Tag Archives: Michigan State

***UPDATED*** 2014 NFL Mock Draft

Contribution by M. Pawlak

**1. Houston Texans** select **Teddy Bridgewater** QB. Louisville. Houston brings in new head coach, and QB-guru, Bill O’Brien. A team that brings in a coach with a reputation in developing QB’s will pull the trigger right away on the best QB in the draft. Bridgewater may be the best QB to come out of the draft since Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson. He brings an NFL arm, more particularly, precision accuracy on every level of the passing game.

**2. St. Louis Rams (via. Washington)** select **Jadeveon Clowney** DE. South Carolina. The most talented defensive player in the draft, Clowney is is simply not a human being. He has ideal size for the NFL, speed that rivals most skill position players in the draft, and will instantly provide his suitor with a play maker on defense. Think Julius Peppers here, with the potential to be better. Yeah I said it.

**3. Jacksonville Jaguars** select  ** Blake Bortles**  QB. UCF. Priority number 1 will be getting their QB. The Jags will not have to look outside their own state to lock down their QB of the future. It didn’t take long for everyone in college football  to notice this small school gunslinger. He is known to possess tremendous leadership skills, and an NFL ready body. In the limited amount of game action I have seen, he looks to be in the mold of Ben Rothlisberger with slightly better athleticism.

**4. Cleveland Browns** select  **Johnny Manziel** QB, Texas A&M. Everyone in football was left asking themselves “what the hell are the Browns doing, trading their star RB, Trent Richardson in 2013”? Trent had one of the worst seasons for a RB ever after being traded to the Colts, the Browns look  genius here. They have 10 picks over the first 3 rounds. This allows them to gamble on one of the most exciting prospects in the draft, Johnny Football. A guy that earns the name Johnny Football, and wins a Heisman trophy will undoubtedly be taken in the top 5. Cleveland will roll the dice.

**5. Oakland Raiders** select **Sammy Watkins** WR. Clemson.  Sorry Lions fans, but the best, and most NFL ready offensive play maker comes off the board here. Blazing speed, ideal size to be effective in the red zone, and superstar potential are all traits Watkins brings to the table, along with GREAT hair. His 16-catch bowl game performance will have his draft stock trending upwards. He could go top 3. Think Pierre Garcon right away, with A.J. Green upside.

**6. Atlanta Falcons** select **Jake Matthews** OT. Texas A&M. Despite deploying a porous defense in 2013, and losing their top player (Julio Jones) to injury, the Falcons struggled to keep Matt Ryan upright. In order for Ryan to sling the pigskin around the gridiron he needs protection. They get just that in this 6’5″, 305 lb. Bookend, who is universally viewed as the best offensive lineman available.

**7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers** select **Anthony Barr** OLB. UCLA. Offensive Tackle also makes sense here. Barr can straight out get to the Quarterback. With Lovie Smith implementing the Tampa 2,  a premier pass rusher is of most importance. The Bucs will have to get creative in using him, but the raw talent is there. In most drafts he would be off the board in the top 5.

**8. Minnesota Vikings** select **Derek Carr** QB. Fresno State. Does this name sound familiar? That’s right his older brother is that one time no.1 pick bust. Derek Carr is a better QB than his elder brother, and it speaks to how strong of a draft this year that Derek Carr gets taken here. He is still a work in progress mechanically, but has very good skills and a relatively high ceiling. The Vikings embarrassing QB situation forces this pick, as they attempt to erase the blunder that was Christian Ponder. The Vikings lose out big with UCLA (rs Jr.) QB Brett Hundley  announcing he will return for another collegiate year. He and Winston will likely be the top two QB’s for 2015, both of them being superior to Carr. * Carr performed well in the senior bowl practices, with a good combine, could move up to the Oakland Raiders.

