photo AnnArborGIFHeader_zps02670880.gif

Posts Tagged ‘Breslin Center’

Big Ten title race down to three

Friday, February 28th, 2014


UM crowd vs MSU 2-23-14

As February comes to a close and perhaps the greatest month in all of sports approaches, the Big Ten men’s basketball conference remains as unpredictable as ever.

Nearly two weeks ago, the would-be headliner battle between the two Michigan schools that topped the standings all season long suffered a major blow when Michigan fell to Wisconsin and Nebraska shocked Michigan State in East Lansing. Meanwhile, Nebraska put together a five-game winning streak to burst onto the NCAA bubble, only to lose to lowly Illinois and see it all slip away. Even the Iowa-Indiana game scheduled for Feb. 18 proved unpredictable, as an eight-foot beam that fell from the Assembly Hall ceiling postponed the game for over a week.

With less than two weeks remaining in the regular season, the standings usually provide a clearer picture of what the conference tournament will feature. But in the midst of such an erratic regular season, more surprises surely lie ahead, right?

Spoiler alert: This year’s Big Ten regular season championship is Michigan’s to lose.

Remaining schedule for Big Ten title contenders
Michigan Michigan State Wisconsin
Saturday vs Minnesota, 6pm BTN vs Illinois, 4pm ESPN
Sunday at Penn State, 12pm BTN
Tuesday, Mar. 4 at Illinois, 7pm ESPN
Wednesday, Mar. 5 vs Purdue, 9pm BTN
Thursday, Mar. 6 vs Iowa, 9pm ESPN
Saturday, Mar. 8 vs Indiana, 6pm ESPN
Sunday, Mar. 9 at Ohio State, 4:30pm CBS at Nebraska, 7:30pm BTN

After the victory to sweep Tom Izzo’s Spartans, Michigan firmly planted itself atop the conference with four winnable games remaining.

A trip to Purdue, which provided the most difficult remaining challenge, ended with a miracle in-bounds play for the Wolverines, who snuck out of West Lafayette unscathed, much to the chagrin of championship hopefuls Michigan State and Wisconsin.

Now the only teams standing in Michigan’s way are 5-9 Indiana, 5-10 Illinois, and a struggling Minnesota team with just two conference road wins against the league’s last place squads. John Beilein’s one-game lead should hold up and bring Michigan the long-awaited sole Big Ten title.

But outcomes rarely go according to plan in the 2013-14 edition of the Big Ten. If the first place Wolverines do drop any of their final three games, what does it mean?

Iowa’s loss at Indiana on Thursday night and Ohio State’s loss at Penn State made it mathematically official: the only two teams left to challenge Michigan are Michigan State (one game behind) and Wisconsin (two).

Michigan's last-second win over Purdue on Wednesday kept the Wolverines on track for the outright Big Ten title (Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

Michigan’s last-second win over Purdue on Wednesday kept the Wolverines on track for the outright Big Ten title (Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

Let’s say Michigan finishes the season by winning two of its final three games. Regardless of what Wisconsin does in its final three games, the Badgers would fall short of the Wolverines, having already lost five times in the Big Ten.

A Michigan loss would, however, leave the door open for Michigan State, which could finish the season in a tie and, despite earning the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament, boast a share of the regular season championship. But the Spartans face a one of the toughest stretch runs in the Big Ten.

Michigan State played sub-.500 basketball in the month of February, losing four of seven games. The Breslin Center lost some of its esteem after Nebraska came in and bullied the Spartans last weekend, so a matchup with the desperate Hawkeyes on March 6 could challenge Izzo’s battered team. Iowa’s current three-game losing streak compliment’s Michigan State’s struggles to set up a surprisingly important matchup in the final week of the season.

Days later, the Spartans travel to Columbus in what Big Ten officials probably expected to be a conference-deciding game against Ohio State. However, a sweep at the hands of bottom-feeding Penn State dropped Thad Matta’s team well out of contention, and barring a Michigan loss, this game provides little importance in the bigger picture.

If Michigan does lose, then Ohio State earns a chance to play spoiler for Michigan State and help its hated rival from Ann Arbor. Michigan State hasn’t won back-to-back games since Jan. 21 when a win over Indiana marked its 11th straight at the time. Michigan ended that streak.

Clearly, Michigan State’s quest for a Big Ten title remains an uphill battle.

Wisconsin, unlike the Spartans, plays a much easier schedule to finish the season. Penn State and Purdue, both tied for last place, figure to provide little resistance for Wisconsin next week, setting up an important trip to Lincoln on March 9.

Nebraska’s only loss in the new Pinnacle Bank Arena came at the hands of the first-place Wolverines, who snuck out of Lincoln with a 71-70 win on Jan. 9 after the Huskers missed three layup attempts in the closing seconds. Despite the loss at Illinois on Wednesday, Nebraska’s five-game winning streak puts it tied for fourth place in the loss column in the conference. With a Big Ten record that matches Iowa’s and a nearly-perfect home resume, Nebraska provides a real challenge for Wisconsin to finish the regular season.

Even the most unpredictable conference standings take shape near the end of the season. Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin played well enough through 15 Big Ten games to stay alive into March, but Michigan represents the clear-cut favorite with less than two weeks to go.

The Wolverines may win all three remaining games and leave no room for another contender to catch up. But even if the surprising Big Ten serves up another upset, the odds lie in Michigan’s favor.

Inside the Numbers: The golden age of the Michigan – Michigan State rivalry

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014


Burke steal

Michigan does not like Michigan State. Michigan State does not like Michigan.

This is no secret.

Those who have participated in the heated rivalry on the hardwood in recent years have made that very clear. Former U-M point guard Darius Morris told former MSU guard Kalin Lucas to “get the f*** off my court” after a Michigan win in Ann Arbor three years ago. U-M guard Nik Stauskas blew kisses to the Breslin Center crowd moments after the Wolverines toppled MSU just last month. And MSU head coach Tom Izzo summed it up best in January 2012 when he told the press, “Do I like [Michigan]? Not one bit. I don’t like anything about Michigan and they don’t like anything about us, and that’s the way it should be.”

