Illinois upsets Michigan State: Big Ten week in review (2/4-2/10)

Illinois pulled off a crazy upset over Michigan St. this week, and Iowa’s Jordan Bohannon hit a crazy buzzer-beater in a win over Northwestern to lead the story-lines of the week. Let’s get into the games!

Scores & Mini-recaps

Penn State vs. Northwestern: Penn State 59, Northwestern 52

Penn State’s 18 points from Lamar Stevens and 14 points from Rasir Bolton off the bench was enough for Penn State to pick up their first conference win. Penn State shot just 38 percent, but limited Northwestern to just 32 percent. Derek Pardon had 18 points and 10 rebounds and Vic Law had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Northwestern.

7 Michigan vs. Rutgers: Michigan 77, Rutgers 65

Ignas Brazdeikis led Michigan with 23 points as the Wolverines were able to pick up a road win at Rutgers. Jon Teske and Jordan Poole combined for 22 points but shot a poor 8-for-23 together. Eugene Omoruyi had 21 points and Montez Mathis had 12 points for Rutgers.

9 Michigan St. vs. Illinois: Illinois 79, Michigan St. 74

Illinois pulled the upset of the week with a big home win over Michigan State. Ayo Dosunmu had 24 points, Giorgi Bezhanishvilli had 16, and Trent Frazier had 15 for the winners. Cassius Winston had another big night for Michigan St., finishing with 21 points and nine assists.

19 Wisconsin vs. Minnesota: Wisconsin 56, Minnesota 51

Ethan Happ had a 15 point, 13 rebound double-double to lead Wisconsin to a road victory over Minnesota. Brad Davidson added 10 points, and Nate Reuvers had nine rebounds and seven blocks for Wisconsin. Jordan Murphy had a huge 16 point, 19 rebound performance for the losers.

24 Maryland vs. Nebraska: Maryland 60, Nebraska 45

Jalen Smith and Bruno Fernando both had double-doubles to power Maryland past Nebraska. Maryland shot the ball 38 percent, but held Nebraska to an extremely poor 21 percent, including 0-for-10 shooting from Glynn Watson Jr. for Nebraska. Isaiah Roby 20 points and 1 rebounds to lead the Cornhuskers.

20 Iowa vs. Indiana: Iowa 77, Indiana 72

Jordan Bohannon and Tyler Cook combined for 46 points for Iowa in their win over Indiana. Iowa made 10 threes and 13 free-throws on the night. Romeo Langford had 22 points and five rebounds for Indiana, and Juwan Morgan added 17.

Penn State vs. Ohio State: Ohio State 74, Penn State 70

Ohio State’s 50 percent shooting helped power them to a win over the feisty Penn State Nittany Lions. Luther Muhammad had 20 points, and Andre Wesson had 15 points and 10 boards for the Buckeyes. Lamar Stevens and Josh Reaves each had 20 for Penn State,.

19 Wisconsin vs. 7 Michigan: Michigan 61, Wisconsin 52

Charles Matthews had 18 points, and Jon Teske had 17 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Wolverines over the Badgers. Michigan shot 45 percent while limiting themselves to just five turnovers.  Ethan Happ had 18 points and 11 rebounds to pace Wisconsin.

Minnesota vs. 9 Michigan State: Michigan St. 79, Minnesota 55

Michigan State finally broke out of their three game losing streak with a blowout win over the sliding Minnesota Golden Gophers. nick Ward had 22 points and nine rebounds and Cassius Winston had 11 points and nine assists. Matt McQuaid added 18 points, and eight more assists, as Michigan State thrives off the catch-and-shoot. Gabe Kalscheur had 17 points for Minnesota.

Nebraska vs. 15 Purdue: Purdue 81, Nebraska 62

Carsen Edwards dropped 27 points as Purdue blew out Nebraska at home. Grady Eifert had 16 points, and Nojel Eastern had 12 points and 10 rebounds. Thomas Allen led Nebraska with 18 points off the bench, and Nebraska shot just 38 percent on the night.

