“I’m way more comfortable,” Gardner said. “Last year was my first year starting, and it was rough, a lot of ups and downs, a lot of adversity. A lot of adversity I fought through, and I feel like I did a really good job of never giving up, never giving up on myself and my teammates. I feel my teammates recognized that, and my coaches recognized that, and I feel like that will help me.”
I'm going so far as to move Michigan above Indiana in the power rankings thanks to the relative performances of those two teams against Iowa, so Michigan stays a #1.
The only notable difference these days is that Sagarin's score-based predictors has moved Michigan up to #2, behind only Duke. Kenpom and RPI forecast have Michigan around eighth. Michigan is third in RPI itself, having fallen behind Kansas.
We will further compress this section into teams whose individual performance may help or hurt Michigan when seeding time comes around (ie, potential "quality wins" considered by the committee) and those who will only matter insofar as their performance pushes Michigan's RPI hither and thither.
IUPUI, EMU and Binghamton continued losing to everyone. Cleveland State is not going to be any help. They lost their first conference game against Valpo by 24 and are sliding further down the Kenpom rankings with every game. Now sitting at 242. WMU and CMI haven't played.
Bradley continued to suggest that it's decent, getting off to a 2-1 start in the league with a six-point loss to 14-1 Wichita State, the #20 team in Kenpom.
Big sorts of teams
@ Rutgers: L, 67-62
A five point loss to Rutgers is an alarm bell even if it was on the road. Rutgers led by 14 at the half; Pitt made a push to get within three with about ten minutes left but could not close the gap entirely.
The Panthers' issues were twofold: poor shooting and terrible defensive rebounding. Rutgers grabbed nearly half their misses, which is ominous for both Pitt and Michigan (to a lesser extent). You could excuse a loss against top-ten Cincinnati as a thing that can happen. Rutgers maybe not so much.
Kansas State (12-2)
Oklahoma State: W 73-67
On the other hand, Kansas State picked up a nice win against the Cowboys. If you haven't been paying attention, Okie State has a potential lottery pick in freshman Marcus Smart and blew out NC State early this year; they also lost to Gonzaga by a measly point.
KState beat them by doing what they do: clobbering the defensive boards and altering a lot of shots from within the arc. Rodney McGruder went off, hitting 6/10 from 2 and 5/9 from three. I was impressed with Jordan Henriquez (yes, the guy Dan Dakich called out as a human black hole when Michigan played them). While he only got 14 minutes and didn't do a whole lot that stood out on the box score, he blocked a couple of key bunnies late and altered several other shots.
North Carolina State (12-2)
@ Boston College: W 78-73.
Supbar outing against a bad BC team in which the Eagles actually led until the five-minute mark. BC is another good O/bad D outfit, so maybe that's to be expected, but it seems alarming that BC went to the line 37 times in this one. They get Duke at home this week.
MCHOBBIT UPDATE: five minutes, missed a three, got a couple rebounds.
Delaware State: W 86-51.
One last rote blowout before conference play starts. Kenpom has them going 10-8 in the SEC, which is an NIT berth since they're 1-4 against major opponents so far.
West Virginia (7-6)
Oklahoma: L 67-57
Bad, ugly team now outside of Kenpom 100 and therefore not really worth tracking.
CONFERENCE OF POWER RANKING POWER POWER
LAST WEEK Put Northwestern and Iowa in its mighty chaws and chewed. I'm moving 'em up given the relative strength of their performance against those two teams versus those of the other two prime contenders:
Minnesota had 17 points at halftime versus Northwestern (and led by three!) before turning on the gas in the second to win by 18 at home; Michigan beat the Wildcats by 28 on the road. Northwestern did have Reggie Hearn back for the game against Minnesota.
Indiana was in a game-long dogfight against Iowa, eventually pulling it out 69-65. The Hawkeyes hung with Michigan for 15 minutes before Burke and company blew the doors off, essentially ending the game at the first TV timeout in the second half. In this case, Michigan had the home advantage in the comparison, but that doesn't cover 4 points versus 28.
I held off as long as I could, guys. Don't blame me when they lose to Nebraska by 80.
THING Do not thwack Mitch McGary in the nose. With Jordan Morgan on the bench with two fouls, Adam Woodbury accidentally did so right before a Roy Devyn Marble four-point play. The following is an artist's impression of what happened after.
McGary blocked three shots, brought down 11 rebounds, had two assists, thundered down two dunks, screened like a mother, and had a couple of outlet pass hockey assists*.
