Big Ten M5: 11.01.13 Edition

Posted by Max Jakubowski on November 1st, 2013

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  1. The Big Ten held their annual media day in Chicago on Thursday.  Michigan State was the unanimous #1, followed by Michigan and Ohio State. For some unusual reason, the conference only releases the top three teams. It would have been interesting to see where teams like Iowa and Purdue were ranked, especially since they are expected to compete for a NCAA Tournament berths. The Preseason All Big Ten team was announced as well, with Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary, Michigan State’s Gary Harris and Adreian Payne, Ohio State’s Aaron Craft and Penn State’s Tim Frazier making the roster. One glaring omission was Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker.
  2. Richard Pitino of Minnesota and Chris Collins of Northwestern took in their first Big Ten Media Day Thursday.  Both coaches are facing up hill challenges this year but are also building for the future.  Pitino is finally out of the shadow from his Hall of Fame father, Rick, after landing a major Division 1 job at Minnesota.  Pitino recently picked up another commitment this week, building upon an already strong 2014 class.  Collins also announced that he will not totally blow up the Princeton offense that has long been Northwestern’s calling card.  Collins is focusing on getting his team prepared defensively first before he moves to configure Northwestern’s offensive sets.
  3. Nebraska finished at the bottom of the conference last season and was picked to do the same again.  That’s not keeping coach Tim Miles from saying that he expects more from his team this year.  Miles believes he has enough fight on his team to not finish 12th again.  The Cornhuskers return their second leading scoring from last year in Ray Gallegos, but others will need to step up to avoid another last place finish.
  4. Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo opened up about how Chicago has been a tough recruiting ground for the Spartans recently.  The Spartans lost out on Jabari Parker last year, even after Izzo recruited him very aggressively.  If losing out on Parker wasn’t bad enough, Izzo went 0-3 for the 2014 class out of Chicago, losing out on Tyler Ulis (Kentucky), Jahlil Okafor (undecided), and now Cliff Alexander.  There were reports that Alexander might take an unofficial visit to East Lansing this weekend, but those reports were all but dashed when Alexander said he has “no relationship” with Izzo and the Spartans.
  5. While Michigan State is struggling in the recruiting department, Indiana picked up a major score Thursday, re-securing a commitment from James Blackmon Jr. Blackmon had actually committed to Indiana three years ago but decomitted back in August.  Kentucky was long to be presumed the front-runner, but Tom Crean made a late surge to bring Blackmon back to Bloomington.  Blackmon joins an Indiana recruiting class that includes fellow top 100 recruits Robert Johnson and Max Hoetzel.
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The Unmentioned Buckeye: It’s Sam Thompson’s Year to Shine

Posted by Max Jakubowski on October 25th, 2013

The Buckeyes have had a rich recent history of scoring forwards over the past five years. Evan Turner, David Lighty and Jared Sullinger are quite a list to go along with DeShaun Thomas last season. This year, it is expected that LaQuinton Ross will become the next high scoring wing for Ohio State. Ross emerged as a scoring threat in last season’s NCAA Tournament, averaging 15 PPG and shooting 44 percent from 3-point range over four games. With the departure of Thomas to the NBA, the offensive load will now fall upon Ross. The always dependable Aaron Craft will give the Buckeyes 10 to 12 points per game and third-year starter Lenzelle Smith Jr. could finally average double figures along with shooting 40% from deep. But the one player getting no attention on the offensive end is junior forward Sam Thompson.

Sam Thompson will be a key player for OSU this season. (USA TODAY sports)

Sam Thompson will be a key player for OSU this season. (USA TODAY sports)

Thompson is your typical college slasher, a player who has great speed and athleticism for his size along with an ability to finish at the rim (in spectacular fashion I might add). He has adapted to new roles in each of his previous two seasons in Columbus. During his freshman year he took the “energy guy” role, which meant providing the team a lift with hustle plays and acrobatic dunks. Last year, Thad Matta inserted Thompson into the starting lineup and he became Ohio State’s top wing defender. His offensive stats were not eye-popping at 7.8 PPG and 3.5 RPG, but he did shoot 40% from three, although on only 57 attempts.

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