Rutgers vs. Illinois: Illinois 99, Rutgers 94 (OT)

Giorgi Bezhanishvilli exploded for 35 points, as Illinois took down Rutgers at home in overtime. Four total players would reach double figures for Illinois, who shot the ball 50 percent. Caleb McConnell had a big night for Rutgers with 25 points and nine rebounds off the bench.

Northwestern vs. 20 Iowa: Iowa 80, Northwestern 79

Iowa was down 15 points with 4:30 left, but Iowa fought back and won the game thanks to a Jordan Bohannon buzzer-beater. He had 15 points, but Joe Wieskamp led with 21 points while Tyler cook had 19 points and 11 rebounds. Vic Law led Northwestern with 24 points and 10 boards.

Ohio State vs. Indiana: Ohio State 55, Indiana 52

Indiana couldn’t convert in the final seconds to send the game into overtime, as Ohio State snuck away from Bloomington with a 55-52 win. The Wesson brothers combined for 25 of Ohio State’s 55 points, as the team shot 44 percent. Romeo Langford had 15 points for Indiana, while Juwan Morgan was held in-check with just three points, but still managed to haul-in 14 boards.

Standings & Rankings

6 Michigan, 22-2 (11-2)

12 Purdue, 17-6 (10-2)

11 Michigan St., 19-5 (10-3)

20 Wisconsin, 17-7 (9-4)

24 Maryland, 18-6 (9-4)

21 Iowa, 19-5 (8-5)

Ohio State, 16-7 (6-6)

Minnesota, 16-8 (6-7)

Illinois, 9-15 (5-8)

Indiana, 13-11 (4-9)

Rutgers, 11-12 (4-9)

Northwestern, 12-11 (3-9)

Nebraska, 13-11 (3-10)

Penn State, 8-15 (1-11)

 

New York Knicks Superstar Free Agent Target Sets Up Shop In The Big Apple

Are the New York Knicks in a good spot to land Kevin Durant?

The New York Knicks are putting all of their eggs in Kevin Durant’s Easter basket this offseason. The Knicks and New York City just got a hint that he could be bringing his talents to the big apple. But, it isn’t his basketball talents just yet. It’s his business talents.

Besides basketball, Durant has been investing in business companies with partner Rich Kleiman. Their company,  Thirty-Five Ventures, invests in such companies Postmates and Robinhood.

The two, and their 10 employees are stepping up shop in New York City.  Can this possibly be the first major sign that Durant will sign with the Knicks? A lot of people will look into this as such that.

However, we still clearly don’t know.  Moving their companies operations out of New York was clearly a business move, for the moment. But, we all know Knicks fans and they’re going to think, “he’s definitely coming now!”

For the time being, we can all go ahead and speculate on what the real reasoning behind this business move might be.  Can it be that Durant is actually coming to play ball in New York next season and he wants both business ventures in one place?  Or was this the best move for these investments and his successful company?  Only time will tell.

Profiling New York Yankee Shortstops in Spring Training

New York Yankees, Gleyber Torres

The New York Yankees will have five potential shortstops in camp this spring in the absence of Didi Gregorius.  Gregorius, who had Tommy John surgery in October, will be out until at least June though there is no timetable for his return at present.

The Yankees have five possible shortstops on the roster going into Spring Training: Thairo Estrada, Gleyber Torres, Troy Tulowitzki, Tyler Wade and Kyle Holder.

While Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman has said that the Yankees are committed to Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop with Gregorius out of commission, fans wonder if, after two injury-prone seasons in which he saw little playing time, Tulowitzki can be an everyday player.  Jacob Shafer of Bleacher Report states:

“In 2017, he played in 66 games while battling a litany of injuries, including hamstring and ankle issues. Surgery to remove bone spurs from both heels wiped out his 2018 season.”

