Trey Burke, Keith Appling

Is it time to reevaluate how we view Michigan?

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I don’t like to overreact to the outcome of a single game. I don’t like to make blanket statements about a team based on the way that one matchup plays out.

Over the course of a 35 game season, there are going to be nights were teams don’t show up. Maybe three starters are in the same class and were forced to be up late studying for a midterm. What if the star point guard just had the girl of his dreams break his heart? There are unfavorable matchups and difficult road environments and stomach bugs. These are 19 and 20 year olds were talking about. They’re going to have nights where they don’t show up and nights where they play out of their minds.

Consistency is not the norm in college basketball.

Which brings me to the 75-52 mollywhopping that No. 8 Michigan State laid on No. 4 Michigan.

After watching the Spartans go up by as much as 31 points on the Wolverines, I found myself wondering whether or not it’s time that we reevaluate the way we view the Wolverines.

And I know the caveats, so there’s no need to repeat them to me.

Michigan was playing on the road in front of a fired up Breslin Center on national television. They were coming off one of the most brutal stretches that any team is going to play this season: at Indiana, at home against Ohio State, at Wisconsin and at Michigan State, all within a 10 day span. Two of those games went to overtime.

They also just so happen to matchup with the Spartans about as poorly as it’s possible to matchup up with a team. Michigan State is big and physical and plays like it, but they also happen to be athletic and rangy in the spots where it hurts the Wolverines. Michigan is a jump-shooting team, finesse in every sense of the word, and on the nights when Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III aren’t hitting their shots, the Wolverines are in trouble. Hardaway and Robinson combined to go 2-15 on Tuesday, and the length of Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson played a huge role in that.

Should I mention that I’m not the only one thinking that Michigan State may actually be the best team in the Big Ten?

So coming off of a brutal portion of their schedule, a young Michigan team lost on the road in a game that they were physically overwhelmed, never found an offensive rhythm, and were playing the best team in the best league in the country.

But what gets me is that the beauty of the Big Ten this season is that seemingly every marquee matchup has lived up to the hype. Between the teams at the top of the conference, there haven’t been blowouts. Prior to Tuesday night, there were 10 games between the top five teams in the Big Ten. Only one — Sunday’s game between Indiana and Ohio State — finished with a double-digit margin. Only two others had a difference larger than five points, and one of those two was Indiana’s thrilling win over Michigan 10 days ago. Five were one possession games, two of which went to overtime:

  • Indiana 81, Ohio State 68
  • Wisconsin 58, Ohio State 49
  • Indiana 81, Michigan 73
  • Indiana 75, Michigan State 70
  • Wisconsin 64, Indiana 59
  • Ohio State 56, Michigan 53
  • Michigan State 59, Ohio State 56
  • Michigan State 49, Wisconsin 47
  • Wisconsin 65, Michigan 62 OT
  • Michigan 76, Ohio State 74 OT

And then we have tonight, where Michigan State made Michigan look like a JV team.

Do the Wolverines have the size inside to matchup with bigger, more physical teams? Can Robinson show up in big games and in difficult environments? Was this really just a blip on the radar, or a sign of bigger problems for the Wolverines?

I’m not ready to write this Michigan team off.

And you shouldn’t be, either. One ugly loss doesn’t mean they aren’t a title contender.

But it will be worthwhile to take a closer look at this team the next couple of times they take the court.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Wisconsin ends No. 2 Maryland’s 27-game home win streak

Wisconsin forward Vitto Brown (30) shoots during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Maryland, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
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Just over a month ago Wisconsin lost at Northwestern, dropping to 9-9 overall and 1-4 in the Big Ten and had the look of a team that would have to fight simply to get into the NIT. Since then, Greg Gard’s Badgers have won seven straight games with the most recent triumph being a 70-57 victory at No. 2 Maryland. Not only did Wisconsin become the first Big Ten team to beat the Terrapins at the Xfinity Center since Maryland joined the Big Ten, but they also ended Maryland’s 27-game home win streak.

And it was Wisconsin’s offensive balance that stood out, as four starters scored in double figures led by forward Vitto Brown.

Brown, who accounted for 18 points and five rebounds in Wisconsin’s win over Nebraska Wednesday night, was even better against Maryland as he scored a career-high 21 points on 8-for-14 shooting from the field and grabbed seven rebounds. While Bronson Koenig (16 points, six rebounds, five assists) and Nigel Hayes (14 and six rebounds) are the ones expected to shoulder much of the load, players such as Brown, Ethan Happ and Zak Showalter (11 points) will also be key as Wisconsin makes its push for an NCAA tournament bid.

In Wisconsin’s first five conference games Brown averaged 4.4 points and 1.8 rebounds per contest. Since then he’s averaging 11.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, scoring in double figures in each of Wisconsin’s last three games.

