Wednesday Links

Opposition Q&A: The Only Colors

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Our good friend KJ, from The Only Colors, agreed to exchange questions regarding Thursday’s game in East Lansing. Of course we had everything wrapped up before the news broke last night that backup point guard Korie Lucious had been dismissed for the season. KJ, being the astute blogger that he is, has already posted his thoughts on what Lucious’ dismissal means for Michigan State going forward, so I’ll just point you in that direction. The rest of the Q&A session remains relevant and a worthwhile read.

Expectations couldn’t have been much higher headed into this season and, thus far, they haven’t been met. What went wrong? Is there a duct tape fix or are there more serious problems? Will we see Izzo turn this thing around before March?

Well, I spent most of a football game thinking this through and writing about it Sunday afternoon.  The (relatively) short version: Statistically, this was a good, but not great, team last season.  While the team had the pieces in place to potentially contend for the national title, an increase in both offensive and defensive efficiency was going to be necessary.

There were a number of areas where it looked like offensive improvements from last year were a real possibility–Durrell Summers being an explosive scorer on a more regular basis following last year’s NCAA run, Korie Lucious playing with the consistency that would befit a junior starter, Derrick Nix and/or Garrick Sherman becoming legitimate low-post threats, Adreian Payne and Keith Appling being immediate contributors as freshmen, and so on.  Unfortunately, those things haven’t happened or, at least, didn’t happen immediately.  The fact that it’s taken Kalin Lucas longer than expected to get his explosiveness back following last year’s Achilles’ injury has also been a significant issue, as it’s left Draymond Green to bear more of the burden on offense than he would be ideally.
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Recruiting Roundup: January 25th, 2011

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Our apologies for the lack of a recruiting roundup last week. We will hopefully be back to our normal weekly schedule from here on out.

Class of 2011

Trey Burke – Commit

Burke had 30 points on 13 of 18 (2-4 3pt) shooting with five rebounds, four assists, and two steals in an 85-51 win over Beechcroft on Monday night.

We posted video of Northland’s win over St. Vincent St. Mary’s over the weekend, Burke had 19 points and eight assists in that contest. We also posted a couple other videos of Burke last week.

Carlton Brundidge – Commit

Brundidge had 25 points in a 71-59 win over Pontiac. Carlton also had 29 points in an 86-60 win over Detroit Southwestern. Southfield did suffer an upset loss to West Bloomfield but will try to get back on track versus a loaded Detroit Country Day squad tonight.

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Big Ten Roundup: January 24th, 2011

Team W L Poss. Off Eff. Def. Eff. Eff. Margin
Purdue 6 1 64 1.19 1.01 0.18
Wisconsin 5 2 57 1.19 1.03 0.16
Ohio State 7 0 63 1.14 1.00 0.14
Illinois 4 3 63 1.14 1.06 0.08
Minnesota 4 3 61 1.09 1.08 0.01
Michigan State 4 3 64 1.05 1.06 -0.01
Penn State 3 4 60 1.09 1.11 -0.02
Northwestern 3 5 65 1.08 1.14 -0.06
Indiana 1 6 64 1.09 1.20 -0.11
Iowa 1 6 68 0.98 1.13 -0.15
Michigan 1 6 59 1.04 1.22 -0.18

Scatter plot now lives here.

Ohio State just keeps winning games but it is time to consider Purdue, and maybe Wisconsin, as legitimate title contenders. Purdue lost at Minnesota but the Boilermakers rebounded with a statement win over Michigan State and have blown out the remainder of their conference foes. Wisconsin exploded versus Northwestern on Sunday, scoring 78 points on just 50 possessions, and continues to post gaudy numbers on both ends.

Illinois is stuck between the first and second tier but we’ll lump them along with Minnesota, Michigan State, and, dare I say, Penn State. Michigan State’s offense is still bad, third worst in the conference, and Michigan State actually has a negative efficiency margin seven games into conference play. You could say Minnesota survived its treacherous schedule early on but the news that Al Nolen is out at least four weeks is deflating.

The bottom tier has separated itself clearly: Indiana, Iowa, and Michigan. Michigan fans will be upset to see that Michigan not only has the worst defense in conference play but also the worst efficiency margin. Scary times in Ann Arbor.

The real story with these numbers is the offense that has swept the league. Big Ten teams are scoring at an unprecedented (to my knowledge) and alarming rate. Here in our very own corn-fed league of toughness, grit, defense, and rebounding, we are seeing an offensive explosion.

Four teams are scoring over 1.11 points per possession, the same per possession average that the league’s best offense, Wisconsin, produced last season. 10 of the 11 Big Ten teams are averaging over a point per possession and no Big Ten team has managed to hold opponents under the point per trip threshold. In comparison, seven teams topped 1 point per possession last year, and just six managed it in the previous two years. Purdue and Wisconsin’s 1.19 points per possession almost have to regress over the second half of the schedule, but the numbers are still extremely impressive. This offensive explosion isn’t limited to just the top four offenses – three other teams average 1.09 points per possession, which would have been second best in last year’s Big Ten

Video: Trey Burke and Northland vs. SVSM

Capital City Preps put together these highlights from Northland’s victory over Akron St. Vincent St. Mary’s at the Scholastic Play-by-Play Classic in Columbus, Ohio. 19 points on 7 of 13 shooting with 8 assists, three blocks, and two steals in the Northland win. We’ll have our full recruiting roundup posted tomorrow. Burke wears #3 in white.

5 Key Plays: Minnesota at Michigan

1) Evan Smotrycz and Jordan Morgan in foul trouble early

Jordan Morgan and Evan Smotrycz have both developed the tendency to pick up ticky-tack fouls early on in games. It’s not just those two, all of Michigan’s bigs are picking up fouls at a high rate, 5.4 fouls are called on Jordan Morgan per 40 minutes, Smotrycz 4.8, McLimans 5.5, and Horford 7.5. Some of these fouls appear very minor but their consequences are not. The team that attacks the rim is rewarded and in this game that was Minnesota. Unfortunately, it appears the game-plan for most teams that play Michigan is to attack our bigs and get them in foul trouble. The default position for most Big Ten teams is to attack the rim and rebound, but teams know it is extremely easy to draw fouls in the post against the Wolverines. Smotrycz was pulled for his second foul after just six minutes and could have contributed to throwing off his shot for the rest of the game. Morgan was pulled for the remainder of the first half at around six minutes and was in foul trouble throughout the rest of the game. Out of everything, early foul trouble may be Michigan’s biggest problem right now — especially when limiting opposition free throws is a primary focus of the defense.

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