Scouts who saw him working out for teams in December before signing with the Yankees reported that Tulowitzki was healthy and fit and that he was moving well.  Jeff Passan reported on Twitter:

Cashman was lauded for landing Tulowitzki, whose reputation at shortstop prior to his injuries was elite; however, going into 2019, he’s certainly a question mark for the Yankees.

Where does Gleyber Torres fit in?

Gleyber Torres will likely be the backup to Tulowitzki, sliding over to shortstop from his second base position on days when Tulowitzki is getting a breather.

Torres played 21 games at shortstop for the Yankees in ’18, committing 5 errors with a .928 fielding percentage.  However, this is the position he played most in the minors, taking on second base duties when he came up with the big club.

Now that another elite player has joined the infield at second base, DJ LeMahieu, the Yankees have the flexibility to play Torres at short or at second with even better defensive replacements.

Wade and Holder will likely vie for the final spot on the bench for the Yankees this spring.  Wade, 24, has speed and is a solid glove man, and has had several seasons to impress off the bench, but lacks offensive firepower.  In 2018, Wade hit .167/.214/.273 with 1 home run and 5 RBIs in 70 plate appearances.

Holder is a defensive specialist whose offensive numbers in the minors have been improving.  Manager of the Trenton Thunder Jay Bell said that defensively holder is “as good as anyone we have in the organization.”

Holder is a non-roster invitee to Spring Training, whose lefty bat would be a welcome addition to the line up.  It is unlikely Holder would see any action with Yankees unless injuries strike.

Thairo Estrada, who was injured much of last season, beginning with a gunshot wound in the hip during the offseason, was added to the 40-man roster in November of ’17 and had progressed into a legitimate prospect at shortstop, according to George King in Baseball America, hitting .301/.353/.392 in 122 games at Double-A Trenton in 122 games in 2017.

Estrada, who played in only 18 games in 2018, picks up where he left off in 2017, hopefully healthy and progressing at the rate that had been predicted for him before the unfortunate injuries of last season.  Fans don’t expect to see Estrada with the big club in 2019.

Of course, all of this changes if, in the coming days, the Yankees sign Manny Machado, who, it has been rumored, has a 7-8 year $220million offer from the Yankees.  The addition of Machado would clarify any question marks for the Yankees at short stop.

New York Giants: Kyler Murray Officially Chooses Football Over Baseball

Kyler Murray was college football’s best player in 2018. He won the Heisman Trophy in his first and last year as a starting quarterback. The dual-threat signal-caller posted 4,361 passing yards and 42 passing touchdowns. In addition, Murray rushed for 1,001 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Despite all this, it has been unknown wether or not Kyler Murray would play in the NFL. In June of 2018, Murray was drafted to play in the MLB by the Oakland A’s. Last month, Murray declared for the NFL Draft, leaving the door open for him to pursue football if he so chooses. Last week, Kyler committed to participating in the NFL Scouting Combine, adding further speculation to what his future plans were. But on Monday, Kyler Murray made it clear what he will choose to do.

Kyler Murray announced via Twitter that he is committed to playing in the NFL:

How This Benefits The Giants:

With plenty of fans and analysts predicting the Giants will select a quarterback in the 2019 NFL Draft, this is big news. Even if Kyler Murray does not fit the Giants’ mold for a quarterback prospect, another quarterback in the draft pool could be extremely useful for the Giants.

With Murray now in the mix, along with Dwayne Haskins, quarterback-needy teams will be competing with each other to get their guy. If someone looks at Murray as their guy while the Giants look at Haskins as their guy, then the Giants have a higher chance of landing Dwayne Haskins. Teams might trade up to select Murray, but that means just one less team trying to take Haskins away from the Big Apple.

Kyler Murray Highlights:

Kyler Murray is an extremely talented football player. He is a quick runner and accurate passer. His biggest flaw is his size. Scouts will be paying close attention to Murray’s weigh in at the Combine. He was listed at 5’11” in college, but some believe he is closer to 5’8″.

Despite his lack of size, Murray displayed pure skills through the air and on the ground in his Heisman Trophy-winning season.