*[obligatory Wes Unseld reference]
OTHER THING The ruthless bombing from three is not just Nik Stauskas. In addition to all of Trey Burke's other qualities, he has cracked 40% from three. Tim Hardaway is up to 40% himself after going 8/10 to start Big Ten play. Glenn Robinson III is at 38%, Caris Levert 47%, Spike Albrecht, 38%. I'm deeply surprised they're not #1 in three point shooting—they're actually ninth.
OTHER OTHER THING Michigan passed its first Big Ten DREB test with flying colors, holding Iowa to just six offensive rebounds in 37 opportunities. That's the bedrock of their relatively mediocre defense. That and not fouling, which also check.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Princess Vespa.
2. Indiana (13-1)
LAST WEEK Haven't played since the aforementioned Iowa game.
THING The first truly titanic Big Ten matchups of the season drop this weekend with Michigan going to Ohio State and Minnesota heading to Assembly Hall. For the three contenders, the plan is to win at home and anything on the road is a bonus. Since Michigan doesn't get the Gophers at home, you want Indiana to win this one.
THING THEY ARE LIKE John Candy watching Princess Vespa.
3. Minnesota (14-1)
LAST WEEK Had world's ugliest first half against Northwestern, then put up 52 in the second half to ease their way to a comfortable victory.
THING Minnesota's blazing second half obliterated any traces of the ugly first half in the box score. They hit almost 48% of their shots overall.
OTHER THING Twelve players scored for the Gophers.
THIS WEEK IN MINNESOTA INTIMIDATION FACTOR Rebounded exactly half of their (many, many, many) misses, got 85% of Northwestern's, blocked seven shots, gave up just six free-throws, had ten different players record offensive rebounds.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Jim Brown's acting career.
4. Ohio State (11-3)
LAST WEEK blew doors off Nebraska by 26. Had doors blown off @ Illinois by 19(!!!)
THING The time to be alarmed by Ohio State's offense is now. If you didn't see the game and are expecting that Illinois did what they usually do and half of their copious threes went down, nope: Illinois hit under 30% of their copious threes but ran away with it because OSU scraped out 0.74 points per possession.
OTHER THING This does not appear to be a huge trend yet but the dropoff in scoring from Deshaun Thomas to his teammates is alarming. He had 24 on 21 shots; Aaron Craft had 11 points, and Lenzelle Smith hit a couple threes. No other Buckeye had more than three points.
Add in the fact that a couple of Craft's buckets were fast break opportunities created by his steals and it's staggering how little of OSU's half-court offense came from anyone other than Thomas.
THING THEY ARE LIKE a man being dragged into his grave by four zombies, one of whom is really good at getting steals
5. Michigan State (12-3)
LAST WEEK had a bit of a hairy time with Purdue, then did to the Boilers what Minnesota did to them by running away and hiding late.
THING Hiding aided by 6/8 three-point shooting from Gary Harris. Yes. Slightly.
OTHER THING In the first two games after Brandan Kearney's departure, he was replaced by Nobody (four minutes allotted to players outside the top seven) and Alex Gauna or Russell Byrd. Since the former was the Minnesota game and the latter was the eventual Purdue blowout, the guess here is MSU rotates through seven guys only when they are in dogfights.
THIS WEEK IN STOP ASKING FOR POST TOUCHES Nix/Payne: 3/11 from the floor, 1 assist, 3 TO, albeit with eight free throws and seven makes this time around. Still, the worst ORtgs on the team against Purdue.
I for one am happy that Michigan's offense regards a post touch as heresy. The big guys still get fed, except they are efficient.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Derrick Nix after losing some weight: thinner, not appreciably better.
6. Illinois (14-2)
LAST WEEKs Lost to Purdue! Blew out Ohio State! Chaos!
THING Neither of last weeks' unpredictable events was because of the three point lottery. Illinois hit 39% in the loss and 30% in the win.
NNANNA EGWU WATCH This was all set up to be diabolical after Egwu managed three rebounds in 26 minutes versus the Boilers as Purdue severely outrebounded the Illini, but then the kid had to go and play very well against OSU. His DREB rate moves up a few tenths to 10.6, which is still second-to-last on the team.
OTHER EGWU WATCH Egwu had five blocks against Purdue and was 7/9 from two against OSU with no TOs. Credit where due; he was a big help in the OSU win.
LAST WEEK Currently being digested by Michigan's mighty stomach.
THING The thing is I didn't think Iowa really played that badly, or was a bad basketball team. They came out with a nice plan to get the ball away from Trey Burke, used Aaron White to facilitate some early offense, and maintained a lead through much of the first half. They shot okay, didn't turn it over, and didn't get absolutely crushed on the boards or anything.
They just gave up 65% shooting from two and 50% from three (pre-Trillion time). It would be one thing if that was a trend, but they just held Indiana to 43/29 and are still the #33 eFG D in the land even after the Michigan bombing. I still think these guys get enough quality wins in the league to make the tourney.