**9. Buffalo Bills** select **Khalil Mack**  OLB. Buffalo. “Mack Daddy”.  Buffalo has to look no further than their own back yard to find this gem. Mack has upside to be the best defensive player in the draft. A plug and play starting OLB with skills that rival Anthony Barr and Clowney, this appears to be a home run pick for the Bills of the north. With Manny Lawson, and Mario Williams already on board, Mack will make this front 7 among the most feared in the league.

**10. Detroit Lions**select**Mike Evans** WR, Texas A&M. [Insert HATE chant here] Okay Lions nation, before you shower me with popcorn and trash let me explain myself here. Can we all agree that it is time for Durham to go away? Did anybody see how productive the Lions offense was when Nate and Broyles were out? Admit it! It was atrocious.Calvin Johnson is from Mars, and everybody knows it. The Lions CANNOT expect him to regularly conquer triple teams. Evans is easily the second best WR in the 2014 draft. He reminds me of more of a basketball player than a WR at this point, but the bottom line is he is 6’5″/230, and he goes and gets the ball. I think Evans is only now beginning to tap in to his potential. He is a very capable red zone option and can spread defenses out with speed.  Evans catches the ball at the highest point and is comparable to Anquan Boldin. With an offensive minded head coach in Caldwell, the Lions will look to get it right once and for all on offense. Check out a short highlight video here:

**11. Tennessee Titans** select **C.J. Mosely** LB, Alabama. The Titans defense was porous in the middle for most of 2013. They should address that right away with NFL ready Mosley. Mosley does everything well, and when he hit’s a RB they drop on site. Offensive line help  could also be a targeted here.

**12. New York Giants**select**Greg Robinson** OT. Auburn. GRob is a bookend tackle in every sense of the word. If this was last year, he would have been a top 5 pick.   Robinson is a natural road grater that possesses the athleticism to guard the edge. The Giants will plug him in at RT right away. Eli Manning will be glad they go this route.

**13. St. Louis Rams** select select **Justin Gilbert** CB, Oklahoma State. To many Lions fans’ disgust, CB’s start coming off the board in a frenzy here! Gilbert is viewed by many as the best CB in the draft. St. Louis will look to pair him with Janoris Jenkins (another guy the Lions passed on) to have one of the most potent young secondary’s in the NFL.

**14. Chicago Bears** select** Darqueze Dennard** CB. Michigan State. Once again [insert HATE chant here] the Lions look right past a local lock down CB.  Dennard will start immediately over in our favorite windy city, Chi-town. The defense here could use all the help they can get, and Dennard will provide them with plenty of it immediately. Prediction: a thorn in Matthew Stafford’s side for at least a decade. How are you going to do this to us Mayhew?

**15. Pittsburgh Steelers**  select **Taylor Lewan** OT. Michigan.  Lewan was vied as a top 5 pick had he come out as a junior. An abysmal 2013 campaign by the Wolverines, and several recent question marks concerning his character, causes Lewan to drop. The fact that the left tackle position is such a premium, Pittsburgh will gladly make this value pick. Lewan has size and agility to protect the blind side of the often-hit Rothlisberger.

**16. Baltimore Ravens** select **Marquise Lee** WR, USC. Baltimore needs to get Flacco some  help and will look no further than this Trojan. Lee has shown flashes of greatness at the collegiate level, but the circus act led by former coach Kiffin overshadowed this. Lee is a do-it-all type receiver and should see the field early. He is  slightly behind Watkins and Evans at WR.

**17.  Dallas Cowboys** select ** Louis Nix** DT, Notre Dame. At 340 lbs. Nix is a space eater inside. The Cowboy’s are thin on the defensive side of the ball, and there is nothing thin about this man. They likely luse DT Justin Hatcher via free agency. Nix is the # 1 DT in the draft, and  would be a good value pick here. Jerry Jones may have a wildcard in his back pocket here, but in the mean time, let’s assume he does the responsible thing and adds to his defensive front. KB is a 6’5″ junior who elected to go pro. He chose wisely, and will be drafted in the first round this year. The New York  (J-E-T-S) Jets  could use this big target on the outside. Benjamin could emerge as a dangerous red zone threat early. It’s hard to imagine the Jets looking to add anything other than offensive playmakers here.