However, do not let the conduct that transpires before the tip and after the buzzer fool you into thinking that this intrastate rivalry has always been one of the best. For a rivalry to be at its best, both rivals must frequently sport top-notch teams, competing against one another with championships at stake year after year. This is not an apt description of the Michigan-Michigan State basketball rivalry prior to 2012.

This is never clearer than when one realizes how infrequently both Michigan and Michigan State have been ranked in the Associated Press poll in their matchups. Generally, when a team is ranked in the AP poll, it is one of the best teams in the nation. Therefore, rivalry games are more significant and anticipated when both rivals are ranked in the AP poll. Yet, of the 113 meetings between U-M and MSU from January 20, 1949 — the date the first AP poll was released — to the end of the 2011 season, both the Wolverines and Spartans were ranked in only six.

Michigan-Michigan State Games With Both Teams Ranked in AP Poll – Prior to 2012

Date

Home Team

Road Team

Winner

Feb. 20, 1986

#7 Michigan

#19 Michigan State

MSU, 74-59

Mar. 1, 1990

#14 Michigan State

#8 Michigan

MSU, 78-70

Jan. 29, 1992

#13 Michigan State

#15 Michigan

U-M, 89-79 (OT)

Feb. 15, 1992

#17 Michigan

#12 Michigan State

MSU, 70-59

Feb. 2, 1993

#25 Michigan State

#7 Michigan

U-M, 73-69

Feb. 17, 1998

#14 Michigan State

#22 Michigan

MSU, 80-75

It was not until 37 years after the very first AP poll was released when Michigan and Michigan State squared off against each other as ranked teams. U-M and MSU went toe-to-toe 64 times during that prolonged span. Although the AP poll did not expand to 25 teams until the 1990 season, this is an extraordinary amount of basketball played between two teams without one marquee matchup.

It does not mean, however, that both U-M and MSU were bottom-dwellers throughout those four decades. Both programs had fantastic seasons during those years. The Wolverines were in the AP Top 10 for eight of their 64 contests with MSU. The Spartans were in the AP Top 10 for five of those 64 meetings. It just so happened that neither school managed to be one of the best in college hoops the same season as the other.

Nik Stauskas blew kisses to the Breslin Center crowd after Michigan's 80-75 win on Jan. 25

Nik Stauskas blew kisses to the Breslin Center crowd after Michigan’s 80-75 win on Jan. 25

This changed slightly after U-M and MSU’s first matchup in which both teams were ranked in 1986. Over the course of the next dozen years, Michigan and Michigan State went head to head five more times as members of the AP Top 25. The rivalry hit its high note when U-M’s touted “Fab Five” recruiting class stepped on campus. Both teams were ranked for the Fab Five’s first three showdowns with the Spartans in 1992 and 1993. It seemed like the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry was on the verge of something special.

But it did not materialize. By the end of the century, because of the sanctions imposed due to the Ed Martin scandal, Michigan basketball was a shell of its former self and fell off the proverbial map. From 1999 to 2011, U-M and MSU faced off 22 times. Michigan was not ranked once in any of those contests. As a result, perception of the rivalry suffered, having little appeal outside the footprint of the Big Ten. The rivalry seemed destined to be forever overshadowed by the likes of Duke-North Carolina, Kentucky-Louisville, and Syracuse-Georgetown.

Rankings are not the only metric that tells this same tale. The Big Ten standings tell it, too. Rivalries are at their best when both rivals are in the hunt for conference and national titles. More is on the line. Win, and you celebrate a championship at the expense of the team you most like to see miserable. Lose, and you suffer, wondering how your team came so far only to allow the team you like the least snatch success from your team’s grasp.

The Michigan-Ohio State football rivalry is perfect example. Fans of U-M, OSU, and college football in general consider this prestigious rivalry’s best era to be the Ten Year War. Why? Because the outcome of “The Game” crowned the Big Ten champion nine of those 10 seasons. Until 2012, the Michigan-Michigan State hoops rivalry had nothing resembling that sort of an era.

Seasons In Which Both Michigan and Michigan State Finished in Big Ten Top 3 – Prior to 2012

Season

Michigan’s Finish (Record)

MSU’s Finish (Record)

1959

t-2nd (8-6)

1st (12-2)

1966

1st (11-3)

2nd (10-4)

1986

1st (14-4)

3rd (12-6)

1990

3rd (12-6)

1st (15-3)

1992

t-3rd (11-7)

t-3rd (11-7)

1995

3rd (11-7)

2nd (14-4)

2003

t-3rd (10-6)

t-3rd (10-6)

Michigan State basketball joined the Big Ten in 1951. In the 61 seasons played from 1951 to 2011, Michigan and Michigan State both finished in the top three in the Big Ten standings only seven times. That is it. To contrast, in 58 seasons of ACC basketball from 1954 to 2011, Duke and North Carolina both finished no worse than third place in their conference 34 times. Additionally, prior to 2012, U-M and MSU secured the two best spots in the conference standings in the same season just twice. The more recent of these two occurrences happened almost a half-century ago. No matter how one tries to break these numbers down, the same conclusion will be reached: the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry was irrelevant nationally and not very prestigious.

However, the key word in that last sentence is “was.” No longer can anyone make the claim that this rivalry is not prestigious. It has changed dramatically in the past three seasons. Izzo has continued to lead MSU to successful season after successful season, but Michigan finally burst back onto the national scene under the direction of head coach John Beilein. In just a few short years, the Wolverines have transformed from a program trying to eke its way into the NCAA Tournament into a program that won a share of a conference title in 2012 and appeared in the national championship game the following season.

As a result, for the first time in the history of the rivalry, Michigan and Michigan State both have been two of the best college basketball programs. Want proof? Let’s once again look at U-M and MSU’s ranks in the AP poll when they compete against one another, but only at their ranked matchups since 2011 this time.

