Tournament is in full bloom, Syracuse ends WMU’s season, Michigan and MSU both play good enough to move on and the Weekly Awards
Tale of the defense
The tournament is in full bloom now, brackets are blown up, no one is winning a billion dollars, we never have to see Aaron Craft in an Ohio State uniform again, and it’s just day one of a great opening weekend. There were a lot of scares and a record four OT games, but in the end there were only two real big upsets. In the first round of games yesterday we saw the difference between defense and non-defense. In the WMU game we saw what happens when you turn the ball over way too much against a team full of very good athletes who are very good in their defensive system. Michigan State found how much fun it is to play against a team who doesn’t play much defense, and Michigan leaned that some of these smaller schools do know how to play a little bit of defense.
Western seemed overmatched in that game from the start. I don’t want to insinuate at all that I thought they would lose by that much because I didn’t. I will say that I didn’t like the odds of pulling the upset though. Going into the game Western was one of the worst teams in the field at turnovers per game, and that showed up early and often. They learned the lesson of why Syracuse is so tough to play against. They sit in their zone, which is unlike any other zone you play against, and they are so long and so athletic, it makes it hard to do anything on the offensive end. Passes you think are there end up in their hands as they run the other way with them. With all that being said, it was a heck of a season for the Brown and Gold. They did something that no one outside of their locker room though they would do. I still remember after a loss early in the MAC season to Bowling Green David Brown stood at the podium with the Broncos at 2-2 in the MAC and said “We are going to win the MAC”. At that time I just thought “yeah, nice confidence, but we’ll see about that”. Well, he was right. We questioned all season how they were doing this, but they just won games. They played as a team, and brought home a MAC championship. Congrats on a great season!
Adreian Payne was a beast yesterday. He scored 41 points against a Deleware team that never went away. Just as impressive was his 17-17 from the free throw line. Unbelievable, but this guy has never missed a free throw in tournament play. The Blue Hens were about what I thought they would be. They didn’t turn the ball over a ton (they only had eight), and they could score. The thing that has not been their strong suit all season was defense and that certainly was the case yesterday as MSU scored 93. MSU pretty much did whatever they wanted on the offensive end of the court. The Spartans were just too big and too strong which showed as they outrebounded Delaware 38-20. MSU will now get ready for Harvard who pulled the upset on Cincinnati. Former Michigan coach Tommy Amaker will get another shot against the Spartans.
Michigan found out that the Wofford defense actually isn’t too bad. Yeah, maybe there was some missed shots, but give Wofford some credit because they kept fighting and kept that game within striking distance in the second half. Michigan really didn’t pull away until the final few minutes. The problem for Wofford was what it has been all season. They just couldn’t score, which usually is a necessity in the tournament. The Terriers shot just 34% and 1-19 for threes (I’m not real sure why they kept shooting them if they were that bad on them). If they could have made some of those that game certainly would have been different. Here’s the thing though. When teams pull big upsets they will make some shots they aren’t supposed to. They didn’t yesterday and that’s why Michigan is playing Texas tomorrow. We know around here what it takes to beat Michigan and it’s a good interior game. Michigan will certainly have their hands full with that tomorrow against Texas. Michigan should still win that game, but Texas has the components to send the Wolverines packing. This is what makes UM so tough in the tournament though. Texas has one day to prepare for that tough to defend Michigan offense. I think the Wolverines will be able to get open shots tomorrow, but it’s a matter of making them that will be the determining factor in the game.
Tigers lose Rondon but trade for new shortstop
The injury news just got worse but the Tigers have found their replacement for Jose Iglesias. Yesterday the Tigers found out the news on Iglesias will indeed be out for the whole season. On top of that, news today is that Bruce Rondon will undergo Tommy Johns surgery and he will be out for the entire season. Those two join Andy Dirks as injured Tigers. Dirks will be out for about three months after back surgery. I’ll end the bad news now and give the good. The Tigers have found their replacement for Iglesias as today they have acquired shortstop Andrew Romine from the Angels in exchange for pitcher Jose Alvarez. Romine is another very strong defensive player and will probably get the majority of the playing time at shortstop along with Danny Worth. Last season for Los Angeles he hit .259 in 123 at bats while playing second, third and short. On the surface this looks fine for the Tigers. With what they were picking from he’s probably better than anything else they have and they gave up their #6 starting pitcher.
In Rondon the Tigers lose one of their set-up men, and one of their top prospects who was starting to come on strong late last season. They are hopeful that he will be ready to start the 2015 season. I would say that it makes Joba Chamberlin the primary set-up man to start the season, but I would also think that it would make Phil Coke more likely to make the team. Coke has not had a good spring and has been discussed as a pitcher that might be released, but I think they would choose to hold onto Coke at this point simply because he is a veteran arm.
Wooden Shoes Award
This week’s wooden shoes award will go to the Michigan State Basketball team. Sparty has gotten hot at the right time. They have had to fight through some big down periods this season, and no one was sure if they would be able to pull it together at the right time. Well they did. They are healthy for the first time in since about the first week of the season, and they are now playing as a team again. That showed when they beat Wisconsin and Michigan on back to back days to win the Big Ten tournament. Their efforts have put them as the favorites to win the National Championship. This senior class has unfinished business as they don’t want to become the first senior class under Izzo to not go to the final four. They are in good position and have all the components to make a run. Now it’s about stepping up and making the plays in tournament time.
Congratulations to the Michigan State Basketball team on winning this week’s Wooden Shoes Award
Justin Bieber Award
This week’s Justin Bieber award goes to Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay. On Sunday night Irsay was arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated and was also charged with four felony counts of possession of a controlled substance. He is still expected to face a discipline of some sort from the NFL. It is clearly bad for not only the Irsay, but the Colts and the NFL. Irsay is one of the more vocal owner’s in the league, and has become well known for what he does on Twitter. It’s not the first time for Irsay either. Back in 2002 he admitted to abusing prescription pain pills. The good news for him is that he has voluntarily checked himself into a treatment center and is going to get the help he needs.
Congratulations to Colts owner Jim Irsay for winning this week’s Justin Bieber Award.
On Tap for the Weekend
More Basketball! Tonight, Saturday and Sunday! It will be a great weekend!
Other than basketball:
WMU Hockey vs. Denver. NCHC semi-finals. Two wins will get them into the NCAA tournament.
Pistons @ Phoenix
Michigan vs. Texas
MSU vs. Harvard
Hopefully WMU Hockey in NCHC Championship game vs. either North Dakota or Miami
Red Wings @ Wild
Pistons @ LA Clippers
Red Wings vs. Minnesota