Wednesday, March 31, 2010
NCAA Cranked Up: Four for the Final
Butler Bulldogs (32-4) vs.
Michigan State Spartans (28-8)
6:07 pm EDT
Butler enters the Final Four for the very first time in school history, but does so with a flourish, sporting not only the best record of all participants, but also the longest winning streak in the nation, a solid 24 straight.
The Bulldogs will have the advantage of playing just 7 miles from their campus, in what amounts to a short home tournament. They will benefit from having many of their fans n hand, though that could also work as a distraction leading up to the Saturday games and possibly a final game showdown for all the marbles.
Butler is led by Gordon Hayward, the Horizon League Player of the Year, who brings size and talent to the front court. In the big games, Hayward has stepped up. He scored 17 points with 5 rebounds against Syracuse and had 22 and 9 in the reginal final win over Kansas State. A lean, 6'9" forward, he's a nightmare to defend.
Shelvin Mack is the scoring guard for the Bulldogs. He too has been on his game in the tournament. Ouside of his 1-for-10 3-point effort against Syracuse, Mack has nailed 12 of 18 from beyond the arc. His scoring will be essential, but Butler wins with defense, mostly in the form of a 2-1-2 zone.
The Spartans have become accustomed to playing under big lights in big pressure games, so Tom Izzo will have his players ready for action. Michigan State has been hobbled by injury, most notably the loss of point guard Kalin Lucas, who is out for the duration of the tourney but has been admirably replaced by Korie Lucious, who staved off elimination with a last-second three-pointer to shock Maryland in the regional semi-final.
Forwards Raymar Morgan and Durrell Summers will be called upon again to carry the scoring load for the Spartans, while Delvon Roe and Draymond Green will do the dirty work under the rim. Summers has carried the team through the tournament, all of which have been close calls for the Spartans. He's scoring at a 20 points per game clip, nearly double his seasonal average. Michigan State comes with grit and determination, but the Bulldogs display much the same attitude. This game will be a war. Butler is a slim, 1 1/2 point favorite.
West Virginia Mountaineers (31-6) vs.
Duke Blue Devils (33-5)
8:47 pm EDT
After the Butler - Michigan St. melange, this game will look like the Varsity kids following the JV game onto the floor. While the previous two teams will be engaged in what may look, at times, like a cage fight, the two more polished squads out of the Big East and ACC bring more finesse and subtlety in their games, especially the Blue Devils.
It's not likely that West Virginia will hold Duke's regular season leading scorer, Kyle Singler, to the 5 points he had in his prior game. Expect Singler to take his shots from the perimeter (he's a 38% three-point shooter) and also bang away inside, though the Mountaineers inside presence should slow him down a little.
Duke's other two top scorers - Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith - both have been on the money during the past two games of the tourney. Smith had a career-high 29 points in the win over Baylor which got Duke on its way to Indianapolis. Scheyer scored 18 against Purdue and poured in 20 against Baylor, hitting 5 3-pointers in the process.
Of the many edges Duke has in this game, their front court size and free throw shooting should serve them well. Brian Zoubek goes 7'1", starter Lance Thomas stands 6'8" and the two Plumlees - Miles and Mason - each go 6'10" and should see plenty of floor time. At the foul line, Scheyer hits at an 88% clip; Singler, 79%, Smith, 78%, and all three get there with stunning regularity.
West Virginia appears to have destiny on their side. Coach Bob Huggins, who played for the Mountaineers from 1975-77, is in his third year with the school, and has developed a great rapport with his players, many of whom he personally recruited. The go-to guy is slick DaSean Butler, who has made a case for himself as tournament MOP. After seeing limited action - and just 9 points - in the opening round win over Morgan St., he put up 28, 14 and 18 points in wins over Missouri, Washington and Kentucky, nabbing 27 rebounds along the way. Butler, a senior, is the floor leader and, if the game comes down to one shot, he will be the one taking it.
Up front, the Mountaineers can keep fresh, tall bodies flowing into the game. Deniz Kilicli, Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones can all rebound and defend, though they, like most of the West Virginia squad, are not particularly deadly on the perimeter. Point guard Joe Mazzula played a pivotal role in the win over Kentucky and he'll need to step it up again. The condition of Darryl "Truck" Bryant, who was the regular point guard until suffering a broken bone in his foot, is still up in the air. He hasn't practiced as of Tuesday, though it was announced that he would play against Duke. Having him back would be a boost.
