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2013-2014 Season Preview: No. 9 Michigan Wolverines

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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. The rest of our Top 25 Countdown can be found here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last Season: 31-8, 12-6 Big Ten (t-4th); Lost to Louisville in the title game

Head Coach: John Beilein (7th season at Michigan: 122-85 overall, 55-53 Big Ten)

Key Losses: Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr.

Newcomers: Zak Irvin, Derrick Walton, Mark Donnal

Projected Lineup

G: Derrick Walton, Fr.
G: Nik Stauskas, So.
F: Caris LeVert, So.
F: Glenn Robinson !!!, So.
C: Mitch McGary, So.
Bench: Spike Albrecht, So.; Jordan Morgan, Sr.; Zak Irvin, Fr.; Mark Donnal, Fr.; Jon Horford, Jr.

They’ll be good because …: Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. may be gone, but John Beilein still has a roster with a ton of talent on it, particularly in the sophomore class. We’ll start with the front line, where Mitch McGary made the decision to return to school after a dominating NCAA tournament performance. Glenn Robinson III followed suit, giving Beilein a pair of potential lottery picks on his front line. It will be interesting to see what kind of jump those two will make as sophomores, as both have plenty of room to grow. Robinson is an excellent athlete that too often settled into a role as a jump-shooter last season, while McGary is massive and plays hard but can still improve his back-to-the-basket game.

Nik Stauskas is another sophomore that returns with a chance to prove that he’s a more complete player than the role he played last season. Arguably the best shooter in the country, Stauskas is a better athlete than he gets credit for and can create off the bounce when he has the chance. Caris LeVert was impressive in his limited minutes a season ago and will join five-star recruit Zak Irvin round out Michigan’s perimeter attack.

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AP photos

But they might disappoint because …: The Wolverines lost Trey Burke, and while everyone will remember that Burke won the National Player of the Year award, they may not remember just how important he was to this team. His numbers speak for themselves — 18.8 points, 6.6 assists, and just 2.1 turnovers while posting a 121.2 usage rate while using 29.0% of Michigan’s possessions in the 35.3 minutes he played. Those are monstrous numbers, and it reflects the fact that John Beilein’s offense last season was structured around Burke’s ability to create off the dribble and in pick-and-roll actions. He got McGary his dunks. He created the open looks for Stauskas and Robinson. He broke down defenders one-on-one. His importance cannot be overstated.

And this season, Michigan more-or-less returns the same team, with LeVert and Irvin playing the role of Hardaway, without Burke. In his stead resides Spike Albrecht, the darling of the title game after scoring 17 first half points, and freshman Derrick Walton. So here’s the question: Can those two fill the void left by Burke? Can the rest of the roster increase their production enough that the loss of Burke can be mitigated?

Outlook: Michigan has plenty of talented hoopers on their roster, and at the end of the day, betting on talent is going to earn you more wins than it will losses. But just how good Michigan ends up being this season will depend entirely on two things: the development of their awesome sophomore class — McGary, Robinson, Stauskas, LeVert — and the play of point guard duo Albrecht and Walton.

Frankly, I think that just how much the sophomores are capable of doing on a basketball court was overshadowed by the fact that it was in Michigan’s best interest to have the ball in Burke’s hands. I think Robinson is more than just a stand-still shooter even though that was more-or-less the end of his role a year ago. The same can be said for Stauskas. I think LeVert is going to have a big year now that he is in line to see a bump in minutes, and McGary already thrives in his role as a rebounder and physical presence in the paint. Michigan should compete for a Big Ten title; anything less than a top four finish in the conference and a top four seed in the NCAA tournament will be a disappointment.

South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell suspended

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 26:  Sindarius Thornwell #0 of the South Carolina Gamecocks drives to the basket defended by Tyler Lydon #20 of the Syracuse Orange in the second half during the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational at Barclays Center on November 26, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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South Carolina senior guard Sindarius Thornwell has been suspended indefinitely due to a violation of athletic department policy, the school announced on Sunday.

Thornwell is averaging 18.7 points, 6.7 boards and 4.1 assists for the Gamecocks, who are undefeated and sitting at No. 20 nationally. Thornwell is the reigning SEC Player of the Week.

South Carolina plays FIU in Columbia at 2:00 p.m. ET.

Melo Trimble’s heroics get him a shout-out from Wale in a song

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 26:  Melo Trimble #2 of the Maryland Terrapins celebrates after hitting the game winning shot as they defeated the Kansas State Wildcats 69-68 during the championship game of the Barclays Center Classic at Barclays Center on November 26, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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For the fourth time in the first three weeks of the college basketball season, Melo Trimble won a game for Maryland.

His two free throws in the final ten seconds gave the Terps a come-from-behind, 71-70 win over Oklahoma State in College Park, and the win not only was the sixth time this season that the Terps have won a game decided by six points or less, it improved Trimble’s record in those games to 26-5.

