|WHAT||Michigan at Michigan State|
|WHERE||Breslin Center, East Lansing, Michigan|
|WHEN||9 PM Eastern, Tuesday|
|LINE||Michigan –1 (Kenpom)|
Right: Michigan's rise to prominence has taken its toll on Tom Izzo.
With two losses in three games, Michigan has gone from potentially running away with the Big Ten to playing catchup, and tonight's game at Michigan State is probably a must-win if the Wolverines hope to win the conference outright—the Spartans are currently a game ahead in the standings.
Michigan State's strength is up front, where they feature a pair of skilled big men in Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne. Nix is surprisingly quick for being rather large—6'9", 270 pounds after working his way into shape—and has an impressive array of post moves; he shoots 52% from two while largely working with his back to the basket. At 6'10", 240 lbs., Payne is the more athletic of the two bigs and also the more efficient finisher—he shoots 60% from two, including an 80% rate at the rim (per hoop-math), and has even connected on 7-of-13 threes this season. Both are solid offensive rebounders while Payne is one of the country's best defensive rebounders and a strong shot-blocker.
Rounding out the frontcourt is 6'6" forward Branden Dawson, who can play either the three or the four, though he's playing mostly at the three due to injury issues in the backcourt. Dawson is a skilled finisher at the rim (70%), where he takes almost exactly 2/3 of his shots; he hits 34% of his two-point jumpers and has only attempted four three-pointers this year, so the key is keeping him away from the basket. Dawson is also State's best offensive rebounder and an active presence on defense, where he's in the top 75 nationally in steal rate and posting a solid block rate.
MSU's highest-usage player is point guard Keith Appling, who has regained his three-point stroke (37%) after a season-long slump last year. Appling is a very good distributor who can also get to the rim with his athleticism; he's not a stellar finisher (46% on twos) but he gets to the line frequently and creates second-chance opportunities for his teammates.
The final piece in the starting five is freshman guard Gary Harris, who's lived up to his considerable recruiting hype by shooting 51% from two and 43% from three so far this season. Harris is a very dangerous outside shooter and he can also put the ball on the floor; while he's not this team's main option, he's got a GRIII-like way of producing points around the margins and cannot be ignored.
The Spartans will be without the services of backup guard Travis Trice (concussion), which means freshman Denzel Valentine will be the primary backup for the one-through-three. Valentine is a decent shooter and creator, but he's had major issues with turnovers (31.3% TO rate(!)). 6'7" sophomore Russell Byrd will also see time; he's a perimeter-oriented guy who's currently 7-for-40 from three this season with a 23% turnover rate. That's... not good.
The Spartans are currently pushing for a two-seed, sitting at 20-4 (9-2 B1G) with KP100 wins over Kansas, Boise State, Texas, Purdue(x2), Iowa, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota—of those, the neutral-site win over the Jayhawks and victory at the Kohl Center stand out as signature wins. After dropping their season opener against #48 UConn (neutral site), State hasn't lost to a team outside the top 13, and all three losses—to #8 Miami, #13 Minnesota, and #2 Indiana—have come on the road.
Four factors, conference only.
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||50.9 (3)||17.8 (8)||30.9 (7)||37.6 (5)|
|Defense||48.8 (8)||19.3 (3)||28.6 (3)||35.7 (7)|
Despite their success, this isn't a vintage Tom Izzo team. The offense is prone to coughing up the rock and the rebounding, while strong on the defensive end, isn't nearly up to Izzo's standard of dominance. The Spartans are dead last—dead last!—in the conference at two-point defense, with opponents hitting 49.1% of their shots inside the arc. State also allows more three-point attempts than average and opponents are shooting a fluky-low 60% from the line—their #3 defensive efficiency in conference play may be slightly inflated by luck. Offensively, the Spartans have developed a strong inside-outside attack, hitting 41% of their threes and 47% of their twos.
Find the right lineup. Michigan State, largely by necessity with the injury to Trice, will mostly play big tonight. Michigan, largely by necessity with the injury to Jordan Morgan, will mostly play their usual smaller lineup. However, Glenn Robinson III has clearly hit a wall, and he's struggled to defend larger players and keep them off the glass. Against Nix and Payne, that won't fly. I wouldn't be surprised if Max Bielfeldt sees very extensive playing time for the second straight game—if Robinson isn't producing offensively, Bielfeldt brings more from a rebounding and defensive standpoint.
Get out in transition. State should give Michigan a few opportunities to run thanks to their turnover issues, and in what should be a tight game the Wolverines must take advantage; they didn't against Wisconsin (yes, in large part due to the officiating) and it cost them dearly, though the Badgers are far better at limiting transition opportunities.
