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Posts Tagged ‘Caris LeVert’

First test passed: Michigan 70 – Oregon 63

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014


LeVert layup vs Oregon(MGoBlue.com)

After opening the season with a Division II school and two mid-majors, Michigan faced its first test of the season on Monday night in the semifinal of the Progressive Legends Classic in Brooklyn, N.Y. The Wolverines passed the test with a 70-63 win over Oregon to advance to Tuesday night’s championship game.

Michigan opened the game with a Caris LeVert three-pointer and opened up a 7-2 lead thanks to a Kameron Chatman layup and a Mark Donnal dunk. After an Oregon basket, Zak Irvin hit his first three of the game to give Michigan a 10-4 lead.

The rest of the first half was played within a few points with Oregon pulling even at 25 with 4:50 to play. But Michigan freshmen scored the next four as Chatman made a free throw and Ricky Doyle made a layup and a free throw. After a two minute and 40 second scoring drought, Oregon got a Jordan Bell dunk to pull within 29-27, but Michigan closed the half with a Doyle tip-in and two LeVert free throws. Michigan led 33-27 at the half.

Four Factors
Michigan Oregon
51.1 eFG% 43.2
23.3 OReb% 45.0
12.7 TO% 22.2
63.0 FTR 33.5

Oregon scored the first basket of the second half, but Irvin hit another three. Every time Oregon tried to make a move, Michigan had an answer. The Ducks scored the next six points to pull within one, but four straight Michigan free throws put the Wolverines back on top by five.

With 13:45 to play, Oregon pulled even once again at 40, but Michigan scored the next eight to take its biggest lead of the night. Oregon ended a 3:19 scoring drought with a Joseph Young three, and after two more LeVert free throws, Oregon scored five straight to pull within 50-48.

After a Doyle layup, neither team scored for the next minute and a half until Derrick Walton Jr. made two free throws to put Michigan back ahead by six. Oregon wouldn’t go away, again pulling within one with four minutes left, and again a minute later after the teams traded a pair of free throws. LeVert converted an and-one, but Oregon responded with two free throws.

Leading by two with 1:34 to play, Michigan called a timeout to set up a play. LeVert drove from the top of the key and kicked it out to Irvin on the right wing. Irvin nailed his third three of the game. Four Oregon free throws surrounding two by Walton made it a three-point game and Michigan ball in the final minute.

LeVert missed a jumper, but Doyle grabbed the offensive rebound on the left block. He pivoted back and forth, trying to find a teammate to kick it out to, but unable to find one, dribbled, pump-faked, and put in a game-clinching layup. The final 30 seconds were just a formality as Irvin rebounded a missed Oregon shot and made two free throws to give Michigan a seven point win.

Irvin led the way for Michigan with 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting. He made 3-of-6 three-pointers and grabbed three offensive rebounds. LeVert added 18 points on just 3-of-13 shooting, but made 11-of-13 free throws. Doyle was the only other Wolverine in double figures with 10 points and he also grabbed three offensive boards.

As a team, Michigan shot 45.6 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from three-point range. Oregon shot 39.0 percent from the field and 26.3 percent from three. Oregon held a 41-29 advantage on the glass, including an 18-7 advantage on the offensive glass, but turned the ball over 14 times compared to Michigan’s eight. The biggest difference was Michigan’s ability to get to the free throw line. The Wolverines shot and made 11 more free throws than the Ducks.

The Wolverines will face an even bigger test against 12th-ranked Villanova (4-0) on Tuesday night for the Legends Classic championship. The game will tip off at 10 p.m. EST and will be televised by ESPN2.

Three Stars:

***Ricky Doyle***
10 points (4-of-5 FG, 2-of-3 FT), three rebounds (all offensive), one block in 24 minutes

**Zak Irvin**
19 points (6-of-11 FG, 3-of-6 3pt, 4-of-4 FT), five rebounds (three offensive), one steal in 38 minutes

*Caris LeVert*
18 points (3-of-13 FG, 1-of-4 3pt, 11-of-13 FT), five rebounds, three assists, one block, two steals, two turnovers in 39 minutes

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
03 Kameron Chatman* 1-4 0-1 2-4 0 3 3 1 4 3 1 0 0 15
34 Mark Donnal* 2-3 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 2 4 0 0 1 0 11
10 Derrick Walton Jr* 1-3 0-0 4-4 0 4 4 4 6 2 0 0 0 24
21 Zak Irvin* 6-11 3-6 4-4 3 2 5 4 19 0 0 0 1 38
23 Caris LeVert* 3-13 1-4 11-13 0 5 5 2 18 3 2 1 2 39
02 Spike Albrecht 3-6 1-2 0-0 0 2 2 1 7 3 2 0 0 35
05 D.J. Wilson 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
32 Ricky Doyle 4-5 0-0 2-4 3 0 3 1 10 0 0 1 0 24
44 Max Bielfeldt 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
24 Aubrey Dawkins 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 0 2 0 1 0 0 7
Totals 21-46 5-13 23-29 7 22 29 16 70 11 8 3 3 200
Oregon 23-59 5-19 12-18 18 23 41 24 63 10 14 2 3 200
Full Stats

Veteran led: Michigan 71 – Detroit 62

Thursday, November 20th, 2014


LeVert-Irvin vs Detroit(MGoBlue.com)

The test was going to come sooner or later. Michigan, a young team that has looked the part, struggled right out of the gates this year against Hillsdale before settling in and rolling the completely over-matched opponent. In their second game, the Wolverines stashed away Bucknell early.

But tonight, the Maize and Blue were given all they could handle by an upstart Detroit team hungry for some headlines.

Ultimately, Michigan survived with a 71-62 win, but it was far from pretty.

Right out of the gates, the Titans showed that they came to play for real; this wasn’t going to be recess for the home squad. After former Michigan target Patrick Ackerman opened the scoring, he made another bucket to tie it up at 4-4 three minutes into the game. Following a Derrick Walton three-pointer, Juwan Howard, Jr. and Jarod Williams both nailed triples of their own to put Detroit up three.

It started a theme that would last throughout the night.

Michigan would answer, Detroit would take the hit, Detroit would take another lead, Michigan would claw back.

Four Factors
Michigan Detroit
51.9 eFG% 51.9
28.1 OReb% 6.7
15.6 TO% 17.2
37.7 FTR 15.1

In between the buckets, however, was a lot of ugly. The two teams combined to shoot just a hair over 38 percent while turning it over 11 times in the first half, but Detroit’s one-point lead going into halftime could be chalked up to their 5-of-9 mark from downtown to Michigan’s woeful 3-of-12.

Out of the break, there was a sense that Michigan would shake off the rust and run away with it, just as Oregon had done earlier this week after being tied with the Titans at the half and ending up with a 17-point victory. A Walton three right away strengthened that feeling.

Then Brandan Kearney, a former Michigan State player, matched the triple with one of his own. Howard Jr. followed by hitting an and-one of his own to put Detroit up four again.

Kameron Chatman came out of the game after the foul and Michigan went to a no-freshmen-allowed lineup a couple minutes later when Max Bielfeldt replaced Mark Donnal. Coach John Beilein wouldn’t put another freshman back in for nearly nine minutes.

With the veteran lineup, Michigan finally started to build a little bit of cushion. Bielfeldt caught a beautiful over the shoulder pass from Spike Albrecht and made the open layup look easier than it was. Caris LeVert stole a pass on the next possession and went coast-to-coast for a lay-in en route to scoring 10 straight and helping the home team to a nine-point lead.

A minute later, Zak Irvin flushed home a dunk from Albrecht before Kearney, Albrecht, and then Howard, Jr. made three straight triples to cut the lead to six.

Detroit was far from waving the white flag. Within five minutes, the Titans made up the difference and tied it up at 52 with 5:19 left – largely behind the leadership and scoring of Juwan Howard, Jr., who made eight straight points in that stretch and finished with a game-high 24 points on 23 shots.

But Howard’s success soon became Detroit’s downfall, as the senior and son of Fab Fiver Juwan Howard missed a couple circus shots over the next couple possessions, allowing Michigan to jump out to an 11-point advantage just two minutes later on a pair of Zak Irvin threes, a beautiful coast-to-coast finish from Walton, and three LeVert free throws.

Albrecht’s in-your-eye three with 1:27 left served as the unofficial dagger – and boosted his own confidence after he’d been passing up open looks in practice according to Beilein.

When it was all said and done, Michigan’s nine-point victory looked a lot more comfortable than it was. But that’s what happens when a young roster limits your options.

After escaping, Spike Albrecht noted that it’s a lot better to learn from a challenging win rather than a tough loss.

Beilein, as usual, praised Detroit for the terrific battle, but he would have done the same if Michigan won by 35. In reality, though, Detroit is not one of the better teams Michigan will face this year – even before Big Ten season.

If the Wolverines are to continue escaping challenges against the likes of Oregon, Villanova or VCU, SMU, and Arizona, they’ll have to play a lot better a lot earlier.

The talent is there, especially among Irvin, Walton, and LeVert. But the Wolverines needs to shore up the consistency.

Quick Hitters:

• John Beilein is starting to whittle down on the rotation, and tonight, only nine Wolverines saw minutes after at least 11 did in Michigan’s first two games. Freshmen Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman rode the pine all night while classmates D.J. Wilson and Ricky Doyle only saw seven combined minutes. Meanwhile, the veterans’ minutes continue to increase, as Zak Irvin, Spike Albrecht, and Caris LeVert played more than 30 minutes and Derrick Walton played all 40 minutes.

