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Posts Tagged ‘Trevor Mbakwe’

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Week 1

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

With Big Ten play underway, it’s time to reveal our first conference power rankings. We wanted to wait until the non-conference slate was finished before starting our power rankings so we could accurately judge each team’s performance through a full non-conference schedule and get a feel for how the conference will shape up. So following the first week of conference action, here are our power rankings.

1. Michigan State (14-1, 3-0)
Last week: Dec. 31 W at Penn State 79-63, Jan. 4 W at Indiana 73-56
This week: Tuesday W vs #3 Ohio State 72-68 OT, Saturday vs Minnesota 2:15pm

Michigan State reestablished itself as the team to beat early in conference play by essentially beating Ohio State twice in one game. After building a 17-point lead and blowing it, the Spartans were able to win it in overtime.

2. Wisconsin (15-0, 2-0)
Last week: Jan. 2 W at Northwestern 76-49, Jan. 5 W vs #22 Iowa 75-71
This week: Wednesday vs #23 Illinois 9pm on BTN

After rolling through the non-conference schedule undefeated, Wisconsin has begun Big Ten play by stomping Northwestern and proving it can play offensive basketball in a comeback win over Iowa.

3. Ohio State (15-1, 2-1)
Last week: Dec. 31 W at Purdue 78-69, Jan. 4 W vs Nebraska 84-53
This week: Jan. 7 L at Michigan State 68-72 OT, Sunday vs #20 Iowa

Ohio State is an extremely athletic team and the hustle of Aaron Craft keeps them in every game (even when down 17 in East Lansing). The overtime loss did little to decrease faith in this team, and Thad Matta’s crew will be right in the thick of the race for a number one seed in March.

4. Michigan (10-4, 2-0)
Last week: Jan. 2 W at Minnesota 63-60, Jan. 5 W vs Northwestern 74-51
This week: Thursday at Nebraska 9pm ESPN2

The Wolverines were disappointing before conference play, losing four games, but have rebounded nicely the last two weeks. A win on the road against Minnesota without Mitch McGary or Glen Robinson in the second half was a good start to the Big Ten season.

5. Iowa (12-3, 1-1)
Last week: Dec. 31 W vs Nebraska 67-57, Jan. 5 L at #4 Wisconsin 71-74
This week: Thursday vs Northwestern 9pm ESPNU, Sunday at #3 Ohio State 1:30pm

Iowa nearly pulled off one of the most difficult things to do in Big Ten basketball by taking Wisconsin to the wire in Madison. Iowa held a double-digit lead in the second half against the Badgers only to lose its second game by less than five points to an undefeated team (Iowa State). The Hawkeyes are third in the country in rebounding and 12th in both points and assists per game.

6. Illinois (13-2, 2-0)
Last week: Dec. 31 W vs Indiana 83-80 OT, Jan. 4 W vs Penn State 75-55
This week: Wednesday at #4 Wisconsin 9pm BTN, Sunday at Northwestern 7:30pm

This team seemingly always begins the season on a hot streak and jumps into the top 25 only to struggle through the conference schedule. So far, Illinois has beaten Penn State and survived Indiana at home in Big Ten play, but a trip to Madison on Wednesday will show us what the team is really made of.

7. Minnesota (12-3, 1-1)
Last week: Jan. 2 L vs Michigan 60-63, Jan. 5 W vs Purdue 82-79
This week: Wednesday at Penn State 7pm BTN, Saturday at #5 Michigan State 2:15pm

Richard Pitino suffered a close loss at the hands of Michigan in his first Big Ten game, but Minnesota bounced back to beat Purdue and move to 12-3 in this young season. For the first time in recent memory Minnesota is playing without Trevor Mbakwe, but Andre and Austin Hollins are picking up the slack as numbers one and two on the team in points.

8. Indiana (10-5, 0-2)
Last week: Dec. 31 L at Illinois 80-83 OT, Jan. 4 L vs #5 Michigan State 56-73
This week: Saturday at Penn State 12pm BTN

Though the Hoosiers already have five losses on the season, four of them are to currently ranked teams and Tom Crean’s team has been competitive in three of them. A heartbreaking overtime loss to Illinois kicked off the conference season for Indiana and carried over into a blowout loss to Michigan State. The talent is there, but this young team has to learn how to win Big Ten games.

