Three Keys to Ohio State at Purdue Today

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on December 31st, 2013

Big Ten play is here and it gets started today with No. 3 Ohio State‘s trip to West Lafayette to take on Purdue at 1:00 PM ET. The Buckeyes are still undefeated and Purdue has had its struggles in the non-conference season, but the Boilermakers are coming off their most impressive win at West Virginia nine days ago. The match-up will be Ohio State’s second road game of the season, but the first since its trip to Marquette before Thanksgiving (although it should be noted that Purdue students will still be off campus on break, so the crowd may not be as raucous as normal). The Buckeyes need the win to stay near the top of the national rankings and make an early statement that it is the favorite to win the conference. Purdue needs any and all marquee wins to help boost its NCAA Tournament resume, which boasts an 11-3 record but no truly quality victories yet. Here are three keys to this year’s Big Ten season opener. Happy new year, everyone!

Shannon Scott and Ronnie Johnson open up Big Ten play this year against one another and the guards are both key to their team's success (Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports).

Shannon Scott and Ronnie Johnson open up Big Ten play this year against one another and the guards are both key to their team’s success (Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports).

  1. Can Purdue’s guards penetrate and score on Ohio State’s spectacular defense? The Buckeyes’ defense is one of the very best — if not the best — in the country. It leads the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom, and is among the best in scoring defense and opponents’ field goal percentage. With Aaron Craft, Shannon Scott and Lenzelle Smith Jr. leading the charge, Purdue will have to manage to find some offense from its trio of slashing guards. The Johnsons and Bryson Scott need to get to the basket and take smart shots, not just go into the lane with reckless abandon to take a leaning, prayer of a floater that has no chance to drop in the basket. Such drives, if performed successfully, will open up lanes for dropoff passes to AJ Hammons, Jay Simpson and the other players cutting to the basket. Without good penetration opportunities today, Purdue’s offense will go stagnant and the Boilermakers will struggle to reach 50 points in the game (leaving almost no chance to win). Read the rest of this entry »
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Introducing the B1G All-Freshman team: Non-Conference Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 31st, 2013

In the first two months of the B1G season, many freshman have debuted to largely mixed results. Coming into the season, there were 13 freshmen in the league who made the top 100 of the recruiting services consensus index, and some have had a greater impact than others so far. What follows is the five best of the bunch as we head into league play starting this afternoon.

Noah Vonleh (right) has been the best freshman in the B1G so far this season.

Noah Vonleh (right) has been the best freshman in the B1G so far this season.

  • Noah Vonleh, Indiana (12.0 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 56.3% FG). Vonleh has been the best Big Ten freshman by far in the non-conference season. He’s leading the conference in rebounding, and is getting it done on both the offensive and defensive backboards. He’s especially good at grabbing defensive rebounds, doing so at a rate of 29.3 percent (good for eighth in the country). Indiana has struggled to keep him involved in the offense, but he’s shooting a high percentage despite getting many of his points from put backs and trips to the free throw line. If Indiana wants to get off of the bubble and ensure another NCAA Tournament appearance, Vonleh has to be a bigger part of the offense.
  • Bryson Scott, Purdue (9.7 PPG, 1.3 SPG). Scott has fit in rather nicely as a complement to the Johnson brothers pairing at the guard spot for the Boilermakers. He’s shown a strong ability to pressure the ball on defense, where he’s getting steals at the sixth best rate in the conference (4.2%), and he’s also done a nice job in being aggressive and drawing fouls, doing so at the second best rate in the league. He’s already led Purdue in steals seven times and scoring four times, despite only playing 17.5 minutes per game. Matt Painter has played its freshman class a decent amount this season, but Scott has been the player making the greatest impact. Read the rest of this entry »
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Additions of Oglesby, Johnson & Dickerson Will Help Iowa and Penn State

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 31st, 2013

Iowa and Penn State both got better within the last couple of weeks, as each team welcomed back a player who had been out of the lineup. The Hawkeyes’ Josh Oglesby returned after missing about six weeks due to a foot injury. Meanwhile, in Happy Valley, the Nittany Lions debuted Pitt transfer John Johnson and SMU transfer Jordan Dickerson. Both players had to sit out the first semester due to transfer rules. The additions of these players to both programs will help tremendously as B1G conference play tips off later today.

