Category Archives: Big Ten Basketball

Carolina Vs. Michigan State

To set the right mood for this post, please imagine the guy with the crazy deep, resonant voice from the movie previews.  Now you can continue to read the following. 

Ford Field – music swells.

Two teams – spot lights on teams.

Two quests – cue video montage of highlights from season.

One Shining Moment. - Crowd roars – Cue music and explosions. 

Add own confetti for added flair and mess. 

Now we are all in the right state of mind to look at the last game of the 2008-09 Men’s College Basketball Season.  I will not “breakdown” these teams, we all know them well.  Instead, I will highlight a few aspects that could change the outcome or guarantee victory, or do neither.

1.  Pace - MSU has a more control tempo and chooses it’s spots to fast break.  While UNC throws it in fifth and punches the pedal the whole game putting the opposition in tough positions. 

2.  Rebounding - More specifically, offensive rebounding.

3.  The Referees - If the refs call it tight, the advantage goes to UNC.  If the refs let them play, Michigan State will have a chance.  Either way, I would rather see it called a little looser. 

4.  Raymar Morgan - Morgan must continue to be aggressive and affect play like he did against UConn, even if he is not scoring.Tom Izzo

5.  Coaching - Roy Willams is a great coach, but Tom Izzo is very Bill Belichick in his game planning. 

*Fashion conscious side-note- Izzo is a much better dresser than Belichick.

6.  Three point shooting - Both teams jack-up alot from distance.  MSU averages 15.2 shots from three a game and UNC 16.4.

7.  Share With The Other Kids - Out the six loses MSU has lost this season, five times their opponent had more assists.  

8.  Home Court Advantage – The game is in Detroit but UNC will not be scared.  It could give MSU a needed lift.

9.  Mascot – The Spartan carrys more fear and more of the “I’m going to kick your ass” factor than the Tar Heel.  I still have no clue what a Tar Heel really is.  I don’t think it is a ram.  Anyone? 

10.  Who I Want To Win – I would like to see Izzo and Michigan State complete this season “tie to legend”, with Bird and Magic in ’79.  Much like Kansas did last year with the anniversary of “Danny and the Miracles”. 

Even though I am an admitted Duke fan, I think I will feel a little bit of sympathy to UNC and the players that came back to win a championship and did not.  You rarely see that kind of dedication in the One and Done Era.  I have great respect for the talent of those players and for Williams. 

11.  UNC in Close Games - UNC has not won a tournament game by less than double-digits.  In the regular season, the Tar Heels had only ONE win that was fewer than eight points.  That was a 69-65 victory on the road at Miami in mid February.

Ty Lawson12.  Point and Counterpoint Ty Lawson or Kalin Lucas.  Both players are the main reason their teams are still playing.  Who ever plays better, their team will win.  Speed vs. Speed. 

 13.  Bench Production - MSU’s bench score 28 points per game, UNC’s scores 13.2 but even fewer in closer games.  Izzo expects production from the bench no matter how close the game.

 14.  Foul Trouble – Obvious I think.

15.  Annoucer - There have been a ton of combo’s with ESPN and CBS, but for all the is holy, Gus Johnson needs to calls this game!  PLEASE!

That covers it, everything that could possibly shift this game to either side.  I mus say that this is the best breakdown/preview I have done, EVER.  So much in depth details and just filled with vital data.

Enjoy the game.

I almost forgot – Prediction:  UNC 74, MSU 81

Michigan State over UConn

MSU Over UConnraymar-morgan

I must give credit where credit is due.  First, to Raymar Morgan who played the type of game the Spartans needed to get by UConn.  Morgan played a total of thirty minutes and had 18 points, 9 rebounds and five steals.  He was able to contribute because he was aggressive, but managed to stay out of foul trouble.

Second, to Tom Izzo who did it again.  I don’t think be people are going to over look or underestimate him any more.  He always has his team prepared and playing their best basketball when the games count the most.

Michigan was aggressive on both ends of the court and UConn was not able to get many easy shots.  The Huskies back court players shot 8-for-29 from the field and struggle to get any offensive going until the last minutes of the game.

Three key stats tat tell the whole story.

