Michigan Thoughts, Prediction Standings, & Michigan State Predictions

Michigan Thoughts, Prediction Standings, & Michigan State Predictions

Sometimes you’re the Monstars.  Sometimes you’re the Toon Squad who forgets to drink MJ’s Secret Stuff.  It’s just the facts of life.

Blog PhotoWhat I’m trying to say is…sure the loss hurts, but let’s not pretend that we’re shocked.  As I was sitting at the game yesterday…watching UM get rebound after rebound, easy shot after easy shot…all I could do was sit back and say “Man, these guys are good.”  Give the Illini credit…they had their bright spots.  But anytime the good guys got on a run, the visitors would do the same.  There’s no need for any of us to dwell on this one.

Interesting sequence in the postgame press conference.  Coach Groce brings up the dreaded “m phrase” – mental toughness – then a couple minutes later, Nnanna Egwu addresses that very area.

Tmh2196 brought up a point on the last blog about empty seats at the Hall.  Yes, there were some empty A section seats last night, but the Hall was pretty full overall.  What’s the explanation for the empty seats?  Don’t really know.  Folks could have been scared away by the weather forecast...they might have not been able to sell or didn’t made an effort to sell their tickets…maybe they just didn’t want to see a Wolverine butt kickin’.  In the end, you can’t force people to show up.  The one magic ingredient is sustained success.  Have a year like 04-05, and attendance will be up, simply for excitement’s sake.  There is one new variable in all this…and that’s the new tickets with bar codes, which means the athletic department can track who’s not showing up.  So perhaps a friendly phone call will persuade some people.

Blog PhotoLooking at our prediction contest, we hit a bit of a milestone this go around, as we had three people – stumblefoot, ehsfan, and yours truly – get a perfect RSTD.  That is, those three picked UM to win by the exact amount that they actually did (14).  And not to gloat, but I was just a couple points off from a perfect prediction.  Too bad I’m not eligible for prizes.  This game also saw the three people who had picked every game wrong – Bwp 5P, Marcus Jackson, and myself – get their first correct pick of the year.  We had 46 pickers this game (tied for the most pickers for one game this year), two people picking for the first time this year, and had about a 3-1 split of people picking Michigan to Illinois

Overall, there was no change in the top five.  While it may appear to be a four person race – illiniphil85, BleedOandB, walko, and penniless – there’s also a group of folks with a 3-4 record that could easily vault to the top.  Overall we’re up to 72 pickers…9 more til we hit my goal, so tell your friends and neighbors!

Now let’s take a cruise on I-96 to East Lansing….

Blog PhotoWell, in a year where the Spartans weren’t getting a ton of hype, guess where you find them?  Right near the top of the Big Ten standings.  It shouldn’t surprise you, because Coach Izzo is one of those guys who makes the most out of his roster, no matter what the talent level.  I’ll even take it a step further…when all is said and done, I think Izzo will not only be a hall of famer, but be a part of that elite, count-on-one-hand list of coaches.  Remember…this is the guy who turned down a chance to coach LeBron James in 2010.  And the guy who’s gone to 6 of the last 14 Final Fours.

I had a chance to catch a little bit of the MSU-IU game yesterday, and I’ll give credit to the Spartans for hanging with the home team til the end in what’s considered a very tough place to play.  MSU also got a lot of good looks in the paint, so this upcoming matchup is going to be another one where the Illini big men will need to step up.  Although, I will admit it’s a very tough task down there amongst the trees…when you have to be aggressive, but not to a level where you get in foul trouble.  One of the many reasons that being a center is a tough job, no matter what the level of competition.

Also had a chance to catch the Big Ten coaches teleconference today.  Here's Coach Groce on keeping the team's confidence up in this tough stretch.

And here's Coach Izzo talking about what he's looking to get out of his team in this next stretch of games.

Another soundbite for you…from former Illini Sean Harrington, who checked in to SportsTalk with Steve Kelly last week to talk about the Illini’s tough stretch of games ahead.

So if you buy Sean’s logic (which I do), you’d have to think that the next two…MSU and Wisconsin…are your best bets to get those two wins.

Blog PhotoSide note…I’ve been to the Breslin Center once, and it really left a good impression on me.  A couple logistical things were planned very well.  One, for women’s games, the drape a giant curtain over the upper deck so there’s no unsightly empty seats seen on TV or in photos.  Two, the Izzone student section rings around the entire court.  So not only are they as close to the action as possible, but the seating arrangement is an intimidating sight on TV.  It makes the student section look huge because no matter what camera angle you use, there are always students in it.  Now I know what you’re thinking…Tim…where do the rich donors sit?  Well, they have a section of courtside seats too.  But it’s not on the side that the midcourt camera shoots.  So it doesn’t stand out that much.  The Assembly Hall renovators should check out Breslin as a model, IMO.

