Big Ten M5: 12.03.12 Edition
Posted by Deepak Jayanti on December 3rd, 2012
- Great coaches don’t rest easy even after a 27-point blowout against a mid-major team. Ohio State beat Northern Kentucky 70-43 but Thad Matta is still concerned about their cohesiveness on the offensive end. Sophomore wing Laquinton Ross played 29 minutes and scored a career high 22 points along with eight rebounds, but Matta didn’t see enough “fluidity” in their transition offense and hopes to improve that by the end of December. The Buckeyes play seven homes games this month which should help them tie up a lot of loose ends and establish their rotation before the conference season begins. Ross and fellow sophomore Sam Thompson will continue to see more playing time because the small forward spot in the starting rotation is open for either of them based on their performance.
- Speaking of players who are trying to establish their identity on their team, sophomore forward Alex Gauna has really impressed Tom Izzo over the first few weeks of the season. Gauna has been used some in the pick-and-pop type of plays but he has been working on his rebounding during practice. Even though he might not play more than 10-12 minutes per game this season, he provides much-needed depth for Izzo along the front line if Adreian Payne or Derrick Nix get into foul trouble. Nix usually does not play more than 30 minutes per game, so Gauna’s improvement gives Izzo more options if he continues to improve different facets of his game. Gauna has the size (6’9″, 245 lbs) to become an integral part of Izzo’s rotation especially if he continues to show his commitment to defense.
- Elliott Eliason is another big man who could be a big factor for his team, the Minnesota Gophers. The starting center is not expected to spearhead the Gophers’ offense by any means but he has shown that he can provide stability in the paint and finish around the basket. Even though it is only a matter of time before he takes a backseat to star forward Trevor Mbakwe, Eliason has shown signs of improvement offensively and that might be enough for Tubby Smith to keep him in the rotation. The 7’0″ center lost 10 pounds over the offseason and has been defending the paint fairly well. Rodney Williams is another forward option but he doesn’t have the size to defend true power forwards during conference play, therefore Eliason and Mbakwe could see some minutes together when they play teams with great size in the paint.
- Michigan head coach John Beilein has his designated three-point gunner in freshman guard Nik Stauskas. Beilein moved him into the starting rotation against Bradley and it appears that senior guard Matt Vogrich might be coming off the bench for rest of the season. Stauskas has averaged 14 PPG this year and continued his hot shooting against Bradley by scoring 22 points and hitting 4-of-5 shots from beyond the arc. He is shooting 62% from the perimeter and his commitment to defense has convinced Beilein to insert him into the starting lineup. As defenses collapse on Tim Hardaway Jr. or Trey Burke on their drives to the basket, Stauskas will continue to see great looks if he consistently moves into the available openings on those possessions.
- Illinois head coach John Groce strongly believes in positive encouragement and that could be one of the major reasons for the Illini’s unbeaten record after the first three weeks of basketball. After a 15-3 start last season, the Illini finished the season with just a 17-15 overall record which of course led to the firing of Bruce Weber. Many fans believe that Weber lost control of his team as the players lost confidence in themselves and his ability to lead them. But Groce has picked up those pieces and his “upbeat approach” has instilled new life into seniors Tyler Griffey, Brandon Paul and D.J.Richardson. The Illini guards have the green light to pull the trigger in transition and continue to push the tempo with some freedom in the offense. But there is a drawback to that approach, as point guard Tracy Abrams shows in that he has averaged 3.4 turnovers per game so far this season. Abrams was on the bench during the last two Illinois games during crunch time.
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