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Posts Tagged ‘Big Ten’

Michigan hoops preview: #22 Indiana

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016


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

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

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

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

Here are three keys to the game.

1. Bielfeldt is back

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

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

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

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

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

2. To Caris, or not to Caris?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Protect this house

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Feb. 2

Monday, February 1st, 2016


Power Rankings_header

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Jan. 26

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016


Power Rankings_header

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Jan. 19

Thursday, January 21st, 2016


Power Rankings_header

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan hoops preview: Maryland

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016


UM-Mayrland
Michigan vs #3 Maryland
Tuesday, Jan. 12 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 9 p.m. EST | ESPN
Offense
78.7 Points/gm 78.4
(457-913) 50.1 Field Goal % 50.9 (441-866)
(174-408) 42.6 3-pt FG % 38.6 (129-334)
(171-237) 72.2 Free Throw % 75.8 (244-322)
10.7 FT Made/gm 15.3
33.1 Reb/gm 35.9
16.5 Assists/gm 14.8
9.9 Turnovers/gm 13.3
Defense
62.6 Points/gm 63.6
(360-873) 41.2 Field Goal % 40.9 (380-930)
(111-314) 35.4 3-pt FG % 31.0 (99-319)
31.6 Opp. Reb/gm 29.4
6.1 Steals/gm 6.1
2.4 Blocks/gm 5.3
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (17.6), Duncan Robinson (11.8) Points/gm Melo Trimble (14.8), Diamond Stone (13.1)
Caris LeVert (5.4), Derrick Walton (5.2) Reb/gm Robert Carter (6.9), Diamond Stone (5.4)

Coming off its first conference loss of the season, Michigan returns home for a date with the best team in the Big Ten Tuesday night. Since a close road loss to North Carolina on Dec. 1, Maryland has won nine straight games heading into its first trip to the Crisler Center.

Last season, Michigan lost its only matchup with the Terrapins, a 66-56 final in College Park. Now the Wolverines face an even greater test as the No. 3 team in America comes to town.

Here are three thoughts on Tuesday night’s matchup.

1. Efficiency is the key

Basketball fans who tune into the Michigan-Maryland game are sure to see plenty of made baskets. Both teams are ranked in the top 10 in the country in shooting percentage, Michigan shooting 50.1 percent and Maryland shooting 50.9 percent.

Fortunately for Maryland, the Terps’ shooting is better distributed throughout their roster. Each of Maryland’s top five scorers shoots over 48 percent and averages more than 10 points per game. Michigan will need a great shooting night from Duncan Robinson, who makes 55.7 percent of his three-point shots, to combat Maryland’s depth.

Diamond Stone and Robert Carter will prove especially troublesome for Michigan, which has yet to establish an inside presence this season. Stone and Carter combine to average about 25 points and 12 rebounds per game. If Ricky Doyle and Mark Donnal can’t somehow rise to the occasion, John Beilein’s defense will be in big trouble.

2. No Caris, no problem…for Maryland

There’s really no way to sugarcoat it: Caris LeVert’s absence is a crippling blow to Michigan on both ends of the court. The senior leader averages 17.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game, all tops on the Wolverine roster.

Even if Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin accept greater offensive roles, they can’t fill the void left by LeVert’s injury.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman is playing his best basketball to lessen that blow. He scored 39 points in two road games without LeVert, shooting over 65 percent from the floor and committing zero turnovers. MAAR looked like the odd man out of the rotation early in the season, but LeVert’s injury seems to have given him new life. He’ll be a major X-factor, especially on defense, against Maryland’s electric backcourt.

If Michigan knocks off a loaded Maryland team without its best player, it’ll be one of Beilein’s most impressive single-game coaching jobs at Michigan.

3. The clock is ticking

The Big Ten season just started, and Michigan is on a much better track than last season, but it’s nearing danger time for a team without a single eye-catching win on its resume.

Michigan’s back-to-back wins over Texas and N.C. State added some substance to its resume heading toward the new year, but now those wins look far less impressive. Texas lost three of its last four games and sits at just 9-6 on the season. Meanwhile, N.C. State is dead last in the ACC after losing three straight games and falling to 10-6.

The Wolverines don’t have any bad losses, but they haven’t been remotely competitive against tournament competition. In four games against would-be tournament teams (assuming SMU would make the field if it was eligible), Michigan has lost by a total of 71 points. Three of those games were over before the halfway point of the 2nd half.