The big man rotation is still far from being solved. Max Bielfeldt was the first big off the bench again and led all centers with 20 minutes, while Mark Donnal played 15, Doyle played two, and Wilson played three minutes at the five.

Kameron Chatman and Derrick Walton rimmed out back-to-back three-pointers in the first half that perhaps went further down than I’ve ever seen in my life before popping out.

Three Stars:

***Caris LeVert***
21 points (7-of-13 FG, 1-of-3 3pt, 6-of-7 FT), nine rebounds (one offensive), three assists, one steal, three turnovers in 38 minutes

**Derrick Walton, Jr.**
16 points (4-of-10 FG, 2-of-5 3pt, 6-of-7 FT), six rebounds, three assists, two turnovers in 40 minutes

*Zak Irvin*
18 points (6-of-16 FG, 4-of-10 3pt, 2-of-4 FT), three rebounds (one offensive), one assist, three turnovers in 38 minutes

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
03 Kameron Chatman* 1-4 0-3 2-2 1 3 4 1 4 1 1 0 0 10
34 Mark Donnal* 1-2 0-0 0-0 1 2 3 0 2 0 0 1 1 15
10 Derrick Walton Jr* 4-10 2-5 6-7 0 6 6 3 16 3 2 0 0 40
21 Zak Irvin* 6-16 4-10 2-4 1 2 3 1 18 1 3 0 0 38
23 Caris LeVert* 7-13 1-3 6-7 1 8 9 2 21 3 3 0 1 38
02 Spike Albrecht 2-5 2-3 0-0 1 3 4 2 6 4 1 0 1 32
05 D.J. Wilson 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 3 0 0 1 1 0 5
32 Ricky Doyle 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
44 Max Bielfeldt 2-3 0-0 0-0 2 3 5 1 4 2 0 1 0 20
Totals 23-53 9-24 16-20 9 28 37 13 71 14 11 3 3 200
Detroit 23-53 9-19 7-8 2 23 25 20 62 14 11 1 4 200
Full Stats
Beilein Tie Watch:
Beilein vs Detroit

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Maximized: Michigan 77 – Bucknell 53

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014


Max Bielfeldt vs Bucknell(MGoBlue.com)

Following a shaky start in the first regular season game of the year (against a DII school) for Michigan that saw Hillsdale hold strong for about half of the first half, many thought that last night’s matchup with the Patriot League’s Bucknell Bison would be perhaps even more interesting – and for even longer.

After all, Bucknell is much more experienced and runs a terrific program under coach Dave Paulsen.

Those thoughts didn’t last too long.

Michigan raced out to a 10-0 lead on five quick points from Zak Irvin and a triple from Max Bielfeldt – which would become the surprise theme of the night. Just over halfway into the opening stanza, Derrick Walton’s and-one layup gave Michigan 27 points; Bucknell had yet to reach double figures.

The rest of the game was semantics, as Michigan was never threatened and rolled to a 24-point win, 77-53, in the first round of the Legends Classic.

Zak Irvin led the way with an efficient 23 points on 13 shots while Derrick Walton chipped in 15 and a game-high eight rebounds.

Four Factors
Michigan Bucknell
52.4 eFG% 45.8
32.4 OReb% 13.3
9.1 TO% 25.8
28.6 FTR 25.0

But it was Bielfeldt who really stole the show from the get-go. The reclassified senior (Bielfeldt redshirted his freshman year during the 2010-11 season but will be free to transfer after this year for one graduate season, per John Beilein), whose previous career high was four points (on three occasions), poured in 18 points on an incredible 7-of-9 night from the field, including a 3-of-3 mark from downtown. Those three triples matched his career totals over two seasons of play.

In a head-scratching move, Bielfeldt was the first man off the bench when Mark Donnal picked up an early foul after he didn’t even get on the floor against Hillsdale and saw very limited action in the exhibition opener. When Bielfeldt fired up a three early on, even more questions were raised, but it found nothing by nylon. A couple minutes later, Bielfeldt let it fly again…money. Two possessions following, Spike Albrecht found Bielfeldt wide open underneath with a pretty over-the-shoulder pass from underneath the rim. Bielfeldt appeased the crowd with a thunderous slam.

Despite the where-did-this-come-from looks, John Beilein made it clear after the game that Bielfeldt earned the minutes and the sixth man spot after a couple impressive days in practice.

“The last couple of days of practice, he has virtually been a man-child playing with our guys. He has just been very, very good.”

Bielfeldt himself credited the big night to his feeling healthy and well-balanced on his feet following offseason surgery on his hip that had plagued him for years. He even attributed that bum hip to the reason for redshirting his first year.

Now that he’s healthy for the first time in a while, Bielfeldt should see increased looks in a far-from-solidified front court rotation. But Beilein isn’t ready to make any knee-jerk changes just yet.

“I’d like to see this consistently in practice over and over again. We know that that’s been the issue…I think he had great confidence today. Sometimes, as a senior, that just happens. We’ll wait and see how it plays out. I won’t make be making any knee-jerk (reactions), but I assume he’ll be in the game with Detroit.”

For now, all signs still point to redshirt freshman Mark Donnal remaining in the starting five, but his 11 minutes were completely over-shadowed by Bielfeldt while Ricky Doyle and D.J. Wilson saw nine and eight minutes, respectively.

While the season is still very early, however, it remains clear that Michigan’s strength is going to lie in the backcourt. Irvin was exceptional again, shooting confidently from all over the floor and flying for five rebounds. Walton, though he struggled a bit at the free throw line, showed off his improved finishing ability and also did his part in cleaning up the glass. And despite a quiet scoring night from Caris LeVert, the junior’s six rebounds, six assists, and two steals, along with a second straight zero-turnover performance, did not go unnoticed.

The Bison looked over-matched and unsure of themselves from right out of the gates, and a double-digit scorer didn’t emerge until Pellston, Michigan native Chris Hass rained down four threes and a mid-range jumper in a 2-minute, 28-second span of five straight possessions late in the second half.

Now that the young Wolverines have a couple games of experience under their belts, they’ll look to take down the Legends Classic after a matchup with Detroit on Thursday evening.

The guards certainly look ready for the challenges that Oregon and either VCU or Villanova will present, but a little may be needed from down low. Perhaps the answer is in the calves.

Quick Hitters:

• It was another quiet night for Michigan’s six true freshmen, as they only managed a combined nine points on 12 shots, with seven coming on bunnies from Ricky Doyle. Kam Chatman remains the best option at the four, and looks comfortable for the most part, but is still learning the offense and finding his spots to attack. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Aubrey Dawkins played a total of just nine minutes late in the second half and each recorded a turnover. In all, five of Michigan’s six team turnovers were freshmen mistakes.

• Spike Albrecht’s shooting woes continued, as he hit just one of his five shots and none of his two triple tries, but his 29 minutes and 6:0 assist-to-turnover margin show Beilein’s great confidence in him. He remains the only rotation guard to not make a three yet.

Three Stars:

***Zak Irvin***
23 points (8-of-13 FG, 4-of-5 3pt, 3-of-4 FT), five rebounds (one offensive), one assist, one block, zero turnovers in 23 minutes

**Max Bielfeldt**
18 points (7-of-9 FG, 3-of-3 3pt, 1-of-2 FT), three rebounds (two offensive), zero turnovers in 16 minutes

*Derrick Walton, Jr.*
15 points (5-of-9 FG, 1-of-2 3pt, 4-of-7 FT), eight rebounds (one offensive), two assists, two steals, one turnover in 35 minutes

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
03 Kameron Chatman* 1-5 0-1 0-0 0 1 1 1 2 3 2 0 2 20
34 Mark Donnal* 2-4 0-1 0-1 3 1 4 3 4 0 0 2 0 11
10 Derrick Walton Jr* 5-9 1-2 4-7 1 7 8 0 15 2 1 0 2 35
21 Zak Irvin* 8-13 4-5 3-4 1 4 5 0 23 1 0 1 0 32
23 Caris LeVert* 2-11 0-3 2-2 0 6 6 1 6 6 0 0 2 30
02 Spike Albrecht 1-5 0-2 0-0 0 3 3 2 2 6 0 0 1 29
05 D.J. Wilson 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 8
12 M-A Abdur-Rahkman 0-2 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 4
20 Sean Lonergan 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
24 Aubrey Dawkins 0-0 0-0 0-0 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 5
30 Austin Hatch 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
32 Ricky Doyle 3-4 0-0 1-2 2 2 4 2 7 0 1 0 0 9
44 Max Bielfeldt 7-9 3-3 1-2 2 1 3 3 18 0 0 0 0 16
Totals 29-63 8-18 11-18 11 26 37 13 77 18 6 4 7 200
Bucknell 19-48 6-20 9-12 4 25 29 21 53 10 17 1 1 200
Full Stats
Beilein Tie Watch:
(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Derick’s 3 Thoughts: Bucknell

Monday, November 17th, 2014


UM-Bucknell

Fans got their first look of the 2014-15 Michigan basketball team on Saturday afternoon, when the Wolverines discarded Hillsdale College 92-68. Now Bucknell comes to town after winning their opener in a much closer battle: 75-72 over Marist.

John Beilein’s teams haven’t always jumped out to fast starts. In 2013 Michigan was 6-4 and the season seemed to be spinning out of control before the Wolverines righted the ship and won the Big Ten by three games.