**19. Miami Dolfins** select **Cyrus Kouandjio** OT, Alabama. Miami needs help up front in the worst way. They lost most of their offensive lineman in 2013 to injury, bullying, and suspension.  This unit was a colossal train wreck, as much as Incognito was a colossal Richard. The good news is Cyrus K is a top 15 worthy player that has started multiple seasons for the Tide. We’re talking about a program that churns out more quality offensive lineman than anyone else. Cyrus K is big, experienced, and can play several positions up front.

**20. Arizona Cardinals** select **Vic Beasley** OLB, Clemson. The front seven is aging in the desert making Beasley a solid fit here. Beasley is a well rounded, just solid overall linebacker. He has developed very good pass rush skills and especially showed them off in the later part of last season.  He could be the injection of youth the Cardinals need on defense. This pick will likely be used on the offensive line, or front seven on defense.

**21. Green Bay Packers** select **Calvin Pryor** S, Louisville. Nobody has heard of Pryor, mainly because he just declared as a junior. This man is a big, physical safety who is not shy around the line of scrimmage. He’s on the raw side, but could be a good piece for the future to the Packers sorry secondary. He’s the second best S in the draft, and will not fall much further than here.

**22. Philadelphia Eagles** select **Tim Jernigan** DT, FSU. Tim Jernigan is an ultra athletic DT who is a high upside player. He could be used in multiple ways up front for the Eagles. With a high-octane offense in place, the Eagles will undoubtedly load up on defense early and often on draft day. Jernigan is the most talented defensive player available at this spot regardless of position and is a legitimate gem.

**23. Kansas City Chiefs** select **Eric Ebron** TE, UNC. Tight end has really become a key offensive position in the modern NFL. Ebron is the best option in the draft and will immediately impact Reid’s underwhelming offense. Ebron has the speed and hands necessary of a receiver who must be accounted for by defenses at all time.

**24. Cincinnati Bengals** select **Ryan Shazier** OLB, OSU. Shazier has the ability to play multiple linebacker positions, and plays with great speed. Cincinnati  craves speed on defense and Shazier fits the bill. With a good showing at the combine, Shazier could see his draft stock rise.

**25. San Diego Chargers** select **Jason Verett** CB, TCU. This high powered offensive team will likely select defense early.  To some national pundits Verett is the best CB that this draft has to offer. At 5’10” he lacks the height to match up on the outside but Verett makes up for it with elite speed and athleticism. With most offensive sets in the league being WR heavy, a solid nickel corner is necessary. It is highly unlikely he falls out of the first based on skill alone.

**26. Cleveland Browns**select **HaHa Clinton-Dix** S, Alabama.  Cleveland lands this draft pick for Trent Richardson. They have addressed the QB position with Manziel earlier in the draft. Now they take a crack at the best safety in the draft, Clinton-Dix. He has the skill to legitimately “HaHa” at each and every team that passed on him. The natural born ball hawk will make the Browns secondary scary good and be a pun factory to sportscasters everywhere.

**27. New Orleans Saints**select** Ra’Shede Hageman** DT, Minnesota. Hagman wasn’t invited to my first mock board. His ridiculous training numbers and Senior Bowl have put him on the map, and I’m willing to guess he is going to continue to trend upwards. By draft day, it’s not out of question that Hageman could be in the top 20.

**28 New England Patriots** select **Jace Amaro** TE, Texas Tech. Here the Patriots go again with the tight ends. Gronkowski’s injuries have robbed him the last two seasons, and he just isn’t reliable. Hernandez is off training with Paul Crew and the chain gang  who are eager to take on the the prison guards. Meanwhile, Amaro is just the type of matchup nightmare Billicheck likes to deploy. Amaro is the second best TE in the draft, and not by much.