Prediction-wise, this is another tough one.  As I previously mentioned, Breslin is a tough place to play, and we’ve seen how big home court advantage is this year in the B1G.  On the other hand, if you take away the three game losing streak, the Illini have bounced back after every “L” this year.  I’ll go out on a limb with this one…

MY PREDICTION:  Illinois 66, MSU 61

Blog PhotoSo now it’s your turn.  Get your pick in by 6 PM Thursday.  We have just two games left until we give away those Indiana tickets, so if you haven’t missed a game yet, you have to keep going if you want a chance of winning.

Some other notes…

  • Back to that MSU-IU game for a sec…for (at least) the third year in a row, Tom Crean didn’t get the memo that suits and sneakers does not equal jumpsuit and sneakers.  I’m trying really hard to like you Tommy Boy, but stuff like that, coupled with faux postgame handshakes and postgame comments like “I don’t think we deserved to lose.” really make it hard.
  • Tough break for Illini woopster Kersten Magrum.  I don’t know if I’ve seen a program more snakebitten by injuries, transfers, etc. in recent years than the Illini women’s squad.  This team still has an outside shot of making the dance…it’ll just be that much harder now.  Don’t give up on them yet.
  • Ed Hochuli is the man...

  • Another high school hoops programming plug – Brian Moline and myself have the call on WDWS on Friday of Urbana vs. Bloomington.  Tune in at 7:30…and an angel gets its wings.


COMING UP ON THURSDAY OR FRIDAY:  MSU Thoughts, Updated Standings, and Wisconsin Predictions

[Space Jam photo via saintwoods.com, Space Jam audio via YouTube, Groce audio via Illini Productions, Final Four photo via msuspartans.com, Groce/Izzo audio via BTN, Breslin photo via cbssports.com, Crean photo via BTN, Hochuli audio via NBC]


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IlliniGradDad wrote on January 28, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Hey Tim - Thanks for doing this.  I enjoy reading your articles and my family and I quite enjoy predicting the games and seeing where we stand in our family standings.  Did you happen to get my last prediction?  I should be 1 - 1 now (picked Michigan - comment 39; picked Nebraska - comment 40).  Thanks and Go Illini.  IlliniGradDad

Tim Ditman wrote on January 28, 2013 at 7:01 pm
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Sorry bout that.  You've been added.  Everyone feel free to keep my on my toes.  With all this math I'm bound to miss a number or two!

IlliniGradDad wrote on January 28, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Not a problem - I appreciate all the work you do to keep this going.  I just have to get my points where I can to keep up with IlliniGradMom who is 2-0 so far! 

BTW - Illini women are looking great tonight against Minnesota.  What do you think of the women's team this year?  They seem to be much improved with Bollant.

Tim Ditman wrote on January 28, 2013 at 9:01 pm
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I have high hopes for the women's squad.  The phrase I've used several times this year is that new life has been breather into the program.  They play an up tempo style and are fun to watch, and the fans have responded to that.  Not to discount this year's team by any means, but when Bollant gets his recruits in town who can run his system well, this program will start to take off.

stumblefoot wrote on January 28, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Ditto IlliniGradDad.  Thanks for doing this Tim and making it fun for us fans as we follow the team we all love.

Tim Ditman wrote on January 28, 2013 at 8:01 pm
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Thanks for the kind words folks.  I'm having a ton of fun with this as well and plan to keep it going through basketball and football seasons to come!

Green Shirt wrote on January 28, 2013 at 7:01 pm

Michigan State   68

Illinois                 60

stumblefoot wrote on January 28, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Finally had a game where I was in the ballpark with the point spread.  Just wish the good guys could have been on the winning end of that spread.

Hopefully, the good guys can make a bundle of threes and sneak out of East Lansing with a victory!  And, while that is what is in my heart, my brain says the opposite will occur.

Posting from Sand Key, FL this week.  Work.  Really!  I promise I wouldn't leave the powder of Colorado otherwise.

Spartans - 69

Illini - 61

illiniearl wrote on January 28, 2013 at 9:01 pm

No love or mercy will be shown by Izzo after the end of last season's debacle ending with Illinois pulling the rug out from under his good buddy Coach Weber (his words)!

