Previewing the Crossroads Classic

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on December 14th, 2013

In a state that considers itself the mecca for hoops, Indiana’s premiere college basketball programs are set to play in the Crossroads Classic’s third edition later today. In the past two years the event has brought buzzer-beaters and an upset over a No. 1 team, but this season, all four teams desperately need a win here to help their future NCAA hopes. It’s a day for state supremacy and bragging rights at Bankers Life Fieldhouse — on a Saturday afternoon of great basketball around the country, the Crossroads Classic is unlikely to disappoint. Below you will find three keys to both games for Indiana and Purdue to notch wins in this afternoon’s event.

The Crossroads Classic

The Crossroads Classic is Becoming a Hoosier State Tradition

Notre Dame vs. Indiana 3:15 PM, ESPN

  • Take care of the ball. The Irish are the more experienced team taking on the relatively young Hoosiers. This becomes especially important in the backcourt where Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell faces Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins. These two take care of and share the ball extremely well (Notre Dame is third in the country in assists per game). Ferrell will need to match their composure and not make mistakes if Indiana hopes to walk away with the victory here.
  • Use its athleticism. Indiana struggled against Syracuse’s zone with all of its tall, athletic and physical players. Notre Dame at least has the tall and physical part going for it. This means that the Hoosiers will need to use their athleticism to get out and run. If Indiana can turn this into a track meet game, it has a better chance of winning the contest where its athleticism can outmatch Notre Dame’s experience. This also helps alleviate the Irish having a strong starting five versus Indiana typically having to rely on a couple players to explode (read: Noah Vonleh, Jeremy Hollowell, Ferrell).

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Purdue Gets First Chance For Marquee Win Against Oklahoma State

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on November 28th, 2013

It hasn’t been an ideal start for Purdue, but none of that will matter against No. 5 Oklahoma State this Thanksgiving day. The Boilermakers haven’t been dominant yet this season, but they have overcome some early rebounding troubles to remain undefeated through five games. As turkeys are going into the ovens a bit later today, Matt Painter‘s team will take the floor in its first chance at a resume-building win in the first game of the Old Spice Classic. For a team hopeful to return the NCAA Tournament, a win over Oklahoma State would be a statement win by itself, and guarantee two other games against quality competition (Butler, Memphis, LSU and St. Joseph’s highlight the other top teams in the event). Travis Ford’s team has been very impressive early, averaging more than 100 PPG as the Cowboys have demolished every team it has faced, including Memphis by 21 in Stillwater. For the whole tournament, fellow RTC writer Max Jakubowski projects a seventh place finish for Purdue in the event. Second-to-last wouldn’t exactly be a strong performance for Purdue, but let’s look at some keys for Purdue to have any shot at pulling the stunning upset at Noon ET today.

Matt Painter's team has its first chance for a big win on Thanksgiving against No. 5 Oklahoma State.

Matt Painter’s team has its first chance for a big win on Thanksgiving against No. 5 Oklahoma State.

  • AJ Hammons and Jay Simpson Dominate Inside. It’d be easy to start with Marcus Smart, but realistically, Purdue isn’t going to stop him. So let’s focus first on Purdue’s biggest advantage with its height and big men inside. The Cowboys don’t have a particularly large front line and it’s top players are guards, which means that the Boilermakers need to go inside early and often in this game. If Hammons and Simpson don’t have big games, it could get out of hand very quickly. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten M5: 11.22.13 Edition

