It’s hard to believe that such a competitive season has culminated to this. One tournament, the week before the big dance. For the first time in it’s history, the B1G Tourney has sold out before play even starts. We have seen some great opening round games the last few years, that have set up teams to a championship game run. Today, we don’t expect much different. We have a slate full of competitive games with huge implications on the line. Here is a look at today’s opening round games with a short preview of what to expect on the hardwood in Chicago in the opening round.
#8 Illinois vs. #9 Minnesota
This will be a hard game to figure out; both teams come in with similar records and both play schizophrenic (due respect to those diagnosed) basketball. Illinois comes into this game losers of 3 of their last 4 games. Further, they have failed to cover the spread in their last five games, meaning they won by fewer than expected and lost by more than expected. Not exactly the performance of a team peaking for post-season. These teams split the season series, so this game is the tie breaker with the opportunity to play #1 seed Indiana in next round.
Illinois is led in the backcourt by Brandon Paul (G, 6’4”, 15.7 ppg, 2.8 apg) and in the frontcourt by Nnanna Egwu (F/C, 6’11”, 6.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg). Minnesota is led in the backcourt by Andre Hollins (G, 6’1”, , 3.5 apg) and in the frontcourt by Trevor Mbakwe (F, 6’8”, 10.0 ppg, 8.7 rpg). Both teams shoot about the same, but Minnesota is a far superior rebounding team (Off Reb % of 44.3), although they are far more prone to turn the ball over (21% of possessions). Best bet for a good game is for Paul to light it up from long range paint while Mbakwe has his way in the paint. Minnesota is favored by 2, sounds about right.
Tip-off is at 12 Noon EST on BTN.
Ohio State’s men’s basketball team will likely find itself in unfamiliar territory on Sunday as a home underdog.
The Buckeyes, coming off of a 74-64 road victory against Purdue on Tuesday, will host arch rival and undefeated Michigan on Sunday.
Along with Duke, Michigan has been the most impressive team in the country so far this season. The Wolverines feature a balanced scoring attack, led by player of the year candidate Trey Burke.
Michigan has four players who average in double digit scoring: Burke at 18.2 points per game, Tim Hardaway Jr. with 16.3, Nik Stauskas at 13.5 and Glenn Robinson III with 12.6.
As much as it may pain Buckeye fans to admit, Michigan seems like it is on a mission to not only win the Big Ten title, but contend for a national title as well.
However, this game on Sunday is in Columbus. After being embarrassed by Illinois, the Buckeyes rebounded nicely against Purdue and played a pretty solid game. They will need a near perfect game on Sunday to beat the Wolverines and I have got five keys for Ohio State to defeat Michigan:
1. Points from players not named Deshaun Thomas: This is the theme of the season for Ohio State against good teams. Deshaun Thomas cannot beat Michigan alone as the Wolverines are too good. He will need some help. Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith Jr. and LaQuinton Ross seem to be the likely candidates who can score the basketball at times for OSU. They will likely need at least two of these three guys in double digits to have a chance. Read More
With basketball season rapidly approaching and a lot of information to digest from around the conference, I thought it was high time we hear from bloggers representing them. We finish off the series in roundtables with our last seven today! We hope you enjoy the feature and give us plenty of feedback, and be sure to check out Part One.
Introducing our comrades from around the B1G we start off with Rick Reese of the Iowa Blog Black Heart Gold Pants; Brian Rosenthal, Lincoln Journal Star writer and Husker Extra writer; Penn State writer for StateCollege.com Ben Jones; Philip Rossman-Reich writer for Lake the Posts ; Jonathan Foster, writer for From the Barn, one of my favorite B1G blogs.
I honestly had issues trying to round up bloggers for TTUN and for the Fighting Illini, and have the only Michigan fan I like helping out in Giuliano, (So Fla Wolverine to his twitter mates). tBBC main man for basketball Eric will do us the honor of covering the Illini.
