Big Ten Team Previews: Iowa Hawkeyes

Posted by KTrahan on October 16th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Big Ten microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Where we left off: Last time we saw Iowa, the Hawkeyes were getting run over for 108 points by Oregon in the second round of the NIT. Of course, it was an accomplishment for the program to even get back to the NIT after a promising season, and now, with a number of stars back, Iowa is looking to take the next step to the NCAA Tournament. Head coach Fran McCaffery has done a good job of turning the team around, and now, in year three, expectations are high. Clearly McCaffery has his team on the right track, but is this the year Iowa finally makes it back to the NCAA Tournament? There is a lot of inexperience on parts of the court, but enough talent is certainly there for the Hawkeyes to make a run.

Fran McCaffery Has His Team on the Right Track (credit: AP)

Positives: Iowa’s biggest strength this winter will be its depth, and in fact, that could represent the most difficult part of McCaffery’s job. The Hawkeyes may have a hard time finding playing time for everyone with so much returning experience and new talent. Junior guard Roy Devyn Marble and sophomore forward Aaron White are locks to start, and they’ll likely be joined by junior forward Melsahn Basabe and freshman point guard Mike Gesell, but after that, the distribution of minutes gets foggy. Junior forward Zach McCabe will likely see considerable minutes, as will freshman center Adam Woodbury, but sophomore center Gabe Olaseni, who McCaffery calls the team’s most improved player, will also be slated for some time. In the backcourt, sophomore shooting specialist Josh Oglesby, freshman point guard Anthony Clemmons and senior Eric May will all push for playing time. There are a lot of different looks that this team can show, and while it might be difficult to figure out playing time, that’s a very good problem to have.

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Big Ten Weekly Five: 09.28.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on September 28th, 2012

  1. Illinois head coach John Groce could have pulled off one of the best recruiting months of Illini basketball if top 30 recruit Demetrius Jackson would have chosen to play college basketball in Champaign. But instead, one of the best point guards of his class decided to play for Notre Dame instead of Illinois. Illini fans were already excited when Kendrick Nunn, a 6’2″ shooting guard and top 75 recruit, committed earlier in September, but they eagerly waited for Jackson’s decision on September 27. The combination of Jackson and Nunn would have set Illinois back on track to competing for Big Ten titles and beyond. Malcolm Hill, a 6’5″ wing and a top 100 recruit, will join Nunn next year as Groce continues to impress the Orange Krush with his recruiting prowess. Tracy Abrams (4.3 PPG, 2.3 RPG) and Joseph Bertrand (6.5 PPG, 2.7 RPG) will most likely be back next season to star in the uptempo, guard-oriented offense that Groce plans to implement at Illinois.
  2. Continuing with the recruiting theme, Tom Izzo‘s recent interview with the Detroit Free Press touches on several topics about his recruiting philosophy. Never hesitant to be candid about this opinion, Izzo discussed his view on the “one-and-done” type of recruits. Izzo says, “I never shied away from getting the one-and-done guy but I don’t think I want too many of them.” He also praised John Calipari for his coaching job with last year’s group of freshmen but Izzo prefers to be around a group of veterans. Over the years, several great four-year players have passed through Izzo’s system such as Mateen Cleaves, Kalin Lucas and most recently, Draymond Green. Michigan State is one of several teams that are chasing one of the best high school prospects of 2013, Jabari Parker, a forward from Chicago. Even though Izzo doesn’t consistently recruit top 10 classes, he is among the best in the business in terms of player development because his players consistently improve their game over their time in East Lansing.
  3. Speaking of highly recruited players, Hawkeye fans have to be excited about their freshmen class for the upcoming season. Fran McCafferey landed a top 25 recruiting class last season and the freshmen will be under the spotlight this season trying to prove their preseason hype on the court. Adam Woodbury, a 7’1″ center and a top 50 recruit, hopes to provide a much-needed presence in the paint in addition to returning senior forward Melsahn Basabe who averaged 4.8 RPG during the 2011-12 season. Another top 100 recruit, Mike Gesell, should be part of the rotation because he is a true point guard. Both of the freshmen ought to pick up McCafferey’s uptempo offense  (65.8 possessions per game) fairly quickly but don’t necessarily need presume any major offensive responsibilities during their first season. Returning wings Roy Devyn Marble (11.5 PPG) and Zach McCabe (7.8 PPG) will carry the primary scoring responsibilities during this season.
  4. Midnight Madness has become an annual television event on the ESPN family of networks. Marquee programs such as Michigan State and Kentucky are on TV and tens of thousands of fans show up for the first main event of the hoops season. Tom Crean and his Indiana Hoosiers will hold a closed practice on October 12 that will be aired on ESPNU as part of the Midnight Madness festivities. Former interim coach and current ESPN basketball analyst Dan Dakich will be in Bloomington for the event and Crean will also wear a microphone during the practice. The Hoosiers will also be one of the most televised teams this season as they are scheduled to appear 12 times on ESPN and three times on CBS this year.
  5. Do you prefer computers to determine the preseason rankings? Or would you rather have coaches and media vote for their Top 25 based on their knowledge of the teams? If you prefer the latter, you probably won’t agree with Dan Hanner of UM Hoops who ranks Michigan outside of the Top 25 for the upcoming season. Most of the publications already released have Michigan listed as a top 10 team but nobody else believes that they belong outside of the top 25, especially with three key returning players – Tim Hardaway, Jr., Jordan Morgan and Trey Burke — on the roster. Hanner cites the departure of two seniors, Zach Novak and Stu Douglass, as one of the main reasons for Michigan’s drop in his rankings. Novak’s 41% shooting from beyond the arc along with Douglass’ versatility to play point guard will be missed, but it may not linger throughout the season. Losing seniors will always hurt a young team but John Beilein has the non-conference season to figure out how to incorporate star freshmen Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III into his rotation. As long as Burke and Hardaway take on the challenge of guiding the younger players, Beilein’s crew should be ready to compete for the Big Ten conference title and a trip to the Final Four.
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Big Ten Season Wrap-Up: Iowa

