Big Ten M5: 01.09.13 Edition

Posted by jnowak on January 9th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. Here’s something we don’t see coming out of Wisconsin very often: a player going too fast. The Badgers, known to slow the pace and get the most out of each and every shot clock, have a player in Ben Brust, who sometimes finds himself speeding things up a little bit. “There are times when you’re on the interstate, so to speak, and there are times when you’re in a residential neighborhood and you have to know when you can go faster,” associate head coach Greg Gard said of Brust, who has a 3.0 assist-to-turnover ratio, but can sometimes get into trouble when he dribbles into traffic. “Time and score of the game. Flow of game. Do we need a basket? Are we on a run? When is the time to slow things down and get a high-quality possession or make the other team guard? All those things come into play. He’s getting better and better at it.”
  2. Want an easy — and sometimes early — indicator for how Indiana might do on any given night? Watch Christian Watford. The Indiana Daily Student points out that any time Watford is a key contributor, the Hoosiers have rolled. To be more concise, Indiana’s 23-point win against Penn State this week was its smallest of the season in games in which Watford scored 15 points or more. Each of those previous wins were by at least 31 points. Watford has always been somewhat of an enigma, and an “as he goes, the team goes” type of player. So the Hoosiers would do well to get him involved early and often the rest of the way.
  3. Iowa got smoked when it traveled to Ann Arbor to take on No. 2 Michigan last week. So what is coach Fran McCaffery considering doing to remedy the problem? Possibly keeping arguably his two best players — Aaron White and Devyn Marble — off the floor. McCaffery told the Iowa Gazette he is considering changing some things with his rotation, pointing to the two aforementioned players as culprits in a Hawkeyes’ struggling defense that surrendered 95 points in each of its two true road games this year. Michigan State comes to town on Thursday, and is just the No. 7 scoring offense in the conference (71.1 PPG), but a big scoring output from the Spartans coupled with Michigan State’s typically-stingy defense could be a recipe for an 0-3 start to begin Iowa’s Big Ten campaign.
  4. One thing college basketball pundits love to debate is the importance of a loss over the course of the season — whether an undefeated team needs to lose at some point, or a team on the roll might want a wake-up call before the NCAA Tournament. Michigan, of course, has not lost a game this season, but with the Big Ten shaping up the way it has, they are almost assured to do so. And what happens then? AnnArbor.com‘s Nick Baumgardner explores that idea in this column, pointing out that Michigan has led in nearly 93 percent of the minutes of action of its contests this season and has not faced a great deal of adversity. This team is young — it relies on freshmen for scoring and as fantastic as he’s been this season, Trey Burke is only a sophomore — and when a problem hits, John Beilein might just welcome it at this point.
  5. We have posed this very question on this site a number of times since the season started, and the Big Ten Geeks would like to know the same thing — is Ohio State good? As we have mentioned, and as the NCAA-released RPI showed this week, the Buckeyes don’t have a real quality win this season (although they looked better at Purdue last night, certainly). The Big Ten Geeks point out that a strong second scoring option behind Deshaun Thomas hasn’t presented itself at this point and the Buckeyes will need that to contend in the Big Ten. They make a number of other interesting points about the rest of the conference as well. Be sure to check it out.
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Big Ten M5: 12.10.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on December 10th, 2012

  1. Indiana sophomore guard Austin Etherington is out for the remainder of the season due to a fractured patella. Etherington went down during the Hoosiers’ 100-69 win over the weekend against Central Connecticut State when he was carried off the court in front of a packed house at Assembly Hall. The sophomore has averaged 1.9 PPG during 6.7 MPG so far this season, but the loss is unlikely to hurt Tom Crean’s team because he probably would have seen fewer minutes once Hanner-Parea and Peter Jurkin come back from their suspensions. Nonetheless, getting some playing time during his sophomore season would have helped Etherington to build for next season, but his recovery will be the main focus over the next few months.
  2. The Minnesota Gophers’ win against USC on the road Saturday night, 71-57, was Tubby Smith’s 500th career victory. He becomes the 19th active head coach in Division I basketball to reach 500 wins, joining Bo Ryan and John Beilein as one of the three B1G coaches to be included in this exclusive list. Smith cited “longevity” as the main reason behind his milestone and said that he was “fortunate” to have coached at good programs such as Tulsa, Georgia, Kentucky and Minnesota. The Gophers have been very impressive so far this season (10-1) and it is very likely that Smith could add another 15 or more Ws this season to his career wins total.
  3. Ohio State sophomore wing Laquinton Ross is learning to be patient and efficiently use his playing time to impress head coach Thad Matta. Ross only played 11 minutes in the Buckeyes’ loss to Duke over a week ago but he scored nine points and pulled down three boards. Since then, he has seen more playing time and is proving his worth to Matta during his time on the court. Ross played 22 minutes in the Buckeyes’ rout against Long Beach State, 89-55, and scored 16 points along with nine rebounds. He will continue to come off the bench until he improves his on-ball defense and understands his assignments on the defensive end. Matta told Ross “not to take it for granted,” and the 6’8″ sophomore is utilizing any chance he gets to provide the offensive spark to the Buckeyes.
  4. The Michigan freshman class is more than Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III. Freshman guard Spike Albrecht has provided valuable minutes off the bench and his play allowed Trey Burke to get some much-needed rest against Arkansas over the weekend. Albrecht has been playing about seven minutes per game but gives Burke a breather as he handles the ball in the half court. Michigan is unbeaten and has plenty of talent on their roster, but John Beilein needs to make sure he rotates his players efficiently so that Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. stay healthy and fresh for a run in March. With Albrecht playing eight minutes against Arkansas and not turning the ball over during his time in the game, Beilein can afford to give Burke some rest and save him for crunch time.
  5. The Iowa Hawkeyes snapped their three-game losing skid to in-state rival Iowa State and head coach Fran McCaffery thinks it was their best game so far this season. The Hawkeyes won 80-71 with sophomore forward Aaron White scoring 18 points at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. McCaffery was very impressed with his team’s defensive effort as they held the Cyclones to 34% shooting during the second half. The Hawkeyes’ depth allowed him to rotate the players efficiently throughout the game which helped to maintain a very high defensive intensity. Freshman point guard Mike Gesell also impressed his head coach by turning his game around during the second half after a shooting slump during the first half. Gesell drove the lane more because his jumpers were not falling and he finished 6-6 at the free throw line for a total of 11 points in the win.
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Iowa Uses a Different Formula to Beat Gardner-Webb

