Big Ten M5: 03.06.13 EditionPosted by jnowak on March 6th, 2013
- When your NCAA Tournament hopes went out the window months ago, and there’s only a teeny-tiny chance you’ll be playing any postseason basketball at all, you have to focus on other ways to get something out of the season. That’s an unfamiliar feeling for Purdue, but it’s becoming a reality during this rebuilding season. While searching for the smaller things to get excited about, Matt Painter has found pleasure in the Boilermakers’ stretch of three games following their off-week. They’ve won two of the three, including an improbable win in Madison on Sunday against Wisconsin. “I think anytime you get extra time in the gym to get shots up, it helps,” Painter said. “My point to them was this is something you should always do, and I think coming from a team standpoint, it helps us.” The Boilermakers can use all the good mojo they can muster with tough games against Michigan and Minnesota remaining before the Big Ten Tournament.
- Cody Zeller may not be the National Player of the Year, or even the Big Ten Player of the Year, that we thought he’d be at the beginning of this season. But Tom Crean believes what many others still believe to be true — Zeller’s time in Bloomington may still be short, so he advises Hoosier fans to enjoy watching the center in an Indiana jersey while they can. The Hoosiers are likely to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and should make a good run at the school’s first national title since 1987. The closer they get, the more likely Zeller is to bolt for the NBA. He’ll almost certainly be a lottery pick. So as Assembly Hall honored the team’s seniors on Tuesday night against Ohio State, was it also the last time Zeller set foot on the floor as a player?
- It’s impossible to have the conversation about the Big Ten’s talented freshmen this year without talking about Wisconsin‘s Sam Dekker. It’s not often that Bo Ryan lands a high-profile recruit, and it’s not often that a freshman makes his way into the Wisconsin playing rotation, but Dekker is clearly a special player. He joins Josh Gasser, Alando Tucker, and Devin Harris as the only players to ever start for Ryan in their first year, and he leads all Big Ten sixth men with 9.6 PPG this year. He’s been blanketed at times in the rotation by Ryan Evans, but you can believe we will be seeing plenty of this young player for many years to come.
- Keith Appling has been known as Michigan State‘s closer, and one of the Spartans’ best defenders (and, at times, both). Now, he’s struggling in both of those departments. The junior guard was better against Michigan on Sunday, but is still mired in a bit of a funk that has gone on while the Spartans have dropped three straight. It’s no coincidence that as Appling’s play has declined, the Spartans have continued to lose. And the perception of them also has continued to slip. “Things just haven’t been going my way lately, but I’m a mentally tough person,” Appling said. “So, I don’t let it bother me too much. I just watch the film and try to grow from it.” It’s no secret that if the Spartans are going to make one of their patented March runs, they need Appling play more like himself.
- There were plenty of differences between Michigan State’s romp over rival Michigan a few weeks ago and the Wolverines’ close win on Sunday in Ann Arbor. But few were more significant than the play of Michigan freshman Mitch McGary, who had four points and four turnovers in the first meeting, then turned around and had 11 points and four boards (three offensive) in 21 minutes of the rematch. Derrick Nix dominated the Wolverines inside in the first meeting, either by scoring or kicking back out to find the Spartans’ guards, but the Michigan State big man was rendered mostly ineffective on Sunday and much of that credit has to go to McGary. The Wolverines have always had one of the best backcourts in the country, but if they can get consistent play from the freshman, they are back to being a national title contender.