Finish. Great teams do it and the mediocre teams never quite figure it out. The staple of any great team is that they just know how to close out games down the stretch. Look no further than the Michigan State game earlier this year. The game was almost back and forth during the middle 10 minutes of each half but Michigan State won it by closing out the first and second half in an emphatic fashion. Finishing in March is even more important because there are no more chances to make up for disappointments; this is it.
Finishing is an acquired skill and the only way to learn it is experience. Michigan reminded us again last Saturday that they are taking notes in class when they finished off a very good Minnesota team in their home gym. This Thursday it is time to finish what they started. We have watched this team put in 90% of the work right before our eyes but if they don’t beat Iowa on Thursday all they can do is sit at home and hope that 10 athletic directors give them a break.
I have already previewed Iowa twice before so I’m not going to go into that much detail. Iowa has refused to roll over down the stretch despite the fact that the deck is stacked against them. Their no quit attitude can be attributed one guy, Jake Kelly.Â Saying that Kelly has stepped up down the stretch for Iowa would be an understatement, over the last seven games he’s averaging 20.4 points, 6 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game while shooting an eFG% of 58.4%.Â Not bad for a guy who only scored in double digits in four of his first 11 Big Ten games and is playing a new position.
No Iowa preview is complete without the latest on the Hawkeyes’ injury situation. Cyrus Tate appears to be back to full speed after playing 42 minutes in Iowa’s double overtime victory over Penn State while former starting point guard Jeff Peterson remains questionable. According to the Daily Iowan it sounds like Peterson might try to play:
Peterson â€” who has missed six-consecutive games after suffering a hamstring injury on Feb. 11 â€” might get some floor time.
I expect Peterson to get a little playing time but frankly the way Jake Kelly is playing the point guard I think you have to leave him there. I have pointed this out before but Kelly’s biggest advantage is that at 6-foot-5 he can basically see over any point guard that the other team sends out there to defend him.
“It helps a ton,” Kelly said, smiling. “I can be lazy and just pass over people instead of trying to work around them.”
The Hawkeyes are essentially 6-foot-5 across the board in the backcourt with Kelly, Gatens, and Bawinkel which has the potential to give Michigan fits. Kelly ran the pick and roll to perfection in the second meeting and Michigan couldn’t really find a way to stop it. Bawinkel is flat out deadly if you leave him open for three in the corner. Gatens can also stroke the ball and does a surprisingly good job of penetrating and getting to the line. Cyrus Tate was a Michigan killer a year ago and he definitely worries me now that he is getting going again. He gives the Hawkeyes a much stronger presence inside and on the glass.
The first match-up was a blow out in Ann Arbor and the second will be remembered for Manny’s benching and a couple of questionable calls down the stretch. Michigan clearly feels that they can win the rubber match but they have to come out focused and play their game. It seems like these mid-afternoon Thursday games always end up with plenty of poor shooting and sloppy play.
Michigan has the chance to secure their first tournament berth since 1998. If that doesn’t tell you how important this game is, you must not have been watching for the last ten painful seasons.Â On the other hand, Iowa doesn’t have much to play for besides a potential NIT berth. They have only won 2 of their last 6 games but the four losses were by an average of 5 points — no rolling over here.
I’m headed down to Indianapolis to watch the game thanks to KJ over at the Spartans Weblog who was nice enough to pass along his Thursday tickets. The post-game will probably be up Friday in that case; hopefully along with an Illinois preview. I will be posting live from Conseco in the comments so I recommend joining in the fun.
- Michigan’s Manny Harris defines coachable
Rosenberg on Manny and Beilein. Manny also mentions that he plans to stay next year.
- State of the Blog Address: A-Change-is-a-Cominâ€™ Edition
KJ is closing the doors at Spartans Weblog but starting up a new mega-MSU blog for all your Spartan needs
- Borton’s Blog: Break from the pack ($)
CJ Lee and David Merritt get it.
- U-M players ready for Indianapolis business trip
“This has to be a business trip because the only thing we can do to help our cause is win,” Lee said. “We’re not going to scoreboard watch, we’re not going to hope that this team loses in this conference because that takes away what we can do and takes away from our focus.”
- Agents and AAU: Unrequited Love
Pat Barrett, Jay Williams, Kevin Love, and the AAU scene
- Conference Tournament Odds
Four teams with at least a 10% chance to win the B10 Title
- From 344 to 65: The Calm Before the Storm
Sheehan updates the bubble picture and acknowledges the Big Ten’s outrage.
- Now, the guys the Verve Pipe would love…
Big Ten Geeks All-Freshman team gives Zack Novak some honorable mention love
- McCormick on U-M in the BTT ($)