  • Assist totals for the game. UConn: 8, MSU: 18.
  • Steal totals for the game.  UConn 5, MSU: 11.
  • While UConn went to the foul-line 33 times (13 more times then MSU), they only managed to shot 63.6%

It seemed as though UConn had forgot that they had a massive height advantage on the post and was content to force one-on-one action that rarely lead to a made field goal.kalin-lucas

Michigan State did not shot a great deal better, they did get most of their shots in half court sets or fast breaks.  The latter seemed to be surprising for Jim Calhoun’s team, I guess the expected a half court grind-fest instead of a track meet.

Even with Goran Suton not playing a great game, it was the type of game the Spartans needed to play to win the game, tough defense, strong rebounding, and Raymar Morgan finally played with a purpose.

I forgot to mention that Kalin Lucas is the man.

Moment of  Self Promotion:  My predited score was off only with the MSU score, and by only 4 points.  I was on target with UConn.

Sweet 16 – Day 1 Preview

Big night of basketball ahead of us.  Some very nice match-ups and potential for…what’s the word….yes, madness

Game 1:  UConn vs. Purdue

The Big East can be defined by superior athletes, the Big 10 can be defined by half-court offense and a lot of white guys (maybe half-court offense and white guys are synonymous).  Purdue has had a nice tourney so far, but I don’t see it going any further than tonight.  I really like JaJuan Johnson and their coach, but they can’t handle UConn’s power.  Although…it will be interesting to see how UConn handles the latest recruiting allegations.  levance

Prediction:  UConn 84, Purdue 71

Game 2:  Pitt vs. Xavier

Pitt has had close calls in both of the early rounds and I think this has a chance to be a great game.  Xavier is actually taller than Pitt at just about every position, and they’ve got a big-time stud in B.J. Raymond.  Although my heart wants to pick Xavier, I’m gonna take Pitt for my bracket’s sake.  I don’t think the Muskateers have an answer for Pitt’s poing guard Levance Fields

Prediction:  Pitt 74, Xavier 72

Game 3:  Memphis vs. Missouri

I think Memphis is going to the final four.  I think they’ll win by 15 tonight. 

Prediction:  Memphis 79, Missouri 64

Game 4:  Duke vs. VillanovaGerald Henderson

This should be the game of the night.  It has the biggest upset potential (even though it’s a 2 vs. 3 game), and has some great athletes on display.  Duke has a 3-headed scoring machine in Gerald Henderson, Jon Scheyer, and Kyle Singler.  ‘Nova has a stud in Daunte Cunningham that could really give Duke some problems inside with his athleticism.  In recent history, Duke has had trouble with teams who are filled with athletes, and that certainly qualifies with ‘Nova’s roster.  But even though ‘Nova may have a more athletic squad as a whole, the best athlete in the tourney not named Blake Griffin happens to be Gerald Henderson

Prediction:  Duke 71, Villanova 65

High School Update:  For those of you who don’t know, I live in Hopkins, MN, which is home to one of the top-5 (ranked #4) high school boys basketball teams in the country.  Yesterday they won their first round game of the state tourney by 42 points.  Their entire starting line-up is going D-1, as well as a couple of reserves.  People are claiming (and legitimately so) that this Hopkins team has the best starting 5 in Minnesota high school basketball history.  I’m already planning on attending their state championship game this Saturday.

Howdy from Tubby Town

Before I begin the riveting content, let me introduce myself.  A few points that may increase my legitimacy in your minds:

1.  I am Daniel’s brother.

2.  I played high school basketball with the current NDSU Bison QB.

3.  I am a graduate of the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities.Tubby Smith

4.  I once dunked a women’s basketball.     

5.  I have met Tubby Smith and I know Flip Saunders’ son. 

Enough of that.  The important matter is that complete madness is at hand.  Being a Gopher graduate, I’m excited they’re in it.  They face a Texas squad that was at one time ranked #5 in the country, but had a similarly embarrassing 2nd half of the season to that of the Gophers.   A look at that match-up:

Besides the fact that they represent two of the largest universities in the country, they are pretty much statistical siblings.  However, the statistic I found most interesting is one in which the teams are quite different.  In games decided by <6 points the Gophers are 5-2, while the Hook ‘Em Up Horns are a sheepish 4-5.  