Posted by jnowak on May 22nd, 2012

Let’s not be fooled by the Matt Gatens Show we all witnessed  at the end of the season. (Though, give credit where credit is due — he was fantastic.) This is a talented young club that is on the rise and has the potential to give some conference teams fits in the near future, given their fast-paced style of basketball in the rough-and-tumble Big Ten. But as good as this team was on the offensive end (third in the conference) it was even more dismal on the defensive end (last place). That discrepancy must improve for Iowa to have a shot at becoming a contender in the conference. Let’s take a look back at the year that was:

Matt Gatens was one of the Big Ten's best players down the stretch. (Andy Lyons, Getty Images)

  • In a nutshell: Fran McCaffery‘s run-and-gun style of offense is really starting to take shape in Iowa City, where the Hawkeyes averaged 73 PPG, third only behind Ohio State and Indiana. It helped that the Hawkeyes led the conference in steals, but the wins didn’t add up in spite of the offense due to the dismal defense (allowing 72.5 PPG). Gatens, who worked his way onto the All-Big Ten Third Team thanks to his team-best 15.7 PPG and late-season spurt, did all he could. He got some help from promising sophomores Melsahn Basabe and Roy Devyn Marble, who are sure to be key pieces in the future.
  • Overachievement: The Big Ten had absolutely no shortage of impact freshmen (see Trey Burke, Cody Zeller, Branden Dawson, et al) but Aaron White was a somewhat unexpected yet consistent force for Iowa. He averaged 10.4 points and 5.5 rebounds per game as a newcomer and, in a few more years, could definitely show Big Ten Player of the Year-type talent. He was rated by Rivals as just a three-star recruit out of high school, but showed his big-game mettle by scoring 47 points in Iowa’s two NIT games. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten Morning Five: 03.14.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on March 14th, 2012

