Big Ten M5: 10.23.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 23rd, 2013


  1. Regardless of Ohio State’s postseason performance this year, Aaron Craft will go down as one of the best guards in the school’s history. He will be remembered for not necessarily his offensive skills, rather, his ability to impact the game on the defensive end. But after averaging 10 PPG last season, he has proved that he can score when needed. Does that mean he has a future in the NBA? Thad Matta thinks he can, as he said: “I think he can play in the NBA, yes. A lot of teams like to carry three point guards.” If Craft can improve his three-point shooting, specifically from the corners, he will find a way onto an NBA team because of his defensive abilities.
  2. Tom Izzo is no stranger to Final Fours – he has been to six of them during his tenure at East Lansing. Yet, he remains hungry to take his team back to the Final Four after two straight Sweet Sixteen appearances. At Michigan State’s media day, Izzo talked about his team’s chances to get back to the Final Four and cited a “great summer in terms of chemistry” as one of the reasons why this team could be special. If Gary Harris lives up to the hype as an effective scorer and Keith Appling can create his own shot during crunch time, the Spartans have the defensive talent to make a run at the Final Four and beyond. While most of the favorites – Kentucky, Kansas and Duke – have star freshmen, the Spartans have experience on their side, which could pay off in March.
  3. Speaking of Final Four appearances, there is no way Michigan’s Derrick Walton can fill Trey Burke’s shoes in Ann Arbor. But that doesn’t seem to be his main concern for the season. John Beilein said, “I don’t think he sees replacing Trey Burke as his challenge. I think think he sees, ‘How can I help this team win?’ as the challenge.” Walton will have plenty of opportunities to control Beilein’s offense, alongside wings such as Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III. While Burke had to carry the team during the final minutes of the game, Walton can rely on the super sophomores to pick up the scoring load. As long as he can limit the turnovers and hit the wide-open shot, he will help the Wolverines make a run at the Final Four.
  4. Even though Illinois may not be a clear favorite to make the NCAA Tournament this season, John Groce still has Champaign excited because of his accomplishments on the recruiting trail. This summer, he got two top-40 players – Quentin Snyder and Leron Black – to commit to Illinois for the 2014-15 season. His next target is top-5 recruit Cliff Alexander, who will visit Champaign this weekend. Alexander is also considering Kansas in addition to Illinois, but Groce has proven that he can compete against the best recruiters in the business because he is very “sincere in his message.” Regardless of Alexander’s decision, Illinois will have a top-20 recruiting class next season and if they can stay competitive on the court this season, Groce’s recruiting will not miss a beat for the 2015-16 season.
  5. While Groce has impressed the Illinois fan base, Minnesota’s new head coach, Richard Pitino, has his work cut out over the next year or so. He will rely on Andre Hollins to carry the offensive load this season, but could use some help from other players to pick up the scoring slack. Transfer guard Deandre Mathieu may just be that guy who steps up. He scored 26 points in the scrimmage on Friday and Pitino said after the scrimmage, “He’s really good. He’s so quick. He’s so aggressive.” The Gophers could have a tough time keeping up with rest of the Big Ten, but if Mathieu can provide double-digit scoring in the backcourt, the opposing defenses won’t be able to just zone in against Hollins.
Deepak Jayanti (270 Posts)

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