Josh Ogelsby will add even more depth to the Iowa bench with his return from injury(AP).

Josh Oglesby will add even more depth to the Iowa bench with his return from injury(AP).

Oglesby had a memorable debut in an unremarkable game, hitting the first four three-pointers he took in Iowa’s last game, a blowout victory two Sundays ago against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. This was covered in a previous post on the microsite, but Oglesby simply makes a very deep team even deeper — Iowa has no worries of foul trouble becoming a concern because they can and will utilize 11 players. The Hawkeyes can already match up and play different lineup combinations depending on the opponent, but the return of the junior wing simply adds to their flexibility. The team can play big or small with an almost infinite amount of lineup combinations. The Hawkeyes are currently sixth in the league in three-point percentage at 36.4 percent, and although he won’t go 4-of-5 from deep every game, Oglesby’s shooting skill can push this number closer to 40 percent with enough playing time. If Fran McCaffery needs defense and speed, he can give Peter Jok more minutes; but if he wants to spread the floor in the half-court and get perimeter shooting, he can call Oglesby’s number. Oglesby looked like he was fully healed last Sunday, playing 20 minutes and not showing any real signs of rust from his injured foot. This Iowa team that is already off to an impressive 11-2 start just got quite a bit better.

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Big 12 M5: New Year’s Eve Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on December 31st, 2013


  1. If there was any question about Iowa State’s depth heading into the season, those concerns should be alleviated by now as DeAndre Kane became the fifth different Cyclone to win Big 12 Player of the Week honors this season. This marks the first time in conference history that a school has had five different players win player of the week honors in the same season. Kane averaged 19 points and 8 rebounds per game in route to MVP honors as Iowa State won the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii last week. Kane is just the most recent example of head coach Fred Hoiberg playing the transfer market perfectly in the offseason, and has been a huge reason why Iowa State is undefeated to this point.
  2. When watching Kansas play up to this point in the season, the lack of consistent three point shooting has been a glaring hole for the Jayhawks, and a reason so many Kansas opponents have chosen to play zone defense against Bill Self’s squad. Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star dove deeper into Kansas’ three-point shooting, pointing out that just 18.8% of their scoring has come from behind the three-point line. Of the last 20 Final Four teams, 19 of them have all averaged at least 20% of their points from deep, with UConn’s 2009 team being the only squad to fall under that mark. Interestingly enough, the combination of Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden, and Naadir Tharpe have all shot above 33% from three for the season, while freshmen Frank Mason, Conner Frankamp, and Brennan Greene, are averaging a poor 23% from deep. For Kansas to make a deep run in March, they will need a solid shooter to emerge from the group of Greene, Frankamp, or Andrew White.
  3. Oklahoma State has rolled through the non conference portion of their schedule with just one blemish in a rematch loss to Memphis in the Old Spice Classic. Buried under the great start for the Cowboys is the difficulties they’ve had rebounding the basketball. As discussed in their New Year’s resolution series, Oklahoma State is 147th in offensive rebounding and 179th in defensive rebounding this season. While Travis Ford’s team has athletes all over the floor, they lack the size down low to really match up with some of the bigger teams they see. It will be interesting to see how this factors in during the Big 12 conference season.
  4. As I finish discussing Oklahoma State’s rebounding problems, news breaks tonight that the Cowboys may have lost starting forward Michael Cobbins for a considerable amount of time in a blowout win over Robert Morris on Monday night.  Cobbins spent the second half watching the game from behind the bench using crutches and wearing a boot, and head coach Travis Ford said after the game that the injury “doesn’t look good.” Oklahoma State can slide LeBryan Nash to the four spot with Kamari Murphy at the center position, but at 6’8″, Murphy will give up significant size to most teams in the Big 12.
  5. The departure of former Kansas State standout point guard Angel Rodriguez in the offseason left a void in the Wildcats roster, and undoubtedly had a significant impact on K-State’s slow start out of the gate this season. For Wildcat fans, there’s hope that freshman point guard Jevon Thomas can add a dynamic that they have been lacking two months into this season. Thomas became eligible with the conclusion of the first semester, and says his emphasis will be on the defensive impact as he makes his debut in Bramlage Coliseum on Tuesday afternoon.
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Big Ten M5: 12.31.13 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on December 31st, 2013