OTHER THING We should keep Fran McCaffery around as long as possible. His teams play an attractive style of basketball—or at least try to—and his sideline spastic fits are bar-none the best in the conference. The fact that he looks like a bank manager adds to the hilarity a thousand-fold. NO GODDAMMIT THAT IS CONTINUALLY COMPOUNDED ALREADY THERE'S A FORMULA GET OUT OF MY BAAAAAAANK
For this reason, root for Iowa to make the tourney.
THING THEY ARE LIKE delicious corn in my belly
8. Wisconsin (11-4)
LAST WEEK Struggled to iffy wins against the worst two teams in the league, beating Penn State by 9—they led by three with three minutes left—and Nebraska by six—they trailed with six minutes left. At least they've stopped screwing with Kenpom, right?
THING NO THEY HAVE NOT. Nine point win against Penn State didn't drop them at all, and they were only five points off the Nebraska prediction since it was on the road. They've lost a spot as much to the ongoing decay of preseason prediction strength as much as anything else.
OTHER THING Ryan Evans has gone full Knoblach on free throws. He hit 73% last year on a lot of attempts. This year he's at 37%, and things just seem to be getting worse. In Big Ten play he's 3/14. He can't shoot threes and hits 45%, so of course he's putting up as many shots as Trey Burke.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Sinbad in that one movie with Phil Hartman.
HENRI LINE OF ENNUI
9. Purdue (7-7)
LAST WEEK Beat Illinois at home, hung with MSU at Breslin for about 25 minutes. Final 15 didn't go so well.
THING Ronnie Johnson hit a three! Now at 12%.
OTHER THING Won that game against Illinois by holding them to 33% shooting from two, blocking seven shots along the way. Freshman seven-footer AJ Hammons may be rounding into form. He's got 14 blocks over the past six games and was 8/12 from the floor against MSU.
THING THEY ARE LIKE
10. Northwestern (9-6)
LAST WEEK Were the CD to Michigan's microwave on "high"; got me to flip over to the second half of their game against Minnesota and go "wait… what?"
THING Reggie Hearn did play against the Gophers, putting up 11 points in 27 minutes.
OTHER THING Freshman Kale Abrahmson is on his way to being the traditional Northwestern stretch four with a broke-ass shot that goes in anyway, hitting 3/5 against Minnesota (and taking one other shot, a miss).
THING THEY ARE LIKE Breaking Bad starts when again?
11. Penn State (8-5)
LAST WEEK hung tough at Wisconsin, ended up losing by nine.
THING Penn State took one free throw in that game, and eight threes.
OTHER THING They had seven assists and 15 TOs
OTHER OTHER THING they gon' die
THING THEY ARE LIKE "You got what for our gladitorial arena? A hamster?"
12. Nebraska (9-6)
LAST WEEK clubbed at Ohio State; hung in against Wisconsin before falling late.
THING Enormous center Andre Almedia injured his ankle early in the OSU game and "could have played" against Wisconsin. Tim Miles decided against inserting him because Wisconsin center Jared Berggren can shoot. He should be ready for the Michigan game.
OTHER THING Not that it will matter. Nebraska hasn't scored more than 63 against a power conference team this year. Michigan hasn't scored fewer than 67 against anyone.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Vincent Smith one-fourth of the way through that event to the right.
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
Indiana at Penn State, 7PM, BTN
Ohio State at Purdue, 9 PM, ESPN Pitt at Georgetown, 9PM, ESPNU
Nebraska at MICHIGAN, 7PM, BTN
Georgia Tech at NC State, 8PM, ESPN3 [streaming]
Minnesota at Illinois, 9PM, BTN West Virginia at Texas, 9PM, ESPN2 Arkansas at Texas A&M, 9PM, ESPNU
Penn State at Northwestern, 8PM, ESPNU
Michigan State at Iowa, 7PM, ESPN2
Minnesota at Indiana, noon, BTN
Marquette at Pitt, noon, ESPNU
Duke at NC State, noon, ESPN Kansas State at West Virginia, 1:30 PM, ESPN3 [streaming] Wisconsin at Illinois, 2:15 PM, BTN
Vanderbilt at Arkansas, 6PM, ESPN3 [streaming]
MICHIGAN at Ohio State, 1:30 PM, CBS
Penn State at Purdue, noon, BTN
Northwestern at Iowa, 5:30, ESPNU Nebraska at Michigan State, 6PM, BTN
Actually I think Sparty is more like Derrick Nix before losing weight: dragged down by deadweight, looking better only once they put on a uniform that says "Michigan State" that covers up their weaknesses, and desperately sucking it in trying to fool people that they look better than they really are.