Let Nix and Payne get their points in the post. Michigan State has a pair of skilled bigs who can score in the post, but its been shown that post touches tend to be far less efficient—even for teams that convert them well—than perimeter-oriented play. Nix and Payne will get their points, but if Michigan can limit them to two-pointers—both are good foul shooters—and stay with their men on the perimeter, State may have a hard time keeping up with the Wolverines if Michigan is knocking down their shots.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 1
Jordan Morgan's absence makes me very leery about this line—I think Michigan misses him more than Michigan State misses Travis Trice in this game, especially if Robinson doesn't hold up well against MSU's big men. I think Michigan can pull out a critical road win, however, by capitalizing on Spartan turnovers and working their own inside-outside game—for a big team, State is surprisingly terrible at defending inside the arc, and they won't be able to rely on their normal turnover rate against a Michigan team that rarely coughs up the rock. This will be close, and quite honestly I'm leaning towards a loss, but I'll put my faith in KenPom and this team's ability to put the ball in the basket.
After Michigan's first outing against Ohio State Zack Novak gave an interesting interview to UMHoops in which he described how the Buckeyes shut down Michigan's pick and roll game:
Well for the first 10 minutes of the game, it seemed like everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong. Coach has referred to “locking the rails” in describing what OSU does to guard sideline ball screens, a huge staple of the offense. They do this better than anyone else. Many teams will take away a ball screen by having the defender on the ball play with his butt to the other sideline and bringing a big man in front of the ball handler. They take it to another level. They pretty much play the ball handler not to go to the opposite corner of mid court, essentially taking away any chance for the ball handler to still use the screen. This takes away all uncertainty a big man would have in playing in front of the ball handler.
In other words, big men usually hedge after a ball handler uses a ball screen. Even if the plan is to deny the ball handler from using it, the big still must be ready to hedge in the event the defender does not prevent the screen from being used. This uncertainty can cause big men to be just a fraction late, which in basketball is enough time for a good offensive player to exploit it.
In my eyes, it seemed like their big men were in position every time because they knew there was no chance the guard could use the screen.
Michigan sputtered to an 0.88 PPP outing, one of their worst of the season. In the offense-heavy rematch that moved up to 1.19, thanks in no small part to 58% shooting from three. But Burke also got free on a number of P&R possessions in the first half, with a rolling Mitch McGary the frequent beneficiary. Here's an example from early in the game; this is actually McGary's first offensive possession.
Michigan initiates the offense with a pass from GRIII to Burke and then flashes McGary to the top of the key.
By the time he gets there, Craft has set up shop such that there's no way for McGary to screen him.
This is "locking the rail." If Burke goes anywhere, it is right, and the big no longer has any hesitation.
McGary backs off, taking Williams with him, and then Burke attacks the basket, getting Craft outside of him with a crossover.
If Michigan acts quickly now, they can get the screen. McGary is waiting for this and Michigan successfully breaks the rail and gets the P&R.
Williams hedges hard as McGary rolls; Burke finds him.
Lenzelle Smith comes over in an attempt to pick up a charge. He may or may not get there in time, but we don't end up finding out because McGary's agility allows him to pull up short and avoid the contact as the arena is bathed in a mysterious rush of light.
A quick two for McGary enroute to 5/8 from the floor in the first half.
Things And Stuff
Burke shakes free. Burke needs help, but even if that drive doesn't get past Craft it necessarily puts him out of position when McGary re-establishes the pick and roll. It takes a little more work to set it up, is all. Burke was also able to shake Craft from the rail at times, like this late-clock move that puts Craft out of the picture and gets Ravenel on his heels, opening up the three:
With everyone on the floor staring down Burke this would be an opportune time for someone to dive to the rim, but oh well.
Planning ahead. Michigan executes a similar set with Hardaway on the next possession, but actually runs it too fast. Hardaway ends up trapped as Williams is much closer to the ball*, but the idea is the same. Next possession: same. Hardaway makes a token drive to the right and then comes back to a McGary screen; McGary gets a roll pass and misjudges how much room he has to attack, throwing up an awkward elbow jumper. After getting very little from the pick and roll in the first game, Michigan adapted, with moderate success inside the arc and Great Success outside.
*[Hardaway gets it to GRIII, who makes an excellent shot for himself against Thomas; Williams throws it back, whereupon Stauskas does his stepback swag in the corner that gets him gif'd.]
McGary skill level. Ohio State gets a defender over in position to take a charge; McGary pulls up short of him and puts up a lane floater that sneaks over the front of the rim. McGary has a high skill level for a 6'10" guy.
Almost inevitable offensive rebound. McGary also pounds Smith under the basket after the shot goes up; Amir Williams is hanging out with Burke well outside your picture, and GRIII has gotten good position on Thomas here. Note also that by the time Burke's three goes down, Craft is trying to box out Horford. That's one vs four, but a relatively high chance of an OREB anyway.
One of the problems against Wisconsin was a relative paucity of shots where offensive rebounds are on the table in the event of a miss.
Totem animal qualities. I thought this was an interesting shot from the extensive ESPN galleries put up in and around the OSU/Indiana games. It's a switch board; each player has an abstract quality they would like to embody they are supposed to dwell on:
Yes, it bothers me that some of these things are qualities one can possess—toughness, perspective, pose—and others are not. You cannot have "smart"; You can be smart. One can have determination; you cannot be determination.
