Analyzing Purdue’s Performance in Maui

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 27th, 2014

After three convincing wins against three low-major teams and the impressive debut of freshman Vince Edwards, Purdue entered the Maui Invitational ready to test themselves against their major-conference peers and see if they’re as significantly improved from last season as they have appeared thus far. So what did they find out? They’re definitely better than last year but their season-long trajectory is still yet to be determined. Purdue finished Maui in fifth place with a 2-1 showing. The Boilermakers have proven they can beat teams likely not making the NCAA Tournament (Missouri) or likely to be on the bubble (BYU); but they missed their opportunity to get a resume win or two when they dropped their tournament-opener to Kansas State. But most importantly, they learned they’re a talented group that will need more consistency from their starters and less costly turnovers in order to really make some waves in conference play.

Rapheal Davis helped lead Purdue to a 2-1 and 5th place finish in Maui.

Rapheal Davis helped lead Purdue to a 2-1 record and 5th place finish in Maui.

Against Kansas State, the Boilermakers effectively lost the game in the first half when they committed 11 turnovers that led to 17 Wildcats points, and subsequently a 15-point halftime deficit. In their second game against Mizzou, Purdue remedied their first half woes by coming out strong and playing physical defense right from tipoff, which led to the Tigers being unable to make a field goal until six minutes into the game. In the final game against BYU, the Boilermakers found themselves in a back-and-forth nail biter that went into overtime, which could have been lost due to a Rapheal Davis turnover, but instead was won on A.J. Hammons hook shot. The last few sequences of the BYU game seems representative of Purdue’s Maui performance: moments of intense frustration from turnovers, that is overcome by the innate talent within this group.

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Three More Big Ten Players to Consider for the Wooden Award Watch List

Posted by Eric Clark on November 18th, 2014

The Wooden Award Top 50 watch list was released on Monday, tabbing seven Big Ten players – Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky, Nebraska’s Terran Petteway, Michigan State’s Branden Dawson, Michigan’s Caris LeVert, Maryland’s Dez Wells and Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell. There were no surprises in those who were named to the list, but since only 50 total players received the honor in the first place, there are a number of other Big Ten players who could very well find themselves among the 25 finalists in January.

Denzel Valentine brings a veteran presence to an otherwise young MSU roster.

Denzel Valentine brings a veteran presence to an otherwise young MSU roster.

Denzel Valentine and Branden Dawson are the only two returning starters at Michigan State and the former is one of the most versatile players in the Big Ten. Tom Izzo was not pleased with Valentine’s performance in the Spartans’ season opener versus Navy, criticizing the 6’5” junior for being reckless (Valentine turned the ball over three times and shot 20 percent from the field.) However, the very recklessness shown by Valentine may have been more indicative of the inexperience of many of the players around him. There’s little doubt that Valentine will turn it around — it was only one game, after all — he’s been praised for the vast improvements he made during the offseason. With Dawson and Valentine as the drivers of the Spartan squad, it’s not a stretch to tab both as potential Wooden finalists.

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Purdue’s Hot Start Brings Hope to Program

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 18th, 2014

From a distance, this weekend seemed like a relatively unremarkable start for the Big Ten. The teams that were expected to win won, and those that were expected to lose lost. But if you take a closer look, you’ll find that one team, with the help of an especially impressive freshman, turned some heads with its dominant weekend play. Purdue looked nothing like the team picked to finish 11th in the Big Ten, as predicted in the Preseason Media Poll, easily disposing of both of its opponents by a combined 60 points. Outstanding performances from certain players, especially freshman guard Vince Edwards, fueled Purdue’s offense to an average of 78.5 points in the two games, giving Boilermakers fans and some prognosticators reevaluating the trajectory of their season.

Vince Edwards has led Purdue to their hot start. (Jerry Schultheiss).

Vince Edwards has led Purdue to their hot start. (Jerry Schultheiss).

