Thursday, November 20, 2014

Defensive Score Sheet: Duke 81, MSU 71

In a battle of Top 20 teams, No. 4 Duke beat No. 19 Michigan State 81-71 in the Champions Classic on Tuesday night. It was an expected result and the game went as most would have expected with the current state of each roster.

Duke led from start to finish, and although the Spartans cut the deficit to three numerous times viewers never really got the sense that Michigan State was going to pull off the upset.

Here's the defensive score sheet for the game




Thursday, June 12, 2014

2014 World Cup

Admission: I'm not a big soccer, er..., futbol guy. That said, I find the World Cup immensely entertaining for various reasons. The somewhat bracket format has a March Madness feel and there are always sports books eager to take action on individual games as well as the entire tournament.

All in all the World Cup has become a must-see at the Mackinder household.

Here's my best crack at predicting the this year's results in Brazil. (GO ARGENTINA?)

Let the games begin!


[UPDATE] - Here's a great interactive infographic via CNNSI.com that breaks down each country's odds of advancing at the World Cup:

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Way-Too-Early College Hoops "Sweet 16" for 2014-15

For a "way-too-early" rankings list to really have any substance it can't be posted until after the NBA Early-entry Draft deadline. We're past that point now, meaning this "Sweet 16" should be fairly close to what the initial polls look like in October. 


After falling just short of his second title in 2014 -
as a No. 8 seed no less - John Calipari will lead the
Wildcats to another national championship in 2015.




1. Kentucky
Analysis: While a runner-up as a No. 8 seed in 2014 it can't be forgotten that Kentucky was a preseason No. 1 before the season. Things clicked a little late and going 0-for-3 against SEC rival Florida - a team that really dominated teh season start to finish (until a Final Four loss to UConn that is) didn't help perception. Reality was that Kentucky was always a little better than the 24-10 pre-NCAA Tournament record. The sophomores who stated for another season plus a top-notch recruiting class should be enough to lead Kentucky to the 2015 title. 

THE REST...
2. Kansas
3. Duke
4. Arizona
5. Louisville
6. Wisconsin
7. North Carolina
8. Texas
9. Virginia
10. Villanova
11. Wichita State
12. Syracuse
13. Ohio State
14. SMU
15. Michigan State
16. Iowa State
OTHERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON:  Dayton, Gonzaga, Illinois, Notre Dame Oklahoma, Oregon

Friday, May 9, 2014

CHART: 2014 Draft Needs of Every NFL Team

Pro Football Focus (@PFF) always does an excellent job with all things NFL related. One of their great tools for use during this year's NFL Draft was the offensive and defensive starting 22 for all teams color coded with the replacement/upgrade need at every position. It's broken down by division.

I'll lead off with the NFC North and then the rest of the NFC before the four division in the AFC. Enjoy.


Eric Ebron?


Like clockwork the Lions disappointed their fans again by ignoring many needs and taking another "offensive weapon" in the first round.

Eric Ebron is the best tight end in this draft - by far - but that doesn't mean he's a good draft pick. If the Lions had an average back seven and needed offensive help then the pick isn't terrible. (Some would argue, and I'm one of those people, that taking a tight end in the Top 10 and even the first round doesn't make sense). He has good measurables (6-foot-4, 245 pounds) but he's not what Detroit needs.

The newest "offensive weapon" for the Detroit Lions - TE Eric Ebron.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

2014 NFL Draft Needs: The Detroit Lions

For the second-straight year (and ninth time in 14 seasons) the Lions have a Top 10 pick in the NFL Draft. You would think a team with the practice of picking high in the draft would get it right, wouldn't you? Of course, it could be argued there is a reason the Lions pick early in most years.

It's why I think the team takes a big leap this season as long as the draft yields some of those necessary pieces.


There is your basic Lions draft board with no original fourth rounder but added compensatory picks at the end of the fourth and seventh rounds, respectively.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

FINAL 2014 NFL Mock Draft

Jadeveon Clowney's unblocked hit against Michigan's
Devin Smith in the 2013 Capital One Bowl was only the
beginning of his rise to the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.
Believe it or not the excitement towards this year's NFL Draft doesn't quite seem to be at the fever pitch of previous years. The only explanation - this is the NFL of course - is the draft being pushed back a few weeks into May.

The delay gives teams a little more (necessary?) time to vet potential draft picks and to study film but it unfortunately has draft talk shoved down NFL fans' throats for an additional two weeks. At some point even the NFL can be ad nauseam, right?

This all being said, Thursday will still be another banner day in the NFL. Ratings will soar and there will be no less intrigue than in previous NFL Drafts.

The only certainty - and it's very debatable calling this a certainty - is that Jadeveon Clowney will be the No. 1 overall pick. (That seems to be true whether Houston keeps the selection or if another team such as Atlanta trades up). Other near certainties are Sammy Watkins being the No. 1 WR off the board and Khalil Mack being the first linebacker picked. Other than those listed above everything is a complete crap shoot.

Here's my final mock draft, derived from talking with people in the know and gathering information to the best of my knowledge. Chances are, like everyone else making mock drafts, I was breathing too much smoke.



No RBs, again? Last year was the first since 1963 that no running backs were picked in the first round. (Giovani Bernard was the first RB picked, coming off the board at No. 37 to the Cincinnati Bengals).

Big Ten gets back in Round 1: 2013 was the first year since 1953 that no Big Ten players were selected in Round 1. It seems a lock that Michigan's Taylor Lewan and Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard will go in the first round this year (as well as Ohio State's Bradley Roby and Ryan Shazier). Even Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman has been in many first round mocks as he is here.

Previous Mock Drafts: 2013 , 2012

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Egg Beaters: A History

2013 Finals: While technically both Chris' eggs, Nick held the
"UPS" egg while Chris held the winning "#2" egg. 
[UPDATE - April 18, 2014 - with 2014 Bracket and results at bottom]

For as long as I can remember we've cracked or "shucked" eggs at Easter Dinner. We would say, "Christos Anesti" (Christ Is Risen) followed by "Alithos Anesti" (Truly He Is Risen) before hitting eggs with one another.

Being as competitive as I am and with Easter Sunday typically falling around March Madness I found that it made perfect sense to create an Egg Brackets.

