Saturday, December 14, 2013

Shameless Self-Promotion Time: Arizona

Michigan took on No. 1 Arizona in chilly Ann Arbor this afternoon, looking to snag a huge resume-booster of a win. As usual, my post-game recap can be found at Maize n Brew.

Despite leading for most of the game, the Wolverines couldn't quite hold off the big, athletic Wildcats late in the game. Nik Stauskas had a chance to regain the lead for Michigan with under 20 seconds to play, but his jumper landed off the mark and the Wolverines ultimately fell, 72-70.

With the loss, Michigan fell to 6-4 on the season with two games remaining before the Jan. 2 Big Ten opener at Minnesota.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Michigan to face Kansas State in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl

Michigan now sets its sights on Tempe: the Wolverines will meet the Kansas State Wildcats in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl on Dec. 28, per all manner of beat reporters.

After seeing teams like Texas A&M, LSU and Georgia being thrown around as possible bowl opponents, Michigan ultimately drew the 7-5 Kansas State Wildcats.

Hopefully everyone's ready for a few weeks of jokes about how this game is going to go into quadruple OT because of BWW-related shenanigans.

In any case, I'll have more informative stuff up about this game between now and Dec. 28, either here or at Maize n Brew. For now, I will say that I'm actually a little more excited about this matchup than I thought I'd be.

A victory against KSU is a more realistic outcome than one against any of the potential opponents mentioned above would have been. Now, this Michigan team cannot be considered a lock to beat anyone --not this season-- but Michigan should have a good chance at finishing the season with an eighth win.

Additionally, if you're a fan of novelty, the Wolverines and Wildcats have never met on the gridiron.

The Wildcats limped out of the gate to a 2-4 start in 2013, beginning with an upset at the hands of North Dakota State (a strong program, to be sure, but still an upset). However, the Wildcats rebounded against the much weaker back end of the schedule, winning five of their last six games, including a victory at a then ranked Texas Tech (they were No. 25, but still).

Perhaps the offensive display Michigan put forth against the Buckeyes has me a little more excited than I ought to be about a Michigan bowl game on Dec. 28. Nonetheless, football is football, and Dec. 28 will be Michigan fans' last chance to watch the Wolverines in action until the spring game.

As always, it feels as if the season only just started. Unfortunately, it's almost over. True, it is a meaningless game. At the same time, it's a chance to watch Michigan play. That might not seem so appealing right now, but it will be once we hit the doldrums of summer baseball.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Elsewhere in the B1G: Wisconsin regains I-94 supremacy, holds off visiting Marquette

File photo

No. 8 Wisconsin 70, Marquette 64

For perhaps the first time all season, the new look, high-flying Badgers looked like the Wisconsin of old, scoring a 48-38 victory in Charlottesville on Wednesday. In the first half of this afternoon's game against the visiting 5-3 Marquette Golden Eagles, it appeared as if Bo Ryan's squad was in for another hammer fight of a basketball game. 

Hampered by foul trouble --Frank Kaminsky (2), Traveon Jackson (2) and Nigel Hayes (2)-- the Badgers, already thin in the front court, were forced to deploy backups Evan Anderson and Zach Bohannon. 

Even so, Marquette wasn't able to take advantage of UW's foul issues. Wisconsin got to the half up 28-25, paced by 13 points from sophomore Sam Dekker, including a monstrous dunk near the end of the half to energize the Kohl Center crowd. Despite sitting at 9-0 with a shiny top 10 ranking, this game meant a little something extra for the Badgers, who had lost two in a row to their in-state rivals (including a loss in the Kohl Center two years ago, ending a 23-game UW home winning streak). 

Unfortunately for Marquette, a violation of team rules sidelined 6-foot-3 junior guard Todd Mayo, MU's third leading scorer (10.0 ppg). Without him, the Golden Eagles found the offensive end tough sledding. F Davante Gardner managed nine points in the first half, but MU struggled to get much production elsewhere. 

As of six minutes into the second half, the Golden Eagles were shooting just 37.1 percent from the field (13-for-35); not quite as bad as MU's afternoon against Ohio State, but not good any way you slice it. 

In the face of questions regarding Wisconsin's defense --which has been good but not elite as it has typically been under Ryan-- the Badgers have put the clamps down this week against UVA and MU. Bo Ryan's squad has surprised some folks (myself included) with respect to its ability to push the pace this season, but this week has represented quite the return to the old style of Wisconsin basketball everyone has come to know. In case watching a Badgers squad execute in transition has been especially disorienting for you, it appears as if they may be returning to a more familiar style of play as we approach Big Ten play. 

The Badgers began to pull away in the opening 10 minutes of the second half, jumping to a 44-36 lead by the 12-minute mark. 

MU's Jamil Wilson buried a jumper to cut the lead to eight, putting himself in the double-digits in points (10), joining Gardner in that category. However, save for eight points from C Chris Otule, MU continued to get little else from the supporting cast. The five guards logging playing time for the Golden Eagles tallied just five points among them through 30 minutes. Against a team with a stacked back court like Wisconsin, it's difficult to be in a position to win with that sort of production (or lack thereof). 

The Badgers responded to Wilson's jumper with an alley oop dunk to Dekker, then a forced turnover on the defensive end. Wilson responded with two more points, and, as if on cue, Dekker nailed a triple from the corner on the heels of a loose ball situation. 

Like I said about the Michigan-Duke game on Tuesday, even when the score appears close by the box score, good teams provide a response when necessary, even if they aren't playing especially well overall. Playing at a place like the Kohl Center, that sort of auto-response from a home favorite can be demoralizing. 

It seemed as if MU would never string together a series of buckets and stops to make it a game; yet, somehow, the Badgers couldn't quite put them away. A 3-point play from MU's Otule cut the lead to six with 2:53 to play, giving the Golden Eagles real hope for the first time since the first half. 

The Golden Eagles got the stop they needed on the ensuing possession, then Wilson buried a triple from the right side, cutting the deficit to three. The positive feelings from that sequence, however, were short-lived. 

Once again, UW answered, this time with a Kaminsky triple from the top of the key. Wilson's 3-point attempt at the other end landed off the mark, ushering in the desperation fouling portion of the game. 

The Golden Eagles hung in the game far longer than it appeared like they should have. Regardless, the Badgers made more plays down the stretch than did Marquette, and that is, ultimately, what won the day for the still undefeated Badgers. 

With the the 70-64 victory, the Badgers moved to 10-0 on the season, an incredible start featuring several quality wins. In addition, the Badgers snapped a 2-game losing streak against their in-state rival. 

Wisconsin returns to the Kohl Center on Wednesday for what might be a tricky game against the 8-2 Milwaukee Panthers of the Horizon League. 

Meanwhile, Marquette falls to a disappointing 5-4 on the season, with four games remaining on its nonconference schedule. Buzz Williams' squad has some work to do if it is going to climb out of the bottom half of the standings in the new Big East. 

But, as all college basketball fans say following a loss at this point in the season: It's only December.

Michigan 107, Houston Baptist 53: Houston, You Have A Problem

No. 22 Michigan 107, Houston Baptist 53

Coming off of a 3-3 record in Michigan's last six games, a visit from Houston Baptist was perhaps just what the doctor ordered. 

However, after a particularly brutal loss at Duke, in which the Wolverines couldn't throw it in the ocean for most of the game, a sluggish start this afternoon against the 3-5 HBU Huskies was far from a surprise. 

The Huskies battled Michigan to a 9-9 tie early, but it was a productive opening few minutes for Mitch McGary, who scored five points --including a nifty free throw line jumper-- and an assist to Nik Stauskas. 

A Derrick Walton triple just over four minutes in gave the Wolverines a 12-9 lead, a lead which they held for the remainder of the game. 

Free from the stifling perimeter defense of Duke, the Wolverines rattled off a 3-for-5 mark from beyond the arc to start the game. The bad news? The Huskies started 3-for-3 themselves, not to mention a 7-for-7 from the field overall. The Huskies couldn't miss; but, one assumed that they wouldn't continue to hit those shots. 

A quick 8-2 run, including a pair of triples from Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III, extended the lead to 29-19. 

HBU's 2-3 zone did little to impede Michigan's quest for points; if they game were on ice, HBU's defense might have been called a sieve. The Wolverines dribbled through HBU's zone, shot over it and rendered it irrelevant by simply beating it down the floor in transition. 

The Huskies finished 7-for-14 from the field on the heels of their 7-for-7 start; ordinarily, 50 percent would be pretty good. Against Michigan, however, it meant going into the half down by 26, 60-34. 