Michigan-Michigan State Games With Both Teams Ranked in AP Poll – Since 2011

Date

Home Team

Road Team

Winner

Jan. 17, 2012

#20 Michigan

#9 Michigan State

U-M, 60-59

Feb. 5, 2012

#9 Michigan State

#23 Michigan

MSU, 64-54

Feb. 12, 2013

#8 Michigan State

#4 Michigan

MSU, 75-52

Mar. 3, 2013

#4 Michigan

#9 Michigan State

U-M, 58-57

Jan. 25, 2014

#3 Michigan State

#21 Michigan

U-M, 80-75

In the past three seasons, all five games between the Wolverines and the Spartans have featured two teams ranked in the AP Top 25. In fact, U-M and MSU both were ranked in the AP Top 10 for two of those for the first time in the rivalry’s history. Do not forget that the Wolverines and Spartans both were ranked in only six games played against each other from 1949 to 2011. With MSU at No. 13 and U-M at No. 20 in this week’s AP poll, they will do it for the sixth straight meeting this Sunday at the Crisler Center. Simply, the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry has never been better.

This is why this Sunday’s showdown in Ann Arbor between Michigan and Michigan State will be the biggest game in the history of the rivalry. Sounds crazy, but it is not. The fans agree with this notion, too. The average price on the secondary market for this week’s game is $269, which is the highest for any Michigan basketball home game. Ever. And here is why:

Beilein and Izzo (Tony Ding, AP)

When Beilein and Izzo square off on Sunday it will be the biggest game in the history of the rivalry (Tony Ding, AP)

Currently, Michigan and Michigan State are tied atop the Big Ten standings with 10-3 records, sitting 1.5 games ahead of third-place Iowa. Given Iowa’s difficult remaining schedule, there is only an outside shot that the Hawkeyes make a push for the Big Ten championship, so this is very likely a two-horse race between the two hated rivals.

But this is the biggest game in the rivalry because never before have Michigan and Michigan State been the two clear leaders in the Big Ten race, within one game of each other, this late in conference play with a meeting on the horizon. Only three times before have both Michigan and Michigan State finished in the top two of the Big Ten. In 1959, the Spartans were the runaway champion, besting second-place Michigan by four games. In 1966, the Wolverines clinched the title before their only meeting with MSU in the finale. And, in 2012, U-M shared the crown with Michigan State and Ohio State only because MSU blew a two-game lead in the final week.

This is different. This game will have more of a combined impact on these two programs’ championship hopes than any prior meeting between the two rivals. Because MSU faces Purdue tomorrow, while U-M has a midweek bye, the Spartans will either be a half-game ahead or behind U-M come Sunday. Therefore, not only will the winner on Sunday be in sole possession of first place, the winner also may have a 1.5-game cushion with no more than four games remaining. The winner between Michigan and Michigan State — two rivals in the midst of the best stretch of their rivalry’s history — will be propelled into the driver seat in this Big Ten race and may never look back.

So this Sunday, if Stauskas starts chirping towards the Michigan State bench or the Spartans start slapping the floor on every defensive possession, know that they are no longer doing it just because they are rivals 64 miles apart that do not like each other. They are doing it because they know that their regular-season goal — to win the Big Ten championship — is on the line and likely will be decided by the game’s outcome. And that is wonderful, albeit heart-wrenching, feeling because it means that Michigan-Michigan State basketball rivalry is finally where it belongs: at the top.

Big Ten power rankings: Week 4

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014


1. Michigan (15-4, 7-0) Up 1
Last week: Jan. 22 W vs #10 Iowa 75-67, Jan. 25 W at #3 Michigan State 80-75
This week: Thursday vs Purdue 9pm ESPN, Sunday at Indiana 1pm

Michigan is riding one of the most impressive streaks in the nation after knocking off three straight top-10 Big Ten opponents. More importantly, Michigan is undefeated (4-0) in conference road games against four teams that are an otherwise combined 39-1 at home.

2. Iowa (16-4, 5-2) • Up 1
Last week: Jan. 22 L at #21 Michigan 67-75, Jan. 25 W at Northwestern 76-50
This week: Tuesday vs #7 Michigan State 7pm ESPN, Saturday at Illinois 7:30pm

Iowa has not only started the Big Ten season off 5-2, but it has won every game by 10 or more points. The deepest team in the league has been in every game, and the two losses are on the road by a combined 12 points.

3. Michigan State (18-2, 7-1) • Down 2
Last week: Jan. 21 W vs Indiana 71-66, Jan. 25 L vs #21 Michigan 75-80
This week: Tuesday at #15 Iowa 7pm ESPN, Saturday vs Georgetown 3pm

Although the Spartans are still alone in second place in the conference, the home struggles continued Saturday night against in-state rival Michigan. Michigan State has lost two home games this season, and all three Big Ten wins in the Breslin Center have been in overtime or by five points.

4. Wisconsin (17-3, 4-3) • Even
Last week: Jan. 22 L at Minnesota 68-81, Jan. 25 W at Purdue 72-58
This week: Wednesday vs Northwestern 9pm BTN, Saturday vs #24 Ohio State 12pm

Wisconsin snapped its surprising three-game losing streak with a rare Big Ten road victory against Purdue on Saturday. Sam Dekker has emerged as the team’s top dog, leading in scoring (14.2) and rebounding (6.4).

5. Minnesota (15-6, 4-4) • Even
Last week: Jan. 22 W vs #9 Wisconsin 81-68, Jan. 26 L at Nebraska 78-82
This week: Saturday vs Northwestern 2pm BTN

After surviving a brutal stretch in which it played four straight top-15 teams, Minnesota dropped a game to Nebraska Sunday to fall back to even in the conference.