In 2009, the annual Egg Beaters Tournament was born.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

National Championship Defensive Score Sheet: Connecticut 60, Kentucky 54

UConn, your 2014 NCAA National Champions. (Sporting News)

Chalk up another victory for those "defense wins championships" people. Led by scrappy guard play on both ends of the floor the 7th-seeded Huskies defeated the 8th-seeded Wildcats for the 2014 NCAA National Championship.

This was the third game in a row I charted both UConn's and Kentucky's defense. And for the third straight game the Huskies' defensive numbers were off the charts while Kentucky proved it was trying (or only could) win via its offense.

In the end the defense prevailed thanks to a pair of incredible defensive performances by Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier.

Here's the Defensive Score Sheet from the 2014 national title game:

Monday, April 7, 2014

Defensive Score Sheet: Kentucky 74, Wisconsin 73

It's been a magical ride for the Wildcats. While the team has all the talent in the world, it can't be argued that luck has been on Kentucky's side for much of this NCAA Tournament ride. Skill plays into it, no doubt, but Kentucky's eFG% (52.6) is actually worse that it's opponents' eFG% (53.1). Yet, Kentucky is 5-0 in tournament play with all victories coming in single digits.

Oh, Aaron Harrison has a lot to do with it.

Harrison hit another game-winning 3-pointer - his third in as many games - to beat Wisconsin. His dagger with 5.7 seconds to play helped atone for his twin brother's gaff of fouling a 3-point shooter that allowed Wisconsin to take a 73-71 lead in the waning seconds.

What's amazing is Kentucky is getting here, in all reality, riding its offense. It's NCAA Tournament offensive efficiency is around 1.17 PPP; it's opponents are at 1.11 PPP. This makes for truly exciting games but it leads you to believe the Wildcats could be susceptible to a team with ferocious defensive prowess. Of course, Wichita State and Louisville were those types of teams and Kentucky marched on.

Here's the Defensive Score Sheet from Kentucky's win over Wisconsin, giving Big Blue Nation a chance at title No. 9:



Defensive Score Sheet: Connecticut 63, Florida 53

Those scrappy dogs won't let up. Led by its harassing defense, UConn absolutely frazzled a national championship favorite and now finds itself just 40 minutes away from a national title.

For those who thought UConn's 60-54 win against Michigan State was a fluke this game proves just how good the Huskies are playing right now on the defensive end. Surrendering an average of 53.5 points to two extremely good offenses, highlighted by completely taking the point guard out of the game, has been a clinic and a pleasure to watch for defensive purists.

Here's the Defensive Score Sheet from UConn's 63-53 win, giving the Huskies their second finals appearance in four seasons, their third Final Four in six years and a chance at their fourth national championship since 1999.


For reference, here's UConn's defensive dirty work against Michigan State in the Elite Eight.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Defensive Score Sheet: Kentucky 75, Michigan 72

Aaron Harrisons' "dagger" with 2.6 seconds left that sent
Kentucky to the Final Four. (Detroit Free Press)

In the game of the 2014 NCAA Tournament (so far), Kentucky's Aaron Harrison hit a game-winning 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds to play to send the Wildcats to their third Final Four in four seasons. The dagger - which became so when Nik Stauskas' half-court heave at the buzzer was off the mark - prevented Michigan from reaching the Final Four for the second straight season.

The game was played at such a high level as teams traded buckets and went back-and-forth with mini runs. It was so well played that it's probably easy to forget how slow-paced the game actually was (57 possessions).

The end result is not much great defense but the numbers do show a few players on each side that excelled. Here's the defensive score sheet from the Elite Eight instant classic:


Here's a nice Four Factors graphic from UMHoops.com (@umhoops): 


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Defensive Score Sheet: UConn 60, Michigan State 54

MSU's Keith Appling, albeit barely, grazes Shabazz Napier's
arm with 30 seconds to play on a 3-point attempt. Napier
made all three free throws, extending the lead to 56-51.
Appling fouled out on the play that sealed MSU's loss.


Rarely has Michigan State bowed out of the NCAA Tournament in such disappointing fashion to an inferior opponent. Yes, the Spartans were upset by 10th-seeded Nevada in 2003 in the first round and by 11th-seeded George Mason in 2006 in the first round. But outside of those two losses there hadn't been that "upset" against a Tom Izzo-coached team.

[Note: Even though No. 1 seeded MSU lost to No. 4 seeded Louisville in the 2012 Sweet 16 it was a year in which many felt MSU overachieved and the Cardinals, despite the lower seed, were very much on par with the Spartans].

Then came Saturday's debacle in New York City, a head-scratching 60-54 loss to 7th-seeded UConn.

In no way, shape, or form should this Michigan State team have lost to this UConn team - arguably the worst Huskies Final Four team in history. This, as many believe, could have been MSU's third national championship team based on talent.

That makes the lost that much tougher to swallow.

Here's the defensive score sheet from UConn's 60-54 victory, one that snapped the streak of every four-year player getting to at least one Final Four under Tom Izzo:


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Defensive Score Sheet: Michigan State 61, Virginia 59

If you love hard-nosed basketball that isn't marred with whistles then the Michigan State/Virginia Sweet 16 game was glorious.

It was exactly what the informed college basketball fan expected: a physical, slow-paced game with minimal possession but also one that included a handful of highlights and suspense until the final buzzer.

Here's the defensive score sheet from the Spartans' victory, putting Michigan State in the Elite Eight for the eighth time in the last 16 seasons:


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Defensive Score Sheet: Michigan State 80, Harvard 73

The first Tom Izzo-Tommy Amaker battle since 1997 was just that - a battle until the bitter end.

For the second-straight tournament game the Spartans allowed more than 1 PPP to their opponent, something I'm sure Tom Izzo was not happy with. Still, for the second-straight game the Spartans survived and advanced.

Here's MSU's defensive score sheet from Saturday's 80-73 MSU victory:


Defensive Score Sheet: Michigan State 93, Delaware 78

It wasn't quite the defensive effort Tom Izzo was hoping for - 78 points in a 75-possession never is - but it was good enough to compliment an unstoppable offense. 

Here's MSU's defensive score sheet from its Round of 64 game against CAA Champion Delware:


NOTES
  • There isn't much to take from this game defensively, but a small side note might be the solid defensive game by Kenny Kaminski. No, he wasn't all-worldly or anything, but the guy who is used specifically as an offensive sharpshooter was not a liability. In fact, in 12 minutes he didn't allow a field goal and he forced both a miss and a turnover. That's more than a bonus from a guy like Kaminski. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Deuce2Sports Bracket Picks: Florida, Arizona, Michigan State in Title Game

While there are varying opinions here at Deuce2Sports about which team will cut down the nets both of us agree on one thing: Arizona should be playing on the final Monday this season.