  1. Perhaps no Big Ten team was happier on Selection Sunday than Indiana, who has waited three long years to return to the NCAA Tournament. After suffering through three straight seasons of 20 or more losses,  it feels good to have things going back in a positive direction for the Hoosier faithful. Among other interesting notes, IU has played eight teams that are in this year’s NCAA Tournament, and went 8-5 against them. Granted, more than half were in-conference foes, but that win over #1-overall-seed Kentucky certainly stands out.
  2. If they were disappointed that their team didn’t make the NCAA Tournament, you certainly couldn’t have figured that out from the way Iowa fans acted during their first round NIT win over Dayton last night.  Hawkeye fans got the party started when they were asked to stand for the National Anthem, and kept the volume turned up the entire game, as Aaron White put up a career-high 25 points in the victory.  Not only was Carver-Hawkeye Arena one of the toughest places Dayton has played this year, but it was also more full than usual, even with the student body on spring break.
  3. Michigan State enters the NCAA Tournament as the highest-rated seed among Big Ten schools.  The Spartans earned their #1 distinction after a thrilling win in the Big Ten Tournament final. After coming home from Indianapolis on their bus, the team was greeted by fallen comrade Branden Dawson. It was there in the Breslin Center locker room that the players held a impromptu net-cutting ceremony specifically for Dawson, who underwent surgery for his torn ACL and didn’t make the trip with the team to the tournament.  It is that kind of chemistry that defines this Spartan squad, and has people asking how far it can take MSU.
  4. For Michigan fans, it was a little ironic to see that the Wolverines drew Ohio University in its first game.  Head football coach Brady Hoke has famously referred to Ohio State as “Ohio” during his first year as head man of the program, and John Beilein has caught the “Ohio” fever and followed suit.  Now, Michigan will play the “real” Ohio, and Beilien is trying to prepare for the Bobcats.  Ohio head coach John Groce was a former assistant at OSU, and that only adds to the spice of what already will be an interesting way to find out “what’s in a name?”
  5. You have to feel for Northwestern, as missing the NCAA Tournament yet again was frustrating for players and fans alike. One play they are familiar with is the NIT, where they are competing for the fourth straight year, holding on to defeat Akron last night to advance to the next round.  But with dreams of the Big Dance dashed, the NIT can be a tough sell for fans who want to see the program take the next step.  It would be a statement of sorts to win the NIT, and possibly gather some momentum for next season as the program still looks to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time.
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Four Game Recaps: Big Ten Tournament First Round

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on March 9th, 2012

Here’s a breakdown on how things went down in the Big Ten tournament’s first day of action:

Matt Gatens led Iowa to a big win over Illinois (Andy Lyons, Getty Images)

Iowa 64 – Illinois 61

The skinny: It’s been a tough season for Illini fans, and now (some would say thankfully) it is over. Myers Leonard was a force down low for Illinois, scoring 18 points and grabbing six boards, but Brandon Paul struggled his way to four points on 2-11 shooting. Meanwhile, Matt Gatens continued his solid senior season with 20 points to lead the Hawkeyes, but it was his defense on Paul that really was the difference in this contest for Iowa. Head coach Fran McCaffery complained earlier this week about Gatens not being included on the all-Big Ten defensive team, and the senior looked every bit an elite-level stopper in this match-up. All-Big Ten freshman Aaron White had 13 points and 9 rebounds including a key offensive board with about 40 seconds left after a missed free throw by Roy Devyn Marble that helped seal the game for Iowa.

Up next: The #8-seed Hawkeyes will face #1-seed Michigan State at noon today. Iowa only played the Spartans once this season, falling 95-61 in a game at East Lansing on January 10.

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Big Ten Morning Five: 03.06.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on March 6th, 2012

