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Posts Tagged ‘Evan Smotrycz’

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

End of season player profiles: the starters

Monday, April 2nd, 2012


Last week, we presented the final individual and team statistical breakdowns, all nicely color-coded to illustrate each player’s contribution to the team. Today, we’ll take a look at end of season profiles of each player, the highlights of his season, his contributions, and what he can improve for next season.

Before we get started, let me explain some of the numbers. The stat line at the top of each player’s profile is taken straight from last week’s stats post. The darker the maize, the higher his ream rank in that category. The darker the blue, the lower his team rank. At the bottom of each profile are more advanced metrics, such as effective field goal percentage (eFG%) and true shooting percentage (TS%), with my own twist on them to adjust for minutes played in relation to the total available minutes. That way, a player like Eso Akunne who only took eight shots all season and made seven, and played just 3.5 percent of the available minutes, doesn’t blow away everyone else on the team.

The Starters

Trey Burke
GP-GS Min Avg
Min
FG-FGA FG% 3FG-3FGA 3FG% FT-FTA FT% OR DR Tot
Reb
Reb
Avg
A TO Blk Stl Pts Avg
Pts
34-33 1227 36.1 177-409 .433 57-164 .348 93-125 .744 22 96 118 3.5 156 94 13 31 504 14.8

Burke led the team with 14.8 points per game and will be crucial to Michigan's success if he returns next season

Nobody knew what to expect from the gaping hole that was the point guard position prior to the season, but by season’s end, it’s hard to picture what the team would have looked like without Trey Burke. The fabulous freshman who was plucked from behind enemy lines in Columbus, helped Michigan fans forget about Darius Morris and turned point guard into a position of strength.

He didn’t start the season opener against Ferris State and scored just three points in 18 minutes. But in his next four games, he scored 13, 14, 14, and 17 points, respectively while starting and playing 30-plus minutes each game.

On New Years Day, he racked up 27 points against Minnesota and two weeks later he scored 20 to lead Michigan to its third straight win over Michigan State. In February, he more or less shut down Ohio State’s Aaron Craft and scored 17 of his own to earn the win, and in the first game of the Big Ten Tournament, Burke lit up Minnesota once again, this time for a career high 30 points.

He was the floor general who played well beyond his freshman status. He played 89.2 percent of the possible minutes, averaging 36.1 minutes per game and it seemed to show in the final two games when he didn’t have legs against Ohio State and had trouble keeping up with the guards of Ohio University.

Burke is considering entering the NBA Draft but if he does return next season, Michigan will be poised to make a run for another Big Ten title.

Needs to improve: Turnovers. There’s really not much Burke wasn’t able to do as a true freshman. He played well beyond his years, hit clutch shots, led the team in scoring, and set the Michigan record for assists by a freshman. It’s nitpicking to suggest turnovers, but what else is there? He ranked tied for eighth in the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio, but 10 Big Ten guards averaged fewer turnovers per game. If he can cut it down under two to the same level as Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor or Northwestern’s Dave Sobolewski, he’ll be a sure Big Ten player of the year candidate.

eFG% – 44.8
TS% –  48.0

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Tim Hardaway Jr.
GP-GS Min Avg
Min
FG-FGA FG% 3FG-3FGA 3FG% FT-FTA FT% OR DR Tot
Reb
Reb
Avg
A TO Blk Stl Pts Avg
Pts
34-34 1162 34.2 167-400 .418 53-187 .283 101-151 .715 26 104 130 3.8 73 66 11 16 495 14.6

Tim Hardaway Jr struggled from the field in Big Ten play but was the team's second leading scorer

Hardaway was the star of the team last year and had high expectations heading into his sophomore campaign. He began the season right where he left off, averaging 16.2 points per game and shooting 47.8 percent overall and 34.3 percent from three-point range through the first 13 games.

But once conference play began, his scoring average dropped nearly three points to 13.5 and his shooting dipped to 37.7 and 25 percent the rest of the way, respectively.

He had a 2-for-14 night against Minnesota, 2-for-13 against Iowa, and 1-for-10 against Michigan State. He had a six-game stretch in which he hit just 7-of-35 threes.

Despite his struggles, he was still able to get his points and seemed to come alive at season’s end. Against Illinois on March 1, he scored 25 points and pulled down 11 rebounds while hitting 6-of-7 shots, 4-of-4 threes, and 9-of-10 free throws. Against Minnesota in the first game of the Big Ten Tournament, he poured in 20.

He led the team in free throws made and attempted, averaging 4.4 attempts and three makes per game.

Needs to improve: Shot selection and consistency. The root of his shooting woes this season was shot selection as he often forced up off-balance jumpers late in the shot clock or early threes not within the offense. He was at his best when he was driving to the basket off the dribble, drawing fouls and creating plays. The return of Trey Burke would really help Hardaway’s consistency, as will more of an inside presence with Jon Horton coming off of injury and Mitch McGary joining the team. Hardaway shot 36.7 percent from three-point range as a freshman while taking 20 more threes, so he’s capable of hitting them. If he can get back to that level next year, he’ll be tough to stop.

eFG% – 40.9
TS% –  44.4

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Zack Novak
GP-GS Min Avg
Min
FG-FGA FG% 3FG-3FGA 3FG% FT-FTA FT% OR DR Tot
Reb
Reb
Avg
A TO Blk Stl Pts Avg
Pts
34-34 1145 33.7 110-231 .476 52-127 .409 42-49 .857 42 112 154 4.5 61 33 3 26 314 9.2

Zack Novak was arguably the most consistent player on the team, ranking in the top three in nearly every stat category

Four years ago, Novak was a barely-recruited prospect and one of John Beilein’s first commits. As a senior this season, he was one of Michigan’s most important all-around players. He started every game, averaging the third-most minutes per game (33.7), ranked third on the team in scoring with 9.2 points per game, third in rebounding (4.5), third in overall shooting (47.6) percent, second in three-point shooting (40.9), and first in free throw shooting (85.7).

He scored a season-high 22 in Michigan’s Maui Invitational win over UCLA and also scored 17 and pulled in eight rebounds in a midseason loss at Arkansas. He made multiple threes in 14 games and hit at least one three in 26 of the 34 games. He also pulled down five or more rebounds 16 times.

However, he struggled in his final game, Michigan’s season-ending loss to Ohio, scoring just two points on 1-of-6 shooting. But throughout his career, Novak’s legacy was defined by more than just scoring. While he averaged 8.1 points per game throughout his four years, his main contributions don’t show up on the stat sheet. He played more minutes than any Michigan basketball player in history and his was the body often diving after loose balls and jumping in front of potential layups, drawing charges. Novak also became Michigan’s first academic all-american in 30 years and was just the second three-year captain in Michigan history.

