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Thursday, March 21, 2013

No. 3 seed Michigan State has no problem with No. 14 seed Valparaiso

Senior Derrick Nix came up huge for the Spartans in a dominating win

     The struggling Michigan State Spartans looked to make a statement coming into this game against Valparaiso, and a statement was certainly made. The Spartans went into half with a dominating 35-18 lead looking to pile on in the second half. The second half did not go as planned for the Spartans as they were out scored by the Crusaders 36-30, but still held on for a commanding 11 point win. For the Spartans to go far in this tournament, they need solid contributions from players such as Keith Appling, Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne.

     Payne has been coming up big for the Spartans down the stretch especially when the other stars, like Appling and Nix, have been struggling to find their stroke. But it was Payne who came up small in this game as he scored only 7 points with 4 boards. He also did not shoot the ball very much as he attempted only 5 shots from the field. Derrick Nix meanwhile had arguably the best game of his Spartan career as he scored 23 points on 10-17 shooting along with a career high 15 boards. Keith Appling also contributed 15 points with 6 assists. For the Spartans, this must be a good sign to see him score double digits as he is seeming to be breaking out of his current scoring funk. Big Ten Freshman of the Year Gary Harris had a decent game with 10 points, 2 steals and 4 boards in 32 minutes. One thing that Tom Izzo will want to fix is the turnover issue as the Spartans had 17 of them, something they need to fix if they want to go far in this tournament.

     The Spartans have arguably one of the toughest roads to the Final Four. They are the number 3 seed in the Midwest region which features the No. 1 overall seed in Louisville, a formidable No. 2 seed in the Duke Blue Devils, and tough hard-nosed 4, 5, and 6 seeds in Saint Louis, Oklahoma State and Memphis. Michigan State will have to face the winner of No. 6 Memphis and No. 11 Saint Mary's on Saturday. Memphis (30-4) are one of, if not the toughest No. 6 seeds in the entire tournament and Saint Mary's (28-6) are no slouch either. After that game, providing an upset which isn't uncommon in March, Michigan State will have to face the No. 2 seed in Duke, then the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament Louisville. The road for the Spartans is a tough one, but a doable one. If the Spartans play like they are capable of, I wouldn't be surprised to see them represent the Midwest region in the Final Four.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Is Kansas City a legitimate threat to the Tigers in the Central?

Young budding star Eric Hosmer leads an up and coming Royals squad

     The Kansas City Royals are in first place, yes you heard me right the Royals are 13-2 and in first place in the Cactus League. Granted this is Spring Training and these exhibition games do not mean much towards the regular season--just ask Detroit Lions fans--but even though the games don't count for much, it may be more of a concern than you think, Tiger fans.

      Last season, the Royals finished at an even .500 (16-16) during Spring Training, while the Tigers finished at a more formidable 20-8. Where did the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants end up you ask? They only finished three games above .500 at 18-15. In fact, in the American League, only two out of the top five teams in the standings for Spring Training actually made the playoffs last year (Detroit and Oakland). In the NL, it was the same picture, the two teams being St. Louis and San Francisco. So what does all this mean? This shows that Spring Training success doesn't necessarily mean regular season success. But one thing it does give, is momentum and most of all, confidence.

      For the Royals, this success during February and March may mean more than you think. The Royals are a young team, with most of their key contributors being under 30 years of age (Alex Gordon, 29; Billy Butler, 26; and Jeff Francoeur, 29). Also they have a number of young rising stars such as team U.S. first baseman Eric Hosmer (age 23), third baseman Mike Moustakas (24), and catcher Salvador Perez (22). With most of their roster being very young, success during the Spring may help them build confidence and unity. Also the addition of pitchers James Shields, Ervin Santana and Wade Davis help provide stability to an otherwise young and inconsistent staff.

      Okay, back to the question, is Kansas City a legitimate threat to the Tigers in the AL Central? My opinion is no, at least not yet. The Royals finished last season in third place in the Central at 72-90, a one game improvement from the year before and a five game improvement from 2010. The Tigers just have too much fire power with the reigning AL MVP and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, former AL Cy Young award winner and former AL MVP Justin Verlander, AL Silver Slugger Prince Fielder and veteran leadership in Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter. They also have some budding stars of their own such as Nick Castellanos, Avasail Garcia and Bruce Rondon. For the Royals to make such a huge jump to overtake a powerful and experienced team in just one year, is a huge feat and are not at that level yet. But they are improving and with a good season, may make a push for a Wild Card spot. Don't get to comfortable Tiger fans, we have some competition coming up our rearview mirror quicker than you might think.

Michigan, Michigan State still formidable opponents in the Tournament

Trey Burke and Keith Appling lead their respective teams into the Big Dance

      With both No. 6 Michigan and No. 8 Michigan State struggling down the stretch, many come to wonder if these teams still possess the prowess to compete in the big dance. Here are some reasons not to count out either of these teams out come tournament time.