Spartys  78

Illini  59


IlliniLuther wrote on January 28, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Sparty 64  ILL 61

tonyjb37 wrote on January 28, 2013 at 10:01 pm
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Leonidas  70      Tonto  58

Bwp 5P wrote on January 29, 2013 at 7:01 am

Spartans 66

Illini 58


Sorry Guys.......until you show me what you had until Christmas......it's tough to believe in you!

jruss62 wrote on January 29, 2013 at 8:01 am

Illini - 62

Michigan St. - 74

This is a match up nightmare.

Way to much inside game for Nnanna and Sam to stop.

We stay with them for 28 mins.

Again we will have one of those 5 to 6 min droughts, were we stop taking the ball to the hole and fall in love with the three ball.

IlliniwekMerica wrote on January 29, 2013 at 8:01 am

I think Paul has another breakout game around the 30 pts mark, but Izzo is kind of the man...


MSU - 75

Illinois - 70

stumblefoot wrote on January 29, 2013 at 9:01 pm

How many of Paul's breakout games have come on the road?

BleedOandB wrote on January 29, 2013 at 9:01 am

So close to first place ( me...not the illini). I have lost faith so far this season just as they have. Michigan St is the better team and with playing at home, just another nail in the coffin.

Mich St 74

ILL 64

penniless wrote on January 29, 2013 at 9:01 am

To late in the season to beat an Izzo team.By this time of the year,you must be a contender and Illini are pretenders.Izzo is methodical year after year.Once more MSU has put it  in gear and are dancing,Double digit loss   MSU    77    Illini      66

penniless wrote on January 29, 2013 at 11:01 am

MSU wins,thats easy to predict,points in the paint  MSU  40 Illini   29 thats easy too,3ball MSU  13 Illini  7,Illini wins in turn overs   16 to 9 Next chance for a win FEB  13,FEB 21 and MARCH 2,thats easy too, Is that NIT?  NO !!Come on 2013 -15

Gamefan49 wrote on January 29, 2013 at 11:01 am

Just can't not go with our guys. Chronic optimism is my disease
Illini 72
MSU. 68

stumblefoot wrote on January 29, 2013 at 9:01 pm

I hope you are right.

Mike Goebel wrote on January 29, 2013 at 11:01 am

Don't get your Kaepernickers in a bunch, Tim. But I'm going with Michigan State 70, Illini 57.

Oh, and the 49ers 30-20.

JamesB wrote on January 29, 2013 at 12:01 pm

This is an easy one.


MSU 78

Ill   66

goillini80 wrote on January 29, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Totally conflicted because I hate picking against the beloved Illini.  But I think the Sparty big guys are too much for us.


Sparty  66

Illini       51

walker wrote on January 29, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Don't really think it will be this close:

MSU  72   ILL  59

basketball junkie1123 wrote on January 29, 2013 at 6:01 pm

MS  75

Illinois 55

Seniors will be bench from now on. Play for next year.

Why think Illinois would do any better with the team they have.  Groce does not shoot the players do

basketball junkie1123 wrote on January 30, 2013 at 6:01 am




Forgot most of the guys on the bench will be gone next seson, got to make room for the dream

team of "14".  What station carrys Kansas State.

Dazed1313 wrote on January 30, 2013 at 3:01 am
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This pick is purely standings driven....Illini     68

Plexico Buress' handgun              66

Railsplitter wrote on January 30, 2013 at 4:01 am

Spartacus 75  ILLNESS 69

JimOATSfan wrote on January 30, 2013 at 4:01 am

Tim - love the fresh format and after reading about the MonStars and the Toon Squad, I knew I had to post this comment. Excellent and fun audio clips. Now if you could just get some Coach Wooden audio clips about how to play the game properly, spiced with Bill Walton clips....

Can't predict any scores but I do predict Coach Groce sticks with the same players who make the same type of mistakes again this game. Versus benching them and playing the next five who will be playing next year.

Lastly, saw someone's team name "TONTO" above, and it reminded me of the day I was reading a Smithsonian Magazine article about a researcher who was into the Lone Ranger and Tonto. He determined, in his very best Smithsonian manner, that the word "KemoSaBE" actually meant "JERK" in the language of the indian tribe Tonto represented.  Had to laugh at another of Hollywood's inside jokes.

My preference is that the Illini find a way to win the game. Go Illini!