Defense was optional in the first half, for both teams. Even so, unless you're John Beilein, it's difficult to be too upset about a half in which the Wolverines scored 60 points. 

Stauskas and Robinson led the way for Michigan with 17 and 14 points, respectively. Stauskas went 5-for-7 from 3-point land, with one his two misses, amusingly, being perhaps the best look of the seven attempts. 

The second half continued on like the first, save for one scary play that resulted in Mitch McGary on the floor in pain. McGary went up to block Cody Joyce's shot. Both Joyce and McGary crashed to the floor, and McGary's left leg buckled under him. 

After a harrowing 10 seconds or so, McGary got up and seemed to be fine. He tried to wave Beilein off, but McGary was forced to the bench, but not before he took the time to exhort the Maize Rage to make some noise, as if Michigan State or Ohio State were in Ann Arbor and not HBU. 

The second half was showtime for the Wolverines, with McGary leading the fast break time and time again. Without revisiting the tape, it's likely that McGary led more fast breaks in this game than did Walton. If Michigan were to start every position with a defensive rebound and a little momentum and some spacing, Mitch McGary, 6-foot-10 point guard, would be only a somewhat laughable notion. 

McGary finished with 12 points, nine rebounds, six assists, four steals and a block, a prolific afternoon for a guy who, more than any other Wolverine, simply needs minutes at this point. 

As always, level of competition caveats aside, this game once again showed how the Wolverines look much better when they can run. In a way, this is faint praise, as it an indictment of the Wolverines' half court offense. During Big Ten play, everyone knows that Michigan will need to convert on a much greater percentage of its half court sets if they are going to be anything better than 9-9 or 10-8 in conference play. 

Beilein got the walk-ons in the game with a few minutes remaining, and the Wolverines cruised to a 107-53 victory, moving to 6-3 on the season. Michigan next hits the Crisler Center floor next Saturday against what will likely be a No. 1 in the country Arizona squad. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Elsewhere in the B1G: Bo Ryan lands 300th win, Badgers win slugfest in Charlottesville

No. 8 Wisconsin 48, Virginia 38

Playing four of six games on the road last night, the Big Ten finished the first night of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge with a 2-4 record. Tonight, four B1G squads enjoy a home court advantage, but not the No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers, who headed to Charlottesville for a tough matchup against Tony Bennett's UVA squad. 

As Michigan fans know from the Wolverine basketball team's trip to John Paul Jones Arena two years ago, that is a tough place to play, especially against a team as defensively sound as the Cavaliers. Many people, including myself, have made this observation, but the Cavaliers would be a perfect fit in the Big Ten. 

Despite losing a trio of important frontcourt players, the Badgers have jumped out to an 8-0 record, the best start UW's had during the Bo Ryan era. 

Although the Badgers have shown an ability to push the pace this season in a way that can only be deemed uncharacteristic of your average Ryan team, tonight's game against UVA would assuredly be a stereotypical Big Ten slugfest, neither fast nor aesthetically pleasing. 

Predictably, the first half was just that, as the two squad found themselves tied at 16-all with six minutes to play in the first half.

Somehow, the Cavaliers were down just 19-15 with 3:38 to play in the half despite not having scored a field goal in almost 10 minutes. It was that sort of half for both teams. On several occasions, the Badgers' swing offense failed to generate anything, resulting in a last second of the shot clock airballed three. 

Even so, Frank Kaminsky came to play, as has usually been the case for him thus far this season. In the opening frame, Kaminsky scored seven points and hauled in nine rebounds. UW went into the half up 25-20, a lead that felt positively insurmountable.  

Then again, UVA had to feel good about being down by only five given that they didn't make a basket for 10 minutes. With that said, another half like that for the Cavs would mean one more win in the Big Ten's Challenge total. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

NIT Season Tip-Off Final Observations: Arizona 72, Duke 66

Fouad Egbaria

For those with unrealistic expectations, Michigan's 5-2 start to the season could be considered a disappointment. However, when tethered to reality and understanding the difficulties of breaking in a new point guard --not to mention replacing a player of Trey Burke's caliber, not to mention Tim Hardaway Jr., who is having a solid start to his NBA career in New York-- then perhaps such a start is not so surprising. 

With that said, if Michigan is planning on entering the Big Dance with a decent seed, they will need to grab a big non-conference win or two before entering what should once again be a brutal Big Ten slate. Fortunately for the Wolverines, Duke and Arizona (and even Stanford, to a lesser extent), present the Wolverines with that opportunity. 

I was lucky enough to attend Friday NIT Tip-Off final between Duke and Arizona at Madison Square Garden, so I figured this would be a good space to kill two birds with one stone with some of my observations on both teams. 


First, a general outline of the game itself is probably in order. After sitting through the triple overtime Alabama-Drexel game, the first half of Duke-Arizona provided an enormous step up in the speed and level of play. The Blue Devils and Wildcats battled it out in what was an incredibly entertaining first half of basketball, one in which the largest lead was only five (11-6, Duke). 

Duke went into the half up, 36-33, with eight points from Jabari Parker in the half's final five minutes (he finished the first half with 10). Brandon Ashley led the Wildcats at the half with 11 points of his own. 

A Quinn Cook three six minutes into the second half gave Duke a 43-37 lead, its largest of the game. Sitting in MSG, however, you got the sense that if Duke got a stop and scored again, things might start to get out of hand. 

Luckily for Sean Miller U of A squad, a dunk and an Aaron Gordon three a minute later cut the lead to one, and it was back to being the tight game it had been all along. 

The Wildcats kept rolling, rattling of a 12-2 run that eventually gave them a 4-point lead with 8:16 remaining. The pressure was then squarely on Duke's shoulders, but especially Parker's, who had only scored two points in the second half to that point (from the free throw line). 

Rodney Hood, by far Duke's best player on Friday, pitched in an and-1 to cut the lead to one, but the Wildcats kept pushing, this time with an 8-0 run to gain a 57-48 lead, ultimately the knockout punch, with about six and a half minutes to play. 

Hood answered the call again, this time burying a shot from beyond the arc, but Duke couldn't defend the paint, allowing consecutive Arizona dunks. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Shameless Self-Promotion Time: Puerto Rico Tip-Off Reaction

The Michigan Wolverines traveled to San Juan to compete in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, where they advanced to the tournament final before being knocked off by Charlotte on Sunday, 63-61.

I compiled some scattered thoughts and observations into a reaction post over at Maize n Brew. In short, it's November: there is no reason to panic at this point, even with a loss against a non-name brand team like Charlotte. After all, look at North Carolina. Last week they lost to Belmont at home, only to go on to beat No. 3 Louisville on Sunday.

In any case, Michigan still has a few more opportunities to notch quality non-conference wins (Duke, Arizona, Stanford) before the Big Ten opener on Jan. 2 at Minnesota.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Elsewhere in the B1G: Sloppy play late derails Gophers comeback bid against No. 8 Syracuse

Minnesota 67, No. 8 Syracuse 75

Under first year head coach Richard Pitino, the Minnesota Golden Gophers have jumped out to a 5-0 start; however, against No. 8 Syracuse, the Gophers faced by far their toughest test yet in the quarterfinal round of the EA Sports Maui Invitational. 

Syracuse, meanwhile, headed into tonight's game with a perfect mark of its own (4-0), having most recently played a week ago against St. Francis (NY), only a 6-point victory in the Carrier Dome. 

Facing the Orangemen's 2-3 zone, Andre and Austin Hollins would need to make shots from the outside; coming into tonight's game, they had shot 35 percent and 36 percent from downtown, respectively. 

Things didn't look good for the Gophers early, as Syracuse jumped out to a 7-0 lead in just over a minute of play. However, the Gophers rallied, eventually taking a 15-14 lead at the 13:03 mark. Additionally, Andre Hollins buried his first two triples of the game, a good sign for a team looking to attack Jim Boeheim's 2-3 zone. 

Despite SU's top 10 ranking, the Gophers appeared equal to the challenge, as both teams combined to play an exciting first half that ended with the Orangemen taking a 39-36 lead into the locker room. The Gophers shot 6-for-11 from three in the first half (54.5 percent) and held SU to just 38.2 percent from the field. 

However, 12 turnovers in the first half alone --three from each Hollins-- didn't allow the Gophers to pull ahead. 

On the other hand, SU sophomore G Trevor Cooney attempted eight of his team's nine first half 3-point attempts, converting four of them. Minnesota would have to do a better job on Cooney in the second half in order to come away with a big non-conference upset win. 

Even more importantly, the Gophers would have to do a better job on the glass. In the first half, the Orangemen rebounded 10 of their 21 misses, good for an impressive offensive rebounding percentage of 47.6 percent. 