     For Michigan State, they have lost three of their last five games. They saw their ranking drop from No. 4, to No. 10, now back up to No. 8. If the Spartans could have found a way to win at least two of those games, you may be looking at the No. 1 team in the country. Going into the Big Ten tournament, coach Tom Izzo must have his team prepared and most of all hungry. Tom Izzo's squads have a reputation of showing up come tourney time and to come up big down the stretch. They have failed in one of those aspects, but could redeem themselves with a good showing in the Big Ten tournament. If the Spartans win the Big Ten tournament, they may move themselves into a No. 2 seed, if not a possible No. 1 in the big dance. Not only would it provide a better seeding, it also would provide them confidence. Another thing boding well for the Spartans is the increased performance of junior forward Adreian Payne. He is averaging 10.1 points per game along with 7.5 boards this season. Payne has also developed into a formidable three-point shooter as he is posting a 44% three-point percentage. The most dramatic improvement is his free throw shooting. Payne has an 81% free throw percentage, good for 5th in the Big Ten. Senior center Derrick Nix also helps provide a very tough and impressive front two for the Spartans and it always helps having a legitimate big man to help you go far in March, let alone two. Also, do not count out a Tom Izzo led team, as he is one of the country's best coaches.

      Michigan has also had their fair share of troubles down the stretch. The Wolverines have lost four of their last eight games including a heartbreaking loss on Sunday against Indiana for the Big Ten regular season title. They have seen their rankings fluctuate from No. 2, to No. 4, to No. 7 and now resting at No. 6. For the Wolverines, coach John Beilein must prepare his team to make a deep run in the Big Ten tournament. To restore confidence, the Wolverines must show up and be well prepared for the Big Ten tournament. The Wolverines have been an up and down team this year, but are still a very dangerous team. Besides Naismith hopeful Trey Burke, Michigan has also had a good and up coming player in freshman Nik Stauskas. He has been a surprise this year in his development as he is averaging 11.6 points per game which is good for third on the team next to Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke. He is also shooting a team best 46% from beyond the arc, which is good for 3rd in the Big Ten. In the NCAA tournament, a consistent three-point threat is always a welcomed asset.

      For both of these teams, even though they have struggled down the stretch more than they would have liked, are both dangerous and legitimate contenders. The Big Ten is one of the best conferences in the country, with four teams ranked in the AP top ten (No. 3 Indiana, No. 6 Michigan, No. 8 Michigan State, No. 10 Ohio State), It would not be surprising to see one if not two of these teams in the Final Four and it will be exciting to watch and see where these teams end up when the trophy is lifted and the confetti is falling. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Wisconsin vs. Michigan State preview

WHEN: Tonight 9 P.M. ET

WHERE: Jack Breslin Center, East Lansing Michigan


      No. 10 Michigan State Spartans (22-7, 11-5) will play host to the No. 22 Wisconsin Badgers (20-9, 11-5) tonight, after their disappointing 58-57 loss on the road in Ann Arbor to the Wolverines. Each team comes in after losing their last match-up as Wisconsin lost in upset fashion to the Purdue Boilermakers, and the Spartans ride a three game skid (Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan) into Thursday night.

      Michigan State has been particularly good at home this season, 15-1 at Breslin, scoring an additional +7.4 points. They have also won 7 straight at home versus Wisconsin, and 4 in a row overall in the series. The Spartans beat the Badgers 49-47 in Madison on Jan. 22.

       Both teams come into Thursday's action a game back of first place in the Big Ten, after Indiana lost at home to the Ohio State Buckeyes. If either squad wins-out and No. 7 Michigan upsets Indiana on Sunday, they could claim a share of the B1G title.

PLAYER(S) TO WATCH FOR MSU: Adreian Payne and Keith Appling

Appling must get out of recent funk for Spartans to make turn-around.
      The reason Keith Appling is on this slide, is his inability during Michigan State's recent skid. Appling has scored in single digits in each of his last three games (Michigan State lost all three) while shooting just 5-of-23 from the floor (21.7%). He's averaged just six points, 2.7 assists and three turnovers per game during that stretch. If the Izzo-led Spartans are planning another deep March run, Appling has to get out of his current funk.

      Adreian Payne has been on another planet the past two weeks. Over his past four games, he's averaged 15.3 points and 12 rebounds while going 6-12 beyond the arc (.500%). If Payne continues his recent tear through Sunday and beyond, the Spartans will be tough to beat in the Tournament.


Dekker has been hot for Wisconsin
      Sam Dekker has been hot for the Badgers over his past five games. He's currently averaging 13.2 points 2.8 assists and shooting 12-20 from beyond the long line (60%). Dekker is a tough cover for Brenden Dawson, and Izzo must game plan for the Badgers running him off screens to set him up from the long line.

      With the Breslin Center set to rock, the Badgers are in for a rude awakening. Tom Izzo is notorious for having his team ready come March, and with the tournament around the corner, the Spartans will look to fine tune the entire team at home. With the win-less streak at the Breslin for the Badgers at 7 (haven't won since March 7, 2004).