Game two comes to Crisler on Monday night as the Bison prepare to take on the offensively-charged Wolverines. Michigan will look to build off a strong finish against Hillsdale and avoid another slow start. Here are three thoughts to keep in mind while Michigan and Bucknell battle on the hardwood.

1. Don’t overlook the Bison

Michigan is one of the top contenders in the best conference in college basketball, so it should have no problem disposing of Bucknell in the Crisler Center. But the Wolverines can’t come into this matchup unprepared and disappear for stretches like they did against Division II Hillsdale.

Bucknell has won 20 or more games in three of their last four seasons and upset the Big Ten’s Penn State in Happy Valley last season. That win came in the second game of the year, when the teams were still working to find their identities. Michigan needs to come out of the tunnel strong and put the Bison away early.

Beilein won’t simply be able to put Caris LeVert on Bucknell’s top scorer to shut down the opposing offense Monday, as five players scored in double figures for the Bison in their opener against Marist. LeVert stifled Hillsdale’s Stedman Lowry after the freshman scored 11 of his team’s first 15 points in the opening five minutes.

Beilein’s young team will have plenty of chances to beat up on inferior competition, but it will want to bring it’s A game against the perennial Patriot League powerhouse Monday night.

Former Michigan graduate assistant Dave Paulsen returns to the Crisler Center as head coach of Bucknell

Former Michigan graduate assistant Dave Paulsen returns to the Crisler Center as Bucknell’s head coach (Getty Images)

2. Find a way to get the post involved

Michigan’s guards put on quite an offensive show in the opener, as Derrick Walton, Zak Irvin and LeVert each scored at least 20 points and combined for 63 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists. LeVert even made a bid for a triple-double, falling just two boards and a dime short on the night.

But as the nonconference schedule continues, Michigan should look to establish its trio of 6’9″ post players as stiffer competition looms. When the Big Ten season starts, the Wolverines will need contributions from the big men, even against elite post players like Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky, Purdue’s A.J. Hammons and Northwestern’s Alex Olah.

Yes, the offense will run through the talented guards all season, as it did through Trey Burke in 2012 and Nik Stauskas last season. But if Michigan can add an offensive presence in the paint, it will free up even more open shots for the sharpshooters.

Take a look at the performance of the big men on Saturday. Mark Donnal, Ricky Doyle and D.J. Wilson combined to shoot six for eight from the field, scoring 18 points. If that trio continues to score with such efficiency, Michigan should really use these early-season games to develop the three freshmen.

Donnal and Doyle spent most of their time in the paint, grabbing five rebounds in 35 combined minutes on the floor. If Michigan works those two into the offense, it will be much more difficult for opposing teams to cheat toward the countless three-point threats around the arc in Beilein’s sceme.

Wilson, on the other hand, is much more likely to factor into the offense with a bigger role. The versatile forward played just nine minutes against Hillsdale, but can score inside and out, even knocking in a couple of three-pointers from the corner against Wayne State in the team’s exhibition matchup.

If Michigan doesn’t get the post involved during the early games when Michigan clearly holds the upper hand, then it will never happen. Tonight is the first chance to really help the three forwards spark their offense at the college level.

3. Keep up that freshmen hustle

One of the most documented themes of this Michigan basketball season is the youth of Beilein’s roster. A roster that lacks any seniors (counting Max Bielfeldt as a redshirt junior) will definitely hit some speed bumps due to lack of experience. But the important thing is to make up for that hole with hustle plays.

Beilein played six freshmen Saturday that figure to take on significant roles this season in Kameron Chatman, Aubrey Dawkins, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Wilson, Doyle and Donnal. Those players demonstrated their enthusiasm to be playing major college basketball against Hillsdale, stuffing the boxscore with what you might call “hustle stats.”

Perhaps the most important number from this group was eight: The total offensive rebounds the Wolverines pulled down in the opener. Donnal led the team with three offensive boards, Abdur-Rahkman added two and Wilson and Chatman each had one. The rest of the team failed to record an offensive rebound, but the hustle of those four players gave Michigan eight extra possessions for its deadly offense.

On the other side of the court, Donnal and Chatman led the charge on defense with a combined six steals. For a Wolverines defense that struggled to contain shooters, steals were the most effective way to stifle the Chargers’ offense. As coach Bacari Alexander said at halftime of the opener, the offense was sparked by these steals as the defense turned directly into points on the other end.

Chatman’s four steals were particularly impressive as he struggled on offense in his first college game, making one of seven field goal attempts and scoring just four points. Chatman showed great maturity, not letting his shooting woes stop him from making a major impact on the defensive end.

Michigan hoops preview: Bucknell

Monday, November 17th, 2014


UM-Bucknell
Michigan (1-0) vs Bucknell (1-0)
Monday, Nov. 17 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 8:00 p.m. EST | Big Ten Network
Offense
92.0 Points/gm 75.0
(30-58) 51.7 Field Goal % 41.7 (25-60)
(11-19) 57.9 3-pt FG % 35.0 (7-20)
(21-25) 84.0 Free Throw % 75.0 (18-24)
21.0 FT Made/gm 18.0
35.0 Reb/gm 41.0
16.0 Assists/gm 15.0
6.0 Turnovers/gm 7.0
Defense (2013-14)
68.0 Points/gm 72.0
(27-58) 46.6 Field Goal % 42.1 (25-57)
(10-23) 43.5 3-pt FG % 42.9 (12-28)
28.0 Opp. Reb/gm 29.0
11.0 Steals/gm 4.0
4.0 Blocks/gm 2.0
Individual Leaders
Derrick Walton Jr (22.0), Zak Irvin (21.0) Points/gm Dom Hoffman (14.0), John Azzinaro (13.0)
Caris LeVert (8.0), Mark Donnal (4.0) Reb/gm Dom Hoffman (9.0), John Azzinaro (6.0)

___________________________________________________________________________________

Michigan opened its season with a 92-68 win over Division II Hillsdale College on Saturday afternoon. Tonight, the Wolverines will take the court for the first time against a Division 1 foe when they welcome Bucknell to the Crisler Center for the opening game of the Progressive Legends Classic.

Michigan and Bucknell have never faced each other, but if the name sounds familiar it is because the Bison have appeared in the NCAA Tournament several times in recent years, most recently in 2013.

Head coach Dave Paulsen served as a graduate assistant at Michigan during the 1989-90 season — the year after Michigan’s national championship — and received his Master’s degree from Michigan in 1993. He has followed a similar rise up the ranks as John Beilein, though he hasn’t reached the same heights, going from Division III St. Lawrence to Division II Le Moyne to Division III Williams to Bucknell, his first Division I stint. And he has had success everywhere he’s been with a 377-199 career record and a Division III national championship in 2002-03 while at Williams.

From the 2010-11 to 2012-13 seasons, Bucknell went 78-25 with two NCAA Tournament appearances, but last season the Bison finished just 16-14 overall and 11-7 in the Patriot League.

This season, Bucknell was picked to finish fifth in the Patriot League and opened the season with a 75-72 win over Marist on Friday. Three starters from last year’s team are back, but the biggest loss was Patriot League Player of the Year Cameron Ayers, who finished second in the conference in scoring with 15.4 points per game and 16.2 points in conference games. He was also the team’s best three-point shooter with 62 made threes. By comparison, Nik Stauskas made 92 last season and Zak Irvin was second on Michigan’s team with 62.

Junior guard Chris Hass is the leading returning scorer. The 6’5″, 184-pound Pellston, Mich. native averaged 11.1 points and 4.0 rebounds last season while shooting 42.7 percent from the field and 40.2 percent from downtown. However, he managed just five points on 2-of-10 shooting in the season opener on Friday. Joining him in the backcourt are 6’3″, 196-pound senior Stephen Kaspar and 6’0″, 190-pound junior Ryan Frazier. Kaspar averaged 6.5 points per game last season and scored 10 in the opener. Frazier averaged 4.2 and managed six on Friday.

Junior Dom Hoffman, a 6’7″, 222-pound forward, led the Bison with 14 points and nine rebounds on Friday, while 6’9″, 227-pound freshman Nana Foulland rounded out the starting lineup at center and scored just two points.

Sophomore guard John Azzinaro came off the bench to score score 13 points and grab six rebounds, while freshman J.C. Show joined him in the backcourt off with 12 points off the bench. Sophomore forward D.J. MacLeay was the only other player in double figures with 11 points off the bench.

As a team, Bucknell shot 41.7 percent from the field and 35.0 percent from three-point range while out-rebounding Marist 41 to 29.

Bucknell will provide a tougher test for Michigan’s young team than Hillsdale did on Saturday, and it will be a good early-season test before Michigan visits Brooklyn, N.Y. next week for the final four of the Progressive Legends Classic. The game will be televised on Big Ten Network at 8 p.m.

Banner day: Michigan 92 – Hillsdale College 68

Saturday, November 15th, 2014


Michigan vs Hillsdale 11-15-14(MGoBlue.com)

As Michigan prepared to kick off their 2014-15 college basketball season, there was one more thing to take care of before tip-off — celebrating last year’s success by raising their Big Ten Championship banner.

John Beilein did the honors of handing out championship rings to his returning players while newly minted captains Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert presented Beilein with his own ring and Michigan’s freshmen looked on from the corner. While divvying them out, Beilein said he simply told the players, “Let’s do it again.”

The accomplishment was remembered briefly, the banner was raised, and the next quest began.