**29. Carolina Panthers** select **Jordan Matthews** WR, Vanderbilt. With Steve Smith getting up there in age, the Panthers need to add a WR. Matthews is not the physical specimen that the previous  wide receivers drafted are. He is a polished player who can step in and contribute immediately for this Panthers offense. He looked NFL ready in the Senior Bowl.

**30. San Francisco 49ers** select ** Cyril Richardson** G, Baylor. There could be a a WR selected here, but the 49ers will be overjoyed should this 340 lb. hauss slip this far. Richardson is the best interior lineman of this class and could anchor this group for the next decade. He plays with a Larry Warford- like mean streak. Cyril seems like as good fit in this power running attack. Cyril also gets consideration for the all-name team.

**31 Denver Broncos** select **Kony Ealy** DE, Missouri. The Broncos could use a pass rusher and with their offense being led by the likes of Peyton Manning a DE could be just what the doctor ordered.  Ealy is one of the top edge rushers to come out this year, and the Broncos shouldn’t hesitate to get him on board as they need help in their front seven.

**32. Seattle Seahawks **select **David Yankey** OG, Stanford.  Yankey can play anywhere along the offensive line. He played left tackle in college but will probably be more of a ground it out offensive guard at the next level. The Seahawks have few holes, but their offensive line showed vulnerability at times this year.

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Big Ten Power Rankings: Week of 1.13.14

Contribution by: Zach Ficht

With the college hoops season in full swing we here at MotownMeltdown thought it was time to take an in depth look at what’s what in one of the nation’s most feared conferences: The B1G. I would like to say that we’ll have an updated version each week but come on, let’s be real the chances of that happening are about as good as Bo Ryan not scaring children when he walks down the street…not good. And for the record, each week (relative term) we will be unveiling the rankings from 12-1, because if TNT taught me anything it’s that I know drama. And the team limping to the barn this week is drum roll please….

12. NebraskaConf0-4 Overall (8-8)

Nebraska

The Cornhuskers are still trying to find their place in the bruising B1G.  Nebraska, led by third year head coach Tim Miles remain winless in conference play and have frankly played underwhelming ball so far this season.  To their credit, the start of conference play wasn’t kind to Big Red as they opened up on the road against the Hawkeyes and Ohio State.  It appeared that they might’ve eked out a win against Michigan but a last second effort fell short handing Nebraska its fourth straight loss. (Their losing streak currently sits at five.) They have some playmakers, in the likes of Terran Petteway a 6’-6” monster giving Miles 17 points and 5 boards a game, and 3 point shooter Ray Gallegos who’s already banged home 31 one trey balls on the year.  But the complimentary pieces are still missing. At this point, it appears that the fans in Lincoln will have to endure yet another rebuilding year as Nebraska tries to find its niche in this challenge conference.  But still look for this team to compete with and even knock off a top tier team or two in their newly opened Pinnacle Bank Arena which provides a rock solid college bball atmosphere despite a subpar product on the court.

Next Up: #11 Ohio State (Jan. 20) 7pm

TV-Big Ten Network

11. Penn StateConf0-5 Overall-(9-9)

Patrick Chambers

The Nittany Lions get the nod over Nebraska for the 11th spot based on the fact that, although their winless, Penn State has at least looked competitive during their five game skid.  Tim Frazier and DJ Newbill are doing all that they can for this squad but unfortunately it takes an entire team effort to win in this conference and while this team has shown flashes of that potential (two straight three point losses before playing Michigan) they have yet to put it into play for a full 40 minutes.  Head coach Pat Chambers needs to figure it out soon, because come June, Frazier might be taking his ball and heading to the NBA; not an ideal situation for an already razor thin roster.  A showdown will fellow cellar dweller Nebraska is set for January 23rd in the Bryce Jordan Arena. So if for nothing else, I’m sure Chambers will have his boys ready to play at least for prides sake.  A couple of wins and this team could get rolling however, as Penn State only has to play two more ranked teams away from Happy Valley. (Michigan State and Ohio State).  Confidence can go a long way, see Michigan game from last year. Don’t sleep on the Lions just yet.