Unfortunately for Pitino, C Elliott Eliason went into the half with two fouls; he would need to avoid a quick 4th in the second half if the Gophers were going to prevent SU from continuing their domination of the boards on the offensive end. 

Shameless Self-Promotion Time: Iowa

As always, my recap of Saturday's game went up at Maize n Brew this morning.

In short, whatever happens against Ohio State and in the bowl game, Michigan is looking at its biggest offseason in several years. Whether that includes coaching turnover or not, 2014 will prove to be a crucial season for a program that has trended downward since the 11-2 season two years ago.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Elsewhere in the B1G: Au Revoir, Gopher

Photo credit: Michael Hicks

No. 25 Minnesota 7, No. 19 Wisconsin 20

When James White reeled off a 49-yard run on Wisconsin's first play of the game, Gophers fans had to be thinking one thing: Here we go again.

The No. 25 Minnesota Gophers met its cross-divisional rival, No. 19 Wisconsin, looking to keep Paul Bunyan's Axe for the first time since 2003. A week after James White ran for a 93-yard score on Wisconsin's first play against Indiana, it seemed like the Badgers were poised to run all over yet another Big Ten foe.

The Gophers proved their mettle after that initial burst from White, however, holding the Badgers to a field goal and then forcing them to go punt on their next two drives. Meanwhile, the Minnesota offense struggled to get going; luckily for them, the defense provided the first touchdown score of the afternoon for either team.

Faced with a 3rd & 6 from UW's 36, QB Joel Stave tossed an interception to Aaron Hill, who took it to the house for six. For a heavy underdog, that play was exactly what the Gophers needed to make it to halftime with life.

With that said, the Gophers failed to stay on the positive side of the turnover ledger in the first half. The Gophers lost a fumble on the first play of the second quarter, then another on a promising drive into UW territory. Following the latter turnover, the Badgers drove down to the Minnesota 1-yard line, where White punched it in to regain the lead.

Nelson later committed an intentional ground penalty, ultimately leading to a Wisconsin drive starting at the Minnesota 49. Once again, the Minnesota defense flexed its muscles, holding the Badger offense to a field goal after it had gotten all the way down to the Gopher 2-yard line.

Heading into the half down 13-7, the Gophers had to be mostly pleased with the first 30 minutes of football in TCF Bank Stadium. Whether the Gophers could ride those good feelings to an upset victory depended on the offense's ability to grind out long drives, just like they've done throughout their 4-game winning streak.

Michigan 21, Iowa 24: It Tolls For Thee

Michigan 21, Iowa 24

Photo credit: Alan Light

Fresh off an overtime win in Evanston that was two parts ugly and one part dogged resilience, the Michigan Wolverines hit the road again, this time for the record-setting cold of Iowa City, looking for their first consecutive road wins in the Brady Hoke era. 

The Hawkeyes last took the field on Nov. 9, when they dispatched the Purdue Boilermakers with ease at Ross-Ade Stadium, 38-14, their best performance since pasting the Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium back in September. 

The Wolverines came into Saturday a 6-point underdog against the 6-4 (3-3) Hawkeyes. In previous years, Michigan fans might have looked at a line like that with significant skepticism, but this is not like any other season. For the Wolverines to move to 8-3 heading into The Game, anything less than their best game would likely result in a loss. Michigan's much-discussed road woes did not bode well for them at Kinnick Stadium, a place they had not won since their overtime victory there in 2005. 

On Iowa's first offensive play of the game, QB Jake Rudock rolled to his right, where he was met by Jake Ryan. Ryan walloped the sophomore quarterback as he released, leading to a fluttering ball that Brennen Beyer snagged and took to the end zone untouched, giving Michigan an early 7-0 lead. 

The Hawkeyes missed a field goal on their second drive, but started their third with good field position at the Michigan 45 following Michigan's second three and out in as many drives. Iowa drove down to the end zone in seven plays, capped by a 5-yard touchdown pass to a diving CJ Fiedorowicz.

The game continued on like a record scratching every time Michigan got the ball. The offense went three-and-out again, and Matt Wile's short punt again allowed the Hawkeyes to start in Michigan territory. This time, the defense held when Iowa elected to go for it on 4th & 5.

Later, after Kevonte Martin-Manley backtracked on a punt return, getting himself hogtied at the Iowa 3, Blake Countess reeled in the Michigan defense's second interception of the first half.

The Wolverines found themselves with a 2nd & goal from the Iowa 2-yard line. Gardner play action faked and rolled back to his right. He carried the ball about as far as he could, seemingly with the intent to run it in or take the loss, before finding a wide open A.J. Williams in the end zone with an unorthodox flip pass. The touchdown was Williams' first career reception, and it came at a great time for a Michigan offense that struggled mightily in the first half.

The offense finally woke up on its final drive of the first half. Starting from the Iowa 47, a couple timely completions through the air and some nifty running by Gardner moved Michigan down to the Iowa 4. On third & goal from the 9 --after a 5-yard penalty on Kyle Kalis-- Gardner launched a strike to an open Jeremy Gallon a yard deep in the end zone, giving Michigan a 21-7 lead.

The Wolverines lapsed in kickoff coverage, however, allowing a 60-yard return that eventually yielded a field goal opportunity. Iowa's field goal struggles continued, however, as the holder couldn't put the ball down cleanly, not even allowing Mike Meyer a shot to kick it. Michigan went into the half up 21-7 despite having been outgained 170-113.

The turnover margin (+3 for Michigan) was the difference in the first half; for Michigan to hold on, they would have to avoid the swinging pendulum of regression in the second act.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Shameless Self-Promotion Time: Florida State

While Michigan fans debate the aesthetics of an 8-win football season version a 7-win one, the basketball team is in San Juan competing in what might be the strangest early season tournament in some time, with VCU, Georgetown and Kansas State all being upset in the first round.

As such, the Wolverines drew Florida State for their semifinal matchup. Michigan struggled for most of the game; the Seminoles built their lead to 16 at one point in the second half.

However, the tide turned in Michigan's favor. The Wolverines rallied back from that deficit to take the game to overtime, where they won, 82-80. As usual, I recapped the game over at Maize n Brew.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

No. 7 Michigan 70, Iowa State 77: Hilton Magic

No. 7 Michigan 70, Iowa State 77

The pace in the first half was exactly as advertised: lightning fast, a speed which seemed to become augmented by the sheer loudness of the Hilton Coliseum.

Iowa State got on the board first, but Michigan's hot shooting in the first minutes propelled it to a 22-13 lead almost halfway through the first half. The Wolverines couldn't miss, but that deadeye shooting came to an abrupt end, as the Wolverines went on to go scoreless for about four and half minutes of play.

Iowa State dominated Michigan on the boards in the first half, especially Melvin Ejim, who scored 12 points and reeled in five boards in the opening 20 minutes.

Mitch McGary's return to the floor was almost as successful as Ejim's. McGary took a couple of minutes to find himself, but, once he did, he did all of the things that made him a big name at the end of last season. The sophomore led Michigan with 8 points on 4-of-6 shooting in the first half, including a slick finish in transition.

Down 35-34 at the half, Michigan would need to do some combination of the following: 1) Check Ejim 2) Start hitting the 3-point shot again 3) Continue hitting up the pick and roll for easy buckets.

The Hilton Coliseum sounded like it was emitting the fiendish roar of a fleet of fighter jets, and one can only imagine what it sounded like to freshman point guard Derrick Walton Jr., who committed a pair of turnovers in the first half.

Keyed by its defense, the Wolverines went on a 9-0 run early in the second half, including a thunderous Glenn Robinson III dunk in transition. Of course, it would only take one big play from the Cyclones to wake up the crowd, but the run was an encouraging sign for a Wolverine squad that struggled to end the first half.

Nik Stauskas slammed home a monstrous dunk at the 8:53 mark, a moment brought to you by Not Just A Shooter Inc. However, Ejim anwered from downtown at the other end.

Michigan continued to stay a bucket or two ahead, but also continued to have no answer for Ejim, who had 22 with just under eight minutes left in the game.

A 10-0 Cyclone run gave them a 5-point lead with just over five minutes to play. Michigan was scuffling on the offensive end, and the pace was leading to some questionable decisions with the ball.

Michigan drew within one late after a Stauskas three and an assist to Robinson for an easy layup. However, Caris LeVert, matched up against Georges Niang, got beat on the low block for a pair of crushing buckets.

Without Trey Burke to save the day, Michigan had to start firing from beyond the arc; unfortunately, the shots did not fall when it counted.