In order to win this game, West Virginia will have to challenge Duke's outside shooters and maintain a solid presence inside, easier said than done. The match-ups favor Duke in many regards and the Mountainers are not a good free throw shooting team. Of the starters, Butler is the leader, at 78%. Not surprisingly, Duke is favored by 3 points.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Final Four Finished: Duke - West Virginia; Butler - Michigan St.
5 Michigan St. 70
6 Tennessee 69
Michigan State advanced to the Final Four by the slimmest of margins over a very credible Tennessee squad. Neither team was ever able to establish any kind of working lead, and the game was tied on numerous occasions as the lead see-sawed back andd forth. Once again, Durrell Summers came up with a big effort, scoring a game-high 22 points on 8 of 10 shooting, including 4 of 6 3-pointers.
The Volunteers put forth a valiant effort, but the Spartans would not be denied their 6th trip to the Final Four in the past 12 years and second in a row. Michigan State lost last season to North Carolina in the final. The Tar Heels did not even make it into the tournament field this year.
Michigan State will face Butler in one of two semi-final games on Saturday, April 3rd in Indianapolis.
1 Duke 78
3 Baylor 71
Duke was put to the test by an aggressive Baylor defense which held the Blue Devils' top scorer, Kyle Singler, to just 5 points, all from the foul line. It was the first time in Singler's three-years at Duke that he was held without a field goal.
Singler's teammates picked up the slack, however, and used offensive rebounds and second-chance scores to pull away late in the second half after Baylor had forged a 35-32 lead at the half. Nolan Smith was sensational with a career and game-high 29 points. Smith canned 9 of 17 shots, including 4 of 6 threes, and 7 of 8 from the free throw line.
Jon Scheyer added 20 points for the Blue Devils, who advance out of the South region to the Final Four to face the champions of the Big East tourney and NCAA tourney East region, West Virginia, on Saturday, April 3.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Elite Eight Match-up Analysis; Summers POTD
SATURDAY, March 27
4:30 pm EDT: 5 Butler (31-4) vs. 2 Kansas St. (29-7)
EnergySolutions Arena (Salt Lake City, UT)
Key Players: Butler: Gordon Hayward (15.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg); Shelvin Mack (14.1 ppg, 3.1 apg); Kansas St.: Jacob Pullen (19.5 ppg); Denis Clemente (15.5 ppg)
Tournament Win Margin: Butler: 8; Kansas St. 12.3
Instant Analysis: Butler needs to stay in zone defense, work ball inside to Hayward and Howard; K-State's Pullen and Clemente best back-court in nation. K-State defense underrated.
7:00 pm EDT: 2 West Virginia (30-6) vs. 1 Kentucky (35-2)
Carrier Dome (Syracuse, NY)
Key Players: W. Virginia: Da'Sean Butler (17.4 ppg, 3.2 apg); Kevin Jones (13.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg); Kentucky: John Wall (16.6 ppg, 6.6 apg); DeMarcus Cousins (15.1 ppg, 9.9 rpg)
Tournament Win Margin: W. Virginia: 16.3; Kentucky: 25.3
Instant Analysis: Butler has much to do against killer KY defense; Wall and Cousins provide inside-outside game, suporting cast is phenomenal. KY has best record and largest win margin of any team left in tourney.
SUNDAY, March 28
2:20 pm EDT 6 Tennessee (28-8) vs. 5 Michigan St. (27-8)
Edward Jones Dome (St. Louis, MO)
Key Players: Tenn.: Wayne Chism (12.6 ppg, 7.3 pg); Mich. St.: Raymar Morgan (11.5 ppg, 6.1 rpg); Durrell Summers (10.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg)
Tournament Win Margin: Tennessee: 7; Michigan St.: 4
Instant Analysis: Spartans have squeaked by, keeping games close, Summers has stepped up huge in tourney; Chism is do-it-all guy for Vols, but has talent all around him. will be a war on the boards, where Tenn. has advantage.
5:05 pm EDT 3 Baylor (28-7) vs. 1 Duke (32-5)
Reliant Stadium (Houston, TX)
Key Players: Baylor: LaceDarius Dunn (19.5 ppg); Ekpe Udoh (13.8 ppg, 9.7 rpg); Duke: Kyle Singler (18.1 ppg); Jon Scheyer (17.9 ppg); Nolan Smith (17.1 ppg)
Tournament Win Margin: Baylor: 16.6; Duke: 19
Instant Analysis: Duke's big three - Singler, Scheyer, Smith - have to continue to carry the load and are capable; Coach K's influence obvious; Baylor has nice inside-outside game, very rugged on the boards and in lane, could dominate. Dunn is the wild card. If he can score, Baylor has great opportunity.