Overall Wisconsin’s looked far more fluid offensively during this win streak, and over the last three games the Badgers have shot very well from the perimeter as they made nearly 51 percent of their attempts (12-for-26 against Maryland). Add in Wisconsin’s ability to take advantage of Maryland’s defensive rebounding issues, converting 13 offensive boards into 20 second-chance points, and it was easy to see why Wisconsin was able to grab control of the game in the first half during a 20-0 run that gave them the separation they needed.

Maryland’s issues throughout conference play remain the same, as they struggled to end defensive possessions while also turning the ball over far too often (seven times) during the aforementioned Wisconsin run. With Melo Trimble not playing at the level he’s capable of reaching (he may not be completely healthy), Maryland has some things to address during this stretch run.

But more than anything, Saturday was the product of a Wisconsin team that’s starting to click at the right time. And as crazy as it may seem, given how Wisconsin began Big Ten play, the Badgers only two games out of first place.

No. 5 Xavier finds shooting touch in 74-57 blowout at Butler

Xavier head coach Chris Mack talks with James Farr (2) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Butler, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Indianapolis. Xavier won 74-57. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
AP Photo/Darron Cummings
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) No. 5 Xavier learned its lesson.

To keep winning, it must continue do the dirty work.

Four days after stumbling at Creighton, the Musketeers got back to basics and used a balanced offense and a smothering defense to run away from Butler 74-57 on Saturday.

“We played much better today and after about the first four or five minutes, we defended,” coach Chris Mack said. “Our shots were, in my opinion, really good ones because we got in the lane, we made the extra pass and I thought that was the difference.”

Whatever the explanation, the Musketeers (22-3, 10-3 Big East) certainly looked worthy of the highest ranking in school history.

After making a season-low 30 percent from the field and just 1 of 21 3-point attempts in Tuesday’s loss, Xavier rebounded by shooting 56.9 percent and going 9 of 18 beyond the arc. J.P. Macura led the way with 13 points while Edmond Sumner and Remy Abell each had 12.

But the biggest improvements showed up in other areas – defense, rebounding and effort. They allowed 36 points over the final 31 1/2 minutes.

“Everybody was boxing out and rebounding, and on the offensive end we have so much talent we could get whatever we wanted,” said Abell, who started his college career playing for the Indiana Hoosiers.

The difference was obvious.

Butler (17-8, 6-7) was held almost 25 points below its season average.

Kelan Martin, with 15 points, and Andrew Chrabascz, with 12, were the only players to score more than 10. And the top three scorers – Martin, Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones – were a combined 11 of 39 from the field as the Bulldogs’ three-game winning streak came to an end.

Xavier crushed the Bulldogs so thoroughly that chants of “Let’s Go X” resounded throughout sold out Hinkle Fieldhouse over the final minutes.

“We didn’t have near the effort, the juice, the purpose defensively and we didn’t move the ball offensively and that was actually the case from the opening minute,” Butler coach Chris Holtmann said. “We mentioned that in the four-minute media and said that had to improve and when it doesn’t these things happen.”

Butler used a 9-0 first-half run to take a 21-13 lead midway through the first half.

Xavier answered with a 27-6 run that included four 3s and a three-point play in a 27-6 run to make it 40-27. The Bulldogs got as close as 47-39 early in the second half, which later became a seven-point deficit after a replay review gave Dunham a 3.

But the Bulldogs couldn’t get closer.

“You can go 1 for 21 one game, and then the next game it’s – I’m sure it was better,” Macura said. “That’s basketball.”

POINTERS

Xavier’s dominance showed up in two key stats on the box score. The Musketeers outscored Butler 36-14 in points off the bench and 36-18 in the paint despite having only two offensive rebounds. Xavier has won six of its last seven.

ON THE ROAD

Even the road has been kind to the Musketeers this season. They have won seven times in true road games, their highest season total since 2010-11. They have also won five Big East games on the road – more than they won in either of their first two seasons in the league and they have won 10 of the last 13 at Hinkle.

MOVING UP

Dunham continues his ascent on the Bulldogs’ career scoring list. After moving from 14th to sixth on the list in the first 23 games this season, Dunham moved passed Lynn Mitchem (1,798) for fifth and within one point of A.J. Graves (1,807) for fourth. Matt Howard is third (1,939) and the only 2,000-point scorers in school history are Chad Tucker (2,321) and Darrin Fitzgerald (2,019).

TIP-INS

Xavier: Former Indiana prep star Trevon Bluiett had 11 points and four rebounds and James Farr had 12 rebounds. … Each of Xavier’s 22 wins has come by at least seven points. … The Musketeers were the highest-ranked team to play at Hinkle Fieldhouse since No. 3 DePaul visited Feb. 23, 1981.

Butler: Shot 33.3 percent overall and was 8 of 22 on 3s. …. The Bulldogs only have three wins at home against Top 10 teams – No. 8 Gonzaga in January 2013, No. 3 Michigan in 1965-66 and No. 5 Tennessee in 1958-59. … Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence attended the game.

UP NEXT

Xavier hosts No. 20 Providence on Wednesday.

Butler hosts Creighton on Tuesday.