Novak graduates in May with a business degree from the Stephen M. Ross School of Business. He won’t play in the NBA, but he has a bright future ahead and all the tools to succeed in life beyond basketball.

eFG% – 49.1
TS% –  51.4

________________________________________________________________________________________

Stu Douglass
GP-GS Min Avg
Min
FG-FGA FG% 3FG-3FGA 3FG% FT-FTA FT% OR DR Tot
Reb
Reb
Avg
A TO Blk Stl Pts Avg
Pts
34-17 1037 30.5 91-224 .406 48-142 .338 26-31 .839 7 80 87 2.6 78 34 4 26 256 7.5

Stu Douglass played in more games than any Michigan player in program history

Like Novak, Douglass was scarcely recruited coming out of high school but became one of Beilein’s first commits. All he did was go on to play in more games than any player in Michigan basketball history, never missing a game throughout his career.

This season, he averaged 7.5 points per game, good for fifth on the team, and 78 assists, which was second to Burke. His best game of the season was the opener against Ferris State when he scored 14 points on 3-of-7 shooting from three, grabbed five rebounds, and dished out four assists. He also scored in double figures six other times and scored the game-winning layup in Michigan’s January 17 win over Michigan State.

Through his first three years, Douglass was known as a good three-point shooter, but this season he developed an ability to get to the rim and create a shot off the dribble. Several times, he set up his defender and hit a turn around jumper, something that was hard to imagine in years prior. He also became one of Michigan’s best defenders on the perimeter.

He finished his career fourth all-time in threes attempted (603) and fifth in threes made (205). He started the season coming off the bench, but made his way into the starting lineup for the final 16 games.

He graduates in May with an economics degree and will likely pursue a basketball career overseas. Next season, his steadiness will be missed and Michigan will have to find a capable ball-handler to spell Burke at times.

eFG% – 38.7
TS% –  40.4

________________________________________________________________________________________

Evan Smotrycz
GP-GS Min Avg
Min
FG-FGA FG% 3FG-3FGA 3FG% FT-FTA FT% OR DR Tot
Reb
Reb
Avg
A TO Blk Stl Pts Avg
Pts
34-18 716 21.1 89-185 .481 40-92 .435 45-58 .776 45 120 165 4.9 30 46 11 27 263 7.7

Evan Smotrycz was the team's best three-point shooter, hitting 43.5 percent of his attempts

Smotrycz was the type of big man that John Beilein loves: able to step outside and create a mismatch for a slower big guy, capable of knocking down threes or driving to the basket. This season, his minutes were down, but his offensive productivity increased from his freshman campaign.

He led the team in three-point percentage, hitting 40-of-92 attempts, was second in overall field goal percentage (48.1), led the team with 120 defensive rebounds, and was the team’s second-leading overall rebounder, averaging 4.9 per game.

He had a four-game stretch to end the non-conference portion of the schedule in which he scored 20, 16, 17, and 20, but scored in double figures just four times in the final 21 games. In one of those, his 17-points helped Michigan beat Penn State to clinch a share of the Big Ten title. In another, his 15 points helped keep Michigan in the NCAA Tournament game against Ohio. He hit 6-of-7 shots from the field and both three-pointers and also pulled in seven boards.

Smotrycz began the season in the starting lineup, but lost his starting job to Douglass for the final 16 games. He averaged 21.1 minutes a game and was efficient on the offensive end, but was often a liability on defense.

At season’s end, he announced he was transferring to a yet-to-be-named school. In hindsight, it explains some of the frustration with Smotrycz all season. His on-court demeanor and lack of effort at times were frustrating but his ability to knock down shots somewhat made up for it. Had he returned next season, his minutes may not have increased but if his offensive production remained the same, he would have been a crucial player to Michigan’s success.

eFG% – 30.7
TS% –  32.2

________________________________________________________________________________________

Jordan Morgan
GP-GS Min Avg
Min
FG-FGA FG% 3FG-3FGA 3FG% FT-FTA FT% OR DR Tot
Reb
Reb
Avg
A TO Blk Stl Pts Avg
Pts
34-33 831 24.4 109-176 .619 0-0 .000 31-61 .508 75 116 191 5.6 11 53 9 22 249 7.3

Jordan Morgan led Michigan in FG percentage and rebounding

While Morgan’s scoring numbers were slightly down this season from his redshirt freshman year, he remained an important piece of the puzzle inside. Read: only pice of the puzzle inside. When fellow big man Jon Horford was lost for the season, Morgan’s inside presence became all the more important as the only guy big enough to defend opponents’ bigs.

He led Michigan and finished second in the Big Ten in shooting percentage (61.9) and led the team in offensive rebounds (75), total rebounds (191), and rebound average (5.6). His offensive rebound average (2.2) was good for sixth in the Big Ten.

Though his scoring average fell from 9.2 to 7.3 this season, he had a few great games offensively. His season high was 16, which he scored twice, against Iowa State on December 3 and Arkansas on January 21. He also had three double-digit rebounding nights, one of which was the highlight of his season when he recorded a double-double, grabbing 11 boards and scoring 11 points in helping Michigan defeat Ohio State. In that game, he virtually shut down Jared Sullinger.

Needs to improve: Playing like a big man. One of the most frustrating things to watch all season was Morgan grab an offensive rebound or get the ball under the basket, take a dribble, and get the ball stolen by a guard. If I had all the game tape to count, I bet it would tally at least a dozen times. He has the ability to score and once he has some help next season with Mitch McGrady and Jon Horford, should be able to excel as an upperclassman with a couple of years under his belt.

eFG% – 37.4
TS% – 36.7

Final basketball stats as periodic tables

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012


The cross-eye-inducing periodic table below is the final statistical breakdown for your 2011-12 Michigan basketball team. For the sake of analysis, I took the liberty to color-code each statistical category based on the player’s final ranking on the team in that category. The darker the maize, the higher he finished, with the leader represented in dark maize and the number bolded. The darker the blue, the lower he finished, with the low man in dark blue and the number white.

As you can see, Michigan was essentially a six-man team. Matt Vogrich played in every game, getting a fourth of the game’s minutes on average and hit some big threes at times, and Blake McLimans played in roughly three-fourths of the games in a minor role but showed the ability to knock down some shots and pull down some rebounds. However, only six were actually regular contributors.  A healthy Jon Horford all season would have given Michigan seven.

Trey Burke was obviously the star, leading the team in points, assists, threes made, field goals, made, minutes, and blocks. Yep, you read that right; the point guard led the team in blocked shots. Tim Hardaway Jr led the team only in free throws made and attempted, though he did place second or third in the rest of the categories, the obvious outlier being three-point percentage in which he was sixth*. Zack Noak was steady all season long, starting every game, leading the team in free throw percentage, and placing third in virtually every other category. Jordan Morgan shot the best and pulled down the most offensive and total rebounds. Evan Smotrycz was probably the most efficient player on the team, at least offensively, compared to minutes played. He had the best three-point percentage and most defensive rebounds while serving as the team’s fourth-leading scorer and ranking highly in most of the other categories despite playing in barely over half of each game on average.