Michigan State 55, Wisconsin 52

2014 recruit Devin Booker to visit Michigan State today

Devin Booker visits Michigan State this weekend.

-East Lansing, Michigan-

      Devin Booker, a Junior from Moss Point (MS.) High School,  is a top recruit in the class of 2014, ranking 19th in the country on ESPNU. He started a five-team road trip which began at UNC on February 24th. He ended that weekend receiving an offer from Duke, after his trip to Durham following his North Carolina visit. He was at Florida last weekend before his upcoming visit to East Lansing and capping jis trip off with a trip to Ann Arbor.

      Booker currently holds scholorships from Duke, Missouri, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Michigan. In his Junior season, Booker's averaging 29.7 points, six assists and three rebounds per game.

       After eclipsing the 30-point mark just five times his Sophomore season, he made the most of his Junior season going above that mark 16 times.

      The 6'5 shooting guard made these statements on his up-coming visits.

       "This go-around will be unofficial visits." Booker said. "I'll see which ones I like and then at the end of the summer, I'll start cutting them down and see what my official visits will be."


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Lions re-sign DeAndre Levy to multi-year deal

Levy re-signs with Detroit.

      Martin Mayhew said he and his staff had theirr eyes on 9 of their own unrestricted free agents. After Corey Hilliard signed on friday, Levy officially takes two off Mayhew's wish list.

      According to the the Lions website beat writer Tim Twentyman, the Lions have come to terms with Levy on a reported three-year deal.

      Levy, who has started 50 games for the Lions over the past four seasons, was selected by the Lions in the third-round of the 2009 draft. In 14 games, Levy compiled 83 tackles, and one interception last season. In his four year career, he forced seven turnovers for the Lions.

      Many speculated the outside linebacker they'd bring back for 2013, would be Justin Durant. Now the Lions and Durant will sit down and see if they can create a fair price to bring both parties together.

Why Asomugha would be better served for Lions then Revis

Will Detroit make a play for Revis?

      Recent reports have Darrell Revis on the trade block, although the team has sworn he's not. Furthermore, reports out of Philadelphia has Nnamdi Asomugha, who signed a 5 year $60 million dollar deal in 2011, set to be released in the next few days.

      Early reports from CBSSports Jason La Canfora had Detroit as a possible destination for Revis' services in 2013.

      The Lions have a free agent of their own. Chris Houston, who was traded for a 6th round draft pick from the Atlanta Falcons, has forced eleven turnovers, eight interceptions and three forced fumbles, leading to two touchdown returns in his first three seasons with the Lions. His value on the open market is $5 million according to Pro Football Focus, however, he will be looking to cash in on his recent performance coming closer to 7-8 million per year.

      In 2012, Houston lived up to the bill. With two interceptions and two forced fumbles, he racked up a +7.4 overall rating, ranking 23rd in the league at corner, while ranking tenth in the league with a +3.4 in run defense.

      On the other hand, Revis is reported to be looking for closer to $12-15 million on a long term deal. He also has been known to hold-out for the money he believes he's worth, when he signed a 4 year $46 million dollar bad-aid deal with the Jets in 2010.

      Revis is also coming of a serious ACL injury. With recent inclines in the medical field, these injury's are becoming more manageable on a players career. However, will he have the same explosion to the ball that made him a ball-hawking, shut down corner? Will his quickness be taken away? Will he have lost a step? We can't answer those questions until he's back on the field against the opposition.

      In his hay day's, he was certainly worth the cost. He led the league with a +24.6 overall grade and a +18.8 grade in pass defense, both ranked 1st in the league, while being targeted nearly half-the-times.

      With the asking price of New York likely beginning with the 5th overall pick in this years draft, this seems a risk better suited for a title contender like San Francisco, Atlanta, or the Broncos. Detroit isn't one player away. In fact, they may not even be two players away from being serious Super Bowl contenders.

If Asomugha is released, will Detroit make a play for the former All-Pro?

      That's were Nnamdi Asomugha comes in to play. Two years ago, he was considered the top corner in the game for the Oakland Raiders. He transitioned into the Eagles hybrid 3-4 scheme rather poorly. In 2012, Asomugha was tied-63-of-71 in the league, for cornerbacks, with a -7.9 rating. In 2011, it wasn't much better. He recorded a -5.8, which ranked 52-of-64 for all cornerbacks in the league. He had a combined +14.5 in 2009 and 2010, and recorded a league best 8 interceptions in 2006.

      Troubling reports our out their on Asomugha's dedication to the game. The Lions must sit him down and evaluate if that fire is still burning to continue to play at a high level. However, if he's back in a scheme that he's comfortable, base 4-3 zone much like Detroit's, he can be an elite corner.

      The Lions would be ill-advised to spend valuable draft picks in a off-season were their identity needs to be found. Only three spots are safe for 2013, Quarterback, defensive tackle, and middle linebacker. With options in free agency, Revis would be better suited in a different uniform then Detroit.

      Now the question becomes, if it came down to Houston or Asomugha, who would you want?