Feb 4, 2012; West Lafayette, IN, USA; Indiana Hoosiers head coach Tom Crean during the game at Mackey Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sandra Dukes-US PRESSWIRE

GBMWolverine: Michigan Basketball -- Michigan at Michigan State -- Preview

Posted at 6:00am — 2/5/2012

GBMWolverine: Michigan Basketball — Michigan at Michigan State — Preview

Michigan Basketball
Michigan at Michigan State
Breslin Center — East Lansing, Michigan
1:00pm – 3:00pm
DirecTV Channel: Local CBS

Three Act Opera-Indiana at Michigan- Looking Ahead to the Spartans- and a Look at the Predictions from GBMWolverine

The basketball game at Crisler Arena last Tuesday was indeed a three act opera. In true form, Michigan came out smoking, and playing perfect basketball, or totally asleep. This time the Wolverines came out smoking and played the first ten minutes in near perfect form. The offense was clicking, the guys were running, and the defense shut down Indiana’s best options. This time Indiana was the team shell-shocked, not Michigan. Indiana also had difficulty hanging on to the ball and suffered several early turnovers. The result was an early lead that would be tough to overcome.

The opera turned to Act II whereby the happy times ceased and Michigan struggled to score. Indiana never quits and scraps all over the floor as if it had five Zack Novak’s. The Hoosiers fought back slowly, started getting to the boards on the offensive end for second chance points, and toughened the defense. Michigan’s offense reverted back to not getting the ball inside and bad shot selection. Hardaway Junior’s shooting troubles continue. Part of this is probably shooter’s slump, part of this is probably mental, and a good part of the downturn is shot selection.

The last act fortunately had a theme of triumph more so than the not so happy endings of Tosca and Aida. Burke took over and Zack Novak was in range to supply enough leadership and play to keep Michigan on the positive side. Once securing the lead going down the stretch, Michigan’s end game was impressive. Burke again looks like the guy that can shot 75-80 percent when it counts at the end.

This was an important win for Michigan. It will count as a top 25 win when the committee meets soon. This also puts Michigan within about three games of wrapping up a spot in the tourney. The name of the game is get to that 21-22 win mark that could put the Wolverines as high as a # 6 seed. Lose a bunch going down the stretch and the wonderful 8-9 consolation prize may be in order.

Again, the team showed better mental toughness as poise once again remained and the Wolverines did not wilt when Indiana put on a good rush. The inside defense for Michigan was effective, the outside defense gave up some easy looks once again. But, that is the way inside-outside basketball works. The game could have been a blowout if Michigan could better rebound and keep the other team off of the offensive boards. Michigan was out-rebounded by eight as the home team. Blocking out and positioning are clearly weaknesses of this system, some may be kind and say personnel group. Between Indiana getting to the ball with more abandon and the failure to block out, Indiana put up several more points that were preventable.

Jan 31, 2012; Champaign, IL, USA; Michigan State Spartans head coach Tom Izzo during the first half against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Assembly Hall. Mandatory Credit: Bradley Leeb-US PRESSWIRE

And now Michigan continues its journey through the tough back-loaded section of the Big Ten schedule at Michigan State. This game may be more about getting personal than about basketball. Izzo and Michigan State have not been transparent that Sunday will be a red-letter/circled day on the schedule. Smarting from three straight loses the green faithful will be pumped to the max and Michigan may endure more of a mental toughness test than a basketball game. There will be times Michigan faces adversity and needs to play with ice water in the veins. The meek may inherit the earth but that trait will not help at the Breslin Center Sunday. Green will play and every good sports follower should be glad he escaped serious injury and can play.

So, in summary, expect MSU’s best shot. Ohio State is rolling and a Spartan loss on Sunday at home probably hands the title to Ohio State de facto.

So, how have the early predictions gone as the Big Ten season heads into the second half of the season?

Iowa and Penn State were discussed as high risk not to make the tournament. This statement is on target. It should be noted that Iowa is playing as hard as any team in the conference and is dangerous. Michigan may have played its worst game in two seasons at Iowa. But with 11 losses at this time Iowa is pretty much cooked unless it nearly runs the table or wins the conference tournament, both really looooong shots.

Nebraska and Northwestern were classified as at risk but at least in the mix to have a shot at the tournament. This prediction is on target. Northwestern, excepting the effort against Michigan State, has been disappointing, again reverting to methods to not win close games. Northwestern still remains dangerous on a good night and could easily beat another tournament team at home. Michigan struggled at home to beat Northwestern and frankly this is a team and style Michigan does not match up well against.

Nebraska, like the others in the 9-12 range, has had some shining moments, but merely moments. The teams in the mixer hope to not be a part of someone else’s shining moments.

Positions five thru eight were described as an ever changing cement mixer, where teams with teams with far less talent than an Ohio State needed to play tough every night and value every win to gain the mid conference status.

Position eight was Minnesota. Minnesota is currently number eight in the conference and with 16 wins is still very much in the tournament hunt. It is assumed by all that the Big Ten gets six teams in the tournament, by some seven, and by some the number expands to eight.

Indiana was predicted as the number seven team and is currently seventh. After the fast start that shocked the basketball world, Indiana is coming back to the field. This team will almost certainly make the tournament with wins over two number one teams, but a few more wins are needed as the Hoosiers like many sit on 17 wins. Next year Indiana has signed three more high talent players (as has Michigan) and the future looks bright in Bloomington.

Illinois was predicted in the six position and currently the Illini are in a tie for the five and six spot. Predicting Illinois is folly and this is still the same team that can beat anyone on a good night or look like a team that cannot run an offense on another. There is talent and size in Champaign, there always is.

Michigan was slotted for the five spot and currently is number three. As the remainder of a tough schedule plays out, it is reasonable to project five as a probable finish.

Purdue was slotted as number four and is currently tied in the 5-6 slots. Purdue plays tough and hard, and emphasizes defense, but the Boilers have not overcome the loss of last year’s seniors. Hummel is giving what he has left and the folks that follow Purdue hope his play gets the Boilers to the big show. With fifteen wins, Purdue has work to do.

Wisconsin was projected at number three and is currently two, but like Michigan there are tough games ahead. If Ohio State wins at Madison, the title may be spoken for early. Wisconsin also misses last year’s seniors, but the Badger toughness and adaptability have taken a so-so team to eighteen wins in an “off” year. Pretty remarkable, actually that Wisconsin has accomplished what it has to this point. Shooting remains an issue to watch going down the stretch.

Michigan State was picked to finish second, and may still. But the Spartans are riding some waves and may crash to as low as fifth or sixth. Like many teams in the middle of the pack, Michigan State needs a few more wins.

Ohio State is first and should remain first. The statement in the season preview that Ohio State has more talent than any other college team still stands at GBMWolverine. This team could lose two starters and still win the league. There are only a few teams in the nation that have the talent to match up in the tournament. What Ohio State followers dread is the annual poor shooting game that knocks the more talented Buckeyes out of the national title hunt.

It should be fun watching what transpires down the stretch.

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff

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