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2013-14 Big Ten Post-Mortem

by - Published July 8, 2014 in Columns, Conference Notes
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College basketball seasons always bring us teams that perform superbly in the non-conference season but fall into mediocrity in conference. Many times those teams are the product of cushy non-conference schedules, as well as being exposed by tougher conference competition.

There are exceptions to this every season, though, and the Big Ten had its share of them this year. Those teams’ later downward spirals were about the only difference between the league again being the best in the country, and the consensus that it settled in a notch lower.
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Michigan is the clear class of the NIT Season Tip-Off

by - Published November 24, 2012 in Columns
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NEW YORK – Michigan made the most of its first trip to the NIT Season Tip-Off championship game, running away from Kansas State 71-57 to take home their first title. In so doing, they did exactly what they did to get to New York and looked like the clear class of the field.

Michigan has been almost unstoppable at the offensive end thus far, and Friday was no different. The Wolverines blitzed IUPUI and Cleveland State by 37 and 30 points, respectively. They have shot over 50 percent in all but one game thus far this season, shooting a still-pretty-good 46 percent against Pittsburgh on Wednesday. From long range, they have been lights out as well. In addition, they are less turning the ball over 10 times per game thus far.

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Harvard’s path to the elusive NCAA Tournament bid just got tougher

by - Published February 26, 2012 in Columns, Full Court Sprints
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Harvard is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious institution of higher learning. Many of the brightest young people grow up dreaming of attending the school, unless you’re like me and dreamed of going to MIT (or Cal Tech) because of engineering. The university has produced a number of high achievers in just about every field imaginable.

On the hardwood, it’s been a different story. Harvard has had seasons of 20 or more wins, and they’ve been to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament and NIT the past two seasons. But they have yet to get to the holy grail of college basketball, the NCAA Tournament. That has eluded them, including last year when they went to a one-game playoff against Princeton and lost on a buzzer-beating jumper in New Haven. And after Saturday night, they might be on a path to such a game once more, as Penn came to Lavietes Pavilion and stunned Harvard 55-54 on Senior Night.

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BracketBusters takes center stage once again

by - Published February 19, 2012 in Columns
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Every year, there is a lot of talk about how to make BracketBusters better, or if it should just go away entirely. While teams have undoubtedly benefited from it over the years of its existence, the feelings on it seem a bit mixed, and it’s debatable whether or not it has been good as a whole. Right now, it’s what we have, and on Saturday it was center stage.

Proponents have talked about teams getting an extra national television appearance for people to see them. They have also cited the chance to get an RPI boost. Certainly, some of the teams that have benefited can look back and argue that they would not have made the NCAA Tournament if not for a win in the BracketBusters, including Final Four teams from George Mason and VCU. … Continue Reading

Monson’s 49ers reap the rewards of a tough schedule

by - Published January 24, 2012 in Full Court Sprints
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If any team could claim to be battle-tested heading into conference play, it had to be Long Beach State.

The 49ers loaded up their nonconference slate with the likes of Kansas, North Carolina, San Diego State, Louisville and Xavier. The team struggled through many of those games, ending up with a 7-6 record heading into Big West play.

But don’t be fooled. The 49ers were more than competitive against the big boys, with single-digit losses on the road at San Diego State, Kansas and North Carolina. Plus, the 49ers beat Pittsburgh, Xavier and Auburn. None of those are particularly outstanding — the Xavier win came during the Musketeers’ tailspin following the brawl against Cincinnati. But in short, Dan Monson’s team learned how to win and how to believe in itself.

This team has taken that lesson and applied it well through the first seven games of Big West play. Long Beach State sits atop the conference standings with a 7-0 record, and only Cal Poly stayed within 10 points of the 49ers.

If Long Beach State can continue to plow through the Big West and claim an automatic to the NCAA Tournament, the 49ers should be a popular first-round upset pick. Their lack of hefty wins will prevent the team from earning a seed much higher than a No. 12 or 13 spot. But that just makes this team a sound pick to upset any No. 4 or 5 seed from a major conference on a neutral court.

The benefits of such a tough schedule might not show up in the win-loss columns immediately. But if Long Beach State goes 1-1 or 2-0 during the first weekend of March, that tournament success will be partially due to the team’s preparation early in the season.