Hillsdale, a Division II squad playing the game as an exhibition, came out firing, perhaps taking advantage of a little lackadaisical Wolverines squad. Stedman Lowry nailed two deep threes and a layup to help the Chargers jump out to a 12-3 lead just over four minutes in.

Mark Donnal opened the scoring for Michigan before the mini Hillsdale run was stemmed by back-to-back-to-back triples from the Big Three of Derrick Walton, Jr., Zak Irvin, and Caris LeVert, respectively.

Hillsdale stayed level with Michigan for a few more minutes, but the Wolverines closed the half on a 31-14 after being tied at 19 midway through the first stanza.

Four Factors
Michigan Hillsdale
61.2 eFG% 55.2
25.8 OReb% 15.6
8.7 TO% 20.3
43.1 FTR 8.6

The Chargers’ efforts to mount a second half comeback never got them within double digits as Michigan cruised to a 92-68 victory.

For Michigan, those Big Three carried the load offensively, combining for 63 of the Maize and Blue’s final output. Impressively, Walton, Irvin, and LeVert each eclipsed 20 points individually while also dishing out 13 assists to two turnovers together.

The defense certainly has some work to do, but after the game, Beilein credited most of Hillsdale’s success to a talented roster that sticks together and plays more like a program than a team. Kyle Cooper led the way for the Chargers with a big double-double of 28 and 10 while Lowry finished as the only other double-digit scorer, adding 15.

Michigan’s freshmen continue to come along slowly, but provided some quality minutes today. Kam Chatman notably played 30 minutes and recorded four points, rebounds, and steals, but went just 1-for-7 from the field and lost his man multiple times on defense to lead to easy opposition points. Ricky Doyle led the freshmen in scoring with seven points in nine minutes, but redshirt freshman Mark Donnal was clearly the best big man for Michigan, scoring nine points and grabbing four rebounds in 26 minutes.

There was nothing too extraordinary about today’s win, but it was refreshing to see the offense firing again, as the Wolverines made 51.7 percent of their field goals and a crazy 57.9 percent of their threes.

Beilein certainly recognizes a quality program in an opponent, but he’s built one heck of a program here in Ann Arbor. That program’s goals are one game closer to glory again.

Quick Hitters:

 All of Michigan’s freshmen saw action, with Austin Hatch entering in the final minute to a rousing applause. Chatman impressed with his knowledge of the offense and will clearly lead his classmates in minutes early on; he displayed very nice control on a terrific steal at halfcourt, behind-the-back dribble to shimmy past a defender, and excellent and-one finish. Aubrey Dawkins saw only six minutes but made a three and leapt out of the gym to grab an offensive rebound while Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman only played five minutes and went 0-for-2 from the floor.

 Michigan is off to a good start in the turnover department, turning it over on just 8.7 percent of their possessions while forcing Hillsdale into a 20.3 percent turnover rate, leading to a whopping 25-0 advantage in points off turnovers. The Wolverines recorded 11 total steals, with Chatman, Donnal, and Albrecht all getting multiple takeaways, on a variety of passes picked out of mid-air leading to breakaways.

 Caris LeVert finished just one assist and two rebounds shy of a triple-double in 33 minutes, but when asked about his play after the game, Beilein was quick to praise his nine assists and zero turnovers. LeVert looked extremely smooth and in control with the ball in his hand and facilitated much of Michigan’s offense. Zak Irvin’s stroke looked very good, and he nailed three mid-range jumpers from just inside the three-point line a la Glenn Robinson III.

Beilein Tie Watch:
(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Three Stars:

***Caris LeVert***
20 points (7-of-12 FG, 4-of-6 3pt, 2-of-3 FT), eight rebounds, nine assists, one steal, one block, zero turnovers in 33 minutes

**Derrick Walton, Jr.**
22 points (5-of-8 FG, 3-of-4 3pt, 9-of-10 FT), four rebounds, four assists, one steal, one turnover in 34 minutes

*Zak Irvin*
21 points (8-of-12 FG, 3-of-6 3pt, 2-of-2 FT), one rebound, one steal, one turnover in 29 minutes

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
03 Kameron Chatman* 1-7 0-0 2-3 1 3 4 2 4 0 1 1 4 30
34 Mark Donnal* 3-4 0-0 3-4 3 1 4 0 9 1 2 1 2 26
10 Derrick Walton Jr* 5-8 3-4 9-10 0 4 4 1 22 4 1 0 1 34
21 Zak Irvin* 8-12 3-6 2-2 0 1 1 1 21 0 1 0 1 29
23 Caris LeVert* 7-12 4-6 2-3 0 8 8 1 20 9 0 1 1 33
02 Spike Albrecht 2-7 0-2 0-0 0 2 2 0 4 2 1 0 2 16
05 D.J. Wilson 1-2 0-0 0-0 1 3 4 0 2 0 0 1 0 9
12 M-A Abdur-Rahkman 0-2 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 5
20 Sean Lonergan 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
24 Aubrey Dawkins 1-2 1-1 0-0 2 1 3 0 3 0 0 0 0 6
30 Austin Hatch 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
32 Ricky Doyle 2-2 0-0 3-3 0 1 1 1 7 0 0 0 0 9
44 Max Bielfeldt 2-2 0-0 1-1 1 0 1 0 5 0 0 2 1 7
Totals 30-58 11-19 21-25 8 27 35 7 92 16 6 4 11 200
Hillsdale College 27-58 10-23 4-5 5 23 28 21 68 18 14 5 2 200
Full Stats

Michigan basketball 2014-15 season preview: Caris’ turn

Saturday, November 15th, 2014


2014-BBall-FreshmanPreview-2014-15Preview

Every year, college basketball starts in mid-November and ends with the conclusion of the Big Dance in early April. The season seems to pass in a flurry of magical moments, the kind where you blink your eye and they’re gone.

The time in between, on the other hand, feels like an eternity.

But just like the cool wind has begun to bring a crispness to the Michigan air and the leaves have all fallen to their cruel death, basketball is finally back. Excitement will brew and hearts will break, but most of all, it will be one hell of a ride.

(Andy Lyons, Getty Images)

Caris LeVert looks to step into Trey Burke’s and Nik Stauskas’ role as go-to guy for the young Wolverines (Andy Lyons, Getty Images)

For Michigan fans, it’s an increasingly familiar start to the season. The football season has been a lost cause for what seems like many months, and all faith lies in the hands of John Beilein — the coaching savior of the program. After sending a trio of sophomores off to the NBA following another deep run in the Dance, the Wolverines will be breaking in a host of new faces while relying on a core of three young veterans to lead.

Caris LeVert, the one-time Ohio commit and Michigan after-thought, is the undisputed go-to guy. Zak Irvin, the former Indiana Mr. Basketball and freshman just-a-shooter, will look to flank LeVert and prove that his offseason strides are for real. And Derrick Walton, the sophomore point from Detroit, will run the show with a quiet confidence.

Joining those three are five true freshmen and one redshirt freshmen who have yet to see real playing time but will all be forced to contribute in some way. Ricky Doyle and Mark Donnal, two raw big men, will do their best to replace Jordan Morgan, Jon Horford, and Mitch McGary. Kameron Chatman and D.J. Wilson, two West Coasters, will try to make fans forget about Glenn Robinson III. Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, two late signees that didn’t get a look from any big name school other than Michigan, will fight for minutes with a chip on both shoulders.

But one other returning player perhaps best emulates the whole Michigan team. In the spring of 2012, John Beilein reached out to an under-sized point guard that no one wanted. In fact, this player had gotten so little attention that he felt the need to spend an extra year in prep school. After finishing up there, however, still the biggest school that came calling before Michigan was Brown.

As a freshman, Spike Albrecht played his role all year until nearly springing the Wolverines to a National Championship. After his 15 minutes of fame, Albrecht returned to be a backup yet again, but performed in the same way he was asked to. This season, the junior will again come off the bench, but he will play the way he needs to in order to help the whole team be successful.

Albrecht is still under-sized, unathletic, and underwhelming. Michigan as a whole has also been consistently over-looked since Beilein took over with his unorthodox style. But like Albrecht, Michigan plays the way they are supposed to, overcomes expectations, and consistently surprises.

After losing so much talent and production from last season, many continue to write the Wolverines off as a flash in the pan. Yes, pundits have finally become smart enough to pencil the Maize and Blue into the NCAA Tournament, but they don’t really take their chances of doing much in the Big Ten or on the national stage seriously.

Well, guess what? With another banner going up in Crisler this afternoon, maybe it’s time to start taking John Beilein and his Michigan program seriously. Sure, the unknowns abound. But throughout the course of the season, the baby steps will turn into leaps, and the Wolverines will be competing for all the glory – like usual.

Predictions:
Top Five Scorers Top Five Rebounders
Caris LeVert Mark Donnal
Derrick Walton Caris LeVert
Zak Irvin D.J. Wilson
D.J. Wilson Ricky Doyle
Kameron Chatman Zak Irvin
Top Five Assists Top Five Three-Point Shooters (%)
Derrick Walton Caris LeVert
Caris LeVert Zak Irvin
Spike Albrecht Derrick Walton
Kameron Chatman Spike Albrecht
Zak Irvin D.J. Wilson
Superlatives
Most improved player: Zak Irvin
Most valuable freshman: D.J. Wilson
Most valuable player: Caris LeVert
Final record: 27-9 (13-5 Big Ten)
Conference finish: T1
Postseason: NCAA Tournament, Elite Eight

Michigan basketball position preview: The wings

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014


2014-BBall-FreshmanPreview-TheWings

As we edge toward Saturday’s season opener, let’s take a closer look at each of Michigan’s three position groups, starting today with the wings.