9. Purdue (10-5, 0-2)
Last week: Dec. 31 L vs #3 Ohio State 69-78, Jan. 5 L at Minnesota 79-82
This week: Sunday vs Nebraska 12pm BTN

Purdue has had a difficult start to the Big Ten season, playing the undefeated Buckeyes and on the road against Minnesota. Both losses were competitive, but the Boilermakers lack a win better than 10-5 West Virginia.

10. Penn State (9-6, 0-2)
Last week: Dec. 31 L vs #5 Michigan State 63-79, Jan. 4 L at Illinois 55-75
This week: Wednesday vs Minnesota 7pm BTN, Saturday vs Indiana 12pm BTN

The good news for Penn State is Tim Frazier is back; the bad news is it hasn’t really turned into victories. The Nittany Lions have lost their first two conference games by a combined 36 points despite leading Michigan State at halftime.

11. Nebraska (8-6, 0-2)
Last week: Dec. 31 L at #22 Iowa 57-67, Jan. 4 L at #3 Ohio State 53-84
This week: Thursday vs Michigan 9pm ESPN2, Sunday at Purdue 12pm

Losses on the road to Iowa and Ohio State seemed inevitable for Nebraska heading into the Big Ten season, but when the Buckeyes blew this team out by 31, it was clear that the Cornhuskers are nowhere near the top of the Big Ten.

12. Northwestern (7-8, 0-2)
Last week: Jan. 2 L vs #4 Wisconsin 49-76, Jan. 5 L at Michigan 51-74
This week: Thursday at #20 Iowa 9pm ESPNU, Sunday vs #23 Illinois 7:30pm

Chris Collins’ first year in the Big Ten is off to a difficult start. Northwestern is the only team in the conference with a losing record and has lost both Big Ten games by more than 20 points.

Michigan at Minnesota quick thoughts

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

#5 Michigan at #9 Minnesota
Thursday, Jan. 17 | 7pm ET | ESPN
16-1 (3-1) Record 15-2 (3-1)
Slippery Rock 100-62
IUPUI 91-54
Cleveland State 77-47
Pittsburgh 67-62
Kansas State 71-57
NC State 79-72
Bradley 74-66
W. Michigan 73-41
Arkansas 80-67
Binghamton 67-39
West Virginia 81-66
E. Michigan 93-54
C. Michigan 88-73
Northwestern 94-66
Iowa 95-67
Nebraska 62-47
Wins American 72-36
Toledo 82-56
Tennessee State 72-43
Richmond 72-57
#19 Memphis 84-75
Stanford 66-63
Florida State 77-68
North Florida 87-59
S. Dakota State 88-64
USC 71-57
N. Dakota State 70-57
Lafayette 75-50
#18 Michigan State 76-63
Northwestern 69-51
#12 Illinois 84-67
#15 Ohio State 53-56 Losses #5 Duke 71-89
#5 Indiana 81-88
79.1 Points Per Game 76.3
58.6 Scoring Defense 61.4
498-for-981 (50.8%) Field Goal % 450-for-957 (47.0%)
385-for-956 (40.3%) Def. Field Goal % 370-for-957 (38.7%)
144-for-356 (40.4%) 3-point % 95-for-268 (35.4%)
108-for-350 (30.9%) Def. 3-point % 93-for-206 (30.4%)
205-for-286 (71.7%) Free Throw % 302-for-428 (70.6%)
12.1 FT Made/Game 17.8
37.9 Rebounds Per Game 40.6
28.6 Opp. Reb. Per Game 30.7
15.8 Assists Per Game 16.5
9.5 Turnovers Per Game 14.6
5.1 Steals Per Game 9.6
2.7 Blocks Per Game 6.4
G – Trey Burke (18.0)
G – Tim Hardaway Jr. (16.1)
Leading Scorer G – Andre Hollins (14.4)
F – Rodney Williams (12.5)
F – Mitch McGary (5.9)
F – Glenn Robinson (5.8)
Leading Rebounder F – Trevor Mbakwe (8.1)
F – Rodney Williams (5.9)

By now, everyone knows the story of Michigan’s first loss of the season that came at the hands of Ohio State on Sunday. After falling down by more than 20 points in the first half, a second half effort fell just short and the Wolverines failed to set a record for best start in school history, only managing to tie the 1985-86 outfit that matched the 16-0 of this year’s team.