Tuesday night offers another chance to earn a statement win for Michigan. Maryland is coming off an emotional buzzer-beating win, Michigan is coming off a blowout loss and it’s a Tuesday night game in Ann Arbor. If there was ever a time to pull an upset, tonight is the night for the Wolverines.

If it falls short once again, Michigan will fall to 0-5 in its five toughest games and miss another opportunity to boost its resume. Sunday’s road game in Iowa City pins even more importance on tonight’s game, as Michigan doesn’t want to flirt with a three-game losing streak that would largely sink any distant thoughts about conference contention.

Tuesday’s circumstances suggest to a possible upset for Michigan, but without LeVert, and without any evidence that the Wolverines can hang with elite teams, I expect it to be Maryland’s night.

M&GB staff predictions: Florida

Friday, January 1st, 2016


StaffPicks_banner2015

Michigan looks to kick off 2016 with its 10th win of the season against Florida in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl. The SEC East champions are 10-3, but coming off back to back losses. Here are our picks.

Justin
Staff Predictions
Michigan Florida
Justin 23 17
Derick 20 12
Sam 24 15
Josh 10 13
Joe 27 20
M&GB Average 21 15

A matchup of two of the top defenses in college football calls for a low scoring affair and I think that will hold true. Michigan will have trouble running the ball, which isn’t a surprise after the last few games, but will need to find success through the air against Hargreaves and Tabor. That’s not an easy task, but Michigan’s passing game grew leaps and bounds as the season went on. If Jabrill Peppers is healthy enough to play, expect him to play a similar role to what he did against Ohio State, giving the offense another dynamic playmaker.

Defensively, Michigan will need to slow down Taylor on the ground, but shouldn’t be too worried about Harris beating them through the air. Ohio State’s offense this is not. Nor is it Indiana’s, and those are really the only two offenses that gave Michigan’s defense fits this season.

Michigan has the advantage on special teams, especially if it becomes a game of field goals, so I give Michigan the slight edge to pull this one out and carry momentum into the offseason.

Michigan 23 – Florida 17

Derick

Michigan 20 – Florida 12

Sam

Michigan 24 – Florida 15

Josh

I’m traveling tomorrow and Saturday so I won’t be watching any of the games until at least Sunday…if you could refrain from any season ending emails until Sunday I’d appreciate it!

I’ll keep this short and sweet. These teams are so similar its eery. Both had elite defenses early on, then both faded at the end. Neither have much of an offense, though Michigan has the edge there. Both are under first year coaches who’ve miraculously turned losers into winners. I give Florida the edge in pure athletes on the roster but Michigan has a HUGE edge in coaching. Losing Will Grier has really hurt the Florida offense but without Jabrill Peppers on the field I see the pendulum swing back towards a slight edge when Michigan is on defense, but only a slight one.

Florida won’t score much, even if Peppers isn’t out there but what really worries me is Michigan’s offense versus that Florida defense which boasts an incredible talent in cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, along with others that are just plain higher caliber athletes than Michigan has. Without any semblance of a run game Michigan is likely to air it out with Rudock. And that’s all well and good, but this is the best defense they’ll have faced all year with NFL-caliber players, color me concerned.

Neither offense will be scoring many points so for me this comes down to special teams play, with the rumors going around that Blake O’Neill might be out that takes away a huge advantage for Michigan in the field position game. I’m 50/50 on this game but after seeing Michigan only manage 13 points against OSU and with them facing a better defense in Florida, in what is essentially a home game, along with no O’Neill I have trouble picking Michigan to reach 10 wins.

It’s a close, boring and low-scoring game, but Florida edges out Michigan in the end and ruins the shot for a doubling up of last year’s win total.

Michigan 10 – Florida 13

Joe

Here we are. The final game of a very exciting first season for coach Harbaugh is upon us and should end in an entertaining battle.  I’m not sure if Peppers us playing, but I’m guessing he will be out for this one. We’d have heard otherwise by now if he was playing. I still think the D had enough to hold the Gator offense to less than 21 pts. The Rudock led Wolverines week out up some points early and let the D line go hunting. I think we end on a high note and head into the off-season with a bowl victory.

