One day after shooting better than 50% from both the field and from beyond the arc in a win over No. 12 Wisconsin, No. 22 Michigan State got the job done defensively in their 69-55 win over No. 8 Michigan to grab the Big Ten tournament title. Michigan, which led the Big Ten in both field goal and three-point percentage, shot 31% from the field and 6-for-23 from beyond the arc.
Michigan State did a very good job of taking away the ball screen and dribble handoff situations in which Michigan can be so lethal when allowed to get going. Nik Stauskas scored 17 points but he was made to work awfully hard for those points, doing so on 4-for-15 shooting. And with Derrick Walton Jr. being the only other Michigan player to score in double figures, this proved to be too much for the Wolverines to overcome against a balanced Michigan State offense.
Adreian Payne (nine rebounds) scored 18 points and Branden Dawson and Gary Harris adding 15 apiece for Michigan State, which made up for a poor afternoon from beyond the arc (2-for-17) by making 67.6% of its two-point attempts. Michigan State is second in the Big Ten in three-point percentage, making 39.8% of its attempts, so Sunday’s outing isn’t a typical one for this group. And if the Spartans can continue to work the ball inside as they did against Michigan, they’ll be fine offensively.
Injuries have been an issue all season long for Michigan State, but with Dawson and Payne at full strength (and Keith Appling closer to it) this weekend the Spartans were able to put together three quality performances. There will still be skeptics who make the claim that the “when the Spartans are full strength” cries are nothing more than excuses; that all teams have to navigate health issues throughout the course of a season.
But to make that statement is to ignore the obvious in regards to Michigan State, that this is a different group than the one we saw for much of Big Ten play. And with that being the case, Tom Izzo has himself a complete team capable of playing deep into the NCAA tournament.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.