Desperation Kicking in for Michigan with No. 1 Arizona on Deck

On Saturday afternoon, Michigan hosts No. 1 Arizona.

It might be the Wolverines’ last chance to salvage their 2013-14 season.

Oh sure, regardless of what happens on Saturday they could dominate the months of January and February, win the Big Ten and earn a No. 1 seed in the 2014 NCAA Tournament.

Let’s be serious, though. This team is barely even a shell of what it was supposed to be.

Of the teams ranked in the Top 13 of the AP Preseason Poll, 12 were still ranked in the Top 19 this past Monday.

Then there’s Michigan.

After losses to Iowa State, Charlotte and Duke, the Wolverines plummeted all the way from No. 7 to unranked in one month’s time. Entering play on Thursday, Michigan had the worst RPI in the Big Tenand by no small margin.

Health has certainly been an issue since before the season even began. The loss to Iowa State was Mitch McGary‘s first game of the year, and he still doesn’t look quite right. Both Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas suffered injuries in the loss to Charlotte and were subsequently useless in the loss to Duke, combining for 12 points, seven personal fouls and five turnovers in 68 minutes of action.

A win over Arizona would go a long way to cover up those wrongs. Lose to the Wildcats, however, and we’re talking about a four-loss team about to embark upon a stretch of 18 conference games that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.

With nothing better than an overtime win over Florida State to its credit, a loss to Arizona wouldn’t just stifle Michigan’s pipe dreams of earning a No. 1 seed. This game could very well determine whether or not Michigan even makes the tournament.

Suggesting that a team could go from preseason Top 10 to missing the tournament isn’t exactly as crazy as it sounds. In fact, it happens in more seasons than it doesn’t.

What can Michigan do to avoid the same fate?

For one, the Wolverines need to find an identity on offense, and they need to do it fast.

Aside from maybe Jon Horford, McGary is the only person on the team who even remotely resembles a center, except he doesn’t have any interest in the position. Despite dominating in the post during last year’s NCAA tournament, it seems McGary would rather be getting the ball on the elbows of the foul line than on the low blocks.

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the way he plays, but he doesn’t act like a traditional big man. This would be fine if Michigan either had other big men or anyone other than Stauskas that averages better than two made three-pointers per game.

But they don’t. The Wolverines are neither a perimeter team nor a grind-it-out-in-the-paint kind of team. They have no identity. It’s almost as if they didn’t realize that Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. wouldn’t be coming back.

Stauskas and Robinson III are great players, but it’s not a good sign that the offense completely shuts down when those two guys aren’t shouldering the loadespecially since teams like Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin shouldn’t have too much difficulty holding those guys in check.

If not for Caris LeVert tirelessly getting to the rim against Duke, it’s tough to say who would have even been shooting or dribbling the ball for them on that particular night.

They have significant issues on defense too.

In the four games against teams in the RPI Top 150, Michigan’s opponents shot 50.6 percent from inside the arc and 38.2 percent from three-point range.

To help put those numbers in perspective, a 50.6 percent two-point field-goal defense would rank 222nd in the nation, and a 38.2 percent three-point field-goal defense would rank 293rd. Playing against the likes of Houston Baptist and Massachusetts Lowell has helped keep Michigan’s overall percentages for the season in a more respectable range, but it is really struggling to slow down teams that are worth their weight in salt.

A complete lack of interior defense doesn’t help their cause. In the four aforementioned games, the Wolverines recorded a grand total of five blocksand two of the three blocks in the game against Florida State didn’t occur until overtime.

Chris Obekpa from St. John’s is averaging 5.5 blocks per game, so 1.25 blocks per game by an entire team isn’t exactly an adequate amount of rim protection.

(This seems like a fine time to point out that Arizona starts three playersAaron Gordon, Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewskiwho are 6’8″ or taller. If McGary is ever going to get back to playing like he did against Kansas in last year’s tournament, this would be a great time to start.)

The perimeter defense isn’t much better. The team does average nearly 6.5 steals per game, but that aggressiveness often backfires in the form of uncontested shots. Duke and Iowa State each missed a fair number of wide open three-pointers, which would have pushed that 38.2 percent mark well into the 40s.

But hey, what do I know?

There are still more than three months until Selection Sunday. A lot can change in 100 days.

At this point in last season, Marquette already had three losses and Miami had lost to Florida Gulf Coast. They combined to receive 11 votes in the AP Poll released on Dec. 10, 2012 and looked nothing like a pair of teams that would eventually meet in the Sweet 16 as the No. 2- and No. 3-seeded teams in the East region.

Things should get better for Michigan as the banged-up players get closer to full strength. It’s just a matter of how much better and how quickly it can happen.

There’s no question, though, that a win over Arizona would make Michigan’s journey back to national prominence a much easier one.

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Grizzlies’ Tony Allen suspended for kicking Chris Paul

Allen was ejected from the Grizzlies’ Monday game against the Clippers.

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Tony Allen ejected for kicking Chris Paul in the face

Everybody was kung fu fighting.

