The past 24 hours have been a whirlwind in Big Ten hoops.
On Sunday afternoon, Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State each secured a share of the regular-season Big Ten title. On Monday night, Spartan coach Tom Izzo won Big Ten Coach of the Year and his senior forward Draymond Green took home Player of the Year. Michigan’s Trey Burke and Indiana’s Cody Zeller shared the conference Freshman of the Year honor.
With the recent developments, Michigan basketball fans are itching to ask questions, and the Daily basketball beat is here to answer them.
How did Michigan win a share of the Big Ten title with just one player (Burke) on the first two All-Big Ten teams? Are the Wolverines really well balanced or did they get snubbed by the selection committees?
I don’t believe that Michigan was snubbed. Burke was named to the All-Big Ten second team, and Hardaway Jr. to the third team. Based on their performances and their competition, I agree with those decisions.
Balance is a staple of John Beilein-coached teams. He’s never recruited superstars — he relies on a team effort every game, and any one of his players could beat you on a given night. Even his esteemed counterpart at Duke, coach Mike Krzyzewski, mentioned after beating Michigan in the NCAA Tournament last season that the Wolverines were a “team” in every sense of the word.
But I do think Trey Burke was gypped out of an outright Freshman of the Year honor. The media voted for Burke, and the coaches voted for Zeller, so the two will share the award, which seems outrageous.
Zeller’s statistics are sexy, no doubt. He led all Big Ten freshmen in scoring and rebounding, so if you’re going by the book, he deserves the award. But Burke’s stat line was comparable, with 14.6 points a game — and he led Michigan to the Big Ten title.
Senior guard and co-captain Zack Novak knows what that means.
“You look where we were, losing Darius (Morris to the NBA draft) … and now no one really knows what to think,” Novak said on Monday. “Then all of a sudden we’ve got a freshman come in, I think he was a three-star. … To come in and play like he has, starting point guard for a Big Ten championship team, as a freshman, that’s tough.”
As balanced a team as Michigan is, the team wouldn’t be relevant at this point if it weren’t for Burke — the Wolverines could be sitting down with Penn State and Nebraska in the basement of the conference standings.
Without him, senior guard Stu Douglass — maybe even freshman Carlton Brundidge — would have been left to command the point-guard position this season.
Do you think winning the Big Ten Championship increases Tim Hardaway Jr.’s draft stock if he decides to go to the NBA, since he is the “leader” of Michigan’s basketball team?
Of course a championship helps Hardaway Jr.’s draft stock — NBA scouts want winners, and Michigan tends to roll when the sophomore stud is in rhythm. But Hardaway Jr. is not nearly ready for the pros, and I doubt he’ll enter the draft after this season.
The star has certainly shown flashes of brilliance. His 25 points on a mere seven attempts from the field at Illinois last week displayed the type of efficiency scouts like to see in their prospects. But it’s also the type of efficiency that has eluded Hardaway Jr. through most of the season.
As fun as he is to watch when he finds his stroke, Hardaway Jr.’s cold streaks are frequent and unbearable to watch. Scouts won’t be impressed with his sub-30 shooting percentage from behind the arc, and they’ll be underwhelmed with his ball-handling skills, which have hardly improved since his freshman campaign.
But I admit I may be speaking too soon. Last week, Grantland writer Davy Rothbart asked Hardaway Jr. if this was his last season at Michigan, and his eloquent response was, “No. We don’t know yet. I’m not sure.”
Take that for what it’s worth.
The Wolverines may well have a lot of basketball left to play. If Hardaway Jr. goes on a torrid run through this weekend’s Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis and leads Michigan to its first Sweet Sixteen since 1994, it may be enough for him to cash in.
And yes, in that case, having the regular-season conference title in his back pocket obviously helps his draft stock.
How will the absence of a dominant big man affect the Wolverines’ chances in the NCAA Tourney?
Not having a premier frontcourt is a concern. The elite programs — the Kentuckys and Syracuses — have some of the top big men in the nation, and it’s no coincidence they’re ranked so highly.
How Michigan performs through March is dependent on a number of factors, but sophomore forward Jordan Morgan’s performance is near the top of that list. The Wolverine frontcourt is thin in the absence of sophomore forward Jon Horford, who injured his foot back in December. And if Morgan finds himself in foul trouble against a team that likes to bang underneath, Michigan may be in trouble.
But don’t forget that Morgan has the ability to turn some heads. Against Ohio State in Ann Arbor last month, he held Jared Sullinger in check through most of the contest and added 11 points and 11 rebounds of his own.
So, Michigan’s frontcourt could contend, but it’s fragile. If Morgan has to sit with two fouls early in the first half of a Sweet Sixteen matchup against, say, Kansas, you may want to close your eyes.