Given the WE ON shirts, we can put grammar next to drawing free throw attempts as Michigan's main weaknesses.
Trice nyet. Travis Trice will miss The Big Game tonight. That leaves MSU with little on their perimeter bench other than Denzel Valentine, a slick-passing wing type with a whopping 31 in the TOrate department. So maybe not as slick passing as you'd hope if you're Tom Izzo. MSU also has Russell Byrd, who's like Stauskas if Stauskas was hitting 18% of his threes.
Expect both backcourts to get scant rest, then. Projected MSU minutes without at least one of Appling/Harris: 0. Impact won't be large except in the unlikely event that Harris or Appling gets in foul trouble.
In the negative column, it doesn't seem like Jordan Morgan will be available, either, after Michigan "shut him down."
Foul: nyet? The foul-or-defend up three late discussion has been raging for years, to the point where Ken Pomeroy's effort starts its title with "Yet another. " Most studies show there's little difference; further most give the slight edge to playing D. Kenpom's results:
W L OT Win% Cases Foul 122 5 10 92.7 137 Defend 598 2 77 94.0 677
That gap is narrow enough that the gap could be chance, but you can say that there's no evidence fouling is better in practice. Note that Michigan's recent misfortune does not make these statistics since this data only covers possessions that start with between 5 and 12 seconds on the clock, which will no doubt give our local Bo Ryans the wiggle room to say this does not apply. While I'm still on Team Foul, the margins here are so narrow that it doesn't seem that important. Certainly less important than the pending invasion of the planet.
I mean, NBA types are two of 64 on similar shots since 1996. Debating whether or not that late game strategy is correct is like debating whether the windows are ready for a hurricane when you live in Michigan.
More games: da. We've heard it before only to have it go poof, but yet another round of stories endorsing a nine or ten game conference schedule has burst onto the internet, leaving a legendary trail of leadership viscera behind:
After spending Monday in meetings with coaches and athletic directors at conference headquarters in Park Ridge, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany told the Tribune the status quo of eight conference games “is not even on the table right now.”
It will be nine or 10, with the decision to be made this spring.
Insert the usual AD assertions that without seven home games they will have to dress all of their teams in sackcloth and ashes, but it looks like at least nine games are on the way.
Also on the table: November night games, early conference games, and the usual chatter about having an East-West split. The bizarre bit in there:
Central time zone schools Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Northwestern could be joined by Indiana, Purdue, Michigan or Michigan State. Delany said the conference would try to “figure out a way” to maintain rivalries between in-state schools.
Michigan State keeps getting lumped in with the schools that could be put in the other division… and Michigan is actually in here as well. No further words need to be spent on how dumb it is to have Michigan and Ohio State in opposite divisions; assuming that's not the case, hopefully MSU isn't allowed to nonsensically flee the division Michigan is in and expect to maintain an annual rivalry with them.
A little more detail on the divisions model that seems to have the most favor this instant:
Although the Big Ten presented the athletic directors -- and several university presidents who came to the league office Sunday -- with several models for divisions, don't be surprised if the league decides to keep things simple with an East-West alignment following the additions of both Maryland and Rutgers in 2014. The simplest solution -- one the athletic directors are discussing -- is to assign teams based on their time zone (Eastern or Central).
The lone caveat: there will be eight Big Ten teams in the Eastern time zone -- Maryland, Rutgers, Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana and Purdue -- and only six in the Central time zone (Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Illinois). So one team from the Eastern time zone would need to move.
That article from Rittenberg also plays up the possibility that Michigan State will end up in the other division. This would either stick Michigan with a protected crossover—thus trading games against interesting teams in the other division for constant Purdue/Indiana games—or bust up the in-state rivalry. Neither is appealing. Let us condemn Michigan State's Rose Bowl hopes to death and keep them in the East.
The worst part about this is I can no longer dump on Indiana State as much. Indiana State, of course, submitted an override to the barely-passed multi-year scholarship legislation reading as such:
The current system works. We don't need to get into bidding wars where one school offers a $75% for 2 years and the other school then offers 85% for 3, etc., etc. This puts the kid into a situation where they almost need an agent/advisor just to determine the best "deal." Again, if it isn't broke, don't fix it. [Indiana State]
Since I've used the tree people as the primary example of why the NCAA's governance structure is permanently broken: programs with nothing in common with each other are under one large dumb tent. So I am dissapoint, Big Ten, that you are trying to fight the recent recruiting deregulation:
We are specifically concerned with the following three proposals and ask that they be tabled along with Proposal 13-2:
Proposal 11-2: Athletics Personnel - Limitations on the Number and Duties of Coaches - Elimination of Recruiting Coordination Functions
Proposal 13-3: Recruiting - Deregulation of Modes and Numerical Limitations on Communication
Proposal 13-5-A: Recruiting - Elimination of Printed Recruiting Materials and Video/Audio Legislation
We have serious concerns whether these proposals, as currently written, are in the best interest of high school student-athletes, their families and their coaches. We are also concerned about the adverse effect they would have on college coaches, administrators and university resources.