Final Player Stats
Name GP-GS Min Avg
Min
FG-FGA FG% 3FG-3FGA 3FG% FT-FTA FT% OR DR Tot
Reb
Reb
Avg
A TO Blk Stl Pts Avg
Pts
Trey
Burke
34-33 1227 36.1 177-409 .433 57-164 .348 93-125 .744 22 96 118 3.5 156 94 13 31 504 14.8
Tim Hardaway Jr. 34-34 1162 34.2 167-400 .418 53-187 .283 101-151 .715 26 104 130 3.8 73 66 11 16 495 14.6
Zack
Novak
34-34 1145 33.7 110-231 .476 52-127 .409 42-49 .857 42 112 154 4.5 61 33 3 26 314 9.2
Evan Smotrycz 34-18 716 21.1 89-185 .481 40-92 .435 45-58 .776 45 120 165 4.9 30 46 11 27 263 7.7
Stu
Douglass
34-17 1037 30.5 91-224 .406 48-142 .338 26-31 .839 7 80 87 2.6 78 34 4 26 256 7.5
Jordan Morgan 34-33 831 24.4 109-176 .619 0-0 .000 31-61 .508 75 116 191 5.6 11 53 9 22 249 7.3
Jon
Horford
9-1 97 10.8 9-17 .529 0-0 .000 6-7 .857 13 19 32 3.6 1 5 9 3 24 2.7
Matt
Vogrich
34-0 365 10.7 29-76 .382 16-53 .302 4-6 .667 10 33 43 1.3 13 9 2 13 78 2.3
Eso
Akunne
12-0 48 4.0 7-8 .875 4-5 .800 2-2 1.000 0 8 8 0.7 1 4 0 0 20 1.7
Corey
Person
10-0 11 1.1 5-8 .625 0-1 .000 1-1 1.000 3 0 3 0.3 0 2 0 0 11 1.1
Blake McLimans 30-0 127 4.2 10-21 .476 5-12 .417 0-0 .000 7 14 21 0.7 1 5 8 0 25 0.8
Carlton Brundidge 15-0 44 2.9 1-8 .125 0-2 .000 4-8 .500 0 8 8 0.5 2 5 0 1 6 0.4
Colton Christian 19-0 51 2.7 3-10 .300 0-0 .000 1-4 .250 3 3 6 0.3 1 4 2 1 7 0.4
Josh Bartelstein 11-0 14 1.3 1-4 .250 1-3 .333 0-0 .000 0 1 1 0.1 3 1 0 2 3 0.3

Further analysis will follow in the individual player season profiles over the course of the next couple weeks, but I also wanted to highlight some overall team stats and how they compared to last season.

Below are the final team stats from this season and the previous year. The column on the far right shows the percent difference for each stat category. Maize highlight means the team improved in that category and blue means it declined. Shockingly, this year’s team was virtually the same as last year’s across the board, but it produced three more wins and four fewer losses (and four more conference wins and five fewer conference losses).

The defense gave up one point fewer per game while defending the three declined slightly, although opponents shot 108 fewer three-pointers against Michigan this year. The team shot one more free throw than it did last season but made 12 more to improve its free throw shooting by 2.3 percent. On the glass, despite pulling down one less rebound per game, opponents grabbed two less per game, so Michigan still came out on top this season rebounding-wise. Assists were down by one per game and turnovers were up by one per game, but at least some of that can be attributed to starting a true freshman point guard and with Burke as the best player on the team, that’s not a huge deal.

The main area of increase was in attendance. The Crisler Center pulled in nearly a thousand more fans per game than it did last year thanks to a nearly perfect home record, staying in contention for the Big Ten title all season, and earning an ESPN College Game Day appearance for the Ohio State game.

Final Team Stats

2010-11 (Last year) Category 2011-12 (This year) Difference
66.5 Points Per Game 66.3 -0.3%
62.5 Scoring Defense 61.5 +1.6%
847-for-1,889 (44.8%) Field Goal % 808-for-1,777 (45.5%) +0.7%
795-for-1,854 (42.9%) Def. Field Goal % 756-for-1,768 (42.8%) +0.1%
283-for-804 (35.2%) 3-point % 276-for-788 (35.0%) -0.2%
222-for-696 (31.9%) Def. 3-point % 203-for-588 (34.5%) -2.6%
351-for-502 (69.9%) Free Throw % 363-for-503 (72.2%) +2.3%
10.0 Free Throws Made/Game 10.7 +7.0%
31.9 Rebounds Per Game 30.8 -3.4%
33.7 Opp. Rebounds Per Game 31.6 +6.2%
13.7 Assists Per Game 12.7 -7.3%
10.0 Turnovers Per Game 10.9 -9.0%
4.8 Steals Per Game 4.9 +2.1%
2.0 Blocks Per Game 2.1 +5.0%
10,640 Average Home Attendance 11,436 +7.5%
G – Darius Morris (15.0)
G – Tim Hardaway (13.9)
Leading Scorer G – Trey Burke (14.8)
G – Tim Hardaway (14.6)
G – Zack Novak (5.8)
F – Jordan Morgan (5.4)
Leading Rebounder F – Jordan Morgan (5.5)
F – Evan Smotrycz (4.8)

Stay tuned in the coming days for the individual player season profiles, where we’ll evaluate each player’s contribution to the season, how it compared to his previous season(s), and the main areas of improvement for next season.

* Category rankings didn’t strictly go based on percentages. In some instances, such as three-point percentage, a player who rarely played had the highest percentage on the team (Eso Akunne) due to such a limited number of attempts (4-for-5). In those cases, priority was given subjectively to the starters and regular contributors before moving on to the role players.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

Saturday, March 17th, 2012


It was a season that held such great promise only to culminate in a hollow feeling, the pain of a stinging defeat and an early exit overshadowing the successes that were achieved. However, the pain will soon recess and when we look back on the season, we’ll remember the milestones that were reached.

Beating Ohio State was one of the highlights of the season (photo by MGoBlue.com)

This team accomplished what the 26 Michigan basketball teams since 1986 could not: win the Big Ten, and it did so in a year in which the conference was at its best. Was Michigan truly the best team in the Big Ten? I think we would all by lying if we said yes, but it conquered the conference portion of the schedule well enough to earn a share of the title with two legitimate national title contenders, Michigan State and Ohio State.

