Big Ten M5: 11.28.12 EditionPosted by jnowak on November 28th, 2012
- One of the most surprising things about Minnesota‘s fantastic start has been what it’s been able to do considering Trevor Mbakwe‘s contribution (or lack thereof). The senior and former All-Big Ten forward has been practically a non-factor at times for the Gophers as he comes back from an injury that sidelined him for most of the 2011-12 season and a tumultuous offseason. To counter that counter-production, the team has relied on other scorers, and some lesser-known role players like Andre Ingram and Maverick Ahanmisi. Ingram, a senior, has turned into a sort of do-everything glue guy that handles a lot of the dirty work Mbakwe typically does and is just “a real hard worker” as teammate Andre Hollins told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Ahanmisi has filled a critical role as well as the team’s backup point guard.
- When it comes to shooting — either good or bad — teams often revert to the mean. And that’s what can make relying heavily on the three-point shot so difficult: When it’s good, it’s good. When it’s not, it can really cause problems. Illinois has jumped out to a fast start largely thanks to hot shooting from long distance but, as Loren Tate puts it, it’s live by the three and die by the three. The Illini used threes to beat Gardner-Webb and Hawaii at the last moment, and as a whole, are averaging almost 15 more points per game this season thanks to five additional three-point buckets. But can they sustain that pace through the remainder of the non-conference slate and into Big Ten play? History says that’s probably unlikely.
- When All-American center Jared Sullinger was on his way out, there was sure to be a considerable void in Ohio State‘s frontcourt. Part of that burden could be shouldered by the versatile Deshaun Thomas, but some of it would also have to fall onto former McDonald’s All-American and now-sophomore Amir Williams. His minutes have more than doubled (from 6.6 MPG to 13.5), and his point production has gone up accordingly (from 1.7 PPG to 3.5) but it’s still not enough to keep opponents honest in the paint. He contributed a vital nine minutes in last year’s Elite Eight win against Syracuse, leaving fans optimistic about this season, but since then, there hasn’t been much improvement. And coach Thad Matta is waiting.
- Tom Izzo recognizes the value of conference expansion. It improves the Big Ten’s footprint, which now reaches to the East Coast thanks to Rutgers and Maryland. It’s a huge revenue boost, largely thanks to the Big Ten Network and its new market reach. But with that comes negative consequences too; namely, the value placed on the regular season conference title. That will surely be diluted with a 14-team league (soon to be 16?) and teams not having the opportunity to play each other regularly. Simply put, the more teams in the conference, the more one-time meetings over the course of a year and the harder it is to really evaluate which team is the best during the regular season. The conference tournament is already a tough enough litmus test, but now the regular season title is becoming even more diluted.
- Wisconsin freshman Sam Dekker was heralded as one of the best recruits in the Bo Ryan era, and he’s found a way to stay motivated early on. The problem is, the Badgers’ early season losses that are fueling his fire. Wisconsin has already dropped two games, and they seem to be eating away at the former five-star recruit. Dekker is averaging 19.8 MPG this season and after a 10-point loss to Creighton, he responded with season highs in points (19) and minutes (26) in a victory against Arkansas. “Winning is everything to me,” Dekker said, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “I am crushed when we lose… Going out and losing to two teams already in the first six games, if that’s not telling you that you have to get into the gym and work harder, I don’t know what is.”