Here are some other key points to the game:

1.  Key to a Gopher Win:  Control the Tempo.  The Big 10 is a very different brand of basketball than…well…everybody else.  If this turns into a track meet, the Gophers will lose.  They rely on defensive pressure, which is why they have an 11-man rotation.    Westbrook

2. Key Player for the Gophers:  Lawrence Westbrook.  Predictable, you might say.  Sure, it’s predictable, he is Minnesota’s leading scorer.  Why is he so valuable??  Because when he scores more than 13 points, the Gophs are 15-2.  

3.  X-Factors for GophsDamian Johnson and Blake Hoffarber.  Damian could be huge because he’s been hot lately and wreaks some serious havoc on defense.  Blake…well that’s easy.  Just watch this and this

4.  Why the Gophs Could Lose:  A.J. Abrams.  The kid is a player.  If he finds a way to break the pressure and get loose, he could do a lot of damage.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Tubby throws up to 4 different guys at him.

5.  How Far will the Gophers Get?:  2nd round.  I say that only because I haven’t let myself think this far ahead, because it could be a meeting of Duke and Minnesota, my two favorite teams.  If that happens I’ll know how it feels for Papa Manning to watch Peyton vs. Eli.     

Prediction:  Minnesota 67, Texas 61.

It’s Tubby Time!!

Conference Tournaments

Mission Possible

It was hard watching the North Dakota State game last night’s game against Oakland for the Summit League tourney championship.  The first half was like watching players I had never seen before in the Bison uniform, they were lazy, lacking the energy and confidence we have been used to here in Fargo.Ben Woodside

In the second half, Saul Phillip’s team finally found their confidence and came back from 16 points down to take the lead on a Ben Woodside jumper with 3.3 seconds left in the game.  The win gives the Bison it’s first NCAA birth in the school’s first year eligible.  NDSU’s win is the first of it’s kind since 1972 when Louisiana – Lafayette made the jump to D1 tourney bid.

Congratulations to the Bison and I know former Bison coach Tim Miles is has to be beaming today.  Miles, currently coaching at Colorado State, was the architect behind the Bison vision to red-shirt this year’s senior when they were freshmen, ultimately planning for last nights game five years ago.

Now, I am not sure Woodside and the Bison can be this year’s Steph Curry and Davidson, but I do expect them to competitive as a 12 or 13 seed.  I would expect them to push whom ever they meet in the opening round.

Remember a couple seasons ago?  The Bison, lead by this years starters, beat an Alando Tucker lead Wisconsin team and a Marquette team with the same three guard combo that the Golden Eagles this season.  Both teams were ranked when they lost to the Bison.  They also pushed a talented, but under achieving, USC team before losing by 4 points this season in a game the Woodside did not play well.

All of Fargo is happy that Woodside is getting more publicity, this kid is as fearless as he is talented and should be given a chance at the next level.

For the second time in less than, ESPN’s Andy Katz wrote a blog post on the Bison.

Big Ten

I have no expectations for the Big-Ten tournament, because I have no clue which versions of teams will show up.  As I write this, West Virgina is rolling over Notre Dame in the Big east tourney by 15 points.

Each Big-Ten has a “not so subtle” Jekyll and Hyde issue, with the Michigan State Spartans doing the best job at control the ugly and disgusting side of their teams play.  That being said, they were embarrassed by Northwestern at MSU.

Every team had horrible loses and impressive wins and could go all the way, but I do expect MSU or Purdue to win the whole thing.

Minnesota and Michigan need to win two games to be considered a “tourney quality team”.  Both had great starts to the season, and both let a great opportunity to cement a return to Big-Ten “top level” competition – I expect them to be there soon.

Penn State and Northwestern are both one win away from the tourney.  Both have beaten top tier Big-Ten teams and really should be given a look if they win one or not.

Big East

PITT, UConn, Louisville, Marquette, West Virginia or Villanova?

I am hoping for another UConn/PITT clash, but this is the Big East tourney, so the legend of Gerry McNamara looms heavy over the Madison Square Garden.