This team featured a pair of seniors that will forever be remembered as the foundation of the Michigan basketball resurgence. John Beilein’s first two recruits came to a Michigan program that had just struggled to a 10-22 season, and took the Wolverines to the Big Dance three out of four years. Are Stu Douglass and Zack Novak among the best players in the Big Ten? Again, to say yes would have to be done while wearing maize colored glasses. Yet Douglass started more games in his career than any player in Michigan history and Novak became the first Wolverine to be named an Academic All-American in 30 years.

This team took a big step from being an under the radar bubble team with the ability to pull off upsets to a formidable foe that became the hunted rather than the hunter. It’s not an easy thing to do: live up to heightened expectations, especially when the crux of your team is underclassmen. Yes, the aforementioned senior leadership of Douglass and Novak cannot be understated, but the bulk of the weight was carried by a true freshman and a bunch of sophomores.

After routing Tennessee in its opening round game last season and narrowly missing the Sweet 16 with a near upset of Duke, Michigan looked poised to take another step forward.  But when sophomore point guard Darius Morris declared for the NBA Draft, the prospects of even matching that season’s record appeared dim. Enter Trey Burke. The “pride of Columbus, Ohio,” as he was called by Michigan’s public address announcer during pregame introductions of the Ohio State game, put Michigan on his shoulders and more than filled Morris’ shoes.

Burke quickly became a fan favorite, flashing a solid handle, the ability to knock down big shots, beat the defender off the dribble, and finish around the rim. He set the Michigan freshman assist record and was named Co-Big Ten Freshman of the Year, as well as a Sports Illustrated Second-Team All-American.

His backcourt running mate, Tim Hardaway Jr., entered the season with high expectations after an outstanding freshman season of his own, but fell into a sophomore slump that he could never quite get out of. He finished second on the team in scoring behind Burke, but while his overall shooting percentage remained about the same, his three-point percentage plummeted from 36.7 percent to an abysmal 28.3.

Evan Smotrycz showed flashes of brilliance throughout the season but was also prone to mistakes, and the season-ending loss to Ohio was a perfect example. His 6-of-7 shooting night kept Michigan in the game, but his mishandling of the ball in the final seconds sealed the victory for the Bobcats.

Even Denard caught the Michigan hoops fever this season, regularly appearing in the Maize Rage (photo by MGoBlue.com)

Jordan Morgan also flashed some ability to dominate the game, such as in Michigan’s 56-51 win over Ohio State on February 18 in which he virtually shut down Jared Sullinger and recorded 11 points and 11 rebounds of his own. Yet, he also had a remarkable ability to disappear at times.

Each of Michigan’s returning contributors has plenty of upside to go along with plenty to improve and the team will get a shot in the arm next season when the nation’s 11th-best (5th according to Rivals) recruiting class comes to town. Michigan should be able to play much bigger next season, which will be key to competing for the Big Ten crown once again.

But before we look ahead to what’s to come, let’s revel in the success of the season that just concluded. Take pride in the accomplishment of a Big Ten title, forget the early loss, and bid Douglass and Novak adieu as they move on to post-basketball careers. It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to take pride in Michigan basketball, so soak it up.

Biggest Areas of Improvement:

1. Develop depth. Michigan was mainly a seven-man rotation all season long with the same five starting every game and Smotrycz and Matt Vogrich coming off the bench. Others, such as Blake McLimans and Colton Christian played sparingly, but rarely enough to contribute.

If Michigan is to continue to progress, it will need to build depth to give the starters some rest without significantly decreasing production. Burke played 1,227 of the 1,375 available minutes (89 percent) this season with the majority of his rest coming at the beginning of the year. By season’s end, the grind seemed to have taken a toll, especially after playing 45 minutes in an overtime victory over Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament. Michigan didn’t have a backup point guard to spell him. That blame can certainly fall on Darius Morris for leaving early just to wind up in the NBA’s D League, but the need for depth applies across the board as well.

Getting Al Horford back from injury and Mitch McGary will instantly boost the frontcourt, and Smotrycz’s development and the additions of Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas will bolster the wings. Hopefully Burke’s classmate Carlton Brundidge will be able to develop enough to see the court as well, giving Beilein a solid eight- or nine-man rotation.

Mitch McGary should help solve Michigan's interior woes next season (photo by Jeremy Hogan, Herald-Times)

2. Become less one-dimensional. Early in the season, Michigan had some success inside with Jordan Morgan and Al Horford. But once Horford was lost for the season, Morgan was unable to command the paint and Michigan became very one-dimensional. It worked for the most part, but eventually became the team’s greatest undoing late in the season when opponents figured out how to slow down Burke’s penetration and Michigan’s three-point shooting.

Michigan shot 788 three-pointers this season, 17 more than the Big Ten’s next highest, Northwestern, but converted just 35 percent of them, which ranked eighth in the conference. Too many times, the offense couldn’t even get the ball down low, and when it did, Morgan had very little in the way of a post game. That’s okay when the shots are falling, but late in the season with tired legs, they weren’t.

Michigan is always going to be a three-point shooting team under Beilein, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, without any sort of threat inside, it leaves Michigan prone to losing games it shouldn’t. Horford and McGary will help greatly.

3. Become a better defensive team. Michigan ranked near the middle of the pack in the Big Ten in most defensive categories: scoring defense (4th), opponent field goal percentage (6th), and opponent three-point field goal percentage (5th), which isn’t inherently bad. But with an offene that wasn’t the best shooting offense and ranked eighth in scoring, there wasn’t much room for error. Michigan ranked last in the conference in steals and blocked shots and eighth in rebounding.

What that tells is that Michigan’s defense wasn’t stopping opponents as much as it was opponents just not executing. The one time all season that Michigan’s defense did really step up in an obvious way was the win over Ohio State when it harassed Aaron Craft all night long and made the Buckeyes work for every basket. The way Ohio University pressured Michigan on every possession in the NCAA Tournament game is the way a defense needs to play. Unfortunately, Smotrycz is a defensive liability every time he’s on the floor and Morgan isn’t tough enough or big enough to body most big men. Douglass and Novak, while hard-nosed, simply weren’t athletic enough to keep up with most guards.

Of course, when a team wins a conference title and earns a 4-seed in the NCAA Tournament, it’s hard to find too many faults without nitpicking. But fixing those three areas of improvement could be the difference between a 10-loss season and a legitimate national championship contender next season.

Check back in the next few days for a profile and grade of each player’s season and areas for improvement next year.

(13) THE Ohio University 65 – (4) Michigan 60

Friday, March 16th, 2012


Final 1st 2nd Total
(4) Michigan (24-10, 13-5) 29 31 60
(13) Ohio (28-7, 11-5) 35 30 65

With a highly rated recruiting class coming in, Beilein has a lot to look forward to (photo by Kevin C Cox, Getty Images)

Michigan fell behind in the first half of its NCAA Tournament opener against Ohio University on Friday night and was unable to fight back, falling 65-60. And just like that, it’s football season again.