Posted by KTrahan on November 19th, 2012

A nine-point win over Gardner-Webb is hardly something to be proud of, but the way Iowa took down the Runnin’ Bulldogs sure is cause for celebration in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes trailed 38-18 at halftime and were down by as many as 23 points at one point in the first half, before storming back to outscore Gardner-Webb 47-18 in the second half to escape with a 65-56 win on Saturday. Last year, this is a game Iowa surely would have lost. The Hawkeyes had a brutal non-conference season, which included a 16-point loss to Campbell. Iowa struggled with its defense last year, which hurt its resume and kept it off the NCAA Tournament bubble, but the Hawkeyes figure to be an NCAA Tournament contender this year, so this was the kind of game they couldn’t lose. They knew that, and they didn’t.

Fran McCaffery’s Group Appears to be Buying Into Defense This Year (credit: AP)

Perhaps the most encouraging part of Iowa’s win was how the Hawkeyes came back. We always knew they could score, but the question was whether they could stop anyone after last year’s abysmal defensive display. We got our answer over the weekend, as defense and the subsequent transition offense led Iowa’s comeback. “I think we buy into the defensive end a little bit more,” Iowa sophomore Aaron White said. “When you give up 18 points in the second half, that’s the difference. Last year we would have just tried to put 60 on them in the second half.”

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Big Ten M5: 11.05.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 5th, 2012

  1. Exhibition games don’t mean much in the grand scheme of the season, but you get a good first look at the freshmen. Michigan State’s Gary Harris is arguably the most interesting freshman in the conference and will be scrutinized especially as Branden Dawson tries to get back to 100% after an ACL injury. After two exhibition games, Harris has impressed Tom Izzo on the offensive end of the court. He looked really good off the dribble in the game against Northwood and scored 14 points. However, he admits that he needs to be more effective on defense specifically against the pick-and-roll. Izzo will demand Harris’ improvement on defense but his offensive production will help the Spartans during the non-conference season.
  2. Speaking of freshmen in the league, Purdue has a couple of good guards who are expected to contribute immediately. Even though Ronnie Johnson and Rapheal Davis were not ranked in the top 30 by Rivals coming out of high school, both of them have the talent to be very good players in the league. Each of the freshman guards scored 16 points in Purdue’s exhibition win over Newberry with Davis scoring all of his points in the second half. Ronnie Johnson may be the primary point guard in the rotation after the departure of Lewis Jackson but Davis will play a significant role off the bench. Guard Terone Johnson (9.1 PPG last season) will carry the offensive load for the Boilermakers; he scored 18 points in the exhibition.
  3. As Matt Painter tries to incorporate new talent into the rotation, Bo Ryan has to figure out how to replace Josh Gasser at the point guard position. Every guard on the roster will need to help out with Gasser’s loss and the latest scrimmage in Madison has obviously led to more scrutiny of the guards. Redshirt freshman George Marshall has been impressive and appears to be the frontrunner to replace Gasser. Traevon Jackson‘s jumpers were a good sign and Ben Brust showed why his minutes will increase this season — Brust averaged 7.3 PPG in 21 MPG last season and is expected to play a key role in the backcourt. Ryan once again praised Frank Kaminsky, a forward who has a good jumper for a big guy which fits perfectly in the Ryan’s offensive system.
  4. The Iowa Hawkeyes are considered a sleeper in the Big Ten mainly due to their underclassmen such as Aaron White (11.1 PPG) and Adam Woodbury. Junior wing Roy Devyn Marble (11.5 PPG) will be their primary scorer offensively, but Fran McCaffery believes that Eric May, the only senior with a scholarship on the roster, needs to be effective for Iowa to meet their lofty expectations this season. May averaged 4.3 PPG in 14.7 PPG last year but wants to be a lock-down defender for the Hawkeyes during his final season. May is supposed to be in “great shape” according to the coaches and Iowa will definitely need somebody to set the tempo on the defensive end after losing Matt Gatens to graduation. They will push the tempo and play a fast brand of basketball but if they are not able to defend, McCaffery’s team will fall short of making the NCAA Tournament.
  5. Speaking of former Big Ten seniors, Illinois’ Mike Davis was drafted as the fifth overall player in the NBA Development League over the weekend. Davis had a solid career at Illinois as he averaged at least 11 PPG from his sophomore season on. He was not highly recruited out of high school but former Illini coach Bruce Weber appreciated his work ethic and intensity. Davis also averaged eight rebounds per game during the final three seasons, and he has the size (6’9″) to continue to play professional basketball at some level for a few years. He might not make the NBA but he can certainly work his way out of the Development League and possibly play in Europe for a few seasons.
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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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