Player of the Day, for Friday, March 26, 2010
Michigan State's Durrell Summers played huge in the Spartans' 59-52 win over Northern Iowa, advancing to the Elite Eight.
Often overlooked, Summers was the game's high-scorer and rebounder with 19 points and 7 boards. He's played a major role in all three Spartan wins in the tourney.
Friday, March 26, 2010
Elite 8 In: Tennessee, Baylor, Duke, Michigan State
6 Tennessee 76
2 Ohio St. 73
The Tennessee Volunteers advanced past the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history off a spirited effort on both ends of the floor, knocking off the #2 seeded Buckeyes. Wayne Chism had one of the best all-around efforts of his exemplary collegiate career with 22 points and 11 rebounds.
The action in this game was frenetic from start to finish, as the lead changed hands repeatedly and neither team was able to establish a comfortable lead at any point. Ohio State's Evan Turner finished with 32 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists.
9 Northern Iowa 52
5 Michigan St. 59
The Spartans finally wrested away a lead late in the second half from the very capable Panthers and held on for the win. Michigan State's Durrell Summers paced the scoring with 19 points, including four 3-pointers. Summers' seven rebounds were also high for the game. Michigan State will play Tennessee in one of two Sunday contests.
3 Baylor 72
10 St. Mary's 49
St. Mary's was put away early by the quicker and more athletic Bears, who dominated the Gaels in every way. LaceDarius Dunn paced all scorers with 24 points, including a 4-for-6 effort from 3-point range. Baylor was so completely dominant, the score at half time was 46-17.
4 Purdue 57
1 Duke 70
With both teams contesting every pass, shot and rebound, the tight defensive postures produced a low-scoring first half that had Duke up by a 24-23 score. The game remained tight until just after midway through the second period, when Nolan Smith scored 7 straight points on a pair of runners in the lane and a 3-pointer, to expand Duke's advantage to 9, and Purdue never recovered.
Kyle Singer had 24 points for the Blue Devils, Jon Scheyer added 18 and Nolan smith finished with 15. The Blue Devils face Baylor in the regional final Sunday.
NCAA Conference Scoreboard (through games of March 26)
Big East (7-7)
Big Ten (8-4)
Big 12 (9-4)
Mountain West (2-4)
West Coast (3-2)
Western Athletic (0-2)
*Conferences with only one tournament team listed as "Other."
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Moving Day: Orange, Buckeyes, Spartans, Big Red, Mountaineers Advance
10 Missouri 59
2 West Virginia 68
The Mountaineers held off a scrappy Mizzou squad, but eventually wore them out. DaSean Butler led the charge with 28 points, including 12 of 13 from the foul line.
12 Cornell 87
4 Wisconsin 69
Cinderella Cornell established an early lead and expanded it to as many as 24 points in the second half, completely dominating their Big Ten rivals. Louis Dale had 26 points and Ryan Whittman scored 24 to pace the Big Red, improving their season record to 29-4. Cornell will face the region's top seed, Kentucky, in a regional semi-final game.
10 GA Tech 66
2 Ohio St. 75
The Buckeyes advanced past Georgia Tech to the regional semi-finals on the strength of Evan Turner's all-around floor presence. Turner tallied a game-high 24 points to go with 10 rebounds and 9 assists.
5 Michigan St. 85
4 Maryland 83
Greivis Vazquez hit a jumper to give Maryland a one-point lead with 6.6 seconds left, but Cory Lucious nailed a three as time expired, enabling Michigan State to advance. Durrell Summers single-handedly kept the Spartan hopes alive with 26 points, hitting 6 of 8 threes and 10 of 15 overall. Durrell's game-high total also equalled his career best.
1 Syracuse 87
8 Gonzaga 65
Once Syracuse had established a lead early in the first half, there was no looking back as the Orange, led by Wesley Johnson's game-high 31 and 14 rebounds and Andy Rautins' 24 points, throughly disabled the Gonzaga offense with the 2-3 zone defense and demoralized Gonzaga players by bombarding them with 3-pointers and an up-tempo offense. Syracuse shot 55% for the game, hitting 12 of 25 from beyond the arc.