With spring football beginning in the morning, Michigan basketball was hoping to keep its season alive, but ran into a touch matchup with an Ohio team that features outstanding guard play and smothering defense. Despite being just a 13-seed compared to Michigan’s 4-seed, the Bobcats were a tough draw from the get-go, and that’s why it’s called March Madness.

Michigan hung around early on after OU hit the first two shots of the game. Michigan went on a 9-2 run to take a 9-7 lead. The teams then battled back and forth with Michigan taking another lead at 18-17 with 9:35 remaining in the half. But it would be the last time the Wolverines would lead the game as Ohio used an 18-4 run to open up a 13-point lead. Michigan went on a 7-0 run of its own to end the half but still trailed by six.

The second half was much of the same as every time Michigan would pull within striking distance, Ohio would find an answer with a big shot. The Bobcats led by nine with 8:11 to play but Trey Burke scored nine straight for Michigan to cut the lead to three. After an Ohio free throw and layup, Burke hit another three to keep the Ohio lead at three with 4:12 to play.

However, Michigan went scoreless the rest of the way, missing all six of its shots, five of them being three-point attempts. Ohio didn’t score either until two free throws to seal the game with seven seconds left. Prior to that, Burke got a good look at a three but couldn’t connect. Michigan got the ball back but couldn’t get off a shot as Evan Smotrycz mishandled the dribble and OU took it away.

Burke led Michigan with 16 points, but made just 2-of-9 three-pointers and 5-of-15 shots overall. Smotrycz added 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting and Tim Hardaway Jr scored 14.

Ohio shot 51.2 percent from the field – its fifth-best total of the season and nearly nine percentage points higher than its season average – and hit 6-of-16 three-pointers while holding Michigan to 40.7 percent shooting and 7-of-23 from long range.

Michigan’s season ends with a 24-10 record and despite the early exit, it should still be considered a successful season. The Wolverines won the Big Ten for the first time in 26 years and earned a 4-seed in the tournament. Stu Douglass graduates having played more games in the maize and blue than any other Wolverine and Zack Novak graduates having been named Michigan’s first academic all-american since 1982.

Replacing the two will be one of the best recruiting classes in the nation, led by Mitch McGary, ESPN’s 22nd-ranked player who held offers from Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Florida. Also in the class is ESPN’s 27th-ranked player, Glenn Robinson III, and the 79th-ranked player, Nik Stauskas. So remember, as much as it hurts right now, next looks even more promising.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
52 Jordan Morgan* 3-5 0-0 2-2 4 4 8 1 8 0 2 0 0 25
00 Zack Novak* 1-6 0-2 0-0 3 0 3 4 2 1 1 0 0 32
01 Stu Douglass* 2-7 1-4 0-0 0 2 2 0 5 1 0 0 0 36
03 Trey Burke* 5-15 2-9 4-4 0 3 3 1 16 5 2 0 1 40
10 Tim Hardaway Jr* 5-14 2-6 2-4 0 2 2 4 14 3 2 0 0 37
13 Matt Vogrich 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 6
20 Blake McLimans 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0+
23 Evan Smotrycz 6-7 2-2 1-1 1 6 7 5 15 1 2 0 0 24
Totals 22-54 7-23 9-11 11 18 29 16 60 11 10 0 2 200
Ohio 22-43 6-16 15-17 4 22 26 12 65 13 9 2 6 200

Michigan Hoops Preview: THE Ohio University

Friday, March 16th, 2012


(4) Michigan v. (13) Ohio

NCAA Tournament
Friday, March 16 – 7:20pm EST – TNT – Nashville, Tenn.
24-9 (13-5) Record 27-7 (11-5)
Ferris State 59-33
Towson 64-47
W. Illinois 59-55
#8 Memphis 73-61
UCLA 79-63
Iowa State 79-66
Oakland 90-80
Ark. Pine-Bluff 63-50
Alabama A&M 87-57
Bradley 77-66
Penn State 71-53
Minnesota 61-56
#16 Wisconsin 59-41
Northwestern 66-64 OT
#9 Michigan St. 60-59
Purdue 66-64
#20 Indiana 68-56
Nebraska 62-46
Illinois 70-61
#6 Ohio State 56-51
Northwestern 67-55 OT
Illinois 72-61
Penn State 71-65
Minnesota 73-69 OT
Wins Tenn.-Martin 74-65
Lamar 85-78 OT
Ark. State 69-54
Marshall 70-68
Morgan State 61-53
Oakland 84-82
Portland 72-54
Marietta 88-54
Wright State 82-54
N. Iowa 76-59
N. C. A&T 82-66
Kennesaw 71-63
Buffalo 60-52
Kent State 87-65
Miami Ohio 69-65
W. Michigan 56-51
Ball State 59-55
N. Illinois 67-58
C. Michigan 68-42
Bowling Green 72-59
UNCA 81-62
Buffalo 88-77
Akron 85-61
Miami Ohio 63-54
Toledo 65-57
Buffalo 77-74
Akron 64-63
#6 Duke 75-82
Virginia 58-70
#11 Indiana 71-73
Iowa 59-75
Arkansas 64-66
#3 Ohio State 49-64
#10 Michigan St. 54-64
Purdue 75-61
#7 Ohio State 55-77
Losses #7 Louisville 54-59
Rob. Morris 67-70
Bowling Green 57-67
Akron 63-68
Toledo 73-77
E. Michigan 55-68
Kent State 61-68
66.5 Points Per Game 70.7
61.4 Scoring Defense 62.4
786-for-1,723 (45.6%) Field Goal % 839-for-1,954 (42.9%)
734-for-1,725 (42.6%) Def. Field Goal % 707-for-1,717 (41.2%)
269-for-765 (35.2%) 3-point % 251-for-743 (33.8%)
197-for-572 (34.4%) Def. 3-point % 182-for-614 (29.6%)
354-for-492 (72.0%) Free Throw % 476-for-699 (68.1%)
10.7 Free Throws Made/Game 14.0
30.8 Rebounds Per Game 34.8
31.8 Opp. Rebounds Per Game 34.6
12.7 Assists Per Game 13.2
10.9 Turnovers Per Game 13.2
5.0 Steals Per Game 9.4
2.2 Blocks Per Game 2.9
G – Trey Burke (14.8)
G – Tim Hardaway (14.6)
Leading Scorer G – D.J. Cooper (14.6)
G – Walter Offutt (11.7)
F – Jordan Morgan (5.5)
F – Evan Smotrycz (4.8)
Leading Rebounder F – Reggie Keely (5.1)
F – Ivo Baltic (5.1)

The last time out, Michigan laid an egg against Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, falling 77-55. This time, the Wolverines face the other Ohio, Ohio University. Much has been made of Michigan referring to the Buckeyes as simply “Ohio” and the fact that tonight Michigan faces the actual Ohio, but the fact remains that despite the Bobcats being the ‘other’ Ohio, this won’t be a cakewalk.