For all intents and purposes, John Beilein really operates his basketball teams with three positions – the point guard, the big men, and the wings. Positions 2 through 4 are very similar offensively and require many of the same actions on each possession. Wings in John Beilein’s offense are expected to be adequate ball handlers, good passers, and primetime shooters. Here are the players who will be seeing time at the wing this season:

The Starters

#21 Zak Irvin – 6’6″, 215 – Sophomore
2013-14 stats: 6.7 pts (43.4% FG, 42.5% 3pt, 71.4% FT), 1.3 reb, .4 ast, .4 TO, 15.4 min/game
Projected 2014-15 stats: 11.5 pts (46% FG, 41% 3pt, 75% FT), 4.2 reb, 1 ast, 1 TO, 33 min/game

Last year, Zak Irvin was about as much of a Just a Shooter as possible, with a full 74.5 percent of his attempts coming from behind the arc. He often looked uncomfortable putting the ball on the floor, and his slashing was almost non-existent. Over the offseason, however, Irvin remained dedicated to improving his game by staying in Ann Arbor over the summer, and the results are apparently already. The former Indiana Mr. Basketball reportedly increased his vertical leap by some five inches without hurting his outside shot, and showed that off last night.

In Italy, Irvin was on fire from downtown and led the team in scoring with a whopping 20.8 points per outing. Perhaps more impressively, he was also the second-leading rebounder on the team, hauling in 7.3 rebounds a game. His bounce and rebounding ability were both on full display in the team’s exhibition season opener in which Irvin slammed it home three times and pulled in an impressive five rebounds – something that will continue to be important given the team’s youth down low.

Going forward, Irvin will continue to work on becoming a threat to take it to the hole, but he doesn’t need to be a world-beater in that department for the Wolverines to thrive. If Irvin can knock down shots at a high clip again, finish in transition, compete for rebounds, and play solid defense, his job is more than accomplished. Look for him to have a very nice sophomore season, the season during which John Beilein likes to see his players make their biggest leaps (think Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert), while playing the bulk of the minutes at the 2 spot.

#23 Caris LeVert – 6’7″, 200 – Junior
2013-14 stats: 12.9 pts (43.9%FG, 40.8%3pt, 76.7%FT), 4.3 reb, 2.9 ast, 1.2 stl, .3 bl, 1.7 TO, 34 min/game
Projected 2014-15 stats: 15.5 pts (45%FG, 42%3pt, 81%FT), 5.1 reb, 4.5 sat, 1.5 stl, .4 bl, 1.5 TO, 35 min/game

There’s no doubt who this Michigan team’s star player is. That would be Caris LeVert, the 20-year-old who was all set to play at the mid-major level for Ohio University until then-coach John Groce left Athens for Champaign and chose to not bring LeVert with him. I guess Illinois’s loss is Michigan’s gain.

After an up-and-down freshman year that saw a young, gangly, skinny, and oft out-of-control LeVert go from surefire redshirt to inconsistent contributor on Michigan’s NCAA Runner-up team, the sophomore exploded onto the scene as a sophomore and played Robin to eventual lottery pick Nik Stauskas’s Batman.

Now, the reins are all his. LeVert has bulked up to a once-unimaginable 200 pounds and has as complete an offensive game as anyone in the country. Standing now at 6’7″ (will he ever stop growing?), LeVert should be Michigan’s go-to scorer from the wing and the secondary general to Derrick Walton. You’ll see plenty of pick-and-roll action drawn up for LeVert at the 3 position that Stauskas thrived in, and LeVert’s size, quickness, shiftiness, shooting, and passing ability make him a dangerous weapon off the curl. He will also be called upon to play solid perimeter defense, where his length and foot speed should lead to further improvements on that end of the floor.

The early returns for LeVert are very positive, after posting a team-high 16 points and six assists last night with only one turnover. What the stats don’t show, however, is the ease with which the veteran now operates. The Columbus, Ohio native was like a tub of Jell-O in human form when he arrived in Ann Arbor, sometimes to the point where it looked like he wasn’t even controlling his own extremities. Now, only two years later, LeVert plays with an air of cool and operates incredibly smoothly across the floor without comprising any of his quickness or shiftiness.

#3 Kameron Chatman – 6’7″, 210 – Freshman

For a complete look at Chatman, please see his freshman preview.

Kam Chatman arrived in Ann Arbor as one of the few players under John Beilein that chose Michigan over other top-ranked programs. That’s certainly no shot at Chatman; Beilein, after all, is highly selective when scouting high school players and considers off-the-court character perhaps more than any other coach in the country. It’s not Chatman’s fault that Beilein has consistently gotten the job done with more diamond-in-the-rough types.

Now Chatman has a chance to prove his high regard was not a fluke, and after immediately grading out as a rotation player under John Beilein and his assistants’ scouting, the Portland native looks to have locked up the starting 4 spot this season. In last night’s exhibition, Chatman appeared to be the most relaxed freshman on the court, and though his shot didn’t fall consistently (he air-balled two threes and swished another), his stat line was impressive: nine points, six rebounds (one offensive), four assists, and zero turnovers in 25 minutes. The freshman will still have plenty of learning to do and needs to find his stroke consistently as the season gets rolling, but he looks like a nice piece to the puzzle at this point.

The Bench

#2 Spike Albrecht – 5’11″, 175 – Junior
2013-14 stats: 3.3 pts (40.4% FG, 38.7% 3pt, 77.8% FT), 2 ast, 1.1 reb, .5 stl, .4 TO, 14.7 min/game
Projected 2014-15 stats: 5 pts (43.5% FG, 40% 3pt, 80% FT), 2.5 ast, 1.4 reb, .7 stl, .7 TO, 15 min/game

Let’s be clear on one thing: Spike Albrecht is a point guard. The only reason I am including him here is that John Beilein has said on many occasions leading up to this season that Spike Albrecht and Derrick Walton will share the floor for some time every game. Last night, Albrecht played 20 minutes while Walton notched 21 of his own (and probably would have had a few more if not for a cramp), and they were both on the floor for approximately 3.5 minutes. During the season, I expect to see Walton running the point for around 32 minutes a night with Albrecht getting all the backup minutes there and another seven or so at the 2-spot.

Albrecht’s role is very clear on this team. Beilein wants him to shoot when he’s open, find the open man, and take care of the ball. Albrecht did those three things very well last season, and with another year of experience under his belt, I expect more (albeit small) improvements. He’s under-sized and not super athletic, as evidenced by his casual layup on a full breakaway last night, but Albrecht is usually very smart with the ball and is adept at finding the open man for the corner three.

#24 Aubrey Dawkins – 6’6″, 190 – Freshman

For a complete look at Dawkins, please see his freshman preview.

Aubrey Dawkins should provide a nice outside threat and the rare “wow” dunk in limited minutes this season at the 3 and 4 positions. He has all the tools to become a very good player down the line, but he’s at the wrong position to make a huge impact this season. Look for similar output to LeVert’s freshman year but in fewer minutes.

#5 D.J. Wilson – 6’9″, 220 – Freshman

For a complete look at Wilson, please see his freshman preview.

John Beilein has made it clear that his long, versatile freshman will end up as a wing forward down the line, and that’s where the majority of his minutes should come this season as well, but he’ll also spotlight at the 5-spot along with Mark Donnal and Ricky Doyle.

Right now, Wilson looks more comfortable facing up on the wing, and he should see the majority of Chatman’s backup minutes there. His size and athleticism give him two valued assets defensively, and Wilson’s offensive range and driving ability will make him a very tough guard. His face-up game is in the mold of consensus All-American Frank Kaminsky from Wisconsin, and his varied skillset make him a very intriguing prospect. Look for Wilson to see 10-15 minutes a night at the 4 and another 5-10 at the 5 position.

#12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman – 6’4″, 175 – Freshman

For a complete look at Abdur-Rahkman, please see his freshman preview.

Luckily for basketball writers covering Michigan, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman looks to be a year or two away from being a major contributor in Ann Arbor. His quickness and slashing ability give him a skill set that not many on this team possess, but Rahk still needs to get the offense down and finds himself behind the likes of Derrick Walton, Spike Albrecht, and Zak Irvin for minutes.

In looking at Rahk’s profile, one number should stick out too – 175. Despite being five full inches taller than Spike Albrecht, Abdur-Rahkman is the same exact weight. And Spike is no heavyweight. I don’t think Abdur-Rahkman will redshirt this season, as Beilein continues to talk as if all the freshmen will get their opportunities, but he certainly won’t find the court in every game, especially against early heavyweights like Syracuse and Arizona.

Minute Breakdown

2-spot (traditional shooting guard):
32 Zak Irvin
7 Spike Albrecht
1 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman
3-spot (traditional small forward):
35 Caris LeVert
2 Aubrey Dawkins
2 Kameron Chatman
1 Zak Irvin
4-spot (traditional power forward):
25 Kameron Chatman
12 D.J. Wilson
3 Aubrey Dawkins

A hero Hatched: Michigan 86 – Wayne State 43 (exhibition)

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014


Austin Hatch(Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

With 12 seconds remaining on the clock in Michigan’s exhibition blowout of Wayne State last night, one Wolverine stepped to the line to shoot two free throws.