For much of the season I've said Michigan State and Arizona, when at full strength, would provide a NCAA Championship game classic if the world was privy to such a game.

The way the bracket lays out means a Spartans-Wildcats title bout is a very real possibility.

Sure, both teams would have to win five games - against stiff competition no doubt - to reach the Monday night finale but Sean Miller's Wildcats and Tom Izzo's Spartans are more than up to the task.


I love the Spartans as a national title threat but Michigan State's road to the Final Four and national title game is much stiffer than Arizona's. Therefore, and it's somewhat of a cop-out, I took Arizona to win this matchup because I think it's more likely the Wildcats are one of two teams standing than the Spartans. That said, however, this would be a juicy matchup that either team could win. (It's why my 3-year-old son Liam's bracket has Michigan State beating Arizona in the title game).

For the rest of the bracket there really aren't any strange or outlandish picks. The Big Ten is really, really good and that's one reason I have two Big Ten teams in the Final Four (MSU and Michigan) as well as another in the Elite Eight (Wisconsin).

Our other writer, Mike Harkins, likes Arizona as well, but not as much as he like Florida to stay unbeaten in 2014. Mike has Florida knocking off Arizona in the title game. However, before you think his bracket is full of chalk notice that he has a six seed (Baylor), seven seed (UConn) and eight seed (Kentucky) in his Sweet 16 along with Iowa State and Kentucky rounding out his Final Four. So no, this is not a chalk bracket by any stretch of the imagination.


Like any bracket (or pool for that matter) the strength is in the Final Four and title game. Having a great first weekend might help you top the standings on the first Sunday but ending up with only a pair of Elite Eight teams and one Final Four team is a recipe for finishing in the middle or bottom of your pool. 



Monday, March 17, 2014

2014's "Sweet 16" Tips for Picking a Winning Bracket


 There is no telling what will happen this March. There's a reason it's called March Madness, folks. That said, if you want some advice, here are "Sweet 16" Tips to help you win your pool.
1) The team with the most individual talent does not always win the national championship. In fact, in recent Tournament history, it only seems to happen about half the time. Louisville took home the crown last season without a for-sure NBA player (Russ Smith seems like a NBA second rounder, no?). Kentucky's 2012 title team was loaded with top recruits and NBA-bound players and it was the national champ. Duke won with teamwork in 2010 despite teams like Kansas and Kentucky having more talent. The Tar Heels were called a "NBA team" by Michigan State's Tom Izzo -- and that was before North Carolina whipped MSU in the title game. Kansas won in '08 with the likes of Cole Aldrich, Darrell Arthur, Mario Chalmers, Sherron Collins and Brandon Rush. North Carolina won in ’05 with Sean May, Ray Felton, and Rashad McCants. The Huskies won in ’04, led by Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon, but Syracuse upset Kansas to win in ’03. Two balanced teams made the final in ’02, with Maryland winning the battle with Indiana after the Hoosiers had knocked off a loaded Duke team in the Sweet 16. The Blue Devils won in ’01 behind NBA-level stars Shane Battier, Jayson Williams, and Mike Dunleavy, but Michigan State won behind its teamwork in 2000, while more talented Duke and Arizona made early exits. Last year, Ohio State and Kansas were loaded but it was UConn who won the title thanks to a Kembian performance from Kemba Walker. This year Arizona (No. 1), Michigan State (No. 4), Louisville (No. 4) and Kentucky (No. 8) seem to have the most NBA talent. The No.1 overall seed Florida, however, doesn't seem to have any for-sure NBA players but might be the best team.
2) Don’t pick all four #1 seeds to reach the Final Four. 2008 was the only year this has happened in the modern era (since 1985) and history is not likely to repeat itself anytime soon. Advancing all the #1 seeds to the Sweet 16 isn't a bad idea (it's much more of a risky gamble to pick a top seed to be upset by an 8/9 seed than to just pencil the top seeds into the second weekend). Wichita State is starting at a Round of 32 matchup with preseason No. 1 Kentucky while Arizona could potentially face Oklahoma State - an early-season Top 10 team - in the same round. Virginia has Michigan State awaiting in the Sweet 16 while Florida might have to go through UCLA (Sweet 16) and Kansas (Elite Eight) to reach the Final Four. Someone will get knocked off before Dallas.
3) Historically, 7-10 affairs have been almost as evenly matched as 8-9 games. It isn't uncommon for there to be more #10 seeds in the second, errr, third round than #7 seeds. New Mexico-Stanford, Oregon-BYU, Texas-Arizona State, UConn-St. Joseph are all toss-ups.
4) #10 seeds make great sleepers. While everyone else looks for the 5-12 upset, just find the vulnerable #2 seed; that's where your #10 seed can do a lot of damage. In fact, 2006, 2007, 2009, and 2013 are the only times since 1996 that at least one #10 seed didn’t reach the Sweet 16. Kent State (2002) and Davidson (2008) have even made the Elite Eight as a #10 in relatively recent memory. Best chances for a #10 sleeper this year are Stanford (decent matchups with New Mexico and interior-depleted Kansas) and Arizona State (Texas game a toss-up but shot-blocking presence down low would allow the Sun Devils to stay out on Michigan's shooters in the Round of 32).
5) It’s not just mid-major Cinderellas that do well with double-digit seeds. Like their little brothers, major-conference schools among the last at-large teams selected also have an uncanny record of winning at least one game in the NCAA Tournament. Examples: Texas A&M 2006, NC State 2005, Auburn 2003, Missouri 2002, Georgetown 2001, to name a few. Villanova and Arizona made nice Sweet 16 runs 2008 and 2009, respectively.  Oregon was drastically underseeded as a No. 12 seed last year and the Ducks proved that with a Sweet 16 berth. Teams that fit the profile in this year’s Tournament could be No. 11 Tennessee, No. 11 Iowa or No. 11 Providence. 
6) Free throw percentages matter. A team like No. 11 Providence has the second-best FT% in the country (78.2%) while No. 7 Oregon is fifth-highest (77.3%). That comes into play in a tight game. Teams like No. 1 Arizona (316th in the country, 65.5%), No. 8 Memphis (328th, 64.7%) and No. 6 North Carolina (343rd, 62.6%) could be brutal in late-game situations.
7) Teams that defend the 3-point shot well can avoid those killer upsets. When you think of great March Madness moments, you usually see those mid-major Cinderella's hitting game-winning triples. Even before it gets to that point, comebacks usually begin with a pair of back-to-back 3-pointers. Louisville is the second best team in the country at defending the trey, allowing makes at just 28.6%. Teams like Ohio State (5th in the country, 29.3%), Kansas State (6th, 29.3%) and St. Louis (7th, 29.6%) are in the best positions to stave off crazy comebacks. Baylor, on the other hand, allows 3-pointers at a 35.5% clip, 244nd in the country. A potential third-round game against 3-happy Creighton could get ugly, right?
8) Pick Duke to reach the Sweet 16—at least. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the Blue Devils have made the third round of the Tournament 13 years in the last 16 (though they’ve missed three of the past seven). Nevertheless, Coach K is a terrific in-game coach, and Duke's high seed and Raleigh placement makes this an easy "rule." While this goes against a potentially hot No. 11 seed in Tennessee or Iowa (assuming a win over overseeded UMass) the safe bet is to put Duke into the Sweet 16.
9) Look for teams with clutch players. UConn's Shabazz Napier, Michigan's Nik Stauskas, Arizona's Nick Johnson, Creighton's Doug McDermott, and Kansas' Andrew Wiggins make up my “All-Clutch” Starting Five. And don’t forget that mid-majors can have these guys, too.
10) Remember that the West, South and Midwest Regional Finals, as well as the Final Four, are played in massive domes. After playing in traditional college gyms all season, it’s often difficult for players to adjust their depth perception when shooting in a supersized arena that seats 40,000+. The team with the most experience playing in domes might be Syracuse…so if the Orange make it to Dallas they might have an edge.
11) The Big Ten's Top 3 are really, really good. Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin are all Final Four caliber teams. Heck, even Ohio State can get hot and make a run. The conference has been able to play at various speeds and should be well equipped to handle all types of opponents. This could be the first Final Four with multiple Big Ten teams since 2005.
12) Don’t drive yourself crazy picking the early-round games—it’s far more important to get the Final Four correct. In a traditional bracket pool, you’ll earn the same number of points for picking two Final Four members than for predicting all of the first-round games combined. (In the annual Deuce2Sports pool, picking the entire Final Four is worth 20 points, compared to 32 for picking the entire second round). Spend most of your time analyzing who’s going to make an extended run rather than obsessing about those pesky 8-9 and 5-12 matchups.
13) Look at your predicted national champion’s schedule to see if it has won six-plus games in a row during the regular season. As an addendum to this rule, I prefer to look at in-conference games only. Why conference-only games, you ask? Because rarely will you ever see a six-game stretch in a nonconference schedule that features NCAA Tournament caliber of competition. Major conference will provide that opportunity. So, while a team like Ohio State started the year 15-0 the Buckeyes didn't win more than three Big Ten games in a row at any point. Michigan won its first eight Big Ten games as well as its final five plus another two in the Big Ten Tournament showing its more than capable of winning six games in a row. Louisville won seven straight AAC games in February. Surprisingly, Duke's biggest ACC winning streak was five games. Iowa State's was four in the Big 12. 
14) Defense doesn’t always win championships in college hoops, but it can certainly win you a couple of games. Arizona, Florida, Louisville, Ohio State, Virginia, VCU, San Diego State, St. Louis, Cincinnati and UConn are all in the Top 10 of defensive efficiency via KenPom.com.
15) The final score of the championship game is often lower than you might expect. Because this is typically a pool tiebreaker you should really think about it. Remember the 2011 title game's tiebreaker was 94 thanks to UConn's 53-41 win over Butler. In 2012 Kentucky's 67-59 win over Kansas was just 126 combined points. 
16) If all else fails, ask your spouse or significant other who he/she would pick. (That is, unless you’re in the same pool.)

