fell to number two after losing at Penn State, while Indiana, who holds a half-game lead over Iowa, moved up two spots thanks to a win over rival Purdue. Wisconsin continued its surge up the rankings, moving to the fifth spot, while Michigan continued its slide, all the way down to eighth. Minnesota broke out of the 13th spot for the first time in our rankings, thanks to an improbably upset of sixth-ranked Maryland, switching spots with Illinois, and ruining what would have been a thrilling battle of winless teams with Rutgers on Tuesday.

“This week was not a good one for Michigan,” said Derick. “After a win over Purdue seemingly set the stage for a coast into the tournament, the Wolverines laid an egg in Columbus and fell just short of an upset in Maryland. Now Michigan has three remaining must-win games: Wednesday vs. Northwestern, either at Wisconsin or against Iowa, and the first matchup in the Big Ten tournament. If that sounds like a tall order, that’s because it is.”

1. Michigan State (22-5, 9-5) – Up 1 – 1.7 (Last week: 2.0)
MichiganStateLogo
Last Week: Beat Wisconsin 69-57
This Week: Tuesday at Ohio State, Sunday vs Penn State
MSU 2-23-16
RPI: 16 | Best win: Nov. 17 vs #4 Kansas (79-73) | Worst loss: Jan. 20 vs Nebraska (70-71)
2. Iowa (20-6, 11-3) – Down 1 – 2.0 (Last week: 1.0)
Iowa logo
Last Week: Lost at Penn State 75-79
This Week: Wednesday vs Wisconsin, Sunday at Ohio State
Iowa 2-23-16
RPI: 13 | Best win: Jan. 14 at #4 Michigan State (76-59) | Worst loss: Feb. 17 at Penn State (75-79)
3. Indiana (22-6, 12-3) – Up 2 – 2.3 (Last week: 3.7)
IU logo
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 80-64, Beat #17 Purdue 77-73
This Week: Thursday at Illinois
Indiana 2-23-16
RPI: 29 | Best win: Feb. 11 vs #4 Iowa (85-78) | Worst loss: Nov. 23 vs Wake Forest (78-82)
4. Maryland (23-5, 11-4) – Down 1 – 4.3 (Last week 3.5)
maryland-logo
Last Week: Lost at Minnesota 63-68, Beat Michigan 86-82
This Week: Saturday at #20 Purdue
Maryland 2-23-16
RPI: 9 | Best win: Jan. 28 vs #3 Iowa (74-68) | Worst loss: Feb. 18 at Minnesota (63-68)
5. Wisconsin (17-10, 9-5) – Up 1 – 4.7 (Last week: 6.0)
Wisconsin logo
Last Week: Lost at #8 Michigan State 57-69, Beat Illinois 69-60
This Week: Wednesday at #8 Iowa, Sunday vs Michigan
Wisconsin 2-23-16
RPI: 45 | Best win: Feb. 13 at #2 Maryland (70-57) | Worst loss: Nov. 13 vs Western Illinois (67-69)
6. Purdue (21-7, 9-6) – Down 2 – 6.3 (Last week: 4.0)
Purdue logo
Last Week: Beat Northwestern 71-61, Lost at #22 Indiana 73-77