The first shot, perhaps a little rushed, clanged off the back left of the rim.

The second one found nothing but net to put Michigan up 86-43.

The ensuing roar of the crowd might have looked like a shallow celebration of doubling up an over-matched opponent to the outsider.

But those who have followed Michigan basketball and the story of Austin Hatch for the past few years knew it was so much more than that. The standing ovation for that one free throw was a celebration of life, an ode to a historical moment at the Crisler Center, a tear-soaked applause for a kid who has overcome more hardship than what most could even imagine.

Austin Hatch scored the first point of his Michigan career with a late free throw (MGoBlue.com)

Austin Hatch scored the first point of his Michigan career with a late free throw (MGoBlue.com)

Back in the summer of 2011, nine days after accepting an offer on the spot to play basketball at the University of Michigan, Hatch was involved in a deadly plane crash that took the life of his father, his stepmom, and a family dog. The 16-year-old Hatch was left completely unaware for eight weeks, as he lay comatose while doctors dealt with his punctured lung, broken collarbone, broken ribs, and, worst of all, a fractured skull that resulted in a bruised and swelling brain.

But that’s far from the whole story. It turns out that the family Hatch lost in that catastrophic accident was the only immediate family he had left.

Eight years prior, the eight-year-old Hatch was riding in a different plane that went down, taking the lives of his mom, his only sister, and his only brother. His father, who had his pilot’s license and was flying both planes, made it out of the first wreck and had become the younger Hatch’s self-proclaimed best friend.

Today, Hatch is still a shell of his former self on the basketball court. At the Canterbury School in Fort Wayne, Hatch thrived as a shooter and scorer for two years before suffering those injuries that knocked his development back to the point at which he says “it was almost like being born again”.

Hatch is noticeably the slowest player on the floor and has to think two steps ahead to be able to beat his man to the spot. He’s still a long way off from finding himself in a game that’s up for grabs.

But that doesn’t mean he’s settled. No, Hatch is perhaps more determined than ever to keep fighting. He admits that last night was a cool moment, a special moment, even monumental, but Hatch is the first to acknowledge that the actual point he scored was not a deciding factor in the preseason game.

“I don’t want to be known, by the time my career comes to an end here, as a cool story. Obviously what happened to me is kind of unique, but that’s what happened. It’s not who I am. Obviously it’s a big part of my life, but I’m about moving forward and making the most of my experience here.”

This is coming from the same kid who would not allow his high school coaches to insert him into a basketball game until he felt that he could contribute in a meaningful way.

Austin Hatch has a lot of heart, faith, and determination. He knows last night was not the end of a road, a chance to ride off into the sunset. Last night, though the score will not go down in any record books, was just the beginning.

Freshmen Takes:

The exhibition was the first chance for most to see Michigan’s other five true freshmen in live action against a real opponent. Here are some quick thoughts on each:

Kam Chatman – Chatman looks to have locked down the starting spot at the 4 and shook off some early nerves to wind up with a nice night of nine points, six rebounds (one offensive), four assists, and zero turnovers in 25 minutes. The highest-rated player in this class seems to be operating comfortably within the offense and made a really nice drive from the top of the key where he used a pretty hesitation move and an up-and-under scoop to get past two defenders for his first bucket of the night. He air-balled two threes long from the same corner in the first half, but came back in the second half and stepped into a pretty catch-and-shoot three from the right wing and drained it. He also went 4-of-4 from the free throw line and had a couple nice passes.

Kam Chatman had a nice all-around game in his first collegiate action (MGoBlue.com)

Kam Chatman had a nice all-around game in his first collegiate action (MGoBlue.com)

Aubrey Dawkins – Dawkins was the first true freshman off the bench and was quiet for most of the night until scoring eight points, including two pretty-looking threes from the right corner, within three minutes near the end of the game. Like most freshmen, he looked lost a couple times on the floor and nearly turned the ball over the first time he touched it, but he didn’t make any glaring errors and has two skills – shooting and athleticism – that could see him settle into a nice role. He also drained two free throws and recorded an assist, a block, and a turnover each.

Ricky Doyle – The big Floridian notched four points and three rebounds in 15 minutes but has a ways to go before any of the big boys come to town. Doyle is a hard worker who arrived in Ann Arbor early to put in extra work with Strength and Conditioning Coach Jon Sanderson, and his body looks ready for Big Ten play, but his foot speed and hands stand out as major areas for improvement. Doyle jumped through a crowd on one occasion to get an offensive rebound and put-back, but too many times when he was on the floor he was nowhere near the carom. As the biggest player on Michigan’s team, he needs to rebound. He did throw a nice back-door pass to Zak Irvin but was not credited with an assist.

D.J. Wilson – Wilson just oozes potential. The lanky 6’9″ Sacramento native with a 7’3″ wingspan is going to be excellent when he really gets everything figured out. Wilson’s foot speed is much better than fellow big man Doyle’s at this point, and his outside shot looks smooth. Wilson’s final stat line – nine points (including a three), two rebounds (one offensive), two assists, one block, and zero turnovers in 15 minutes – is exactly what Beilein would love out of him.

Wilson did make one befuddling error early in the game when he caught a ball on the elbow and nervously threw up a shot that got sent right back in his face, but he really seemed to calm down as the game got going, and was calling for the ball on the wing by the end. All four of his buckets were pretty impressive for a freshman big – a monster dunk underneath from Spike Albrecht, a harder-than-it-looked layup in a crowd, a drive from the right wing capped by an awkward lay-in, and a three from the right corner. Wilson also missed a layup in the first half where he was more open than he thought and got blown by once on defense, but he made up for it with a nice block from behind. One troubling stat – Wilson’s three fouls in 15 minutes have him off to a rough 8 fouls per 40 minutes pace.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman – Rahk may be the furthest freshman from seeing meaningful minutes at this point. He has the quicks that should make him a dangerous player and a good defender down the line, but he rushed things a little bit and missed all three of his shots by a wide margin. He did make two of three free throws, though, and recorded a rebound, an assist, a steal, and a turnover in 12 minutes.

Quick Hitters:

 Zak Irvin’s improved athleticism has been a major talking point all offseason, and he finally got the chance to show it off here, recording a trio of rim-rattling dunks that got the crowd on its feet. He looks much markedly more comfortable operating within the offense and should see his 1-of-4 shooting from downtown improve significantly.

 There is no doubt that the core of this team is in its guard play. Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton, and Irvin will all easily see more than 30 minutes a night and should carry the scoring load. All three looked to be in good shape and led the team with 16, 11, and 13 points, respectively, despite only making three of their combined 10 triple attempts.

 Derrick Walton went down hard on a late drive to the basket and limped his way to the locker room after not being able to put any weight on his left leg, but he emerged jogging just a few minutes later with no noticeable limp and entered back into the game shortly after. Players and coaches confirmed after that it was just a cramp.

 The battle for 40 minutes at the five position is not close to being settled. Mark Donnal started and scored four points while grabbing five boards in 12 minutes, but needs to continue to build muscle to deal with stronger players down low. He also did not attempt any outside shots – a disappointment for me. Doyle saw 15 minutes of action while a few of Wilson’s 15 minutes also came at the five. The most impressive of the bigs, however? That would be seasoned vet Max Bielfeldt, who didn’t see a minute in the first half, but immediately grabbed an offensive rebound for an easy put-back when entered in the second. The senior also drained a nice 10-footer and made his only free throw attempt (in place of Walton after his injury) while blocking two shots in just seven minutes. Bielfeldt clearly has the lowest ceiling of any of Michigan’s big man options, but he may also have the highest floor for quite some time as well.

• The crowd, listed at 10,510, looked much smaller than that and was very late to arrive and quiet when it did.

Three Stars:

***Austin Hatch***
1 point (1-of-2 FT) in 1 minute

**Caris LeVert**
16 points (6-of-10 FG, 1-of-3 3pt, 3-of-4 FT), three rebounds, six assists, one turnover in 30 minutes

*Zak Irvin*
13 points (5-of-11 FG, 1-of-4 3pt, 2-of-2 FT), five rebounds (two offensive), one assist, one steal, two turnovers in 29 minutes

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
03 Kameron Chatman* 2-6 1-3 4-4 1 5 6 1 9 4 0 0 0 25
34 Mark Donnal* 1-2 0-1 2-4 2 3 5 2 4 0 0 1 1 12
10 Derrick Walton Jr* 2-6 1-4 6-7 0 4 4 2 11 0 0 0 1 21
21 Zak Irvin* 5-11 1-4 2-2 2 3 5 1 13 1 2 0 1 29
23 Caris LeVert* 6-10 1-3 3-4 0 3 3 3 16 6 1 0 0 30
02 Spike Albrecht 2-3 0-1 0-0 1 2 3 1 4 2 1 0 3 20
05 D.J. Wilson 4-8 1-3 0-0 1 1 2 3 9 2 0 1 0 15
12 M-A Abdur-Rahkman 0-3 0-1 2-3 0 1 1 2 2 1 1 0 1 12
20 Sean Lonergan 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 0 0 0 1 1 0 4
24 Aubrey Dawkins 2-3 2-2 2-2 0 2 2 0 8 1 1 1 0 9
30 Austin Hatch 0-0 0-0 1-2 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 1
32 Ricky Doyle 2-2 0-0 0-0 1 2 3 1 4 0 1 0 0 15
44 Max Bielfeldt 2-2 0-0 1-1 1 0 1 0 5 0 0 2 1 7
Totals 28-56 7-22 23-29 9 31 40 17 86 17 8 6 8 200
Wayne State 14-54 4-12 11-13 10 23 33 23 43 8 18 2 3 200
Full Stats

2014 Big Ten basketball preview: Part two

Thursday, October 30th, 2014


2014-15 B1G BBall Preview-Part2

Over the past few years an incredible change has passed over the Midwest, which was long praised for elite football programs like Michigan and Ohio State and largely uncompetitive on the hardwood with Michigan State taking the cake nearly every season. Now, the sports landscape has been turned on its head, as Big Ten football struggles to keep three teams ranked in the Top 25 while the basketball conference continues to solidify itself as the best in the nation.