Tim Ditman wrote on January 30, 2013 at 7:01 pm
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Great comments Jim...thanks for reading!

mbelcher wrote on January 30, 2013 at 8:01 am

MSU  72

Illinois  60

buckhunter2 wrote on January 30, 2013 at 8:01 am

illini  68

mic st.  67

sunnyd503 wrote on January 30, 2013 at 8:01 am

Hard to win in Spartyland. Though the great unknown is how Groce's system does against them. Kind of like how Ed DeChellis always got Weber. Anyhow

Hizzonor 75 Groceries 64

touchdown_illinois wrote on January 30, 2013 at 9:01 am

After Izzo chastized the UI for firing his buddy last year, I lost all respect for him. That saying I still say they win.

Illini 62
Spartans 81

And since I'm so lousy at this, the Illini will probably win...

Go Illini!!

aaeismacgychel wrote on January 30, 2013 at 11:01 am

While Izzo wasn't happy about Weber's firing, I would like to point out that he was chastizing Thomas for how he went about doing it. And I do agree with that. I think everyone here thinks that yes, it was time to go, but I also think a lot of the fanbase realizes that the manner Thomas went about doing it was purposely underhanded and played at the very least a moderate if not major role in why our team imploded last year. Remember, while we were losing games, we were competitive in every game last year until Thomas went on the radio to announce his non-support. After that the team completely gave up. All he had to say was "Stop with those questions. Bruce Weber is our coach. I believe he can lead this team to a successful run in the NCAA tourney and I stand behind him in doing so." That's all he needed to say and what 99.9% of AD's would do in that situation. At least then yuo give the team a chance and not create a lame duck coaching situation. And if the team still imploded, then sure you fire Weber. And nobody will say a bad thing about you. It's just very disconcerting to many Illini fans, and the coaching fraternity the shadow games Mike Thomas is playing. Getting rid of Weber, and running off Koenning and Howard all in the manner that he did, whether you ultimately agree with the decisions or not, paints Illinois in a very bad light to prospective coaches, and that could have easily been averted. Those are just my two cents. I do think Izzo as the President of the National Association of Basketball Coaches certainly needed to condemn the manner of the firing if only for the sake of protecting other coaches. I don't fault him at all for what he said. He has a job to do outside of coaching.

illiniphil85 wrote on January 30, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Spin things much. Weber had spent the last 3 years on the hot seat and Thomas had many breathing down his neck to fix it. It was none of Izzo's business. Guenther should have cleaned up his mess and not left it to Thomas.

aaeismacgychel wrote on January 30, 2013 at 2:01 pm

An AD is responsible for both the decisions he makes internally, and the national perception of his program. I would say at least 50% of an AD's job is spin and perception related. I'm not arguing that Weber shouldn't have been fired after what happened last season. I'm arguing that the manner in which he was fired could have been much better. And as for Izzo, he's basically in the position of a Union Leader for coaches and the person elected to go to bat for them. Sure this was personal because his friend was fired, but it also was his duty to fellow coaches. He just can't keep quiet and mind his own business in that situation.

Eric 22 wrote on January 30, 2013 at 9:01 am

This is where I separate from the pack (one way or the other).  Illinois is ready for this challenge.  The match up down low will be interesting with Nix and Payne but we have to stop Dawson which I think Betrand will be the key to.

Ill-71  Sparty(hopefully without those awful jerseys from the Ohio State game)-64

illiniphil85 wrote on January 30, 2013 at 10:01 am

Be nice to take that slimeball Izzo out, but I'm going to play it safe.

Mind your own freaking business 71

Illinois 63





aaeismacgychel wrote on January 30, 2013 at 11:01 am

Izzo sorta can't mind his own business when it comes to coaches being fired for debatable subversive methods. At the time he chastized Mike Thomas for the manner in which he fired Bruce Weber, he was (and still is) the elected President of the National Association of Basketball Coaches. It honestly is his job to comment on a situation such as the Weber firing. I know doing so put the spotlight right on Illinois and gave us negative publicity, but it was his job to do so and it was easily avoidable if Mike Thomas just handled it properly.

illiniphil85 wrote on January 30, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Thomas handled it properly.  I don't care what Izzo is president of, it's an internal matter.

tmh2196 wrote on January 30, 2013 at 10:01 am

I hope I am wrong.  Illinois 62  MI ST 76.  Illinois shot close to 40% from the three in the non conf schedule and looked good winning games.  Now in Big 10 play only 25% or so, and worst % in the big ten from three.  With this poor shotting they can't even beat NW at home.  For Illinois to win this game, and most others on their schedule, they will have to again shoot close to 40% from three, or quit shooting so many and attack the basket.  

aaeismacgychel wrote on January 30, 2013 at 11:01 am

And now that I'm done defending Izzo for god knows what reason, this game is going to be a tough one as MSU is bad matchup for us. They will likely eviscerate us on the boards, and if we come out without energy or toughness, this could get ugly. That said, we do have a better chance in this one than it seems, because MSU has had similar trouble to us at times this season in an inability to hit 3s and jumpers. That said, if they get easy offensive rebound putback after easy offensive rebound putback, it may not matter. I just don't see us getting it done this time.