Previous "Sweet 16" Tips
2012

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Defensive Score Sheet: Michigan State 69, Michigan 55



The Spartans are coming. The Spartans are coming [sung to U2's "The Saints are Coming" remix].

Against one of the country's most prolific offenses the Spartans didn't just win the game but did so in suffocating fashion. It was impressive regardless of your allegiance. Michigan's 55 points were the second-lowest total this season (a 63-52 loss at Indiana was the lowest) and it came at a time when Michigan looked unbeatable. It was a complete team effort and one Michigan State's Tom Izzo is no doubt proud of.

There's a lot of pre-NCAA Tournament work on the docket so here's the defensive score sheet from Michigan State's win - the Spartans' fourth Big Ten Tournament championship - without any analysis. The numbers pretty much speak for themselves.


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Defensive Score Sheet Project's initial explanation is here. More concise explanations are in this post, but here is a short rundown:
  • Min - Minutes played
  • DREB - Defensive Rebounds
  • FM - Forced field goal miss (includes blocks)
  • FTO - Forced Turnover (steals, charges taken)
  • FFTA - Forced missed Free Throw Attempt
  • DFGM - Allowed Defensive Field Goal Made
  • DFTM - Allowed Free Throw Made
  • DRtg - Defensive Rating (Gives players credit for stops and scoring possessions)
*The DRtg is most important part of a defensive score sheet as it is the analog of an offensive rating. If a player was on the floor for 100 of his team's defensive possessions, the DRtg calculates the number of points the opposition would score.

[NOTE: Deuce2Sports' defensive charting has been noted on Sports Illustrated's Web site twice this season by college basketball writer Luke Winn.]

FINAL 2014 BRACKETOLOGY

With only two championship games to play (Big Ten and SEC) the field, at least in my eyes, is set.

Florida looks to be the No. 1 overall seed regardless of its result vs. Kentucky and the Wildcats aren't going to jump any teams with a victory.

Michigan has the best resume of teams in consideration for that final No. 1 seed - albeit by a slight margin over Wisconsin and Villanova. Even with a loss to Michigan State I see the Wolverines taking the final No. 1 seed. Michigan State seems to have righted the ship and with a complete body of work that's particularly impressive in road and neutral sites, looks like it'll be on the No. 3 line.