  1. The Big Ten Championship may be split three ways, but don’t tell Michigan that it doesn’t mean something.  The Wolverines did their part by beating Penn State on Sunday and then watched as OSU got past MSU and helped turn Michigan into co-champions.  Disappointment reigned in East Lansing, but for the Maize and Blue, they feel like they’ve earned this banner.  Michigan hasn’t won a conference title since 1986, so even an tri-shared one is a big deal for John Beilein and his players.
  2. There may be a bitter taste in Spartan fans’ mouths after missing an opportunity to claim an outright championship on Sunday, but Michigan State has plenty to be proud of regarding this season and they also have individual hardware to remember it by.  Tom Izzo and senior forward Draymond Green picked up some honors, as Izzo was named Big Ten Coach of the Year and Green was named Big Ten Player of the Year.  For Izzo, it is his third COY award, and Green was also the only unanimous selection to the all-Big Ten first team as well as being voted onto the all-defensive squad.
  3. One of the best debates in the conference this season was whether Cody Zeller or Trey Burke was having a better freshman season.  Both made a huge impact on their respective teams and both were named Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Year.  Each player was also named to the all-Big Ten second team, cementing their spot as big-time players in the conference, even as true freshman.  Burke was chosen by the media, and Zeller by the coaches in the award voting.  Let the debate continue!
  4. For Robbie Hummel, his journey at Purdue has been both successful and frustrating.  His battle with multiple injuries is well-documented, but his play on the floor has always been top-notch when his body has cooperated.  Hummel became just the third player in Purdue history to be named to the all-Big Ten first team three times in his career.  All the rehabilitation and hard work Hummel had to put in just to get back on the court was well worth it, as he returned to form and had another great season for the Boilermakers.
  5. Iowa was represented on the postseason award squads, with senior Matt Gatens named to the all-Big Ten second team by the media (third by the coaches), and freshman forward Aaron White selected to the all-Big Ten freshman squad.  But head coach Fran McCaffery still had some questions about where his players and others were placed.  McCaffery thought Gatens deserved all-Big Ten defensive team honors, and had other questions about guys like Cody Zeller and Tim Frazier.
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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.17.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on February 17th, 2012

  1. Wednesday night’s 67-62 loss to Purdue may have been the nail in the coffin as far as Bruce Weber‘s job goes at Illinois, and it only seems more so when you hear the coach address the situation. Weber sounded defeated after the game, claiming responsibility for many of the team’s shortcomings and admitting he should have done some things differently to help the Fighting Illini better succeed. “The sad thing about the whole thing — and I guess it’s my fault — is instead of creating toughness and developing a team, I coached not to lose all year,” Weber said, according to the Decatur Herald-Review. “That’s really sad.”
  2. What a difference a year makes in Bloomington. As the Indianapolis Star‘s Bob Kravitz points out, it wasn’t long ago that 20-win seasons were the norm for the Indiana basketball program. Then Kelvin Sampson happened. Tom Crean was brought in to pick up the pieces and, all of a sudden, Hoosiers fans were stuck with 20-loss seasons instead. But after going 12-20 a season ago, the Hoosiers have reached that 20-win plateau and it seems finally safe to say that basketball is back in Bloomington.
  3. When you think of great freshmen in the Big Ten, the names that quickly come to mind are Cody Zeller, Trey Burke, and Branden Dawson. But Iowa‘s Aaron White has been as good as any newcomer this season, and seems to have quite the future ahead of him with the Hawkeyes. White is averaging 10.2 PPG and a team-best 5.2 RPG and, after he was only lightly recruited out of high school, is quickly making coach Fran McCaffery look very bright for bringing him on board.
  4. Earlier this week, we took a look at the Big Ten’s four legitimate title contenders and what their remaining schedules mean for their quest for the crown. On Thursday, AnnArbor.com‘s Nick Baumgardner examined the four most important players for those contenders. And if you think the list is a no-brainer, with guys like Big Ten Player of the Year candidates Jared Sullinger and Draymond Green, think again.
  5. Michigan State‘s do-everything senior Draymond Green likes to talk a big game, but he’s also shown that he can back it up. Green is one of just a handful of front-runners for Big Ten Player of the Year,  but says he sometimes wishes he was playing in the past. “They changed the rules,” Green told the Detroit Free Press, in reference to the difference between the game now and in the ’80s. Not just all the talking, but “you could chuck somebody and get away with it. You could slam somebody and get away with it.” Right now, Green will have to settle for letting his game do most of the talking.
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Checking In On… the Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 14th, 2012

Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference. Follow him on Twitter (@Bill_Hupp) for his thoughts on hoops, food, PR, interesting fridge magnets and life.