Syracuse has played well strong down the stretch, Notre Dame has not.  PITT is almost unbeatable.  Unless you are Providence – who should be a given for selection Sunday.

UConn is a first round lose away from a No. 1 seed, and Louisville needs to win the Big-East tourney to seriously be considered a No. 1 seed.

I have no idea on WVU.  They are not very deep – actually, no team has a lot of quality depth in the Big East – I could be easily persuaded by good argument from a PITT or UConn expert. The Mountaineers do have stud junior De’Sean Butler who is a legit NBA prospect.

My dream is for Notre Dame to win the whole tourney, Luke Harongody deserves better than the NIT.  Without the tourney Championship, I am not sure they will hear their name called on CBS this Sunday.

ACC Tourney

Just like the Big-Ten, the ACC has a quality through out the conference.  You can call UNC and Duke “heavy favorites”, but they have been beaten by lesser teams this season – aka Boston College – aka Tyrese Rice and Headband Bunch.

Clemson is experienced and should be tough,  Wake Forrest is young, talented and capable of winning whole tourney, and then you have Floria State who came out of nowhere.

Every game will be close and I would not be surprised to see any of the top seeded teams lose in their first game or see them all advance.  I know, bold prediction, but I really don’t know what to expect – see Big-Ten Jekyll and Hyde effect.

UNC needs to find PG help while Ty Lawson recovers, Duke needs Kyle Singler to learn how to shot again, if WF is going to go deep Jeff Teague must play all tourney long like he did against UNC, or James Johnson needs to live up to the hype.

Clemson is very balanced, Boston College is not, and Miami is the most frustrating team in the conference, but still could get hot and ride James McClinton for a couple wins.  North Carolina state should be better, Virginia Tech always gives Duke problems, and Virginia went “Wee, Wee, Wee all the way home“.

Side Note- If any of the Memphis Tigers games are remotely close- the C-USA tourney is on their home court -  John Calipari should have to go the rest of March without hair product.

Notre Dame has pulled back with in single digits.  So you are saying there is a chance?  No, I’m not.

Win and In?

The Minnesota Golden Gopher’s are in a tough battle with the Michigan Wolverines and depending on who you follow in the world of college basketball, the winner is in and the loser is out of the NCAA tourney.

Both teams have played like it is the “play-in” game and this will go down to the wire (first cliche’ of the post).

I do need to point out that it is possible for six teams from the Big-Ten to get an “At-Large” bid for the tourney.  If  Selection Sunday were tomorrow; MSU, Purdue, Illinois (over-rated), Penn State (under-rated) are all in.  Minnesota, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Michigan are bubble teams who all have legit resumes and arguments to secure a tourney bid.

Northwest won AT Purdue and Michigan State and embarrassed Florida State, Minnesota beat Louisville, and Michigan has beat both UCLA and Duke.  Ohio State beat Notre Dame, Butler and Miami.  Wisconsin beat Virginia Tech but does not have another impressive win outside of beating Illinois.

If it were up to me, MSU, Purdue, Illinois, Penn State and Minnesota should be in.  Michigan and Ohio State need to do some work, Wisconsin has to win two games in the Big-Ten tourney.

The Gophers Main Man

There are many stats that would contradict my claim that Al Nolen is the most important player wearing a Golden Gophers uniform, but I think one says it all.  Nolen’s assist to turnover ratio is 3.9:1.  For every turnover he has, he comes back with almost four assists.  Al Nolen

Yet that rest of his stat line does help my case.  8.5 ppg, 6,3 apg, 4 rpg, and 2.2 steals per game.

In the Gophers biggest win this season over then No. 9 Louisville, Nolen penetrated the Cardinal defense with ease and finished with 18 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and only one turnover.  He was the Gopher that sealed the win from the foul line going 13 for 17 making eight foul shoots in the last 4:09 of the second half.

Nolen is a the perfect guard for Tubby Smith’s system.  He is a pass first point guard who finds the open shot for other players in the flow of the offense and he also puts a ton of pressure on the other team’s ball handler.  Nolen is a capable scorer when he is called on and can get to the rim going left or right.

I am not ready to call me the best point guard in the Big Ten, but Nolen must be in the conversation.