Michigan 27 – Florida 20

Michigan hoops preview: Illinois

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015


UM-Illinois
Michigan vs Illinois
Wednesday, Dec. 30 | Champagne, Ill. | 3 p.m. EST | ESPN2
Offense
79.4 Points/gm 76.5
(375-741) 50.6 Field Goal % 45.2 (353-781)
(139-332) 41.9 3-pt FG % 37.0 (107-289)
(143-200) 71.5 Free Throw % 70.4 (181-257)
11.0 FT Made/gm 13.9
33.3 Reb/gm 33.3
16.9 Assists/gm 14.7
9.4 Turnovers/gm 10.1
Defense
60.8 Points/gm 74.4
(287-709) 40.5 Field Goal % 46.1 (353-766)
(89-253) 35.2 3-pt FG % 39.0 (120-308)
31.8 Opp. Reb/gm 35.4
6.0 Steals/gm 5.8
2.5 Blocks/gm 2.2
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (17.3), Duncan Robinson (12.5) Points/gm Malcolm Hill (18.7), Kendrick Nunn (18.5)
Caris LeVert (5.4), Derrick Walton (4.7) Reb/gm Mike Thorne Jr (8.4), Malcolm Hill (5.7)

A year ago to the day Michigan opened its Big Ten Conference slate with a home tilt against Illinois. The Crisler Center was filled to the brim, but it wasn’t because either basketball team was that good — Michigan was just 7-5 at the time. Rather, the halftime introduction of new football coach Jim Harbaugh was the focus of attention for most of the Michigan faithful. It inspired the team on the court to pull out a 73-65 overtime win over the then-10-3 Illini.

Fast forward a year, and just two days before Harbaugh’s squad takes the field for a New Year’s Day bowl and a chance to achieve a 10-win season, Michigan basketball opens conference play at Illinois. This time, Michigan’s non-conference slate wasn’t ruined by losses to the likes of NJIT and Eastern Michigan.

Illinois is 8-5 overall and 3-1 at home. They have wins over North Dakota State (80-74), Chicago State (82-79), UAB (72-58), Western Carolina (80-68), Yale (69-65), Illinois-Chicago (83-79), South Dakota (91-79), and Missouri (68-63). The latter five have been consecutive after starting the season 3-5. But they have played some good teams tough, falling to Providence (now ranked 12th) 60-59, #4 Iowa State 84-73, and Notre Dame 84-79.

John Groce has had to deal with injuries all season, first losing senior guard Tracy Abrams to a season ending Achilles injury, then sophomore forward Leron Black for four to six weeks, then freshman guard Jalen Coleman-Lands to a stress fracture, then junior guard Kendrick Nunn eight weeks with a thumb injury, and most recently senior Mike Thorne Jr indefinitely with a torn right meniscus. Most of those happened prior to the season’s start, but can help explain the Illini’s slow start, similar to the way Michigan started slow after offseason injuries to Zak Irvin and Spike Albrecht. Aside from Abrams, only Nunn, Black, and Thorne have missed any games — Nunn the first five, Black the last four, and Thorne the last six.

The good news for Groce is that junior guard Malcolm Hill (6-foot-6, 220) has been healthy all season. He leads the team and the Big Ten with 18.7 points per game. He scored a season high 34 points on 10 of 16 shooting against South Dakota and hasn’t scored fewer than 12 in any game. He has scored at least 20 in seven of 13 games, including each of the last four. He also leads the team in assists (3.9), steals (1.5), blocks (0.9), and is second in rebounds (5.7).

Nunn (6-foot-3, 190) is second on the team in scoring and tied for second in the conference with 18.5 points per game, but has played just eight games. He scored 27 and 28 points in back to back games against Western Carolina and Yale and is a good three-point shooter 42.1 percent.

Thorne, a 6-foot-11, 270-pound fifth-year senior is a transfer from Charlotte. He’s the team’s third leading scorer, averaging 13.4 points per game and leading rebounder, averaging 8.4 per game. He played 28 minutes in Charlotte’s 2013 upset of Michigan, but managed just four points on 2-of-11 shooting. However, he hasn’t played since Nov. 28 and won’t play tonight.

Redshirt freshman forward Michael Finke (6-foot-10, 230) is the only other Illini averaging double figures with 10.3 points per game. He scored a season high 24 points against Western Carolina and ranks second on the team with a 57 percent field goal clip.