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was:

  • House of Payne: Michigan State sophomore center Adreian Payne picked an excellent time to have the game of his career. The 6’11’’ sophomore has shown flashes of potential this year, but was particularly efficient against Ohio State. Payne finished 6-6 from the field for 15 points, grabbed four boards and blocked two shots – and more importantly, he frustrated Ohio State star Jared Sullinger with his wiry athleticism on the defensive end. Sure, Sullinger finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds, but he also turned it over 10 times and seemed to let the refs affect his play.
  • Woes of Weber: That smoke you see emanating from Champaign might be coming from Bruce Weber’s increasingly hot seat. New AD Mike Thomas has already shown one under-performing head coach (Ron Zook) the door, and now the Illini have gone from leading the Big Ten at 4-1 to dropping six of their last seven and in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament. As many Illinois fans will attest, this team just makes too many of the same frustrating mistakes on a continuous basis.
  • Hummel A Handful: The Robbie Hummel that Boilermaker fans have been waiting for all season long finally emerged on Saturday against Northwestern. The senior tallied a season-high 27 points, nine rebounds and a couple blocks while logging 39 minutes of playing time. As badly as Northwestern needed to win that game, it was equally as valuable to Purdue, which couldn’t afford drop back-to-back games at Mackey Arena (especially with Michigan State coming to town in a week).

Tom Izzo Has The Spartans Vying For The Top Spot In The Conference.

Power Rankings

  1. Michigan State (20-5, 9-3) – An even more impressive factor in Michigan State’s recent success is that they’re winning despite the shaky play of Keith Appling. The sophomore point guard seemed to be turning the corner in his new position early in the conference season, but he’s taken a few steps back since then. His accuracy from distance has slipped from 41% to 27% this season, and he had seven turnovers with no assists in their win over Ohio State.
  2. Ohio State (21-4, 9-3) – Where has the Bucks’ offense gone? In two of their last three games, OSU has been held under 53 points. Granted, their opponents were defensive stalwarts Wisconsin and Michigan State, but still, this a team that is second in the Big Ten in scoring offense at nearly 73 points per game. Read the rest of this entry »
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Fran-tic Resurgence of Iowa Basketball

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on February 3rd, 2012

For the past five seasons, Big Ten fans outside of Iowa looked through schedules in November and were upset if their team only played the Hawkeyes once. They wanted to pick up two easy wins.  That won’t happen anymore, not with Fran McCaffery around. McCaffery came to Iowa from the east coast to change the culture around the program and make an immediate impact.  Every coach says the right stuff during the introductory news conference but it doesn’t always translate to more wins. In Iowa’s case, however, those wins have come during his second season – already surpassing last year’s overall season total with more than a third of the conference schedule left on the plate. More importantly, the attitude and the brand of the Hawkeye basketball program has changed in 2012.  McCaffery is rubbing off on the program and the results show on the court.

McCaffery Has Brought A New Culture to Iowa (AP/C. Neibergall)

The 53-year-old coach keeps it simple but intense.  Intense may not begin to describe his behavior during the game or behind closed doors in practice. If you haven’t heard about the best chair-related tirade in the Big Ten since Bobby Knight chucked one across the floor in the ‘80s, you are missing out.  During a blowout (down 69-41) at East Lansing against Michigan State, McCaffrey blew a gasket halfway through the second half.  In addition to getting a technical, he yelled at his players during the timeout and slammed a chair on the court.  As an outsider, there are two aspects of the incident that stick out as positives. Most tirades by a head coach result in the assistants trying to gang-tackle him so he doesn’t get kicked out of the game, but not in this case.  Every one of his assistants was just as upset with the pace of the game and their players.  The head coach was frustrated with his players because they could not adjust and match the physicality of the Michigan State Bruisers.  Neither McCaffery nor his staff will settle for excuses.  His intensity is contagious because Iowa may not have the most talented or mature team, but they will play with a chip on their shoulder every single night. Rebuilding teams can’t afford to pity themselves and blame the referees for losses.

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RTC Summer Updates: Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 8th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Big Ten correspondent, Will Green.

