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Michigan’s win at No. 4 Michigan State a sign of two programs trending in opposite directions

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Last year, the final time that Michigan squared off with Michigan State, the Wolverines pounded the Spartans.

The game was played in the Crisler Center, and it was never really in doubt. Michigan – then considered a team sitting squarely on the bubble – won by 29 points, sparking a three-game winning streak that turned their season around. They won six of their last eight games in the regular season, stormed through the Big Ten tournament, entered the NCAA tournament as a No. 7 seed, upset No. 2 Louisville in the second round and came within a missed Derrick Wilson jumper of playing Kansas for the right to go to the Final Four.

When the narrative of the 2017-18 Michigan season gets told, Saturday’s performance at No. 4 Michigan State may be the turning point that we point to once again.

The Wolverines beat up on the No. 4 Spartans, winning 82-72 behind 27 points from Mo Wagner and 16 points and five assists from Zavier Simpson, who thoroughly outplayed counterpart Cassius Winston despite missing four straight free throws in the final two minutes that left the door open for a Michigan State comeback that never materialized.

This is by far the best win for John Beilein’s team this season, and it came in a way that we haven’t exactly become accustomed to: With defense.

Beilein’s built his career around being one of college basketball’s best offensive minds. His teams were built around floor-spacing and taking advantage of the three-ball before it became the trendy way to play. Remember Kevin Pittsnoggle? Remember his West Virginia teams? Remember the way that he surrounded Trey Burke with shooters on shooters on shooters? Even last year’s team finished the season as the fourth-most efficient offense in the country, according to KenPom.

One of the most surprising sub-plots of the college basketball season is that this year’s Michigan team, one that, until Saturday, started Duncan Robinson alongside Wagner on the front line. Neither of those two players are known for their defensive prowess – it’s one of the biggest reasons Wagner is still in school and not playing in the NBA – but Beilein has stil managed to turn this group into the best defensive team that he has ever had.

Michigan State finished with 18 turnovers on Saturday, corralling just eight offensive rebounds and scoring 72 points on 69 possessions, and those numbers are slightly inflate by a flurry of points and possessions that came once the game was already in hand. The Wolverines mixed up their defenses, completely eliminated Nick Ward as an offensive weapon and kept college basketball’s best front line from finding a way to win on the glass or gain advantage in the paint. Winston was flustered throughout, and the Spartans shot just 3-for-13 from beyond the arc.

And with it came the win you can pin at the top of Michigan’s résumé. They’re in third place and two games out of first place in the Big Ten regular season race, so I’m not sure if they can be called a contender to win that just yet, but as long as they don’t do anything stupid over the final seven weeks of the regular season, they’ll be dancing.

But the bigger question to ask here is just what this loss – and Wednesday’s overtime win over Rutgers at home, and last Sunday’s blowout loss at Ohio State – is what’s going on with Spartans. Michigan exposed some issues that have been bubbling underneath the surface for Tom Izzo’s team since as far back as the Champions Classic.

One issue is the lack of an alpha. There is no one on this Michigan State roster that has shown the ability or the willingness to take a game by the balls, or throw the team on his back, or provide the necessary in-game leadership they’re lacking. There are 1,000 clichés that can be used, but the point is simple: When Michigan State is struggling, when there is a lack of confidence on the floor or when they aren’t playing the way that they should be, who is going to make that momentum-changing play? Who is going to be the spark they need?

The easy answer there would be Miles Bridges, but he has not been that guy. Part of the reason for that is that he just simply isn’t wired that way. He’s uber-talented and wildly athletic, a guy that deserves all of the hype that he gets as a potential lottery pick this season, but the truth is that he projects as a role player at the next level.

Hell, he really is a role player at this level.

What I mean by that is that when he’s at his best, he’s not a guy that’s going to get you 30 points on a given night. He’s not a guy that you’re going to run every offensive possession through. That’s just not his game. What makes him special is his ability to impact every aspect of the game. He can score. He can rebound. He can pass. He can defend just about every possession on the floor. He makes threes. He can post up. He score off the dribble.

That’s just a fact.

The problem with Bridges isn’t that he’s not scoring, and it isn’t even that he’s being played out of position, which is an idea that has been bounced around by a number of people this season. The issue is that he has not been the most active player on the floor every time that he has stepped on the floor.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with him,” said one member of a staff that has played against Bridges this season. “Just coasts, and seems quite content.”

Bridges’ impact on a game is directly correlated with the energy that he plays with, whether it’s at the three or the four. There may be some justification to the idea that playing him at the four would make Bridges less inclined to settle for threes – which is a bad habit he’s fallen into – but I don’t necessarily think it’s an automatic fix.