Coleman-Lands (6-foot-3, 180) is averaging 8.5 points per game in an up and down freshman campaign so far. He’s shooting a very respectable 42 percent from three-point range. His season high is 17 points against South Dakota two weeks ago and also Providence in the third game. But he’s also been held scoreless three times and to five or fewer points three other times.

Junior Maverick Morgan (6-foot-10, 245) averages 5.5 points per game, but leads the team with a 60.7 percent field goal percentage. However, he hasn’t scored more than six points in a game since Nov. 28. Freshman guard Aaron Jordan (6-foot-5, 190) and senior guard Khalid Lewis (6-foot-3, 185) average 5.1 and 3.7 points per game, respectively.

Michigan will have its hands full with an improving Illini squad. Illinois has the scoring to keep up with Michigan, averaging 76.5 points per game, but doesn’t have the defense to give Michigan’s offense fits. Illinois allows a Big Ten worst 74.4 points per game. They also allow a conference worst 46.1 percent from the field and 39 percent from three-point range. Michigan ranks second in three-point shooting, so it could be another big night for Duncan Robinson and co. Look for a close game that should swing Michigan’s way if the Wolverines can hit the open shots.

Michigan’s potential bowl matchups

Sunday, December 6th, 2015


Citrus Bowl

The last 12 months have been a roller coaster ride for the University of Michigan in terms of bowl aspirations. After dropping its final two games in 2014, the Wolverines failed to qualify for postseason play for the third time in seven years. Fast forward to just over a week ago, and Jim Harbaugh’s team had an outside chance to land in the College Football Playoff.

But after being blown out at home by Ohio State and finishing the season at 9-3, the 2015 Wolverines sit somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. Michigan’s resume is impressive, but the Big Ten is loaded with elite teams at the top.

Michigan State will move on to the final four while Iowa and Ohio State will land in New Year’s Six bowls – likely the Rose Bowl and an at-large bid.

Once those three top 10 teams are placed, Michigan and Northwestern are the remaining ranked teams in the conference. So how does it work from there? Since the Orange Bowl is hosting one of the national semifinal (playoff) games, the Big Ten will send a team to the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida.

I think the Citrus Bowl is Michigan’s most likely destination, though the Big Ten has to approve the bowl’s request before anything is finalized. Formerly the Capital One Bowl, the Citrus Bowl is an upper-tier bowl that pits a Big Ten school against an SEC school.

Potential Citrus Bowl matchups

Florida vs. Michigan: Since the Gators couldn’t upset the Crimson Tide in the SEC championship game, Alabama will move on to the College Football Playoff and leave Florida as the top non-final four team in the conference. Florida’s Cinderella season lost most of its steam when starting quarterback Will Grier was suspended for using a banned substance. In the final four weeks of the regular season, Florida nearly lost to Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Florida Atlantic before getting crushed and failing to score on offense against Florida State. Though the Gators did win the East, they aren’t trending in a direction that will make them a sexy bowl pick. But if these teams do meet, it would be a rematch of Lloyd Carr’s last game as Michigan’s coach, when the Wolverines won an entertaining shootout over Tim Tebow and the Gators.

Ole Miss vs. Michigan: Mississippi got dumped by Florida, 38-10, back in October, but the final few weeks of the season could give the Rebels a leg up on the Gators in the bowl selection process. Ole Miss has a road win over Alabama on its resume, the crowned jewel on an otherwise average resume. The Rebels lost to Memphis and Arkansas but picked up a pair of solid wins over LSU and Mississippi State to close out the season. Michigan has struggled to stop the run since losing Ryan Glasgow from the defensive line, but Ole Miss is led by quarterback Chad Kelly, who would meet one of the best secondary units in the country in this matchup.

If Michigan isn’t picked for the Citrus Bowl, it would likely head about 100 miles southwest to the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida. The Outback Bowl will host five different Big Ten teams from 2014-2019, so Michigan could land here for the second time in four seasons. The Wolverines lost a shootout with South Carolina in the Outback Bowl under Brady Hoke on Jan. 1, 2013. Like the Citrus Bowl, the Outback Bowl would match Michigan up with an SEC team.

Potential Outback Bowl matchups

LSU vs. Michigan: The Les Miles vs. Michigan storyline would give this matchup a little extra steam, but LSU was dreadful during the second half of the season. Three straight blowouts at the hands of Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss proved that if you can stop running back Leonard Fournette, you can roll past the Tigers.

