Big Ten Wonk
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Michigan: the defense rests
The announcer on the Michigan-NC State game last night said Tommy Amaker has termed his team "offense-sensitive," meaning if the Wolverines aren't hitting shots then their effort on defense suffers. Amaker has said this before, about college players "today" in general and about Daniel Horton last year in particular. It sounds like the stock lament of a cranky old guy. But Amaker isn't (that) old--and it sure looked true last night, as Michigan fell to the Wolfpack 74-67 in Raleigh.

Courtney Sims pulled away from the paint on defense is not a pretty sight, as he was beaten off the dribble repeatedly by the suddenly formidable-looking Ben McCauley. And Jerret Smith was back-cut mercilessly by the suddenly formidable-looking Bryan Nieman. NC State weaved and cut at will.

As if in support of their coach's "offense-sensitive" theory, the Wolverines' struggles on D (aside from some spectacular blocks by Brent Petway) tracked with eerie precision the futility of their offense. Last night Dion Harris launched three after errant three with the aggrieved adolescent repetition of someone trying to prove he's not a 32 percent shooter outside the arc, year-to-date stats be damned. Well, he's right: he's better than 32 percent. But even when he's on his game he's not deadly enough to be given 14 attempted threes in a 72-possession game.

Still, Harris at least went down with guns blazing, as it were. Where is Lester Abram?

(Box score.)

A couple links
Amaker's take: "It's obvious for us the two kids who didn't play well were Abram and (Courtney) Sims." Harris's: "I tried to stay aggressive, but I struggled out there."

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Purdue big man Carl Landry says three games in three days in Maui convinced him that his surgically repaired knee really is fine.

Iowa guard Mike Henderson had the cast removed from his right hand yesterday and could be back in action as early as this weekend.

ACC-Big Ten Challenge
Maryland plays at Illinois tonight (ESPN, 7 ET). Chester Frazier's from Baltimore and Bruce Weber frets that his sophomore guard might try to do too much: "He's hyper as it is and it's a huge game for him to show what he's about and, hey, maybe they should have recruited him." (So how, exactly, did Frazier end up at Illinois? Read more here.) Frazier says he'll be fine....Referring to Dee Brown and James Augustine, Shaun Pruitt says he and his mates are "stepping out of Dee and James' shadow....This team is probably more confident because a lot of people doubt us."...Jamar Smith is "back" from his sprained ankle, having played 17 minutes in the Bradley game Saturday night, but that doesn't mean he's 100 percent. "I wouldn’t say he’s running around like a deer or a gazelle or anything,” Weber says. “He’ll play."...The injury update on Brian Randle: expected to return mid-December.... Weber on recruiting: he'll take NBA-level talent, thank you, even if they leave early. That's the talent that gets you to the Final Four: "George Mason was the exception."

Florida State plays tonight at Wisconsin (ESPN2, 7:30 ET). Bo Ryan on the Big Ten being 0-7 in the Challenge: "I watched the National League and the American League in the baseball All-Star Game go through some streaks where it seemed like the one league was never going to win another game and all of a sudden they make a strong run. So that's what we have to do in the Big Ten." Ryan, whose team lost a two-point game to Missouri State on Friday, also says he doesn't believe there's a "trend" behind mid-majors posting upsets. "This has always been going on. It's just, there's more lips moving now."...Profile of Alando Tucker here. Profile of Badger freshman guard Jason Bohannon here.

Penn State plays at Georgia Tech tonight (ESPNU, 8 ET). Profile of Nittany Lion big man Brandon Hassell here.

Indiana plays tonight at Duke (ESPN, 9 ET). Hoosier coach Kelvin Sampson says his team is still looking for its identity: "We need something that we can say, 'This is who we are. Every game this is what we're going to be.'" (Helpfully and wholly on a pro bono basis, I have suggested "defense" as an answer to that question.)...Profile of Blue Devil sophomore Josh McRoberts, the pride of Carmel, IN, here.

Miami plays at Northwestern tonight (ESPN2, 9:30 ET). The Hurricanes are 4-2 with losses to Buffalo and Cleveland State. This is the first meeting ever between 'Canes and 'Cats.

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"Give us hope"
Yesterday I said Ohio State will play in the (basketball) national championship game. The readers respond!

Hi, Wonk,

Being a Michigan State fan, I don't have nearly the animosity toward Ohio State that the diploma mill down the road does. But I have to admit that I would rather not see them win championships in both basketball and football in the same year.

Can you give hope to the rest of us? Talent-wise the Buckeyes seem to be head-and-shoulders above the rest of the league. To my eyes, the recent powers in the league (MSU, Illinois, Wisconsin) have some nice players, but their talent level is a little short of what it has been in recent years. And no one else in the league seems to have stepped up much.

In your opinion, does anyone else in the league come close to matching up with OSU?

Mark J.

No, not post-Oden-return, but here are two slim reeds of hope for fans of ten other teams:

1. As noted yesterday, the Buckeyes aren't terribly numerous.

2. When Greg Oden returns OSU will likely run a lot of 1-4 offensive sets, as they did with Terence Dials last year, wherein about 40 percent of the shots are attempted threes. Offenses that shoot that many threes are more volatile, for good and ill, than ones that devote, say, 35.6 percent of their attempts to threes (Big Ten average last year in-conference).

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