  1. Happy New Year’s Eve! A new year means new beginnings and a chance to possibly start over. So maybe not coincidentally, this is also transfer season in college basketball. A time of year where players all around the country have decided that their current program is no longer the place for them and need a fresh start. It only took one semester at Indiana for Luke Fischer to decide he needed to seek another opportunity and subsequently announced that he was transferring. Unlike his fellow freshmen teammates, Noah Vonleh and Troy Williams, Fischer was not able to contribute significantly mostly due to a shoulder injury. He just started to work his way into the rotation but apparently it was not enough for him to stay. Fischer was a Top 100 recruit and while his departure shouldn’t affect the Hoosiers drastically this year, Tom Crean loses a potentially effective player in the future.
  2. After their impressive win against Missouri, Illinois is in position to challenge, once again, for an NCAA Tournament bid. If they do so, it would be an impressive feat since this was supposed to be a rebuilding year for John Groce after losing his two top scorers from last season. A major reason the Illini have been able to stay competitive is due to the emergence of transfer Rayvonte Rice, who won his second Big Ten Player of the Week honor on Monday. Rice is no Brandon Paul when it comes to upside potential, but his stats certainly look similar after half a season — last season, Paul  averaged 16.6 PPG,4.4 RPG, & 2.7 APG, while Rice has averaged 18.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG, & 1.9 APG thus far this season.
  3. Along with Rice, Michigan State’s Keith Appling also won Big Ten Player of the Week. This is his first such honor of the season and the fourth in his career. Though he won the award for last week’s performance, where he scored 27 points, dished out 8 assists, and grabbed 5 rebounds against New Orleans, his production has been outstanding throughout the entire season. Thus far, Appling is averaging a career high in points and assists. As Michigan State prepares to enter conference play and battle for sole ownership of a league title, they’ll need not only Appling, but Adreian Payne and Gary Harris, to keep performing at their current All American levels.
  4. Wisconsin has been the most impressive Big Ten team in the early part of the season. Not only are four of their five starters effective scorers, but their bench can score as well. We have seen the likes of Duje Dukan and Bronson Koenig already contribute, and you can add freshman Nigel Hayes into the mix as well. The 6’7″ big man from Toledo won Freshman of the Week honors off his 10 points, 4 rebounds, and three blocks performance against Prairie View A&M. Hayes has jumped ahead of Evan Anderson and Zach Bohannon as the first big off the bench when Frank Kaminsky or Sam Dekker need to be spelled. Hayes is an important part of the Badger’s tremendous success early this season and he will continue the winning tradition in Madison for years to come.
  5. Conference play starts today! And it starts early in the day (1 pm ET) when the undefeated Buckeyes come to West Lafayette and face struggling Purdue. While the Boilermakers have had disheartening defeats (and some disheartening wins against inferior teams), they have recently racked up some face-saving wins against Boston College and West Virginia. Both of those teams have had disappointing seasons as well, and they won’t impress anyone come Selection Sunday. But losing to them would have caused the bottom to fall out on Purdue’s season. In the first game of Big Ten play, Purdue needs to show that they can at least put up a fight against the Buckeyes — a team vying for a league title — to show their fans they will be able to compete during all of conference play.
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A Popular Preseason Dark Horse Pick, Boston College Has Failed to Live Up to Expectations

Posted by Chris Kehoe on December 31st, 2013

Boston College has had a resoundingly disappointing season, to say the least. Coming into the year with elevated expectations based on their youth and potent inside-out combination of Olivier Hanlan and Ryan Anderson, the Eagles have not even held a .500 record yet. Their defense is porous, ranking an astonishingly bad 298th in the nation out of 351 Division I basketball teams. They also haven’t shot the ball well from deep, yet have persisted in making it a staple of their offense. A top-40 schedule with games against UConn, Providence, UMass, USC, Maryland, Toledo and VCU have all resulted in losses. At some point this team needs to win a few marquee games in order to thrive in a top-heavy ACC, and although they won’t lack for those opportunities, it seems like the rest of the season will be spent in hopes of securing a non-NCAA postseason bid and building for the future.