Readers’ Take

Summer Storylines 

  • Sully’s Back, But With Demands – In the year 2011, in the age of ‘now,’ in a profit-first educate-yourself-later society, amidst a flittering of teenage NBA draft picks, ferocious freshman phenomenon Jared Sullinger decided to stay in school. How quaint. Of course, there’s absolutely nothing quaint about Sullinger, his (rightly) assumed sense of on-court leadership, his brutally physical style of play, or that Ja Rule-esque snarl that makes him look like a squirrel who just ate a questionable nut. But seriously, it’s highly unlikely that anyone other than Jordan Taylor will stand in the way of Sullinger winning the Big Ten Player of the Year Award, and rightfully so. He has spent the better part of the off-season slimming down and getting faster. The best player on the best team in the conference simply can’t suffer a slump; he’s worked too hard and has clearly made a commitment to improving his game before leaving for the pros. The question is less about what Sullinger’s level of performance will be than it is about the effect his performance will have on other members of his team. Last year, his 17 /10 were a reflection of consistent contribution that was also part of a greater team-wide cohesion. Jon Diebler, David Lighty and even Dallas Lauderdale each had pronounced and vital roles on last year’s team. They’re all gone now. While some of the supporting cast and several new stars-in-the-making will join Sullinger, will increased reliance upon him make OSU more of a one-man show? Or will the Buckeyes continue to roll out a team-focused squad with four scorers in double figures and a core group of five guys who notch 30 minutes a game? Whatever happens, Sullinger will be back and he will be better than last year. Consider yourself warned.
  • Welcome, Nebraska – On July 1, Nebraska officially joined the B1G, an acronym whose ludicrousness we continue to subconsciously validate by pronouncing it ‘Bih-one-ggg’. If you’re scoring at home, UNL’s entry makes for 12 teams in the Big Ten, a conference that shouldn’t be confused with the Big 12, which only has ten teams now since Nebraska left it. Now that we’ve all scratched our heads for second, we should pause to consider how massive the amount of potential football revenue must have been to persuade the intransigent Big Ten to alter its ranks. The Cornhuskers’ inclusion marks only the second change in league makeup since the 1950s. So how will the other 11 schools adjust to the adjustment? Football-wise, they should all watch their backs. On the basketball court, though, it probably won’t have a big (or should we say, a ‘B1G’) impact. Sadly for Husker fans, their roundball team loses two of their top three scorers and has some major offensive issues to solve in a league whose tempo of play limits even the country’s very best offenses. Head coach Doc Sadler continues to recruit a healthy mix of transfers and high school players, but over his five-year tenure nine of them have left due to reasons other than matriculation or the NBA. Nebraska has had some encouraging moments in recent years, including a five game improvement in Big 12 play from 2009 to 2010 (from 2-14 to 7-9). The team’s defensive efficiency would’ve finished fourth and it’s adjusted tempo would’ve finished fourth slowest in last year’s Big Ten. In some respects, Nebraska feels like a perfect match for the conference. And yet, for many of those same reasons, it might be a little out-matched in its first few years.
  • Ed DeChellis Leaves For Navy – Nowadays, stories like these are rarer than that bloody slice of carpaccio you once had at a fancy restaurant: a coach leaving a higher paying, higher-infrastructure, higher strength-of-schedule situation for a middle of the pack team in a unambiguously low-major conference. Make no mistake: Ed DeChellis didn’t become the new head coach at Navy. He stopped being the head coach at Penn State. Unless they’re ousted via scandal or especially egregious results you simply don’t hear about power six coaches voluntarily leaving for a “lesser” job. And yet, that’s exactly what happened. Or is it? The answer to that question centers around just how much “less” of a job the Navy coaching position really is, and if anything DeChellis might have done warranted the move. The wink-wink nudge-nudge consensus is that while DeChellis didn’t necessarily knock anyone’s socks off, the school refuses to take basketball seriously. Some have lambasted the athletic department’s commitment to DeChellis and the program overall at a school that’s known best for intense linebackers and an 84 year-old Italian-American man. It will be interesting to observe new head coach Patrick Chambersin his first few seasons and see whether or not he runs into a similar set of struggles as DeChellis did during his tenure. If the holistic drawbacks of coaching in University Park really outweigh the benefits to the extent that someone would walk away from the position, then PSU has bigger problems to fix than figuring out how to win in the Big Ten this season. But if anyone can overcome whatever said “drawbacks” may or may not be, it’s Chambers.

    The Buckeyes, led by big man Jared Sullinger, are easy favorites in the Big Ten.

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Conference Report Card: Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 13th, 2011


John Templon is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten conference. We will be publishing a series of conference report cards over the next week for conferences that got multiple NCAA bids to recap the conference, grade the teams, and look at the future for the conference.