Last season was another great campaign for the conference as a whole. Wisconsin fought its way through a tough West regional to reach the Final Four, while Michigan and Michigan State were just seconds away from doing the same, eventually losing to the two National Championship competitors. Ohio State, Iowa and Nebraska were also selected for the Big Dance, giving the Big Ten six teams that made the cut. Minnesota also had a successful postseason, winning the NIT championship.

The Big Ten has climbed to the top of the basketball world by featuring a deep slate of teams led by a few legitimate Final Four contenders. This season will be no different, even as the conference welcomes two new teams that have struggled in recent years.

Below is part two of our Big Ten preview. Although there are no divisions in basketball, we split up our preview into the Big Ten West and Big Ten East divisions for the sake of organization. Part one (the Big Ten West) was posted earlier this week.

Note: In the 2013 Stats & Rankings tables for each team, the darker the shade of maize, the better that team was in that category; the darker the shade of blue, the worse that team was in that category.

Indiana Hoosiers Indiana logo
Head Coach: Tom Crean (7th season)
2013-14: 17-15, T-8th in Big Ten (7-11), No postseason
Returning starters: 3 (Troy Williams, Stanford Robinson, Yogi Ferrell)
Recruiting class rank: #17 (James Blackmon, Jr., Robert Johnson, Emmitt Holt, Max Hoetzel, Tim Priller, Jeremiah April)
Key non-conference games: Dec 2 vs Pitt, Dec 9 vs Louisville, Dec 20 vs Butler, Dec 27 vs Georgetown

Indiana was surprisingly mediocre last season coming off two straight 27-plus win seasons under Tom Crean. As a sophomore, Yogi Ferrell took over the team and averaged 17.3 points and 3.9 assists per game to lead the offense. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, dominant freshman Noah Vonleh declared for the NBA draft and senior leader Will Sheehey graduated, leaving Ferrell without much help on the offensive side of the ball.

As Ferrell continues to lead Indiana as a junior, the team will have to solidify itself on defense without that dominating presence inside. The roster is small and turnover-prone, which is a formula for disaster in a difficult Big Ten conference. If strong defensive teams lock up on Ferrell and force the rest of this group to make plays, it could be another empty March for the Hoosiers.

Player to watch: Yogi Ferrell. This guy is really fun to watch, as he is quick and creative off the dribble but also accurate from the outside. As one of the most dangerous offensive players in the Big Ten, Ferrell can explode and give Indiana a chance to win on any given night.

Best-case scenario: Indiana sees even more growth from Ferrell and freshmen James Blackmon and Robert Johnson make a quick transition to the college game, landing Indiana a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Worst-case scenario: Last year’s mess leaks over into this season and Indiana hovers around .500 all season, giving the players plenty of time to study for exams in March.

Projected finish: 9th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 72.2 5 108
Scoring Defense 67.6 8 96
Field Goal Percentage .448 6 132
Field Goal Percentage Defense .412 4 59
3-pt FG Percentage .344 6 173
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .299 2 8
Free Throw Percentage .730 7 66
Rebounding Margin +7.6 1
Assist/Turnover Ratio 11.5/15.1 = 0.8 12 321
Steals 5.9 7 179
Blocked Shots 4.3 6 82

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Maryland Terrapins Maryland logo
Head Coach: Mark Turgeon (4th season)
2013-14: 17-15, 9th in ACC (9-9), No postseason
Returning starters: 1 (Evan Smotrycz)
Recruiting class rank: #14 (Melo Trimble, Dion Wiley, Jared Nickens, Michal Cekovsky)
Key non-conference games: Dec 3 vs Virginia, Dec 21 at Oklahoma State

Maryland will make the move to the Big Ten and find itself in uncharted territory as a grueling conference schedule offers challenge after challenge during the winter months. Despite battling to stay relevant over the past few seasons, Maryland brought in a top 10 recruiting class to counter its first Big Ten slate, including Melo Trumble, who will join the team’s top returner Dez Wells in the backcourt.

Though the Big Ten is much deeper than the ACC, Maryland is no stranger to tough games and atmospheres. The Terrapins lost to eventual champion UCONN by just one point last season and even knocked off the conference champion Virginia Cavaliers.

Player to watch: Evan Smotrycz. Michigan fans will remember the curly-haired senior well from his two seasons in Ann Arbor. The 6 foot 9 forward averaged 11 points and six rebounds per game in 2013-14, both better than his totals in the Big Ten. He will miss at least the first month of the season after breaking his foot in October.

Best-case scenario: Maryland surprises the Big Ten and finishes in the top half of the league behind elite backcourt play from Wells and Trumble. Finishing with just over 20 wins earns the Terps a late invite to the Dace.

Worst-case scenario: The Big Ten proves to be much more difficult than the ACC and Maryland wears down early in 2015, finishing with a losing conference record and missing the tournament once again.

Projected finish: 11th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank* National Rank
Scoring Offense 70.9 8 157
Scoring Defense 67.7 9 103
Field Goal Percentage .430 8 218
Field Goal Percentage Defense .417 7 78
3-pt FG Percentage .342 7 172
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .341 9 154
Free Throw Percentage .679 12 253
Rebounding Margin +3.3 5
Assist/Turnover Ratio 11.7/12.8 = 0.9 11 243
Steals 6.3 6 138
Blocked Shots 4.3 6 81
*Where Maryland’s stats would have ranked in the Big Ten last season

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Michigan Wolverines Block M - Maize
Head Coach: John Beilein (8th season)
2013-14: 28-9, 1st in Big Ten (15-3), Elite Eight NCAA Tournament
Returning Starters: 2 (Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton, Jr.)
Recruiting class rank: #28 (Kameron Chatman, D.J. Wilson, Ricky Doyle, Aubrey Dawkins, Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Austin Hatch)
Key non-conference games: Nov 24 vs Oregon, Dec 2 vs Syracuse, Dec 13 at Arizona, Dec 20 vs SMU

John Beilein has certainly turned the Michigan basketball program around. After leading his team to the National Championship game in 2013 and losing stars Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. to the first round of the NBA draft, Beilein simply reloaded and came within one miracle heavy by Kentucky’s Andrew Harrison of returning to the Final Four. Now the team is hoping to recover from major losses once again as Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III left for the NBA, Jordan Morgan graduated and Jon Horford transferred to Florida for his final year of eligibility.

It’s no secret that Beilein needs to continue developing his players to maintain Michigan’s recent success. Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton, Jr. weren’t the most highly-rated recruits, but they will be asked to lead the offense from the backcourt this season after shouldering a big load last year. LeVert, who was named to the 2014-15 preseason All-Big Ten team, set the precedent for sophomore Zak Irvin, who is the popular choice for Michigan’s third straight breakout star.

As the former Mr. Basketball in Indiana, Irvin should welcome lofty expectations. He gave the offense a shot in the arm in a lesser role last season, and will hope to become a more versatile scorer as a starter, much like Stauskas and LeVert did last year.

Michigan also brings in a trio of talented freshmen in D.J. Wilson, Kameron Chatman and, perhaps most importantly, Ricky Doyle. While Wilson and Chatman figure to join a deep rotation of talented guards, Doyle will join redshirt freshman Mark Donnel as the top options at center for Michigan. The two freshmen stand at just 6 foot 9, so Michigan will have to hide that weakness with another elite offensive season.

Player to watch: Derrick Walton. Michigan figures to get great production from the wings while struggling down low because of a size disadvantage. If Walton can build off of an impressive freshman season, he could give Michigan enough of a backcourt to make another run at the Big Ten

Best-case scenario: John Beilein does it again, and the revamped Wolverines improve throughout the nonconference season and emerge as one of the top teams in the Big Ten. After a top-3 finish in the conference, Michigan enters March with a return to the Final Four in mind.

Worst-case scenario: The exodus of centers from last season bites Michigan, and the Big Ten exposes a lack of size and experience in the paint. Michigan finishes the conference season in the middle of the pack and approaches Selection Sunday with a nervous twinge of doubt about their status.

Projected finish: 3rd

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 73.9 3 70
Scoring Defense 65.1 5 48
Field Goal Percentage .477 1 18
Field Goal Percentage Defense .445 12 196
3-pt FG Percentage .402 1 4
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .318 6 46
Free Throw Percentage .763 1 10
Rebounding Margin +0.2 10
Assist/Turnover Ratio 14.2/9.3 = 1.5 2 7
Steals 5.2 9 273
Blocked Shots 2.4 12 301

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Michigan State Spartans MichiganStateLogo
Head Coach: Tom Izzo (20th season)
2013-14: 29-9, T-2nd in Big Ten (12-6), Elite Eight NCAA Tournament
Returning starters: 2 (Denzel Valentine, Branden Dawson)
Recruiting class rank: #51 (Lourawls Nairn, Jr., Javon Bess, Marvin Clark)
Key non-conference games: Nov 18 vs Duke, Dec 3 at ND

Michigan State battled through some regular-season adversity to emerge as one of the favorites to reach the Final Four last March, but fell short when eventual champion UCONN sent the Spartans home. In the following weeks, head coach Tom Izzo said goodbye to his three top players: Adreian Payne, Gary Harris and Keith Appling.

