Let’s Play Big Ten Secret Santa…

Posted by Patrick Engel (@PatrickEngel_) on December 25th, 2015

Your class, company, or family probably plays Secret Santa during the holidays. To get in the giving spirit this Christmas, we’ll play Secret Santa with the Big Ten’s 14 teams and coaches. As much fun as it would be to give Richard Pitino more hair gel or Tom Izzo some stilts, we’ll stick to practical basketball-related gifts that each Big Ten coach would be thrilled to unwrap.

Santa has a variety of interesting presents for Big Ten teams to unwrap

Santa has a variety of interesting presents for Big Ten teams to unwrap

Here are the gifts we gave each coach and team (in alphabetical order):

  • Illinois (John Groce): This is one of the easier teams to shop for: The injury bug has cursed Illinois, so it gets healthy players from Santa. The Fighting Illini are playing this season without their starting point guard (Tracy Abrams), power forward (Leron Black) and center (Mike Thorne, Jr.).
  • Indiana (Tom Crean): Another easy team to shop for. If you haven’t heard of Indiana’s horrific defensive efforts, you’ve been living under a rock. The Hoosiers gave up 70 points to Kennesaw State and 72 to Alcorn State, respectively. Those teams rank 322 and 349 in the KenPom ranks, and average 64.1 and 60.3 PPG, respectively. Crean needs to start thinking of new ways to get his players to play better defense. Santa gives him a “D-Fense” sign that he can throw at players after bad defensive efforts. Better loosen up your arm, Tom.
  • Iowa (Fran McCaffery): The Hawkeyes aren’t elite in any one area, but don’t have a lot of gaping holes. They do struggle to get to the foul line, with a 25.8 free throw rate, which ranks 337th in the nation, per KenPom. Santa gives Iowa more free throw chances, especially to Peter Jok. The junior wing is Iowa’s second-leading scorer, but has attempted just 23 free throws.
  • Maryland (Mark Turgeon): The one knock on the Terps has been turnovers. They turn it over on 20 percent of their possessions and have six players who turn the ball over at least 19 percent of their used possessions. Maryland finds sturdy handles under its tree this year.

  • Michigan: (John Beilein): We know the Wolverines can shoot really well. We also know they rebound really poorly and don’t score much in the post. Beilein’s offense isn’t philosophically concerned with rebounding, but it’s becoming a dire need, as are points in the paint. Beilein will wake up and find a post presence under his Christmas tree.
  • Michigan State (Tom Izzo): Do-everything wing Denzel Valentine is on the shelf for the next couple weeks with a left knee injury, but Michigan State has enough talent and depth to stick together without him. Santa gives the Spartans scoring at point guard. While starting point guard Tum Tum Nairn is a fine passer, his shooting numbers (42.9 percent on twos, 21.4 percent from three, 40 percent from the foul line) aren’t very good.
  • Minnesota (Richard Pitino): The Gophers are the Big Ten’s second-worst team, according to KenPom. Their offensive and defensive numbers are down compared to last year. One of the most glaring ugly numbers is opponents’ 38 percent mark from three-point territory. Santa has a heavy dosage of three-point defense in his bag for Minnesota.
  • Northwestern (Chris Collins): The ‘Cats are 11-1, but their resume isn’t that impressive. While Northwestern is a top-50 KenPom team, it doesn’t have a top-100 win, lost its only top-100 game (No. 10 North Carolina) and has only three top-150 wins. Santa gives the Wildcats a quality win. The next chance for one is Jan. 2 at home against Maryland. After last season’s heartbreaking loss in College Park, asking for a victory over the Terps may not be all that greedy.
  • Nebraska (Tim Miles): The Huskers have two efficient scorers in Andrew White and Shavon Shields, a luxury they didn’t have last year. Sometimes, they have a third: Tai Webster. Webster has five games with at least five made field goals, but also five games with just one made field goal. Miles would love some consistency from the junior, so he gets a magic pill that makes Webster hit at least four field goals every game.
  • Ohio State (Thad Matta): Turnovers have predictably been an issue with a young team, but the Buckeyes rank last in the Big Ten with a 64.7 free throw percentage and have four players who shoot below 60 percent from the charity stripe. Santa gives Ohio State free throw shooting.
  • Penn State (Pat Chambers): Players not named Shep Garner or Brandon Taylor have made 27 of 121 three-point tries (22 percent) for the Nittany Lions. Chambers may not have the players to be a high-percentage three-point shooting club, so Chambers unwraps gym floor-colored paint, so he can paint over the three-point line and encourage his other players to stop shooting so many threes.
  • Purdue (Matt Painter): The Boilermakers most obvious area of inconsistency has been three-point shooting. Santa gives Kendall Stephens shooting touch. The junior shot 37 and 38 percent from three in his first two years, respectively. This year, he has four games with one or less three-pointer made and is hitting just 33 percent of his shots from deep.
  • Rutgers (Eddie Jordan): Santa can’t fix Rutgers with one year’s supply of gifts. So let’s start with the big picture: better players. Rutgers has had trouble getting good players despite playing in talent-rich New Jersey and on the East Coast. The Scarlet Knights could use a bigger recruiting budget, but with so much local talent, recruiting shouldn’t cost that much. Jordan gets a Ferrari, so he can zip around New Jersey and other East Coast high schools with some flashiness that Rutgers has lacked for so long.
  • Wisconsin (Greg Gard): It’s tough to recover from losing the core of back-to-back Final Four teams, but Wisconsin’s roster has some holes thanks to some key misses on the recruiting trail the last couple years. It shows up in the lack of depth – just eight players average more than five minutes for the Badgers. Gard gets to unwrap bench production. Freshmen Khalil Iverson, Charlie Thomas and Alex Illikainen – Wisconsin’s three primary bench players – average a combined 9.3 PPG and 6.7 RPG.
Patrick Engel (33 Posts)

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