There is good news and bad news for Michigan tonight. The good news is that Michigan has a chance to avenge their first Big Ten loss with another big-time battle on the home court of a nationally-ranked opponent in Minnesota (7pm on ESPN). The bad news is that Michigan has a serious chance of losing its second straight game tonight as well.

While neither outcome would drastically change the course of the season, there is no denying this game’s importance. With that in mind, let’s analyze tonight’s keys of the game:

1. Get off to a Fast Start: In Minnesota’s two losses to date – an 89-71 beating from Duke in a preseason tournament and an 88-81 loss at Indiana last Saturday – the Golden Gophers started trailing big early on, falling behind by double digits fewer than 12 minutes into both games. The Blue Devils had a comfortable six- to 11-point lead throughout the first half before taking a seven-point lead into the halftime break while the Hoosiers continuously stretched their own lead over Minnesota to 23 points by the break.

It was no secret that Michigan’s loss to Ohio State was caused in some part by a lackadaisical first half that saw the Wolverines trail by as many as 21 points before cutting the Buckeye lead to 12 at the 20-minute mark. And even though the Maize and Blue staged a beautiful and methodical comeback that eventually saw the game tied at 46 with six minutes remaining, Michigan just didn’t seem to have the execution needed down the stretch to win a big-time road game.

Former Wolverine Zack Novak surmised that the comeback effort probably drained a lot of the energy out of Michigan throughout the game and at least played a factor in their struggles to close it out in the end in a recent interview on

Rodney Williams is Minnesota's second-leading scorer and rebounder (Andy Lyons, Getty Images)

In Minnesota’s biggest win to date, an 84-67 victory at Illinois just last week, the Gophers fell behind by a couple points early on but recovered to take a nice seven-point lead later in the first half and maintained a four-point margin at halftime. If Michigan lets the home team get off to another hot start and looks flustered early on, the Barn is going to jump all over the Wolverines and Michigan will be well on its way to back-to-back losses.

2. Play Smart Defense: Neither Michigan’s offense nor its defense was up to par in that ugly first half in Columbus on Sunday, but most concerning to me was how easily Ohio State scored to take their big, early lead. Aaron Craft was getting one screen and finding wide open lanes to the basket, turnovers were leading to easy fast-break points, and the Buckeyes exploited a number of mismatches before some adjustments were made and the Wolverines eventually held Ohio State to 56 points, its second-lowest output of the season. When Mitch McGary was on the floor, John Beilein often had his team switch to a 2-3 zone defense when it was a viable option to help hide his poor help defense, and I expect a little more of the same tonight.

Look for Beilein to show Minnesota a couple different looks for at least a few possessions each, including some 1-3-1 and 2-3. When Michigan deploys their standard man defense, they should be sticking to the scouting report as much as possible. The Wolverines simply cannot let a non-big guard monster Trevor Mbakwe in the paint and they can never lose Rodney Williams in the lane or either Hollins (Andre and Austin) from behind the arc. Minnesota doesn’t have the number of offensive weapons that a team like Michigan touts, which means that Beilein should do everything he can to make sure these key players don’t beat Michigan.

3. Run, Run, Run: The final key to Michigan’s loss to Ohio State was its inability to score easy points. It sounds ridiculous to say that Michigan had trouble scoring for once this season after being in the top 15 in the country in both shooting percentage and points per game, but the 53 points Michigan managed were nine points fewer than their lowest output up to that point, a 62-point performance in their previous game against Nebraska. One of the biggest reasons for this was the lack of a transition game.

Tubby Smith has the Gophers in contention for the Big Ten and national championships (Darron Cummings, AP)

Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. are lethal in the open court, providing pretty much guaranteed points on any fast break attempt, but Ohio State successfully shut down that aspect of Michigan’s game in not allowing the Wolverines to put up a single fast-break point. When playing against Minnesota, one thing is certain: there are points to be had. The Gophers have given up an average of 88.5 points per game in those two losses and coughed the ball up 32 times combined, which would put them just slightly above their season average of 15 turnovers per game.

It will be absolutely crucial for Michigan to take advantage of the turnovers Minnesota will hand over and to rebound the ball well to start the break as often as possible. Obviously John Beilein wants to play the smart game, which means Michigan will set up a half-court offense whenever running is not a strong option, but he will assuredly encourage Burke and Co. to push the ball up court whenever the floor looks open.