This season, a variety of role players will be asked to fill the void left by those starters, as the incoming freshmen are far from elite. Branden Dawson will be asked to finally embrace his full potential and anchor the starting lineup alongside streaky Denzel Valentine. Travis Trice and Matt Costello will be asked to step into bigger roles this season and give the Spartans a chance to contend for another Big Ten title.

Izzo’s teams often start slowly during the nonconference season, but they will always improve enough to offer a challenge as the calendar turns to March. With all the new faces in East Lansing, this team will likely follow that same script.

Player to watch: Branden Dawson. Will Dawson finally turn the corner and become the dominant inside presence Izzo recruited him to be? He’s no longer in the (exceptionally large) shadows of Derrick Nix or Payne, which means this is his team now.

Best-case scenario: Though this group may not be one of Izzo’s more talented teams, the best-case scenario for Michigan State is always to be in contention for a Final Four run. If Dawson has an All-Big Ten season and the role players progress significantly, no coach in the country will want to match up with MSU in the NCAA Tournament.

Worst-case scenario: A loaded Big Ten proves difficult for the Spartans during a transition year and the team lands somewhere around .500 in the conference and barely squeezes into the Big Dance.

Projected finish: 5th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 75.5 2 49
Scoring Defense 65.6 7 57
Field Goal Percentage .474 2 21
Field Goal Percentage Defense .397 1 18
3-pt FG Percentage .392 2 16
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .332 8 103
Free Throw Percentage .707 9 151
Rebounding Margin +5.1 3
Assist/Turnover Ratio 16.8/11.6 = 1.4 3 18
Steals 6.8 5 85
Blocked Shots 4.6 4 63

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Ohio State Buckeyes Ohio State logo new
Head Coach: Thad Matta (11th season)
2013-14: 25-10, 5th in Big Ten (10-8), Second Round NCAA Tournament
Returning starters: 2 (Amir Williams, Sam Thompson)
Recruiting class rank: #8 (D’Angelo Russell, Keita Bates-Diop, Jae’Sean Tate, Dave Bell)
Key non-conference games: Nov 18 vs Marquette, Dec 2 at Louisville, Dec 20 vs UNC

Remember when Ohio State was 15-0 last season and ranked in the top five? Not many do, because the Buckeyes finished the season 10-10 with a loss to 2014’s Cinderella, the Dayton Flyers, in their first tournament game. Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith, Jr. graduated, and LaQuinton Ross signed with a team in Italy, so things can only get worse for Than Matta’s group, right?

Wrong. Matta countered the loss of three starters by welcoming a top-five recruiting class into Columbus for the 2014-15 season. Top-ranked shooting guard D’Angelo Russell offers a much-needed shot in the arm for what was a terrible Buckeye offense last season. Shannon Scott will take over as the defensive anchor in wake of Craft’s departure, as OSU tries to match last year’s 59.8 points allowed per game (12th in the nation).

In the paint Ohio State will rely on two potential studs to mask an otherwise thin roster. Amir Williams is a beast on the defensive end and will have to stay out of foul trouble. Anthony Lee joins the Buckeyes after transferring from Temple and will partner with Williams to compose a duo that has to grab all the rebounds for this team.

Player to watch: D’Angelo Russell. He’s the top-ranked recruit joining the Big Ten this season, and Matta has a way of getting the most out of his guards. He has to be the go-to man on offense right out of the gates.

Best-case scenario: Matta turns Russell into one of the top players in the country and pairs him with a dominant defense led by Scott and Williams to win the Big Ten and enter the NCAA Tournament as one of the favorites to reach the Final Four.

Worse-case scenario: A talented trio of recruits suffers growing pains and fails to live up to sky-high standards in Columbus, while foul trouble exposes a thin inside presence on defense. Ohio State struggles in the conference season and finishes sixth in the Big Ten, earning a double-digit seed in the NCAA Tournament

Projected finish: 2nd

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 69.5 9 190
Scoring Defense 59.8 1 11
Field Goal Percentage .450 5 124
Field Goal Percentage Defense .406 2 34
3-pt FG Percentage .324 9 263
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .293 1 5
Free Throw Percentage .689 11 211
Rebounding Margin +0.3 9
Assist/Turnover Ratio 12.0/11.3 = 1.1 6 161
Steals 7.7 1 21
Blocked Shots 4.5 5 85

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Penn State Nittany Lions Penn State Logo
Head Coach: Patrick Chambers (4th season)
2013-14: 16-18, T-10th Big Ten (6-12), CBI Quarterfinals
Returning starters: 4 (Jordan Dickerson, D.J. Newbill, Brandon Taylor, John Johnson)
Recruiting class rank: #86 (Shep Garner, Isaiah Washington, Devin Foster)
Key non-conference games: Dec 3 vs Virginia Tech

It might be another tough year for Pat Chambers and Penn State, especially now that Tim Frazier’s rein of terrorizing the Big Ten is finally over. But five of Penn State’s Big Ten losses came by five points or less last season, which means the Nittany Lions were reasonably within reach of finishing 11-7 in the nation’s top conference. That would have put PSU in fourth place with an overall record of 20-12 at the end of the regular season, a resume that almost exactly mirrors the one that put Nebraska in the NCAA Tournament.

Frazier’s departure hurts the Nittany Lions, but D.J. Newbill quietly took over much of the leadership from the senior last year, leading the team with 17.8 points per game and finishing second in rebounds, blocks and steals. Newbill won’t be alone as the team returns each of its top six scorers from last season, with the exception of Frazier.

Ross Travis and Brandon Taylor will start in the frontcourt for Chambers, who will have no shortage of veteran depth across the board.

Player to watch: Devin Foster. The junior college transfer quietly chose Penn State during the offseason and should take over as the starting point guard right off the bat. Foster averaged 12.2 points and 4.8 assists per game last season with Vincennes and gives Chambers a much-needed distributor on offense.

Best-case scenario: A host of returning players continues to improve under Chambers and Penn State wins half of its Big Ten games, threatening fellow bubble teams in the race for a NCAA Tournament bid.

Worst-case scenario: While Newbill performs much like he did last season, the loss of Frazier turns Penn State into the team it was two years ago, when its leader missed the entire season with a ruptured achilles. If so, the Nittany Lions could end up near the bottom of the league.

Projected finish: 10th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank National Rank
Scoring Offense 70.9 8 158
Scoring Defense 70.2 10 172
Field Goal Percentage .428 8 228
Field Goal Percentage Defense .414 5 63
3-pt FG Percentage .319 10 284
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .352 12 222
Free Throw Percentage .741 4 38
Rebounding Margin +0.7 6
Assist/Turnover Ratio 11.3/10.6 = 1.1 8 144
Steals 4.5 11 327
Blocked Shots 4.7 3 58

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Rutgers Scarlet Knights Rutgers logo
Head Coach: Eddie Jordan (2nd season)
2013-14: 12-21, 7th in AAC (5-13), No postseason
Returning starters: 2 (Kadeem Jack, Myles Mack)
Recruiting class rank: #66 (D.J. Foreman, Mike Williams, Ibrahima Diallo)
Key non-conference games: Dec 3 vs Duke, Dec 6 at Marquette, Dec 22 at California

Rutgers has battled controversy in its basketball program over the past couple of years, and the looming Big Ten schedule could make the winter just as ugly on the court for the Scarlett Knights. Eddie Jordan’s team failed to knock off a ranked opponent last season and now faces a conference slate that could feature as many as eight ranked teams over the course of the coming months.

Last year’s 20-loss team returns only three of the seven players that averaged more than five points per game. Luckily for Jordan, top playmakers Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack will lead the offense after averaging a combined 29.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and five assists per game last season. Jack is a slightly undersized center who will battle more physical defenses in the Big Ten, and his transition will be a major factor for Rutgers.

Player to watch: Kadeem Jack. His special 2013-14 season was masked by the team’s struggles, but the 6 foot 9 forward put up 14.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game while shooting over 50 percent from the field. His 68.8 percent free throw rate will be a number to watch as Big Ten centers bang with him in the paint.

Best-case scenario: Rutgers fans are treated to another version of the Mack and Jack show, carrying the team out of the Big Ten cellar in its first go-around.

Worst-case scenario: Rutgers finished 1-11 on the road last season with the lone win coming over last-place South Florida. With that in mind, Rutgers could realistically lose nearly every single Big Ten game if the players don’t make a smooth transition from the American.

Projected finish: 14th

2013 Stats & Rankings
Category Number Big Ten Rank* National Rank
Scoring Offense 71.1 8 185
Scoring Defense 76.2 13 298
Field Goal Percentage .426 11 270
Field Goal Percentage Defense .447 13 232
3-pt FG Percentage .336 7 230
3-pt FG Percentage Defense .371 13 302
Free Throw Percentage .706 10 163
Rebounding Margin -0.6 11
Assist/Turnover Ratio 12.7/12.6 = 1.0 9 194
Steals 5.8 8 209
Blocked Shots 4.2 7 114
*Where Rutgers’ stats would have ranked in the Big Ten last season