How Can Iowa Fix Its Offensive Problems? A Few Ideas…

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 16th, 2014

Iowa has gotten off to an 8-3 start this season, with what should be an important road win over North Carolina already on its resume. The Hawkeyes also don’t have any bad losses (unless Syracuse ends up faltering in the ACC), using their depth and size to bully the teams that they should beat — winning those games by an average of 25.9 points. While last year’s bugaboo, the defense, has improved significantly, the offense has faltered, going from the fifth best offensive efficiency nationally to 64th. If it’s not one thing; it’s another — that might be the mantra around Iowa City this season. What has caused Iowa’s offensive problems this season, and what can the team do to fix them?

Iowa (Photo Credit: AP)

Iowa Has Traded Better Defense for Worse Offense This Season (Photo Credit: AP)

The Hawkeyes have worse offensive numbers pretty much across the board this season. Losing go-to scorer Roy Devyn Marble has hurt considerably, but the loss of Melsahn Basabe and his 11.7 percent offensive rebounding rate hasn’t helped. Iowa is playing at a slower tempo (two fewer possessions per game), but it’s also taking more threes (25 percent vs. 21 percent). They also have a tendency to settle for long twos, leading to fewer free throw attempts and a drop in effective field goal percentage from 51.2 to 47.0 percent this year. Aaron White is still doing Aaron White things, meaning he gets to the line and scores in transition; and Gabriel Olaseni is also still putting up numbers consistent with his production from last season. But Mike Gesell, Jarrod Uthoff, Adam Woodbury and Josh Oglesby have all seen their offensive ratings take a dip without a corresponding increase in usage rates. Losing Marble has obviously caused a strain across the board, as he not only took a high volume of shots but could also create for himself when things got tough.

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Big Ten M5: 12.05.14 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on December 5th, 2014

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  1. The Big Ten emerged victorious in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday night after Iowa secured the series-clinching eighth win by shocking North Carolina with a 60-55 road victory. It was Mike Gesell who carried the Hawkeyes to victory with his 16 points on 5-of-7 shooting. The victory for especially sweet for Iowa’s point guard, as it came against former AAU teammate Marcus Paige, an All-American and someone he considers “his brother.” Iowa’s center, Adam Woodbury, was also on that same AAU team and described what the win meant to Gesell: “I think this is great for Mike… He played really well in AAU, and for him to be compared to Marcus was unfair. I think he showed [Wednesday] that he’s his own player.” For one night at least, Gesell came away with the acclaim over his friend in Carolina Blue.
  2. While Iowa clinched the Challenge for the Big Ten, the game of the series was played later that night when Duke went to Madison and disposed of Wisconsin by 10 points. Evan Flood wrote a great summary on some of the lessons learned for the Badgers, including the continuing concern over the health of Sam Dekker’s ankle. Additionally, Flood shrewdly points out that the Badgers’ perimeter defense was sorely lacking, allowing the Blue Devils to shoot a blistering 58.7 percent from three and 67.6 percent from inside the arc. Defense was this team’s vulnerability last season and it could be the Badgers’ biggest weakness this year as well.
  3. One of the Big Ten’s wins on Wednesday came at State College, where Penn State protected home court against Virginia Tech in a three-point win. It was somewhat of a revenge game for the Nittany Lions’ senior leader, D.J. Newbill, who has a legitamite gripe against Hokies’ head coach, Buzz Williams. While at Marquette, Williams pulled a scholarship offer from Newbill after he got another commitment from Jamil Wilson, who was transferring over from Oregon. Williams’ familiarity with Newbill showed, as Virginia Tech packed the paint and used double teams to prevent the Penn State guard from getting to the rim, ending his five-game streak of scoring 20 points or more. Luckily for Penn State, Newbill was able to get enough of his teammates involved to notch the win and get some payback on someone who was, at one time, the coach he hoped to play for.
  4. Michigan State came up short in South Bend when they fell to Notre Dame by a point in overtime, but one of the bright spots in the game was the shooting of Cleveland State transfer Bryan Forbes. The 6’3″ junior guard scored 18 points, which included a 4-of-4 mark from deep. Forbes was not only accurate but timely, as he scored on a jumper at 9:03 in the second half that ended an 8-2 Irish run. Unfortunately for the Spartans, Forbes inexplicably did not take another shot after that. Moving forward, it’s going to be necessary to bring him more into the offense as Tom Izzo does not have as much offensive talent as he’s grown accustomed to having these last 15 years.
  5. Finally, another loss on Wednesday occurred when Maryland was defeated by Virginia in College Park. With the Terrapins short-handed because of injuries to Dez Wells and Evan Smotrycz, it was an expected outcome. And while this made the Terps even more of a long shot against the reigning ACC champions, it also presented an opportunity to for some of their freshmen to get invaluable experience playing elite competition. The Terps’ super frosh, Melo Trimble, was able to grind out 16 points — mostly at the free throw line — while Dion Wiley also chipped in 12. Mark Turgeon would rather have his veterans playing than not, of course, but in the long run, a game like this may end up benefiting the team as a whole. The young players on the team will be better suited for Big Ten play when their squad is expected to be at full health.
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How Does Iowa Replace Roy Devyn Marble?

