The Blueprints: How Each Big Ten Team Can Advance Past Its First OpponentPosted by Brendan Brody on March 19th, 2014
The Big Ten is largely known as one of the best, if not the best, basketball conferences in all of the land. This hasn’t necessarily equated to great success in the postseason, however. In fact, it’s been 14 long years since one of the league members has cut down the nets on the first Monday night in April (Michigan State – 2000). The first key to winning it all, obviously, is to win your first game. As we head into the league’s six openers over the next two days, here is what each Big Ten team needs to accomplish in order to get into the next round.
- Ohio State must create turnovers to beat Dayton: This holds true for almost every game that the Buckeyes play, but it’s especially important here because Dayton plays a slower pace and they turn the ball over 18.1% of the time. Aaron Craft, Shannon Scott, Lenzelle Smith Jr. and the rest of the rangy, athletic Buckeyes need to realize that their best offense here is their defense. If they get some live-ball turnovers that will allow them to get out and run, they’ll have Dayton right where they want them.
- Michigan State must stop the triple threat to beat Delaware: Delaware has three legitimate offensive weapons in Jarvis Threatt, Devon Saddler, and Davon Usher. All three average at least 18.0 PPG for a team that plays at the 10th fastest tempo in the country. Michigan State has their own big three, however, in Adreian Payne, Gary Harris, and Keith Appling. If the Spartans’ trio can outscore the group of Blue Hens, with Branden Dawson locking down the 6’6″ Usher in the process, Sparty should move on.
- Nebraska must exploit the zone to beat Baylor: Dan Dakich used to say that Wisconsin’s Mike Bruesewitz had the best misses in the Big Ten — meaning that his shot always looked pure but never went in. That unofficial honor for the 2013-14 season has to go to Ray Gallegos. It seems like almost everything he shoots from the outside goes in, but in reality he only shot 33.6 from distance on the year. Baylor will have its way on the boards against the smaller Nebraska unit, so it’s a must that Gallegos, Terran Petteway, and Walter Pitchford combine for about eight or nine threes for Nebraska to continue its magical ride.
- Wisconsin must defend the paint to beat American: The Eagles shoot the ball really well, checking in at seventh in all the land with their 55.7 percent shooting inside the arc on the season. Coincidentally, defending the paint is the Badgers’ largest weakness. It seems as though sometimes they get too enamored with the offensive side of the ball, leading to some distracted possessions on defense without good communication. This cannot happen here. American gets sloppy with the ball ( 22.8 percent turnover rate), but when they don’t cough it up, they put it in the basket. The Badgers really need to get stops in this one, and if they get enough of them, they’ll advance.
- Iowa must play angry to beat Tennessee: This is blatant plagiarism on my part here, since this is the slogan for a team reaching for a placement in the history books (Wichita State). But if it works for a team that’s 34-0, why couldn’t it work for Iowa as well? There’s been too many occasions this season where Iowa seemed as though it only cared about putting the ball in the basket. Tennessee is tough and physical, led by its imposing front line of Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon. Iowa has the size, athleticism, and brawn to go blow-for-blow with the Vols if they choose to, but the Hawkeyes will have to decide to play with an edge after seeing their season crash and burn at the end of the regular season.
- Michigan must contain Karl Cochran to beat Wofford: Cochran is Wofford’s best player, and he’s hit nearly four three-pointers per game in the Terriers’ last five. The 6’1″ guard leads the team in points, assists, steals, and blocks. Caris LeVert would be my choice to guard him, and LeVert — or whoever else gets the defensive assignment — needs to hold him in check. Otherwise this is the type of player who could quickly become an overnight sensation if the Wolverines neglect him. If Michigan stops Cochran, it stops Wofford.