The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

March 13, 2014

Michigan tries to end league tourney drought

The Associated Press
The Commercial-News

---- — INDIANAPOLIS — No. 8 Michigan ended one championship drought by winning its first outright Big Ten crown last week.

Now the Wolverines will get a chance to end another title drought in the conference tournament, which has been filled with some of the school’s most forgettable basketball moments — from Evan Turner’s 40-foot buzzer-beater for Ohio State to the embarrassment of having the 1998 title stripped away because of NCAA sanctions.

Maybe this time, Michigan can put those images behind it for good.

“You’ve just got to go and get through those first games and really play well,” coach John Beilein said before leaving for Indianapolis. “You’ve got to find ways to get lucky and got to find times to play hard and if you can, you’ll be sitting there in the championship game.”

The Wolverines (23-7) are the favorite.

They have the conference’s player of the year, Nik Stauskas, and the media’s choice for coach of the year in Beilein. They have a five-game winning streak and 15 wins in conference play. They have multiple NBA prospects and for the first time in school history, the defending national runner-ups are seeded No. 1.

But Beilein also is well aware of what can go wrong in the postseason.

He led the Wolverines to semifinal appearances in 2011 and 2012, but they haven’t played for a title since or won more than one game in a single tourney since that ‘98 championship run, which was later expunged.

Michigan’s march toward redemption begins Friday against either eighth-seeded Indiana (17-14) or ninth-seeded Illinois (18-13, who play at 11 a.m. today.

No. 24 Ohio State (23-8), the five seed, plays 12th-seeded Purdue (15-16) in today’s other afternoon game. Seventh-seeded Minnesota faces 10th-seeded Penn State, while sixth-seeded Iowa and 11th-seeded Northwestern meet in tonight’s games.

No. 12 Wisconsin (25-6), No. 23 Michigan State (23-8) and Nebraska (19-11) — the second, third and fourth seeds — all earned byes into Friday’s quarterfinals. The Badgers will play Minnesota (19-12) or Penn State (15-16), while the Spartans get Iowa (20-11) or Northwestern (13-18) and Nebraska squares off against Minnesota (19-12) or Penn State (15-16).

Here are five things to look for this week in Indianapolis.

PLAY-IN GAMES: Most tourney analysts believe six Big Ten teams will get NCAA tournament bids. A seventh could get in with a strong tourney run. The two teams with the most to gain or lose this week appear to be Minnesota and Nebraska.

PETTEWAY’S PUSH: Terran Petteway had a breakout season for the Cornhuskers, averaging 18 points and earning all-league honors. He also has the Cornhuskers going into the postseason as one of the league’s hottest teams with 10 wins in 12 games. The Nebraska women won their first-ever conference tournament title Sunday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, which prompted coach Connie Yori to declare that Nebraska is no longer just a football school. Now the men’s team has a chance to prove it.

HEALTHY SPARTANS: Michigan State coach Tom Izzo does his best work in March and April and there’s no place he’d rather be than Indy. Here, Izzo has won a tourney title, his lone national championship and a regional final that allowed the Spartans to make a Final Four appearance in suburban Detroit. Can he do it again? Perhaps. His team, once considered a national title contender, is finally getting healthy.

THE RED BADGERS: Wisconsin regained its mojo during the second half of the conference season and is now moving full steam ahead into the postseason. How good are these Badgers? They were ranked in the top five in January and were one of the last undefeated teams in the nation. After a midseason slump, the Badgers are playing well again.

HOME-STATE WOES: Purdue and Indiana have struggled all season with consistency. While some think the two Indiana schools have an inherent home-court advantage, Purdue has only won one title (2009) and the Hoosiers haven’t won any — numbers that aren’t expected to change this year.