In the College Football Playoffs, Kyler displayed an elite ability to throw on the run:

Against Texas, Murray displayed extreme speed. He should light it up at the combine:

If the Giants added Kyler Murray into the offense with Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr., it could be lethal. If he is able to progress at the next level and prove his size is not an issue, Murray will have a great career wherever he goes.

Ohio State Quarterback Situation Clear Cut For 2019 Season

With the 2018 college football season over, it’s time for some quick recaps of where various teams are in 2019, starting with the quarterback situation of conference champions Ohio State.

Unlike Ohio State’s quarterback situation last year, there won’t be too many question marks before the season begins. Last season, there was a nominal race between Tate Martell and Dwayne Haskins Jr., but the race could be described as nominal for a reason. Haskins was the favorite coming into the season after serving as J.T. Barrett’s backup, and took the starting job easily once spring football proved who was the better player.

Martell is now with the Miami Hurricanes, jumping from the Big Ten to the ACC despite the player that had started in front of him being gone going into the 2019 season. That doesn’t mean that the Buckeyes are without a quarterback for 2019 and it does make things a lot more interesting when you consider the fact that Georgia transfer Justin Fields has been granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA.

Fields lost out in the starting quarterback battle long ago to Jake Fromm, but that doesn’t say as much about Fields being bad as it does about Fromm being one of the top NFL draft prospects in next year’s class of quarterbacks. In fact, there’s some oddmakers who think that Fields can even compete for the Heisman Trophy.

Fields was listed by BetOnline as having 12/1 odds to win the trophy. Fields was the top ranked recruit in his class according to ESPN and 247Sports, but only had 39 passing attempts during his 2018 season, when he was a freshman. Despite the small amount of throws, Fields still made appearances in 12 games and looked good, throwing four touchdowns during that time and completing 69.2% of his passes.

Is Fields going to be as good as Dwayne Haskins was? That’s a very tall task, as Haskins is currently the top quarterback prospect in the NFL Draft, and Fields is only a sophomore. But Ohio State is perhaps getting more of a sure thing than they were with Haskins, who entered the season as one of the team’s question marks. Things turned out well for Haskins and Ohio State, but the narrative at the end of the season was very different from the one at the start of it.

Fields has a bit more hype entering the season but it remains to be seen whether or not that hype means that Fields is more of a sure thing than the player that came before him. It is sure, though, that things are a lot more clear cut for Ohio State going into this season than they were before.

New York Yankees: Aaron Judge Blasting Balls At Spring Training

New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge.

While it’s a tad early to be referring to the season as spring, the New York Yankees are out and about at their minor league complex. Spring training is right around the corner and star slugger Aaron Judge has already gotten a jump on his pre-season batting practice.

Reports have indicated that Judge has already crushed his first homer of the year. Man, what a sentence. That must really elevate your already ecstatic mind.

Judge spent a few weeks injured in 2018 with a fractured right wrist after being plunked with a fastball. His presence was certainly missed, and a clean bill of health will represent an opportunity for him to take his game to another level in the year ahead. I mean, it’s not like he doesn’t already have his own bleacher in the outfield dedicated to worshipping his existence.

The Yankees will look to rely on their slugger more-so than ever in a season that’s clearly being considered a “win now” one. The allocation of money towards bolstering the bullpen and solidifying the infield defense will present a more well-rounded team that can increase the probability of a World Series appearance.

How did Aaron Judge perform for the Yankees last season?

In 112 games last year, Judge earned 413 at-bats hitting 27 homers and 67 RBIs. Those numbers are solid, but they aren’t what he’s capable of. In 2017, he smacked 52 balls out of the park and finished with a .284 batting average.

If he can remain healthy, I would expect him to hit a minimum of 40 homers and 90 RBIs. If he can develop his self-control a bit more and cut down on the strikeouts, we could be in for one of the more productive hitting seasons for a Yankees player in recent history. But, again, it all comes down to his strikeout totals and if he can hit for contact on the pitches he once struck out on.