There's nothing in the first and last proposals that has material impact on prospects or their associated hangers-on, and the horrors of communications deregulation seem eminently preventable. "Hello, Coach X. Please limit your contacts with me to X in timeframe Y, or I will not consider your school." Or, like, turn your phone off when you don't want to use it.
The assertions about "adverse effects" on people in the athletic department who now have to hire "u r gud art fertbar"-texting interns and print glossy media guides are more credible, but shortsighted. If you want to play on level ground on the big stuff you have to let the NCAA dump big sections of meaningless secondary violations.
In the building. Zack Novak returns to the scene of the Aneurysm of Leadership tonight:
"It's going to be so weird, I've only been to one Michigan basketball game in my life watching it, it's going to be odd," Novak said by phone Monday. "But I know this would be a big win for them, and I know they'll be ready to go.
"I know it's disheartening to lose a game the way they did at Wisconsin, but it's a great opportunity for them to go in and get a win on the road at Michigan State. That would totally bring the team's psyche right back to where it needs to be. It'd get their swagger back, and that's big."
His team in Holland has a week break.
Ondre is smaller. Down to 315 from 347.
Etc.: Four down at Alabama, leaving just six left to cut. Tifos at Georgetown. The Daily bombs hockey after suffering yet another sweep. Twice. Michigan's commits are lighting up high school basketball—Derrick Walton has had triple-doubles in two of his last three games, and Irvin puts up 30 a game it seems. Paterno business is "200 pages of nothing." Hate quantified. Players only.
It is a day after National Signing Day and the Big Ten has inked yet another lackluster group of mostly 3-star recruits. Fearing a further drift toward mediocrity, representatives from each relevant school have secretly gathered together. Their goal: rescuing the competitive future of their once mighty conference!
A prayer is offered to AIRBHG and thanks given unto BHGP for allowing me to rip off their format.
Scene: A little-used back room of the Palmer House in Chicago, its walls lined with trophies honoring the conference's academic achievements, and tasteful sweaters. A group of men and a duck mill about, most huddled around a smartphone showing walrus porn. One is eyeing the gilded stand lamps, apparently wondering if they're bolted down. They are watched by a shadowy figure in a ski mask. JIM DELANEY enters…
: It's the…no, Brady we're not doing the thing.
[More. Oh so much more, after the JUMP!]
Note: I know these rankings are a little simple, so if you want to know how I'd personally rank these classes, my favorite method is The Mathlete's.
It was a relatively quiet Signing Day, but there was still some movement in the B1G rankings, especially at the bottom of the board. While the top five remained steady, Purdue leaped from 10th up to 5th and Indiana jumped to 9th, leaving a couple big names (and Minnesota) to bring up the rear. Changes since last rankings:
2-3-13: Purdue picks up Keith Byars II.
2-4-13: Ohio State picks up Dontre Wilson. Purdue picks up Dalyn Dawkins. Wisconsin picks up Tanner McEvoy. Minnesota picks up Daletavious McGhee.
2-5-13: Nebraska picks up Dwayne Johnson. Purdue picks up TyVel Jemison. Iowa picks up Reggie Spearman. Wisconsin picks up Donnell Vercher. Minnesota picks up Donovahn Jones.
2-6-13: Notre Dame picks up Eddie Vanderdoes. Ohio State picks up Vonn Bell and James Clark. Taivon Jacobs decommits from Ohio State (Maryland). Maryland picks up Taivon Jacobs and Jacquille Veii. Purdue picks up Da'Wan Hunte. Iowa picks up Jonathan Parker. Indiana picks up Maurice Swain, Laray Smith, and Chris Cormier. Nigel Tribune decommits from Indiana (Iowa State). Minnesota picks up De'Vondre Campbell.
2-7-13: Johnny Townsend decommits from Ohio State (Florida).
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||24/7 Avg||ESPN Avg||Avg Avg^||POINTS*|
^The average of the average rankings of the four recruiting services (the previous four columns). The figure is calculated based on the raw numbers and then rounded, so the numbers above may not average out exactly.
*The product of number of Commits and Average Average
NOTE: Unranked recruits are counted as two-star players.
On to the full data after the jump.
Chaos! This feature doomed Florida the moment it declared the Gators a one-seed lock, and then things got weird. Indiana blew a lead against Illinois. Kansas lost to TCU(!) and followed that up with a loss to Oklahoma to establish their first three-game slide since the Cretaceous. Michigan went down to Wisconsin thanks to a half-court shot. Duke is the only projected one-seed from last week to make it through unscathed, and they ended up beating 10-13 Boston College by one measly point.
