Big Ten M5: 10.28.13 EditionPosted by Deepak Jayanti on October 28th, 2013
- Tom Crean doesn’t have Cody Zeller to carry the offensive burden in the paint this season. He doesn’t have Victor Oladipo’s quickness anymore either. Without Zeller and Oladipo, the spotlight will now turn to Yogi Ferrell, who will be the primary scoring option for the Hoosiers. Ferrell averaged 7.6 PPG and shot just 31% from beyond the arc last season, but in IU’s exhibition game against Southern Indiana over the weekend, he showed off his improved shooting by knocking down 6-of-10 from beyond the arc. After the game, he said, “It shows what I’ve done in the offseason shooting with Jeremy (Hollowell), Stan (Robinson), Evan (Gordon) and even Noah (Vonleh). We’re always shooting after practice. I will continue to do that.”
- John Groce already made headlines over the summer by locking in two top 40 recruits for the 2014-15 season: Quentin Snyder and Leron Black. But he still has one big recruiting target left for next season, the #3 ranked player in the country, Cliff Alexander. Alexander visited Champaign over the weekend and is scheduled to announce his decision over the next few weeks. If he goes to Illinois, Groce will have a top-five recruiting class and the Illini should be poised for several years of postseason success. Even if Alexander chooses another program, though, the Illini are poised to compete for a Big Ten title as soon as next season. This season, however, could be tough unless Tracy Abrams makes the leap into a 15 PPG scorer and limits his turnovers.
- One of the main rule changes in college hoops this year is the prohibition on hand-checking, which allows offensive players more freedom to move around the court. John Beilein is satisfied with the rule change and thinks it will foster more “freedom of movement” in the game. He added, “It’s exactly what we’ve taught for years.” Beilein, however, is less clear about a rule change regarding drawing offensive fouls. He said the new charge/block interpretation “will be difficult for both sides to interpret” — both sides being the players and the officials. The hand-checking modification will certainly help a Wolverines’ offense that is built on consistent motion and averaged a robust 1.12 points per possession during conference play last year.
- Senior guard Aaron Craft is expected to step up his offensive production this season after averaging a pedestrian 10 PPG last year. It is unclear if Craft can eventually play in the NBA because he hasn’t consistently produced on the offensive end. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ all-star point guard Kyrie Irving believes that Craft will definitely play in the NBA next year. “Oh yeah. I believe so,” Irving said when asked if Craft could cut it in the NBA. He also added, “He’s a leader, he’s a tough defender, he’s been working on his offensive game.” Regardless of the future, Craft will be ready to lead the Buckeyes toward a Big Ten title and potentially a Final Four appearance if his teammates can figure out a way to replace Deshaun Thomas’ offensive production from last year.
- Chris Collins has his work cut out for him in Evanston, as he will attempt to turn around a Northwestern basketball program that has never been to the NCAA Tournament. He is trying to change the Wildcats’ image on the recruiting trail, especially in the fertile local grounds of Chicago. He spoke at the Chicago hoops luncheon on Friday, along with DePaul’s head coach Oliver Purnell. Collins said, “Everyone played here in high school. Everybody loves our city. Everybody has great relationships in this city. I think we all have a great affinity for players in this area also because that’s where we came from and it makes it fun.” It’ll be a while before he starts to consistently recruit four-star players, but he certainly has the energy and the pedigree (from Duke) to become a change agent in Evanston.