Michigan v Illinois

Will No. 2 Michigan, after beating Illinois, move to the top of the polls?


With 40 minutes standing between themselves and a possible top spot in the national polls, No. 2 Michigan played like a team that couldn’t care less what their ranking is.

Point guard Trey Burke led four Wolverines in double figures with 19 points to go along with five rebounds, five assists and three steals, and as a team the Wolverines shot 52.5% from the field in beating Illinois 74-60 in Champaign.

With the win Michigan moves to 19-1 overall and 6-1 in the Big Ten, and they remain tied for first with No. 7 Indiana. Besides the offensive execution Michigan’s win was also impressive due to the fact that starting center Jordan Morgan was lost two minutes into the game due to a sprained right ankle.

With Morgan out of the lineup the Wolverines didn’t skip a beat, with freshmen Jon Horford, Mitch McGary and Max Bielfeldt giving them solid minutes inside. That trio combined to tally 17 points and 15 rebounds, a welcome bonus with the other four starters all reaching double figures.

Illinois once again struggled from beyond the arc, shooting 6-of-22 from deep and that has become a theme for the Fighting Illini in conference play. John Groce’s team has shot better than better than 30% from three in just two Big Ten games, and given their lack of a post scorer Illinois needs to get going from deep before it becomes too late.

Brandon Paul led Illinois with 15 points and D.J. Richardson added 12, and things won’t get easier as their next four games are at No. 13 Michigan State, Wisconsin and No. 7 Indiana at home and at No. 17 Minnesota.

But back to the Wolverines, who on Monday could return to the top spot in the polls for the first time since the 1992-93 season, when the “Fab Five” were all the rage in Ann Arbor and throughout college basketball.

Who should the pollsters pick: Michigan or Kansas, who entered this week ranked second in the Coaches Poll? According to warrennolan.com the Jayhawks have more RPI Top 50 wins (seven to Michigan’s four) and both teams can claim ten wins against RPI Top 100 teams if you prefer to use resumes as the basis for selection.

But the only thing that’s certain in this debate is that both would place far greater value on being atop the polls on April 9. That’s the day after the national championship game.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the NBCSports.com Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.