We take you coast to coast with news from around the college basketball nation.

Murray State will get back leading rebounder Ivan Aska, who grabs 6.0 rpg and scores 12.6 ppg, for the team’s game against Eastern Illinois Saturday, according to the Associated Press.

Michigan could have big Jon Horford back for the Wolverines’ game against Purdue Tuesday, coach John Beilein told Wolverine Nation’s Chantel Jennings for ESPN.com. Horford has been out with a stress fracture since early December.

Arguably the most intense and spite-filled rivalry in the ACC, Maryland and Duke will clash for the first time this season Wednesday night in College Park. And the Terrapins will likely have freshman 7-footer Alex Len, even though he twisted his ankle during the Terps’ loss at Temple last weekend, according to the Washington Post’s Liz Clarke.

Of course, that’s no disrespect to the North Carolina vs. Duke rivalry. And this year, coach Roy Williams won’t have his best defender, Dexter Strickland, who tore his ACL in the team’s win against Virginia Tech Thursday, according ESPN.com’s Robbi Pickeral.

Arkansas coach Mike Anderson is considering adding a hometown hero to the Razorbacks squad, according to the Associated Press. Former Oklahoma State guard Fred Gulley has enrolled at Arkansas and plans to play for Anderson as a walk-on or scholarship player. He was a star high school basketball player in Arkansas before leaving the state to play for the Cowboys.

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan railed against the rule that allows graduated players to transfer and play immediately during a news conference Monday, writes Benjamin Worgull for Badger Nation.com.

Michigan State and Big Ten look for port during storm

by - Published November 11, 2011 in Columns

As college basketball officially starts its 2011-12 season, teams from the Big Ten place themselves right in the middle of the action.

As I am writing this, I am anxiously awaiting tip-off of the North Carolina vs. Michigan State game being played on the bow of the USS Carl Vinson in homage of Veterans Day. Regardless of the outcome, this is a very important game for college basketball and its relativity to America. … Continue Reading

Michigan Wolverines 2011-12 Preview

by - Published November 7, 2011 in Conference Notes

Michigan Wolverines (21-14, 9-9)

Lost in second round of the NCAA Tournament (Duke won 73-71).

Going into his fifth season in Ann Arbor, John Beilein looks to improve the Wolverines’ fourth-place finish in the Big Ten.

 

 

 

Projected starting five:

So. G Tim Hardaway Jr. (Scored 10+ points in 25 games in 2010-11)
Sr. G Stu Douglass (Will be the starting point guard in 2011-12 season)
Sr. G Zack Novak
So. F Evan Smotrycz
So. C Jordan Morgan (Finished 2010-11 season with a 62.7 field goal percentage)

Important departures:

Darrius Morris: 15.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 6.7 apg

Additions:

Fr. PF Max Bielfeldt (Rivals.com three-star player)
Fr. SG Carlton Brundidge (Rivals.com four-star player)
Fr. PG Trey Burke (Rivals.com three-star player)

Outlook:

The loss of Darius Morris will have the biggest impact on Michigan this season. Morris was the pipeline that the Michigan offense’s points flowed through. It will take the full ensemble of starters working together to make up for the lack of offensive presence that Morris brought. Hardaway will take on the role, but it must be a team effort if Michigan wants to get any further in the NCAA Tournament.

Schedule highlights:

A pre-Thanksgiving Day mingling with Memphis should let Michigan fans know whether this is a season to be excited about or a bubble-bound team that is destined to break their hearts.

Prediction: Fifth

Next: Michigan State Spartans
Back to Big Ten preview

Young Wolverines Can and Must Get Better

by - Published November 28, 2010 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – John Beilein knew he had a young team, and with his system the learning curve can be steep. The realities of that were driven home by this weekend, especially Saturday’s 65-56 loss to UTEP that saw them struggle in the second half against an athletic team.

The Wolverines were out-played in the first half, but managed to go into the locker room tied at 29. They shot just 36 percent from the field, but had just five turnovers and got to the line enough to be in that position. But in the second half, UTEP had all the energy and didn’t let Michigan get many second shots, winning the rebounding battle 40-31. Leading scorer Tim Hardaway, Jr. never got untracked, scoring just six points on 1-8 shooting. … Continue Reading

Big Ten Notebook: The Big Ten is Down? Not So Fast . . .

by - Published November 25, 2008 in Conference Notes

Who says the Big Ten is down? Through the first few weeks, the conference has one loss as a whole, and that loss was to Duke.