The Orange advance to the regional semi-final against Butler.
Friday, March 19, 2010
Blue Devils, Spartans, Yellow Jackets and Bulldogs All Advance
10 Georgia Tech 64
7 Oklahoma St. 59
The Yellow Jackets used swarming defense and balanced scoring to upend Oklahoma State and advance. Gani Lawal led the Jackets with 14 points. Georgia Tech hit 24 of 25 free throws.
12 New Mexico St. 67
5 Michigan St. 70
New Mexico State battled until the very end, but failed to upset favored Michigan State. Kalin Lucas scored 25 points to lead all scorers.
1 Duke 73
16 Arkansas Pine Bluff 44
Duke the South's #1 seed, dusted Pine Bluff without so much as breaking a sweat. Kyle Singler had 22 points and 10 boards, both game highs.
8 Gonzaga 67
9 Florida St. 60
After leading the Seminoles 35-19 at the half, Gonzaga held on for the win and the right to play top-seeded Syracuse in the second round on Sunday. The Bulldogs had four of their starters in double figures and no bench scoring.
Monday, March 08, 2010
Morgan Cashes Season-High 22; Spartans Earn Share of Big Ten
When Raymar Morgan is on his game, Michigan State is a very tough beat. When the Spartans get Morgan involved early, less-talented teams generally fall behind early and never catch up. Such was the case Sunday afternoon when the Spartans earned a share of the Big Ten regular season title with a breezy, 64-48 victory over in-state rival, Michigan.
The final score did not nearly capture how one-sided the game was. While Morgan was scoring 13 of his season-high 22 points in the first half, Michigan state defenders were doing a number on the Wolverines, holding them to a mere 14 points for the half and opening up an 18-point lead. Morgan, a senior forward, hit 10 of his 15 shots from the field, all inside the three-point line and most of them on drives to the hoop, and canned 2 of 3 free throws while bringing down 10 rebounds for his 5th double-double of the season.
Michigan State finished the Big Ten season at 14-4, tied with Ohio State and Purdue. The Spartans are 24-7 overall.
Notable: After Cornell became the first team to receive an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament on Friday, three more teams did so on Saturday. East Tennessee State won the Atlantic Sun Conference Tourney with a 72-66 win over pesky Mercer; Murray State topped Morehead St., 62-51, winning the Ohio Valley Tourney, and; Winthrop won the Big South tournament and the automatic bid for the fifth time in the last six years, topping Coastal Carolina, 64-53.
On Sunday, Northern Iowa punched their dance ticket by winning the Missouri Valley tournament, beating Wichita State, 67-52.
Other conference tourneys are already underway in the Northeast, Metro-Atlantic, Colonial, Mid-American and a handful of others. The major conference tournaments begin in earnest on Tuesday, when the Big East opens. On Wednesday, the PAC-10 and Big 12 tournaments begin, followed on Thursday with opening tips in the Big Ten, SEC and ACC. The week-long smorgasbord of conference tourneys culminates with the Big Ten final at 3:30 pm, the last game before the field of 65 is announced late Sunday afternoon.
Monday, March 01, 2010
Purdue Loss to Michigan State Opens Door for Buckeyes
It wasn't pretty, but the much-ballyhooed showdown between Purdue and Michigan State eventually turned the way most expected it would - in favor of the Spartans.
Michigan State shot just 40% and turned the ball over 24 times, but Purdue, playing their first game without Robbie Hummel simply could not find the bucket, hitting only 15 of 50 shots from the field (30%) while being badly outrebounded, 46-20. Raymar Morgan stepped up for the Spartans, leading all scorers with 16 points and adding 11 rebounds for his 4th double-double of the season. The Spartans took control of the game late for the 53-44 win and a shot at first place in the Big Ten.
Ohio State was the main beneficiary of Purdue's demise. The Buckeyes lead the conference standings at 13-4, with Purdue and the Spartans tied for second at 12-4. With a win at home against Illinois Tuesday, the Buckeyes would capture the regular season title by virtue of a split of their two games with Purdue and a win in their only meeting with Michigan State. Ohio State already topped the Illini, 72-53, at Illinois, two weeks ago.
