Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Michigan at Penn State Breakdown & Prediction

No. 4 Michigan at Penn State
Time: 6:30PM ET
Venue: Bryce Jordan Center
TV: Big Ten Network
Records: Michigan 23-4, 10-4; Penn State 8-18, 0-14
Michigan stat leaders: Points – Trey Burke (18.9 ppg); Rebounds – Mitch McGary (5.7 rpg); Assists – Burke (6.9 apg); Steals – Burke (1.4 spg).
Penn State stat leaders: Points – Tim Frazier (16.3 ppg); Rebounds – Ross Travis (7.0 rpg); Assists – D.J. Newbill (4.0 apg); Steals – Frazier (2.3 spg).
Current Streaks: Michigan W2, Penn State L14
Point Spread: Michigan -13
Prediction: The second half of Michigan’s win over Illinois was the best basketball the team had played in weeks. Penn State gave the Wolverines a little bit of a scare in Ann Arbor, but Michigan has new life in the Big Ten race, thanks to Indiana’s loss to Minnesota. Technically speaking, Michigan controls its own destiny in the conference race, as it can win a share of the title if it ends the season 4-0. I don’t expect Michigan to come out flat in this one. The Wolverines know they need to put this game away early and start preparing for its game with Michigan State on Sunday. Michigan 72, Penn State 58.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Michigan State at Ohio State Breakdown & Prediction

No. 4 Michigan State at No. 18 Ohio State
Time: 4 p.m.
Venue: Value City Arena
Records: Michigan State 22-5, 11-3 Big Ten; Ohio State 19-7, 9-5
Michigan State stat leaders: Points – Keith Appling (13.8 ppg); Rebounds – Adreian Payne (7.0 rpg); Assists – Appling (3.9 apg); Steals – Branden Dawson (1.7 spg).
Ohio State stat leaders: Points – Deshaun Thomas (20.1 ppg); Rebounds – Thomas (6.0 rpg); Assists – Aaron Craft (4.3 apg); Steals – Craft (2.0 spg).
Current Streaks: Michigan State L1, Ohio State W1
Point Spread: Ohio State -3.5
Prediction: Ohio State may be favored, but I see the Spartans winning this one. Ohio State is too reliant on Deshaun Thomas offensively and I think Michigan State will do a good job of really making him work for points. The Spartans have the mental toughness to win on the road and I think they will respond well following the loss to Indiana on Tuesday. Keith Appling will be looking to have a strong game following his letdown against the Hoosiers, and he will help lead MSU to a big road victory against the Buckeyes. Michigan State 64, Ohio State 58

Illinois at Michigan Breakdown & Prediction

Illinois at No 7 Michigan
Time: 1PM ET
Venue: Crisler Center
Records: Illinois 20-8, 7-7 Big Ten, Michigan 22-4, 9-4
Illinois stat leaders: Points – Brandon Paul (16.4 ppg); Rebounds – Joseph Bertrand/Nnanna Egwu (4.5 rpg); Assists – Tracy Abrams (3.5 apg); Steals – D.J. Richardson (1.5 spg).
Michigan stat leaders: Points – Trey Burke (18.6 ppg); Rebounds – Mitch McGary (5.9 rpg); Assists – Burke (6.9 apg); Steals – Burke (1.5 spg).
Current Streaks: Illinois W5, Michigan W1
Point Spread: Michigan -11
Prediction: Illinois has really built off its win over Indiana, as the Illini have a nice five-game winning streak right now. The Wolverines handed Illinois a bad loss on the road, but both teams seem to be in a different place right now. Illinois is playing as well as it has all conference season, while Michigan is still recovering from a string of road losses. I do think Michigan wins this contest, but Illinois is going to be a much tougher out this time around. The Wolverines need to start sparking on defense to build some confidence for a late run at the Big Ten title. It can start on Sunday, but I don’t think it will. Michigan 69, Illinois 66.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Is Oladipo the clear Big Ten Player of the Year?