Edwards, a little-known freshman, was awarded this season’s inaugural Big Ten Freshman of the Week – ahead of a number of other high-profile freshmen like Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell – after averaging 19.5 points (including a 26-point outing against IUPUI), 8.0 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in his first two games. The freshman was so unheralded as a recruit that he failed to make both Scout’s and Rivals’s Top 100 rankings. The Middletown, Ohio, native has been a stat stuffer so far, but he hasn’t been the only major contributor. Sophomore Kendall Stephens has been deadly from the outside, evidenced by his 9-of-13 shooting from deep and 17.0 PPG average. A.J. Hammons already has eight blocks, if little else, and sophomore Raphael Davis and freshman Isaac Haas brought excellent performances to the season opener – Davis chipped in 13 points, while Haas contributed 11 points and eight rebounds. The Boilermakers’ hot start has been an impressive team effort thus far, which is in stark contrast to the underachieving unit we saw come out of the gates last year.

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Big Ten M5: 11.17.14 Edition

Posted by Eric Clark on November 17th, 2014

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  1. Former Indiana coach Mike Davis will make his first return to Assembly Hall tonight since he resigned from the head coaching position at Indiana in 2006. Upon his hiring in 2000, Davis was immediately met with animosity from Bob Knight apologists, setting the tone for his tumultuous six-year tenure as the Hoosiers’ head coach. Indiana played for one national title under Davis in 2002 (losing to Maryland), but his teams went 42-38 in his final three seasons at the helm. Currently embattled head coach Tom Crean said he hopes Davis gets a “tremendous reception” tonight when he brings Texas Southern (0-1) to Bloomington – but Davis is guaranteed to be greeted with plenty of audible heckles as well.
  2. Michigan State skated by Navy on Friday night by a score of 64-59, raising a few eyebrows around the college basketball community. But according to Lansing State Journal‘s Graham Couch, that kind of close win could be beneficial for the Spartans in the long run. Tom Izzo inserted three new starters in his lineup (Travis Trice, Alvin Ellis III and Matt Costello), but he only got double-figure scoring from Trice and Branden Dawson. Head coach Tom Izzo said he needs to see more production from his returning starters, Denzel Valentine and Dawson, but it’s an absolute certainty that Izzo would much rather have the bump in the road come now than come later on in the season.
  3. Rutgers opened its season with a 17-point home loss to George Washington, getting beat in just about every relevant statistical category. Myles Mack led the Scarlet Knights with 14 points, but he didn’t get much help from his supporting cast. Freshman Mike Williams poured in 10 points off the bench, but no other Knights reached double figures. Junior Etou and newcomer Bishop Daniels went a combined 1-of-16 from the field and Kadeem Jack is on the mend, so there aren’t many positives for Rutgers fans right now – unless you count D.J. Foreman’s monstrous dunk. And that’s certainly worth something.
  4. Caris LeVert was excellent in Michigan’s season-opening win over Hillsdale on Saturday, notching 20 points, nine assists and eight rebounds in the Wolverines’ 92-68 victory. LeVert and point guard Spike Albrecht were both relatively unknown recruits coming out of high school, but the two are now Michigan’s permanent team captains for the 2014-15 season. LeVert was one of three Wolverines to score more than 20 points on Saturday, whereas Albrecht came off the bench to score four. Head coach John Beilein said Albrecht and starting point guard Derrick Walton Jr. will be on the court together a lot this season, a rare dual-point guard situation that you should keep your eye on.
  5. Purdue’s Vince Edwards, a true freshman, introduced himself to the Boilermakers faithful in a big way this weekend, scoring 13 points and grabbing eight rebounds in his debut before turning around and dropping 26 points in a win over IUPUI on Sunday. Kendall Stephens shined alongside Edwards on Sunday, pouring in 24 points with six three-pointers as Purdue shot 50 percent from the field. The Boilermakers host Grambling State on Thursday before facing Kansas State in Maui on November 24. Purdue’s going to need more out of A.J. Hammons sooner than later, as the talented but enigmatic big man gathered a total of seven rebounds and scored only 11 points in his first two games.
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Introducing the RTC Preseason All-Big Ten Second Team

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 13th, 2014

We continue our preseason superlatives this week with the introduction of our Preseason All-Big Ten Second Team. To review our Preseason All Big Ten Third Team, check out Eric Clark’s post from Wednesday. It’s important to point out with this group that, while we stuck to five players, we weren’t completely married to a true team concept and ended up with two point guards on this team. Instead, you should interpret this as the next best five players after our Preseason All-Big Ten First Team, which will release on Friday.

RTC All-Big Ten Second Team

  • Yogi Ferrell, Junior, Indiana, 6’0”, 178 lbs. (17.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.9 APG). Ferrell made a huge leap last season by adding almost 10 points to his per game average in becoming the primary scoring option for Indiana. This year, the junior point guard will have some additional scoring help with freshman Justin Blackmon Jr. joining the Hoosiers. This should relieve some of the pressure to score from Ferrell and allow him to concentrate on running the offense and improving on his mediocre 1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Yogi Ferrell is a Lone Bright Spot at Indiana Right Now

Yogi Ferrell is a Lone Bright Spot at Indiana Right Now

  • D.J. Newbill, Senior, Penn State, 6’4”, 210 lbs. (17.8 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.7 APG). Last season, Newbill was the primary scorer and Tim Frazier played the role of distributor. Now that Frazier has graduated, it will be solely on Newbill to run the Penn State offense. Because of the transition in his role, his scoring may drop as he tries to involve teammates like John Johnson and Jordan Dickerson in the offense. Still, Newbill will be the one with the ball in his hands during crunch time — as he goes, so will the Nittany Lions.

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Big Ten M5: 10.17.14 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on October 17th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. As Tom Izzo enters his 20th season as head coach at Michigan State, he’ll have to deal with the losses of three major contributors from last season — Keith Appling, Gary Harris, and Adreian Payne. With only an average recruiting class entering East Lansing, he’ll have to rely on players from last year’s roster to improve. Specifically, the Spartans will look to senior Branden Dawson to keep them competitive in the B1G and possibly challenge for a conference championship. On Thursday at the Big Ten Media Day in Chicago, Izzo said that he’s trying to get Dawson to mold his game like another former Spartan standout, Draymond Green. With the significant loss in production from last year, it would certainly help if Dawson played like Green — who averaged a double-double his final year — this season.
  2. As mentioned, yesterday was Big Ten Media Day, and these events usually produce some notable quotes from the assembled coaches. One comment that caught my attention was Michigan head coach John Beilein’s response to a question about the presumed gap between Wisconsin and the other teams in the conference, stating that “the rest of the league is not far behind on a national stage.” It seems like Beilein is confident that, by the end of the season, several other Big Ten teams will join the national conversation, and maybe Wisconsin won’t run away with the conference championship after all. It’s not an outlandish statement by any stretch, because with coaches like Beilein, Izzo, and Thad Matta in the league, it is always difficult for any team — no matter how talented or experienced — to run away with the conference title.
  3. Of all the familiar faces that left the Big Ten this offseason, the most recognizable of those was probably that of the Buckeyes’ Aaron Craft. The highly decorated four-year player’s strength were intangibles like leadership and tenacity that could not be measured in a stat line. Shannon Scott, a 6’1″ senior guard who averaged 26.9 MPG last season, will attempt to replace Craft at the point guard slot this season. Scott’s numbers weren’t too far removed from Craft’s contributions in 2013-14, so his ability to produce is not really in question. But taking a leadership role could be an issue for Craft’s replacement, as Thad Matta stated on Thursday, “he’s always played a supportive role from teams he’s been on in high school to AAU to here.” The Buckeyes have a nice group of talent once again this season, but if Scott can’t effectively take an on-court leadership role, the Buckeyes will struggle to regain national power status.
  4. One familiar face that did return was Purdue big man and conference-leading shot-blocker, A.J. Hammons. While Hammons improved his block and defensive rebounding percentages from his freshman to sophomore seasons, he did not improve nearly as much offensively. Therefore it must be reassuring to Matt Painter to hear Hammons say that he realizes he has to be more of a leader on offense or Purdue won’t go very far this year. If the Boilermakers have any shot of making a run at the NCAA Tournament — and possibly saving Painter’s job — it will require Hammons to be the focal point of the team on both ends of the court.
  5. Finally, Illinois fans received sad news on Wednesday when they learned former assistant coach and Peoria High School legend, Wayne McClain, had passed away. On Thursday we learned even more about what seemed like the coach’s sudden death. McClain had been diagnosed with lung cancer in 2013, but only he and his doctors knew about it — not even his wife nor his son Sergio, who played at Illinois from 1997-2001. The younger McClain only found out about his illness by looking through his late father’s smart phone and reading a journal he had written. Wayne McClain was apparently telling his family that he was going to regular doctor visits when he was actually receiving chemotherapy. When his options for treatment ran out, he still kept his illness a secret. It’s hard to imagine most people doing the same, but from reading interviews with his former players and colleagues, McClain seemed to be dedicated to selflessly helping others and not making things about himself. The basketball world seemed to lose a good one this week. Rest in peace, coach.
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Big Ten M5: 04.08.14 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on April 8th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Another season over, another non-B1G champion crowned. In all honesty, congrats to Connecticut for winning the title. And while it’s a bit disappointing that our conference came up short again (especially with three teams in the Elite Eight), next season looks to be another strong season for the Big Ten. Wisconsin came the closest winning a title as they lost to Kentucky by a point on Saturday night in a game that went to the last second. Traevon Jackson and the rest of the Badgers were disappointed as they fully expected to compete for the national title. We’ll have to see if Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky follow through on their plans to return next year, but if they do, Wisconsin will once again be national title contenders and look to end the Big Ten’s championship drought.
  2. One of Kentucky’s other B1G victims was Michigan, who got bounced out of the Elite Eight by one of many miracle shots by Aaron Harrison this NCAA Tournament. Looking ahead to next year, the Wolverines are eligible for an overseas trip this off-season and are planning to go to Europe for some exhibition games. This means as much as ten days of additional practice to the summer. Michigan may need these additional workouts to build new chemistry if Nik Stauskas declares for the NBA draft and leaves along with senior Jordan Morgan. Bottom line: Beilien will have more time than usual to fine tune his team which should compete for another Big Ten title.
  3. Along with Michigan, Michigan State will need to regroup and get used to an even more revamped roster. The first order of business is to make sure they don’t lose their Hall of Fame coach to the NBA. After that, they’ll have to figure out life without Adreian Payne, Keith Appling, and (most likely) Gary Harris. The Spartans do not have any heralded recruits coming in next year and suffered another recruiting loss yesterday. Michigan native Yante Maten had wanted to join the Spartans from the get-go but decided to join Mark Fox in Georgia as Izzo come too late with a scholarship. With uncertainty surrounding their coach and roster going into the off-season, these are strange and unusual times in East Lansing for a typically steady program.
  4. Continuing with our theme of teams in major transition, Indiana has had as difficult of an off-season as anyone. First, they lose Noah Vonleh to the NBA Draft. Then, a slew of players, including the talented Jeremy Hollowell, decide to transfer leaving the Hoosiers thin and bringing up questions of whether Tom Crean has built a program that players want to be a part of. But seemingly, Crean has blocked out the negativity and concentrated on getting back to the recruiting trail. The Hoosier head coach has had a knack for getting elite talent to Bloomington; this year he brings in talented freshmen like James Blackmon Jr. Crean will need to keep bringing in the talent to Indiana if he is to get the naysayers off his back next season.
  5. Another player whose team awaits their decision about the NBA Draft is A.J. Hammons. Without Hammons, Purdue loses the league’s premier rim protecter and all of the other potential tied to the young big man. As of now, Hammons is projected to be drafted in the second round, so a return to West Lafayette is not out of the question. But Hammons’ decision doesn’t just affect his future, it possibly determines his coach’s fate too. Matt Painter will likely start the season on the hot seat after finishing the last two seasons below 0.500. Without Hammons, Painter’s roster loses a pro-level talent, making it harder to get the program back on track.
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Big Ten M5: 11.20.13 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 20th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. Tom Crean channeled his inner Gene Hackman when asked about his team’s upcoming trip to Madison Square Garden for the finals of the 2K Sports Classic. Crean said, “It’s still a 90- foot court with 10 feet from the floor to the rim ,” when he was asked about how it would be different for his young team to go on the road for the first time. While Indiana is a bit more athletic and not nearly as much of an underdog as the fictional Hickory High from the movie “Hoosiers,” they will be tested by their games against Washington in the opener, and against Boston College or Connecticut in the second round. Keep an eye on the point guard match-up in the first game, as Yogi Ferrell squares off against freshman Nigel Williams-Goss.
  2. Those that expect Mitch McGary to live up to all of the preseason hype he received might have to curb their enthusiasm for at least a week or two. John Beilein said on Tuesday that he is going to stick to playing McGary around 18-22 minutes a game for the upcoming tournament in Puerto Rico. McGary alternated between being a dominant presence and someone who needs to play himself back into shape in Michigan’s loss on Sunday to Iowa State. Look for more of the same as he builds toward a potentially dominant season once B1G play starts in January.
  3. All is not well in East Lansing despite Michigan State being the newly-minted number one team in the country when the latest polls came out on Monday. Tom Izzo is upset about the lackluster crowds at the Breslin Center for both Friday and Monday night’s games. November games against teams like Columbia and Portland aren’t necessarily going to move the needle too much in terms of getting a packed house, and it’s safe to assume this will be a non-issue once they play someone like North Carolina in two weeks. With Michigan State’s football team likely heading to the B1G Championship game, and with the number one team in basketball, Michigan State essentially doesn’t have much to complain about athletically right now.
  4. Purdue struggled for the second time in three games against Rider on Sunday. A big reason was the fact that A.J Hammons was saddled with foul trouble, which caused him to miss the majority of the first half. This came after Hammons registered seven blocks in his first game back from suspension against Central Connecticut. A big reason he got into foul trouble was because he had to help his guards who were getting beat of the dribble and getting into the paint too easily. Regardless, this can’t be the start to the reason Hammons was hoping for as he looks to live up to the hype of being a potential lottery pick in the future.
  5. Finally, if you had money on Frank Kaminsky being the talk of all of college basketball for something other than maybe getting viciously dunked on by somebody, then you’re are a rich man/woman. Kaminsky set a Wisconsin single-game record last night scoring 43 points in the Badgers’ 103-85 victory over North Dakota. Kaminsky followed up his 16 point-8 rebound game on Saturday against Green Bay with this record-breaking output. Lost in the shuffle a little bit is the fact that Wisconsin also scored the most points as a team since 1995. Bo Ryan probably wasn’t thrilled giving up 83, but he has to be thrilled his squad has started off 4-0 with two great resume wins against St. John’s and Florida.
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Big Ten M5: 11.13.13 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 13th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. Indiana‘s Tom Crean may have been on to something when he questioned the consistency of his extremely young team shortly before the team barely escaped LIU-Brooklyn, 73-72, on Tuesday night. Crean believes that the Hoosiers are far from a finished product, but that he likes how the early-season schedule sets up as they play seven games in 19 days early on. Indiana is extremely long and athletic, but some of the younger players seem as though they will be prone to slumps and growing pains early on as they figure out their respective roles. Expect moments of brilliance combined with head-scratchers like Tuesday night from this extremely young squad.
  2. On a team filled with potential All-Americans and others who have been starters and been in the spotlight for a couple of years, Travis Trice often goes overlooked. That’s why news of the mysterious illness he was dealing with in the summer of 2012 never really made it into the national consciousness. It’s pretty amazing how he’s come back from not only that, but suffering two concussions and a broken nose last season as well. With Trice fully healthy again, Michigan State will be in great hands at the point guard spot with either Trice or Keith Appling on the court.
  3. Michigan has a decent sized leadership void to fill with Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. moving on to the NBA. They decided on Tuesday to try and fill their player leadership roles for 2013-14 with three players being named tri-captains: Jordan Morgan, Jon Horford, and Glenn Robinson III. On a team loaded with freshmen and sophomores, it makes sense that Horford and Morgan were given this honor since they’re the only upperclassmen they have. Robinson seems to be a little bit more of a reserved type who doesn’t get overly excited on the floor, so it remains to be seen whether he can handle this responsibility and both lead verbally and by example.
  4. A.J.Hammons was arguably the most talked about Purdue player in the buildup to the season tipping off. News of his suspension for the Boilermakers’ home opener was kind of glossed over, as it was assumed Purdue would handle Northern Kentucky with or without the burly center. Hammons felt like he let the team down as they struggled to pull out a win last Friday, however, and vows to come back and get on the same page with his teammates. Hammons being out was felt mainly on the glass, as Northern Kentucky matched Purdue’s 35 rebounds and generally played more physical. The suspension could really lead to Hammons coming back better than ever if he’s properly motivated from the benching.
  5. The preseason watch list for the John Wooden Award was released on Tuesday, and it included ten players from the B1G. This year was the first time that freshmen and transfers could appear on the preseason list, and Indiana’s highly-publicized Noah Vonleh made the cut. Other players from the league included players from Michigan State (Keith Appling, Gary Harris, and Adreian Payne), Ohio State (Aaron Craft and LaQuinton Ross), Michigan (Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III), Minnesota (Andre Hollins), Wisconsin (Sam Dekker), and Vonleh. One notable omission is Penn State’s senior guard Tim Frazier. Players can still get added to the watch list during the season, and Frazier made a claim to be one of these mid-season additions with his 25-point, 10-rebound effort in Penn State’s opening game victory against Wagner.
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Purdue Needs to Feature AJ Hammons to Realize Its Potential

Posted by Brendan Brody on October 28th, 2013

It would probably be a bit of a stretch to say that the days of needing a dominant, back-to-the-basket, seven-foot behemoth to win at the highest levels of basketball are over. That said, the game is seemingly getting smaller and quicker, and there are fewer teams who function with a traditional center. The teams last year in the Big Ten that went the furthest all had size, but you could hardly say that Cody Zeller, Adreian Payne, or Mitch McGary played like normal fives. Purdue is not one of those teams, however, as its second leading scorer and leading rebounder  in 2012-13 is a projected first round draft pick by the name of A.J. Hammons. Hammons is not a new age pick-and-pop big man, as evidenced by his grand total of zero three-pointers attempted so far in his lone year in West Lafayette. He is, however, a 7’0″, 251-pound load on the low blocks who will be the determining factor as to whether Purdue can rebound from a 16-18 season coming on the heels of six straight 20-win campaigns before that.

Hammons

Hammons Isn’t a New Age Big Man By Any Stretch

My colleague already covered how Purdue desperately needs to improve from behind the arc. Guards like Ronnie Johnson, Terone Johnson and transfer Sterling Carter need to improve from distance, but the Boilermakers need to take advantage of Hammons and keep getting him the ball if they really want to be successful this season. Hammons was 12th in the league in usage rate last season, tying teammate Ronnie Johnson at 24.9 percent. For Purdue to improve, he needs to be around the 27 to 28 percent range. For some perspective, Trey Burke was nearly at 30 percent last season. A team’s best player should be using the most offensive possessions, even if he is not a ball-handler. This may be a bit too simple, but big guys like to get the ball. If they’re to be expected to bang bodies all game long , they’d like to get rewarded for their troubles. If they are rewarded, they will be more inclined to be more active defensively and generally more engaged when it comes thankless tasks like setting screens and help defense.

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Three Thoughts on Michigan’s Win Over Purdue

Posted by WCarey on March 6th, 2013

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Wednesday night’s game between Michigan and Purdue. You can follow him at @walkerRcarey.

Michigan and Purdue both entered Wednesday’s game fresh off huge victories from Sunday. Michigan notched an important 58-57 home victory over Michigan State. Purdue went into the Kohl Center in Madison and spoiled Wisconsin’s Senior Day with an impressive 69-56 win. While Purdue entered the game at just 14-15 overall, its recent play (winners of two of its last three) coupled with Michigan’s recent conference woes made for an intriguing matchup. Prior to Wednesday evening, Michigan carried a solid 24-5 record and a #7 national ranking. The Wolverines have a plethora of talent and their strengths far outweigh their weaknesses, but their play on the road this season has been below average. While losing on the road is essentially part of life in the ultra-competitive Big Ten, a team of the caliber of Michigan carrying a 3-5 road record certainly raises some questions — especially true because in the road game prior to this contest, Michigan lost to a Penn State team that had previously been 0-14 in Big Ten play. With Purdue playing hard and Michigan looking to remain in the race for the Big Ten title, Wednesday night’s action was definitely memorable with the Wolverines battling back from a 12-point second half deficit to defeat the Boilermakers, 80-75. The following are three thoughts from Wednesday evening’s action from West Lafayette.

Trey Burke Led His Team Back Against Purdue

Trey Burke Led His Team Back Against Purdue

  1. Trey Burke Should Be The Leading Candidate For National Player Of The Year. With his team trailing by 12 points almost midway through the second half, the sophomore point guard grabbed control of the game and led his team to the victory. After a rough first half with just four points and two assists, Burke exploded and finished the night with 26 points and seven assists. While Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Georgetown’s Otto Porter are both worthy candidates for National Player of the Year as well, you would be hard-pressed to make a case that either have outperformed Burke this season. In the best conference in the country, Burke has scored 15 or more points in every conference game. That statistic shows that win or lose, Burke is still giving the Wolverines a chance. Even after last week’s bad loss at Penn State, the Wolverines still have a chance to win a share of the regular season Big Ten title and that chance is thanks in very large part to the play and leadership of Trey Burke. Read the rest of this entry »
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Previewing this weekend’s schedule of Big Ten games

Posted by jnowak on February 8th, 2013

We’ve reached the point in the season where it feels like every game has conference implications of some kind, and there’s no better period of time to enjoy them all than Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Weekends through the end of the season will be packed with quality basketball, so let’s take a look at this weekend’s slate of games and what’s in store:

  • Michigan at Wisconsin (Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN) – The Wolverines could have the misfortune of becoming the No. 1 team in the country this upcoming week if they take care of business in Madison. Yes, you read that right. Having the nation’s top ranking is obviously an honor, but it hasn’t boded well for those teams this year. The AP’s No. 1 team (including Michigan, once already) has lost already six times this season, and with a trip to East Lansing coming up for the Wolverines, that could be on the line yet again. But first, they have to get by Wisconsin. The Badgers have been unpredictable this season, suffering two home losses already (an extremely puzzling one to Virginia, and a conference loss to Michigan State). The Badgers have the frontcourt to give Michigan trouble, but the Wolverines have a backcourt that no one in the Big Ten can match. It’s the only meeting between these two teams this year, so the Badgers need to make it count if they’re going to make a run at the conference title.
Bo Ryan's defense is always a cause for concern (AP)

Bo Ryan’s defense is always a cause for concern (AP)

  • Northwestern at Iowa (Saturday, 4:30 p.m., Big Ten Network) – Iowa just cannot seem to get over the hump and they’re coming up against a team on Saturday who’s familiar with such a situation. As has been the case for Northwestern the past few years, the Hawkeyes are trying to do everything they can to sneak into the NCAA Tournament but can’t manage to pull off a significant upset or put together a stretch of outstanding games. If they want any chance at all of building some momentum and making a run at the Big Dance, games like this one have to be victories. They’ve got a favorable stretch of five very winnable games on the horizon, and it has to start here. As for Northwestern, they’ve got to find a way to defend better than they did in the first match-up this season, when Iowa hammered the Wildcats in Evanston.
  • Michigan State at Purdue (Saturday, 7 p.m., Big Ten Network) – The last time Michigan State traveled to Purdue, Boilermaker fans taunted then-freshman Branden Dawson and it backfired on them. Dawson was electric in a 76-62 win in West Lafayette, going for 15 points, 11 boards, two blocks and one emphatic slam dunk that silenced the home crowd. The Spartans will need him in a big way again on Saturday if they’re to overcome the recent slew of injuries and maintain their roll in the Big Ten. The Spartans’ 84-61 win against Purdue at Breslin Center on Jan. 5 was not as close as the final score indicated, and they’ll be in for a battle again, against a Purdue team that can be very dangerous when clicking on all cylinders. Purdue freshman A.J. Hammons going against Michigan State’s frontcourt will be an intriguing match-up to watch. Read the rest of this entry »
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