Trey Burke led all scorers with 27 points (John Minchillo, AP)
The final major test before the Big Ten schedule begins was passed with flying colors in Brooklyn on Saturday night. Michigan jumped out to a big lead and fought off a late charge to beat West Virginia 81-66.
Michigan raced out to a 13-2 lead in the first two minutes and widened it to 24-7 at the 13 minute mark of the first half. West Virginia then went on a 11-1 run to cut the lead to 10 before a Trey Burke jumper stopped the run. Michigan widened the lead back to 15, but WV was determined to make it a game. Ten straight points cut Michigan’s lead to 32-27, but Michigan stifled the comeback once again and carried a 43-32 lead into the half.
Michigan scored nine of the first 11 points of the second half to build an 18-point lead and it stayed that way until West Virginia mounted a final comeback attempt. From the 8:39 mark to 4:31, the Mountaineers outscored Michigan 17-6 to cut the lead to just seven. But from there, Michigan made 8-of-10 free throws to seal the win.
Michigan’s two big stars, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr, played their best on the big stage, scoring 27 and 25 points, respectively. Burke made 12-of-16 shots from the field and doled out eight assists. Hardaway made 7-of-12, including 4-of-8 from three-point range and 7-of-8 free throws. The Wolverines’ only other player in double digits was Nik Stauskas who had 10, though he hit just 2-of-7 three-point attempts. The other two starters, Jordan Morgan and Glenn Robinson III scored eight apiece, while Michigan got just three points from its bench – two from Mitch McGary and one from Jon Horford.
As a team, Michigan shot 56 percent and held West Virginia to just 38.5 percent. Michigan out-rebounded West Virginia 32-29, holding the Mountaineers 12.5 below their season average on the glass. For the first time this season, Michigan finished the game with more turnovers than assists, with 14 and 13. Stauskas had six of the turnovers, while Burke had none.
The most discouraging aspect of the win was the loss of Horford to a knee injury in the first half. Reports this morning say it’s a dislocated kneecap, and John Beilein said he could return in two or three weeks.
Michigan returns home to face Eastern Michigan on Thursday and then Central Michigan on Dec. 29 before opening Big Ten play at Northwestern on Jan. 3. The Wolverines’ conference schedule opens with the Wildcats, followed by Iowa, Nebraska, and Ohio State, so there is a very good chance Michigan could be 16-0 heading into the big Jan. 13 showdown in Columbus.
With Indiana’s loss to Butler on Saturday afternoon, Michigan should move up a spot in the national rankings. Duke will likely take over No. 1 with Michigan right behind. Based on Duke’s remaining schedule and the relative weakness of the ACC this season, it’s hard to imagine Michigan passing the Blue Devils in the rankings anytime soon.
After a cakewalk game on Tuesday night against Binghamton, Michigan heads back to New York on Saturday night to face the last remaining threat to its unblemished record before beginning Big Ten play. Just three weeks ago, Michigan visited the Big Apple and captured the NIT Season Tip-Off with wins over Pittsburgh and Kansas State. Now, the Wolverines head to the borough of Brooklyn to face John Beilein’s former team, West Virginia, in the sparkling new Barclay’s Center.
The game is the main event of the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival with the undercards being Princeton vs Fordham and St. John’s vs St. Francis.
West Virginia comes in at 4-4 with only one win over a team from a major conference – a one-point win over Virginia Tech. Big wins over Marist and VMI and a 10-point victory over Marshall are the only other games in the win column. The Mountaineers were blown out by Gonzaga to open the season and lost close games to Davidson and Oklahoma before getting beat by Duquesne on Tuesday.
Bob Huggins’ squad is led by guard Juwan Staten and forward Deniz Kilicli. Staten is the only Mountaineer averaging in double figures at 10.6 points per game. He was held scoreless on 0-for-6 shooting in the season opener and had a season high of 18 against VMI. The University of Dayton transfer isn’t a long-range shooter, having attempted just five threes all season and made none. He’s shooting nearly 40 percent from two. Kilicli averages 9.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, both of which rank second on the team. At 6’9″, 260, the Turkey native has a lot of ability. He scored 21 against Marshall on 19 shots, but also has four games this season with six points or fewer.