Posted by Brendan Brody on October 30th, 2014

Iowa was in the Top 25 for much of the 2013-14 season, making it as high as a #10 ranking thanks to its impressive 15-3 start. This prosperity did not last, though, as the Hawkeyes closed out the season 5-10, winning only one of their last eight contests. Defensive lapses and a lack of consistency plagued the team throughout this poor stretch, but an overreliance on Roy Devyn Marble to bail the team out offensively also didn’t help. Iowa brings back quite a bit of talent from last season’s first round loser, but the loss of Marble leaves Fran McCaffery searching for a go-to scorer. How does Iowa learn from its previous mistakes and replace one of the best players in the Big Ten? How does it account for the fact that it no longer has a player who used the third most possessions in the league at 27.3 percent, and was fifth in the league in scoring with 17.0 PPG?

Aaron White will have to score more this season for Iowa to offset the loss of Roy Devyn Marble.(Brian Ray, The Gazette via AP)

Aaron White will have to score more this season for Iowa to offset the loss of Roy Devyn Marble. (Brian Ray/AP)

Marble contributed 12 games last season where he cracked the 20-point plateau, leading or tying for the team lead in scoring 16 times. It’s safe to say that the offense went through him a good chunk of the time, as he proved equally adept at driving to the hoop or shooting from deep. There are now 29.6 percent more shots available given his departure and it would be wise for Aaron White and Jarrod Uthoff to take most of them. White posted the third best offensive rating in the Big Ten among players who used 20 percent of their team’s possessions last season. He shot a whopping 63.1 percent on his two-pointers, getting points around the rim and from the mid-range. He’s also an excellent free throw shooter who has proven over the last two seasons that he can get to and convert from the line, knocking his five free throw attempts down at an 81 percent clip during his junior season.

The question with White is whether he can be as efficient if he has to shoulder a heavier load. Uthoff did most of his damage during non-conference games, but he showed a great deal of potential in some of those early contests. He averaged 10.8 PPG on 56.0 percent shooting from the field before league play, but dropped down to 5.6 PPG on 44.2 percent shooting once conference games started. If Uthoff can channel his early-season success shooting the ball into this year, he could end up surpassing White as the go-to scorer. He gets to the line less than his colleague, but he shoots a similar quality percentage once there (81.7 percent). He’s also shown that he’s a much more dependable shooter from behind the arc (42.5 percent), which is something that White has yet to do.

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Assessing the KenPom B1G Preseason Ratings

Posted by Brendan Brody on October 29th, 2014

College basketball guru Ken Pomeroy released his preseason rankings a few days ago. These ratings are not your standard preseason website or magazine predictions because they are completely data-driven. To put it simply, Pomeroy is more than likely a great deal smarter than you or me. His tempo-free statistics remove some of the spin and fluff of the season in favor of measurable aspects like efficiency, schedule strength and luck. Uninformed pundits may talk about a team being great defensively because it gives up a very low number of points per game, but it’s wise to also evaluate the same notion through the prism of points per 100 possessions. That team may be great defensively as a matter of fact, but it also might just play at a really slow pace with fewer possessions (and hence, fewer opportunities for the opponent to score). Here are some observations about how the Big Ten fared in Pomeroy’s first list of ratings.

Tom Crean's Indiana squad starts the season just outside top 25 according to Ken Pomeroy. (AP).

Tom Crean’s Indiana squad starts the season just outside top 25 according to Ken Pomeroy. (AP).

