Big Ten Weekly Five: 09.14.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on September 14th, 2012

  1. Midnight Madness is less than six weeks away. As most of the coaches prepare for the upcoming season, the players are trying to get back into game shape. ESPN caught up with Michigan State’s Tom Izzo recently to get an update on some of his players, specifically Derrick Nix and Branden Dawson. Dawson, who tore his ACL last March, has been practicing “at about 95 percent” according to Izzo but he believes that it will take some time for him to get his conditioning back. Michigan State’s non-conference schedule is as usual not very forgiving, highlighted by key match-ups against Kansas and Connecticut. A healthier Dawson especially on the defensive end would add tremendous value to the Spartans during the Big Ten season if he can use the preseason to get used to the tempo of the game. Izzo also spoke highly of freshman Gary Harris, a 6’4″ guard who is a five-star prospect, specifically pointing out his defensive abilities. As Dawson continues to improve, Harris may be earn some playing time especially if he can step into the role of a defensive stopper for Izzo.  
  2. Speaking of off-season training regiments, Bo Ryan‘s program includes “The Hill,” which has been part Badger basketball tradition for a few years in Madison. Every fall, the Wisconsin roster trains on the hill in Platteville, Wisconsin, where Ryan began his coaching career way back in 1984. The coaching staff believes that the hill training not only adds physical conditioning but also serves as a great team-building activity and improves the overall mental toughness as the rigors of class and practice take over during the fall. Ryan has been known for “eccentric training” techniques over the years, which have clearly paid off as Badger basketball has established itself as a perennial top team in the Big Ten and produced eight consecutive NCAA appearances. Freshman phenom Sam Dekker got his first taste of the hill recently and had a few comments about the training program. Dekker, a 6’7″ wing and former top 25 recruit, has high expectations due to his athleticism and shooting range as the Badger fans hope for another NCAA appearance and a strong finish in conference play.
  3. Northwestern’s Bill Carmody added more size to his roster as 6’10” forward Aaron Liberman will join the Wildcats for the upcoming season. Liberman averaged 17.4 PPG, 12.3 RPG and 8.7 BPG during his senior season in 2010-11. He has been studying in Israel and should be able to earn playing time fairly quickly as the Wildcats have a need for skilled size in the paint. Northwestern ranked 11th in the conference in terms of offensive rebounding percentage (25.6%) and got hammered on the defensive boards consistently by the likes of Jared Sullinger and Cody Zeller last season. The departure of senior forward Luka Mirkovic (3.8 RPG) gives an opportunity for freshmen such as Liberman and Chier Ajou (7’2″ center) to step up and control the paint, at least on the defensive end. Jared Swopshire, the 6’8″ forward who transferred from Louisville ought to help out with the rebounding as well as he averaged 6.8 RPG during the 2009-10 season before a spate of injuries. 
  4. Transitioning from freshmen to established Big Ten veterans, Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas has been named to the preseason All-America list by Blue Ribbon for the upcoming season. Thomas will lead the Buckeyes after taking a backseat to Jared Sullinger during the last two seasons. He saw a huge improvement from his freshman to sophomore season as his scoring increased from 7.5 PPG to 15.9 PPG and hopes to take his game to the elite level during his junior year. Buckeye fans do not expect him to skip a beat offensively but hope that he improves his shot selection (only 34% 3FG) and become a leader on the court along with fellow junior Aaron Craft. Thomas is accompanied by Indiana forward Cody Zeller on the preseason All-America list from the Big Ten. 
  5. The preseason NIT Tip-Off schedule has been announced and Michigan will be representing the Big Ten as one of the top seeds in November. John Beilein’s squad will be accompanied by Virginia, Kansas State and Pittsburgh as the other potential favorites to win the annual event. As always, the preliminary rounds will be held on campus and the semifinals along with the championship game will be held in Madison Square Garden on November 23. With three key returning players for the Wolverines – Trey Burke (14.8 PPG), Tim Hardaway, Jr. (14.6 PPG), and Jordan Morgan (5.6 RPG), Michigan appears to be the favorite to win the Tip-Off this year. Pittsburgh hopes to rebound from a rough season per their normal standards but the Woverines’ versatility combined with incoming freshmen Mitch McGary and Glen Robinson III should be too much to overcome as Beilein hopes to make the Final Four with his talented squad next season. 
Deepak Jayanti (270 Posts)

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