6. Indiana (13-7, 3-4) • Up 2
Last week: Jan. 21 L at #3 Michigan State 66-71, Jan. 26 W vs Illinois 56-46
This week: Thursday at Nebraska 8:15pm BTN, Sunday vs #10 Michigan 1pm

Indiana nearly knocked off No. 3 Michigan State in East Lansing last week, but got back on track by beating Illinois at Assembly Hall on Sunday. The Hoosiers will be the next Big Ten team to try its luck against Nebraska in the new Pinnacle Bank Arena.

7. Northwestern (10-11, 3-5) • Even
Last week: Jan. 21 W vs Purdue 63-60 2OT, Jan. 25 L vs #10 Iowa 50-76
This week: Wednesday at #14 Wisconsin 9pm BTN, Saturday at Minnesota 2pm

After getting absolutely stomped in each of its first three Big Ten games, Northwestern has bounced back nicely, winning three of its last five. Chris Collins has his team looking competitive, and the road win against Indiana was impressive.

8. Nebraska (10-9, 2-5) • Up 1
Last week: Jan. 20 W vs #17 OSU 68-62, Jan. 23 L at Penn State 54-58, Jan. 26 W vs Minnesota 82-78
This week: Thursday vs Indiana 8:15pm BTN,

Tim Miles has turned things around for the Nebraska program and now the Cornhuskers are a force to reckon with in their new arena. Nebraska’s latest win knocked off a hot Minnesota team coming off a big win over Wisconsin.

9. Ohio State (16-4, 3-4) • Up 1
Last week: Jan. 20 L at Nebraska 62-68, Jan. 23 W vs Illinois 62-55
This week: Wednesday vs Penn State 7pm BTN, Saturday at #14 Wisconsin 12pm

Ohio State’s four-game losing streak is over, but Thad Matta’s team looked less than impressive in the win over Illinois. The Buckeyes trailed the Illini for much of the second half but pulled away late to win by seven.

10. Purdue (13-7, 3-4) • Down 4
Last week: Jan. 21 L at Northwestern 60-63 2OT, Jan. 25 L vs #9 Wisconsin 58-72
This week: Thursday at #10 Michigan 9pm ESPN, Sunday at Penn State 11:30am

Purdue’s three-game winning streak that brought them above the .500 mark in the conference came to a sudden halt in Evanston last Tuesday when Northwestern took its first lead of the game in double-overtime and held on for the win. Purdue has played a relatively easy Big Ten schedule so far, so the worst is still to come. A trip to red-hot Michigan awaits on Thursday.

11. Illinois (13-8, 2-6) • Even
Last week: Jan. 23 L at #17 Ohio State 55-62, Jan. 26 L at Indiana 46-56
This week: Saturday vs #15 Iowa 7:30pm BTN

Although mid-season collapses have become routine for Illinois basketball, losing six in a row after starting 13-2 is a new low. With Iowa and Wisconsin on the horizon, the streak is likely to reach at least eight.

12. Penn State (10-10, 1-6) • Even
Last week: Jan. 23 W vs Nebraska 58-54
This week: Wednesday at #24 Ohio State 7pm BTN, Sunday vs Purdue 11:30am

Penn State got its first win of the conference season this week when it held off Nebraska for a 58-54 win at home. The Nittany Lions might be favored in just one more game this season, at home against Illinois on February 9th.

Making a statement: Michigan 80 – Michigan State 75

Sunday, January 26th, 2014


Walton win vs MSU 1-25-14(Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

Having already won eight straight games, including the first six of conference play and two straight over top-10 teams, Michigan traveled to East Lansing on Saturday night playing with house money. By the time the final buzzer sounded in a quiet Breslin Center, the Wolverines had the biggest stack in the Big Ten.

After winning at No.3 Wisconsin last Saturday and then edging an up-and-coming 10th-ranked Iowa squad on Wednesday, Michigan somehow found a way to outlast a beat-up, third-ranked Michigan State team 80-75. Michigan handed the Spartans their first loss in conference play and took the outright lead in the Big Ten at 7-0.

Walton vs MSU 1-25-14

Derrick Walton Jr scored 19 points and calmly sank 9-of-10 free throws down the stretch (MGoBlue.com)

The Wolverines, who have been without preseason All-American center Mitch McGary since the start of their current winning streak, were led once again by sophomore Nik Stauskas. The Canadian sniper poured in 19 points on 5-of-6 three-point shooting and only 2-of-6 two-point shooting but didn’t reach the free-throw line for the first time all season.

In the lead-up to the monster in-state match-up, much was made about the injuries both sides have suffered, as Michigan State was without center Adriean Payne for the fifth straight game from a battle with plantar fasciitis and starting power forward Branden Dawson, who broke his hand slapping a table in frustration in the middle of last week. Michigan played without McGary. The Spartans’ starting guards, Keith Appling and Gary Harris, are also said to be banged up, but both played at least 37 minutes.

Still, both teams’ guards were simply outstanding, with Stauskas, Caris LeVert, and Derrick Walton battling Appling, Harris, and Denzel Valentine all night.

Michigan got off to a great start, making four straight field goal attempts to take a 10-2 lead and keep the crowd out of it for a while. The Spartans refused to lay down, though, and went on a 28-12 run themselves by forcing the Wolverines into several ill-advised two-point jumpers. Every time Michigan State made a defensive stand, the crowd roared louder and louder, urging their Spartans on to a 36-30 halftime lead on the back of Gary Harris’s 12 points.

After starting so strong, Michigan started clanking shots left and right and struggled to get the ball inside the arc at all. Repeatedly it seemed Michigan State would get away with hard defensive checking while the Wolverines could not keep their counterparts away from the hoop, letting the home team make 55 percent of their two-point attempts. Although the Wolverines trailed by just six, most pundits thought Michigan State would run away with the game in the second half.

For the longest time, those pundits looked like psychics, as Gary Harris went to work again, scoring eight points in the first 6:30 of the second stanza and leading Michigan State to a 49-41 lead. But the young and pesky Wolverines were the ones refusing to give up, continuing to claw their way back to a tie game with 7:47 left. Whatever John Beilein told his team at the break worked, as Michigan started moving the ball fluidly around the perimeter and into the paint, forcing the refs to send them to the line, where the Maize and Blue were rock solid.