  • Indiana Rates More Favorably Here Than With the Media. Pomeroy thinks that the Indiana offense will be much better after it finished 2013-14 ranked 127th in offensive efficiency. He also believes that the Hoosiers’ pace will quicken, from 106.5 points per 100 possessions to 110.9. For this to happen, the Hoosiers will have to cut down on their turnovers. They ranked last in the league in that metric last season, turning the ball over on 21.8 percent of the time. With Yogi Ferrell now having more help on the wings with freshman James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson coming into the program along with transfer Nick Zeisloft, Pomeroy thinks Tom Crean’s unit will be a good deal more efficient on the offensive end. The media picked Indiana ninth in its preseason poll, so it looks as though Pomeroy’s model values the Hoosiers a bit higher than the eye test.

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Big Ten Season Grades: Ohio State, Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois

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

Continuing our season-ending analysis, we look at the performances of Ohio State, Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois. Earlier this week, we handed out grades for Indiana, Northwestern, Penn State and Purdue.

Ohio State

Grade: C-

This season (25-10, 10-8): What would be a successful season for most programs was a relative disappointment for the Buckeyes. Ohio State did not capture a Big Ten regular season or tournament title for the first time since 2008-09, and similar to that season, they were also bounced out of the NCAA Tournament in their first game. The issue for the Buckeyes – which was a clear problem area in the preseason – was generating offense without Deshaun Thomas in the lineup. Thomas’ replacement, LaQuinton Ross, almost doubled his scoring average, but the Buckeyes failed to find reliable offensive firepower anywhere else. In the end, Aaron Craft and Ohio State’s excellent showing on defense wasn’t enough to overcome the team’s offensive woes.

Thad Matta had a let-down of a season relative to his own success. Don't expect it to continue next season. (Gettyl)

Thad Matta had a let-down of a season relative to his own success. Don’t expect it to continue next season. (Getty)

Next season: The Buckeyes lose Craft, Amedeo Della Valle, Ross, and Lenzelle Smith Jr. They welcome in an elite recruiting class that includes D’Angelo Russell, Keita Bates-Diop, and Jae’Sean Tate; and they also will get graduate transfer Anthony Lee from Temple next year. These additions along with several talented players already on their roster should have no one worrying about the state of the program going forward. This season was merely a hiccup in the Thad Matta era.

Iowa: C

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Rushed Reactions: #11 Tennessee 78, #11 Iowa 65

Posted by Chris Nguon on March 19th, 2014

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Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion, @RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways in Tennessee’s First Four win.

Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin speaks with #52 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the first round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Iowa Hawkeyes at UD Arena on March 19, 2014 in Dayton, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin speaks with Jordan McRae during the Vols’ seesaw victory over Iowa State. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

  1. Per the norm, the numbers are usually right. Going into Wednesday’s contest, virtually all advanced metrics revealed that these two teams were evenly matched and that certainly played out on the court. When one team looked as if it was going to pull away, the other team found a way to gather itself and stave off absorbing of the knock-out blow. Tennessee’s performance was absolutely gritty to the fullest effect and I am sure Cuonzo Martin is very proud of his guys. The Volunteers trailed (albeit only by a small margin) for the majority of the second half but Martin’s squad simply refused to take “no” for an answer. Tennessee was down by as much as five points in the second half but finally took the lead with 3:12 left when Antonio Barton nailed a trey. Two minutes later, the Vols re-took the lead with a bucket from Jeronne Maymon. And even though Roy Devyn Marble put the crowd in a tizzy with his game-tying jumper with 18 seconds left, the Volunteers stayed poised and controlled the entire five minutes of overtime to earn a very impressive victory.
  2. Marble’s teammates picked him up big-time, but it wasn’t enough. With the season on the line and their star standout struggling from the field, the other Hawkeyes didn’t sulk or tighten up like many teams have been known to do. Instead, players like Adam Woodbury, Peter Jok and Zach McCabe picked up the slack in the grandest of styles – keeping Iowa afloat with an array of gutty plays down the stretch until their senior leader finally found the bottom of the net. For all the hair-pulling that Iowa fans experienced this season, watching Marble’s definitive answer after the Volunteers took a two-point lead with 3:12 left must have been a sight to see. For good measure, Marble added a handful of other big plays in the final two minutes – none bigger than his jumper with 18 seconds remaining to tie the game. However, if Marble had shot better than 3-of-15 from the field (0-of-6 from three), I think even he would admit that his Iowa team wouldn’t have found itself anywhere near overtime. Read the rest of this entry »
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Can Iowa Shore Up Its Shoddy Defense in Time?