This Week: Saturday vs #10 Maryland
Purdue 2-23-16
RPI: 23 | Best win: Feb. 9 vs #8 Michigan State (82-81 OT) | Worst loss: Jan. 10 at Illinois (70-84)
7. Ohio State (18-10, 10-5) – Up 1 – 7.0 (Last week: 7.7)
Ohio State logo new
Last Week: Beat Michigan 79-66, Beat Nebraska 65-62 (OT)
This Week: Tuesday vs #6 Michigan State, Sunday vs #8 Iowa
Ohio State 2-23-16
RPI: 76 | Best win: Dec. 19 vs #4 Kentucky (74-67) | Worst loss: Jan. 10 at Illinois (70-84)
8. Michigan (19-9, 9-6) – Down 1 – 7.7 (Last week: 7.3)
Maize M
Last Week: Lost at Ohio State 66-76, Lost at #6 Maryland 82-86
This Week: Wednesday vs Northwestern, Sunday at Wisconsin
Michigan 2-23-16
RPI: 57 | Best win: Jan. 12 vs #3 Maryland (70-67) | Worst loss: Feb. 16 at Ohio State (66-76)
9. Penn State (14-13, 5-9) – Up 2 – 9.0 (Last week: 10.3)
Penn State Logo
Last Week: Beat #4 Iowa 79-75, Beat Rutgers 70-58
This Week: Thursday vs Nebraska, Sunday at #6 Michigan State
Penn State 2-23-16
RPI: 101 | Best win: Feb. 17 vs #4 Iowa (79-75) | Worst loss: Nov. 24 vs Radford (74-86)
10. Nebraska (14-14, 6-9) – Even – 10.0 (Last week: 10.0)
Nebraska logo
Last Week: Lost at #22 Indiana 64-80, Lost to Ohio State 62-65 (OT)
This Week: Thursday at Penn State
Nebraska 2-23-16
RPI: 161 | Best win: Jan. 20 at #11 Michigan State (72-71) | Worst loss: Dec. 20 vs Samford (58-69)
11. Northwestern (17-10, 5-9) – Down 2 – 11.0 (Last week: 9.0)
NorthwesternLogo
Last Week: Lost at #17 Purdue 61-71
This Week: Wednesday at Michigan, Saturday vs Rutgers
Northwestern 2-23-16
RPI: 108 | Best win: Jan. 12 vs Wisconsin (70-65) | Worst loss: Jan. 16 vs Penn State (62-71)
12. Minnesota (7-19, 1-13) – Up 1 – 12.3 (Last week: 13.0)
Minnesota-Logo
Last Week: Beat #6 Maryland 68-63
This Week: Tuesday vs Rutgers, Sunday at Illinois
Minnesota 2-23-16
RPI: 222 | Best win: Feb. 18 vs #6 Maryland (68-63) | Worst loss: Dec. 5 vs South Dakota (81-85 2OT)
13. Illinois (12-15, 4-10) – Down 1 – 12.7 (Last week: 12.0)
IllinoisLogo
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 82-66, Lost at Wisconsin 60-69
This Week: Thursday vs #18 Indiana, Sunday vs Minnesota
Illinios 2-23-16
RPI: 153 | Best win: Jan 10 vs #10 Purdue (84-70) | Worst loss: Nov. 13 vs North Florida (81-93)
14. Rutgers (6-21, 0-14) – Even – 14.0 (Last week: 14.0)
Rutgers logo
Last Week: Lost at Illinois 66-82, Lost to Penn State 58-70
This Week: Tuesday at Minnesota, Saturday at Northwestern
Rutgers 2-23-16
RPI: 275 | Best win: Dec. 23 vs Fairleigh Dickinson (72-64) | Worst loss: Nov. 19 vs St. John’s (59-61)