The top teams are coming back to the pack, changing what seemed like a simple matter of four teams for three spots into a much more open battle. Kansas is probably done at this point. That TCU loss is an anchor. Miami, Gonzaga, Arizona, and Syracuse are now in the conversation. While The Bracket Matrix's one-seed projections are unchanged from last week, Crashing The Dance's formula has put Miami on the one line at the expense of Indiana; Kansas has actually fallen to a terrifying three-seed to go with terrifying three-seed Louisville*.
The common thread here is that the Wisconsin loss has only burned up some of Michigan's lead. They're the top overall seed at BM, and tied for second at CTD. So, #1 it remains. The gaps are narrow enough now that a loss at Breslin would put them on the fringe, I think.
*[If there's any debate about whether getting a one seed is a big deal or a non-deal, here are CTD's projected threes: Kansas, Michigan State, Louisville, New Mexico. Here are the fours: Butler, Kansas State, Minnesota, Georgetown. It's a big deal to get the latter group in a hypothetical Sweet Sixteen matchup instead of the former.]
Projected ones: Florida, Indiana, Duke, Michigan, still.
The Nonconference Folk
Last win for IUPUI: December 27th. Binghamton: January 19th. Central Michigan: also January 19th. Eastern is creating unwatchable .500 MAC basketball—they're 300th or worse in three of the four factors on offense—weekly. Cleveland State is 4-7 in the Horizon. Bradley is dipping a bit below a .500 MVC record.
Only Western seems to be a good low major at 7-3 in the MAC, though they lost to near KP300 opponent Ball State last time out. Kenpom still projects them to a 20 win regular season.
Big sorts of teams
Seton Hall: W 56-46, @ Cincinnati: W 62-52
The Panthers seem to have figured it out and are cruising down the stretch, picking up quality win after quality win. They're on a seven-of-eight streak with the only loss by three at Louisville; in that stretch they've taken out Villanova, Syracuse, and Cincinnati.
The most recent Cinci game was a lot like the first: all towers and rebounding and bricks from long range. The teams combined to go 3/26 from three in the first matchup; in this one it was 8/33. Twenty-five of those came from the Bearcats; the teams split the makes evenly.
Pitt has a big game at Marquette this weekend and then a relatively easy glide path to the finish. They're looking at a 13-5 conference season, 12-6 at worst. Good win: confirmed.
SEEDWATCH: Five on both the matrix and CTD, up one from last week.
ODDITY: Every five seed on the matrix is from the Big East.
Kansas State (19-4)
@ Texas Tech: W 68-59. Iowa State: W 79-70.
Texas Tech is a lot worse than Penn State and victory is expected no matter where you play them. The main event this week was the Wildcats avenging their loss to Iowa State. That game was an offensive outburst: both teams shot well from the floor and rebounded half their misses; Kansas State got to the line and cut down on turnovers.
The Wildcats go to reeling Kansas tonight; win that and they a couple of Baylor games and Oklahoma State are the only thing standing between them and a two-seed.
SEEDWATCH: Four on both sites.
North Carolina State (17-7)
@ Duke: L 98-85. @ Clemson: W 58-57.
@ RIGHT: YOU CAN'T CHECK HIM
McHobbit got bunches of minutes again with Lorenzo Brown still recovering from injury—Tyler Lewis is his real name, and even with Brown healthy enough to go 32 minutes in the Clemson nail-biter, Lewis still pulled down 27. I may be forced to admit that the McDonald's All American guys did not make a huge mistake.
NC State remains NC State. They tore up Duke's defense to the tune of 1.2 PPP and lost by double-digits because Duke put up 1.4, shooting 64% from two and going to the line a whopping 41 times. It would be very frustrating to be an NC State fan this year. You're telling me you have Richard Howell and CJ Leslie and you can't play a lick of defense? That's on Mark Gottfried.
The Wolfpack then went out and ground out an ugly one against Clemson. They actually trailed by four with 19 seconds left but managed to put up five points in the allotted time.
This isn't a great team, but if they slide to a seven seed or something there is going to be a pissed off two-seed.
MCHOBBIT UPDATE: 39(!) minutes against Duke, 13 points on 7 shots, 6 A, 0 TO! Duke fans taunted him about his dead grandmother, which sucks for him but also means he's arrived.
News was less good against Clemson: 27 minutes, hit a couple threes, no assists, 1 TO.
SEEDWATCH: Five on CTD, 6 on Bracket Matrix.
Florida: W 80-69(!!!). @ Vanderbilt: L 67-49.
.500 SEC continues apace. Florida looms this week. They gon' die.
I meant they were going to lose by 18 to Vandy, a 3-7 SEC team with a loss to Marist. And that they would beat Florida. What a weird team. These guys are still headed for the NIT. Beating Florida might help Michigan move above the Gators on the S-curve, at least.
West Virginia (12-11)
Texas: W 60-58. @ TCU: W 63-50.
Completed ugly season sweep of Texas; beat up on one of the Big 12's two Penn States. They should not get used to this. They've got one game against Texas Tech left; the rest of it is brutal: Baylor, KState, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa State.