Next Up: @Purdue (Jan. 18) 7pm

TV-ESPNU/WatchESPN

10. NorthwesternConf-1-4 Overall (8-10)

Northwestern

Former head coach Bill Carmody, was never quite up to the task of leading the Wildcats to the big dance and so far in his first year at the helm new Coach Chris Collins doesn’t seem to have the 2013-14 team any closer to achieving that goal.  Fresh off their upset of Illinois, an impressive confidence building win, the Wildcats ran into the buzz saw that is the Michigan State Spartans.  Senior leader Drew Crawford is finally healthy and playing some great ball (leads the team in points and rebounds) but there is just not enough talent in Evanston to compete in this conference. This is a Northwestern team that relies heavily on perimeter shooting which can be a dicey game to play when you don’t have the size down low to gobble up the rebounds on an off shooting night.  As we saw in their last game this is a team that can and will get pushed around by the stronger more physical teams in the B1G.

Next Up: @Indiana (Jan. 18) 2:30pm

TV-Big Ten Network

9. PurdueConf-2-2 Overall-(12-5)

Purdue

Purdue finds themselves right in the thick of the B1G ten race four games into conference play.  After dropping their first two contests, the Boiler makers appear to have found some solid ground; winning back to back games over Nebraska and Illinois.  The Johnson brothers (Terone and Ronnie) are continuing to lead the way for Purdue, anchored by the their 7’ sophomore center A.J. Hammons who is fresh off of his Big Ten All-Freshmen team selection a year ago. Purdue has looked tough in each of their two losses in B1G play, and the schedule appears to set up nicely for them (only have to play MSU once, bonus) in the second half of the year.  This team can score the rock and can rebound as evidenced by their nearly 40 boards a game average. That total trails only Michigan State, Indiana, and Iowa in conference play respectively. As the season marches on, a trip up to West Lafayette looks less and less inviting.

Next Up:  Penn State (Jan. 18) 7:00pm

TV-ESPNU/WatchESPN

8. IllinoisConf-2-3 Overall- (13-5)

Illinois

The start of B1G play has not been kind to the Illini. A soft non-conference schedule helped John Groce’s squad race out to an 11-2 record but after a solid conference opening win on their home floor against Indiana, Illinois has dropped three out of their last four B1G games, including back to back choke jobs against Northwestern and Purdue (the latter in Champagne). The loss of both Brandon Paul and Meyers Leonard to the NBA left a gaping hole on this roster but Junior transfer Rayvonte Rice who leads the squad in scoring (second in the B1G) will look to help right the ship before things gets too out of hand. However, the schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Illini as Illinois’s next five games feature four ranked opponents including trips to Columbus and Bloomington, while hosting perennial powers Michigan State and Wisconsin.

Next Up: #4 Michigan State (Jan. 18) 8pm  

TV-Big Ten Network

7.  IndianaConf-2-2 Overall- (12-5)

Indiana

Indiana is off to a better start to B1G play than many of their fans would like to admit. Coming in, this was somewhat of a “hybrid-rebuilding” year.  When you have to replace two first round NBA draft picks including the defending B1G defensive player of the year in Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo it’s going to be a bit tough.  But to Tom Crean’s credit he has the Hoosiers playing some competitive ball as of late. A court storming worthy upset win over the Badgers earlier this week was backed by an impressive 25 pt performance from PG Yogi Ferrell. The in-game benching by Coach Crean for poor shot selection early in the second half really seemed to light a fire under Ferrell and the Hoosiers, backed by the raucous crowd that packed Assembly hall, IU was able to hand Wisconsin their first loss of the season. And don’t be mistaken; despite the losses of Oladipo and Zeller, plus Christian Watford and hometown favorite Jordon Hulls this is a Hoosier team that is still stacked with talent.  Senior leader Will Sheehey is IU’s spark plug that can hit the open jumper and also take it to the rack for the crowd pleasing slam. Ferrell is the sniper who can handle the ball in crunch time, but the stud of this group is the 6-10 freshmen forward Noah Vonleh. Vonleh is easily the most NBA ready player under Crean’s tutelage, averaging nearly a double double (12 pts/9 reb) so far in his first year in Bloomington.  There are still some questions that need to be answered, but as we’ve seen already this team has a flair for the dramatics so anything could be possible.