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on March 4th, 2014

After three seasons at the helm, Fran McCaffery will finally take Iowa back to the NCAA Tournament. That’s the good part about the Hawkeyes’ season. The next logical question is whether they can win more than one game there. With a 20-9 record and an RPI in the 30s, it is likely that the Hawkeyes will be on one of the top six seed lines, which could put them in a dreaded #5/#12 match-up against a decent team. Even if they get past that round, they’ll have to beat a Top 25 quality team that is likely to be offensively talented. At this late point in the season, it is still unclear if the Hawkeyes can defend well enough to beat a team that can run in a track meet with them. Over their last four games they have given up 1.21, 1.31, 1.12 and 1.06 points per possession, respectively, against Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana and Purdue. Those numbers do not bode well for a team looking to make some noise as we head into March.

McCaffery's Hawkeyes will need to get some stops if they hopse to get to the Sweet 16. (AP/C. Neibergall)

McCaffery’s Hawkeyes will need to get some stops if they hopse to get to the Sweet 16. (AP/C. Neibergall)

Defense has been an issue for Iowa all season long, and a lack of it is the main reason they have been unable to close out many games.  Their record is a bit deceiving because they have won all of the games that they were supposed to, but they really only have two quality wins on the year: at Ohio State and vs. Michigan in Iowa City — even in both of those games, the Hawkeyes gave up more than a point per possession to the Buckeyes and the Wolverines. A win against Xavier, another NCAA Tournament team, is impressive, but an argument can be made that the absence of Musketeers’ star Semaj Christan during the second half helped the Hawkeyes. These observations are not intended to take anything away from Iowa’s resume this season, but merely to point out that its stay in March Madness could be a short one unless they find some answers on defense, and soon.

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Four Quick Thoughts on Indiana’s Win Over Iowa

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 28th, 2014

Iowa continued its late season freefall after dropping a shootout in Bloomington Thursday night, 93-86. The Hawkeyes have now tumbled to a 19-9 overall record and will lose what would have been a healthy seed in the NCAA Tournament if they don’t get things turned around rather quickly. Indiana once again proved that, despite their inconsistencies, they are dangerous at home. They’ve now knocked off Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa in their own gym this season.

Here are four observations from last night’s fast-paced affair.

Will Sheehey scored a career-high 30 points Thursday as Indiana knocked off Iowa. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Will Sheehey scored a career-high 30 points Thursday as Indiana knocked off Iowa. (Andy Lyons/Getty)

  1. Where has this Will Sheehey been all season? Sheehey was a legitimate force on offense for the Hoosiers all night long. He proved to be equally adept at knocking down shots from the perimeter and also getting by the Iowa defense to finisih on the fast break. He went 11-of 13 on twos, and put up 19 points in the first half alone. If Sheehey had played even half this well over the course of the entire season, the Hoosiers might have a considerably better record than 16-12. He’s been missing in action on numerous occasions and seemingly has been without the mojo that came from playing on a much more talented team last season. If he can ride the momentum from this outstanding performance into the last three games and the Big Ten Tournament, Indiana can clearly play the spoiler role in early March.
  2. Iowa needs Mike Gesell at his best: Gesell was uncharacteristically sloppy with the ball all night, which led to a statistical line that produced only six points and five turnovers. He had a team-high seven assists, but much of that was due to the uptempo nature of the game. Fran McCaffery doesn’t need 20 points per game from his sophomore point guard, but he needs to consistently knock down open looks and he can’t give the ball away so much if the Hawkeyes are going to look to push it. Read the rest of this entry »
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Three Takeaways From Iowa’s Performance at the Battle 4 Atlantis

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on December 3rd, 2013

After three consecutive days of basketball at the Battle 4 Atlantis, we can now take a step back and summarize some takeaways from the tournament that was held in a hotel convention center. Freshman phenom Andrew Wiggins was supposed to steal the show during the tournament, but Kansas’ loss to Villanova moved the spotlight on to some of the other teams. Villanova’s resurgence will be well-documented over the next few days, but Iowa‘s subtle improvements on exhibit there also deserve attention. The following are three takeaways from the Hawkeyes’ performance in the Bahamas over the weekend:

McCaffery's Hawkeyes had a great weekend in the Bahamas. (AP/C. Neibergall)