SEEDWATCH: alternate universe maybe
CONFERENCE OF POWER RANKING POWER POWER
1. Indiana (21-3)
LAST WEEK led Illinois 70-62 with three minutes left; lost. Cruised away from Ohio State at the Schott.
THIS WEEK IN EVOCATIVE WIN GRAPHS lolwut
THING It was Indiana's defense that betrayed them in that game? Or something? I watched it and I still don't know what the hell happened there. But Indiana put up a 49%/53%/93% shooting night and lost. Illinois hit a lot of tough shots, and one really easy one.
OTHER THING On the other hand, coming off that disappointment and casually rolling the Buckeyes on the road is probably the most impressive win of the season in the league. Indiana had a 17 point burst over the last five minutes of the first half that gave them a halftime cushion they would not relinquish. Ohio State could get no closer than six points the rest of the way.
OTHER OTHER THING They did this by shooting 61% from two against Ohio State! Oladipo and Zeller had crazy, crazy nights. Oladipo was 7/9 from two, hit a three, and 9/10 from the line. Zeller was 8/11 from both two and the line. OSU's two point defense is the thing that they are best at. Yeesh.
THING THEY ARE LIKE pretty scary thing
2. Michigan (21-3)
LAST WEEK Won epic knock-down, drag-out overtime game against Ohio State. Lost grim overtime stomper against Wisconsin thanks to half-court heave.
THING Efficient scoring inside the line is something of an issue. They hit 39% against OSU, and only got to the line 11 times. It was 43% against the Badgers and two free throws on 53 attempts.
While the percentages aren't horrible, the inability to get to the line means when the threes aren't falling—and they weren't in Madison—the vaunted Michigan offense sputters to well under a PPP.
Michigan is now 340th of 347 in drawing free throw attempts, and things have only gotten worse in conference play. This is not because Michigan takes an extreme amount of threes: they're only slightly above average at launching from behind the line. Why can't a team with Trey Burke on it get to the free throw line?
OTHER THING Michigan's ceded the #1 offense in the country to Indiana, so previous theories about Michigan's hyper offense making up for their defense no longer apply quite as nicely.
OTHER THIS WEEK IN EVOCATIVE WIN GRAPHS
THING THEY ARE LIKE I don't even know man.
3. Michigan State (20-4)
LAST WEEK Revenge'd Minnesota at home; eased by Purdue on the road.
THING Happier than anyone about Indiana and Michigan missteps this week; now they're in serious contention. The issue: they are entering their inevitable Big Ten doom schedule, with five of the next six games against Michigan (2x), Indiana, OSU, and Wisconsin. If they make it through that on top of the league they'll have earned it.
ADRIEAN PAYNE THREE POINT SPECIALIST WATCH No attempts against Minnesota. 0/2 against Purdue. Still at 54% on the year.
OTHER THING Gary Harris seems fine, at least for now, but Travis Trice missed both of MSU's games last week, paving the the way for Russell Byrd playing time and Denzel Valentine backing up every spot between the one and the three. Byrd is now pushing into Ronnie Johnson territory after going 0/5 from three this week. Down to 18^. He's only taken nine threes.
THIS WEEK IN STOP ASKING FOR POST TOUCHES Payne and Nix tore Purdue apart, going 11 for 19 and 7/9 from the line with one TO. Minnesota was okay: 4/11, 9/10 from the line. Payne's free-throw shooting has taken off: 49% as a freshman to 70% to 79%.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Sneaky Bagginses.
4. Ohio State (17-6)
LAST WEEK Lost epic OT game against Michigan; lost not so epic game against Indiana.
THING Part of the reason Ohio State got blazed inside by the Hoosiers: Evan Ravenel fouled out in 22 minutes and Amir Williams picked up four fouls in 11 minutes, meaning for the vast majority of the game Ohio State was either playing with their bigs daintily trying to stay on the floor or fielding sophomore Trey McDonald. McDonald had DNP-CDs in seven of his previous eight games.
OTHER THING Deshaun Thomas KPOY Watch: up to seventh. TO rate has dropped under ten percent and he's still launching a third of OSU's shots; efficiency is only down a little over the last couple games.
OTHER OTHER THING I enjoyed Yogi Ferrell's line in his matchup with Craft: one shot, that a missed three, three assists, and a turnover. Clearly he was like "aw hell naw" and just dumped it to his teammates, and wisely so.
OTHER OTHER OTHER THING Craft fouled out, which I didn't even know was possible.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Still going with Deshaun of the Dead here, though LaQuinton Ross has been helping out more of late.
FACT. Via Ace.
5. Wisconsin (15-7)
LAST WEEK Close game at OSU until that late run put it away. Had a ludicrously-fast-by-their-standards game at Illinois (70 possessions!) and dominated it.
THING if you watch these people on purpose you should seek medical attention for a broken brain.