Big Ten Tournament Capsules No. 1 Michigan Wolverines Record -- 23-7 overall, 15-3 in the Big Ten Conference First opponent -- No. 8 Indiana or No. 9 Illinois Starting lineup -- G Nik Stauskas, 6-6, so.; G Caris LeVert, 6-6, so.; G Derrick Walton Jr., 6-1, fr.; F Glenn Robbinson III, 6-6, so.; F Jordan Morgan, 6-8, sr. Scoring leaders -- Stauskas 17.4 points per game, LeVert 13.4, Robinson 13.2. Rebounding leaders -- Morgan 4.6 rebounds per game, Jon Horford 4.6, LeVert 4.4, Robinson 4.4 Assist leaders -- Stauskas 3.4 assists per game, Walton 2.8, LeVert 2.7, Spike Albrecht 2.3. No. 2 Wisconsin Badgers Record -- 25-6 overall, 12-6 in the Big Ten Conference First opponent -- No. 7 Minnesota or No. 10 Penn State Starting lineup -- G Ben Brust, 6-1, sr.; G Traevon Jackson, 6-2, jr.; G Josh Gasser, 6-3, jr.; F Sam Dekker, 6-8, so.; C Frank Kaminsky, 7-0, jr. Scoring leaders -- Kaminsky 13.4 points per game, Dekker 12.9, Brust 12.4, Jackson 10.8. Rebounding leaders -- Kaminsky 6.4 rebounds per game, Dekker 6.2, Brust 4.7. Assist leaders -- Jackson 3.9 assists per game, Gasser 1.8 No. 3 Michigan State Spartans Record -- 23-8 overall, 12-6 in the Big Ten Conference First opponent -- No. 6 Iowa or No. 11 Northwestern Starting lineup -- G Denzel Valentine, 6-5, so.; G Gary Harris, 6-4, so.; G Keith Appling, 6-1, sr.; F Branden Dawson, 6-6, jr.; F Adreian Payne, 6-10, sr. Scoring leaders -- Gary Harris 17.5 points per game, Payne 16.1, Appling 12.8. Rebounding leaders -- Dawson 8.4 rebounds per game, Payne 7.5, Valentine 6.0, Harris 4.3 Assist leaders -- Appling 4.8 assists per game, Valentine 3.9, Harris 2.8, Travis Trice 2.4. No. 4 Nebraska Cornhuskers Record -- 19-11 overall, 11-7 in the Big Ten Conference First opponent -- No. 5 Ohio State or No. 12 Purdue Starting lineup -- G Taj Webster, 6-4, fr.; G Terran Petteway, 6-6, so.; G Shavon Shields, 6-7, so.; F David Rivers, 6-7, jr.; F Walter Pitchford, 6-10, so. Scoring leaders -- Petteway 18.0 points per game, Shields 12.7. Rebounding leaders -- Shields 5.8 rebounds per game; Leslee Smith 5.0, Petteway 4.9, Pitchford 4.7. Assist leaders -- Webster 2.0 assists per game; Petteway 1.7 No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes Record -- 23-8 overall, 10-8 in the Big Ten Conference First opponent -- No. 12 Purdue Starting lineup -- G Aaron Craft, 6-2, sr.; G Lenzell Smith, 6-4, sr.; F LaQuinton Ross, 6-8, jr.; F Sam Thompson, 6-7, jr.; C Amir Williams, 6-11, jr. Scoring leaders -- Ross 14.8 points per game; Smith 11.7. Rebounding leaders -- Williams 5.8 rebounds per game; Ross 5.5, Smith 5.2. Assist leaders -- Craft 4.6 assists per game, Shannon Scott 3.3. No. 6 Iowa Hawkeyes Record -- 20-11 overall, 9-9 in the Big Ten Conference First opponent -- No. 11 Northwestern Starting lineup -- G Mike Gesell, 6-1, so.; G Roy Devyn Marble, 6-6, sr.; F Aaron White, 6-9, jr.; F Melsahn Basabe, 6-7, sr.; C Adam Woodbury, 7-1, so. Scoring leaders -- Marble 17.0 points per game; White 13.3. Rebounding