Saturday, December 05, 2009
Morgan On Track in Spartan Win
After a disappointing loss to North Carolina in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, Tom Izzo's Michigan State Spartans quickly rebounded with a solid win over Wofford, taming the Terriers, 72-60, behind Raymar Morgan's 19 points and 11 rebounds, both game highs.
Often hindered by injuries, Morgan, when healthy, is one of the top forwards in the country, and it appears that over his last three games he's begun to find an All-American stride, scoring 17, 18 and 19 points in successive contests. The 6'8" senior should help the 6-2 Spartans to a compete for a second straight conference title this season.
Sunday, April 05, 2009
National Championship Analysis: Tar Heels vs. Spartans
North Carolina Tar Heels (33-4) (-7 1/2, 152 1/2) Michigan State Spartans (31-6)
How they got here (all stats for NCAA tournament only):
Michigan State beat Robert Morris, 77-62; USC, 74-69; Kansas 67-62; Louisville, 64-52; Connecticut, 82-73.
North Carolina beat Radford, 101-58; LSU, 84-70; Gonzaga, 98-77; Oklahoma, 72-60; Villanova, 83-69.
Average Points Scored
Michigan St.: 72.8
North Carolina: 87.6
Average Points Allowed:
Michigan St.: 63.6
North Carolina: 66.8
Average Margin of Victory:
Michigan St.: 9.2
North Carolina: 20.8
Just looking at the raw numbers, it's easy to see how the oddsmakers have the Tar Heels installed as 7 1/2-point favorites. If they play as they have, on average, Michigan State will score 69.8 points against North Carolina, but the Tar Heels will put in 75.7 points, so we come up with a final score of 76-70, in favor of North Carolina, meaning that the Tar Heels capture the national title, but don't cover the spread. Also, the number (146) falls short of the over/under of 152 1/2.
In the parlance of Las Vegas, this is called hedging. The Tar Heels maybe should only be favored by 6 points, and the O/U lower by 6 1/2, but owing to the idea that more people will bet the favorite, they're going to pay a premium. Those betting that Michigan State either wins or covers get an additional 1 1/2-point boost in their wager. Naturally, 1 1/2 points is nothing in a college basketball game, but the Las Vegas sharpies who calculate these things are uncanny at getting the final result right.
Further, since there are going to be more people betting on Carolina, their hope is that the Spartans pull off the upset, becaue the money line is massively tilted toward a North Carolina victory. You have to put up 360 to make 100 on a flat bet (no points) on the Tar Heels, though you could put up 100 to make 300 making a similar wager on Michigan State. Essentially, Vegas is saying that North Carolina is a 3-1 favorite, which, as most of us already know, is a pretty heavy choice.
How Carolina wins is pretty understandable. First, there's history. Earlier this season, the two teams met at the very same site, Ford Field, with Carolina romping to a 98-63 win. It was Carolina's 8th game of the season, Michigan State's 6th.
Two items stand out from that encounter. Kalin Lucas, Michigan State's point guard, scored 6 points and dished 5 assists. He's arguably a better player now than he was then, but by how much? Playing opposite Ty Lawson, who is possibly the best point guard in the nation, Lucas can't be expected to fare that much better in the final. Give him 15 points and 8 assists, and it's still a 24-point win for Carolina.
The second point is that Goran Suton, Michigan State's steady center, did not play. Suton is good for at least 12 points and 10 rebounds, even against the mighty Tar Heels. Those numbers are a little better than his season average, so give the Spartans another 12 points, plus 4 more due to the additional board strength. That still leaves Michigan State on the short end of the score by 8, which means there is hardly any way the Spartans can win this game, unless...
Draymond Green, a 6'6" freshman who plays bigger, and Delvon Roe, a 6'8" frosh, can contribute more on both ends of the floor. This is likely, since neither of them scored a single point in that December pasting, though Roe was fairly productive in his 26 minutes, with 8 boards, 3 assists and 3 blocks. Green played all of 6 minutes and fouled out. That's unlikely to happen again, considering the additional time both players are likely to see in the final.
Michigan State got an incredible 33 points from its bench in their semifinal win over UConn, many of those on layups and dunks in the fast break. will the Spartans actually try to outrun the Tar Heels. They just might, as it seems to be one way to get some quick scores and settle in on defense, which is the heart of Michigan State success.