Olivier Hanlan, Boston College

Olivier Hanlan is shouldering a large burden this season. (Boston Globe)

Boston College fans had good reason to believe in this squad coming into this season, as the Eagles returned all of their major players including the ACC ROY Hanlan, versatile big man Anderson, and guard Joe Rahon. The team finished the 2012-13 season relatively strong, winning four out of its last five games with an extremely young team that lacked depth and ACC experience. Much was made out of the momentous leap expected from Hanlan, the seemingly unstoppable Canadian guard who dropped an ACC freshman record 41 points in the first round of last year’s ACC Tournament.

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Does Chane Behanan Take Cards’ Repeat Hopes With Him?

Posted by CD Bradley on December 31st, 2013

The Louisville career of Chane Behanan, which has veered from troubled (multiple suspensions) to exultant (2012 West Region MVP, 15 points and 12 rebounds in last year’s title game), ended on Monday. Last season, Chane Behanan and Rick Pitino celebrated a national title. On Monday, Pitino announced the forward has been dimissed from the team.
Last season, Chane Behanan and Rick Pitino celebrated a national title. On Monday, Pitino announced the forward had been dismissed from the team.

In a hastily called press conference, an evidently disappointed head coach Rick Pitino announced that Behanan had been dismissed from the team by the university. The nature of the junior forward’s violation was undisclosed, but Pitino explicitly ruled out academics as well as anything related to basketball or the near-auction of his Final Four ring. He also explained that he couldn’t talk about anything related to a personal medical situation. Multiple observers, including former Louisville beat writer and current Louisville resident Pat Forde of YahooSports, interpreted that comment as something related to drug-test results. In any event, Pitino said that he could not envision Behanan returning to the team, and that he would advise him to transfer to a school where he could play after the first semester next season. Adam Zagoria tweeted on Monday afternoon that at least eight schools had already been in contact with Behanan.

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AAC M5: New Year’s Eve Edition

Posted by Ross Schulz on December 31st, 2013


  1. The Chane Behanan saga is finally over at Louisville. Behanan was dismissed from the team yesterday for a violation of university policy. It follows an early season suspension for a similar violation, but the difference is that no return to the team is available this time. Behanan averaged seven points and six rebounds per game off the bench after starting 37 games each of the past two seasons. The Cardinals’ hopes of defending their national title certainly aren’t dashed by the news, but they’re severely damaged. There was already a serious question of whether Louisville had enough size and talent in the frontcourt to make a Final Four run, and that was before this news. As much as it hurts this year’s squad, it could be devastating for the 2014-15 Cardinals. Montrezl Harrell will most likely turn pro following this season and Stephan Van Treese will graduate, leaving a very thin frontcourt for the school’s inaugural season in the ACC. Next year’s team would have been Behanan’s team, but he squandered that opportunity. Pitino said that he can either transfer to another school or prepare for the NBA Draft.
  2. UConn head coach Kevin Ollie shifted Omar Calhoun and Phil Nolan out of the starting line up, and so far, the move has paid off as both have brought great energy off of the bench. Calhoun had two of the biggest buckets of the game in Saturday’s win against Eastern Washington, knocking down a couple of threes to help the Huskies’ lead blossom to 16. Ollie said it was a gut feeling to make the switch based on who has played better together in practice. The two were replaced in the starting line up by Niels Giffey and Amida Brimah. The Huskies open AAC play at Houston later today.
  3. As mentioned above, Niels Giffey continued his strong play by starting the game against Eastern Washington on the floor instead of the bench. Giffey said his mindset did not change because of the switch, just that he’s trying to take the right shots and play consistent, aggressive basketball. Kevin Ollie added that Giffey does everything that’s been asked of him. So far this season the senior is 21-of-32 from three-point land (65 percent) and took and made his only trey over the weekend. Whether he continues to start or returns to the role of spark off the bench, Giffey will be an integral part of the Connecticut rotation throughout the AAC season and beyond.
  4. Louisville guard Kevin Ware will likely sit out the remainder of the season as he recovers from a kick in the same shin of which he suffered the horrific compound fracture in last season’s Elite Eight game against Duke. No definitive decision has yet been made, but a possible redshirt year could be in store for the junior guard. He has only averaged 5.9 minutes and 1.7 points per game this season, so it shouldn’t alter the Cardinals’ ultimate outlook in any way, rather unlike the Chane Behanan news.
  5. On a sad note, one of Houston’s all-time great players, Cecil Rose, passed away last Friday. Rose played from 1974-78 under legendary head coach Guy V. Lewis., scoring 1,244 points as a Cougar, ranking 23rd in school history. He helped lead Houston to an NIT championship game appearance in 1977 and the NCAA Tournament the following season. Rose’s brother, Lynden, also played for Houston from 1980-82. Rest in peace, Cecil.
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ACC M5: New Year’s Eve Edition