Prediction: Sunday’s game was the first in which Michigan did not look like a sure-fire Final Four team at this point in the season, and tonight’s game is not any easier on paper. Minnesota has two of the best athletes in the country in Williams and Mbakwe and will surely be looking to ride those two and their crowd to a huge victory tonight, but Michigan is also certain to be taking out their anger on Tubby Smith’s team. I expect the game to be close throughout with Michigan jumping out to a nice five- to seven-point cushion in the first half before holding on in the second to win 80-73.

Michigan Hoops Preview: Minnesota

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Michigan opened Big Ten play on Thursday night with a convincing win over Penn State. This afternoon, Michigan opens 2012 against Minnesota at 4pm in the Crisler Center.

#16 Michigan v. Minnesota

Sunday, Jan. 1

4 p.m. ET

Big Ten Network

11-2 (1-0) Record 12-2 (0-1)
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

Wins Bucknell 70-58

South Dakota St. 71-55

Fairfield 67-57

Mount St. Mary’s 85-56

DePaul 86-86

Indiana State 76-69

Virginia Tech 58-55

USC 55-40

Appalachian St. 70-56

St. Peter’s 69-47

Central Michigan 76-56

North Dakota St. 63-59

#6 Duke 75-82

Virginia 58-70

Losses Dayton 70-86

Illinois 72-81 2OT

71.6 Points Per Game 70.6
60.2 Scoring Defense 61.4
341-for-698 (48.9%) Field Goal % 349-for-723 (48.3%)
278-for-698 (39.8%) Def. Field Goal % 305-for-741 (41.2%)
115-for-311 (37.0%) 3-point % 64-for-183 (35.0%)
85-for-253 (32.8%) Def. 3-point % 93-for-254 (36.6%)
134-for-194 (69.1%) Free Throw % 226-for-321 (70.4%)
10.3 Free Throws Made/Game 16.1
33.8 Rebounds Per Game 34.6
30.9 Opp. Rebounds Per Game 29.9
15.1 Assists Per Game 15.9
12.2 Turnovers Per Game 14.4
5.0 Steals Per Game 9.1
2.9 Blocks Per Game 5.9
G – Tim Hardaway (16.2)

G – Trey Burke (13.0)

Leading Scorer F – Trevor Mbakwe (14.0)

G – Julian Welch (10.3)

F – Evan Smotrycz (6.9)

F – Jordan Morgan (4.5)

Leading Rebounder F – Trevor Mbakwe (9.1)

F – Rodney Williams (4.9)

Minnesota’s Big Ten opener didn’t go so well. The Gophers lost to Illinois 81-72 in double-overtime in Chapaign. However, the Gophers played well on the road and nearly pulled off an elusive road victory in conference. It was just the second loss of the season, the first being a 86-70 loss to Dayton. In that game, Minnesota suffered its biggest loss of the season when All-Big Ten forward Trevor Mbakwe tore his ACL and will miss the rest of the season.

Even without Mbakwe, the Gophers have plenty of scorers, led by junior guard Julian Welch and senior forward Ralph Sampson III. Welch has scored in double figures in nine of his last 10 games after scoring just 12 points combined in the first four games. During the last 10 games, Welch has hit 13-of-28 three-pointers. Sampson has scored in double figures in four of the last five and led the Gophers with 22 poins and nine rebounds on Tuesday. He’s also a good free throw shooter for a big man, having hit 21-of-23 so far.

Junior forward Rodney Williams is another Gopher who can score, but he’s been inconsistent this season. He scored 18 against DePaul and Appalachian State, but scored just four in the loss to Dayton and eight against Illinois. He has been strong on the boards as of late.

Michigan and Minnesota had a pair of tight matchups last season. Minnesota won the first, in Ann Arbor 69-64, but Michigan won in Minneapolis 70-63. The Gophers are an athletic team and statistically very similar to Michigan, so expect a close game throughout. Just like Thursday night, winning on your home court is imperative in the Big Ten, so Michigan can’t afford to let the Gophers steal one in Crisler. This is just Minnesota’s second road game of the season (the first being last Tuesday’s loss at Illinois) and they haven’t played much of a schedule, which is why at 12-2, they aren’t ranked.