Hardaway Jr., Burke are great, but Jordan Morgan is Michigan’s X-factor

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Tim Hardaway Jr. finished with 25 points. Trey Burke went 7-13 from the floor.  Zach Novak was a perfect 6-6 from the free throw line.

Neither of these three players were the Wolverines most important player tonight.

While his impact will not be strongly reflected in the box score it’s Michigan’s starting big-man, Jordan Morgan, who should be considered as tonight’s star of the game.

Winners of their last three on the road, the Wolverines extended that streak tonight with a comfortable 72-61 win over Illinois – the program’s first victory in Champaign since 1995.

Nursing a minor shoulder injury and playing with a bit of foul trouble Morgan logged only 20 minutes tonight, finishing with seven points and seven rebounds, but and it was his time off the court that showed just how valuable he may be to this team for post-season play.

With Morgan sidelined for much of the beginning of the second-half, the Fighting Illini went down low to Meyers Leonard. The big-man went to work, taking full advantage of his size and skill advantage against Wolverine reserves Evan Smotrycz and Colton Christian.

It’s shrewd coaching on Bruce Weber’s part, but also sort of a no-brainer strategy, as Leonard scored six points in about 90 seconds.

This brief portion of the game showed just how crucial a healthy and able Morgan is to Michigan, a player whose presence on defense limited good looks for Illinois, and that’s something no other player on this team can provide.

John Beilien’s club has plenty of perimeter players. What they don’t have is anyone who can really defend a true big man other than Morgan.

After a fairly unproductive freshman campaign, the sophomore has progressed at a steady pace this season. He’s in better shape, is a better defensive player, and is slowing coming around with a more polished post game.

With the victory the Wolverines stay alive for a share of the Big Ten regular season title, and hang on to an outside chance of stealing an NCAA Tournament two seed if they can win at Penn State Sunday then win a few games in next weekend’s conference tournament.

Regardless of their standing come Selection Sunday, a full-strength Wolverines team is a very dangerous ball club.

Florida Gulf Coast’s Demetris Morant out 3-4 months

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Florida Gulf Coast redshirt junior forward Demetris Morant is expected to miss the next 3-4 months after undergoing surgery last week to repair a stress fracture in his right shin, the school announced on Tuesday.

The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 4.5 points, 4.4 blocks and 1.3 blocks per game in 33 appearances (18 starts) for the Eagles during the 2014-15 season.

“This is obviously an unfortunate setback for Demetris, but it was a procedure that needed to be done,” Florida Gulf Coast head coach Dooley said in a statement. “We decided it would be best to have it completed now to hopefully get him back for A-Sun play. It’s an opportunity now for other guys to step up in his absence, and I have confidence they’ll get the job done.”

The Eagles have the top frontline in the Atlantic Sun, one that returns Marc-Eddy Norelia and Filip Cvjeticanin, a 3-point shooter who missed all of last season recovering from back surgery. VCU transfer Antravious Simmons becomes eligible in the second semester.

Florida Gulf Coast begins the 2015-16 season on Nov. 14 against Ohio.

Bill Self on Cheick Diallo: ‘It may be a couple of more weeks’

2015 McDonald's All American Game
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Cheick Diallo is currently practicing with Kansas, but his eligibility still remains in question.

On Monday, Kansas head coach Bill Self appeared on “The Border Patrol” on WHB-AM 810 and was asked to update the status of his freshman big man.

“He’s been cleared to practice,” Self told hosts Steven St. John and Nate Bukaty. “(His status) is depending on what they find throughout from the information we submit to them whenever we get it all together.

“A lot of people think, ‘Well, why wouldn’t it all be together?’ Well there’s a lot of reasons why. It’s because they told us recently some things that they just wanted. Instead of just throwing it to them piece by piece, they requested we to just submit it all together, so it may be a couple of more weeks before we’re able to submit everything when you’re talking about getting information from schools in Mali and everything like that.

“But we hope in two weeks, maybe three weeks, before we have a definite answer. But right now, Cheick is like everybody else. He’s practicing.”

Diallo, a 6-foot-9 forward from Mali is allowed to practice with the Jayhawks, but has been waiting to be cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center despite enrolling in classes over the summer and earning six credits. Self anticipated this would be a long process, but has remained confident Diallo, the top-5 recruit in Class of 2015, will eventually be cleared to play this season.

For three years, Diallo attended Our Savior New American School in Centereach, New York, which is currently under NCAA review. In September, Pitt freshman Damon Wilson, Diallo’s teammate at OSNA, was cleared to play.

Kansas opens the season on Nov. 13 against Northern Colorado.