In truth, this was a difficult game for Michigan to win if you had ignored the Wolverines' shiny No. 7 ranking. Iowa State can play, especially at home.

What is actually somewhat concerning is that Michigan was beaten on the boards far too often despite having a size advantage; that will be emphasized in practice in the coming week, I'm sure.

Mitch McGary was also mostly shut down in the second half, but that's probably to be expected from a guy getting his first minutes of the season. Barring any injury-related setbacks, McGary should be rounding into form by the time Michigan begins its Big Ten schedule on Jan. 2 at The Barn.

A loss is a loss. With that said, Michigan's young players gained a valuable bit of experience playing against solid competition in a difficult environment. That might not be what Michigan fans want to hear right now, but, as always, it's March that counts, not November.

The first loss is always tough. However, the good thing for this young Michigan squad is that a college basketball season is a marathon, not a sprint.

Big Ten Basketball Weekend Roundup

While Michigan fans were busy sweating out a triple overtime victory against Northwestern, several Big Ten basketball squads were in action yesterday, all four scoring victories of varying significance. Of course, the Wolverines face off against Iowa State later today in Ames.

Here's what happened around the Big Ten yesterday:

No. 20 Wisconsin 69, Green Bay 66

The Badgers jumped on US-151 yesterday and headed for Ashwaubenon, Wis., where they faced the Green Bay Phoenix of the Horizon League.

Bo Ryan's squad went down 15-9 early, but the Badgers pulled into the half with a 34-29 lead after averaging 1.14 points per possession. Sam Dekker led UW in the first half with eight points on 4-of-6 from the field. Josh Gasser bounced back from a scoreless Florida outing to put up seven points in the first half.

The Phoenix not only hung around in the second half, they owned a 4-point lead with just over 10 minutes left to play. Green Bay guard Keifer Sykes killed the Badgers all game, finishing the night with 32 points.

However, a 10-0 run by the Badgers put them up 60-54 with six minutes left to play, a lead they would not relinquish. Frank Kaminsky, not known for his play down low, came up big late in the game with several big baskets from the post. Kaminsky logged a double-double on the night (16 points, 11 rebounds).

Possibly Kaminsky's biggest play of the game came with four seconds remaining and the Badgers up 68-66. After Traevon Jackson split a pair of free throws, UW-GB had the chance to tie or take the lead. Sykes drove hard to the rim, but Kaminsky helped, swatted the shot and corraled the rebound. Kaminsky went on to also split a pair of free throws at the other end, giving Sykes once last chance at a desperation three.

The shot at the buzzer landed just off the mark, allowing the Badgers to escape with a victory that was probably much closer than they expected it to be. UW-Green Bay will be a team to watch in the Horizon League going forward (and come March Madness, should they make the field).

No. 10 Ohio State 52, No. 17 Marquette 35 

The football team was busy notching its 22nd victory in a row, a 60-35 victory at Illinois. Meanwhile, the basketball team notched a victory with a nearly identical score, which should be a pretty solid indicator of the type of basketball team Thad Matta has this year. They'll have to find more scoring as the year goes on, but that defense is nasty. 

Marquette shot an abysmal 18.9% from the field. Shannon Scott and Aaro Craft led the Buckeyes with 13 and 10 points, respectively; F Sam Thompson pitched in 13 from the bench. LaQuinton Ross, however, who had himself a nice tournament run this past March, went 0-of-6 from the field and scored zero points. 

It wasn't the most aesthetically pleasing game of all time, but a win against a ranked Marquette team, in Milwaukee, will likely end up a quality victory come tournament time. 

Penn State 83, Penn 71

The Nittany Lions lost the second half by 11 points; luckily for them, they went into halftime up by 23. In case you didn't already know, Tim Frazier is back: he scored 29 points on 9-of-13 shooting. Frazier also added seven assists, but did cough up six turnovers. 

Penn State is now 2-1 on the season. 

Minnesota 74, Richmond 59

Richard Pitino's Minnesota squad also hit the road on Saturday, traveling to Richmond's Robins Center. The Gophers jumped out to an early 12-0 lead but went into the half up just 40-37. 

From there, the game was fairly even for the first 13 minutes or so of the second half. The Spiders went up 59-55 with 7:25 to play, but the Gophers surged ahead with a 19-0 run to close the game. Andre Hollins paced the Gophers with 26 points; Austin Hollins, Malik Smith and Joey King also cracked double-digits. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Michigan 27, Northwestern 19: Near Death Experiences

Evanston, Ill. (file photo)

Michigan headed to Evanston looking to avoid its first 3-game losing streak during the Brady Hoke era. Meanwhile, Northwestern looked to snap its calamitous 5-game losing streak, both for pride's sake and the opportunity to get one win closer to bowl eligibility (with two more remaining on the schedule).

Things started off well for the Wolverines on offense, powering down the field with Derrick Green, De'Veon Smith and some quick passing for a 12-play, 63-yard field goal drive. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, that's about where the first half offensive success ended.

Northwestern answered with a long field goal drive of its own to tie it, and added another one at the end of the first half to go up 6-3.

Michigan was not exactly impressive on the ground, but they were in the black this time, rushing for 40 yards in the first half; baby steps, as they say.

Once again, the Wolverine defense performed admirably as the offense floundered, giving up six first half points and just 2.8 yards per carry.

Michigan was fortunate to enter the half down just 6-3, as Devin Gardner tossed several passes that were nearly intercepted, with at least one of them looking like good bets to be returned for six.

As has typically been the case, the Wolverines were completely helpless on third and long situations. For whatever reason, Michigan seemed to go away from Green and Smith in the second quarter despite having success with them early in the game.

The Michigan defense bent to start the second half but did not break, eventually forcing a punt after a well-defended third down option play. Now, it was Al Borges's turn to dial up the offensive equivalent of a timely blitz, with about 27 minutes between Michigan and a 6-4 record.

Elsewhere in the B1G: Badgers steamroll Hoosiers in the rain 51-3, White runs to career day

File photo (obviously)

Recent history indicated that the Badgers would roll through the Hoosiers with ease today at Camp Randall Stadium: in their last three meetings, Wisconsin has defeated Indiana by a combined score of 204-41.

But, facing an Indiana offense that has scored points against everyone --including 28 against Michigan State-- this game, on paper, presented a tricky test for a Badgers squad coming off a tough victory against a good BYU team last week. With Ohio State unlikely to lose a game (let alone two), the Badgers likely weren't headed for the Big Ten title game for a third time in as many years.

However, a BCS at-large bid remained a possibility. One way for the Badgers to continue their rise up the BCS rankings was, quite simply, to score a lot of points. As dynamic as the Indiana offense is, the IU defense could be most generously described as "malleable."

The first minute proved to be an eventful one. Indiana received the ball to start the game and drove down to the Wisconsin 45, where Nate Sudfeld had a wildly inaccurate deep ball --its trajectory seemingly altered by the wind and rain-- picked by Sojourn Shelton. On Wisconsin's first play, James White romped up the middle of the field untouched for a 93-yard touchdown score (the 44th of his career).

On the next drive, Sudfeld and tailback Stephen Houston botched a handoff, which Wisconsin's Brendan Kelly recovered at the Indiana 14. A few plays later, Melvin Gordon waltzed into the end zone with ease to  put the Badgers up 14-0 three minutes into the game.

The rain kept falling on the Hoosiers, literally and figuratively.

On the next IU drive, Sudfeld mishandled a shotgun snap, which resulted in a 3rd & 23, effectively killing the drive then and there. It's understandable for an up-tempo team like Indiana to maybe have some issues playing in the rain; nonetheless, it seemed as if the Hoosiers had never played in inclement weather before today.

After starting from their own 43 yard line, the Badgers drove down to the IU 13, met with a 3rd & 2. Somewhat surprisingly, the Hoosiers stuffed the White run for no gain, leading to just a Jack Russell field goal for UW.

Despite that small victory, the Hoosiers were down 17-0 with 6:25 left in the first quarter while having shown little ability to hold onto the ball in the cold November rain.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Shameless Self-Promotion Time: Iowa State Preview

Although Michigan fans have a football game to get through first tomorrow, the Wolverine basketball team will head to Iowa State on Sunday for what should be a credible early season test. I previewed that game over at Maize n Brew: go take a look.

The Cyclones are without F Melvin Ejim, but they still have plenty of offensive firepower. Michigan will have its hands full attempting to check Naz Long and Georges Niang, not to mention transfers DeAndre Kane and Dustin Hogue.