Just before the game was knotted up, things started to get chippy between the two rivals when Spartan guard Russell Byrd blocked a Glenn Robinson III shot and then seemed to have a few words with him as he stood over Michigan’s sophomore star. Fifth-year senior Jordan Morgan quickly came over to sort things out as both teams mouthed off to each other and formed a little scrum. Cooler heads prevailed and the arguments were broken up, but Morgan and Appling were tagged with double technicals, giving Morgan his fourth personal foul.

On the ensuing possession, Caris LeVert hit his third and final three of the game to tie it at 53. Michigan State bounced back quickly with two free throws on four attempts from Gary Harris and a big three by freshman Alvin Ellis III – just his third triple of the season. Not to be outdone, fellow freshman Derrick Walton, Jr. knocked down his second trey of the evening to bring the score to 58 all.

Nik Stauskas made 5-of-6 three-pointers en route to a 19-point performance (Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

Nik Stauskas made 5-of-6 three-pointers en route to a 19-point performance (Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

The two teams would be tied once more at 60 until Stauskas knocked down his fifth three of the game and third straight of the second half to finally give Michigan a three-point lead with just over three minutes remaining. Following the crucial make, the Wolverines got two critical stops and a beautiful fast-break, and-one, finger-roll scoop from Walton to open the margin to six.

From there, Michigan’s free throw shooting won out despite the Spartans extending the game with 11 points in the final minute, including another three a piece from Harris and Ellis III. The Wolverines did a wonderful job of getting the ball inbounds to LeVert, Walton, and Robinson III, who combined to make 14-of-16 freebies in the final two minutes.

The stark contrast in overall play from the first half to the second half has to be credited to Beilein’s magical offensive mind. Michigan State, physically dominant and clearly the more confident team with 16 points in the paint and eight points each off turnovers and on the fast break, were simply out-played in the second half. Michigan recorded nine second-chance points and outscored the Spartans 5-0 on the fast break. Michigan also held the upper hand in rebounding, as they grabbed 36.7 percent of their own misses while holding Michigan State’s offensive rebounding mark to 29.4 percent, and won the game with their supreme 57.9 percent mark from downtown

Time and again the officials seemed to favor Michigan State, at one point even ignoring Spike Albrecht’s call for timeout and giving the ball instead to the home team on a held ball, but Michigan battled through until the officials started calling questionable fouls on both sides of the ball. Ultimately the Wolverines, with 30 tries at the line, attempted seven more free throws than the Spartans and made nine more than their rivals, but 16 of those came when Michigan State was playing catch-up late.

When the game was finished and both teams shook hands, however, the difference came down to guard play. Stauskas was the best player on the floor, making smooth, how-did-that-look-so-easy step-backs time and again because he couldn’t get into the paint, but LeVert also shook off a rough early start to score 17 huge points on 10 shots and Derrick Walton was clutch all over the place with 19 points of his own. The trio also managed to dish out 11 assists to only five turnovers (three from LeVert) and held strong defensively.

For Michigan State, Harris was phenomenal in making nine of his 16 attempts, including 4-of-6 from downtown, to record a game- and career-high 27, to go along with three steals and two assists. But his 5-of-9 mark from the free throw line will haunt him for a long time. Appling also had his moments, recording the game’s only double-double with 10 points and 10 assists, but his 3-of-11 mark from the floor and 0-of-2 three-point shooting left much to be desired.

Michigan must now be considered one of the most surprising conference leaders in recent memory and certainly has a nice path to a Big Ten championship if the Wolverines continue to play so well. With last night’s win, the Maize and Blue became the first team in nearly 30 years to knock off three straight top-10 opponents in the regular season. Now, the Wolverines face a three-game run of Purdue, at Indiana, and Nebraska that seems much more winnable than the stretch they just-conquered.

The Wolverines now must stay focused on each game at hand, but also play with a swagger in realizing that the Big Ten is theirs to lose. With a big stack in front of them at the best table in America, Michigan cannot simply protect their lead, and they almost certainly will not.

After all, Stauskas and company will not let the Wolverines do anything but keep collecting the chips, one hand at a time.

Three Stars: 

***Nik Stauskas***
19 points (7-of-12 FG, 5-of-6 3PT), four assists, two rebounds, one steal, one turnover in 38 minutes

**Gary Harris**
27 points (9-of-16 FG, 4-of-6 3PT, 5-of-9 FT), five rebounds (two offensive), two assists, three steals, one turnover in 38 minutes

*Derrick Walton, Jr.*
19 points (4-of-7 FG, 2-of-2 3PT, 9-of-10 FT), four assists, six rebounds (one offensive), one turnover in 30 minutes

Quick Hitters:

• Michigan’s second half couldn’t have gone much better, as the Wolverines made 62.5 percent of their threes and 42.9 percent of their twos after making 54.5 percent and 31.3 percent of those shots, respectively, in the first half. But perhaps the biggest moment came on the sideline. Midway through the second stanza, John Beilein got as upset at the officials as he likely ever has in his career, but Stauskas held him back just enough to save a technical foul call that could have been devastating.