I admit, the competition isn’t of the highest level, and most of the games have been on Big Ten courts, but there aren’t the Division II losses or stunner upsets that have shown up this time of the season in years past. Does this mean the Big Ten will be represented heavily in the polls or send seven teams to the dance? Obviously not. But it may mean that the conference as a whole is rebounding from a couple of saggy years. The conference basement definitely won’t be as ugly this year, and early wins by the middle-tier teams are optimistic.

Some early season observations:

  • Apologies to Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas, but Penn State has the fastest backcourt in the conference. Sophomore Talor Battle looks like a potential all-league pick, averaging over 20 points per game. He’s shooting close to 60 percent from the field, has made 13 threes, and has committed just four turnovers. Stanley Pringle has similar numbers and may be faster end-to-end. They have been able to outrun their opponents thus far, and if that translates to the Big Ten season, the Nittany Lions could flirt with a winning conference season.
  • Michigan beat UCLA not with a Beilein barrage, but with its pesky 1-3-1 zone defense. The Bruins were perplexed all night, and the Wolverines made enough plays on offense to win. Manny Harris is my favorite player in the league – in four contests, he’s gotten to the free throw line 39 times and made 34. His aggressiveness will give teammates wide open looks from deep, and Harris is averaging 4.5 assists as well. Beilein has been bringing DeShawn Sims, the Wolverines’ best interior player, off the bench. He can provide an instant spark with his intensity and inside-outside game. They are a team to watch.
  • It hasn’t been the prettiest start in Bloomington, but Tom Crean has opened with a pair of wins at Indiana. They were clearly juiced for an opening night win over Northwestern State, but really struggled with IUPUI a few nights later. The inconsistency was to be expected, but if the Hoosiers don’t take better control of the ball (37 turnovers vs. 34 assists in the two games), the winning won’t last long. They face Notre Dame, Wake Forest and Gonzaga in their next four contests.
  • Purdue has a stronger grip on the ball. They’ve dished out 73 dimes in their three wins as opposed to 39 turnovers. The box scores tell a story of complete balance: no one is playing more than 26 minutes per contest, but nine are getting in for 13 minutes or more. Six players are averaging 8 or more points per game. What does that equal? Three wins by an average winning margin of over 28 points.
  • I have serious hot and cold concerns with Michigan State. They opened by crushing Idaho by 38, but were not impressive in a win against IPFW. The Spartans should dominate the acronym teams. They say a win is a win, but for a team projected to win the conference and challenge for a Final Four berth, a close win against IPFW almost seems like a loss.
  • It’s hard to judge after one game, but freshmen sensations B.J. Mullens and William Buford didn’t start on opening night for Ohio State. Buford still managed 13 points and Mullens seven, so I’m not concerned. If Thad Matta has enough confidence in Dallas Lauderdale and Jon Diebler, who started in place of the freshmen, Ohio State might be better than we think.
  • Mullens and Buford aren’t the only contributing freshmen. Iowa is being carried by them, and Anthony Tucker is leading the way. The outside specialist is 16-37 from long distance in four wins and averages a team-leading 16 points per game. Freshman backcourt mate Matt Gatens is averaging double figures as well and playing over 30 minutes a contest. Freshman big man Aaron Fuller is also starting and contributing for Todd Lickliter. Disclaimer: I do not expect these numbers to continue throughout the conference slate.
  • Also unblemished to this point: Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Northwestern.

Early Honor Roll

Best Win:

  • Michigan 55, UCLA 52. The Wolverines, as previously mentioned, held UCLA to 42 percent shooting and created 17 turnovers. That sounds more like a UCLA line than a Michigan one.
  • First Runner-Up: Illinois 69, Vanderbilt 63. The conference’s best road win.
  • Second Runner-Up: Northwestern 81, Central Arkansas 39. Why mention this sleeper? Did you think Northwestern could beat anyone by 42? Me neither, and Central Arkansas even has a win over UNC-Greensboro.