Head coach John Groce happens to hail from my alma mater, Taylor University, a tiny school in the middle of nowhere Indiana and knows a thing or two about coaching. His mentor, Paul Patterson, is the winningest coach in the state of Indiana and preaches a disciplined, defense-oriented, motion-based approach. For a school with just 2,000 students, he has quite the coaching tree. In fact, Michigan assistant Jeff Meyer is also a Taylor alum. Groce has turned the Bobcats into a perennial NCAA Tournament contender and is on the verge of landing a major conference head coaching job.

The Bobcats have the best defense in the MAC, force a lot of turnovers, and loves to push in transition. Defensively, they love to hedge the high ball screen, which is a staple of the Michigan offense. Akron was able to exploit it fairly well and the good news for Michigan is the guys doing the hedging aren’t quite at the level of those from Purdue or Ohio State that caused Michigan fits late in the season.

Ohio is led by junior point guard D.J. Cooper who averages 14.6 points. He’s the guy who creates everything for the Bobcats, will shoot from anywhere at any time, and loves to penetrate. He’ll be a tough matchup for Michigan’s guards.

The good thing is Ohio isn’t a great shooting team, especially from outside. Their overall field goal percentage ranks 201st nationally and three-point percentage ranks 197th. The sharp-shooter is sophomore guard Nick Kellogg, the son of former Buckeye star Clark Kellogg. He shoots 41.8 percent, having connected on 77-of-184. To put that in perspective, Michigan’s leading three-point shooter in terms of makes is Trey Burke who has hit 55. Tim Hardaway Jr has attempted 181 but hit just 51. If there’s one guy to guard tight, it’s Kellogg. He has only made 21 non-three-pointers all season so he’s not a threat inside the arc.

The second leading scorer behind Cooper is 6’3″ guard Walter Offutt, an Ohio State transfer who averages 11.7 points per game. He’s more of a slasher than Kellogg and has the ability to fill it up. He has a season high of 23 points against Buffalo last month. In the MAC championship game against Akron, however, he scored just two after getting in early foul trouble.

On the inside, Ohio relies on 6’8″ junior forwards Ivo Baltic and Reggie Keely. Baltic is similar to Evan Smotrycz in that he’s flexible enough to shoot the midrange jumper, drive, or post up.  He averages nine points per game, but has scored more than eight points just four times in the last 15 games. Keely is active and physical, averaging 9.2 points and 5.1 rebounds a game.

Overall, Ohio is a small team like Michigan that relies on forcing turnovers, scoring in transition, and creating bad shots. Opponents shoot just 29.6 percent from downtown against the Bobcats, although Akron hit 9-of-12 in the MAC championship.

Michigan doesn’t turn the ball over a lot – fourth in the Big Ten in turnovers per game – and should be able to control the temp of the game. Ohio sometimes gets overaggressive on the hedge, so look for Michigan to have a plan in place to exploit that. In the MAC title game, Akron was able to do a good job of beating the hedge and kicking it out to open shooters.

When it comes down to it, if Michigan takes care of the ball, it will win. If it gets into a running match and if Burke struggles like he did against Ohio State, it will be ripe for an upset. I think the former will happen and Michigan will win by eight or ten.

Michigan has won its opening round game in each of its last three trips to the NCAA Tournament. In 1998, Michigan beat Davidson 80-61 before falling to UCLA; in 2009, Michigan beat Clemson 62-59 before falling to Oklahoma; and last season, Michigan beat Tennessee 75-45 before falling to Duke. In fact, Michigan has won at least one game in 19 of its 22 trips all-time to the Big Dance. This year should be no different.

Michigan hoops preview: Penn State

Sunday, March 4th, 2012


It all comes down to Super Sunday. For the first time in 25 years, Michigan can win a Big Ten basketball championship but today it will take not one game but two to do so. Michigan visit State College for its final game of the regular season needing a win to keep its title hopes alive.

#16 Michigan v. Penn State

Sunday, Mar. 4
1 p.m. ET
ESPN
State College, Pa.
22-8 (12-5) Record 12-18 (4-13)
Ferris State 59-33
Towson 64-47
W. Illinois 59-55
#8 Memphis 73-61
UCLA 79-63
Iowa State 79-66
Oakland 90-80
Ark. Pine-Bluff 63-50
Alabama A&M 87-57
Bradley 77-66
Penn State 71-53
Minnesota 61-56
#16 Wisconsin 59-41
Northwestern 66-64 OT
#9 Michigan St. 60-59
Purdue 66-64
#20 Indiana 68-56
Nebraska 62-46
Illinois 70-61
#6 Ohio State 56-51
Northwestern 67-55 OT
Illinois 72-61
Wins Hartford 70-55
Radford 62-46
LIU 77-68
USF 53-49
Youngstown St. 82-71
Boston College 62-54
Mount St. Mary’s 72-43
Cornell 74-67
Purdue 65-45
#25 Illinois 54-52
Nebraska 67-51
Iowa 69-64
#6 Duke 75-82
Virginia 58-70
#11 Indiana 71-73
Iowa 59-75
Arkansas 64-66
#3 Ohio State 49-64
#10 Michigan St. 54-64
Purdue 75-61
Losses #2 Kentucky 47-85
St. Joseph’s 47-65
Mississippi 70-72
Lafayette 57-61
Duquesne 59-66
#16 Michigan 53-71
Northwestern 56-68
#12 Indiana 82-88
Nebraska 58-70
Minnesota 66-80
#13 Indiana 54-73
#3 Ohio State 54-78
#20 Wisconsin 46-52
Iowa 64-77
#12 Michigan St. 57-77
#17 Wisconsin 55-65
Northwestern 66-67
Purdue 56-80
66.5 Points Per Game 61.8
60.5 Scoring Defense 65.3
720-for-1,577 (45.7%) Field Goal % 654-for-1,660 (39.4%)
657-for-1,554 (42.3%) Def. Field Goal % 623-for-1,444 (43.1%)
247-for-705 (35.0%) 3-point % 187-for-616 (30.4%)
177-for-521 (34.0%) Def. 3-point % 239-for-637 (37.5%)
309-for-430 (71.9%) Free Throw % 359-for-529 (67.9%)
10.3 Free Throws Made/Game 12.0
31.1 Rebounds Per Game 34.1
31.5 Opp. Rebounds Per Game 31.9
13.1 Assists Per Game 10.9
10.6 Turnovers Per Game 12.3
4.9 Steals Per Game 6.7
2.1 Blocks Per Game 2.3
G – Trey Burke (14.5)
G – Tim Hardaway (14.5)
Leading Scorer G – Tim Frazier (18.8)
G – J. Marhshall (10.3)
F – Jordan Morgan (5.7)
F – Evan Smotrycz (4.8)
Leading Rebounder G – Tim Frazier (4.8)

Penn State is in a battle of its own, for the bottom of the barrel in the Big Ten, needing a win to finish a game ahead of Nebraska for last place. The Nittany Lions enter with a 12-18 record, 4-13 in the Big Ten, the only wins over Purdue, Illinois, Nebraska, and Iowa.