 With last night’s victory at the Breslin Center, Michigan has now won five of their last seven face-offs with the Spartans and two of the last four in enemy territory. The game was also the first time in Big Ten history that two teams with records of at least 6-0 in the conference squared off, and it also marked the second time in Beilein’s career at Michigan that the Wolverines have won four straight Big Ten road games.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
01 Glenn Robinson III* 2-8 0-2 5-6 0 1 1 2 9 1 3 0 0 26
10 Derrick Walton* 4-7 2-2 9-10 1 4 5 2 19 4 1 0 0 30
11 Nik Stauskas* 7-12 5-6 0-0 0 2 2 2 19 4 1 0 1 38
52 Jordan Morgan* 1-2 0-0 2-2 4 1 5 5 4 0 0 0 0 19
23 Caris LeVert* 4-10 3-5 6-7 0 8 8 1 17 3 3 0 0 39
02 Spike Albrecht 0-2 0-1 3-5 1 2 3 0 3 1 1 0 0 10
15 Jon Horford 3-3 0-0 0-0 1 2 3 3 6 1 1 3 0 17
21 Zak Irvin 1-5 1-3 0-0 0 1 1 1 3 0 1 0 0 17
44 Max Bielfeldt 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 4
Totals 22-49 11-19 25-30 11 24 35 16 80 14 11 3 1 200
Michigan State 26-56 7-17 16-23 10 19 29 22 75 18 5 5 8 200
Full Stats

Michigan hoops preview: Michigan State

Friday, January 24th, 2014


Michigan vs MSU banner
#21/25 Michigan (14-4, 6-0) vs #3/3 Michigan State (18-1, 7-0)
Saturday, Jan. 25 | East Lansing, Mich. | 7 p.m. EST | ESPN
Offense
77.2 Points/gm 79.9
(489-1,005) 48.7 Field Goal % 47.8(545-1,141)
(152-398) 38.2 3-pt FG % 38.5 (146-379)
(259-348) 74.4 Free Throw % 70.0 (282-403)
14.4 FT Made/gm 14.8
33.4 Reb/gm 39.5
15.6 Assists/gm 17.8
9.2 Turnovers/gm 11.5
Defense
63.7 Points/gm 63.9
(428-993) 43.1 Field Goal % 37.9(412-1,087)
(100-307) 32.6 3-pt FG % 31.3 (125-400)
31.1 Opp. Reb/gm 33.9
6.0 Steals/gm 8.0
2.9 Blocks/gm 5.3
Individual Leaders
N. Stauskas (18.5), G. Robinson III (13.9) Points/gm Gary Harris (18.3), Adreian Payne (16.2)
Mitch McGary (8.3), Jon Horford (5.1) Reb/gm Branden Dawson (8.7), Adreian Payne (7.7)

___________________________________________________________________________________

Following back-to-back wins over top 10 teams Michigan has played itself to the top of the Big Ten and set up the early game of the year for the conference title race against heated instate rival Michigan State. ESPN College GameDay will be on hand for Saturday’s battle between the only two teams still unbeaten in the Big Ten and the winner will gain the upper hand. The team that Michigan beat on Wednesday, Iowa, is the only other Big Ten team with fewer than three conference losses and the Hawkeyes have yet to play MSU.

Can Michigan pull off a win in the Breslin Center in the face of what is sure to be the most intimidating atmosphere it will face all season? Remember, since its 61-57 upset in East Lansing on Jan. 27, 2011 no one in the conference has a better record than the Wolverines. Or will the Spartans protect their home court and end Michigan’s eight-game winning streak? Let’s take a look.

The Starters
Minutes Points FG% 3FG% FT% Reb Ast TO Blk Stl
Gary Harris (G) 32.2 18.3 43.1 33.3 83.8 4.5 2.8 1.9 0.3 2.1
Adreian Payne (C)* 28.8 16.2 52.4 43.9 80.3 7.7 1.5 1.7 1.0 0.7
Keith Appling (G) 32.4 15.6 47.0 42.6 72.2 3.6 4.6 2.0 0.5 1.2
Branden Dawson (F)* 28.4 10.2 60.4 00.0 57.9 8.7 1.9 1.4 0.9 1.2
Denzel Valentine (G) 28.0 7.6 38.6 30.2 71.4 6.0 3.9 1.6 0.5 1.2
Matt Costello (F) 16.2 3.5 56.4 00.0 53.3 3.2 0.7 0.6 1.7 0.3
*Injured
The Others
Minutes Points FG% 3FG% FT% Reb Ast TO Blk Stl
Travis Trice (G) 20.3 7.1 41.4 41.8 75.0 1.2 2.2 1.1 0.2 1.2
Kenny Kaminski (F) 10.8 5.2 51.3 54.8 62.5 1.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.4
Alex Gauna (F) 8.9 2.1 68.0 00.0 30.0 1.6 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.1

The big news coming out of East Lansing this week was an injury that Branden Dawson (6’6″, 225) suffered on Thursday. While watching film, he slammed his hand on a table, breaking a bone and requiring surgery that will keep him out of action for four to five weeks. That’s a huge loss for the Spartans’ front court as Dawson leads the team with 8.7 rebounds per game and also adds 10.2 points and about a block per game. In nine of the 18 games he has played this season he recorded at least ten rebounds, so his presence will surely be missed.

Starting in his place will be redshirt freshman Kenny Kaminski (6’8″, 225). It will be the first start of his career, but he presents a different challenge than Dawson does. Though a couple inches taller than Dawson, Kaminski isn’t as big of a presence down low, however, he’s a threat to step out and hit a three. He has made 17-of-31 attempts, leading the team in three-point percentage. In fact, he has only taken eight two-pointers so far this season, so Michigan’s defense won’t be able to back off Kaminski.

Dawson’s injury isn’t the only one on the team as senior center Adreian Payne (6’10″, 245) has missed the past four games with a sprained foot. Tom Izzo said that the chances of Payne playing on Saturday are “slim to none” but anyone who knows the rivalry knows Izzo is likely downplaying the chances as a bit of gamesmanship. But even if Payne plays he won’t be 100 percent, and if he doesn’t, Michigan State will miss his 16.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.

The other big man that will start is sophomore Matt Costello (6’9″, 240). He averages 16 minutes per game, but has seen 22 or more in three of the last four games in Payne’s absence. In those four, he’s averaging 5.8 points and 3.8 rebounds, both of which are higher than his season-long averages. In the Spartans’ overtime victory over Minnesota two weeks ago, Costello totaled seven points, eight rebounds and three blocks, his best performance of the season.