With that in mind, the big stat - which probably won't come into play here, though it might - is that the Spartans are 30-0 when holding their opponent to less than 70 points. Of North Carolina's four losses, the lowest point total was 70, against Florida State in the ACC tournament. In the other three, they scored 75, 78 and 89. If North Carolina pours in 80 or more, their chances of winning are enormous, because Michigan State has only topped that number 4 times, the last just two days ago. The Spartans can score, but the Tar Heels - for all intents and purposes - can score more, so the idea of running on them sounds more like suicide than success.
Michigan State will throw more players into the mix, that's a given, but, even though those players may have fresh legs, they probably won't have much impact against North Carolina's impressive offense, which can hurt teams on the inside or out, with heft in the middle and gunners on the wings. Unless Michigan State comes up huge, or the Carolina kids have an off night shooting, this one looks like a pretty big win for the Tar Heels.
The other factor which may come into play is the fact that it's a virtual home game for Michigan State. Whether that matters much or at all remains to be seen. The Tar Heels are battle-tested and enjoy advantages in many aspects of the game - size, experience, three-point shooting, among the top reasons. Ty Lawson at the point and Tyler Hansbrough in the post are WMBs - Weapons of Monstrous Ballin' - who are unlikely to be denied.
Michigan State has provided some of the tournament's best moments in the regionals and semifinals, taking out the best teams from the Big East - Louisville and Connecticut - while the Tar Heels disemboweled Villanova. It's interesting, that for all the Big East hype all season long, none of their teams are represented in the national championship game. It's Big Ten vs. ACC.
One final word about this game needs to be mentioned. This North Carolina team may be one of the best ever, rivaling the great Michael Jordan-Sam Perkins-James Worthy era. If they win this game, which they should, will we someday come back to look at this national championship and say, "Wow, Ty Lawson, Tyler Hansbrough and Wayne Ellington all on the same team?" Maybe. I count as many as seven potential NBA players on the North Carolina roster right now, and there may be more. Danny Green, who has come through big during the tournament run, is not the most overlooked player on this squad, at least not now. That award would go to Deon Thompson, the 6'8" junior foward who's in on every loose ball, banging in the middle with the giants of every team, quietly doing all the little things like boxing out, swatting away shots and providing backside defense without any acclaim. He and Green make this team special.
North Carolina will win handily.
PREDICTION: North Carolina 84 Michigan State 71
Saturday, April 04, 2009
It's Spartans vs. Tar Heels for the National Championship!
What began more than a fortnight ago with 65 teams, has now been whittled down to just two. Here's how each team fared in their last outing. More detailed analysis will follow tomorrow in anticipation of the national title game.
(2) Michigan State 82, (1) Connecticut 73
ESPN Box Score
The stats don't like for the Spartans. They are simply unbeatable (30-0) when holding opponents under 70 points, and while this one doesn't qualify technically, it had all of the earmarks of a Michigan State, defense-first victory. The game was, as are many of the Spartans wins of this 2008-09 vintage, closely played, with neither team able to gather an advantage though the first half, which ended with Michigan State up by 2 points, 38-36.
Michigan State took control early in the second half, when consecutive layups by Kalin Lucas and Chris Allen gave the Spartans a 53-49 lead with just over 13 minutes left. After that, they would never trail or be tied again. Failure to hit anything from the perimeter by the Huskies allowed Michigan State defenders to pack the lane and make entry passes difficult for UConn. As usual, every shot was contested, and as the Huskies struggled for offense, the Spartan lead expanded to 8, then 10, then finally, 11, on Raymar Morgan's dunk at 3:21.
Morgan was one of the difference-makers for Michigan State, scoring 18 points and 9 boards, his best outing in the tournament. Lucas led all scorers with 21. The Spartans got an incredible 33 points from their bench. In the basketball world of Tom Izzo, it's still a team game. Everybody plays, and that was one of the most decisive aspects of this win. The Connecticut players were simply outmanned in the end as Izzo shuffled players in and out of the game throughout.
(1) North Carolina 83, (3) Villanova 69
ESPN Box Score
In stark contrast to the first game, North Carolina's explosive offense made this one rather one-sided right away, establishing a big early lead, hitting 10 f their first 15 shots, 3 of them from beyond the arc. Less than 10 minutes in, it was 26-12 and the Tar Heels just continued to roll along. Villanova eventually cut the lead down to 9 at the break, and to 5 early in the second half, but North Carolina responded to the challenge and played at a high tempo throughout.
While the tar Heels raced up and down and around the Wildcats, Villanova could not buy a bucket, especially from three-point range, where they hit just 4 of 28. By comparison, the Tar Heels were more efficient, nailing 11-22 threes.