MSU: 74
Illinois: 58

illiniphil85 wrote on January 30, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Terribly sorry for the off topic debate. I shouldn't have taken the bait. I appologize.

74illini wrote on January 30, 2013 at 1:01 pm

I want us to win this game so bad, but I don't think it's in the cards.  It will be interesting to see if Groce uses the Zone heavily in this game to make MSU beat the Illini from the outside.  The Illini must make smart decisions and come out with the same intensity as they did agianst Michigan and maintain it.  Too many times we had the "deer in the headlights" look and Michigan immediately attacked us defensively resulting turnovers or bad shots.

Aside from all of that even if we do play well, Michigan State is coming off a tough, tough loss to Indiana on the road.  What's Michigans States record after a loss in Izzo's career?  I think MSU rolls in this one.  

Michigan St. 75

Illinois 52.

aaeismacgychel wrote on January 30, 2013 at 3:01 pm

There's no need to apologize and it isn't bait. This is a civil discussion between fans who don't see eye to eye on a subject. It's been completely respectful and these types of conversations I tend to treasure on here. No worries :-)

Tim Ditman wrote on January 30, 2013 at 7:01 pm
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Debate is encouraged!  That's what the blog is all about.  As long as everyone keeps it civil, we can chat away!

wincer_85 wrote on January 30, 2013 at 2:01 pm

There is a lot more hate for Izzo than i expected. I always thought that most people liked Izzo but I guess if he says one thing about another school, people have to jump all over him. Izzo didn't even say anything bad about Illinois, he just said he thought the AD handled the situation poorly (which Thomas did.) When being asked a direct question about the team, saying you believe in the players is the right thing to do, which Thomas did. However, saying "we'll evaluate the coach when the season is over" is not the right thing to say. Thomas clearly didn't like Bruce because he wasn't "his guy." That is fine, but you should also stick up for the coach of your team (Josh Pashmer knows this all too well down at Memphis. That AD is a jackass!) Also, all the people saying that Bruce is a bad coach can probably start eating their words. He has Kansas state in the top 25 (in the top 15 last week). It isn't easy to get players to buy into a new system (ask Dee, Deron, Luther about it.) Kansas state has 4 losses but 3 of them were to Gonzaga, Michigan, and Kansas-3 of the best teams in the nation. The other loss was at a good Oklahoma State team at Gallagher Iba-not an easy place for anyone to win.  I think it is fair to say that last year's collapse had more to do with the players than the coach, as the same collapse is happening this year. Not a huge fan of Mike Thomas right now: His football and men's basketball hires are not looking good (combined Big Ten records of 2-13.) Don't get me wrong, I like Groce. I hope he gets his players in here, wins a lot of games, and is here for 25 years. Thomas handled the end of last basketball season horribly and the players knew Bruce was gone and quit on him.

Back on track to this year and this game. I think it is important for Illinois to come out and not be bullied. Michigan St is big and physical. They always are. We have to man up and show them that we won't be pushed around. If we pushed, push back harder. I'm not saying go out there and start throwing punches, but we have to, at the very least, match their toughness and fight.  Michigan state is BIG inside. That is going to be a HUGE problem. If we can play solid defense and get into them, MSU has proven that they will turn the ball over. I foresee a lot of offensive rebounds for MSU and they bully us around for a W.

Illinois: 57

MSU 67

aaeismacgychel wrote on January 30, 2013 at 3:01 pm

I'm in agreement with this in regards to Izzo and Thomas. The mistake Thomas made was one you'd expect out of a first time AD when they want to throw their weight around to flaunt their power and show they're boss. Most experienced ADs realize it's just as easy if not easier and just as effective to say all the right things and sit back and wait for the end of the season and then level the hammer. Behind the scenes they can be as powerful and authoritarian as they want, but in the public spotlight they always say the right things. Problem is, Thomas isn't a 1st time AD, so I agree, that's very worrisome. And the Beckman fiasco so far has been extremely costly in terms of public image. That's simply not something we can afford with the way things have been going for us right now athletically.

IlliniDick wrote on January 30, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Michigan St - 74

Illinois - 62

Hoping Paul has a big 3 point game on the road.