Mississippi State vs. Michigan: If this matchup brings back bad memories for Michigan fans, that’s because Mississippi State was responsible for putting the nail in the coffin to send Rich Rodriguez out of Ann Arbor. It took Michigan three seasons to make a bowl game under Rich Rod, and when it did, the Bulldogs smashed the Wolverines 52-14 in the Gator Bowl.

Georgia vs. Michigan: I really don’t see this happening, because Georgia would have to be selected above some of the much more impressive teams in the SEC West, but the Bulldogs did finish second in the East. Though Georgia won nine games and reportedly hired Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart to replace Mark Richt, this team might be a bit of a mess in the bowl game.

The only other potential landing spot for Michigan would likely be the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. The Holiday Bowl is the final top-tier bowl game with a Big Ten tie, and it would give Michigan a chance to play a Pac-12 team.

Potential Holiday Bowl matchups

USC vs. Michigan: USC put up a bit of a fight against Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game, but the Trojans finished the disappointing season with five losses. At times, like in a runaway win over Utah, USC’s elite talent shone through and it looked nearly unbeatable. But Pat Hayden’s crew is very hit-or-miss, especially after a month of preparation.

Oregon vs. Michigan: This is definitely not a matchup Michigan wants to see. With Vernon Adams back healthy at quarterback, Oregon’s offense is rolling and the Ducks are extremely dangerous. Michigan would have to win a shootout to win this matchup, a tall task against a team like Oregon.

The College Football Selection Show will air on ESPN at 12:30pm Eastern time today, beginning with the playoff teams and pairings. The rest of the New Year’s Six bowl pairings will be announced along with the rest of the Top 25. Michigan will know its destination and opponent by this evening, so stay tuned for a preview.

Michigan 66 – N.C. State 59

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015


UM vs NC State(North Carolina State Athletics)

In a season that has not exactly started off on the right foot for the Big Ten, Michigan did its part tonight in helping the conference along in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge by knocking off North Carolina State by a 66-59 margin in Raleigh.

After a slow, turnover-riddled start against the Wolfpack in which the Wolverines managed only one made bucket in the first eight minutes of game time, John Beilein looked to his bench to get things going. And they did just that.

Trailing 11-7 nearly halfway through the first half, Michigan needed a spark, which newcomers Moritz Wagner and Duncan Robinson ably provided. Robinson, sporting a jumper that’s as quick and clean as ever, swished a triple to cut the lead to one with 10:15 to go in the opening stanza, while Zak Irvin followed suit with a nifty layup to put Michigan ahead by one, then assisted Wagner on another layup to re-take the lead.

Wagner followed that up with a beautiful pass-fake, split-the-defense dunk and Robinson put in his second three of the evening shortly thereafter to give the Wolverines a 21-18 lead, which they would not relinquish.

Robinson would go on to pour in 17 points on five triples and a mid-range jumper, while senior stalwart Caris LeVert led the team with 18 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists on a bevy of nifty dribble-drives and passes that we’ve come to expect from him in his final season.

Four Factors
Michigan N.C. State
57 eFG% 36
8 OReb% 30
17 TO% 11
27 FTR 41

Unfortunately for the visitors, the victory came with a tinge of pain, as Derrick Walton went down late in the first half with what appeared to be a lower left leg injury and did not return for the remainder of the evening.

Still, this is a very welcome win, a win that perhaps seemed highly unlikely after Michigan got run out of the gym in consecutive losses against Xavier and Connecticut in the last couple weeks. North Carolina State, which returned a few starters from last season’s surprise Sweet 16 squad, has also started slow this year, with early losses to William and Mary and Arizona State.

But make no mistake about it: this was a very encouraging performance from a short-handed Michigan team, a win that will certainly boost their RPI (road wins count more than home or neutral court wins) and give them their second straight semi-quality, non-home non-conference victory after they downed Texas to close out the Battle 4 Atlantis on Friday. The Longhorns sit within the top 50 on kenpom.com while NC State is just outside at 65.

As promised earlier this year, John Beilein has begun to significantly cut down on the rotation. At this point, it’s very clear that the five spot is a two-man platoon with Ricky Doyle and Wagner going forward while Duncan Robinson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman will command the most minutes off the bench at the guard and wing spots. Depending on the severity of Walton’s injury and the length of Spike Albrecht’s recently announced recovery period, Rahk could be in for a major uptick in minutes, and while he’s not a big-time scorer, he’s one of the better defenders on this team and one of the few players that displays strong confidence in driving to the hoop. Robinson, for his part, looks to be more Jon Diebler than Matt Vogrich early on – he didn’t even hit the rim on his first three treys tonight and is now shooting an absurd 60.6 percent from deep through seven games in Division I, with three nights of at least 14 points.