Sunday's game at the Hilton Coliseum in Ames tips off at 5:00 ET on ESPN2.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Elsewhere in the B1G: Badgers avenge 2012 loss, down No. 11 Florida 59-53

Fouad Egbaria (file photo)

With two matchups between top 5 teams going on elsewhere in America, this meeting between the Gators and Badgers didn't get as much attention as it should have. 

Despite being short-handed on account of a trio of suspensions, the Gators jumped out to an 7-2 lead thanks to Casey Prather and Kasey Hill. A couple of minutes later, a pair of Michael Frazier triples upped the UF lead to 13-4 early, as the Wisconsin offense was rudderless in the early stages. 

Wisconsin's excellent 3-point shooting from the St. John's game didn't carry over to his one; the Badgers started 0-of-5 from downtown.

Yet another triple from Frazier forced a Bo Ryan timeout. Down 16-4, the Badgers were in danger of getting run out of the gym. Sam Dekker stemmed the tide, hitting triples on consecutive possessions, the second in the secondary break facilitated by Traevon Jackson. Having cut the deficit to just six, the crowd, which had been eerily silent to that point, made sure it was heard. 

Although it's difficult to argue that the Badgers won't be a decidedly backcourt-oriented team this season, freshman forward Nigel Hayes put forth an encouraging opening 10 minutes or so, scoring six points on 3-of-4 shooting. 

UF got everything it wanted on the offensive end, as the Badgers couldn't figure out how to defend the ball screen. Wisconsin tightened up defensively as the half went along, allowing them to fight their way back into it as the game neared halftime. 

They fought so hard that they actually found themselves up, 29-26, following a 13-2 run at the end of the half. 

Elsewhere in the B1G: Wisconsin looks for revenge, Michigan State squares off against No. 1 Kentucky

If you haven't noticed, I've been writing a decent bit about non-Michigan things here of late. As we head into basketball season, I'm going to try to expand my writing here to nudge this place toward general interest material, particularly with respect to college basketball. There's a lot of great stuff happening out there in the world of sports, and there's no point limiting myself to writing only about Michigan. 
While Michigan squares off against another overmatched opponent tonight at the Crisler Center, a pair of big games featuring Big Ten squads are on the docket tonight as the Tip-Off Marathon draws to a close. Wisconsin draws Florida at the Kohl Center, while Tom Izzo's Spartans get No. 1 Kentucky at the United Center in Chicago.

So, let's start with the Badgers:

No. 20 Wisconsin vs. No. 10 Florida--Kohl Center, Madison, Wis. (9:00 ET, ESPN2)

Fouad Egbaria

The Badgers scored a solid victory against an athletic St. John's squad in Sioux Falls on Friday; they'll look to build on that tonight as Bill Donovan's squad comes to the Kohl Center. 

Of course, there's not much here yet. The Gators have played one game, an uninspiring (by the box score) 77-69 victory against North Florida on Friday. Senior forward Casey Prather led the way with 28 points on 10-of-15 shooting; Prather also pulled down eight boards. 

Freshman point guard Kasey Hill scored 15 points of his own (5-of-9 shooting), plus four assists, two steals, a block and two turnovers. 

North Florida's frontcourt seemed to have some success against their Gator counterparts. Forward Travis Wallace scored 15 and 6'11'' center Romelo Banks pitched in 10 of his own. The Gators did force 17 UNF turnovers, but the Ospreys did also pull down 13 offensive boards, good for an ORB% of 34%. 

Most years, this would be big for a frontcourt-oriented Badgers squad; however, as I've noted here before, Bo Ryan's squad will be powered by its backcourt this season, until younger options, like freshmen forwards Vitto Brown and Nigel Hayes, get some seasoning. Frank Kaminsky is Wisconsin's only experienced big guy, but he is more of a shooter than a true low post warrior. 

The Badgers took their worst loss of the season last season against Florida down in Gainesville, a 76-54 loss almost a year ago on Nov. 14. There's no question that the Badgers will be looking to avenge that loss in front of a raucous Kohl Center crowd. 


On the bright side for UW, despite Florida's currently shiny ranking, this Gator squad is probably not as good as it was last year. Erik Murphy, Kenny Boyton and Mike Rosario are gone, and the Gators are also dealing with a trio of suspensions

At that link is a solid Q&A between SB Nation's Bucky's 5th Quarter and Alligator Army; as noted there, Prather and Hill will represent the bulk of UF's offensive firepower, especially Prather. 

Senior forward Patric Young (who is actually listed at center despite only being 6'9'') will be key for the Gators' chances tonight, particularly given the unsettled nature of the Badgers frontcourt. Florida will need much more than the two point, two rebound effort Young pitched in against UNF. 

Forward Will Yeguete and guard DeVon Walker round out the starting five for UF; they went a combined 1-of-6 from the field against UNF. Yeguete had himself a nice game against Michigan in the Elite 8 last season, going 5-of-5 from the field for 13 points. 

As for the Badgers, Frank Kaminsky, Josh Gasser, Ben Brust, Traevon Jackson and Sam Dekker should once again comprise the starting five. Gasser's post-injury debut against St. John's was wildly successful, scoring 19 points on 3-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc and 8-of-8 from the charity stripe. 

With Ryan Evans no longer on the roster, production from the low post might be hard to find for the Badgers this season. However, with Brust and Gasser shooting well, and Dekker filling it up as he is wont to do, the perimeter game should more than make up for it most nights. 

Points of Emphasis
  • In that vein, how do the Badgers respond if their shots aren't falling and they can't find opportunities in transition? This game should provide a good test in that regard. 
  • Who checks Patric Young? The odds are good that Young won't be held to just two points again tonight. Can Kaminsky and the young forwards, Hayes and Brown, slow him down?
  • According to Andy Hutchins of Alligator Army, UF's perimeter defense has been "almost embarrassingly bad" thus far. The Badgers should get some good looks. For all of the advanced stats that now exist to dissect the game of college basketball, it always comes down to simply making shots. 

Ken Pomeroy predicted a 65-63 UW victory with 57 percent confidence. He's a smart guy, and I tend to agree with him. If the Gators were at full strength, maybe this would be different, but with the Badgers playing at the fortress that is the Kohl Center, I think they shoot well enough to keep a depleted UF squad in check. I agree that both teams will land in the 60s, but I think the Badgers win by a few more points than Kenpom thinks. 

Score: Wisconsin 68, Florida 61. 

And with that, I'll move on to the main event of the night: No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 2 Michigan State. 

Preview: South Carolina State

No. 9 Michigan once again takes the Crisler Center hardwood tonight, this time against 1-1 South Carolina State. This is Michigan's final tuneup game before hitting the road on Sunday to take on Fred Hoiberg's Iowa State squad in Ames; even without senior forward Melvin Ejim, ISU should be a tough test. 

Nonetheless, there's not much use in going too in depth for a game like this, especially so early in the season. So, I'll talk a little SCSU personnel then move on to some miscellaneous Michigan-centric thoughts.

South Carolina State has played two games, at Marshall and St. Andrews, the latter which I'm pretty sure could be a school I played against in high school.

The Bulldogs --of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference-- lost at Marshall, 85-69, a game in which they were fairly competitive for a while. Then again, that probably isn't saying much, as Marshall finished just 13-19 last season.

In their second game, the Bulldogs hosted St. Andrews and won in overtime, 59-55. As always at this point in the season, neither of these things means anything. Then again, you typically don't need contextual evidence to know that South Carolina State is probably not very good vis-a-vis even the worst major conference teams.


Based on box scores alone, senior forward Matthew Hezekiah seems to be SCSU's best player. He scored 19 and 17 in his first two games while shooting 69.6% from the field.

Speaking of the Marshall game, due to some foul trouble the Bulldogs ended up playing 15 (!) different guys. That is incredible. Unfortunately for SCSU, Hezekiah was the only one to get in the double-digits in points.

Against St. Andrews, senior guard Adama Adams scored on 6-of-9 shooting (3-of-5 from beyond the arc). Barring some of the other guys on the roster getting a hold of Michael Jordan's "Secret Stuff," these two will likely be the only scoring threats.

