Big Ten M5: 11.19.13 EditionPosted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 19th, 2013
- For the past thirteen years, Michigan State has had great players lead them to success – players like Shannon Brown, Kalin Lucas, and Draymond Green. Now, this Spartans team, led by Gary Harris, has done something those other teams haven’t- be the #1 ranked team in the AP poll. This is their first top ranking since January 8, 2001. The Spartans fully expect to make the Final Four – just like each of those other teams did – but what the Spartans really seek is a National Championship, something that’s eluded them since 2000. Despite their impressive showing at the Champions Classic last week, some believe the Spartans won’t be able to match the talent on teams like Kentucky, Duke, and Kansas come March. But this Spartans team, like all successful Spartans teams of the past, will rely on execution and rebounding to bridge any talent gaps. And it would seem silly to bet against Tom Izzo, especially when he has the #1 team in the country.
- With the departure of Deshaun Thomas, we wondered who would pick up the scoring in his stead for the Ohio State Buckeyes. While no one is coming close to replicating Thomas’ 19.8 PPG, Sam Thompson has upped his contribution significantly this year, improving his 7.8 PPG from last season to 13.0 PPG. The increase in points scored is not simply due to an increase in shots taken; Thompson has an eFG% of 55.4 percent and a player efficiency rating of 20.8. Despite coming off the bench, Thompson may be Thad Matta’s most important player. He has the highest ceiling, as far as potential, because of his elite athleticism and his ability to hit the long ball. If Thompson is able to improve throughout the season, the Buckeyes’ concerns on offense may be answered.
- Rayvonte Rice has been the most important addition to the Illini this season. But the other starting transfer, Jon Ekey, made his presence known on Sunday night against an old Missouri Valley foe, the Bradley Braves. Ekey was brought in to be a stretch 4 but had started the season ice-cold, going 3 for 12 from the three-point line in his first three games. He got out of his slump against the Braves scoring 19 points including going 5 for 7 from deep. The Illini are hoping he can keep this up since no one in their starting backcourt is a consistent threat from deep. An effective Ekey from three will open up the lane for Rice and Joseph Bertrand to be more effective off the dribble where the Illini have been very effective thus far.
- Michigan took their first loss of the season when they got hit by Hilton Magic, losing to Iowa State 77-70. But while everyone was caught up with Iowa State’s impressive victory, they may have missed something that became clear on Sunday: Nik Stauskas has developed into a complete player. His stat line for the game – 20 points, 4 rebounds, and 6 assists – speaks for itself. But more impressive than that was John Beilein calling plays for the Canadian sophomore at the end of the game. This is a clear sign that Beilein trusts him, above other players, to lead the team at the end of games. The Wolverines have the impossible task of replacing Trey Burke this season. They will need players like Stauskas, and others like Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III, to take on bigger roles than last season for continued success in Ann Arbor.
- Bo Ryan doesn’t like to rely on freshmen. The Wisconsin “way” has players learn the system as underclassmen and then seamlessly transition into the starting lineup and contribute significantly as upperclassmen. Yet, when George Marshall suffered a concussion before the UW-Green Bay game, Ryan was forced to let freshman Bronson Koenig played his first extended minutes. Koenig played 23 minutes and scored 7 points on 3-of-3 shooting. But Ryan was happier with the poise Koenig showed throughout the game than with his scoring. In all likelihood, we won’t see much of Koenig once Marshall returns. Still, it must be reassuring to Badgers fans, and Ryan, that they have another talented underclassman waiting in the wing and for his turn to continue the tradition of great Badger basketball.