Center Aaric Murray averages 9.4 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was one of the only Mountaineers to have success against Gonzaga, scoring 14 points, but was limited to just two points against Duquesne on Tuesday. Despite being a center, he has the ability to step out and shoot the three, and though he has only attempted six all season, it is more than Staten, and he has made three of them. He’s also efficient from the field, shooting over 52 percent.
Joining Staten in the backcourt are sophomores Gary Browne and Jabarie Hinds, who average 8.5 and 7.1 points per game, respectively. Browne had a season high of 13 against Oklahoma and shot 1-of-10 against Virginia Tech. He’s good for a few three-point attempts per game, but has made more than one just once. Hinds has scored in double figures just once all season, when he had 11 points against Marist, but likes to shoot the three, albeit not very successfully. He tossed up six threes against Gonzaga, making one, and has hit just 6-of-22 on the season.
As a team, West Virginia is one of the worst shooting teams in the country at 39 percent. The number drops to just 26.4 percent from three-point range. Where the Mountaineers excel is on the glass, ranking 23rd nationally with 41.6 rebounds per game. That will be an important area to watch, as Michigan has dominated the glass all season, especially on the offensive end. If West Virginia is able to limit Michigan’s second chance opportunities, Michigan will need to shoot better than it has in the past couple of games if it wants to avoid a dog fight.
It will be a physical affair and test Michigan’s big men, but shouldn’t be a game to worry about. It will give the Wolverines a good test before the grueling Big Ten Conference schedule beings.
Apparently you can’t congratulate a friend on twitter…
For us fans, bloggers and media-types, Twitter is a valuable way to learn real-time news and connect with the athletes we all watch. But for those athletes and other celebrities, it’s a terrible invention that always seems to create controversy and get them in trouble. The rise and popularity of Twitter over the last couple of years has necessitated the NCAA adding social media bylaws into its recruiting rules, one of which was apparently broken by Roy Roundtree last night.
Roundtree tweeted the above congrats to Trotwood, Ohio linebacker Mike McCray who verbally committed to Michigan yesterday. Roundtree also attended Trotwood, and while he was not in high school at the same time as McCray, it’s highly likely he knew him from his association with the program over the last few years. Nevertheless, it’s considered a secondary NCAA violation.
While not a huge deal in and of itself – secondary violations of this sort happen all the time at every school – Michigan needs to tread lightly considering the probation brought on by Rich Rodriguez’s practice violations.
The exact same situation occurred last week when Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert tweeted a potential recruit, but an NCAA spokesman told the Chicago Tribune that those types of violations are considered “isolated” and “inadvertent.”
It’s a trivial rule, especially when a kid is congratulating another kid for making a big life decision, but the NCAA obviously feels that it has to police the public thoughts of college kids. I have no problem with Roundtree’s case, but Twitter is a problem in the case of recruits such as Yuri Wright and others.
Don’t trash talk through Twitter to counter someone who says he’s tougher than you…
Michigan center David Molk set off a minor fire storm last week with some comments made to the AnnArbor.com about his NFL Draft stock. Molk took offense to NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, who said Molk is a “finesse” player and that will hurt his draft stock.
One of these guys was the Rimington Award winner
“He never played against me,” Molk said. “I don’t think a finesse player has ever had defensive linemen quit during a game; quit and give up because you’re hurting them. I don’t think a finesse player has ever done what I do, which is just ground kids out of the hole.”
Mayock might do well to remember Molk’s Sugar Bowl performance, essentially playing on one leg after hurting a foot in pregame. He can also reportedly squat over 700 pounds and bench close to 500. That’s one tough and strong SOB. He probably won’t get drafted in the first three rounds, but it won’t be because he’s a finesse player.
But that wasn’t the only thing that ticked Molk off. He also said that he didn’t like that Wisconsin center Peter Konz was ranked ahead of him and was a first-team All-American. He says that he’s better than both Konz and Ohio State center Mike Brewster.
“I have skills he (Konz) doesn’t have,” Molk said. “Obviously my strength is far better, I’m faster, I would say I’m smarter. Obviously, he’s an intelligent person, I’ve talked to him, but I just think I have a technique that’s unmatched (by him).”
About Brewster, he added, “He’s nowhere near me as a player.”