McCaffery’s Hawkeyes had a great weekend in the Bahamas. (AP/C. Neibergall)

  • Devyn Marble appears to have improved his jumper. Sorta. As a junior, Marble’s jumper wasn’t horrible, but it also wasn’t very consistent from beyond the arc (33 percent from three). He relied heavily on cuts to the basket that were taken away by opposing defenses during the second half of the Big Ten season, but his offensive game appears to be more diverse this year. Still, he only shot 33 percent (6-of-18) from three-point land at this tournament. He was 4-of-10 against Xavier, but most of those misses came in the second half when he was dealing with leg cramps. The difference is that there were a few possessions in transition when he pulled up for a shot instead taking it all the way to the basket. This new angle to add the mid-range to his game will help keep defenses honest going forward. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten M5: 03.12.13 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on March 12th, 2013

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  1. As if the end of Sunday’s Indiana-Michigan game wasn’t crazy enough, Tom Crean made it even more interesting when he approached Michigan assistant Jeff Meyer to confront him about his time as an assistant at IU. Crean told Meyer that he “helped wreck the program.” Meyer was a Hoosiers assistant under Kelvin Sampson and was partially responsible for some of the NCAA sanctions leveled against the program in the late 2000s. Crean said he later called to apologize and that his actions were inappropriate, but Michigan coach John Beilein wasn’t happy. “We’re never going to use victory or defeat as a platform for any frustrations we’re going to have,” he told MLive. I’m really proud of the way Jeff showed great poise and handled himself in the aftermath of the disappointment in that loss.
  2. It’s hard to dispute that the Big Ten is the best conference in college basketball right now, but what does that mean for the conference when it comes to the NCAA Tournament? Some would argue that it helps the Big Ten teams, because they’ve been tested so much during the season, but others would argue that it may have worn some teams down. Tom Izzo claims it’s the former. He says it gives him and his players confidence heading into the Big Dance knowing that there’s nothing they haven’t seen. He also said the upcoming Big Ten Tournament has the potential to be “maybe one of the great conference tournaments of all-time.”
  3. Wisconsin has lived and died by the three at times this season, and it barely stayed afloat thanks to a buzzer-beating three by Traevon Jackson to guide the Badgers past Penn State. Threes have led to late-game heroics for the Badgers a few times this season, but Wisconsin must do a better job of finding scoring options inside if it is going to make a run in the NCAA Tournament, or even the Big Ten Tournament. UW can’t afford to keep banking on the long ball, because for every game that the shots are falling, there is going to be a game when they aren’t. It’s going to be hard to win four games in four days if the three is Wisconsin’s only offensive weapon.
  4. As the season comes to a close, Bill Carmody’s seat has gotten even hotter, despite the injuries Northwestern has had to deal with this season. NU will miss the NCAA Tournament once again, and that’s enough for many fans to call for Carmody’s job, even considering all the team’s injuries. However, with or without Carmody, the NU program has some problems. There’s no reason to believe things will get easier for a new coach if the basketball facilities don’t receive an upgrade and the stringent academic requirements aren’t loosened.
  5. Iowa has a very young frontcourt this season, with freshman Adam Woodbury and center Gabe Olaseni splitting time at center; and while they’ve had their ups and downs, they’re playing their best basketball of the year right now. Woodbury scored 20 points combined in Iowa’s final two games, while Olaseni has shown improvement on both ends of the floor. He had seven blocks against Illinois and was also a force on the offensive end against the Illini and Nebraska, thanks to his athleticism in the post. Woodbury and Olaseni both should be much improved next season, but they still have a chance to make some noise in the Big Ten Tournament.
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Evaluating Big Ten Freshmen After the Non-Conference Season: Part One

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on December 31st, 2012

Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.

Historically, Big Ten coaches have not relied on their freshmen to contribute significantly because most of their players tend to stick around for at least two seasons in the conference. But this season is different because there are three schools that expect their freshmen to be a big part of their offense – Indiana, Michigan and Iowa. All three of these programs signed a top 30 recruiting class and in addition, Michigan State and Wisconsin also signed top 50 freshmen for this season. Let’s evaluate the top freshmen in the B1G as the schools have now wrapped up the non-conference part of their schedule.

Nik Stauskas(left) may be the most important freshman for the Wolverines.

Nik Stauskas(left) may be the most important freshman for the Wolverines.