A lot of the debate following Indiana’s win over Michigan State on Tuesday night has been more about “is Victor Oladipo the Big Ten Player of the Year” as opposed to the importance of the win for the Hoosiers.
In regards to the win, it was huge for Indiana. The Hoosiers are now the clear favorite to win the Big Ten, and likely have at least a share of the title.
But, this blog is about the B1G Player of the Year and if Oladipo is in fact the deserving winner right now.
Here is a look at the guys that appear to be the leading candidates:
Victor Oladipo, Indiana – Oladipo isn’t the top scorer on his own team, or even the leading rebounder, but he does so many things that impact the game. Right now he is averaging 14 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.4 steals per game. He is also shooting 63.9 percent from the field and an impressive 51.1 percent from 3-point land. He leads the Big Ten in steals by a significant mark. He ranks in the top 15 of the Big Ten in points, rebounds and blocks. He is a great on-the-ball defender and has tremendous instincts when it comes to making plays on either side of the ball. Though he wasn’t spectacular in the two conference losses, he has come up big in Indiana’s biggest wins. He had 19 points last night against MSU, 26 at Ohio State, 15 against Michigan and 21 at home against the Spartans. He has also had 15 steals in those four games.
Trey Burke, Michigan – Burke is likely the best overall offensive player in the conference. He averages 18.6 points per game, which is second in the conference. Burke is also leading the conference in assists, as 6.9 per game, which is more than 2 assists per game better than any other player in the conference. Burke is also tied for eighth in the Big Ten in steals while shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from 3-point land. Despite all the impressive numbers, Burke lacks the big victories that Oladipo has. Burke hasn’t been disappointing in Michigan’s losses, but he also hasn’t been able to get Michigan a big win on the road. It’s not necessarily his fault, but it will likely cost him the Big Ten Player of the Year Award.
Cody Zeller, Indiana – Zeller is going largely unnoticed due to the buzz surrounding Oladipo. However, Zeller leads the Hoosiers in points (16.6 ppg), rebounds (8.1 rpg) and blocks (1.3 bpg). Zeller is also shooting 58.8 percent from the field. It would be interesting to find out just how much Zeller impacts what Oladipo can do, but the fact is he lacks the flash that Oladipo has. Zeller can make some big plays, but the perception is that he is a bland player that you sometimes forget is on the floor. There is a belief that he is soft, and he just doesn’t appear to be as impactful on a game as his teammate.
Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State – Thomas isn’t going to win this award, but he is worth noting as a candidate. He is leading the conference in scoring at 20.1 points per game and he also pulls down 6.2 rebounds per game. He essentially all the Buckeyes can rely on when things get tough. Aaron Craft is a great defender, but can’t score consistently. Thomas hasn’t disappeared in games this year either. He has scored in double figures in every game. If his point totals get low, it is more likely because he isn’t getting the ball as opposed to he is afraid of the challenge.
I didn’t list anyone from Michigan State or Wisconsin on here because neither has a clear-cut candidate. I would have said Keith Appling prior to him disappearing against Indiana for the second time this season. I’d also argue that Gary Harris has surpassed him as MSU’s top player.
When it comes to the Badgers, they just do it all as a team. You really can’t look at their stats and roster and say that they have one individual that truly dominates the others.
When all is said and done, I still feel Oladipo is the best player in the conference, and maybe the nation. He does all the little things that you don’t often see from top players. He also is still improving as a player, which is why Indiana is getting stronger as the season moves on. He may have a better cast of teammates around him, but that is always likely the case when it comes to Player of the Year awards.
So, who do you think is the top player in the B1G this season?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Indiana at Michigan State Breakdown & Prediction