Biggest Scare:

  • Wisconsin 60, Iona 58 (OT). Since there’s been only one loss, a close win is the scariest it gets. I imagine the Badgers will play better next time.
  • First Runner-Up: Indiana 60, IUPUI 57. Acronym teams can hang with this year’s Hoosier squad, apparently.
  • Second Runner-Up: Minnesota 72, Colorado State 71. Would the Gophers have won if CSU’s best player, Marcus Walker, wasn’t hit by a car the day before?

Player of the Week:

  • Manny Harris, Michigan. 24 ppg, 6 rpg, 4.5 apg, 1.8 spg, 34-39 FTs
  • First Runner-Up: Talor Battle, Penn State. 20.5 ppg, 4.3 apg, 2 spg, 13-24 3s
  • Second Runner-Up: Raymar Morgan, Michigan State.

Line of the Week:

  • Craig Moore, Northwestern, 11/22 @ Brown.
    • 11-15 FG, 9-13 on 3s, 31 points. Broke his own school record with those nine treys.
  • First Runner-Up: Manny Harris, Michigan, 11/12 vs. Northeastern
    • 6-9 FG, 1-2 3s, 13-14 FTs, 26 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists. As efficient a game as one can play.
  • Second Runner-Up: Colton Iverson, Minnestoa, 11/15 vs. Bowling Green.
    • 6 points, 8 rebounds, 9 blocks. His blocks were more than half of the Gophers’ school record 17.
  • Third Runner-Up: Jermain Davis, Illinois, 11/17 vs. Texas-San Antonio.
    • 0-4 FG, 0-1 3s, 10-10 FT, 10 points. Encouraging that a guard gets to the line ten times and makes them all, even when the shots aren’t falling.

Notes From the 2K Sports Classic

by - Published November 24, 2008 in Columns

NEW YORK – The 2K Sports Classic to benefit Coaches vs. Cancer gave us some interesting insight. The coaches will tell you, and rightfully so, the season is a marathon not a sprint. Regardless, you want to start with a good rhythm and stride to weather the rough spots as the ‘race’ progresses.

Semifinals
Duke 83, Southern Illinois 58
Michigan 55, UCLA 52

Consolation
UCLA 77, Southern Illinois 60

Championship
Duke 71, Michigan 56

Duke – Claimed the championship but faced a challenge each night. The Blue Devils actually found the semifinal to be rather difficult. Southern Illinois battled gamely, enjoyed some early leads and kept within striking distance until ten minutes remained. At that point Duke went on a run to distance themselves from the Salukis.

“With Duke you know they will play hard, defend and take things away from you,” said Southern Illinois mentor Chris Lowery.

Duke received contributions both nights from sophomore Nolan Smith at the guard spot. Kyle Singler earned MVP honors with his 15-point, 8-rebound effort in the finals. Another bright spot, who can make inside play easier for Singler, was Brian Zoubek. The 7-1 junior center mixed it up inside and provided a nice presence on the blocks. His rebounding takes pressure off Singler inside. Zoubek also played a dual role against the Michigan zone, as he established himself down low and at times came high to receive a pass and look for cutters underneath.

Southern Illinois – If the game was 30 minutes, Chris Lowery’s club would have been in great condition. On both nights the Salukis were competitive and battling hard. Then the roof simply caved in and the respective contests each turned into a rout.

“We were tied with 8:48 to play,” Lowery said after the loss to UCLA. “For the second straight night we went into a meltdown. We missed assignments and had turnovers. We have some work to do to get there (put 40 minutes together).”

All was not lost for the Salukis, who left MSG 0-2. They earned respect of both opponents despite final scores that would suggest otherwise, and they showed some nice talent. Freshman point guard Kevin Dillard impressed and earned all-tournament honors. Carlton Fay, a 6-8 sophomore, operated inside and on the perimeter. Nick Evans, a 6-11 freshman, had a strong outing against Duke. And the nice thing about Lowery’s young talent, it will continue to get better and not leave Carbondale early for the NBA.

Michigan – Is there any doubt John Beilein is one of the best coaches in America? All the Michigan mentor does is prepare his teams extremely well and win, no matter where he is and with the same system he’s used through the coaching ranks. In the semifinals they gave UCLA fits with their 1-3-1 zone. The Bruins were guilty of 17 turnovers in that contest. Duke had more success against the 1-3-1 in the final. Still, Michigan was there. The problem was perimeter shots that fell in the semifinal, especially in the second half, did not against Duke. The looks were there for the Wolverines but the shooting percentage (35% against Duke) wasn’t.