26-5!

That’s an insane statistic, one that should allow Maryland fans to truly appreciate just how valuable their junior point guard is.

At least one Maryland fan does. Rapper Wale, who hails from Maryland, just outside DC, made sure to name-drop his favorite Terp in a verse in a song he released on Saturday night:

And you better believe that Trimble is aware of it:

"My therapist terrible , I'm uh Terp Melo Trimbling" @wale

A photo posted by Melo Trimble (@olem__) on

Rick Pitino on Grand Canyon: ‘The toughest crowd I’ve ever faced’

Rick Pitino
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Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said after his No. 14 Cardinals struggled to put away a tough Grand Canyon team on the road had some kind – and hyperbolic – words to say about the atmosphere.

“This, in college basketball in my 40 plus year, was the toughest crowd I’ve ever faced,” he said.

Umm, but Rick, you’ve coached in the Big East and the ACC! This was tougher than any of those crowds?

“Whether we go to Duke, Kentucky, nothing was as tough as that crowd tonight,” he said.

Well, now.

That seems like a bit much, but to be fair, the atmosphere there was, shall we say, lit:

POSTERIZED: Charlotte’s Najee Garvin nearly jumpers over defender

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This is what you don’t try to take charges.

Providence beats No. 21 Rhode Island 63-60

RALEIGH, NC - MARCH 19:  Head coach Ed Cooley of the Providence Friars  reacts in the first half against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at PNC Arena on March 19, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley knew the Rams were in for a tough one against Providence, which had won the matchup of cross-state rivals six straight times.

He didn’t see this coming, though.

Kyron Cartwright, who had made four 3-pointers all season, hit four of five from beyond the arc in the first half. The Providence point guard finished with 19 points and eight assists to lead the Friars to a 63-60 victory over No. 21 Rhode Island on Saturday.

“That’s sports, and that’s the type of thing that makes coaches go gray and lose their hair,” Hurley said after his team lost for the third time in four games. “Four 3-pointers in seven games and he made four today – all in the first half.”

Rodney Bullock scored 17 points for the Friars (6-2). Cartwright had 15 in the first half and Jalen Lindsey scored nine of his 13 points in the second, five during a 7-0 run that erased a seven-point deficit.

“My teammates were telling me, `You need to take those shots to open up the defense,”‘ Cartwright said. “(And) we don’t shoot the ball to not make it.”

Hassan Martin had 14 points and 17 rebounds for Rhode Island (5-3), which lost at unranked Valparaiso and Providence a week after falling to No. 1 Duke. E.C. Matthews scored nine points and went 1 for 8 from 3-point range, airballing a 3 with 2 seconds left with a chance for the Rams to tie it.

“Games like this might help us down the stretch,” Martin said. `’So you just tell everybody to keep their head up.”

The Rams led 47-40 with 12:15 left when Cartwright’s arm appeared to catch Christion Thompson in the left eye. Thompson went to the court, flailing his arms in the air looking for a call, but the teams played on until Lindsey hit a 3-pointer to make it a four-point game at 11:00.

Lindsey’s free throws brought the Friars within two points, and Ryan Fazekas scored on a fast-break goaltending call to tie it. From there, there were three more ties and kept the game within one possession until Lindsey hit a fallaway jumper with 43 seconds left to give Providence a 59-55 lead.

“We beat a tournament team today,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said.

POLL IMPLICATONS

It will be difficult for Rhode Island to stay in The Associated Press Top 25 after its stumbles.

Hurley said he isn’t concerned.

The goal at the beginning of the season was to win the Atlantic 10 and play in the NCAA Tournament.

That’s all still in play.

“We expect to have a long and great season. Nothing’s changed for us,” he said. “We lost two tough road games in a long season.”

BULLOCK’S BOUNCE-BACK

Bullock scored a career-high 36 points against New Hampshire on Wednesday, but he missed all three shots from the field in the first half and had only three points on six free throws at the break.

Cooley told him not to worry about the shooting and to try to make something happen with rebounding or defense.

“Somebody coming of a great scoring game like he did there’s going to be a lot of attention on him,” Cooley said. “I thought he showed some definite grit in the second half.”

TIP-INS

Rhode Island: Martin hit all three of his 3-point attempts in the first half. … Martin surpassed the 1,000-point milestone against Valparaiso on Tuesday. … The Rams have lost nine straight to Big East teams.

Providence: The Friars lead the all-time series 73-56, including a buzzer-beating victory last year in Kingston. … They are 1-1 against ranked teams this season, having lost to then-No. 7 Virginia on Nov. 26.

UP NEXT

Rhode Island: Hosts Old Dominion on Tuesday.

Providence: Hosts Brown on Tuesday.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25.