PSU is led by junior guard Tim Frazier who averages 18.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. In the first meeting against Michigan on December 29, Frazier scored 20 points on 8-of-18 shooting. His season high was 30 against Nebraska and his low was three against Lafayette when he missed all 12 shots from the field. In Big Ten play, he’s virtually guaranteed to get his 20 points, but thankfully for the opponent, he’s about all Penn State has.

The only other Nittany Lion in double figures is sophomore guard Jermaine Marshall who averages 10.3. He scored nine against Michigan in December, hitting both of his three-point attempts, and has a season high of 22 against Boston College.

Penn State is last in the Big Ten in three-point percentage at 30.4 percent, but senior guard Cammeron Woodyard hits at a 36.8 percent clip. By comparison, only Evan Smotrycz has a better percentage for Michigan, but he has attempted 33 fewer threes. Woodyard averages 8.7 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.

In addition to not shooting well from the outside, Penn State is second to last in the conference in defensive three-point percentage, giving up threes at a 37.5 percent rate. In the first meeting, Michigan hit just 8-of-25 but still won handily.

In that meeting, Tim Hardaway Jr had his highest scoring game of the season with 26 points on 11-of-18 shooting, despite hitting just 1-of-7 threes. Also in that game, Smotrycz recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, while Trey Burke added 13 points and seven assists. Michigan won 71-53.

It shouldn’t be a tall task for Michigan to pull off its fourth straight road win. With a chance to shrug off the weight of the last 25 years, Michigan will be energized. Expect a lot of Hardaway who is coming off a great game against Illinois.

If Michigan wins, the focus will then turn to East Lansing where the Maize and Blue will be forced to root for one rival to beat the other. An Ohio State win would give Michigan a share of the Big Ten title along with Ohio State and Michigan State. It would also give Michigan a 2-seed in next week’s Big Ten Tournament. A Michigan State win would give State the Big Ten title alone and Michigan would take second place. It would also give Michigan the 2-seed.

Regardless of what happens in the Michigan State-Ohio State game, Michigan gets the 2-seed in the BTT with a win over Penn State. That would slot Michigan against the winner of the 7/10 game on on Friday at 6:30 EST. The 7/10 game will likely feature Northwestern and Minnesota.

Michigan hoops preview: Illinois

Thursday, March 1st, 2012


Michigan missed out on a perfect home record on its own Senior Night on Saturday and now travels to Illinois hoping to keep its Big Ten title hopes alive and spoil the Illini’s Senior Night.

#16 Michigan v. Illinois

Thursday, Mar. 1
7 p.m. ET
ESPN
Champaign, Ill.
21-8 (11-5) Record 17-12 (6-10)
Ferris State 59-33
Towson 64-47
W. Illinois 59-55
#8 Memphis 73-61
UCLA 79-63
Iowa State 79-66
Oakland 90-80
Ark. Pine-Bluff 63-50
Alabama A&M 87-57
Bradley 77-66
Penn State 71-53
Minnesota 61-56
#16 Wisconsin 59-41
Northwestern 66-64 OT
#9 Michigan St. 60-59
Purdue 66-64
#20 Indiana 68-56
Nebraska 62-46
Illinois 70-61
#6 Ohio State 56-51
Northwestern 67-55 OT
Wins Loyola 67-49
SIU-Edwardsville 66-46
Lipscomb 79-64
Richmond 70-61
Illinois State 63-59
Chicago State 90-43
Maryland 71-62
#18 Gonzaga 82-75
St. Bonaventure 48-43
Coppin State 80-63
Cornell 64-60
Minnesota 81-72 2OT
Northwestern 57-56
Nebraska 59-54
#5 Ohio State 79-74
#10 Michigan St. 42-41
Iowa 65-54
#6 Duke 75-82
Virginia 58-70
#11 Indiana 71-73
Iowa 59-75
Arkansas 64-66
#3 Ohio State 49-64
#10 Michigan St. 54-64
Purdue 75-61
Losses UNLV 48-64
#8 Missouri 74-78
Purdue 60-75
Penn State 52-54
Wisconsin 63-67
Minnesota 72-77 OT
Northwestern 70-74
#23 Indiana 71-84
#25 Michigan 61-70
Purdue 62-67
Nebraska 57-80
#9 Ohio State 67-83
66.3 Points Per Game 66.2
60.4 Scoring Defense 63.8
699-for-1,532 (45.6%) Field Goal % 698-for-1,572 (44.4%)
636-for-1,500 (42.4%) Def. Field Goal % 647-for-1,510 (42.8%)
238-for-686 (34.7%) 3-point % 171-for-554 (30.9%)
173-for-507 (34.1%) Def. 3-point % 186-for-492 (37.8%)
288-for-407 (70.8%) Free Throw % 353-for-494 (71.5%)
9.9 Free Throws Made/Game 12.2
31.1 Rebounds Per Game 32.8
31.7 Opp. Rebounds Per Game 31.0
13.2 Assists Per Game 12.7
10.6 Turnovers Per Game 13.8
4.9 Steals Per Game 5.3
2.1 Blocks Per Game 4.2
G – Trey Burke (14.2)
G – Tim Hardaway (14.1)
Leading Scorer G – Brandon Paul (14.8)
C – Meyers Leonard (13.4)
F – Evan Smotrycz (5.6)
F – Jordan Morgan (5.0)
Leading Rebounder C – Meyers Leonard (8.1)
G – Brandon Paul (4.6)

Illinois is on a free-fall and is likely playing its last home game under head coach Bruce Weber. After beginning the season 15-3 with wins over 18th-ranked Gonzaga and 5th-ranked Ohio State, the Illini have dropped nine of 11. One of those two wins was a 42-41 victory over Michigan State, so despite all of the problems, Illinois is capable of beating anyone in the Big Ten.