Manny Harris was effective at the guard spot. DeShawn Sims, a 6-8 junior, is effective outside, in the paint and in transition. The Wolverines need someone to step up consistently to help the aforementioned pair. Freshman Stu Douglas shot well against UCLA (10 pts) but not against Duke(1 of 5 for 3 points).

UCLA – Ben Howland says this is a young team that has a ways to go. We believe him. They led by six in a slower paced game at the half against Michigan. The Wolverines then came out strong the second half, gained the lead in the stretch and closed it out.

For the Bruins Darren Collison was consistent both nights in the backcourt. Up front Alfred Aboya was relatively quiet against Michigan but came up big with a 22-point outing in the consolation. His contributions will be needed on a regular basis. Nikola Dragovic, a 6-9 junior, showed he’s not afraid to shoot, and hit, a few from the perimeter.

“This was a good experience for us,” Howland said following the consolation. “You are on the center stage at Madison Square Garden and we came off a long road trip.”

Collison hinted that the ultimate trip would be another Final Four.

“It’s a learning process where we want (the Final Four),” he said. “This is something we can learn from and build on.”

Other Notes

Preparation:  Back-to-back days in a tournament leave little time for preparation. John Beilein went over things Duke did, but focused more on his own team’s defensive and offensive execution. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski opted for a game day afternoon walk through.

“We prepare for all zones in pre-season,” Krzyzewski said. “The Michigan 1-3-1 is a little different so we came in (to MSG) and went over a few things for about an hour.”

It worked and their method of attack was evident from the first possession. The Blue Devils went inside to junior swingman Gerald Henderson (a threat in the paint or outside), and later attacked from the perimeter.

In the semis: Southern Illinois had 20 field goals to Duke’s 18 and lost by 25. A main reason was the charity stripe. Duke was 40-57 to the Salukis’ 12-19. Lowery took the high road in discussing the foul disparity, noting his team had themselves to blame.

“We didn’t help out and had poor defensive positioning especially the second half,” he said. “That is what got us into foul trouble.”

Beilein on the tournament: “We played four games and went 3-1 facing two top five teams. We are pleased. We (coaches) have young guys that learned a lot. We just have to put them in situations to get better.”

All-Tournament
Kyle Singler, Duke (MVP)
Kevin Dillard, Southern Illinois
Darren Collison, UCLA
Manny Harris, Michigan
Gerald Henderson, Duke

On The Baseline

  • The only school to bring a spirit group was UCLA, which brought 4 dance team members. Coach Molly Vehling was especially proud her alma mater, the one that traveled the farthest, was represented.   “Our kids (dance team) had a great time and saw a lot of New York,” Vehling said.  Following the consolation they took in Broadway. Which show? That’s easy: the Rockettes.
  • A crowd of 12,453 attended the final.

Avery Bradley Skills Academy

August 11-13, 2014 at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center.

More information is available by clicking here.

Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Also, keep track of players who have declared early for the NBA Draft.

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Conference Coverage

2013-14 Big Ten Post-Mortem

July 8, 2014 by

bigten

The Big Ten had some teams slip as the season went on, but plenty of others picked up the slack in another good year for the conference.

2013-14 Sun Belt Post-Mortem

July 7, 2014 by

sunbelt

Membership changes have been happening at quite a pace of late in the Sun Belt, and it was a new member that stole the show for much of this past season and seems poised to lead the way in the future.

2013-14 Big Sky Post-Mortem

July 1, 2014 by

bigsky

The teams that have led the way in the Big Sky of late were right there again this season. One of them won both the regular season and conference tournament, and also had a nice time with the post-season awards as well.

2013-14 MEAC Post-Mortem

July 1, 2014 by

meac

The 2013-14 season was N.C. Central’s year in the MEAC, as the Eagles completed their four-year ascent to the top of conference.

2013-14 Big 12 Post-Mortem

June 30, 2014 by

big12

When it comes to overall depth, the Big 12 this season may have been one of the strongest leagues in a long time. The conference sent seven of its 10 teams to the NCAA Tournament, the first time in 21 years and just the fifth time ever that a league sent 70% or more of its teams to the tourney.

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