No. 1 Indiana at No. 4 Michigan State
Time: 7 p.m.
Venue: Breslin Center
Records: Indiana 23-3, 11-2 Big Ten; Michigan State 22-4, 11-2
Indiana stat leaders: Points – Cody Zeller (16.6 ppg); Rebounds – Zeller (8.2 rpg); Assists – Kevin Ferrell (4.3 apg); Steals – Victor Oladipo (2.3 spg).
Michigan State stat leaders: Points – Keith Appling (14.1 ppg); Rebounds – Adreian Payne (7.0 rpg); Assists – Appling (4.0 apg); Steals – Branden Dawson (1.8 spg).
Current Streaks: Indiana W3, Michigan State W5
Point Spread: Michigan State -1.5
Prediction: This game is about as big as it gets. The winner seems to have a pretty likely road to at least a share of the Big Ten title. If the Spartans bring the same energy they had last week against Michigan, I don’t see anyone beating them. Indiana should be better prepared for this game than the Wolverines were, and play an aggressive style of offense that is better suited to attack the MSU defense. In the first meeting, MSU was able to keep Cody Zeller from having a big game, but the Hoosiers still shot the ball very well, especially early in the game. Michigan State didn’t get much from Keith Appling due to foul trouble, so I expect him to have a big game Tuesday night. I think the Spartans will have plenty of confidence, and I think they have the better coach. Indiana isn’t going to go down quietly, but I do think the Hoosiers are going down in this one. It should be a classic. Michigan State 68, Indiana 65

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Penn State at Michigan Breakdown & Prediction

Penn State at No. 4 Michigan
Time: Noon
Venue: Crisler Center
TV: Big Ten Network
Records: Penn State 8-16, 0-12 Big Ten, Michigan 21-4, 8-4
Penn State stat leaders: Points – Tim Frazier (16.3 ppg); Rebounds – Ross Travis (7.0 rpg); Assists – D.J. Newbill (4.0 apg); Steals – Frazier (2.3 spg).
Michigan stat leaders: Points – Trey Burke (18.2 ppg); Rebounds – Mitch McGary (6.0 rpg); Assists – Burke (7.0 apg); Steals – Burke (1.4 spg).
Current Streaks: Penn State L12, Michigan L2
Point Spread: Michigan -22.5
Prediction: Michigan will probably look really strong in this one, but beating Penn State shouldn’t mean much. With the rough stretch for Michigan over, and the Wolverines back home, this game should be over early. Michigan knows it essentially has to win out to earn the Big Ten title. Penn State has had 10 of its 12 Big Ten losses come by at least nine points. The Nittany Lions don’t offer much on the court, especially on the road. Michigan wins and wins big. Michigan 71, Penn State 53.

Michigan State at Nebraska Breakdown & Prediction

No. 8 Michigan State at Nebraska
Time: 8 p.m.
Venue: Bob Devaney Sports Center
TV: Big Ten Network
Records: Michigan State 21-4, 10-2 Big Ten; Nebraska 12-13, 3-9
Michigan State stat leaders: Points – Keith Appling (14.0 ppg); Rebounds – Adreian Payne (6.7 rpg); Assists – Appling (4.0 apg); Steals – Branden Dawson (1.8 spg).
Nebraska stat leaders: Points – Dylan Talley (13.2 ppg); Rebounds – Brandon Ubel (6.9 rpg); Assists – Talley/Benny Parker (2.4 apg); Steals – Ray Gallegos (1.4 spg).
Current Streaks: Michigan State W4, Nebraska L1
Point Spread: Michigan State -9.5
Prediction: Michigan State is coming off its best performance yet, so I expect somewhat of a letdown against the Cornhuskers. It won’t be a big enough of a letdown that MSU will lose, but the game will probably be closer than it should be. Nebraska has been respectable at home, going 9-5 overall. Michigan State’s defense should limit Nebraska, which is averaging just 58.6 points per game. The Spartans probably won’t be as aggressive on offense on Saturday compared to what it did on Tuesday. I think this game will be low scoring, but the Spartans should win comfortably. Michigan State 64, Nebraska 55

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Who deserves the most blame for Michigan's losses?