Here's our final projection for the 2014 NCAA Tournament:


NOTES

  • After reviewing resumes and re-considering the injury to BYU's Kyle Collingsworth I believe the committee will have the Cougars as the first team out, opening up the final at-large spot for Dayton to play the First Four in its own building.
  • Michigan deserves the final No. 1 seed regardless of the Big Ten Tournament final result. A 69-55 loss to Michigan State was more indicative of a healthy MSU team and it shouldn't diminish what Michigan did from November until the Big Ten Tourney final.
  • Louisville, even though the Cardinals had climbed as high as a No. 2 seed yesterday, are on the No. 3 line because it's a 34-game regular season. The last five games have been awfully impressive but the Cardinals don't have a single win over an out-of-conference tournament team. Louisville's best nonconference win: vs. a NIT-bound Southern Miss. That'll bit the Cards.
  • Virginia takes the final No. 2 seed with the ACC regular season and tournament titles. Any talk of Virginia as a No. 1 seed is nuts to me if we look at complete bodies of work. Virginia is good but not one of four best resumes. 
  • I'll be pulling for Green Bay, mostly because I would love a perfect bracket and I think the Phoenix are the team that can deliver it but also because it's nice to see a team with a quality nonconference schedule (win over Virginia, losses to Harvard and Wisconsin) get rewarded despite an early-conference tournament loss.

[UPDATE]


  • We correctly predicted 66 of 68 teams this year. Not perfection and not a personal best but not much far off the national norm.
  • We did set a personal best with 60 of the 68 teams being seeded either perfect or within one seed line. (Just 27 were the exact seed but another 33 were within the one seed line).
  • We missed on BYU (that was our first team out) and NC State (puzzling to say the least). 
  • Green Bay didn't make the cut, which is sad for many reasons. SMU had an uphill climb with a nonconference schedule in the 300s. Had I realize it was that bad I might have flipped BYU and SMU, but I wouldn't have had NC State in the field regardless. Oh well...
  • Biggest "mistakes" were having New Mexico as a 4 (Lobos got a 7), and UMass a 10 (Minutemen got a 6). Although, most people seem to feel those seeds were absurd so I guess I'm not alone. 


Defensive Score Sheet: Michigan State 83, Wisconsin 75

Are the Spartans finally healthy? If Saturday's game against Wisconsin was any indication the answer is a scary, "Yes!" for all other NCAA Tournament teams.

There's a lot of pre-NCAA Tournament work on the docket so here's the defensive score sheet from the game that sets up the first-ever Michigan State-Michigan matchup in Big Ten Tournament history:



Notes

Bracketology - 3.16.14 (AM)

We're 30 hours away from a magical moment: The release of the 2014 NCAA Tournament bracket!

The bubble has shrunk to the slimmest of margins and many Big Boys have punched their respective tickets to the Big Dance. There will be no stolen bids on Sunday so this is all about seeding. The SEC (Florida and Kentucky), Big Ten (Michigan and Michigan State), ACC (Duke and Virginia), Atlantic 10 (VCU and St. Joes) and the Big West (Weber State and Louisiana-Lafayette) are the only games tomorrow. The Big West is, obviously, a one-bid league and if St. Joes hasn't locked up an at-large bid yet then this bracket is going to be pretty screwy.

Here is the projected bracket through all of Saturday's results:



Here are a few notes:
  • My first team out is Dayton and while the Flyers have a decent argument to be in I believe this will all come down to how the committee views BYU's recent injury news. If there is a flop it will be due to Kyle Collinsworth's injury. He is BYU's second-leading scorer as well as top rebounder and assister. This will be the biggest thing to watch on Sunday. Of course, this would mean Dayton plays at home during the "First Four."
  • Louisville made their charge for a No. 1 seed, doing pretty much anything it wanted en route to the American Conference title. Now, I did say a few things had to happen for Louisville to overcome a weak nonconference schedule as well as a watered-down league that had five terrible teams. Michigan reached the Big Ten Tournament finals and will have a better profile even with a loss to rival Michigan State on Sunday. Even with Wisconsin's loss the Badgers' profile is much better than Louisville's. I think the final No. 2 seed is a best-case scenario, even though Rick Pitino believes his club will be a No. 1.
  • Keep watching "professional" bracketologists move UW-Green Bay closer and closer to inclusion (maybe even putting the Phoenix in the field) as the Selection Show nears. Just remember Deuce2Sports never had the Phoenix out. Green Bay has a win over Virginia. That, especially if the Cavaliers win the ACC Tournament, looks better and better.
  • While ESPN continues to insinuate the Duke/Virginia has a shot at the final No. 1 seed don't let the WWL fool you; Neither team has a No. 1 resume. Virginia is good and could complete the ACC title sweep but that didn't get Miami a No. 1 seed last year. Duke has two sub-100 losses - something no No. 1 seed has ever had. All of Duke's best wins came at home this year as well. The best road win was at Pitt. The ACC was not the ACC of old, especially with the unbalanced schedule. Both teams are looking at No. 2 seeds at best while potentially a pair of No. 3 seeds is possible regardless of Sunday's result.
  • Michigan is the leader in the clubhouse for the final No. 1 seed. Even with a loss to Michigan State tomorrow I think - especially with the timing being so close to the bracket unveiling - Michigan has locked up that seed. Villanova, in all honesty, is the only challenger. If it stays as is both will be in the East Region anyway and can sort it all out in the Elite Eight.
  • Welcome to the No. 4 line, Syracuse. Yesterday, Syracuse was a surprising three seed but the microscope continues to show just how flawed the Orange's resume is (especially as other teams rise and win - Iowa State - or are favored to win - Michigan State - their conference tournaments). 
  • The last team to win the NCAA Championship when not winning either a regular season conference title or the tournament title: 1997 Arizona. The then-Pac 10 didn't have a conference tournament that season and the Wildcats finished fifth (5th!!!) in their league that year. Keep that in mind on Selection Sunday.
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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Defensive Score Sheet: Michigan 72, Ohio State 69

Another botched pick-and-roll defensive sequence from Sam
Thompson (hidden) that allows a Nik Stauskas 3-pointer. (AP)

Led by efficient stretches that mirrored last year's first half in the national title game Michigan edged past Ohio State to reach its first Big Ten Tournament title game since 1998. That, if you've forgotten, was the inaugural Big Ten Tournament and the Wolverines took home the crown with Robert "Tractor" Traylor winning the MVP.