Also encouraging tonight was the resiliency that the Wolverines displayed midway through the second half when the Wolfpack looked primed to turn a double-digit deficit into a lead of their own with a 12-1 run that took a comfortable 45-30 Michigan advantage down to 46-42 in just over four minutes of action.

Irvin once again came through in the clutch, however, with a beautiful assist to Doyle for an uncontested layup and a corner three – his first and only made three of the night (1-of-6) – to bring Michigan’s lead back to 10 on an otherwise tough shooting night for the junior. Robinson also sandwiched five points in that 10-4 spurt.

Caris LeVert would go on to ice the game away late with six straight made free throws.

NC State was paced by sophomore Caleb Martin’s game-high 19 points and 16 from lightning-quick junior Cat Barber, who made an array of tough midrange jumpers. Star sophomore Abdul-Malik Abu was limited to just two points – only the second time he’s failed to reach double-digits this season – on an 0-of-6 mark from the floor despite averaging 12 points per game heading into tonight.

The Wolverines will now travel back to Ann Arbor for their first home game in two weeks this Saturday against a hapless Houston Baptist squad. Derrick Walton’s status is perilously in question – Michigan fans are hoping it is not a recurrence of last season’s foot injuries – but the rest of the team looks to be taking strides in the right direction. And that’s something many teams are not able to say.

Quick Hitters

• Moritz Wagner is quickly becoming Michigan’s best option at center despite an insistence from John Beilein before the season that the young German was destined for the four and had a lot of learning left to do. Ricky Doyle once again got the start this evening, but his play does not seem to have evolved from last year, and his hands appear to be getting more slippery by the minute. Wagner once again displayed the all-around skillset that makes his potential so high with a pair of nice finishes around the hoop, a couple of solid defensive plays, and a near coast-to-coast take on a rebound. His turnaround, defender-splitting dribble-drive-to-dunk finish was the highlight of the night. D.J. Wilson dropped out of the rotation this evening with only one minute of playing time while Mark Donnal did not see the floor. On the wing, Kameron Chatman’s playing time appears to be diminishing, as he saw only five minutes of time along with Spike Albrecht, who is now being limited in practice and games while continuing to recover from a pair of off-season hip surgeries.

• North Carolina State easily won the rebounding battle, grabbing 13 of 43 available offensive rebounds (30.2% OReb) while dominating the defensive glass – Michigan was only able to get two second chances for a measly 8% OReb rate (2 of 25). Beilein has never stressed crashing the offensive glass in order to better limit easy fast break points and run outs, but he certainly will not like this continuing disparity. During the Wolfpack’s second half run, a number of their offensive rebounds saw two NC State players closer to the ball than any Wolverine. Michigan will continue to work on limiting those second chance points for their opponents, but I don’t see them being one of the better defensive rebounding teams during conference season with another guard-oriented offense that almost never has more than one guy over 6-foot-7 on the court at a time. The Wolverines were able to make up for that disparity by connecting on five more shots despite taking 10 fewer attempts (50% to 32.8% from the floor).

Michigan’s Three Stars

***Caris LeVert***
18 points (3-of-6 2pt, 1-of-4 3pt, 9-of-10 FT), nine rebounds, seven assists, one block, two turnovers in 37 minutes

**Duncan Robinson**
17 points (1-of-1 2pt, 5-of-7 3pt), three rebounds, one steal, zero turnovers in 23 minutes

*Moritz Wagner*
8 points (4-of-6 2pt, 0-of-1 3pt), two rebounds (one offensive), two turnovers in 23 minutes