New York Yankees: Most Significant Weaknesses Heading Into 2019

New York Yankees, Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner, Cameron Maybin

The New York Yankees made the appropriate moves to bolster the bullpen this offseason, adding Adam Ottavino and retaining Zack Britton. The pair will certainly help improve a unit that ranked in the top of the league at the halfway point in 2018 before they started to fall off a bit as the wear and tear of the season set in.

Additionally, general manager Brian Cashman utilized resources to improve the defense in the infield – Troy Tulowitzki and DJ LeMahieu have five Gold Gloves between them and will play meaningful roles in the year ahead. I expect Tulo to start the season at shortstop with Didi Gregorius rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and LeMahieu to play a rotational role to keep the infield fresh and injury free.

What are the deficiencies on the Yankees?

1.) Lack of a true ace

The Yankees don’t have a true starting ace that they can rely on to secure wins down the stretch. Luis Severino showed a glimpse of that potential last season but reverted to a lesser version of himself after the All-Star break. J.A. Happ is also a solid pitcher that went 7-0 after being acquired from the Blue Jays in 2018, but he also has bouts of inconsistency.

When it comes to the playoffs, lacking a true ace can be detrimental to how the series commences, as we so clearly saw in the ALDS against the Boston Red Sox.

2.) Lack of lefty hitters

The Yankees are filled with righty hitters, and losing Gregorius to injury last season surely didn’t help diversify the lineup. Now, they currently have Aaron Hicks (switch hitter) and Brett Gardner as their only resourceful lefties, and Gardner might not even earn a starting job this season.

Having too many righties makes game-planning for the Yankees a bit easier, as teams can utilize their same-side pitchers. Luckily, the Yankees have a very talented batting order that will undoubtedly help balance the scales.

3.) A jumbled outfield

Usually, having too many solid options at a position is a good thing, but for the Yankees, it could cause a bit of confusion. The outfield has a ton of players vying for starting jobs, whether it be Gardner, Clint Frazier, Jacoby Ellsbury…you take your pick. Finding the right combination might take a few weeks, but that will likely be a major question early on in the season.

Michigan Football Will Have A Subtly Different Staff In 2019

New York Jets, Jim Harbaugh

If you were asked about the Michigan football coaching staff, the names that would come to mind would of course be Jim Harbaugh, or perhaps defensive coordinator Don Brown. Maybe even new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, who only recently took the job in what looks from the outside to be a somewhat strange lateral move from another blue blood program, Alabama.

However, those aren’t the only faces on the coaching staff and if you aren’t paying close attention, you might even miss the fact that the team has recently made multiple changes lower down the ranks. All of these stories broke within the last couple of days, and are for relatively minor positions.

However, it shows the stature of the Michigan program when coaches who are currently working positions such as offensive coordinator for smaller schools will take a minor position just to make the move to Michigan. According to Bruce Feldman, the Wolverines are bringing in Ferris State offensive coordinator Steve Casula as an offensive analyst, with Casula having previous experience with offensive coordinator Josh Gattis at Western Michigan.

Feldman has also reported that Bethune-Cookman special teams and recruiting coordinator Aashon Larkins is set to join the Wolverines staff as an analyst, but whether Larkins will be an analyst for special teams or for recruiting is unknown at this point. It seems that Michigan looked far and wide to find the candidates for their recent hires. Bethune-Cookman is an FCS school, while Ferris State isn’t a D1 school at all but rather a D2 one.

The last of these minor hires is Pat Perles, the son of former Michigan State head coach George Perles, according to Field Yates. Perles will act as both an analyst and an assistant offensive line coach. Perles previously coached at Syracuse as an offensive line coach but also has NFL experience with the Kansas City Chiefs, which may help somewhat in running a professional style program in Michigan.

This news comes after Michigan hired Josh Gattis as offensive coordinator last month, ensuring that things definitely won’t be the same when it comes to 2019’s coaching staff.