And here’s the most concerning part of it all.

Many of these problems are the same problems we saw with Michigan State last season.

Michigan State has a lot of questions they are going to have to answer in the coming days and months, but the more I watch this group, the more I think that Izzo is not going to like the answers that he gets.

VIDEO: Former Michigan athletes Austin Hatch and Abby Cole tie the knot

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The life of former Michigan basketball player Austin Hatch has not been without its challenges, as during his pre-college years he survived two separate plane crashes that took the lives of his parents, a stepmother and two siblings.

Hatch’s scholarship offer to Michigan was honored by head coach John Beilein despite the impact that the crashes had on Hatch physically, and Hatch would go on to earn his degree and land a job at the corporate office for Domino’s. This past spring, Hatch was honored during the team’s Senior Day festivities.

By that point Hatch was already engaged to Abby Cole, who played volleyball at Michigan from 2013 to 2016. And over the weekend, the two tied the knot in what was a highly emotional day for all involved. Below is a video of their wedding day, which was chronicled by Derek Postma.

Congratulations and best wishes to Abby and Austin on their marriage.

Arizona lands Cornell forward Stone Gettings for 2019-20 season

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Arizona landed its first addition for the 2019-20 season on Monday, as an Ivy League power forward revealed his intention to join Sean Miller’s program as a graduate student.

6-foot-9 forward Stone Gettings, who averaged 16.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game at Cornell last season, picked Arizona over Stanford and Vanderbilt according to Evan Daniels of 247Sports.com. A second team All-Ivy selection, Gettings is on course to graduate from Cornell in December. Instead of using his final season of eligibility at Cornell, Gettings will sit out this season before playing at Arizona.

Gettings does have a connection to the Arizona program, as one of his high school teammates was former point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright. The addition of Gettings will give Arizona a front court player who can score around the basket and from the perimeter, as he shot nearly 37 percent from beyond the arc last season.

Gettings isn’t the first Ivy League player to make his decision regarding a new school well in advance of his being able to move as a grad transfer, as former Yale point guard Makai Mason took a similar approach. Mason, who missed the entire 2016-17 season with a torn ACL, announced prior to last season that he be joining the Baylor program as a grad transfer for the 2018-19 campaign.

Not counting Gettings, Arizona has four scholarship front court players on its current roster who will have eligibility remaining in 2019-20, in current junior Chase Jeter, sophomores Emmanuel Akot and Ira Lee and freshman Omar Thielemans.

Bill Self: Silvio De Sousa’s eligibility not in jeopardy ‘at this stage’

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One of the biggest question marks heading into the 2018-19 season for the Kansas Jayhawks is the eligibility status of Silvio De Sousa.

If you’ve forgotten, a player that is believed to be De Sousa was referenced in a second round of indictments handed by the FBI. In those documents, De Sousa’s guardian is alleged to have asked an Adidas rep for at least $20,000 to repay a rival apparel company for a payment that was made to secure De Sousa’s commitment to another school. Prior to a surprise commitment to Kansas, De Sousa was long considered a Maryland lean. His AAU program and high school team were both sponsored by Under Armour, whose flagship program is Maryland.

According to Kansas head coach Bill Self, at this point De Sousa is still eligible.

“Nobody at this stage has given us any information that he could be in jeopardy at this stage,” Self said.

This is not surprising.

The way that I would expect this to play out is similar to the way it played out for players that were referenced in the indictments that came down last fall. Kansas is going to string this thing along until we get to a point in time close to the start of the season, when they will announce that De Sousa is being held out of competition. It is better for Kansas to bite the bullet and play without De Sousa than it would be for them to risk knowingly suiting up a player that can be retroactively ruled ineligible.

That sucks for De Sousa.

The good news for Kansas, however, is that Udoka Azubuike is back, as is Mitch Lightfoot, while both Dedric and K.J. Lawson will be eligible as they add freshman David McCormack. There is more than enough frontcourt depth to withstand the loss of De Sousa.

VIDEO: The #ShiggyChallenge has reached college hoops with Loyola’s coach showing his skills

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New Loyola-Maryland head coach Tavaras Hardy became the first college basketball head coach to get in on the Shiggy Challenge, as he posted this video to twitter on Tuesday morning:

What is the #ShiggyChallenge?

It’s the latest viral dance, which started just two weeks ago when an online personality named Shiggy posted himself dancing to Drake’s “In My Feelings” on Instagram:

#Mood : KEKE Do You Love Me ? 😂😂😂 @champagnepapi #DoTheShiggy #InMyFeelings

A post shared by Shoker🃏 (@theshiggyshow) on

From there, it took off, with everyone from Odell Beckham Jr. to James Harden trying to prove themselves capable of taking down the #ShiggyChallenge.