It’s been a tough stretch for the Michigan basketball team.
The Wolverines have now lost three of their last four and have four losses in the Big Ten.
Granted, Michigan played a gauntlet of top teams in their last four games, but an “elite” team finds ways to win some of the games the Wolverines have lost.
Tuesday’s loss at Michigan State was clearly embarrassing for the Wolverines. Not only did they lose, they were never in the game. Michigan State owned Michigan from the tip and all of the Wolverines’ flaws appeared at once.
Michigan is a better team than it showed on Tuesday, we all know that. But, in order for the Wolverines to reach the Final Four, they are going to have to beat a top-level team in an environment away from home. The NCAA Tournament may not be quite as hostile as the Breslin Center or Assembly Hall, but the games will have just as much, if not more, pressure.
Is Michigan choking in these loses? I don’t think the whole team is, but some clearly are.
John Beilein – It’s tough to take credit away from the coach, because he has recruited well and built the Wolverines into what they currently are. But, Beilein needs to pick up some marquee wins away from home to solidify that he is the guy that can take Michigan to a Final Four or more. Big Ten titles are good, but I think we all want to see Michigan reach a Final Four before we give them credit in the national picture.
Glenn Robinson III – Robinson has been a complete disappointment in the last three losses. He has a combined eight points in those games on 4 of 16 shooting. He also has just nine combined rebounds. He did have eight points in the loss to Ohio State and was more aggressive, taking eight shots. On Tuesday, it was like Robinson wasn’t even at the Breslin Center. It’s one thing to have a rough night shooting, it is another thing when you seemingly give up. Michigan is going to need Robinson to contribute come March Madness.
Nik Stauskas – Stauskas hasn’t been nearly as bad as Robinson in my opinion. He has bounced back from his scoreless effort at Ohio State, though that was pretty bad. Stauskas had 10 points on Tuesday and 10 at Indiana, but just five in the loss to Wisconsin. He has struggled with his 3-point shooting in defeat, as he is just 4 for 17 from beyond the arc in Michigan’s four losses.
Trey Burke – I know, I know. Burke has been amazing this season and the Wolverines would be half the team they are without him. I can’t say Burke deserves a lot of blame in these losses, but I do think he can play better than he has. Tuesday was his best showing in a loss, as he went 7 of 11 with 18 points, but he had just four assists, which is well below his average of 7. He also spent more time than Michigan can afford on the bench, due to foul trouble. At Wisconsin, Burke was just 8 of 21 shooting and also had just four assists. At Indiana, Burke was 9 of 24 shooting, but did dish out eight assists. At Ohio State, Burke was only 4 of 13 shooting with four assists and four turnovers. Burke is at his best when he has a balance of scoring and facilitating. He makes his teammates better most nights, which is why Michigan has been as strong as it has been this season. Sometimes Burke looks like he feels he needs to put the whole game on himself, and that leads to lapses in scoring for the whole team. Granted, his teammates need to step up to help him, but he also has to play at a higher level in these games. He’s an incredible talent, but he needs to lead this team to a big win away from home.

So, who deserves the most blame for Michigan’s losses? I say it’s Robinson, but it’s not 100 percent on him. What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Michigan at Michigan State Breakdown & Prediction

No. 4 Michigan at No. 8 Michigan State
Time: 9 p.m.
Venue: Breslin Center
Records: Michigan 21-3, 8-3 Big Ten; Michigan State 20-4, 9-2
Michigan stat leaders: Points – Trey Burke (18.2 ppg); Rebounds – Mitch McGary (6.1 rpg); Assists – Burke (7.1 apg); Steals – Burke (1.4 spg).
Michigan State stat leaders: Points – Keith Appling (14.1 ppg); Rebounds – Adreian Payne (6.8 rpg); Assists – Appling (4.1 apg); Steals – Branden Dawson (1.8 spg).
Current Streaks: Michigan L1, Michigan State W3
Point Spread: Michigan -1
Prediction: This game is all someone like me can hope for. I don’t have an affiliation to either team, but know that when both teams are playing at a high level, it makes the rivalry that much better. This game is one of the biggest regular-season meetings between these two programs. The Big Ten title implications for this game are massive and you can feel the anticipation in the air. I would be disappointed if this was anything other than a great game. I expect it to be close throughout and come down to the final few possessions. I am sure the atmosphere at the Breslin Center will be tremendous. When it comes to the game, I think Michigan State can find plenty of points in the paint if they choose to be aggressive on offense. Mitch McGary has improved, but he is going to be tested trying to keep Derrick Nix out of the lane. Adreian Payne can be a tough matchup for the Wolverines as well because of his outside shooting and athleticism. For Michigan, the Wolverines need all hands on deck. In the road losses, there have been key players that have went missing. For the most part, Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III have been the biggest culprits for disappearing in the big games. If Michigan can get the whole starting five involved, it can win tonight. However, it has been a trend for the Wolverines to have key players disappear, and I think that will happen again tonight. I have to pick against Michigan until it proves to me that it can win one of these big road games. I think Michigan has more talent, but they just haven’t been able to grind out a big win on the road. Michigan State is unbeaten at home for a reason and they have the better coach on the sidelines. Michigan State 69, Michigan 66