With more work to do this will be a bare-bones post. Here's the defensive score sheet from the game - Michigan's first win in seven tries over Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament:




Notes

Bracketology - 3.15.14

Some teams are playing themselves into the tournament while others are (already have) played themselves out. Here's the latest rundown as of 1 a.m. Saturday morning:


Here are a few notes:
  • As I said earlier in the week, Louisville is going to make a real charge at a No. 1 seed. While winning the AAC Tournament isn't terribly glamorous the Cardinals are clicking now. Seriously, winning back-to-back games 92-31 and 94-65 is impressive regardless of the competition. A win against UConn might propel Louisville to the final No. 1 seed if the following happen on Saturday: Ohio State beats Michigan, Michigan State beats Wisconsin and Duke loses to NC State. (If Duke doesn't win the ACC Tournament I believe the Cardinals will still have a shot at the final No. 1 seed).
  • I have a hunch UW-Green Bay gets into the field. It might feel like a 2011 VCU inclusion over teams with more victories but UW-GB was solid all season and has a win over Virginia (which will only look better the further Virginia goes in the ACC Tournament). The Phoenix will be the surprise of Selection Sunday. You heard it here first!
  • By losing its ninth games Kansas might actually fall to the 3 line - which I'm projecting here. That'll be brutal for a surging six seed.
  • If Michigan or Wisconsin wins the Big Ten Tournament, because the title-game opponent will be really good, should get the final No. 1 seed regardless of what happens with Duke, Louisville, et al. The Big Ten's top was that good and for Michigan to win both titles would be quite an accomplishment, seven total losses or not.
  • Welcome to the No. 3 line, Syracuse.
  • Villanova is on the No. 1 line right now because other teams haven't passed the Wildcats... yet. It will happen, but at the moment 'Nova's resume is better. Wisconsin, Michigan, Louisville and Duke - in order - are the two seeds fighting for that spot.
  • Remember, NO team that has lost its first conference tournament game has won the NCAA Championship. That is bad news for Syracuse, Villanova and North Carolina. 
  • The last team to win the NCAA Championship when not winning either a regular season conference title or the tournament title: 1997 Arizona. Keep that in mind on Selection Sunday.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Bracketology - 3.10.14

I've said for a few weeks now that it would be a shock if Florida, Arizona and Wichita State, in some order, didn't occupy the first three No. 1 seeds.

Now, about that final No. 1 seed...

Right now it belongs to Villanova and a Big East Tournament title would cement that. The Wildcats aren't flashy but a three-loss team (with the only defeats coming to then-undefeated Syracuse and to Creighton, twice) 'Nova just keeps winning. Even with the gaudy record I don't believe Villanova is the fourth-best team. However, all other contenders for that spot seem to be faltering as of late.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Defensive Score Sheet: Duke 93, North Carolina 81

Rodney Hood (left) was as valuable defensively as he
was offensively against the Tar Heels. (AP)

Round II of Duke-UNC went the way most expected: North Carolina, winners of 12 straight, likely would finally cool down while the Blue Devils would protect home court on senior night and extend the Cameron winning streak to 33 games.

It was one of those rare, "things played out just as most figured they would" games.

Both offenses, as is typical Duke/UNC clash, excelled while defense took a backseat for much of the game.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Bracketology: Battle for final No. 1 seed is heating up

It seems pretty clear Arizona and Florida are battling for the No. 1 overall seed while Wichita State, even with a loss in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, will be the third No. 1 seed with a 31-1 record in a worst-case scenario.

The battle for the final No. 1 seed is heating up with Kansas, Villanova and Wisconsin as the lead competitors. Michigan and Virginia are in the second tier of teams that could nab the No. 1 seed. I don't see any way Syracuse and Duke can climb back up to the top line. A team like Michigan State, when fully healthy - as it looked like against Iowa last night - plays like a No. 1 seed but it appears a best-case scenario that includes winning at Ohio State and claiming the Big Ten Tournament title would net a No. 2 seed.

The bottom of the bubble is ugly as usual and the final five to six spots will likely be determined by how teams fare in conference tournaments.

Here's our bracket projection (through Thursday night's games on March 6th):



Sunday, February 23, 2014

Defensive Score Sheet: Michigan 79, Michigan State 70

Russell Byrd's matador defense late in the first half proved costly
for the Spartans as the U-M stole momentum and never looked back. (AP)
It's always an interesting game within a game: The Turning Point.

Listen to commentators for forty minutes and by the final buzzer there will have been at least a half dozen turning points that lead to Team X defeating Team Y. (Of course, some of those turning points had Team Y beating Team X but were negated when something else happened).

Pick the turning point from Michigan's 79-70 win against Michigan State - a win that makes this the first Wolverines senior class to have a winning record vs. the Spartans (6-2) since the 1996-99 seniors:

  • Option A - 1H, 9:57 (MSU 22, Michigan 11): Michigan goes into a 1-3-1 zone. Keith Appling drives and kicks to Gary Harris who hits a 3-pointers...except Appling is called for an offensive foul - his second - and sits the rest of the half. Michigan proceeds to go on a 10-0 run over the next four minutes.
  • Option B - 1H, 2:18-0:39 (MSU 31, Michigan 24): Russell Byrd checks in to give Alvin Ellis III a blow. Byrd proceeds to play his worst defense of the year. First, Caris LeVert breaks Byrd down on a jump shot. Next, Glenn Robinson, sensing a mismatch, takes Byrd to the hole for an And-1 (he missed the free throw). Lastly, LeVert takes Byrd to the rim, makes a basket and gets fouled. He converts the 3-point play.
  • Option C - 1H, 0:01 (MSU 36, Michigan 31): After MSU's Gary Harris hits a jumper with five seconds left in the half, Caris LeVert beats MSU's defense down the court and hits a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
  • Option D - 2H, 14:17 (MSU 48, Michigan 43): The Nik Stauskas show really begins heating up with a 3-pointer. Stauskas had already scored five points in the half, but it was this triple that started a stretch where Stauskas alone went on a 11-4 run. MSU never led after Stauskas' 3-pointer at the 10:04 mark to give U-M a 54-52 lead.

Defensive Score Sheets - Duke & Syracuse, Rounds 1 and 2

Jim Boeheim: "I just thought it was the worst call of the year, that's all." (AP)

  • Is Jabari Parker really not as bad defensively as people make him out to be (like most impressions of him in the loss to North Carolina)?
  • How valuable will be Marshall Plumlee come tournament time?
  • Andre Dawkins seems to have trouble defensively against Syracuse, no?
  • C.J. Fair, not Tyler Ennis, is Syracuse's best and most valuable player.