Wayne Ellington and Danny Green were the deadliest bombers for Carolina. Green hit 4 of 10, while Ellington splashed 5 of 7. Ty Lawson was the game's high scorer, with 22 points; Tyler Hansbrough had his second double-double of the tournament, scoring 17 points and pulling down 11 rebounds.
Thursday, April 02, 2009
Final Four Analysis (Part 1) Michigan St. vs. Connecticut
Ford Field, Detroit, MI
(1) Connecticut (31-4) (-4, 131 1/2) (2) Michigan State (30-6) 6:07 pm - Hoops fans could not have asked for a more balanced Final Four, with two teams from the nation's best conference, the Big East, and one each from the Big Ten and ACC. Interestingly, two of the three Big East #1 seeds did not make it to Detroit, as Louisville - the #1 overall seed - and Pitt were ousted in their respected regional finals. However, Villanova picked up the Big East slack, by beating Pitt but still representing the conference.
In the matchup between UConn and Michigan State, the player which stands out most prominently is the Huskies' 7'3" man in the middle, Hasheem Thabeet, who is a terror to anyone who dares drive to the tin, swatting away would be layups with alarming regularity. Keeping Thabeet out of foul trouble will be coach Jim Calhoun's main concern. For Tom Izzo, finding a way around, over or through the big guy is the challenge.
Izzo used an interesting ploy in his win over Louisville, spotting his own big man, Goran Suton, at the high post offensively. Suton responded with key jumpers, three of them 3-pointers, four assists and 10 boards (4 offensive). He proved to be the absolute key to beating the Cardinals by sticking to the coach's plan and executing to perfection. Should Izzo determine to employ the same tactic, Connecticut will be not caught unaware. They can either choose to send Thabeet out to play man-to-man on Suton, though that would open up the inside, where Michigan's slashers and drivers, particularly point guard Kalin Lucas and Raymar Morgan (shut out against the Cardinals) might just find a happy place in the lane.
Calhoun has other options, however, one being keeping Thabeet in the low post and putting the more athletic Stanley Robinson on Suton to limit his effectiveness by contesting his shots or denying him the ball. Robinson is a good match for Suton, being just an inch shorter than the 6'10" Spartan.
Besides Suton, Michigan State has some limitations when it comes to offense, though the play of Lucas during the late regular season and into the post-season has been a real boost for Michigan State. He is speedy and a deft ball-handler, though he's prone to hoisting treys more often than coach Izzo might like. Almost as comic relief, Lucas has been hitting at a respectable 40% during the tournament, including 2-of-4 against Louisville.
The other Spartan player who's been a boost during the tournament is Durrell Summers, who filled in the scoring nicely over the past three games, scoring 11 against USC, 9 against Kansas and 12 against the cardinals. His contribution and ability to bury a number of treys (4 of 6 during the tournament) will be another key to Michigan State's success.
For the Huskies, they cannot rely heavily upon Thabeet for scoring because he does so much work on defense, though sending the ball into the low post and trying to get Suton in foul trouble is a ploy Calhoun no doubt has under consideration. The bulk of the scoring will come from A.J. Price (averaging 20 ppg in the NCAAs), point guard Kemba Walker (who exploded for 23 against Missouri) and Robinson (15 ppg). Craig Austrie has been inconsistent, missing all 6 of his three-point attempts in the Huskies' opener against Chattanooga, but going 3-for-3 beyond the arc and scoring 17 points against Purdue.
Getting points against the stingy Spartan defense will not be easy for Connecticut. All of their players are hard-nosed defenders, and Lucas is probably a bit of an overmatch for Walker at the point. Though Walker should hold his own, don't expect him to blow by Lucas more than a couple times. The Michigan State point guard is the embodiment of quickness and speed.
If the pace of the game is to Michigan's liking, forcing the Huskies to work hard for every basket, they may be able to get out on the break on a number of occasions. Suton is especially good at getting up and down the floor in a hurry, while Thabeet is not. Expect the Michigan State big man to be on the receiving end of a number of passes to the post or the happy trailer on the break.
The real kicker in this game is UConn's Jeff Adrian and his ability to hit jumpers from inside 15 feet. When he's on, the Huskies are virtually unbeatable. When he's not, which is often enough to raise concerns, UConn is vulnerable.