Conference Recap

  • Coming into the season, the Big Ten was considered the best conference in America. Michigan State was expected to be in the Final Four again and Purdue, Ohio State, and Illinois were expected to be among the nation’s elite. Then the season started and the conference slipped a bit. The Big Ten didn’t live up to its lofty billing, with the exception of Ohio State, which sat at #1 in the polls for a large part of the season. Of course, Robbie Hummel’s knee injury didn’t help Purdue. Illinois wilted under the weight of too much talent and not enough leadership, whereas Michigan State just never seemed to find its footing against a difficult schedule.
  • As conference play went on, all the teams beat up on each other, creating a mess in the middle and leading to four teams (Michigan, Illinois, Michigan State and Penn State) receiving seeds between 8-10 in the NCAA Tournament. The conference went 2-2 in those games. But the disappointment in the NCAA Tournament came from the top seeds that failed to live up to expectations. Ohio State, the #1 overall seed, was dispatched by Kentucky in the Sweet 16 in Newark. Then again, that was better than Purdue managed to do, as the Boilermakers fell to VCU in Chicago. Wisconsin made it to New Orleans, but Brad Stevens outcoached Bo Ryan and the Badgers lost to a lower-seeded team once again.
  • Those losses meant the Big Ten finished a season of much promise with zero teams in the Elite Eight. Much like the conference’s well-publicized bowl game problems, the postseason left a sour taste after many teams played good basketball during the regular season.

The postseason was a struggle for everyone in the Big Ten, even Final Four regular Tom Izzo and his Spartans, which had to make a late run to even crack the field.

Team-by-Team Grades

A’s:

  • Michigan (A): Before the season the Wolverines were expected to compete with Iowa and Indiana to avoid the basement in the Big Ten standings. By the end of it, they were scaring #1 seed Duke in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. It was a remarkable job by JohnBeilein to get a young team ready to play. Darius Morris was the engine of the turnaround. The sophomore point guard scored 15.0 points per game and dished out 6.7 assists per game while leading a team composed of mostly freshman and sophomores. Tim HardawayJr., a freshman, was the team’s only other double-digit scorer at 13.9 points per game. Michigan didn’t have a single senior on its roster this season and, with two more talented backcourt recruits in CarltonBrundidge and TreyBurke coming in, it appears to be ready to be a big player in the conference moving forward although they are still waiting on Morris to officially decide on whether he will enter the NBA Draft.
  • Ohio State (A-): The Buckeyes didn’t get it done in the NCAA Tournament, but they were the #1 team in the polls for most of the season and had the best freshman in the country in Jared Sullinger. The loss to Kentucky certainly put a damper on the season. Still, Ohio State went 34-3 with its only two regular season losses being at Purdue and Wisconsin in conference play. David Lighty, DallasLauderdale, and JonDiebler all graduate, but if Sullinger is serious about sticking around the Buckeyes will be a national title favorite again next season. Especially considering they have two McDonald’s All-Americans in point guard ShannonScott and center AmirWilliams coming in along with small forwards SamThompson and LaQuintonRoss. It’s Thad Matta’s typical reload instead of rebuild plan.
  • Penn State (A-): Qualifying for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a decade makes the Nittany Lions’ season a success. Even though they lost to in-state rival Temple in the second round, 66-64, it was a thrilling game to end a satisfying season that included victories over Wisconsin (twice), Illinois, and Michigan State (twice). Oh, and a loss to Maine. Talor Battle finally got his chance to go to the NCAA Tournament and finished his career with 2,213 points, 624 rebounds, and 517 assists. He’ll certainly be missed next season along with frontcourt veterans David Jackson and JeffBrooks. Thus, Penn State has some size coming in with two 6’11 centers in PatAckerman and PeterAlexis, but the program is probably due for a bit of a backslide.

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Recruiting Rumor Mill: 10.11.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 11th, 2010

After a few weeks of huge commitments this week was a little more quiet as it seems like most of the big pieces have committed with the exception of Quincy Miller, LeBryan Nash, and Adonis Thomas, but don’t forget that none of the currently committed players have done more than verbally commit and we all know how fickle teenagers can be so we could see some minds change between now and Signing Day. Having said that there were a few notable commitments this week and other news worth following.

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