Big Ten M5: 11.26.12 EditionPosted by Deepak Jayanti on November 26th, 2012
- The Wolverines have won their first five games comfortably on their way to the Preseason NIT crown. Part of the reason for that comfort level is that John Beilein is very satisfied with junior Tim Hardaway Jr‘s performance after the first two weeks of basketball. Hardaway’s offense, despite averaging over 14 PPG last season, was a question for the Wolverines coming into the year because of his poor shot selection. He shot only 28% from beyond the arc last year and was notorious for bad shot selection during certain games during the conference season. But he has shot 47% from deep this year and more importantly has averaged 6.8 RPG to exhibit an overall improvement to his game. Hardaway’s diversified skill set on the floor combined with the emergence of Glenn Robinson III provides the Wolverines multiple good scoring options on the offensive end.
- While John Beilein has several offensive options at his disposal, Ohio State head coach Thad Matta is still trying to find some consistency after the Buckeyes’ first four games. Matta is hoping that his team can be more consistent, specifically sophomores Amir Williams and Laquinton Ross — both have averaged double-figure minutes but need to step up if the Buckeyes hope to compete with the likes of Indiana and Michigan in the Big Ten. Ross in particular might be on the “verge” of breaking out per Matta and he is often compared to DeShaun Thomas’ tendencies during his freshman season. Matta has been pushing Williams to practice harder and improve his defensive intensity as well. Both of the sophomores will have an opportunity to crack the starting lineup if they can continue to improve with every game.
- Coaches are looking beyond offensive contributions during the first few games of the season. Illinois head coach John Groce is not just happy about his team’s offensive production in Maui (the Illini averaged over 70 points in each game), but he knows that his team can have an off night but still come back to win in different ways. For example, the Illini came back from a 13-point deficit against Hawaii on the road to win in overtime prior to the Maui Invitational run. Traveling though multiple time zones and playing in a hostile environment is not an easy task in itself but his senior guards, Brandon Paul and D.J.Richardson, showed a tremendous amount of toughness in a gutsy win. After the Maui invitational, Illinois clearly experienced a bit of a hangover against Gardner-Webb but found a way to beat them by a point on Sunday night. Groce understands that it will take some time for his team to become more consistent but pulling out close wins proves to him that these Illini are a confident and gritty bunch.
- Speaking of gritty and tough players, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo always expects those qualities in his team captains. According to the head coach, captain Russell Byrd is struggling offensively which makes it tougher for him to lead. Byrd is shooting just 22% from the field and has only made two of his fifteen attempts from beyond the arc. Without star freshman Gary Harris in the lineup, the Spartans dodged a big upset at home over the weekend against UL-Lafayette as they won, 63-60, in East Lansing. Byrd was responsible for four of the Spartans’ 20 turnovers during the nailbiter, but his contributions will be very important over the next few games until Harris can return to the lineup.
- Indiana’s appeal to the NCAA about the suspensions of freshmen forwards Hanner Perea and Peter Jurkin were unsuccessful. Their original suspension of nine games has been upheld and the forwards will not be eligible to play until December 15 against Butler in the Crossroads Classic. The Hoosiers, despite not having Derek Elston available due to an injury, have not had any trouble rebounding so far with Cody Zeller dominating the paint. They outrebounded Georgetown 30-21 and have not missed either of the freshmen forwards at this early point of the season. But Tom Crean will need some depth in the frontcourt during Big Ten play and the sooner Perea and Jurkin see some minutes on the court, the better for his Hoosiers.