The backcourt is led by shooting guard Gary Harris (6’4″, 210), one of the leading candidates for Big Ten player of the year. The sophomore is averaging 18.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and nearly three assists per game. He shoots a lot of threes – 14 more than Nik Stauskas has taken – at a 33.3 percent clip, but in his last two games he has made 6-of-10 from downtown. In fact, Harris has made 15-of-22 overall from the field in the last two games against Illinois and Indiana, and he’ll need to keep up the same rate if the Spartans are to win.

Senior point guard Keith Appling (6’1″, 185) also finds himself on player of the year watch lists, averaging 15.6 points and 4.6 assists per contest. While he has taken a little more than half the number of threes as Harris, Appling is making them at a better rate (42.6 percent). However, unlike Harris, he is in a bit of a rut, having made just one of his last ten from downtown and 10-of-32 overall in the last three games.

Sophomore wing Denzel Valentine (6’5″, 225) is not a great shooter (38.6 overall and 30.2 three-point), but is the team’s third-leading rebounder and will have to hit the glass hard with Dawson and likely Payne out. Valentine averages 7.6 points and six rebounds per game, but has stepped it up the last two games, averaging 12.5 points and nine boards.

Junior guard Travis Trice (6’0″, 170) is the other guard that sees a lot of action, averaging 7.1 points and 2.2 assists per game. Heh as only scored in double figures five times this season, but he’s a capable shooter at 41.4 percent overall and 41.8 percent from three.

The Schedule
Date Opponent Score
Nov. 8 McNeese State W 98-56
Nov. 12 #1 Kentucky^ W 78-74
Nov. 15 Columbia W 62-53
Nov. 18 Portland W 82-67
Nov. 22 Virginia Tech* W 96-77
Nov. 23 Oklahoma* W 87-76
Nov. 29 Mount St. Mary’s W 98-65
Dec. 4 North Carolina# L 65-79
Dec. 14 Oakland W 67-63
Dec. 17 North Florida W 78-48
Dec. 21 at Texas W 92-78
Dec. 28 New Orleans W 101-48
Dec. 31 at Penn State W 79-63
Dec. 31 Nebraska W 67-57
Jan. 4 at Indiana W 73-56
Jan. 7 #3 Ohio State W 72-68 OT
Jan. 11 Minnesota W 87-75 OT
Jan. 15 at Northwestern W 54-40
Jan. 18 at Illinois W 78-62
Jan. 12 Indiana W 71-66
^Champions Classic, *Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, #Big Ten/ACC Challenge

Like Michigan, Tom Izzo’s squad has really challenged itself with its non-conference schedule. That has been one of Izzo’s philosophies since he has been at Michigan State and one of the reasons his teams are always tough down the stretch in Big Ten play.

The second game of the season was a matchup with then-No. 1 Kentucky in Chicago and the Spartans won by four. They beat Oklahoma (currently ranked 25th) by 11 in the championship game of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic and won by 14 at Texas in MSU’s only true road game before conference play began.

The only loss came at the hands of North Carolina in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Tarheels were able to dominate the glass, outrebounding Michigan State by 11 – something Michigan hopes to repeat with Dawson and Payne out.

In Big Ten play, the Spartans have survived a pair of overtime games, topping Ohio State by four and Minnesota by 12. Outside of those two, Michigan State has played three of the bottom five in the conference – Penn State, Northwestern and Illinois – and Indiana twice.

The Series

Michigan holds a 95-76 all-time lead in the series, but Michigan State leads 48-36 in East Lansing. Michigan has lost its last two at the Breslin Center including a 75-52 defeat last season, but stunned the Spartans there on Jan. 27, 2011. Overall, Michigan has won four of the last six in the series, but the home team has won the last five.

Notes

• Michigan is 6-0 in the Big Ten for the first time since the 2002-03 season

• Nik Stauskas has recorded three straight 20-point games and nine so far this season, the most in the Big Ten

• Tomorrow’s meeting will be the fifth straight in which both teams are nationally ranked

• Gary Harris and Zak Irvin were high school teammates at Hamilton Southeastern in Fishers, Ind.

Michigan at Michigan State quick thoughts

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013


#4 Michigan vs #8 Michigan State
Tuesday, Feb. 12 | 9pm ET | ESPN
21-3 (8-3) Record 20-4 (9-2)
Slippery Rock 100-62
IUPUI 91-54
Cleveland State 77-47
Pittsburgh 67-62
Kansas State 71-57
NC State 79-72
Bradley 74-66
W. Michigan 73-41
Arkansas 80-67
Binghamton 67-39
West Virginia 81-66
E. Michigan 93-54
C. Michigan 88-73
Northwestern 94-66
Iowa 95-67
Nebraska 62-47
#9 Minnesota 83-75
Purdue 68-53
Illinois 74-60
Northwestern 68-46
#10 Ohio State 76-74 OT
Wins #7 Kansas 67-64
Texas Southern 69-41
Boise State 74-70
Oakland 70-52
La.-Lafayette 63-60
Nicholls State 84-39
Ark.-Pine Bluff 76-44
Loyola (IL) 73-61
Tuskeegee 92-56
Bowling Green 64-53
Texas 67-56
Purdue 84-61
Iowa 62-59
Nebraska 66-56
Penn State 81-72
#11 Ohio State 59-56
Wisconsin 49-47
Illinois 80-75
#18 Minnesota 61-50
Purdue 78-65
#15 Ohio State 56-53
#3 Indiana 73-81
Wisconsin 62-65 OT
Losses #23 Connecticut 62-66
Miami 59-67
#9 Minnesota 63-76
#7 Indiana 70-75
77.0 Points Per Game 69.7
60.4 Scoring Defense 59.2
695-for-1,396 (49.8%) Field Goal % 600-for-1,283 (46.8%)
554-for-1,340 (41.3%) Def. Field Goal % 500-for-1,283 (39.0%)
198-for-487 (40.7%) 3-point % 123-for-345 (35.7%)
157-for-491 (32.0%) Def. 3-point % 130-for-415 (31.3%)
261-for-372 (70.2%) Free Throw % 350-for-490 (71.4%)
10.9 FT Made/Game 14.6
36.3 Rebounds Per Game 37.4
30.0 Opp. Reb. Per Game 30.8
15.3 Assists Per Game 13.8
9.3 Turnovers Per Game 13.7
5.7 Steals Per Game 8.6
2.8 Blocks Per Game 3.7
G – Trey Burke (18.2)
G – Tim Hardaway Jr. (16.0)
Leading Scorer G – Keith Appling (14.1)
G – Gary Harris (12.7)
F – Mitch McGary (6.1)
F – Glenn Robinson III (5.5)
Leading Rebounder F – Adreian Payne (6.8)
F – Branden Dawson (6.5)