Those are some basic impressions looking at a two-pack of defensive score sheets from America's newest favorite rivalry: Duke vs. Syracuse. Here are the defensive box scores from the team's two meetings (so far?) in 2014. Draw your own conclusions.


Friday, February 21, 2014

Defensive Score Sheet - North Carolina 74, Duke 66

The look on Jabari Parker's (1) face was how many viewers felt
about his individual defensive performance vs. the Tar Heels. (AP)

As Doug Gottlieb was pointing out with video evidence this morning on Twitter (via Instagram), Duke's Jabari Parker really had a horrific defensive game. Worried about early foul trouble Parker did his best work on help-side defensive players. When it came to one-on-one it was painful to watch. He consistently turned his shoulders the wrong way when pressuring a ball handler and occasionally his defense could best be described as "ole-style."

Still, despite Parker's obvious struggles against UNC's quicker guards and wings, the country's best freshman was Duke's second-best defender based on the numbers.

How so?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Defensive Score Sheet - Michigan 70, Ohio State 60

Just like he did in a road win at Michigan State Michigan's Derrick
Walton Jr., was the catalyst in leading U-M to a win at OSU. (AP)

It hasn't even been a full season of Derrick Walton's college career and he's already being put on a pedestal next to Trey Burke. Burke, of course, led Michigan to last year's NCAA Championship game as a sophomore and has had a solid rookie year for the NBA's Utah Jazz this season.

While I wouldn't put Walton in the same neighborhood as Burke I can see why people are quick to make the comparisons. Walton seems to have a great handle on the speed of the game and his hesitation dribbles and pick-and-roll sets and in Michigan's two biggest road games - at Michigan State and at Ohio State - it was Walton who led his team to victory down the stretch.

His defense is coming around as well. Not only did he record a double-double in Tuesday's 70-60 win over the Buckeyes (nine of his 10 rebounds were defensive boards) but the way he boxed out and defended all game was terrific. It should be noted the final basket he allowed was a basic ole with Michigan up by double digits in the closing seconds.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Bracketology - Florida finally climbs to No. 1 line; MSU falls to No. 2

There isn't much movement from our opening projections last week, nor should there be from one week to another in February. The biggest change is some shifting on the top line. Kansas recovered well from its thumping at Texas to not only stay on the top line but shift into the Midwest Region. Florida, which continues to streak, is a new No. 1 seed in the South Region as Michigan State is now on the No. 2 line.

There comes a point that injuries can't be an excuse for seeding anymore. The Spartans may never be healthy so there isn't a reason to hold out hope in terms of seeding. Now, if MSU - healthy or not - can win the Big Ten outright and make noise in the conference tournament and even win it then a No. 1 seed in a lock. Until then, the Spartans look like a solid No. 2 seed, banged up and all.

I still believe Wichita State will get a No. 1 seed if it finishes the regular season undefeated and wins the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. At some point undefeated has to mean something, even if the schedule is weak. Will the Shockers be one of the four best teams? I highly doubt it, but 34-0 would be 34-0.

I think San Diego State has an outside chance at a No. 1 seed but would really need two things to happen: Arizona would need to falter a bit without Brandon Ashley making the committee very nervous about considering the 21-0 start with him too heavily as well as a Wichita State loss. If both those things happen and the Aztecs finish with only two losses I could very well see Steve Fisher's club on the No. 1 line.

Here's our second projection of 2014 (through Sunday, February 9th's games):



Defensive Score Sheet: Wisconsin 60, Michigan State 58

Traevon Jackson (12) hits the game-winning jumper with 2.1
seconds to play to give Wisconsin a 60-58 win over MSU. (AP)

Another Michigan State-Wisconsin game, another instant classic to file in the Rivalry of Love story.

Playing without Keith Appling and Branden Dawson the Spartans withstood numerous spurts that nearly put Wisconsin on the edge of a blowout. Still, despite trailing 58-53 with 28 seconds to play the Spartans executed back-to-back out-of-bounds plays to perfection (a 20-foot jumper from Gary Harris and a 3-pointer from Adreian Payne) sandwiched around a missed front end of a 1-and-1 free throw (by 94 percent free throw shooter Ben Brust no less) to tie the game at 58 with 8.7 seconds to play.

Despite being blanketed by Gary Harris, Traevon Jackson hit a running jumper with 2.1 seconds left to give Wisconsin the 60-58 win. (Travis Trice did ever-so-slightly miss a half-court heave at the buzzer to seal the Badgers' win).

Monday, February 3, 2014

Bracketology - Syracuse, Arizona, MSU, Kansas are No. 1 seeds

The first Deuce2Sports 2014 bracket projection is here. It really does seem fairly pointless to mess with projections any earlier than early January, about the time the nonconference schedule ends. However, even then you see cases of teams with softer schedules that put up gaudy records (I'm looking at you, Ohio State) appear not only far from the once suspected Final Four lock but closer to a 7/8/9 seed when the conference slate starts.

It seems February is a great time to really break down potential seedings as its about six weeks from Selection Sunday and, while things are cut and dry, things are much clearer than they were a month ago.

Here's our first 2014 bracket:



Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Defensive Score Sheet - Michigan State at Iowa

Russell Byrd hits the shot of his life against Iowa. (The Gazette)
In a game practically everyone assumed Michigan State would lose, including some of the biggest MSU fans around, the Spartans eked out one of the grittiest wins of the Tom Izzo era.

The biggest highlight is 11th-man Russell Byrd's 3-pointer with 30 seconds remaining in OT that gave MSU a 70-64 and kind of sealed the win. (It would have sealed the win had the Spartans not missed three of four free throws in the final 17 seconds). Byrd's shot - the biggest of his often-injured MSU career - was reminiscent of bench workhorse Tim Bograkos' 3-pointer with less than a minute left that lifted MSU to a 71-67 win over Kentucky in 2002 at Rupp Arena. [VIDEO shows the clip starting at the nine-second mark].