And now Tavaras Hardy is doing it.

The end.

Takeaways from the UAA Challenge: Nico Mannion and Josh Green are must-see, Anthony Edwards tops 2020

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EMERSON, Ga. — Although the Peach Jam was huge focal point of the first evaluation period, Under Armour had themselves a solid event with the UAA Challenge just north of Atlanta. With plenty of signature matchups and five-star talents, there were a lot of things to watch during a brief stop there during the first live evaluation period.

Here are some things to watch with the UAA, when they’ll be the focal point during the third live evaluation week as they host the UAA Finals in Las Vegas next week.

NICO MANNION AND JOSH GREEN aRE THE BEST 1-2 PUNCH IN THE UAA

Over the last few years, the duo of Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis have built a big reputation in the UAA. Deservedly so. But, over the next few weeks, the West Coast Elite duo of point guard Nico Mannion and Josh Green will be more fun to watch.

While the duo of Antoine and Lewis could end up being better long-term prospects (that’s a debate for another time), the duo of Mannion and Green have a unique chemistry playing with each other that Antoine and Lewis can lack at times since they play such similar positions.

Both Mannion and Green made major waves this weekend in the UAA Challenge.

Confirming to NBCSports.com that he intends to reclassify into the Class of 2019 from the Class of 2020, Mannion looked like he was ready to make the leap into college hoops. Second in the event in assists per game, Mannion had 38 of them over a six-game span (6.3 per game) and only had four turnovers in 164 minutes of action.

Also shooting 59 percent from the field and 83 percent from the free-throw line on his way to 15.8 points per contest, Mannion was incredibly efficient. He showed court savvy, athleticism and a solid perimeter jumper. Mannion has Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Marquette, Oregon and USC hard after him as he will be an intriguing point guard to watch during July.

Green, a 6-foot-6 two-way wing, was also incredibly efficient as he shot 71 percent from the field and 60 percent from three-point range on his way to 18.0 points, 3.1 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game. With four or more assists in four games, Green has natural floor vision and passing ability to go along with his scoring prowess. After showcasing a shaky perimeter jumper at times in the past, Green has worked with a trainer the past few months to become more consistent from deep. Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, UCLA, USC and Villanova are some of the schools that Green mentioned to NBCSports.com as being in the mix.

Both Green and Mannion are already five-star prospects. It’ll just be interesting to see them close out the live period the next two weeks because they have a chance to make some major noise.

ANTHONY EDWARDS HAS A CHANCE TO BE 2020’S BEST

The Class of 2019 doesn’t have a lot of star power in terms of No. 1 quality players — my colleague Rob Dauster went over that yesterday — but there seem to be a few worthy contenders in the Class of 2020.

Among them includes 6-foot-5 shooting guard Anthony Edwards. The Atlanta native was one of the must-see players of the first evaluation period. Playing in a high-profile matchup against five-star 2020 guard Jaden Springer, Edwards displayed a natural scoring ability thanks to his ridiculous athleticism and acumen for putting the ball in the basket; he’s what hoopheads will call a “bucket-getter”.

Although his jumper wasn’t falling from three-point range (5-for-22), Edwards still shot 57 percent from the field while putting up 22.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game during the weekend.

Displaying more vision and passing ability with his Atlanta Xpress team than in the camp setting, Edwards looked like a more complete guard at the UAA Challenge. He also defended to the tune of an event-leading 2.4 steals per game as Edwards has long arms and a quick first step to jump into passing lanes.

There is plenty of competition for the top spot in 2020, but Edwards is going to be among the major contenders with his summer play.

JEREMIAH EARL-ROBINSON IS AS PRODUCTIVE AS ANYONE IN THE CLASS

This summer has seen Jeremiah Robinson-Earl produce everywhere he has played. The 6-foot-8 Class of 2019 forward helped the USA U18 team win a gold medal while also leading the UAA Challenge in rebounds the first week of July.

A double-double machine who is improving his perimeter skill, Robinson-Earl is a hard-playing and intriguing combo forward who should join a high-level college rotation immediately. He has great secondary leaping ability that enables him to be a menace on the offensive glass as he’s particularly adept at putbacks.

If Robinson-Early can show an improved perimeter jumper and an ability to attack off the dribble, then he’ll have a chance to be a top-ten player in the class. He has the motor and production to rise if he fixes his flaws and he’ll have plenty of time to be a showcase player at IMG Academy next season.

Kansas is a perceived favorite with Robinson-Earl, as Bill Self coached him on the U18 team over the past several weeks before the live period. North Carolina and Arizona are among some other schools also trying to stay in the mix for Robinson-Earl as they try to pry him away from the Midwest.