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Tony Allen on kicking Chris Paul in the face: ‘I was just trying to make a play’

Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen received a Flagrant Foul 2 and was ejected after he kicked Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul in the face while playing defense during Monday night’s 106-12 win. Allen walked over to Paul at the foul line to apologize while the officials watched the replay to determine the severity of the foul, which occurred with 1:51 left in the opening quarter. “I was just trying to make a play — leaving a great shooter like Jamal Crawford in the corner, knowing Chris Paul’s tendencies,” Allen said, per the Associated Press. “Chris sees everybody that’s open, and I accidentally kicked him. But I’m pretty sure he knows that it was accidental. That ain’t my style of play. “I had to let him know 

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Video: Tony Allen Ejected for Kicking Chris Paul in the Head

Tony Allen was ejected from the Memphis Grizzlies-Los Angeles Clippers game Monday night after giving Chris Paul a kick to the head. The incident occurred in the near the end of the first quarter after Paul split two defenders and started his drive to the basket. Allen met him with what appeared to be an inadvertent kick to the head. Allen received a Flagrant 2 foul and the ejection for his martial arts maneuver. The Grizzlies shook the incident off and defeated the Clippers 106-102. The post Video: Tony Allen Ejected for Kicking Chris Paul in the Head appeared first on Basketball Bicker.

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Pac-12 tournament kicking off in Vegas (Yahoo! Sports)

UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad (15) passes around the defense of Washington's Scott Suggs (15) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, March 9, 2013, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Hoping to boost the Pac-12 tournament’s appeal, conference Commissioner Larry Scott pushed to move it from Los Angeles to a more exciting destination that would draw from all over the West.

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Memphis Grizzlies Will Be Kicking Themselves All Summer After Dropping Series

Well, there goes my dark-horse pick (and several others’ at that) to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals.

After coming back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the series and force a game seven at home, the Memphis Grizzlies ultimately fell to the Los Angeles Clippers, dropping the series-deciding contest 82-72 on Sunday afternoon.

Coming into today’s game, the home team had won 80 percent of game sevens over the course of NBA history. The Grizzlies are now in that minority of teams that were not able to emerge victorious on their home floor.

At first glance, that comes as a surprise, given the ample amount of talent on this Memphis team, but then again, this is the same squad that squandered a 27-point lead to lose Game 1 of this series. It also nearly blew a 24-point lead in Game 5.

So, what happened to the Grizzlies?

First and foremost, let me start by giving credit where credit is due. The Clippers got the job done; plain and simple. I truly believe that if you beat your opponent four out of seven times, you are the better team, unless there are injuries inhibiting your competition.

And actually, there were injuries, but not on Memphis. Los Angeles was the team dealing with banged up players, it’s two best players, as a matter of fact.

Blake Griffin was playing with a balky knee, so balky that he had to sit out the majority of the fourth quarter. Chris Paul was on the floor with a groin injury that has been bothering him for the better part of the series. It clearly limited his effectiveness in Game 6, but in Game 7, he gutted it out and recorded 19 points and nine rebounds. It wasn’t Paul’s best performance, but it was enough.

The Grizzlies? They just could not put the ball in the basket, shooting a paltry 32.5% from the field. They misfired on all 13 of their three-point attempts and also missed nine free throws.

That is obviously not a recipe for success.

You want to know how poor Memphis’ offense was in this Game 7? It only scored 13 points in the first quarter. It’s not like the Clippers did much better, scoring 16, but it was still three points better than the anemic Grizzlies.

I’m sorry, but this Memphis team is far too talented to lay this kind of egg in a Game 7. It is also far too talented to blow a 27-point lead. Again, you have to give credit to L.A. for being able to rally back from that big of a deficit, but it takes much more than just the other team playing well to give up an advantage of nearly 30 points.

It takes a complete choke job on the part of the team with the lead, and that is what happened to the Grizzlies in Game 1.

Had Lionel Hollins’ group been able to hold off the Clips’ furious rally back on Apr. 30, it would not have even had to play a Game 7 on Sunday. Instead, it would have been preparing on how to upset the San Antonio Spurs for the second consecutive year. Alas, that didn’t happen, and now Memphis is going to spend all summer wondering what could have been.

It’s funny how much things can change in a year.

After becoming a legend in Memphis overnight in 2011, Zach Randolph was anything but a prime-time performer in the 2012 postseason, shooting 3-of-12 from the floor and recording only nine points in Game 7. Last year, Randolph would have put this team on his back and carried them to the next round of the playoffs, but this isn’t last year.

And perhaps the Grizzlies could have overcome Randolph’s spotty shooting if Mike Conley didn’t also have an off-afternoon, shooting just 2-of-13. Or if O.J. Mayo didn’t go 1-for-11.

It’s not all bad for Memphis, though.

This is still a very young team and has plenty of time to win a championship. However, given how well it matches up with San Antonio and some of the other top teams in the league, it blew a golden opportunity this season, and opportunities such as this do not come by very often.

Maybe next time, the Grizzlies will decide to show up for Game 7. Or not blow a 27-point lead so they don’t have a Game 7.

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It Takes One Duke Butt Kicking to Recover from Jared Sullinger and Ohio State

College basketball fans who hate Duke, and there are many for their many reasons, enjoyed the beating the team endured Tuesday night in Columbus, Ohio.  Duke came into the game ranked fourth facing the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes. 

Some hyped up the game as the premier game of the young season thus far.  Even if the Blue Devils weren’t feeling fatigued from their Maui trip, where they won in exciting fashion, this game was a monumental task. 

Preparation isn’t questioned; Coach K will have his team prepared for every single game.  But preparation stops when the ball is thrown up.  Let’s take a look at the loss (the sting doesn’t hurt as much as the initial shock) and what it means for the remainder of the season.

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