In the Big Ten, there’s simply no rest for the weary – or for the wounded. After dropping two of three supremely difficult challenges over the past week and a half, a stretch that included two road games and two top-10 matchups, Michigan takes to the road once again tonight (9pm on ESPN) to close out a brutal four-game stretch in East Lansing, where they face the surging Spartans.

Time and time again, it seems Tom Izzo’s hard-nosed squads project to finish in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten throughout the non-conference season, then inevitably rebound by the time January rolls around to be right in the thick of things. This year is no different, as Michigan State actually leads the conference outright with a 9-2 mark after dropping two of their first eight games of the season.

For the first time since Magic Johnson was a freshman in this matchup, both teams enter the game ranked in the top 10 in the country. Who will have what it takes to pull it out? Here are a few keys to the game if Michigan is to have the answer:

1. Battle Down Low: Since Jordan Morgan injured his ankle early on in Columbus nearly one full month ago, Michigan has simply not been the same team on either end of the floor. The redshirt junior has never been one to put up big numbers, but his presence on the court, especially against big, physical teams down low, cannot go understated. Morgan, when healthy, is one of this team’s best rebounders and one-on-one defenders, and even though Mitch McGary has admirably boosted his level of play recently, Michigan needs Morgan to be healthy tonight. The fact of the matter is that all three of the Wolverines’ losses have come when Morgan played four or fewer minutes.

If Morgan is not healthy, which is still in question, Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne could spell doom for Michigan. Those two big men combine to score nearly 19 points a game and grab 14 rebounds as well, and even though neither is incredibly consistent, Glenn Robinson III simply cannot match up defensively with either of them.

Perhaps most impressive about Izzo’s talented front court this year is the way in which they shoot free throws. Nix gets to the line more than any other Spartan besides Keith Appling and is making 73.6 percent of his attempts there while Payne leads the team in shooting 78.8 percent from the charity stripe. This could be the night where we see a starting lineup change for Michigan. McGary has to be almost a lock to start tonight, and Morgan would be a huge commodity if he can give John Beilein 20 minutes or so. With Branden Dawson also presenting a huge matchup problem for the Maize and Blue, Robinson III could be taken out of the starting lineup in favor of a true big man, whether that’s Morgan or Jon Horford.

2. Get the Freshmen Involved: Michigan’s tough stretch over the past three games has been well-documented, and while no team wants to play at Indiana, versus Ohio State, and at Wisconsin back-to-back-to-back, Michigan is simply experiencing the nature of the conference this season. Every Big Ten team is going through the meat grinder at some point, and if Michigan can pull out two of these four games, they will be in excellent position to compete for the conference title. If that is to happen, though, Michigan’s freshmen, particularly Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III, need to elevate their games.

Whether Jordan Morgan plays or not, Michigan will have its hands full down low with Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne

That duo was dynamite for Beilein throughout the non-conference portion of the schedule, but over the past two weeks, they have combined to average 14 points per game while shooting an ugly 33.3 percent from the floor. To put those numbers in perspective, on the season Stauskas and Robinson III both average more than 11 points per game and shoot better than 48 percent from the field. Yes, these two are freshmen, but they are key members of a nationally-contending team. When the going gets rough, no one gets a pass, whether veterans or newbies. Look for Trey Burke to get these two involved early and often by driving and kicking and utilizing the pick-and-roll to find open teammates. If Stauskas and Robinson III reach their season average, Michigan State has no chance of winning. If they struggle to put the ball in the hoop again, Michigan could get run out of East Lansing.

3. Exploit the Weakness: Tom Izzo’s teams usually have a general blueprint from year to year. They never shoot the ball extremely well but never shoot poorly enough to be a bottom-dweller, they always play solid, physical defense, and they rebound the ball. They also turn the ball over a lot. This year, the Spartans are turning the ball over a whopping 14 times per game, and all seven guys that see more than 20 minutes cough it up more than once a night. Michigan never forces turnovers at a high clip, but if they simply take advantage of the times Michigan State will hand the ball over, the fast break will be huge. Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. are lethally efficient running the floor, and a hot Stauskas could torch the Spartans with wide open shots from the outside. Michigan absolutely needs to run when presented the opportunity.

Furthermore, if there is one game to use the 1-3-1 defense in, it is tonight. Obviously this obscure zone has not been seen often since Beilein’s early years in Ann Arbor, but Michigan has the athletes to use the zone effectively, and with some of the matchup problems Michigan is facing, it wouldn’t be a bad time to try it to both slow Michigan State down on offense and force turnovers. Appling and freshman Gary Harris are the only major threats to score from downtown with Travis Trice out tonight, so if Michigan can stick on those guys in the zone, the home team could have difficulties generating offense against the 1-3-1.

Prediction: It seems that every game Michigan plays these days is vastly important, and with the huge rivalry piled on top of a top-10 battle tonight, this primetime matchup is no different. The winner of this game will be in tremendous fighting position for the conference championship, and with four of Michigan’s final six games coming at home, where they have lost just once since 2011, the Wolverines need to be ready. Tim Hardaway, Jr. has been rock solid for Michigan lately and needs to lead the way alongside Burke and company, and I think he will do just that. With Zack Novak reportedly scheduled to be in the house, look for Hardaway to drop 20 while Stauskas does his best Chesterton impression with four threes as Michigan grinds out a 70-66 win.