OTHER THING I don't even want to think about this team.
WISCONSIN PREVENTS THREE POINTERS WATCH Michigan was 5/18, which sounds like a relatively high number of attempts until you find out that they had 53 attempts inside the line. So, yeah.
RYAN EVANS FT WATCH One of five. Wisconsin is really benefiting from refs never calling fouls in any of their games, because they can't shoot free throws. In the Michigan game they met a perfect foil for their weakness. Michigan might have been better off fouling more on defense just to get the refs, like, paying attention.
THING THEY ARE LIKE bug people from Rigel.
6. Illinois (15-8)
LAST WEEK IT LIVES. Beat Indiana! Beat Minnesota! Totally going to the tournament with a sub-.500 Big Ten record, you guys!
THING If there was a hypothetical board for Most Justified Big Ten Court Rush Of The Decade, the post-Griffey layup hysteria slots in at an easy #2 behind Watford's three last year. Those two are so far ahead of the pack that I don't even know what #3 would be.
Peanut gallery: If I can get ten justified and unjustified court rushes, I will maintain these boards going forward. Help me out.
you too can have this happen for a reasonable fee
TYLER GRIFFEY WATCH I should sell STRUGGLING PLAYER WATCH spots to scufflers nationwide. Griffey not only set off the second most justified Big Ten court rush of the decade but added 12 other points against Indiana, including reasonable (2/6) shooting from three. (My favorite thing from the win over Indiana was Griffey's awkward hot-potato layup as he tried to get the ball out of his hand before the buzzer.) Then in the follow-up victory over Minnesota he put up 16 points on 4/7 shooting from three, hitting four FTs and acquiring three offensive rebounds.
You know what they say: as Tyler Griffey goes, so go the Illini.
NNANNA EGWU WATCH Four points and five rebounds as he fouls out in 19 minutes against Indiana, paving the way for Griffey's monster night (eight rebounds from him, too). Three rebounds in 21 minutes against Minnesota, but that DREB rate is hovering around 13 these days, ahead of several guards on the team.
OTHER EGWU WATCH Sam McLaurin is a statistical marvel even outstripping Egwu. He started and played 28 minutes against Indiana, acquiring one offensive rebound. In 24 against Minnesota, one of each variety. DREB rate: 6.6%. Kenpom, I need anti-leaderboards. I need to know if Sam McLaurin has a lower rebound rate than any player 6'8" or taller in the country.
THE ENNUI QUESTION Ennui? What ennui? With back to back wins over tourney-bound Indiana and Minnesota the Illini have five impressive scalps. They're not even on the bubble anymore.
They could get back on it—this is Illinois we're talking about here—if they lose to Purdue and Northwestern this week. Go 1-1 there and all they need to do to get to the magic 7-11 mark is not blow it in home games against Penn State and Nebraska. Assembly (Not That Assembly) is going to be bonkers for Wednesday's game against Purdue.
THING THEY ARE LIKE
Michigan finds out it's in the tourney, 2009
7. Minnesota (17-7)
LAST WEEK Lost at Michigan State by double-digits thanks to five-minute second-half scoreless streak and five-minute first-half scoreless streak; edged by Illinois at home.
THING Tubby Smith's substitution patterns drive me nuts. At one point in the Michigan State game he had all five starters off the floor. Twelve guys played against State, and hey surprise they were all awful. Elliot Eliason makes sense; he's your backup five. The other six players combined to post 40 minutes, 2 points on 1/4 shooting, 5 rebounds, one assist, and two turnovers.
If your bench is that terrible, it is insane to not have at least two of your high-usage guys out there at all times.
OTHER THING Remember when Minnesota seemed like a fun, interesting, uptempo outfit with a good offense? Since their loss to Michigan they've bested 62 points once, against Nebraska, and have lost games by scoring 48, 44, 50, and 53 points, all in games that featured fewer than 60 possessions. Keep them out of transition and you're good.
THIS WEEK IN MINNESOTA INTIMIDATION FACTOR Rebounded 47% of their misses against Illinois, held Illini to 27% two-point shooting. Rebounded 34% of their misses against Michigan State and held Spartans to 16% OREB.
NOBODY EXPECTS THE HOLLINS INQUISITION Four of five Minnesota blocks against Illinois were from Austin Hollins.
THING THEY ARE LIKE
8. Iowa (15-9)
LAST WEEK Another crippling Amakerian defeat in a two-OT loss to Wisconsin at the Trohl Center*; bounced back to handle Northwestern at home.
*[HT: some guy on twitter I don't remember]
THING Iowa not getting in this year would be brutal on a level approximating Northwestern's Shurna-led near-misses except for the whole Northwestern Has Never Been To The Tournament thing. Iowa losses include this week's 2OT agony, an OT loss to Purdue, two games Iowa led at the one minute mark against State and Minnesota, and a near-ish miss versus Indiana.