Next Up: Northwestern (Jan. 18) 2:30pm

TV-Big Ten Network

6. MinnesotaConf-3-2 Overall-(14-4)

Minnesota

 New Coach Richard Pitino appears to be following the blueprint left by former headman Tubby Smith, except this time the Gophers are winning in the non-conference AND in B1G play.  After losing a late lead to Michigan State and eventually losing in overtime in East Lansing last week, Minnesota was able to regroup and put together a complete game in front of their home crowd to knock off the #11 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. Minnesota, in recent years has been a team that many perceived underachieved in both regular and postseason play, which ultimately led to the dismissal of Tubby. However, there’s a new sheriff in town with a familiar name in the college basketball scene. Richard Pitino, the son of legendary coach Rick, has brought with him a more fast paced offense and even some new pieces in the form of Junior transfer Deandre Mathieu (Central Arizona State) and freshman recruit Daquein McNeil (Vermont Academy).  It doesn’t hurt that, both Andre and Austin Hollins are still roaming the back court in Minneapolis chipping in 15 and 11 points a game apiece.  A more transition oriented offense has allowed Minnesota to position themselves in the middle of the B1G race. But we’ve seen this same story before; don’t go awarding them anything just yet. It only gets tougher from here.

Next Up: @Iowa (Jan. 19) 1:00pm

TV-Big Ten Network

5.  Ohio StateConf-2-3 Overall-(15-3)

Ohio State

After winning their first 15 games and ascending all the way to #3 in the country, the Buckeyes have since lost their last three game games; the latest at the hands of Minnesota after a woeful shooting (35% from the floor) and all around offensive performance. The loss of Deshaun Thomas to the NBA left this team without a true scorer and while the Buckeyes remain one of the stingiest defensive teams in the country; if they can’t score the basketball with any regularity it’s going to be a challenge each and every night in this conference.  Senior Aaron Craft is the undisputed leader of this team and continues to play his style of hustle basketball night in and night out. But so far in conference play that has not been enough. LaQuinton Ross is doing the majority of the scoring for this squad (14 ppg) and the recent disappearing act of Lenzelle Smith Jr. only compounds the problem.  Thad Matta needs to find his go to scorer before they tumble any further, but the good news for the Buckeyes is that a trip to Nebraska is next on the docket, and while there are no freebies in this league look for the Scarlet and Grey to get back on track with a dominating win.

Next Up: @Nebraska (Jan 20.) 7pm

TV-Big Ten Network

4. MichiganConf-4-0 Overall-(12-4)

Michigan

Despite losing the player of the year in Trey Burke and Junior guard Tim Hardaway oh and don’t forget about the loss of preseason All-American and NCAA Tournament beast Mitch McGary, the Wolverines remain undefeated in B1G play. Their 4-0 mark has a lot to do with their favorable conference schedule so far (biggest test being a road win over Minnestoa), but Big Blue has found ways to win and already has two conference road victories under their belt.  The emergence of Sophomore Guard Nik Stauskas and Freshman Derek Walton has been instrumental to their early success.  Stauskas has been able to find ways to penetrate and score from inside the three point line while, Walton has been learning how to run Beilein’s offense.  That offense preaches ball control and Michigan has been better than most in taking care of the rock averaging fewer than 10 turnovers a game.  When looking at this team’s production, the presence of both Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford can’t be ignored. So far both big men have been up to the task in replacing McGary and while they won’t be able to replace his energy or overall talent they can play their roles as needed. The defensive questions that surround this team are legitimate as can be seen from past performances like the Nebraska game; a 71-70 shootout where no one could stop anybody but so far they have skated by.  The true tests are coming and Michigan is entering a three game stretch that includes games against the likes of Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan State.  When the dust settles, we’ll know if these defensive concerns are now fully fledged problems.