Season Three-Stars Standings

Caris LeVert – 7
Duncan Robinson – 6
Derrick Walton – 3
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
32 Ricky Doyle* 3-4 0-0 0-0 0 4 4 2 6 0 3 1 0 16
10 Derrick Walton Jr.* 1-1 0-0 2-2 0 2 2 0 4 2 2 0 1 13
21 Zak Irvin* 3-11 1-6 0-0 1 4 5 2 7 4 1 0 0 37
23 Caris LeVert* 4-10 1-4 9-10 0 9 9 2 18 7 2 1 0 37
24 Aubrey Dawkins* 1-3 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 3 2 0 1 0 0 15
02 Spike Albrecht 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 5
03 Kameron Chatman 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 2 0 1 0 0 0 5
05 D.J. Wilson 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman 2-4 0-2 0-0 0 4 4 1 4 0 0 0 1 25
13 Moritz Wagner 4-7 0-1 0-1 1 1 2 4 8 0 2 0 0 23
20 Duncan Robinson 6-8 5-7 0-0 0 3 3 3 17 0 0 0 1 23
Totals 24-48 7-20 11-13 2 30 32 20 66 15 11 2 3 200
N.C. State 19-58 4-17 17-24 13 23 36 17 59 8 7 3 6 200
Full Stats

2015 Big Ten power rankings: Week 12

Thursday, November 26th, 2015


Power Rankings_header

Well, the biggest week of the Big Ten season so far has come and gone, leaving two clear contenders with a direct path to Indianapolis. Barring a massive upset, Iowa and Michigan State will play for the Big Ten crown.

But as a whole, the Big Ten has emerged as the top conference in college football. LSU and much of the SEC has been exposed as overhyped and the Big Ten put four teams in the College Football Playoff top 10.

Now the microscope shifts from the top of the league to the middle, where four teams need a victory to get to six wins. Will the Big Ten send only seven teams to the postseason? Or could it be as many as 11? All 14 teams will hit the turf Saturday (or Friday) for six meaningful games (and one Maryland-Rutgers pillow fight).

East Division
1. Michigan State (10-1, 6-1) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat #3 Ohio State 17-14 This Week: Sat Penn State (7-4, 4-3), 3:30pm, ESPN

Mark Dantonio did it again. Nobody gave Michigan State a chance to win in Columbus, especially when star quarterback and future first-round draft pick Connor Cook was ruled out. If the Spartans knock off Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 5, they should be a top two seed in the playoff.

2. Michigan (9-2, 6-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Penn State 28-16 This Week: Sat vs #8 Ohio State (10-1, 6-1), 12pm, ABC

Saturday was a perfect representation of how far Michigan has come under first-year coach Jim Harbaugh. The Wolverines dominated Penn State in Happy Valley, electing to take a knee inside the five instead of winning the game by 19 points. The victory gave Michigan a perfect 4-0 road record in conference play and a fourth straight win since the crushing defeat against MSU. If Michigan played Utah or Michigan State today, it would probably win both games. Instead, the Wolverines have a chance to clinch a New Year’s Six bowl game if they can take care of Ohio State at the Big House.

3. Ohio State (10-1, 6-1) – Down 2
Last Week: Lost to #9 Michigan State 14-17 This Week: Sat at #10 Michigan (9-2, 6-1), 12pm, ABC

You don’t really find out about the character of a team until it faces some adversity, and the Buckeyes didn’t handle it well. After their first loss in over a calendar year, Cardale Jones and Ezekiel Elliott unceremoniously declared for the NFL Draft and Elliott blamed the entire loss on play calling. Then, Urban Meyer seized control of his team by…basically cowering at Elliott’s feet during his weekly press conference. Elliott does not deserve to miss game time for his comments, but the way he attacked his coaching staff created a crack in the seemingly impenetrable wall Meyer built in Columbus. Now that the Buckeyes have a loss, the rest of their resume is fair game for criticism. Ohio State’s best win came at home against a mediocre Penn State team and then it lost its only competitive game to a team with two backup quarterbacks. I think Michigan is going to see an angry, ultra-motivated Buckeye team in Ann Arbor this weekend.

4. Indiana (5-6, 1-6) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Maryland 47-28 This Week: Sat at Purdue (2-9, 1-6), 12pm, BTN

Indiana has been the anti-Ohio State this season: Losing close games against very tough competition. The Hoosiers have played five of the top six teams in the conference and nearly knocked off four of those teams. But now it’s time to give Indiana some love. Despite falling behind Maryland 21-3 in the first quarter, Kevin Wilson’s team didn’t fall apart, instead scoring the next 27 points and running away with a 47-28 win. That first conference victory gives the Hoosiers a great chance to clinch a bowl Saturday in West Lafayette.