leaders -- White 6.8 rebounds per game, Basabe 5.7, Gabriel Olaseni 5.0, Jarrod Uthoff 4.6. Assist leaders -- Gesell 3.9 assists per game, Marble 3.5 No. 7 Minnesota Golden Gophers Record -- G Andre Hollins, 6-2, jr.; G DeAndre Mathieu, 5-9, jr.; G Austin Hollins, 6-4, sr.; F Joey King, 6-9, so.; C Elliott Eliason, 6-11, jr. Scoring leaders -- Andre Hollins 14.6 points per game, Mathieu 11.9, Austin Hollins 11.6. Rebounding leaders -- Eliason 6.9 rebounds per game, Austin Hollins 5.5. Assist leaders -- Mathieu 4.4 assists per game, Andre Hollins 2.4, Austin Hollins 2.3. No. 8 Indiana Hoosiers Record -- 17-14 overall, 7-11 in the Big Ten Conference First opponent -- No. 9 Illinois Starting lineup -- G Yogi Ferrell, 6-0, so.; G Stanford Robinson, 6-4, fr.; F Will Sheehey, 6-7, sr.; F Troy Williams, 6-7, fr.; C Noah Vonleh, 6-10, fr. Scoring leaders -- Ferrell 17.4 points per game; Vonleh 11.4, Sheehey 11.4. Rebounding leaders -- Vonleh 9.1 rebounds per game; Williams 4.4, Sheehey 4.1. Assist leaders -- Ferrell 3.9, Sheehey 1.7. No. 9 Illinois Fighting Illini Record -- 18-13 overall, 7-11 in the Big Ten Conference First opponent -- No. 8 Indiana Starting lineup -- G Tracy Abrams, 6-2, jr.; G Kendrick Nunn, 6-3, fr.; G Rayvonte Rice, 6-4, jr.; F Malcom Hill, 6-6, fr.; C Nnanna Egwu, 6-11, jr. Scoring leaders -- Rice 15.7 points per game, Abrams 10.5 Rebounding leaders -- Rice 6.1 rebounds per game, Egwu 6.0, Jon Ekey 5.2, Joseph Bertrand 4.1 Assist leaders -- Abrams 3.2 assists per game, Jaylon Tate 2.0. No. 10 Penn State Nittany Lions Record -- 15-16 overall, 6-12 in the Big Ten Conference First opponent -- No. 7 Minnesota Starting lineup -- G D.J. Newbill, 6-4, jr.; G Tim Frazier, 6-1, sr.; F Brandon Taylor, 6-7, so.; F Ross Travis, 6-6, jr.; C Jordan Dickerson, 7-0, so. Scoring leaders -- Newbill 17.8 points per game, Frazier 15.5 Rebounding leaders -- Ross 7.1 rebounds per game, Newbill 4.9, Taylor 4.7, Frazier 4.4 Assist leaders -- Frazier 5.5 assists per game, Newbill 1.7 No. 11 Northwestern Wildcats Record -- 13-18 overall, 6-12 in the Big Ten Conference First opponent -- No. 6 Iowa Starting lineup -- G Dave Sobolewski, 6-1, jr.; G Tre Demps, 6-2, so.; F Drew Crawford, 6-5, sr.; Sanjay Lumpkin, 6-6, fr.; C Alex Olah, 7-0, so. Scoring leaders -- Crawford 15.5 points per game, JerShon Cobb 12.2, Demps 10.9 Rebounding leaders -- Crawford 6.6 rebounds per game, Olah 5.4, Lumpkin 4.9, Cobb 4.8 Assist leaders -- Sobolewski 2.4 assists per game, Cobb 2.3, Crawford 2.1, Demps 2.0 No. 12 Purdue Boilermakers Record -- 15-16 overall, 5-13 in the Big Ten Conference First opponent -- No. 5 Ohio State Starting lineup -- G Terone Johnson, 6-4, sr.; G Ronnie Johnosn, 6-0, so.; G Kendall Stephens, 6-6, fr.; G Rapheal Davis, 6-5, so.; C A.J. Hammons, 7-0, so. Scoring leaders -- T.Johnson 12.0 points per game; R.Johnson 10.8, Hammons 10.7. Rebounding leaders -- Hammons 7.4 rebounds per game; Errick Peck 4.5. Assist leaders -- R.Johnson 4.7, T.Johnson 2.4.