Next Up: @#3 Wisconsin (Jan. 18) 6:00pm

TV-ESPN/WatchESPN

3. IowaConf-3-1 Overall- (14-3)

Fran McCaffery

This Iowa team is rolling and unlike in previous seasons under Head Coach Fran McCaffery, moral victories are now becoming actual victories.  Led by Senior Roy Devyn Marble and junior guard Aaron White, Iowa currently leads the conference in points per game (86) and rebounding (44).  Even despite a rather embarrassing on the court tantrum directed at an official, Fran McCaffrey has got his boys playing top tier basketball.  The Hawkeyes have been so close to the big dance in recent years that they could taste it. Now with the development of Marble who’s contributing 16 pts per game they seem to be on the right track to finally cracking the field of 68. Their recent win over the Buckeyes in Columbus has this team’s confidence in a good place and with other complimentary pieces like senior Melsahn Basabe shooting a 56% clip this team could be scary good.  Success in conference play is new for this Iowa team, but from what we’ve seen already from McCaffrey I don’t think they are celebrating anything yet.

Next Up: Minnesota (Jan.19) 1:00pm

TV-Big Ten Network

2. WisconsinConf-3-1 Overall-(16-1)

Kansas State v Wisconsin

The Badgers are the epitome of B1G basketball. They are big, strong and will grind you down forcing you to play their brand of basketball: slow. Led by stellar head coach Bo Ryan, this year’s Badgers team has a bit of a different look to them.  The most glaring thing that stands out if you’re an opposing team is that while Wisconsin is still taking care of the basketball (leading the nation in fact with 8.3 turnovers per game), their offensive output is up 11 points from last season.  Beating Wisconsin just got a little bit tougher, not that it was ever easy. UW got out to their best start in program history starting 16-0 before losing at Indiana and currently sits at #3 in the country. That number will likely change when the new polls come out next week, but I don’t’ seem them dropping out of the top ten. This is a big lineup that frequently causes matchup problems with the undersized teams in this conference. And it should be noted that the Badgers aren’t just big, they can shoot and shoot well; all five starters are currently shooting at 35% or above from behind the arc.  Yikes. Losing anyone of the Badgers starters in transition will cost you dearly, and in the half court they are a patient club. They work to get the shot they want and as you’ve just found out, they will typically knock that shot down. The thing with Wisconsin is that dominating in conference play is what the Badgers do (under Bo Ryan UW has never finished worse than fourth in B1G play).  The trouble lies in tournament time and only time will tell if this is the year Bo and Co. is ready to make a deep run.

Next Up: Michigan (Jan. 18) 6:00pm

TV-ESPN/WatchESPN

1.  Michigan StateConf-5-0 Overall-(16-1)

Michigan State

There must be something in the water up in East Lansing, or it could just be that Tom Izzo continues to be one of the elite coaches in the country as he consistently gets the most out of his players.  State fields a veteran squad, led by the likes of Seniors Adreian Payne and Keith Appling.  Payne has been battling a foot injury for most of the season but is still finding a way to get into the lineup and contribute.  He along with Branden Dawson make up two of the top five players in the B1G in defensive rebounding, a staple of any good Izzo led team. Sophomore guard Gary Harris has NBA level talent, and can score from anywhere on the floor, currently averaging 17 points per game.  Contributions from Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine have also been essential in the Spartans early season success.  Like Wisconsin, this is a team that can shoot the basketball from beyond the arc: Payne, Appling and Trice all post a shooting percentage of 42% or above. This team has the size and physicality to allow them to adapt their game plan on any given night.  Backed by their great home crowd that consistently fills the Breslin Center to capacity, this team is built to win now and that is exactly what they are doing.

Next Up: @Illinois (Jan. 18) 8:00pm

TV-Big Ten Network