Points of Emphasis

  • This is another bad team: can Michigan avoid a first half case of the Mondays? Not that it even matters if they don't, but consistency is nice. 
  • With Mitch McGary still out, can Glenn Robinson III continue to find ways to make himself a focal point of the offense i.e. to "hunt" for his shots? As has been discussed over and over again this offseason regarding his game, this is no longer the year of the putback/dunk for GRIII; he will now be expected to create. 
  • Can Michigan get out in transition early? UMass-Lowell did a good job of shutting down Michigan's fast break game by simply getting back on defense with alacrity. 
  • Derrick Walton watch: How does he look on the pick and roll? How about from three-point land? Can he learn from his relatively few mistakes thus far, i.e. last game's traveling call in transition?
  • Is Caris LeVert actually shaping up to be a guy Michigan relies on for big points and some amount of ball-handling? Or is he simply filling the McGary-sized production vacuum?
  • Plain and simple: shooting. Michigan was downright atrocious from the field in the first half against Lowell. I guess part of the benefit of these cupcake matchups is the opportunity for guys to get some good looks and see the ball go in. The Wolverines would like to get the types of looks they go in the second half against Lowell as opposed to the parade of jumpers they settled on in the first half. 
Most of these questions won't be answered for a while; unlike football, however, there isn't quite as much urgency for these answers to be so immediate. Each game is a small step forward in the data-gathering process. As for this game, it is one last chance for the team, especially the freshmen, to breathe before the non-conference schedule starts to pick up in quality. 

No use in even deigning to make a definite score prediction here. Michigan will win, by a lot. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Shameless Self-Promotion Time: Nebraska

As usual, my recap of Saturday's proceedings went up at Maize n Brew this morning. Once again, the story of the day was Michigan's inability to keep Devin Gardner upright, he took seven sacks on Saturday after taking nine in East Lansing.

With trips to Evanston and Iowa City coming up, if Michigan's previous ineptitude on the road continues, the Wolverines could very well be looking at a 6-6 regular season and a bowl game in Detroit.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Elsewhere in the B1G: Penn State 10, Minnesota 24

Heading into the season, if you had told me that Minnesota would have a better chance at winning the division --with the Wolverines sitting at 6-2-- I probably would have asked you to repeat yourself just to make sure I heard you correctly.

At 7-2 (3-2), with a trip to Michigan State remaining, the Gophers still had a shot at the Legends division title, albeit a small one. However, the Gophers needed to take care of business against the visiting Penn State Nittany Lions today at TCF Bank Stadium.

The Gophers got off to a good start after Bill Belton couldn't handle the handoff from Christian Hackenberg on the first play of the game. Minnesota recovered the fumble at the PSU 29, but went three and out; after a 45-yard field goal, the Gophers were out to an early 3-0 lead.

On the next series, Philip Nelson led the Gophers out of danger after PSU had pinned them at their own four. After a pair of timely third down completions and a 16-yard scamper, Nelson marched the Gophers into PSU territory.

With a 4th & 2 at the PSU 28, Minnesota went for it. Nelson held the PSU linebackers with a fake and threw a dart to Maxx Williams up the middle for 24 yards and a first down. David Cobb eventually punched it in from one yard out, giving the Gophers a 10-0 lead. The drive was one more example of Minnesota's 2013 offense at its best: 96 yards in 15 plays and 8:10 of clock burned.

The Nittany Lions needed an answer, and they provided one, with a 6-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in just over two minutes, mostly powered by a steady diet of Zach Zwinak.

Once again, Minnesota embarked on an odyssey of a drive, this time going 70 yards in 13 plays, capped by a Nelson 6-yard touchdown run. To this point, the Gophers went 4-for-7 on third down, which doesn't seem especially notable until you remember that they were also 2-for-2 on fourth down.

Following a Penn State field goal, the Gophers had one more long drive in them, this time an 11-play, 74-yarder to head into the half up 24-10. Watching this Minnesota team, it's hard to believe this is the same squad that got thumped by Iowa at home and lost 42-13 at Michigan.

However, Minnesota's first mistake of the day came about halfway through the third quarter, when Cobb coughed it up and PSU recovered at the Minnesota 37. The defense did its job, though, forcing PSU to punt in what could have been a huge point of resurgence for the Nittany Lions.

Neither team scored in the third, and Penn State was thus forced to go pass-heavy to start the fourth. Faced with a 4th & 9 at the Minnesota 38, it was now or never. Unfortunately for Bill O'Brien, Hackenberg's pass fell incomplete, well wide of his intended target.

While Nelson's improvement was the story of the first half, the story of the second was Minnesota's defense. After getting gashed on the ground in the first half, Minnesota's defense made stops when it needed to in the fourth quarter. After stopping PSU on the aforementioned 4th & 9, the Gophers once again stopped them on 4th down, this time on their own 16.

Once again, PSU drove down into Minnesota territory, this time getting to the UM 1. Although not a "forced" turnover, Hackenberg's fumble and the ensuing Minnesota recovery just about sealed the deal.

With the 24-10 victory, the Gophers moved to 8-2 on the season, with the Badgers coming to town in two weeks; as the folks in Minneapolis know, the Gophers haven't had Paul Bunyan's Axe since 2003. Minnesota will have to solve its run defense issues if it is going to give the Badgers a game, but one thing is for sure: the Gophers will have their best shot at bring the Axe back to the Twin Cities in some time.

Shameless Self-Promotion Time: UMass-Lowell

The Wolverines began their regular season at home last night against UMass-Lowell, managing a 69-42 win after being tied at the half. I wrote about it last night at Maize n Brew.

Despite being unable to hit a shot from the perimeter in the first half, Michigan hunkered down with an 18-0 run early in the second to put the game out of reach. Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin continue to impress, although via a small sample size, it does not seem as if Walton is a pure scorer on his own just yet. Of course, with options like Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and eventually Mitch McGary (not to mention an improved Caris LeVert), Michigan will be okay relying on him as a transition havoc-wreaker and occasional three-point shooter.

Next up for Michigan is South Carolina State on Tuesday at the Crisler Center.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Elsewhere in the B1G: No. 21 Wisconsin 86, St. John's 75

As the Wolverines took on UMass-Lowell in what was destined to be a blowout from the moment it was scheduled, the Wisconsin Badgers took the floor against St. John's at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls for what would be, on paper, the first interesting matchup for a Big Ten squad.

The Badgers jumped out to an early 5-0 lead, which included Ben Brust's first trey of the year. Shortly thereafter, Josh Gasser hit his first trey in two years, boding well for the Badgers' perimeter shooting for the night. The Badgers started 4-for-8 from beyond the arc; when UW shoots it like that, they can be very difficult to beat.

The biggest development for Bo Ryan's squad has been its ability to push the pace more frequently than has usually been the case. UW found some success early on tonight, grabbing St. John's long rebounds and pushing it for a high-percentage shot of some sort, whether around the rim or a three after an extra pass or two.

Wisconsin raced to a 24-10 lead 10 minutes in, paced by six points apiece from Sam Dekker and Ben Brust and seven from Traevon Jackson.

Frustration began to set in for the Red Storm when Orlando Sanchez got called for an offensive foul 15 feet away from the basket, his third foul of the game. On the other end, Gasser buried his second three to give the Badgers a 31-13 lead that seemed insurmountable given the lack of pep in the Red Storm's step.

In the first half, the Badgers managed a mark of 1.13 points per possession, with the Red Storm going for 0.77 PPP. The Red Storm turned it over 10 times in the first half--paired with a 39.1% from the field, that is not exactly a recipe for success against the Badgers, let alone any team.

As it to say "I'm back," Gasser hit another three early in the second half to put the Badgers up 40-25. Despite the loss in frontcourt production, Gasser's return from injury is a key addition for this swifter version of Badgers basketball.

However, the Red Storm began to show life. A putback slam from Chris Obekpa put the Red Storm down 10 3:30 into the second half.

The Red Storm dunkfest continued, with Sanchez hitting JaKarr Sampson in transition for an authoritative slam. On the ensuing offensive possession, a Sampson putback cut the Wisconsin lead to 49-42.

After a sloppy first half for the Red Storm, they battled back admirably, cutting the deficit to five with nine minutes to go. It will be interesting to see how this St. John's team performs the rest of the way; Steve Lavin's squad definitely has talent, particularly Sanchez and Sampson.

Foul trouble became an issue for the Badgers, with freshman forward Nigel Hayes and Traevon Jackson both carrying four with over nine minutes to play.

Luckily for Wisconsin, following another thunderous Red Storm dunk, Sam Dekker and Ben Brust buried triples on consecutive possessions, completely taking the wind out of the Red Storm's sails.

Shortly thereafter, Duje Dukan, a 6'9'' RS junior from Deerfield, Ill., nailed two straight threes to increase the the UW lead even further. On that note, Dukan is an intriguing option for the Badgers and perhaps the heir apparent to UW's long line of three-point shooting forward types.

From there, the Badgers cruised to a 86-75 victory, an impressive start to the season for a UW squad that will present Big Ten foes with a much different look than it has in recent years. Despite the Red Storm's dazzling play above the rim, they weren't able to get a whole lot in half court situations.