The Byrd story is pretty simple: He was recruited by the likes of Kentucky because he was a phenomenal high school shooter. Multiple foot surgeries have derailed his career as much as his inability to hit open triples that he's said to be making consistently in practice and shootarounds. He went from a potential key bench guy for Tom Izzo to an 9th-man-in-the-rotation guy to a de facto practice squad leader. MSU's recent injuries and Byrd's improved defense are really the only reason he's been able to get on the floor lately. He then finally hits the shot he was recruited to hit night after night.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Defensive Score Sheet: Michigan at Michigan State

Derrick Walton Jr.' s huge play was one reason Michigan left
Breslin Center with an 80-75 win over No. 3 Michigan St. (AP)

In a 64-possession game it was clear that while both MSU & Michigan's defenses were solid to a point the offenses stole the show - especially Michigan's in the closing four minutes.

Michigan's 80-75 win at The Breslin Center - just the Wolverines' 2nd win in East Lansing in their last 15 games - was truly a classic in the rivalry. Clutch play by both teams' stars, especially Nik Stauskas & Gary Harris, made it a back and forth tug of war.  Despite both teams playing without their NBA-ready centers (Mitch McGary for Michigan and Adreian Payne for MSU) the reserves stepped up and both teams had unsung performances from usually low-key guys.

Derrick Walton Jr. had 19 points, six rebounds and four assists for the Wolverines but his biggest plays were his And-1 layup that gave Michigan a 66-60 lead with 2:25 to play, and going 7-for-8 from the free throw line in the final two minutes.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Defensive Score Sheet - Iowa at Michigan

There were a lot of heroes vs. Iowa but U-M's Spike
Albrecht was the biggest for the Wolverines. (AP)


Today's post will be short and sweet. Michigan didn't play its best game - outside of Nik Stauskas having some phenomenal one-on-one efforts the offense wasn't great in the half court - but timely turnovers and fast-break points were really the difference against a top-10 Iowa team.

There were a few heroes for Michigan but none greater than Spike Albrecht. Starting (and playing starter's minutes) for the ill Derrick Walton Jr. Albrecht was Michigan's best defender by far and some could argue his timely forced turnovers changed the game and gave the Wolverines the victory potion.

Below is the defensive score sheet for the Michigan's 75-67 victory against Iowa - giving the Wolverines back-to-back wins over Top-10 teams for the first time since the Fab Five in 1992.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Defensive Score Sheet - Michigan at Wisconsin

Bo Ryan fell to 191-19 (.910) in his tenure at the Kohl Center (AP).
It goes without saying just how tough it is to beat Wisconsin at the Kohl Center. Michigan became just the 19th visiting team to leave Kohl Center with a victory... in 210 attempts! Bo Ryan is still 191-19 at the Kohl Center as Wisconsin's head coach.

Now, sometimes the bounces (and whistles) just go your way at home. Other times a change in basketball can be difficult for opponents to adjust to. (Wisconsin is the lone Division I team to use Sperling basketballs - a brand Bo Ryan used when he was coaching Division III hoops and just brought with him to Madison). Lest we forget, however, that Wisconsin will always be a good-to-great team under Bo Ryan because of his coaching ability. Throw in the Grateful Red student section and a rabid fan base and you have a very hostile environment.

It makes what Michigan did on Saturday that much more impressive. While the final score and late-game tension doesn't quite show it, Michigan really had the game in hand for much of the day. The lead swelled to 66-53 with eight minutes to play. Naturally, as Wisconsin seemingly always does at home, the Badgers made a run. Wisconsin went on a 14-2 spurt to make it a one-point game with two minutes to play.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Look Back: Defensive Score Sheet - Michigan at Duke

Defensively, it was a very rough day for U-M's Caris LeVert (AP).

Looking back, this seems like a typical Duke home game this season. The Blue Devils make enough threes and play good enough defense to get the win against a good-but-not-great opponent. It also helped that Michigan didn't play nearly to its capabilities.

The game had a moderate pace (67 possessions) but that shows you exactly where Michigan failed. Duke was able to get way too many good looks, especially from three-point range. The positive: Michigan played like a team for 40 minutes; The negative: every person on the team was responsible for a plethora of defensive lapses.

Caris LeVert, who some call "Baby Durant" or variations of it, didn't have a Durantian game on either side of the ball. His 15 points on 15 shots is hardly impressive and defensively he was terrible. He allowed a game-high 8.5 made baskets and was beaten off the dribble repeatedly. He looked especially bad when Jordan Morgan (worst DRtg for the game at 135.5) was in the post instead of Jon Horford or Mitch McGary (Michigan's best two defenders).

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Look Back: Defensive Score Sheet - Michigan State vs. North Carolina

Tom Izzo looked like this much of the evening vs. UNC and
his anger was usually directed at his team's lack of execution.

In what has turned out to be one of the more puzzling losses of the season, the Spartans were out-hustled, out-willed, and out-worked for 40 minutes by the Tar Heels. The result was a 79-65 North Carolina victory in which Michigan State never led.

Yes, the Spartans were playing with a gimpy Gary Harris (ankle) and a sick Matt Costello (flu) and ended up having to work around Adreian Payne's in-game cramping. Still, for a MSU team that's 15-1 with some damn impressive wins to date the entire complexion of this game was just weird.

North Carolina grabbed 16 offensive rebounds while the Spartans hauled in just 25 defensive boards; that's a offensive rebounding percentage of 39 percent. Against a Tom Izzo team that might as well be the equivalent of losing 100-50, at home, to a MEAC school.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Defensive Score Sheet: Michigan State vs. Ohio State

This was the Tom Izzo death stare aimed at officials and his
team's offense in the final 7+ minutes of regulation Tuesday.

For 32+ minutes of regulation the short-handed Spartans played like national champions, albeit at home, against the undefeated Buckeyes. MSU led 55-38 with 7:06 to play before, inexplicably, going into run-down-the-shot-clock-and-take-the-foot-off-the-gas mode. For a team that had smelled blood when the game was in the 6-8 point range to push the lead to 17 it was puzzling to see it become so passive.

That's when the Buckeyes became the sharks. Over the final 7+ minutes of regulation Ohio State outscored Michigan State 20-3 by forcing nine turnovers with a ferocious defensive attack that led to a handful of easy buckets. Heck, the final turnover - a deflection and steal by Shannon Scott - almost sunk the Spartans in the final seconds of regulation if not for a phenomenal defensive play by Keith Appling.

In overtime the Spartans crawled out of their shell a bit and, when the traditional, attacking style of offense the Spartans used for the first 32+ minutes - SURPRISE! - worked MSU was able to hold off the Buckeyes in a 72-68 overtime classic.

Here's the defensive score sheet for the game with a brief explanation at the bottom of this post: