Big Ten Competition Will Exceed Expectations

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on January 10th, 2014

Trey Burke is now running the pick-and-roll for the Utah Jazz. Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller are currently trying to improve the Orlando Magic and Charlotte Bobcats, a year removed from dominating college basketball. About a week ago, one of the biggest questions about the Big Ten was about the lack of star power in the league this season. The aforementioned trio of players dominated headlines last year and this season’s biggest returning star, Mitch McGary, will not be around for most of the season due to an injury. Still, after the first week of the conference schedule, it is safe to say that despite the lack of star power, the level of competition between teams in the league will not be any different than it has been. There might not be several NBA lottery picks on these 12 squads, but teams shouldn’t take any conference match-up for granted. A handful of key games over the last week-plus have shown everyone just how competitive this league will be over the next 10 weeks.

Aaron Craft and the Buckeyes almost pulled off an upset win in East Lansing.  (Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire)

Aaron Craft and the Buckeyes almost pulled off an upset win in East Lansing. (Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire)

If you turned off the Michigan State – Ohio State game Tuesday night because the Buckeyes were down by 17 late in the second half, you made a big mistake. Sure, the Buckeyes’ offense isn’t pretty in the least, but there is something to be said about the way they muscled their way back into the game. And yes, part of the comeback was allowed by the Spartans’ lackadaisical attitude during the final six minutes, but it was still impressive to see Thad Matta’s team storm back without their main offensive weapons on the court. Both LaQuinton Ross (13.7 PPG) and Lenzelle Smith Jr. (12.7 PPG) were on the bench with just 12 points combined while Aaron Craft and Sam Thompson tied the game by scoring in transition and playing tough defense. During last season’s game in East Lansing, Shannon Scott put up a horrible shot during the final possession of an incredible game. Ironically, he almost won the game this time with a steal and transition layup during the final five seconds of regulation. The star power for Ohio State may not be there right now, but players such as Mark Loving are growing up right in front of our eyes during these games and could end up as household names by the end of March.

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Big Ten M5: 1.09.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on January 9th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. A lot of people have questioned exactly how good Ohio State is this season. With a non-conference schedule that ended up being weaker than originally expected with Marquette, Notre Dame and Maryland all looking mediocre, the marquee win hasn’t come yet. After the Buckeyes overtime loss at Michigan State, Aaron Craft wasn’t shy about it either. The senior said “we haven’t really done much this year,” as their first loss came against their best opponent. It’s a good sign Craft and the other Ohio State players are questioning themselves after Tuesday night and not satisfied with an overtime defeat. This team may not have had a daunting non-conference schedule, but losing in that way with minimal contributions from Lenzelle Smith Jr. and LaQuinton Ross shows this team has the talent and ability to be a contender.
  2. It shouldn’t be a surprise at this point to see games like Tuesday night from Adreian Payne. He has proven to be Michigan State‘s stud on the inside all year, but doing what he did through extreme foot pain? Well, that just adds another layer to the growing lore surrounding the Spartan big man. Payne apparently was in near tears before the Ohio State game while taking shots in the practice gym just an hour before the game. His ability to come out and obviously go through the pain and produce on a high level is something everyone would like to emulate. It also likely adds a nice marquee moment early in the Big Ten season as Payne is taking an early lead for the conference’s Player of the Year.
  3. The beginning of Mitch McGary‘s journey back to the basketball court is done. The Michigan sophomore had surgery Tuesday on his back that has caused him pain since before the season began and started the second semester of classes Wednesday. McGary now starts his rehab, which does not include traveling with the team for most road trips. The stress of sitting in a plane or bus for hours is something John Beilein puts secondary to making sure he recovers quickly.
  4. We’ve all complained (or at least heard someone do so) about the new rules this season. Fouls and free throws are up across the country and for a team like Nebraska this has been an especially big issue. The Cornhuskers committed 51 personal fouls in its first two conference games. For a team that is usually the less talented team on the court, fouling and giving its opponents free throws is something it simply cannot do. While no one expects Nebraska to compete for the Big Ten or to make the NCAA Tournament, a few wins here and there could get them into the CBI or maybe even the NIT, so it is still important they play smart and not help their opponents win the game.
  5. It’s become a familiar thing to hear in West Lafayette. Matt Painter said his team needs to “show maturity” as the Big Ten season progresses while it has the week off before playing Nebraska. For fans of Purdue, this line has become as common as hearing about the team’s youth. It certainly doesn’t lack that, playing three freshmen, one redshirt freshman and only having two seniors on the roster. Still, at this point, everyone on the roster has experienced at least half a college season and the lapses Purdue seems to show in games is perplexing (like the first 30 minutes at Minnesota). Painter never seemed to figure out the issue last year, so if the Boilermakers have any chance of turning the season around and going to the NCAA Tournament he needs to find a way this season. That or Purdue’s looking at the NIT, if not the CBI.
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Otskey’s Observations: Episode VII

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 8th, 2014

Each week throughout the season, RTC columnist Brian Otskey (@botskey) will run down his observations from the previous week of college basketball. 

Baylor Fails To Live Up To The Hype

When I saw the national polls come out this week I was stunned to see Baylor ranked No. 7. Yes, the Bears were 12-1 heading into last night’s Big 12 opener at Iowa State, but I was surprised more pollsters were not able to see through their smoke and mirrors. I rated Baylor No. 19 in the latest RTC Top 25 and thought it was generous given its resume. Of the team’s 12 wins, just three have been quality: Two came in Dallas against Colorado and Kentucky (certainly very fine wins) and one in Maui against Dayton. In other words, Baylor had yet to beat a great team away from home and last night’s game was actually its first true road contest of the season. Scott Drew’s team didn’t exactly validate its lofty ranking after being torched in the second half at Hilton Coliseum last night. BU’s interior defense, normally a strength, was horrendous against the Cyclones, particularly in transition. It almost seems as if Baylor was unprepared for Iowa State’s up-tempo style of basketball. Baylor is not a bad team by any stretch but there just isn’t enough consistency from game to game to warrant such a high ranking. The Bears do a lot of things well and a handful of things poorly. That keeps their ceiling low, despite a ton of talent on the roster.

Kenny Chery and Baylor have some shortcomings to address

Kenny Chery and Baylor have some shortcomings to address

Iowa State is For Real, But Just How Good are the Cyclones?

Speaking of Iowa State, how about the job Fred Hoiberg has done in Ames? In only his fourth year he has made his alma mater relevant in leading it to a top 10 ranking this week. The Cyclones are legitimate and DeAndre Kane is a big reason why. The Marshall transfer is making the most of his one year in Ames as one of the country’s best all-around players. After a season-high 30 points against Baylor last night, Kane seems to be getting even better. Hoiberg really can’t ask for much more from a senior who can run the team, rebound and score efficiently. Iowa State is obviously terrific at home but I would like to see this team perform on the road against better competition before I fully buy in. Don’t get me wrong, the Cyclones are a sure fire top 20 team in my view. However, their toughest road test to date was against a 9-7 BYU team in Provo. With five of their next nine games on the road, the Cyclones will be challenged in a big way against the likes of Kansas and Oklahoma State, as well as upstarts Texas and Oklahoma. While I believe Iowa State is very good, we will know a heck of a lot more about it when the calendar flips to February.

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Three Questions on Ohio State at Michigan State

Posted by Jonathan Batuello & Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on January 7th, 2014

The Big Ten already gave us a Top 25 match-up over the weekend, but tonight it rewards us with a top five game, as No. 3 Ohio State travels to No. 5 Michigan State for a 9:00 PM tip at the Breslin Center. Both teams started the conference slate at 2-0 and this game could be instrumental in how the race eventually shakes out. This is especially important when you consider that both of these teams will play Wisconsin only once at the Kohl Center (Bo Ryan thanks the schedule-makers), so any loss is huge. To get ready for the Big Ten’s biggest game of the year so far, Big Ten microsite writers Deepak Jayanti and Jonathan Batuello got together to answer three key questions going into the game.

Adreian Payne will be key inside for the Spartans as they host Ohio State in the biggest game of the young Big Ten season tonight (AP Photo/Al Goldis).

Adreian Payne will be key inside for the Spartans as they host Ohio State in the biggest game of the young Big Ten season tonight (AP Photo/Al Goldis).

1. Michigan State likes to get into transition while Ohio State would prefer to win with its defense. So, who sets and controls the pace in this game?

  • Deepak Jayanti: Last season, the average number of possessions over the three games between these two teams was 60. The average number of possessions per game in Division I basketball was 65.1, so clearly things tend to slow down when these two defensive-minded teams face off. The Buckeyes’ depth at the guard position will create issues for Michigan State’s Keith Appling because there will be fresh legs guarding him throughout and preventing him from picking up the tempo in transition. Between Aaron Craft, Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson, Thad Matta will rotate his guards against the Michigan State backcourt to help dictate the overall tempo. Without those easy transition baskets, Appling will have to beat Craft off the dribble in the half-court which could be challenging and give an advantage to Ohio State in this game.
  • Jonathan Batuello: Michigan State would love to have its guards get out on the break to limit Ohio State’s defense getting set, but it’s likely that this game will slow down. The biggest reason for this is that both teams play smart offensive basketball that leads to highly efficient scoring. It is much more challenging for teams to get out in transition when your opponent converts, and Ohio State boasts an effective field goal percent of 53.7 percent (45th nationally) and Michigan State is even better at 55.2 percent (18th). For Sparty to push tempo it needs turnovers and missed shots, and Ohio State doesn’t commit many miscues (approximately 10 per game) nor have many ice cold shooting nights. Therefore, expect Michigan State to focus on winning the game using smart possessions instead of trying to create extra ones.

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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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Ohio State’s Keys to Beating Notre Dame Tonight

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 21st, 2013

One of four battles between Big Ten teams and probable NCAA Tournament teams from power conferences will take place in Brooklyn on Saturday when Ohio State (11-0) takes on Notre Dame (8-3). After a disappointing loss to North Dakota State, the Irish righted their ship by knocking off Indiana last Saturday at the Crossroads Classic. Meanwhile, Ohio State is ranked as the #3 team in the country, but hasn’t really played anyone of merit since they bested Maryland about three weeks ago. This one will be highlighted by guard play, but here are a few other things to look for if you’re tuning in this evening after a day of Christmas shopping (7:30 PM EST, ESPN2).

Shannon Scott will be tested by the Notre Dame guards on Saturday night.

Shannon Scott will be tested by the Notre Dame guards on Saturday night.

  • Guard Play will be a key: The best of the individual battles will be in the form of Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins taking on Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott. The Craft and Scott duo will look to do what they do against everyone — pressure and harass. Craft (2.5 SPG) and Scott (2.3 SPG) are first and second, respectively, among Big Ten players in steals per game, but Grant and Atkins are the keys to the Irish protecting the ball at the 18th best rate in the country (14.5 turnovers per 100 possessions). Experience playing under pressure like this might unhinge freshman and sophomore perimeter players, but the Notre Dame duo has been through it before. If Craft and Scott can force a steady diet of turnovers from these veterans — no easy task whatsoever — they can set the tone for an uglier game that eliminates some of the clean looks Notre Dame got against Indiana.

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Otskey’s Observations: Episode VI

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on December 18th, 2013

Battle For Iowa Lived Up To Its Billing

For my money, the best game in recent days was Iowa State’s thrilling win over Iowa on Friday night at Hilton Coliseum. This game was the true essence of what college basketball is all about. It was a heated in-state rivalry between two quality teams in a crazy atmosphere, smack dab in the middle of a basketball-crazed state. It is simple: This was a fun game, period. Although Fred Hoiberg’s Cyclones came away victorious, you may be somewhat surprised to find out that my biggest impression taken from this game was just how good Iowa is. I actually thought the Hawkeyes were the better team for most of this contest. Don’t get me wrong, Iowa State played really well. After all, it beat a team I thought was very impressive so that should tell you something about the Cyclones as well. I thought Iowa had a terrific game plan and evidence of top-notch coaching and scouting was present throughout the game.

Devyn Marble

Devyn Marble and his mates were outstanding. But Iowa State was just a little bit better. (AP)

One specific example of great scouting came late in the first half when Roy Devyn Marble got in the middle of a dribble hand-off by Georges Niang and broke it up, leading to two Iowa points on the other end. Marble read the play perfectly and it paid off for his team. Fran McCaffery’s squad excelled in transition and got almost anything it wanted offensively on the low block with Aaron White leading the charge. Iowa ran some beautiful half-court sets that resulted in plenty of clean looks, especially for White and Marble. The Hawkeyes dominated the glass (but did not take full advantage of it) and answered the bell nearly every time Iowa State put together a charge, except for the final minute where it wound up costing them the game. Iowa simply didn’t make the plays it needed to win late, highlighted by Mike Gesell’s two missed free throws. McCaffery and his team can learn a lot from this game but in the end it is on the players to step up and lead down the stretch. Whether that’s Marble (most likely), White, Gesell, or someone else, Iowa needs someone to be “the man” in order to take the next step and contend at the very highest level in the Big Ten.

Michigan Back On Track?

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Big Ten M5: 12.17.13 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on December 17th, 2013

morning5_bigten

Author’s update: In an earlier version of this M5, I stated that Andre and Austin Hollins were brothers. This was incorrect and they are not related. This post has been revised to correct this error.

  1. Ohio State’s senior point guard Aaron Craft has had a heralded career in Columbus. On Saturday, he put his name in the record books by becoming the school’s all-time assist leader with number 581 against North Dakota State. While Craft’s defensive prowess and leadership have been an integral part of the Buckeyes’ success the last four years, his offensive shortcomings have been a consistent knock. And though he is still averaging less than 10.0 PPG, his win-share per 40 minutes is higher this season than it’s ever been (.226). The senior point guard may never be the offensive star some hoped that he’d grow into, but his contribution and place in history regarding the Buckeyes’ program are already cemented.
  2. When we’re talking about a Hollins going off for Minnesota, we’re almost always talking about Andre. But Austin Hollins likes to remind us every now and then that not only is he the second best player for the Gophers, but he can also go off and drop 20 points in a game. Last week, Austin Hollins scored 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to record his third double-double and surpass 1,000 career points for his career. To top it off, he was named the Big Ten Player of the Week for the first time, an award that Andre hasn’t yet won this season. While it’s clear Andre is the more talented Hollins, it is nice to see Austin get his due too.
  3. The season has been a disappointing one thus far for Purdue, as the Boilermakers were expecting/hoping that the Johnson brothers and A.J. Hammons would be able to show enough leadership to take them back to the NCAA Tournament. While Hammons has not made the “sophomore leap” coach Matt Painter was hoping for, one bright spot may be the emergence of freshman guard Bryson Scott. The young player is one of only three on the team currently averaging double-figure points per game (Terone and Ronnie Johnson are the other two). On Monday, he was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week for the second time this season, coming off an impressive performance (15 points, 6-of-9 FG) against Butler. While Purdue seems likely to miss the NCAA Tournament this season unless things change in a hurry, there still may be some excitement in West Lafayette as Scott challenges in-state rival Noah Vonleh for Big Ten FrOY.
  4. When the AP poll came out on Monday, Wisconsin found itself again at the #4 spot. It has been a spectacular start for the Badgers as they are 12-0 with signature wins against St. John’s, Florida, Virginia and Marquette. They are already an astonishing 9-0 against the RPI Top 100 and are projected to be a #2 seed according to Lunardi’s most recent bracketology. According to ESPN’s replication RPI index, it is the best start for the Badgers in the modern era. If Bo Ryan can keep it going, and there’s every reason to believe he could, he may have his first 30-win and Big Ten championship team since 2008.
  5. Greg Whittington was dismissed from Georgetown earlier this season while still healing from a knee injury, after the talented sophomore had missed all of last season due to academic issues. On Sunday, he announced that he would be transferring to Rutgers, which will be part of the Big Ten by the time he suits up next season. The 6’8″ forward is described as a “difference-maker” who averaged 12.1 points and 7.0 rebounds per game before he was suspended in 2012-13. Not many people are excited about having Rutgers basketball join the Big Ten fray, but Whittington now gives the Scarlet Knights a talented player who will at least keep them intrigued.
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Morning Five: 12.13.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 13th, 2013

morning5

  1. It should not come as a surprise, but yesterday Greg Whittington announced that he intended to transfer to another school. Whittington, who was dismissed from the Georgetown team last month, might be the most sought-after transfer on the market as he averaged 12.1 points and seven rebounds in his first 13 games last season before  before being ruled ineligible for the remainder of the season due to academics. Over the summer, Whittington tore his ACL and was still recovering before being kicked off the team. Whittington has reportedly set a visit at Rutgers this weekend and has been in contact with  Memphis, Nebraska, and South Carolina. As Jeff Goodman notes, there is some question regarding how much eligibility Whittington has remaining since he missed half of last season due to injury and was sitting out this season recovering before being dismissed from the team.
  2. Perhaps he was waiting for an adequate sample size, but in this week’s edition of his Power Rankings Luke Winn brought back the famed Aaron Craft Turnometer and appears to have replaced Russ Smith with Craft’s Ohio State teammate Shannon Scott as the other Turnometer. Surprisingly, Scott is actually outperforming Craft in this metric. Of course, the more impressive thing regardless of whether Scott is actually outdoing Craft on the defensive end is that Ohio State now appears to have two guards playing that level of defense. The other stat that could our eye was the ridiculous three-point shooting from Connectictut. Based on their regular shooting we would expect them to come crashing back to earth pretty soon.
  3. We have heard of many coaches and sports figures donating money to various causes, but we have never heard of one donating money to their employer. Apparently that is what Josh Pastner as he donated $250,000 to the Memphis athletic department. Pastner’s donation will go towards the school’s $40 million fundraising goal, which is aimed at upgrading the school’s athletic facilities. As the school’s athletic director notes it is largest donation ever made by a Memphis coach and frankly we do not understand why he would do it. We could understand a former coach doing it, but for a fifth-year coach who at times has been mentioned as being on the hot seat it seems kind of ridiculous.
  4. With the much-discussed rule changes one of the biggest points of debate is how they are affecting games. The best way to do this is by looking at the numbers and the NCAA has done just that releasing its data as of December 8, 2013. According to the NCAA’s analysis the effects are encouraging with scoring up, shooting percentage up, and turnovers down. As the NCAA admits it might be too early in the season to read too much into these numbers. Perhaps the most surprising number is that team fouls are only up by less than two fouls per game. So while the popular narrative is that foul calls are out of control the data does not appear to back that up.
  5. The NCAA might take a cursory overview of the statistics, but if you want an in-depth analysis you have to go to Ken Pomeroy who broke down the turnover issue into steal turnovers and non-steal turnovers. For some reason, Pomeroy decided to use this post to try to figure out if charges are coming back into the game as the year goes on even though he does not even try to measure them directly. We won’t bother with that because it seems like a flawed assumption. What the post is good for is actually looking at the numbers that he measured. As you would expect steals have dropped with fouls being called more tightly (or at least that is the way it is perceived). On the other hand although non-steal turnovers have also decreased they are approaching prior years.
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Big Ten M5: 12.05.13 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on December 5th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. The Big Ten and ACC played to a 6-6 tie after last night’s game, but the conference appears to win in one way. Some of of USA Today’s college basketball writers got together and almost all of them put the Big Ten ahead of the ACC and every other conference in terms of supremacy. With the loss of talent from the B1G last year and the ACC adding Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, it seemed like the conference power rankings may switch back to the coast. From top-to-bottom, though, the Big Ten seems to once again be the best in the country. Every team in the conference has a chance to beat almost anyone. Minnesota, Purdue and Northwestern have players, Penn State has a great guard duo and even Nebraska has shown life with wins over mediocre Georgia and Miami teams. The top of the conference may not have two or three national championship contenders, but the conference season will be a grind for Big Ten teams with no nights of an almost assured win.
  2. It wasn’t a pretty ending for Indiana in its 69-52 loss to Syracuse, and Tom Crean certainly wasn’t happy about it either. He called it the worst performance by one of his teams in his coaching career and said that it “sickened my stomach.” Point noted, Crean, as the Hoosiers were blown out in the second half after being tied 33-33. This is a young Hoosiers team, so the issues of “youth, inexperience and lack of leadership” make sense. Specifically put this on Yogi Ferrell and Will Sheehey, the latter of whom had as many fouls as points and rebounds combined with three. For Indiana to go beyond just a middle of the pack Big Ten team it will need these two players to take over as leaders on and off the court. Most troubling is Ferrell saying there were Hoosier players in the locker room who seemed like they didn’t believe the team could win. Ferrell and Sheehey will need to stop that talk if Indiana has any intention of competing for the top of the Big Ten going against competition like Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin.
  3. Tom Crean wasn’t the only one calling something terrible after a Big Ten team’s loss in the B1G/ACC Challenge. IllinoisJohn Groce also called his team’s execution “absolutely pathetic” following its lose to Georgia Tech 67-64. He is likely referring to his team only making one basket in the last nine minutes of the game as it blew a 12-point lead. One big question for this team coming into the year was who would take over when most needed. Rayvonte Rice still performed well with 24 points, but once he stopped scoring no one on the team could pick up the slack. This is something to keep an eye on throughout the year, because the team needs more than just Rice to come up in need.
  4. In the age of celebrity scandals and Twitter arguments, sometimes it’s nice to see a basketball with a “good guy” perception seem to, well, legitimately be a good guy. Aaron Craft is an absolute menace on the court, as he was last night in with 10 points and five steals in Ohio State’s 76-60 win over Maryland. Off the court, though, his biggest vice according to his roommates is a “scoop.” A scoop of ice cream that is. This behind-the-scenes look at Craft’s life on campus and through talking to his roommates hits on a lot of good points. We’ve all heard about his academics, but also noting that he doesn’t go to bars or curse, and that his roommates “Taco Tursday” tradition drew 1000 people in an Ohio State event is enjoyable. If you want to read about a college athlete not dealing with a rape scandal or public intoxication, you’ll enjoy this story.
  5. That’s the Wisconsin we have grown accustomed to seeing. This year, the Badgers scoring has been up thanks to slightly faster play and terrific shooting, but last night they got back to winning a low-scoring game against Virginia 48-38. Wisconsin shot 28.8 percent from the field, which is the lowest a Bo Ryan coached team has shot and still won the game since 2001. For a team that had been shooting lights out this season, it’s a good sign to know the defense can still carry the Badgers to victory. It won’t always be able to hit 43.6 percent of threes in games. The Badgers will have to win some of these low-scoring affairs once the Big Ten season rolls around and this showed it hasn’t forgotten how to win ugly.
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ACC/Big Ten Challenge Presents Giant Opportunity For Michigan

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 2nd, 2013

What to Make of Michigan Heading to Duke in the Headliner of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge

Nobody ever said life after Trey Burke was going to be easy. Despite entering the season with both a top 10 ranking and preseason All-American (again) to lead the way, John Beilein had to know that this group of Wolverines would be a work in progress. Gone was not only the transcendent Burke, but also backcourt mate Tim Hardaway, Jr., a highly accomplished player in his own right. Also of concern: The fact that this year’s preseason All-American, Mitch McGary, entered the season on the mend. The bruising sophomore is recovering from a back injury, and even with a (relatively) healthy back a season ago, he had averaged only 7.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game as he got acclimated to college basketball. Was he really ready to deliver All-American type production? Every team entered this season with question marks, but Michigan faced as many as any of their preseason top-10 cohabitants.

Michigan And Mitch McGary Will Attempt To Reassert Themselves At Cameron Indoor On Tuesday Night

Michigan And Mitch McGary Will Attempt To Reassert Themselves At Cameron Indoor On Tuesday Night

The Wolverines are now seven games into the season, and the top-10 ranking is gone. The same cannot be said for those pesky preseason questions. Michigan is 5-2 on the year, with an overtime victory over Florida State ranking as its lone victory of consequence (seriously, the average Pomeroy rating for the other four Wolverine conquests is 297). The back injury ultimately caused McGary to miss just two games, but his production since returning has hardly been like that of an All-American: 8.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.0 BPG in 25 minutes per game. I’m not in the habit of judging a guy off of five post-injury games, but the jury remains out on whether McGary can live up to those expansive preseason expectations.

Nor has a verdict been offered on the Michigan point guard situation. Nobody expected Derrick Walton to become Trey Burke, but the freshman has averaged nearly as many turnovers (2.4 per game) as assists (3.3 per game), while also ceding crunch time minutes to backup Spike Albrecht. In the two Michigan losses (to Iowa State and Charlotte), Walton has averaged just 19 minutes a game. Clearly John Beilein is not ready to fully hand over the reins to the talented youngster, but like McGary, there’s still plenty of time for Walton to grow into his expected role.

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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume I

Posted by jbaumgartner on November 18th, 2013

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…. starting this year off with what for my money was the best preseason event in recent memory. Combining the history of the Duke/Kansas/Kentucky/Michigan State programs with the incredible talent those squads have this year was a November treat for any college basketball fan who has grown tired of the NFL’s unthinkably terrible Monday/Thursday schedule this fall. Michael Wilbon said it right in his column after the game — this type of night makes college basketball relevant earlier in the year and gets people paying attention before January. I think you saw that same sentiment from those coaches, too, in their postgame interviews – this was not your ordinary non-conference event.

I LOVED…. Jabari Parker. When I look at freshmen now, I put them through what I call the Kevin Durant Eye Test. When you saw Durant during his unbelievable freshman year at Texas, you stopped doing whatever it was you were previously doing. You thought, no way is this kid this big with these type of perimeter skills and that feathery stroke. No way is he only 18, and no way would he not be making an impact on an NBA team right now. Parker passed that test, and this year is going to be fun.

Parker and Friends are Worth Stopping What You’re Doing to Watch Them

I LOVED…. that I still had to think about if the night’s star was Parker, because UK’s Julius Randle (Zach Randolph should sue for post-game style patent infringement) and KU’s Andrew Wiggins (who woke up for the second half against Duke to remind us what all the hype was about) delivered similarly eye-opening performances. I also loved that for how great Parker and Randle were, it was the more-balanced Jayhawks and Spartans that came out on top.

I LOVED…. Kevin Ware back on the floor. It’s hard to remember the last time that everyone wanted to see a kid back on his feet more than Ware, whose gruesome injury last March caused America to collectively turn their heads away from the TV set. Making his first three-pointer was pretty great, but I loved this past week even more when Ware cut into the lane and bounced off of a two-foot jump stop for a high-flying finger roll at the cup. What a great story.

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