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Feb. 16

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016


Power Rankings_header

Iowa held onto the top spot yet again, but the top six all beat each other last week making for a little bit of movement. Michigan State is the biggest riser of the week, climbing three spots to second. Spots four through eight and the bottom three remain the same from last week.

“The top of the Big Ten is starting to get muddled…which must mean March is close,” said Sam. “Iowa holds onto the top spot for me despite dropping a game at Assembly Hall, Michigan State moves up despite losing at Mackey, and Maryland drops a bit after getting blown out at home by Wisconsin. The Badgers continue to climb my power rankings and seem poised to get a seventh Big Dance bid for the conference. Michigan, meanwhile, had a huge bounceback week capped with a tough win over Purdue at home, but Purdue’s win over MSU at home keeps them ahead of the Wolverines. This is going to be fun.”

1. Iowa (20-5, 11-2) – Even – 1.0 (Last week: 1.3)
Last Week: Lost at Indiana 78-85, Beat Minnesota 75-71
This Week: Wednesday at Penn State
2. Michigan State (21-5, 8-5) – Up 3 – 2.0 (Last week: 4.3)
Last Week: Lost at #18 Purdue 81-82 (OT), Beat Indiana 88-69
This Week: Thursday vs Wisconsin
3. Maryland (22-4, 10-3) – Down 1 – 3.5 (Last week: 1.7)
Last Week: Beat Bowie State 93-62, Lost to Wisconsin 57-70
This Week: Thursday at Minnesota, Sunday vs Michigan
4. Purdue (20-6, 8-5) – Even – 4.5 (Last week 4.0)
Last Week: Beat #8 Michigan State 82-81 (OT), Lost at Michigan 56-61
This Week: Tuesday vs Northwestern, Saturday at #22 Indiana
5. Indiana (20-6, 10-3) – Even – 5.0 (Last week: 3.7)
Last Week: Beat #4 Iowa 85-78, Lost at #8 Michigan State 69-88
This Week: Wednesday vs Nebraska, Saturday vs #17 Purdue
6. Wisconsin (16-9, 8-4) – Even – 5.5 (Last week: 6.0)
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 72-61, Beat #2 Maryland 70-57
This Week: Thursday at #8 Michigan State, Sunday vs Illinois
7. Michigan (19-7, 9-4) – Even – 6.5 (Last week: 7.3)
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 82-74, Beat #18 Purdue 61-56
This Week: Tuesday at Ohio State, Sunday at #6 Maryland
8. Ohio State (16-10, 8-5) – Even – 8.0 (Last week: 7.7)
Last Week: Beat Northwestern 71-63, Beat Rutgers 79-69
This Week: Tuesday vs Michigan, Saturday at Nebraska
9. Northwestern (17-9, 5-8) – Up 2 – 9.0 (Last week: 10.7)
Last Week: Lost at Ohio State 63-71, Beat Illinois 58-56
This Week: Tuesday at #17 Purdue
10. Nebraska (14-12, 6-7) – Down 1 – 10.0 (Last week: 9.0)
Last Week: Lost at Wisconsin 61-72, Beat Penn State 70-54
This Week: Wednesday at #22 Indiana, Saturday vs Ohio State
11. Penn State (12-13, 3-9) – Down 1 – 11.0 (Last week: 10.3)
Last Week: Lost at Nebraska 54-70
This Week: Wednesday vs #4 Iowa, Saturday at Rutgers
12. Illinois (11-14, 3-9) – Even – 12.0 (Last week: 12.0)
Last Week: Lost at Northwestern 56-58
This Week: Tuesday vs Rutgers, Saturday at Wisconsin
13. Minnesota (6-19, 0-13) – Even – 13.0 (Last week: 13.0)
Last Week: Lost to Michigan 74-82, Lost at #4 Iowa 71-75
This Week: Thursday vs #6 Maryland
14. Rutgers (6-19, 0-12) – Even – 14.0 (Last week: 14.0)
Last Week: Lost to Ohio State 69-79
This Week: Tuesday at Illinois, Saturday vs Penn State

Michigan hoops preview: Minnesota

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016


UM-Minnesota
Michigan at Minnesota
Wednesday, Feb. 10 | Minneapolis, Minn. | 9 p.m. ET | Big Ten Network
Line: Michigan -7
Offense
76.8 Points/gm 69.0
(653-1,354) 48.2 Field Goal % 41.1 (537-1,305)
(248-616) 40.3 3-pt FG % 31.6 (147-465)
(288-388) 74.2 Free Throw % 70.0 (367-524)
12.0 FT Made/gm 16.0
32.2 Reb/gm 33.7
15.5 Assists/gm 12.5
9.8 Turnovers/gm 11.0
Defense
66.0 Points/gm 74.2
(583-1,337) 43.6 Field Goal % 44.5 (602-1,354)
(175-503) 34.8 3-pt FG % 35.4 (164-463)
32.3 Opp. Reb/gm 38.8
5.8 Steals/gm 5.3
2.3 Blocks/gm 3.8
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (17.6), Duncan Robinson (12.1) Points/gm Nate Mason (13.4), Joey King (11.4)
Derick Walton (5.6), Caris LeVert (5.4) Reb/gm Jordan Murphy (7.8), Bakary Konate (4.3)