Brewster took offense to the comment and tweeted “If they are talking then you are doing something right. And Molk, keep my name out of your mouth…”
Molk knows first hand how much better he is than Brewster. Molk’s teammate, defensive tackle Mike Martin, dominated Brewster in Senior Bowl practices. The numbers at the NFL Combine didn’t hurt Molk’s case either. Molk ranked second among all players with 41 bench press reps, compared to Brewster’s 29 and Konz’s 18.
Molk may end up getting drafted below both Konz and Brewster, but one thing is for sure: whichever team does draft Molk will be getting a steal. You really can’t fault a guy for being confident in himself, especially an offensive lineman where a mean streak is often appreciated.
As everybody knows, Michigan is tri-Big Ten champions with rivals Michigan State and Ohio State. It took rooting for Ohio State on Sunday afternoon and a heroic effort by Buckeye senior William Buford to send Michigan into a frenzy for capturing a share of its first title in 26 years.
That is pure joy, pure exuberance by a group of underdog college kids ending a two-and-a-half decade drought, accomplishing the main goal it set out to achieve. But that didn’t stop ESPN’s Doug Gottlieb from raining on their parade. On his radio show on Monday, he criticized Michigan’s share of the title because the Wolverines didn’t play Wisconsin twice.
He does have a point that, in a perfect world, all teams in a conference should play the same in-conference schedule, but he’s off base in saying that because Michigan didn’t play Wisconsin twice it didn’t deserve a share of the title.
Michigan beat Wisconsin by 18 in its one meeting in Ann Arbor and Wisconsin went an unusual 5-3 at home in conference play, losing to Michigan State, Ohio State, and Iowa. Michigan went 4-4 on the road in Big Ten play – the same as Michigan State – so a Wisconsin win would be far from certain. On the other hand, Michigan’s other one-play teams were Iowa, who it lost to on the road, Nebraska, who it beat by 16 on the road, and Minnesota.
Michigan State didn’t have to play Illinois or Northwestern twice – two teams it lost to in its only meeting – as well as Iowa and Penn State. Ohio State didn’t have to play at Purdue, who it barely beat at home, or Iowa, Minnesota, or Penn State.
Obviously, each of the three missed out on potential losses by not playing an equal schedule, but that’s the conference’s fault, not Michigan’s. At the end of the day, the banner will be raised, the year 2011-12 will be added to the record books, and the 16 members of the Michigan basketball team will go on as Big Ten champions regardless of what an ESPN talking head says.
No sleep til Brooklyn…
Michigan and West Virginia agreed to a basketball game in the new Barclay Center in Brooklyn, New York next season as part of the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival. It’s the only game not featuring a regional team – the others being Princeton vs. Fordham, Long Island vs. Seton Hall, and Manhattan vs. South Carolina.
A rendering of The Barclay Center in Brooklyn
This is definitely intriguing for multiple reasons, the obvious being John Beilein’s first matchup against his former school. Beilein put West Virginia basketball on the map, taking the Mountaneers to the Elite 8 in 2005, falling to Louisville in overtime.
Secondly, Michigan has a huge alumni and fan base in greater New York city and this will give them a chance to see the Wolverines in action. The only other opportunities are when Michigan plays in either the preseason or postseason NIT, the last being the 2008-09* season when Michigan beat UCLA and lost to Duke in Madison Square Garden.
Finally, it will be a good opportunity for Michigan to play a quality non-conference opponent on a national stage. There will be plenty of fanfare about the new arena, which is bringing the NBA’s New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn, and a Michigan win on that stage would only help with recruiting.
The Ohio takeover…
As mentioned above, Michigan got its 14th verbal commitment yesterday when Trotwood, Ohio linebacker Mike McCray revealed his intentions to play for Brady Hoke and co. McCray is a four-star, currently rated the 44th-best overall player by Rivals. You might remember Trotwood as being where some guys named Roy Roundtree, Michael Shaw, and Brandon Moore hail from. It’s a perennial power in western Ohio and Michigan is building itself quite the pipeline.
Michigan now has five commits from Ohio for the 2013 class, four of them currently rated four stars. Add those to the nine incoming freshmen from Ohio and one has to wonder what Jim Tressel is thinking right now, watching guys who he used to have in his pocket fleeing the state for “that school up north.”
The recruiting surge over the last month has been unheard of and has everyone talking about Michigan. Even Michigan State fans are starting to fear the return of the big two and little eight (ten).
* Michigan did play two games in Atlantic City, N.J. last season, but that’s not exactly in New York city.