Gary Harris

Pregame Shootaround 3.3.13: Michigan-Michigan State highlights Sunday’s slate

Leave a comment

Game of the Day: No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 9 Michigan State (4:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

The last time these two teams met, Michigan was at the tail end of a brutal four-game stretch in the Big Ten. The Wolverines had faced Indiana, Ohio State, and Wisconsin in succession and were subsequently blown out by Michigan State in East Lansing, 75-52. At the time, there were questions about how much of that was a matter of fatigue and how much was related to Michigan State as an opponent.

Now, almost three weeks later, they meet again and Michigan is fresh off a loss to lowly Penn State, while Michigan State is in its own brutal stretch of the Big Ten. The Spartans have losses to Indiana and Ohio State, will face Michigan Sunday, then welcome Wisconsin back at home.

Guard play is key in this one. Michigan’s Trey Burke is a National Player of the Year candidate and the player tabbed with containing Keith Appling. Appling has struggled of late, combining to go 2-of-14 for nine points in consecutive losses to Indiana and Ohio State. Whoever wins the battle of the point guards will go far to win this game, but continue reading below for the matchup that will decide this one.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 4 Michigan (-5) vs. No. 9 Michigan State

One of the biggest questions that faces the Michigan Wolverines is how they handle the interior. Few questions the potency of their offense or the play of point guard Trey Burke, but when it comes to depth in the paint, there are question marks. That’s why Sunday comes down to a matchup that Michigan State should use to its advantage. Can Mitch McGary and Jordan Morgan handle Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne?

If Tom Izzo gameplans accordingly, they should be able to exploit that matchup and can use it as an engine to get a big road win.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Stony Brook vs. Albany (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Stony Brook has already locked up the regular season title in the America East, but they’re worth watching Sunday because they could be dangerous if they make it to March. They are a very solid rebounding team, led by freshman Jameel Warney, and contrast that with help from do-it-all senior Tommy Brenton. Low majors always face a battle because, regardless of what happens in the regular season, the automatic bid is usually the only ticket to the Big Dance. We’ll see if the Seawolves can make a run.

Five Things to Watch For

1) No. 17 Wisconsin is fortunate to have one of the more favorable final stretches in the Big Ten, but Sunday against Purdue is a major trap game. The Badgers can’t be looking ahead to Michigan State on the horizon and must take care of this one at home.

2) Virginia scored an emotional upset win over Duke on Thursday and faces something similar to what Wisconsin is looking at here in the final three regular season games. The Cavaliers draw Boston College Sunday, then Florida State and Maryland. All three should be wins, but any one could also be a stumbling block before the ACC tournament.

3) Villanova is squarely on the bubble. With all the shifting going on yesterday, they have a chance to solidify their spot in the tournament with a win over No. 23 Pittsburgh. A loss would certainly hurt, but at least it can’t be on the level of Ole Miss’ loss to Mississippi State or Tennessee’s loss to Georgia.

4) Maryland popped its own bubble with a loss to Georgia Tech earlier this week. NC State is much more solidly in the NCAA tournament than the Terrapins, but they’ll need to avoid stumbling against the Yellow Jackets Sunday.

5) Close games have hurt Stanford’s chances in the Pac-12. This team has lost three games by two points or less this season and sit at the bottom of a crowded conference because of it. Regardless, they face Utah Sunday and want to finish out the regular season strong.

The Top 25

No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 9 Michigan State (4:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 17 Wisconsin vs. Purdue (1:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 23 Pittsburgh vs. Villanova (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Other Notable Games

Florida State vs. North Carolina (2:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

Washington State vs. Washington (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

Virginia vs. Boston College (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Utah vs. Stanford (5:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

NC State vs. Georgia Tech (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
Leave a comment

Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
Leave a comment

Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.