The Illini are really a two-headed monster with guard Brandon Paul and center Meyers Leonard. Paul, a 6’4″ junior, averages 14.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game but his biggest clame to fame this season was his 43-point performance against Ohio State in which he hit 8-of-10 three-pointers. He also hit 6-of-10 against Northwestern and shoots at a 34.2 percent clip on the season. In Michigan’s 70-61 win over Illinois on Feb. 12, Paul scored 21 points, hitting 4-of-8 from three. He also turned the ball over seven times.

Leonard is a 7’1″ sophomore averaging 13.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. He has a season high of 22 against Richmond and last week against Iowa, however, Michigan held him to his second lowest total of the season, five.

Junior guard D.J. Richardson is the only other Illini averaging in double figures at 12.1 points per game. He matched that with 12 against Michigan, but hit just 1-of-8 three-pointers. He leads the team in three-point percentage at 35.5 percent.

In that first meeting, Michigan held the Illini to 38.9 percent shooting and shot 50 percent itself. It was a closely played game but Michigan got 15 points from Hardaway, 14 from Trey Burke, 13 from Evan Smotrycz, and 12 from Zack Novak. Hardaway and Smotrycz combined to hit 4-of-4 three-pointers in the first half to help Michigan build a six point halftime lead and Michigan held on from there.

Illinois is not a great shooting team, ranking eighth in the Big Ten at 44.4 percent from the field and second to last in the conference at 30.9 percent from downtown. The Illini also give up the best three-point percentage in the conference, which bodes well for Michigan.

It will be an emotional night for the Illini, honoring seniors Sam Maniscalco and Jean Selus. Maniscalco is a transfer from Bradley who averages 6.5 points per game and just under 25 minutes of action. Selus is a walk-on who has played a total of seven minutes all season.

Michigan is looking for its first win at Assembly Hall since 1995, where the Illini have beaten Michigan 13 straight times.

Expect Illinois to come out strong and play a close, passionate game for the final time this season in front of the home crowd. Michigan will need the kind of production it got from its four stars if it is to win.

#16 Michigan 71 – Penn State 53

Friday, December 30th, 2011


Final 1st 2nd Total
#16 Michigan (11-2, 1-0) 36 35 71
Penn State (8-6, 0-1) 22 31 53

Tim Hardaway Jr led all scorers with 26 points (photo by MGoBlue.com)

Michigan opened Big Ten play on Thursday night with a convincing 71-53 win over Penn State. It was Michigan’s sixth-straight win since losing to Virginia exactly a month ago.

It took the offense a few minutes to get going, but once it did, it pulled away. Evan Smotrycz scored the first bucket of the game, but Michigan went scoreless for the next three minutes. Tim Hardaway Jr hit a jumper and Trey Burke scored twice to put Michigan ahead and the Wolverines never relinquished the lead. The defense forced nine turnovers in the half.

Michigan took a 36-22 lead in the locker room and then widened the lead to 20 on a Jordan Morgan dunk three minutes into the second half. The lead got to as many as 22 at 54-32 and the closest Penn State could get was 16 as Michigan cruised to a comfortable win.

Hardaway led the Wolverines with 26 points on 11-of-18 shooting, despite connecting on just 1-of-7 three-pointers. Smotrycz turned in his third consecutive double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds and Burke was the only other Wolverine in double figures with 13 points. He also added a team high seven assists.

Michigan shot 47.2 percent from the field and hit 13-of-15 free throws, while holding Penn State to just 26.7 percent shooting from downtown.

Michigan now has a couple of days off before hosting Minnesota (12-2, 0-1) on Sunday at 4pm.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
23 Evan Smotrycz* 3-7 2-4 2-2 3 7 10 3 10 2 3 1 2 35
52 Jordan Morgan* 1-4 0-0 0-0 3 0 3 2 2 0 1 1 1 25
00 Zack Novak* 3-6 1-3 0-0 0 4 4 3 7 4 1 0 1 36
03 Trey Burke* 3-10 0-3 7-7 0 5 5 1 13 7 0 1 2 36
10 Tim Hardaway Jr* 11-18 1-7 3-4 0 3 3 1 26 2 1 0 1 35
01 Stu Douglass 2-6 2-6 1-2 1 2 3 2 7 0 1 0 0 19
13 Matt Vogrich 2-2 2-2 0-0 0 2 2 1 6 0 0 0 0 10
22 Blake McLimans 0-0 0-0 0-0 1 1 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 4
Totals 25-53 8-25 13-15 8 24 32 13 71 15 9 3 7 200
Penn State 21-53 4-15 7-12 11 21 32 17 53 6 13 1 4 200

Michigan 77 – Bradley 66

Friday, December 23rd, 2011


Final 1st 2nd Total
#19 Michigan (10-2) 33 44 77
Bradley (5-7) 33 33 66

Evan Smotrycz turned in his second straight double-double (photo by MGoBlue.com)

Michigan returned to the court Thursday night with a hard-fought 77-66 win over Bradley in the newly-named Crisler Center. All five Wolverine starters scored in double-digits, led by Evan Smotrycz’ second straight double-double. The sophomore scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.

Michigan shot just 35 percent in the first half as Bradley made it a game, taking a 33-33 tie into the locker room. Bradley’s Taylor Brown hit a long three at the buzzer to tie the score heading into the half.

The game remained close through the first nine minutes of the second half before Michigan took over. Leading just 52-49, with just under 12 minutes to play, Michigan embarked on a 19-7 run to take control. Michigan shot 59 percent in the second half.

Tim Hardaway scored 16 points and Jordan Morgan added 15. Freshman point guard Trey Burke tallied 12 points and eight assists, while Zack Novack added 11. Burke struggled from the outside, connecting on just 1-of-7 three-pointers, but Smotrycz was the man of the match, hitting 5-of-7 from downtown and 7-of-11 overall.

Michigan opens Big Ten play next Thursday against Penn State (8-5) in the Crisler Center.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
23 Evan Smotrycz* 7-11 5-7 1-2 3 7 10 4 20 1 1 0 1 26
52 Jordan Morgan* 7-12 0-0 1-2 5 2 7 2 15 0 1 0 1 23
00 Zack Novak* 4-9 1-4 2-2 2 2 4 3 11 4 2 0 0 33
03 Trey Burke* 5-13 1-7 1-2 0 2 2 4 12 8 1 1 0 37
10 Tim Hardaway Jr* 7-15 2-9 0-0 0 3 3 0 16 5 0 0 0 34
01 Stu Douglass 1-4 1-3 0-0 0 3 3 0 3 6 1 0 1 33
02 Carlton Brundidge 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
13 Matt Vogrich 0-2 0-1 0-0 0 2 2 0 0 1 0 0 0 8
22 Blake McLimans 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
Totals 31-68 10-31 5-8 12 27 39 13 77 25 16 1 3 200
Bradley 26-60 7-19 7-11 10 26 36 12 66 7 11 4 3 200