5. Penn State (7-4, 4-3) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #12 Michigan 16-28 This Week: Sat at #5 Michigan State (10-1, 6-1), 3:30pm, ESPN

Is Penn State any good? I’m really not sure. James Franklin heads into the final game of the season without a single win over a winning power five team. PSU’s best win came against Indiana and it hasn’t won a road game on the year. Christian Hackenberg missed some open receivers by a wide margin Saturday against Michigan and looks beaten down by a terrible offensive line’s ineptitude.

6. Rutgers (4-7, 1-6) – Even
Last Week: Beat Army 31-21 This Week: Sat vs Maryland (2-9, 0-7), 12pm, BTN

Rutgers won at Army by 10 points to snap a four-game losing streak on Saturday. Luckily, the Scarlett Knights get to close out the season against Maryland this weekend.

7. Maryland (2-9, 0-7) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Indiana 28-47 This Week: Sat at Rutgers (4-7, 1-6), 12pm, BTN

It seems like some strong head coaching candidates are strongly considering that Maryland job, which is the first good news the football program has heard all season. Luckily, the Terrapins get to close out the season against Rutgers this weekend.

B1G East Week 12

 

West Division
1. Iowa (11-0, 7-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Purdue 40-20 This Week: Fri at Nebraska (5-6, 3-4), 3:30pm, ABC

With a foot of snow piled on every row of bleachers, Iowa looked like it would give fans an excuse to watch the second half from the warmth of their living rooms Saturday. But a 20-point lead was trimmed to just seven early in the second half after a 13-0 Purdue run. The Hawkeyes woke up just in time to win 40-20 and jump into the top four of the playoff rankings. Iowa already clinched the Big Ten West Division, but it’ll need a win in Nebraska on Friday night to stay alive for the playoff.

2. Northwestern (9-2, 5-2) – Even
Last Week: Beat #25 Wisconsin 13-7 This Week: Sat vs Illinois (5-6, 2-5), 3:30pm, ESPNU

Another week, another reason Northwestern should be ranked much higher than it actually is. The Wildcats went into Madison and held Wisconsin to seven points to add another quality win to a loaded resume. It’s a shame that losses to a pair of top 10 teams took a very deserving Northwestern team out of the New Year’s Six conversation.

3. Nebraska (5-6, 3-4) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 31-14 This Week: Fri vs #4 Iowa (11-0, 7-0), 3:30pm, ABC

It’s been a season full of shock for Nebraska fans: Shocking losses, shocking wins and, most prominently, shocking endings. Mike Riley is two-thirds of the way through the 3-0 finish he needed to make a bowl game. It’s fitting that the Cornhuskers will need a shocking win over undefeated Iowa to polish it off.

4. Wisconsin (8-3, 5-2) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #20 Northwestern 7-13 This Week: Sat at Minnesota (5-6, 2-5), 3:30pm, BTN

Wisconsin played three games against teams without losing record this season and lost all three, scoring an average of 10 points. All eight of Wisconsin’s wins came against teams with five or fewer wins. That makes an SEC non-conference schedule look almost respectable.

5. Minnesota (5-6, 2-5) – Even
Last Week: Beta Illinois 32-23 This Week: Sat vs Wisconsin (8-3, 5-2), 3:30pm, BTN

Coming off three straight losses to current top-10 teams, Minnesota got its first win under Tracy Claeys Saturday against Illinois. It wouldn’t shock me to see the Golden Gophers knock off Wisconsin at home to sneak into the bowl season. Minnesota is one of those pesky teams you don’t want to play in the postseason.

6. Purdue (2-9, 1-6) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to #5 Iowa 20-40 This Week: Sat vs Indiana (5-6, 1-6), 12pm, BTN

This is going to sound strange, but Purdue might be the best 2-9 team in the country. The Boilermakers have come within a possession of knocking off three teams with at least nine wins and gave Iowa a bit of a scare in the 3rd quarter Saturday. A rivalry win against bowl-hopeful Indiana would end the season on a positive note.

7. Illinois (5-6, 2-5) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Minnesota 23-32 This Week: Sat vs #16 Northwestern (9-2, 5-2), 3:30pm, ESPNU

Illinois had a perfect opportunity to clinch a bowl win Saturday in Minnesota, but laid an egg in a 32-23 loss. Now it’ll take an upset over an excellent Northwestern team on Senior Night to extend the season for Bill Cubit’s group.

B1G West Week 12