THIS WEEK IN WHERE'S ROY DEVYN WALDO Where's Roy Devyn reached epic levels in the Wisconsin loss. In a 50-minute game Marble got 18, mostly early. He went 1-10 from the floor with no free throws, and ate bench. Iowa's offense couldn't do anything whatsoever in OT—a total of six points before the late flurry of free throws and free twos—and Marble stayed glued on the bench with the exception of one defensive possession… on which Marble lost a Wisconsin cutter and the Badgers got an easy two. Brutal.
Marble then went off for 21 points against Northwestern's get-healthy defense. The Hawkeyes have to be hoping that performance gets him settled.
ENNUIWATCH I thought about moving them below the line and did not. Kenpom still has them with a 50-50 shot at a .500 conference record, and you have to imagine that'll be good enough. They've got a quality win over Wisconsin and a bubble win over Iowa State. If they get to 9-9 they'll add one over Minnesota, Indiana, or Illinois. That would probably be enough.
They must have Thursday's game at Penn State, and then if they can beat Minnesota at CHA they'll be cooking. Kenpom has that one 68-67. Set a block of time from 2 to 4 aside for that one.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Probity.
9. Northwestern (13-10)
LAST WEEK Lost solidly at Iowa.
THING it's about to get ugly for the Wildcats. A home game against Penn State is the only game Kenpom has them winning.
THING THEY ARE LIKE A sad otter.
10. Purdue (12-12)
LAST WEEK Beat Penn State on the road; didn't really stay in contact with Michigan State.
THING Oh for pants sake, Purdue: 0/10 from three against Penn State, 1/5 against Michigan State. They won that Penn State game because Purdue went 2/20.
AJ HAMMONS WATCH Kid has started to pile up free throws. In his last four games he's shot 12, 3, 12, and 9, hitting 81%. He's at 69% for the year thanks largely to one ugly outing against MSU. If he can keep this pace up, he… well, he can kick it out to wide open but completely hapless three-point shooters next year when DJ Byrd is gone.
RONNIE JOHNSON THREE POINTER WATCH nyet. Did go 2/8 from the line against Penn State.
THING THEY ARE LIKE
11. Nebraska (12-12)
LAST WEEK Beat Penn State handily to claim the crown of second-worst team in the league.
THING Andre Almedia blocked three shots against the Nittany Lions, and set off earthquake alarms in Tokyo doing so.
RAY GALLEGOS BOMBS AWAY WATCH A sixth game with more than ten 3PA, going 3/11 against Penn State.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Not Penn State, that's for sure.
12. Penn State (8-12)
LAST WEEK Lost to Purdue by 9, Nebraska by 14.
THING It's over. The two best shots the Nittany Lions had at a Big Ten win came and went this week without so much as a vaguely competitive game. Kenpom has two more Penn State games with a better than 10% chance of victory: Thursday against Iowa and the penultimate game at Northwestern. Chance of winless record now at 57%, and that seems low.
THING The only Penn State player with an ORTG greater than 100 is Tim Frazier.
THING THEY ARE LIKE GopherQuest.
Tourney locks sans Illinois-2011-style implosion
projected seeds included
#1 Indiana, #1 MICHIGAN, #3 Michigan State, #4 Ohio State, #5 Wisconsin, #6 Minnesota
Northwestern Memorial wrong side of the bubble award
Rutgers Memorial what's a bubble award
Northwestern, Penn State, Nebraska, Purdue
Games relevant to your interest that are on the TV and may be worth watching after the first ten minutes. Bolded teams are suggested teams to root for, calibrated for …
1) helping M win conference title
2) best chance for quality-win pile-up to help M seeding
3) greatest number of tourney teams from league
4) eff Michigan State
5) also Wisconsin
K-State at Kansas, 9PM, ESPN
Kentucky at Florida, 7PM, ESPN
MICHIGAN at Michigan State, 9PM, ESPN
Nebraska at Indiana, 7PM, BTN
Syracuse at UConn, 7PM, ESPN
Miami at Florida State, 7PM, ESPN2
Purdue at Illinois, 9PM, BTN
North Carolina at Duke, 9PM, ESPN
Northwestern at Ohio State, 7PM, BTN
Wisconsin at Minnesota, 7PM, ESPN
Iowa at Penn State, 9PM, ESPNU
Arizona at Colorado, 10PM, PACTEN
Gonzaga at St. Mary's, 11PM, ESPN2
Pitt at Marquette, 1PM, CBS
Purdue at Indiana, 2PM, ESPN
Virginia Tech at NC State, 2PM, ESPN2
Duke at Maryland, 6PM, ESPN
Baylor at K-State, 7PM, ESPNU
Missouri at Arkansas, 7PM, ESPN2
Michigan State at Nebraska, 8PM, BTN
Penn State at MICHIGAN, noon, BTN
Ohio State at Wisconsin, 1PM, CBS
Minnesota at Iowa, 2:06, BTN
Miami at Clemson, 6PM, ESPNU
Illinois at Northwestern, 7:30 PM, BTN