If there is one big key or stat it's this: Michigan is 30-0 when holding opponents under 70 points. While Connecticut can generally put up 75 points or more, they do have 9 wins (and 3 losses) when they have scored in the 60s, so they are capable of playing the defense-first game as well. It would not be a surprise for the Huskies to score 65 points and win, though a final score in that range surely works in Michigan State's favor.
Both coaches have been here before, and Calhoun has a pair of championship rings to Izzo's one, so there's no advantage when it comes to sideline smarts. Bottom line, this could go either way. Giving Michigan State points at this juncture might just be a mistake, as they've turned back the critics with crisp play thus far and have shown incredible heart and desire, key factors in tournament play. Take the points and hope nobody scores for the first five minutes. That will help Michigan State's confidence.
PREDICTION: Michigan State 67 Connecticut 63
Tomorrow: Part 2: Villanova vs. North Carolina
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
Michigan State Big Ten Champs
Capped by Raymar Morgan's offensive rebound and subsequent dunk with 35 seconds left, the Michigan State Spartans captured the Big Ten regular season title with a road win at Indiana. The stellar board work by the Spartan forward gave the Spartans a four-point lead, too much for the Hoosiers to overcome.
Morgan finished with a game-high 16 points, followed closely by Kalin Lucas, who tallied 15.
At 14-3, the Spartans can relax in their season finale against Purdue on Sunday. It will be a celebration for coach Tom Izzo's seniors, Goran Suton and Travis Walton, and a suitable prep for the upcoming conference tournament. Purdue has been chasing the Spartans all season, but at 11-5, they cannot hope to catch them, despite having mauled them, 72-54, at Purdue, back on February 17.
Sunday, March 01, 2009
Big Ten: Spartans Clamp Down on Illini
The Fighting Illini trailed the entire game - by as many as 11 points - against the visiting Spartans, who came in with a 1 1/2 game lead in the Big Ten.
The son of an Illinois legend, Jeff Jordan's (yeah, that Jordan) steal and layup at 7:14 in the second half capped a furious Illinois rally and the first tie in the game since the opening tip.
It was the last field goal the Fighting Illini would score until Chester Frazier dropped in a three with 34 seconds left. By then it was too late as the Spartans clinched at worst a tie for the Big Ten title.
Kalin Lucas had an exceptional game with 18 points. Michigan State's backcourt is as solid as there is in the nation, bestowed with exceptional quickness and ball-handling skills important in post-season play. Spartans' coach Tom Izzo has his troops ready.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Winning Ugly: #6 Michigan State Downs Wisconsin, 61-50
The Spartans broke open a close game in the final minutes, dispatching Wisconsin, 61-50 on Sunday afternoon in East Lansing.
Wisconsin shot a pathetic 31% for the game, but hit 7 of 21 3-pointers while Michigan St. missed on 7 of 9 attempts from beyond the arc. The Spartans' first long-range hit was timely, a Chris Allen 24-footer which gave the them a 52-47 lead with 2:40 left to play, followed by a Kalin Lucas trey at 1:57 which kept Michigan State safely ahead down the stretch.
Lucas led the way with 17 points, followed by Goran Suton with 16.
Michigan State's win ended a five-game Badger winning streak, which commenced after they had lost six in a row. Wisconsin (8-7, 17-10) hasn't beaten a ranked foe outside their conference, which puts their invitation to the field of 65 on very shaky ground.
The Spartans improved their Big 10 lead to a full game over 10-4 Purdue, as they improved to 11-3 and 21-5 overall.
While Michigan St., Purdue and Illinois all seems sure to go to the NCAA tourney, Ohio St., Penn St., Wisconsin and Minnesota are all vying for he 4th and maybe 5th invite for the Big 10.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Purdue Bombs Spartans, 73-54
Hummel scored just two points in his last outing at Iowa, and improved to 11 points against the Spartans, but all but two of his points came early. Hummel scored just two points in the second half on a pair of late free throws.
The win was Purdue's third straight following a pair of road losses, putting the 9-4 Boilermakers just a game back of 10-3 Michigan State in the Big 10. Purdue is now 20-6. Michiagan State is 20-5 overall.
Purdue took over the game early in the second half, opening up a double-digit lead on the Spartans, which stretched to as many as 22 points as the Boilermakers laid it on their conference foes.
JaJuan Johnson led the scoring with 17 points on 5 of 7 shooting and 7 of 8 from the foul line.