Perhaps the most notable takeaway from this one is Wisconsin's scoring output; in 2012-13, the Badgers scored 80+ just four times.

On the other hand, the Badgers bombared St. John's with three after three, finishing 11-for-23 (47.5%) from beyond the arc tonight. Half court defense plus the three-point shot will continue to be the UW formula for victory.

Wisconsin returns to the Kohl Center on Tuesday, where they will look to avenge last year's loss against Florida (9:00 ET, ESPN2).

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Miscellaneous Minutiae, 11/7/13

This past Saturday was a rough one for the Wolverines to say the least, but the season can still be somewhat salvaged, record-wise; that begins on Saturday, when Michigan looks to remain undefeated at home in the Brady Hoke era. On to the links:

  • Irrespective of the situation at quarterback for the Huskers, Michigan's defense will face a stiff test attempting to check the Big Ten's leading rusher, Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah. 
  • Corn Nation previews Michigan, foresees the Husker offense being a good match for the Michigan defense but isn't sure about their chances in a "defensive battle."
  • Urban Meyer refuted reports that Luke Fickell had interviewed for the FAU job. 
  • Bucky's 5th Quarter gets to know BYU. The Badgers face an interesting, oddly placed November non-conference tilt against the 6-2 Cougars, who rank 14th in rushing and 28th in points against. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Shameless Self-Promotion Time: Michigan State and Wayne State

Halftime of Bears-Packers is my chance to post my usual reminder that my Monday recap went up at Maize n Brew this morning.

Also, I posted a quick recap just after Michigan's exhibition victory against Wayne State tonight. Michigan wasn't incredibly impressive tonight, but the outcome was never really in doubt; the closest it got in the second half was a 13-point Michigan lead. Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert and Glenn Robinson III filled it up and the freshmen impressed once again.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Elsewhere in the B1G: No. 21 Wisconsin 80, UW-Platteville 51

File photo (Fouad Egbaria)

The Wolverines opened up their season against a vastly overmatched Concordia squad last night, eventually leaving the floor with a 117-44 victory. Although much of the preseason focus has been on the Wolverines and Spartans this season, this is the Big Ten; several other teams will be in the mix for title contention this season.

As usual, one of those teams will be the Badgers, who began their season tonight against UW-Platteville in the Kohl Center for an exhibition tune-up before taking on St. John's next Friday in Sioux Falls.

Bo Ryan is faced with the task of replacing multiple key pieces seemingly every year, and yet the Badgers always seem to turn out all right. The 2012-13 UW squad went from a mediocre 6-4 start to a 4-seed (and a first round bye). This season, the Badgers have to replace Jared Berggren, Mike Brusewitz and Ryan Evans in the frontcourt.

However, UW returns rising star Sam Dekker, Ben Brust and Traevon Jackson at the point, not to mention Josh Gasser from injury.

Dekker, Gasser, Jackson, Brust and Frank Kaminsky got the start for the Badgers tonight; given the aforementioned departures, the Badgers will need big minutes from Kaminsky this season. In any case, this will certainly be a backcourt-oriented squad this season.

Due to technical difficulties, I missed the first 4:30 or so. Platteville gained a 12-11 lead early.

RS Jr. Duje Dukan came in for Dekker at the first break. Naturally, Jackson pushed it in transition and hit Dukan in the corner, who nailed the open trey. I say "naturally" because Dukan is, of course, 6'9'', continuing the UW tradition of big guy three-point shooters.

The 6'7'' freshman forward Nigel Hayes also entered the game early; he took a bad jumper from the left side and then failed to convert on a second chance opportunity around the rim. The same competition caveats brought up re: Michigan's exhibition yesterday apply here; it's difficult to tell what to expect from certain guys after a game like this. With that said, given the lack of much proven frontcourt production, the Badgers will have to rely on the freshman Hayes and fellow freshman (and fellow Ohioan) Vitto Brown.

As far as backcourt reserves go, freshman Bronson Koenig is an interesting prospect. At 6'3'' 190 pounds, the freshman offers up some solid size at the guard spot. Also at the guard spot, 6'3'' freshman Jordan Hill joins the fray.

Platteville hung tough for about the first 10 minutes, but after Hayes reeled in a rebound off a missed Kaminsky three and put it in, the Badgers boasted a 29-18 lead.

Given the guard-heavy nature of this squad, some wondered if this iteration of UW basketball would like to push the pace more than it has in the past. The commentators mentioned this, but even though this was just an exhibition, the Badgers found quite a bit of success in transition, running the floor with nice spacing and hitting the open man at the right time.

Now, I don't expect the Badgers to play like Louisville or anything this Big Ten season, but don't be surprised if they do attempt to get some mine some easy buckets in transition.

Dukan had a bit of a rough sequence in which he was slow to help after Platteville executed a nice backdoor pass; on the ensuing offensive possession, Dukan threw up a rough shot on the block. It seemed like he expected a foul, but there didn't seem to be much contact.

The Badgers went into the half up just 37-30. UW's three-point shot would not fall in the first 20 minutes, as the Badgers shot just 1-for-11 from beyond the arc, including a pair of misses at the end of the half when Platteville switched to a zone.

Wisconsin shot just 33% as a team last season, good for 7th in the Big Ten and 225th nationally, so it's not as if they shot the three well last season either. Gasser shot a tremendous 45% from three back in 2011-12, and Brust has shot exactly 38.9% each of the last two seasons. If those two can fill it up from downtown, whatever contributions the Badgers can get from bigs like Kaminsky and Dukan will be gravy.

As with yesterday's post, I'll skip the second half narrative and jump to miscellaneous observations via bullet.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Exhibition No. 1: No. 9 Michigan 117, Concordia 44

NB: Just like last season and the season before, most of my basketball writings will go up at Maize n Brew. With that said, I'll still be putting some stuff up here, starting, well, tonight. 
With Mitch McGary on the bench in street clothes and the Wolverines taking on Concordia, an NAIA squad, in an exhibition contest, the stakes were about as depressed as Eeyore on a bad day.

Then again, it is a sign of the times that someone such as myself, who has always held college football aloft as the apex of amateur athletics, is legitimately excited about such a matchup. The game itself might not have meant anything, but it does mark the beginning of the next installment of the John Beilein era. On the heels of finished runner-up in 2012-13, the Wolverines have several questions to answer before the real question--Can they do it again?--can be addressed in earnest.

The Final Four run has etched itself in the minds of Michigan fans everywhere; once the afterglow of that campaign started to fade, the logical array of questions bubbled to the surface. No Trey Burke? Tim Hardaway Jr.? What about Derrick Walton? Can Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III and Caris LeVert take the next step? Can Spike Albrecht run the show full-time? 

And so on. Although the final outcome of these sorts of games is generally immaterial, it is worth watching just to see how various lineup combinations play together, whether the ball is ultimately being scored or not.

Michigan began with a starting five of Albrecht, Robinson III, Jordan Morgan, Jon Horford and Nik Stauskas. At the 16:27 mark, Walton, Max Bielfeldt and LeVert subbed in (Stauskas and Robinson remained in).

It wasn't a particularly great start for Albrecht; he missed an open layup in transition and also turned it over on another possession in which Michigan mostly stood around. He did take a charge down on the block before being subbed out.

Elsewhere, Stauskas started things off with a familiar sight: him driving hard to the rim and going to the line after not quite being able to throw it down. Upon hitting his patented corner three, Stauskas had scored seven of Michigan's first nine points.

Abotu four minutes into Walton's shift, Concordia brought a little full-court pressure. Walton took the ball up the right side, saw two defenders beginning to collapse on him, and left his feet to lob a doomed pass well past No. 21 Zak Irvin. In case you needed reminding, Walton is a true freshman, and he will likely make those sorts of mistakes early on in the season.

Stauskas got into the double-digits in scoring after nailing his second trey of the game, executing a seamless shot fake and one dribble left into an effortless stroke from the the left wing. Level of competition caveats aside, there probably shouldn't be any concerns about the added muscle affecting Stauskas's shot.

Despite not playing a perfectly clean game, the Wolverines jumped out to a 30-9 lead just about 12 minutes into the game, partially aided by nine Concordia turnovers. Stauskas once again put the ball on the floor, taking it from the corner and ripping through challenging defenders into an uncontested layup.

For the sake of history, let it be known that Walton tallied his first points with about 7:12 to go in the half. The freshman buried a three from the left wing, then added two more buckets in the span of about 30 seconds. Shortly thereafter, Walton lasered a no-look pass to a wide open Jordan Morgan under the rim for an easy two and dropped another easy dime to LeVert in transition. After committing a careless turnover earlier, Walton had clearly picked up some confidence during this later stretch in the first half.