Michigan: Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas 

McGary and Robinson were expected to contribute immediately which justified Michigan’s top five ranking in the preseason. McGary was supposed to add depth to the frontcourt and help Jordan Morgan but he hasn’t been able to find his rhythm in Ann Arbor after 13 games. The forward has had a tough time staying out of foul trouble and will need to improve his footwork in order to become more effective for John Beilein. He is extremely efficient on the boards – 5.6 RPG in just 14.6 MPG – but does not look for his shot much (5.7 PPG) because the offense primarily runs through the wings and guards. Speaking of the wings, Robinson has not disappointed at all by averaging 12.1 PPG and 5.9 RPG so far this season. He has great range on his jumper and has shown that he is willing to crash the boards as well. More important than his statistics is his ability to play alongside Tim Hardaway Jr. Both have similar skill sets but Robinson already has a great understanding of the John Beilein’s offense and is very efficient with this shot selection (62.1% eFG). While Robinson has met preseason expectations, his teammate Stauskas has exceeded them and has been the most important freshman of all for the Wolverines. Coming out of high school, the scouts knew that he had a good jumper but his long-range shooting this year has been off the charts – 57% from distance. Trey Burke and Hardaway carry the bulk on the offense but neither of them shoot exceptionally well from beyond the arc – at 38% and 35%, respectively. Stauskas allows John Beilein to spread the floor and gets open looks from the perimeter due to the dribble-drive kick out passes by Burke. It will be tough for him to continue shooting at such a blistering rate but as long as he moves around to open spots in the offense, Stauskas will play an important role in what could be a special season for the Wolverines.

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Big Ten M5: 12.11.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on December 11th, 2012

  1. It sounds like the 2013-14 college basketball season is going to break ground on a large scale yet again, and with Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis again at the forefront of the idea, at least one Big Ten team is likely to participate in his latest and greatest idea. But as the culmination of the season — the NCAA Tournament and, particularly, the Final Four — has grown larger by the years and come to fill bigger spaces and stadiums, could the postseason suddenly be looking to slim down again? The Final Four hasn’t been played in a conventional basketball arena since 1996 and the next four Final Fours have already been scheduled for domes, but television executivess and NCAA administrators aren’t ruling out a return to arenas beyond that.
  2. Illinois has quietly been building one of the most impressive — and, perhaps, surprising — seasons around the country thus far, and their star is finally seeing the fruits of his labor. After leading the Illini to an impressive win at Gonzaga over the weekend, Brandon Paul was named the Big Ten Player of the Week. But should we be surprised? Just a few days after scoring 14 against Western Carolina, he went off for a season-high 35 against the Zags, shooting 10-of-16 from the field and 10-of-11 from the free throw line, all the while catapulting himself into the early national and conference Player of the Year discussion.
  3. It was just last year we were talking some promising freshmen at Iowa, and here we are again doing the same. With Aaron White now a sophomore, it’s newcomers like Adam Woodbury and Anthony Clemmons who are drawing high praise. Tork Mason of The Daily Iowan says that this incoming class has given the Hawkeyes some much-needed swagger, combining for 36 points over the last two games. In that span, Clemmons has a superb 16 assists and just one turnover.
  4. For the most part, as Deshaun Thomas goes, so goes Ohio State. And when things aren’t going well — consider his 3-of-10 shooting in the first half against Long Beach State, which led the preseason All-American to get down on himself recently — Thomas has been prone to show it on the floor. But coach Thad Matta has noticed an improvement in Thomas’ maturity, which has been critical as he’s stepped into a leadership role for the Buckeyes this season. “It’s just me learning the game and becoming an impact player and knowing there are other things than just scoring,” Thomas told ElevenWarriors.com. “There are other things in the game of basketball.” Unfortunately for the rest of the Big Ten, Thomas can do most everything within the game of basketball.
  5. Michigan State freshman Denzel Valentine has thrilled Spartan fans this season with his dazzling style of play and court vision, but he’s also maddened them at times when his inexperience has shone through. It’s the latter trait that has led Tom Izzo to rein Valentine in a bit lately, saying the freshman is on “a choker leash.” Valentine had just one turnover in the second half against Loyola on Saturday, after a couple frustrating moments earlier in the season. It’s never a good idea to question the coaching strategies of the six-time Final Four head coach, so it’s reasonable to expect to see Valentine slowly but surely getting more comfortable with a controlled role during the rest of the season.
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