Michigan Basketball: Annual Big Ten Basketball Predictions and Team Summaries – The League Elite — Part IV
Which Hog Will Eat the Cabbage?
The first three parts of the annual series discussed teams from the basement to the mid-pack of the league. Many excellent teams were reviewed. Now it is time to discuss the remaining four teams that have the best, but not only, chance of winning the 2012-13 regular season title. The four teams are Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan, and Indiana. Each team has plenty of strengths and some identifiable weaknesses, although frankly Indiana has precious few traits in the weakness category. Two teams, Michigan State and Ohio State, will make up this segment of the series.
Strengths – coaching, big and strong, persistent, tough defense, shooting, rebounding
Weaknesses – ball handling and passing and turnovers
Some would be puzzled at putting the Spartans in the hunt for the title. There is nothing puzzling about the Spartans potential. Michigan State has suffered three loses, but as always have played a very respectable schedule. The Spartans have also suffered plenty of injuries, including prized freshman guard Garry Harris, sophomore forward Branden Dawson, and guard Travis Trice. As the Spartans heal, and the season progresses, look for Michigan State to be very formidable.
The Spartans can play excellent lock-down defense and have the usual inside girth. As last year, the hands and ball skills are sometimes not all-universe level.
Keith Appling is a junior guard and he leads the team in scoring. He is quick and likes to get to the hole. While there are other point guards in the conference getting more media attention, Appling is a top shelf point guard, one of the best in the nation. He is averaging about 14 points a game and his two-point shooting has been excellent. Appling’s three-point shooting is clipping along at a 36 percent rate. He has good hands and always bags a bunch of steals. He leads the team in minutes played and turnovers.
Highly touted freshman guard Garry Harris has found his range and is scoring around 13 points a game. This athletic, big guard is shooting nearly 50 percent from the field. Harris’ game is sound and his future very bright.
Third in scoring is sophomore big guard Branden Dawson. He is averaging 10 points a game and is shooting well over 50 percent from the field.
Derrick Nix is Michigan State’s typical monster big body that is big enough to block out the sun. He is averaging near double figures in scoring and over seven rebounds a game. Derrick is a trim 270 pounds and can use every ounce to gain floor advantage. He is what can be expected of a Michigan State big man, strong and effective inside. His hands are better than many on this team. His inside game means that Derrick shoots a high field goal percentage. The guards may rule the offense, but Nix may be the guy that determines how far Michigan State advances.
Junior Adreian Payne is another Spartan inside furniture mover at 6’ 10.” His scoring and rebounding numbers mirror those of Nix, giving the Spartans the biggest true 1-2 inside power set in the conference.
Michigan State plays a deep nine-man rotation. The team has players that are team oriented and the overall roster has a high level of athleticism. The difference between the Spartans shooting percentage and that of the opponents is almost 10 percent, a very high range.
Strengths – Very high athletic talent on roster, a dominant offensive player, team speed, defense that leads to easy baskets
Weaknesses – inside defense, fades in second half on occasions, patience on offense
This team may be the enigma of this year’s conference play. There are times that Ohio State has looked unbeatable, granted against lesser opponents, and times that indicate the Buckeyes just may not win the league title. Thad Matta has a reputation of turning a team around and his talent will be needed before the losses mount against tough competition.
Ohio State had Duke on the ropes but the Buckeye play went downhill in the second half; ditto for the Kansas game. Still, observers need to understand that Ohio State played two likely top five teams tough to the end. It is likely that no team roster in the conference has more raw athletic talent than Ohio State, a team full of high school All-Americans.Ohio State has the leading scorer in the conference in Deshaun Thomas, a big powerful forward with amazing athletic talent. He is the only conference player averaging over 20 points a game, although a few others are close. One thing for certain, Thomas does not get cheated on his shooting quota. He flat out loves to put the ball up. Thomas also leads the team in rebounds.
There are many other talented players on Ohio State’s roster. Lenzell Smith Jr. is averaging about 11 points a game and plays a solid game.
LaQuinton Ross is a very talented athlete that can play all over the floor at 6’ 8.” He and the master defensive player Aaron Craft are both averaging near double figures in scoring. Ohio State depends on Craft for easy points on turnovers and the transition baskets that follow. When Ohio State is forced to play strictly half-court the results are not as impressive.
Evan Revenel and Amir Williams of Detroit Country Day provide Ohio State with two more very big players, matching Michigan State’s size. They are providing some scoring and decent rebounding numbers.
Ohio State may very well have to become more balanced if the team is to regain the form needed to win another conference title. As mentioned this team is a little bit of a puzzle.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff
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