Michigan went into the half up 60-19, with an eFG% of 89%. Five Wolverines tallied seven or more points in the first half. Stauskas and LeVert led the way with 12 points apiece. Not that this means anything at all, but Michigan scored at a clip of 1.71 points per possession in the first half (Concordia was at 0.56 PPP).

Also of note, late in the half Beilein rolled out a lineup of LeVert-Stauskas-Morgan-Irvin-GRIII, with LeVert running the point. There have been rumblings about the potential for LeVert to run the show some this season, so perhaps that is the lineup we'll see when he does.

Miscellaneous Minutiae, 10/29/13

Well, here we are: Michigan State week. Hopefully the Wolverines got their rest and ate their Wheaties during the open week, because a win this weekend will take nothing less than their best effort:

  • This is old news as if this posting, but tight end A.J. Williams has been suspended for this Saturday's game. Legal ramifications aside, I'm honestly not too sure how big of a loss this is for the Michigan offense. As a blocking tight end, Williams hasn't exactly been a great blocker, and not having Williams at Borges's disposal might curb the desire to run power into the teeth of the Spartan front seven. In any case, Williams's absence means you'll see a lot more Jake Butt and Jordan Paskorz. 
  • Minnesota's 35-24 victory over Nebraska this past Saturday was as big of a win as the program has seen in some time. With that said, the Gophers head to Bloomington this weekend, where they'll have to contend with a truly fearsome Hoosier offense. Defense and David Cobb have been enough to carry Minnesota to victory the past two weeks; they'll likely need to make a few more plays through the air if they're going to keep up with Kevin Wilson's offense. 
  • Speaking of the Hoosiers, Indiana defensive coordinator Doug Mallory (brother of Michigan secondary coach Curt Mallory) is tuning out the criticism re: his defense's performance. Also at the same link, Tre Roberson might get the start this weekend over Nate Sudfeld. 
  • Michigan basketball opens up its exhibition season against Concordia tonight (7 ET). Perhaps it is a sign of the times that I am looking forward to watching this and am even devoting an iota of attention to it during a week leading up to Michigan-Michigan State on the gridiron. Regardless, the only thing worth paying much attention to is the various lineups John Beilein will trot out. If you get the chance to watch, Beilein hopes that you'll get to see a lot of the freshmen out there tonight. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Miscellaneous Minutiae, 10/22/13

Hey, would you look at that, we're just one week away from the start of Michigan basketball. Ah, I remember that Final Four run as if it were yesterday.

  • Bucky's 5th Quarter talks about Adam Miller, one of the few positives for the Badgers hockey team this past weekend out east. 
  • Joel Stave's accuracy continues to be an issue; he badly underthrew a wide open Jared Abbrederis deep on Saturday for what would have been a touchdown. To be fair, it sounded like there was a pretty stiff wind in Memorial Stadium. Also at that link, Chris Borland should be ready to go for UW's next game against Iowa (the Badgers are off this week). 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Shameless Self-Promotion Time: Indiana

Little late linking this today, but my recap of the Indiana shootout--note to self: if I ever start an indie country band, call it "The Indiana Shootout"--went up at Maize n Brew this morning.

Overall, the tackling was a concern but I'm not sure the defensive issues in this one should be anything to seriously worry about the rest of the way. Indiana will continue to be a special case in this way as long as Kevin Wilson is in Bloomington, I'm afraid.

Offensively, Michigan destroyed a bad Indiana defense, but did it better than any of Indiana's previous opponents, so that's something if you're looking for some relativistic comfort.

In any case, the bye week is once again coming at a good time. Devin Gardner took some big hits on Saturday, and he'll have a chance to heal up before Michigan attempts to solve Michigan State's monstrous defense. That will be a tall order, but Al Borges and Co. will have an extra week to figure out a plan for that.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Badgers stave off second quarter surge, roll to victory as Gordon crosses 1,000-yard mark

After watching the relatively low-scoring Minnesota-Northwestern game at noon and Michigan's high-scoring monstrosity after that, I was looking for something in between from Wisconsin-Illinois. Given the final score, I suppose it technically was that.

The Illini looked to recover from the drubbing they took in Lincoln two weeks ago. At 3-2, a bowl game was still very much on the Illini's radar, especially with several winnable games remaining.

The bad news for Illinois is that the Badgers absolutely pasted Northwestern last week, spending most of the game without the services of Jared Abbrederis. Illinois would have to play its best game if they were going to prevent Melvin Gordon and James White from carving them up like Ameer Abdullah did in Lincoln.

Tim Beckman's squad stalled on offense after taking a 15-yard penalty. The Badgers forced a punt, then went on to score on their first drive for the first time since the second game of the season against Tennessee Tech.

After James White punched it in from two yards out, Melvin Gordon dashed into the end zone on a score of his own of 26 yards. With an early 14-0 deficit nine minutes in and any pregame esprit de corps in the stadium having evaporated, the Illini had to find answers fast.

On the ensuing drive, Nathan Scheelhaase mishandled an end around pitch from one of his wide receivers. Wisconsin's Ethan Hemer recovered the fumble, giving Gary Andersen's offense a short field. On third & goal, Joel Stave went to play action, hitting tight end Brian Wozniak a yard into the end zone. Very quickly, this game took on the feel of a Bielema era blowout of Indiana.

Once again, Bill Cubit's offense fell behind, this time looking at another 3rd & 13, which Scheelhaase couldn't complete. Through four offensive possession, the Illini had -11 total yards.

The Illini got their first good news of the game, however, finally stopping Wisconsin on third down. On the ensuing Illinois drive, Aaron Bailey took a Wildcat carry for 12 yards, their best play of the game thus far. Scheelhaase picked up another first down with his legs. On the next play, Scheelhaase bought time, rolled to his left and hit a receiver for a 20-yard gain.

For the first time, the Illini were on the move and looking good. Nonetheless, the Badgers took a 21-0 lead into the second quarter.

The long Illini drive ended with just a field goal, but the Illini added to their total with a touchdown score on their next drive, mostly via a 51-yard strike to Steve Hull, who badly beat Wisconsin cornerback Darius Hillary. The Illini cut the lead to 21-10, and were finally finding success, not coincidentally after UW's Chris Borland left the game with a right leg injury.

Wisconsin went back to its bread and butter on the ground, marching 75 yards in 10 plays, capped by a Gordon one yard plunge.

Scheelhaase continued to show improvement, tossing a 39-yarder to Ryan Langford to bring the Illini to the UW 4. On 2nd & goal, Illinois once again brought in Wildcat QB Aaron Bailey. Bailey took a half step forward, stopped, and hit a wide open Matt LaCosse in the back of the end zone.

After digging itself a 21-0 hole, the Illini regrouped admirably. Heading into the half down 28-17, the Illini offense and defense had much more to be positive about in the second quarter. Whether or not the Badgers would continue to struggle on defense without Borland in the second half remained to be seen; however, the Illini were beating UW through the air deep, not exactly Borland's domain.

The Wisconsin secondary was a problem against Arizona State and Ohio State, and it didn't fare so well in the second quarter tonight either.

Michigan knocks off UNH in overtime, 3-2

Amid all the great football today, I decided to pay the $10 on the UNH website to watch the game online. After taking a 1-1 tie last night, the Wolverines once again went to overtime tonight; this time, Tyler Motte, who scored Michigan's lone goal yesterday, gave Michigan the 3-2 win in overtime.

Alex Guptill notched Michigan's first goal--assisted by Nieves and PDG--in the first period on the power play. In the second, Guptill was initially credited with another power play goal, but it looks like it was eventually credited to Luke Moffatt (assisted by PDG and Nieves).

The pace picked up down the stretch in the third period, and both Zach Nagelvoort and Michigan's blue line were equal to the challenge. UNH had several opportunities to put the game away in regulation, but Nagelvoort stood tall.

It's probably a little early (and slightly unfair) to call for Nagelvoort to assume injured Steve Racine's starting role, but he was pretty impressive tonight from what I was able to catch, even though he didn't really get that much work, especially early on. Additionally, he didn't concede a goal last night after coming in for Racine in the third period. Tonight, Nagelvoort tallied 22 saves, including eight in the third period.

Either way, this was a tremendous pair of results for this young team, on the road against the No. 13 team in the country. With Wisconsin taking another rough loss tonight against BU and MSU again losing to UMass, the Wolverines come out of this weekend looking pretty good.

Michigan returns to Ann Arbor next weekend, where they'll face BU on Friday and a struggling Lowell squad on Saturday.