Michigan is out of the Big Ten title hunt after a horrendous week that included blowout losses to Indiana and Michigan State, both at home. The good news is the Wolverines get a chance to bounce back against one of the conference’s cellar dwellers, Minnesota. Michigan beat the Gophers in the season’s first meeting, 74-69, on Jan. 20.

Since then, Minnesota has lost its last four, and is still winless since a Dec. 16 win over Chicago State. The Gophers were 6-5 at that point, but currently stand 6-17 overall and 0-11 in Big Ten play. They rank 12th in the Big Ten in both scoring (69 points per game) and scoring defense (74.2 ppg). Only Penn State shoots worse from the field (41.1 percent) and only Penn State and Rutgers shoot worse from three-point range (31.6 percent). Simply put, Minnesota is a bad basketball team.

Sophomore guard Nate Mason (6-foot-1, 185) leads the way with 13.4 points and 4.4 assists per game. He almost led the Gophers to an upset of Michigan three weeks ago with a season-high 25 points on 9-of-16 shooting. He almost did the same in a close loss at Indiana on Jan. 30 with 21 points.

Freshman guard Dupree McBrayer (6-foot-4, 175) has been the other starting guard as of late. He averages just 4.9 points per game on the season while shooting just 28.3 percent from the field and 15.8 percent from three-point range. He managed nine points against Michigan in the first meeting.

Freshman Jordan Murphy (6-foot-6, 230) and redshirt junior Charles Buggs (6-foot-9, 230) are the starting forwards, averaging 10.7 and 6.2 points per game, respectively. Murphy leads the team with 7.8 rebounds per game. He scored 13 against Michigan the first time out on 6-of-11 shooting, but Buggs scored just two points and missed all four shots he attempted. Sophomore Bakary Konate (6-foot-11, 235) is the center, averaging 4.9 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. He leads the team with 27 blocks, but was mainly a non-factor in the first meeting.

Senior forward Joey King (6-foot-9, 240) and senior guard Carlos Morris (6-foot-5, 185) are also heavy rotation players, averaging 11.4 and 10.3 points per game, respectively. Morris scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the first meeting. King has been hot and cold in Big Ten play with games of 22 against Penn State, 18 against Indiana, and 20 against Illinois, but has been held to five or fewer points in five of the last eight games. In the last three games, he has made just 2-of-9 shots from the field and 1-of-7 from three-point range for a combined seven points.

Freshman guard Kevin Dorsey (6-foot-0, 175) is the only other Gopher averaging double digit minutes. He was held scoreless in nine minutes of action against Michigan the first time, but scored 21 points on 10-of-19 shooting against Indiana a week and a half ago. He has scored nearly as many points in the last two games (32) as he did in the first nine games of Big Ten play combined (34).

While Michigan is expected to win this one, Minnesota surely sees it as a great opportunity to pick up its first conference win of the season. Richard Pitino will tell his team that a team lacking confidence and reeling from back to back home blowouts is ripe for the picking. But Michigan could get a much needed boost if Caris LeVert returns. He likely won’t be in full game shape even if he plays, but at least it’s an option at this point after missing the last 10 games with a foot injury.

Whether or not LeVert plays, Michigan must come out of Minneapolis with a win if it wants any hope of making the NCAA Tournament next month. At 17-7 overall and 7-4 in the Big Ten right now, Michigan may need to go at least 5-2 the rest of the way and pick up a win in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament to earn a trip to the Big Dance. And with repeat matchups against Purdue, Maryland, and Iowa ahead, winnable games are few and far between.