Posted by mpatton on December 31st, 2013


  1. Tallahassee Democrat: Boris Bojanovsky is a totally new player this season (so is Michael Ojo for that matter, but that’s for another story). After playing basketball in Spain, the athleticism and speed of the game required the 7’3″ center to ratchet up his intensity. This year, those adjustments are paying off big. Currently Bojanovsky is shooting almost 75 percent from the floor and leads the Seminoles in blocked shots. He still needs to work on remaining on the court, though, as he and Ojo tend to draw more whistles than they commit fouls.
  2. Charlottesville Daily Progress: Pretty sure Virginia has now entered the danger zone. The Cavaliers gave up 87 points at Tennessee (where NC State won last week) and lost by 35 in a pitiful performance. If Jon Pence’s numbers are right, Tennessee finished the game with an offensive efficiency of 142.6, which is Virginia’s second-worst defensive showing in the Tony Bennett era (the first coming in 2010 against Washington). To put that number in context, it would be Boston College’s worst-game defensive efficiency of the season. Somewhat troubling is that this is the second poor defensive performance by the Cavaliers in as many games. Rust coming out of the break may have played a factor — and Tennessee making everything it shot, including a half-court buzzer-beater to end the first half certainly contributed — but this performance is inexcusable for a good defensive team.
  3. Backing the Pack: NC State owned double-figure leads in the second half of its last five games, but all those leads were cut to at least five and the Wolfpack lost the game to Missouri. The trend is concerning, but it also makes some sense with a young team. Even more important factors are an inexperienced primary point guard, streaky shooting, and an over-reliance on TJ Warren’s offense. The experience part will change over time, but Mark Gottfried needs to keep working on his team’s execution with leads, as conference teams will look a lot more like Missouri than Detroit. On the bright side, the transitive property says NC State will beat Virginia by 42 at a neutral site.
  4. Baltimore Sun: Mark Turgeon may be “starting over” now that Seth Allen is back in the lineup, but he’s got a lot of work to do before the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee joins him. Also, North Carolina Central isn’t a team to overlook (just ask NC State), but it could be a deal-breaker come March. That said, Turgeon’s coachspeak is exactly what the Terrapins need right now, with one primary exception. They need to remember they’re 1-0 in road conference games. That’s big. So is avoiding the inaugural ACC Tournament Wednesday slate of games.
  5. Inside Carolina: That sound was everyone in Chapel Hill collectively exhaling. Roy Williams quieted some of the retirement rumors recently spurred by Jason King’s Bleacher Report article on his radio show by noting that “I’ve wanted to go six to 10 more years” despite his wife wanting him to quit a decade ago. The x-factor is obviously his health, but it’s clear he wants to keep coaching while he still can. He also talked about Joel James’ return, which Williams expects to happen in the second or third conference game, depending on his continued progress.
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Is This an Older But Wiser St. John’s to Start Big East Play?

Posted by Joe Dzuback on December 31st, 2013

Is St. John’s 8-4 record at this point last season versus their current 9-3 a true measure of growth for the Red Storm? According to coach Steve Lavin, the answer is no. The take on the Johnnies going into this season was one of a talented, but undisciplined, roster. Perhaps one of the two or three best teams in the conference, a squad capable of beating anyone in the Big East, but first they had to stop beating themselves.

Steve Lavin and St. John's are gearing up for conference play. (AP)

Steve Lavin and St. John’s are gearing up for conference play. (AP)

Granted, last year’s team was young with just over half a season’s worth of experience (0.64 years), but chalking their 17-16 record up to youth misses more than half the story. Suspensions, the most damaging of which was D’Angelo Harrison’s six-game hiatus at the end of the season — during which the Red Storm compiled an 0-5 record to close out conference play and crush any chance of an NCAA bid — was not the only example of time missed due to discipline problems. Baylor transfer Jamal Branch, eligible at the end of the fall 2012 semester, served a one-game suspension in early March, just over two months after first donning a Red Storm uniform.

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