Originally written on The Detroit Sports Site  |  Last updated 12/11/12
A quiet concern for the Michigan Wolverines entering 2012 was replacing the leadership and hustle shown by Stu Douglass and Zack Novak on the hardwood for the last four years. It’s still early, but the Wolverines look to have replicated their production quite well in all aspects from two similar sources. Nik Stauskas and Spike Albrecht haven’t been the players generating all the hype for top ranked Michigan, but their contributions have been very important in the team’s early season winning. Often times, in addition to scoring and rebounding Douglass and Novak did the little things exceptionally. They kept possessions alive with hustle plays, made teams fight for rebounds and hit back breaking three pointers at key moments. Against Arkansas on Saturday during a critical stretch of the second half, this was on display. For the first 28 minutes of the game, Michigan dominated entirely, but the Razorbacks started to make a mini-run. They had just cut the Wolverines lead to one point, and then Stauskas promptly buried a three pointer. After a few series and B.J. Young running uncontrolled down the court, Albrecht remained calm, teed up a three and nailed it. In a flash, it was 62-55 and the Arkansas comeback bid was essentially all but dead. What a formidable duo. Along with Trey Burke, Glenn Robinson III and Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan might have the most balanced scoring in the country thanks largely to the exploits of Stauskas and Albrecht off the bench. Both seem to alternate having the bigger games, but when their talents combine, Michigan becomes an even tougher team to beat and outscore. The scariest part for the opposition? Both are freshmen and will have plenty of time to learn the leadership end of things. They can already scrap and knock down the big shots just like Douglass and Novak. This season, the Wolverines will likely go as far as Burke, Hardaway Jr. and Robinson III’s star power will guide them. In the Big Ten, a star driven league, that’s natural. However, while the stars are out generating the headlines, the quiet contributions and development of both Stauskas and Albrecht will prove no less important to the overall success of the Wolverines all winter long. Player Of The Week: Gary Harris, G, Michigan State. Since Harris was named the Big Ten’s freshman of the week, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be our player of the week as well. All he did was score 14 points of a career-high 20 to lead the Michigan State Spartans back against Loyola. Three days before, Harris scored 13 against Arkansas Pine Bluff, helping the Spartans to an overwhelming victory. There hasn’t been any slowing Harris down, even after the guard suffered a shoulder injury in November. He’s played through any lingering pain unselfishly and been one of the most consistent things about the Spartans in the early season. Game Of The Week: Michigan State vs. Tuskegee. The Spartans have played almost everywhere in the past few years except Jenison Fieldhouse, a legendary building on their own campus, which hasn’t seen a basketball game since 1989. As part of a civil rights celebratory weekend, the Spartans will welcome Tuskegee to Jenison in what should be the old barn’s final basketball game. The event will be a nice way for Michigan State to tribute 1963′s “game of change” between Loyola and Mississippi State. Plenty of old Spartans are expected back, including Mateen Cleaves, Magic Johnson and Steve Smith. It should be fun to see Spartan hoops in a new environment. Stat Of The Week: 42. the amount of rebounds per game West Virginia averages so far this season, which is good for 23rd nationally. Michigan grabs nearly 38 boards a game, meaning Saturday night’s game from Brooklyn will be quite the battle on the glass. Whomever is able to out scrap the other will likely win. If the stats are any indication, this should be an excellent, close battle. Standings: Michigan 9-0 (0-0 Big Ten) Michigan State 8-2 (0-0 Big Ten)
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