Rick Reese. Black Heart Gold Pants. Iowa Roy Devyn Marble, Aaron White and Zach McCabe are Iowa’s returning starters. There’s also Gabe Olaseni and Melsahn Basabe coming off the bench. Marble holds a slight edge over Aaron White as the teams top returning scorer. Marble averaged 11.5 points per game last season while White averaged 11.1. White was a do-it-all freshman that as freshmen do, only got better as the season carried on. McCabe and Basabe averaged 7.8 and 8.2 rebounds per game. Basabe suffered the dreaded sophomore slump but will hopefully benefit this season with the return of a true center in Iowa’s lineup.
If anyone doubted the fact that the Michigan/Ohio State rivalry is back, this afternoon’s display of strategic basketball on both sides of the floor shows the real story in the Wolverines rise back to prominence in the Big Ten Conference.
A look at the scoreboard after this one doesn’t quite put it into context. After running into the best overall effort from Ohio State starters, the Wolverines hit the road with arguably their best performance in the last 8 years against their out of state Rivals. Despite a lackluster second half, and as much as we hate to say it — this team remains as one of the top to be reckoned with in this conference and in March.
Even after falling 64-49 in Columbus.
You can site the incoming talent, but in reality it’s the coaching of John Beilein. After taking an early 5-0 lead, Ohio State began to find their rhythm. Deshaun Thomas nailed a three to get the Buckeyes on the board with 18 minutes to go in the first. Lenzelle Smith followed with a beautiful layup and dish off to Jared Sullinger for the emphatic dunk in the low post.
Down two, Beilein made the adjustment to a 2-3 defense. Early it was effective, as Ohio State’s offense was unable to penetrate through and to the hoop. Despite giving up some tough baskets early, the Wolverines were able to set the pace through their defense in the first half.
Of course, that didn’t deter the best rebounding guard in the nation.
For most fans, all that matters is beating Michigan on the gridiron. These days, things have changed as Michigan has actually been able to become a true challenge the past few seasons. Of course, it took recruiting out of state to get to the top, but the Wolverines have arrived.
Now the only question is can they beat the best.
School: University of Michigan
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Student Population: 41,674
School Type: Public
Conference: Big Ten Conference
Head Coach: Jon Beilein
The Michigan Wolverines visited Columbus on Thursday night and gave the Buckeyes all they could handle, but in the end Ohio State prevailed to move to 23-0 on the 2010-11 season. After a brutal first half for the Buckeyes, the team came out in the second half and steadily got it together as the game wore on, finishing off the Wolverines down the stretch and protecting their undefeated streak. The Schott was rocking on a night that saw Ohio State gut out a good win over yet another Big Ten opponent that gave the Buckeyes their best shot.
As the game got started, it looked as though Ohio State was going to blow out the Wolverines. Coming off a close win over Northwestern, the Buckeyes jumped out to a 7-0 lead before two minutes had ticked by on the clock. However, Michigan came storming back on stellar play from star guard Darius Morris. The first half continued, and Ohio State’s rhythm disappeared, being replaced by a bevy of turnovers and bricks. Both David Lighty and Aaron Craft picked up two fouls partway through the first and were forced to the bench. Ohio State managed to keep it close, but went into halftime trailing 26-23. Read More
We’ve already had a pregame glance at Michigan this season, so you can consider this a pregame double-take. Back on January 12th the Buckeyes traveled North to take on the Wolverines in a game that you may better remember as The Brady Hoke Arrival Showdown Memorial Roundball Classic. In that earlier contest Ohio State picked up their 17th victory of the season on a hard-fought 68-64 win, battling through some crafty Michigan defense, a second-half scoring drought, and a Wolverine run near the end of the game that made it a bit close for comfort.
That game came in the middle of a particularly bad stretch for Michigan, as they had dropped their two games prior to facing the Buckeyes (Wisconsin, Kansas) and proceeded to drop their next three games after the Buckeyes left town (Indiana, Northwestern, Minnesota). More recently the Wolverines have started to turn it around, picking up wins over Michigan State and Iowa to give some new life to their tournament hopes. The win over the Spartans could be an especially significant confidence-booster for the Wolverines, as they hadn’t defeated Tom Izzo’s team on their four previous encounters, and hadn’t won in Lansing since 1997. Read More