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The top 5 road wins in the Big Ten this season

Road games are tough.
Coming into the start of conference play, most of us knew that road wins in the Big Ten would be at a premium, but I honestly didn’t think it would be this bad.
I thought by now that some of the teams would have separated themselves from the rest of the pack. However, that has not happened, and it is largely due to teams being unable to win on the road.
Coming into Sunday the combined record of Big Ten teams on the road is 25-39. When you also consider that 10 of those 25 wins are against Penn State and Nebraska, it is clear to see that the team that is most likely to win the Big Ten is the team that wins the most games on the road.
There haven’t been many “big” road wins in conference play yet. There are a few, which I will get to, but trying to come up with the top 5 road wins in the Big Ten this season wasn’t easy.
Right now, Indiana has the best road record at 4-1. But, their four wins come against four teams in the bottom half of the Big Ten.
Michigan State is next at 4-2, and is one of three teams with a unique win (i.e. a win that no other team has in the conference).
So, as hard as it may be to do, here is my attempt to rank the top 5 road wins in the Big Ten this season.
1. Wisconsin 64-59 at Indiana (Jan. 15) – This is the clear winner on this list. I didn’t expect the Hoosiers to lose at home at all this season, let alone to Wisconsin. The Badgers made Indiana look very human and the Hoosiers have since lost their mystique and are now struggling to win on the road, just like everyone else in the B1G.
2. Michigan State 49-47 at Wisconsin (Jan. 22) – Following the Badgers’ impressive win, Michigan State soon had to walk into the Kohl Center to attempt to get a victory in a place it has often struggled in. The Spartans dealt with the Badgers’ hassling defense and grinded out a win that looks very impressive right now, and is the biggest reason they are in first place in the conference. MSU is the only team to have won at Wisconsin this season.
3. Michigan 83-75 at Minnesota (Jan. 17) – Minnesota has been somewhat disappointing in conference play, but the Wolverines are the only team to beat the Gophers on their home court. With the Wolverines already having three losses in Big Ten play, this win against Minnesota is looking like a lifesaver right now.
4. Indiana 97-60 at Purdue (Jan. 30) – Yeah, it’s getting that tough already. Beating Purdue doesn’t mean much, as Ohio State and Michigan State have already done the same. But, the Hoosiers made an impressive statement in this win, throttling their in-state rival by 37 on their home court. This makes the list because of margin of victory.
5. A 21-way tie between the rest – I could have picked Michigan’s manhandling of Northwestern or Michigan’s/Wisconsin’s/Minnesota’s win over Illinois, but they all don’t have much value. At this point, every other win in the Big Ten on the road came against a team in the bottom half of the conference.
As you can see, it’s been slim pickings on the road for the Big Ten. As much as we thought Indiana and Michigan might be elite, it’s becoming clear that there isn’t an elite team in the Big Ten, or in college basketball in general.
Indiana has a lot of tough road games ahead and Michigan and Michigan State still have to tangle a few times before the champion will emerge. The winner must take care of its home court and manage to sneak out a few wins on the road.