Posted by Max Jakubowski on November 22nd, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. Keith Appling has been off to a hot start this season for Michigan State, but make no mistake the heart of the Spartans’ offense is Gary Harris.  Tom Izzo wants him to take at least 15 shots a game.  If Harris is knocking down shots from the perimeter, it will open up more of the floor for Michigan State specifically Adreian Payne. Harris was voted the preseason Big Ten Player of the Year and will be under constant pressure to perform at a high level.
  2. A big question mark heading into this season for Ohio State was whether Amir Williams could finally step up and become an offensive threat on the post.  So far, Williams has performed well.  He is averaging 9.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks a game. Last year, the Buckeyes never really had a true post threat as Evan Ravenel saw time and even DeShaun Thomas would play some five.  It will be crucial to the Buckeyes’ success that Williams produces down low, especially against Big Ten foes.
  3. Losing 2014 point guard prospect Quentin Snider was a big blow to John Groce and his Illinois program.  Snider was deemed the point guard of the future once Tracy Abrams last.  However, Illinois may have found their future point guard internally already.  Jaylon Tate has played extremely well in backing up Abrams this season. Tate actually leads the conference in assist to turnover ratio.  The Chicago product may have gotten lost in the shuffle next year, with Oregon State transfer Ahmad Starks becoming eligible and Snider was also suppose to be on campus.  Now, Tate looks like the key guy to run Groce’s offense for future seasons.
  4. It’s a given that AJ Hammons is a valuable piece to Purdue.  So its understandable why Matt Painter wants his team to feed Hammons more on the post.  Purdue has been struggling with their three-point shooting, making Hammons low-post scoring even more crucial.  Purdue heads to Anaheim to take on Oklahoma State in the Old Spice classic next week.  Hammons will need to have one of his better scoring games to keep Purdue competitive in this one.
  5. Michigan handled Long Beach State easily in the first round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in Thursday.  But the bigger news for Michigan may have been that their main competition in Puerto Rico lost. Both Georgetown and VCU fell in their first games, opening up the bracket significantly for the Wolverines.  Michigan will take on Florida State and a win would set up a date against either Charlotte or Northeastern. This may not have been the path Michigan envisioned, but the road to a tournament championship certainly seems brighter.
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Previewing the Holiday Tournaments: A Big Ten Perspective

Posted by Max Jakubowski on November 21st, 2013

The holiday tournaments tip off today and college coaches are huge fans of their teams participating in these events. With the quick turnarounds and neutral court sites, the events give players a glimpse of what their conference and postseason tournaments will feel like. From the prestigious eight-team Maui Invitational to the four-team Barclays Center Classic, each tournament provides valuable experience for teams and coaches alike to prepare for a postseason atmosphere. Along with gaining that precious experience, teams can also improve their non-conference resumes just by showing up. A couple of good performances or a holiday tournament championship looks pretty attractive to the selection committee in March. This year, the Big Ten has nearly the entire league competing in some sort of holiday tournament (Illinois and Ohio State are the two absentees). Let’s break down each of them, starting with the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, Charleston Classic and 2kSports Classic, beginning today.

NCAA Basketball: Maui Invitational-Butler vs Illinois

Illinois Jump Started its NCAA Tournament Season A Year Ago in Maui

Puerto Rico Tip off: November 21-24

  • Teams: Michigan vs. Long Beach State, VCU vs. Florida State, Georgetown vs. Northeastern, Charlotte vs. Kansas State
  • Favorite: VCU
  • Projected Michigan Finish: 3rd
  • Michigan Player to WatchDerrick Walton Jr.
  • The Skinny: In the eight-team field, Georgetown, VCU, and the Wolverines are the clear front-runners. Georgetown lucked out as they are on the opposite side of the bracket of both Michigan and VCU. This means that a match-up of last year’s NCAA Tournament third round game between the two schools is likely in the semifinals. Last year, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. shredded Shaka Smart’s “Havoc” defense on its way to a huge victory. Now, Walton is set to run the offense for Michigan and go up against a veteran VCU backcourt. This game could spell major trouble for John Beilein and his staff, but could also be an important teaching moment.

Charleston Classic: November 21-24

  • TeamsNebraska vs. UMass, UAB vs. New Mexico, Georgia vs. Davidson, Clemson vs. Temple
  • Favorite: New Mexico
  • Projected Nebraska Finish: 5th
  • Nebraska Player to WatchTai Webster
  • The Skinny:  The Cornhuskers play UMass and then either New Mexico or UTEP in the next round. New Mexico is a top 20 team while UMass is expected to compete for a NCAA bid out of the Atlantic 10. Chaz Williams for UMass is an explosively fast guard who can distribute the ball well and shoot lights out from three. Tim Miles will have his work cut out to try and stop Williams, and the freshman Webster will get a nice welcoming from the “Chaz Master.”

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Purdue’s Rebounding Problems Have Led to a Shaky Start

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on November 20th, 2013

It hasn’t been the ideal start to the season for Purdue despite its 3-0 record. After a disappointing campaign last year, the Boilermakers were hopeful that they would make a big turnaround and push for an NCAA berth this season behind potential NBA Draft pick AJ Hammons and a talented group of sophomores and freshmen. So far, though, the team has struggled against two of its three opponents, sneaking by Northern Kentucky and Rider while blowing out Central Connecticut State. As my fellow Big Ten microsite writer Alex Moscoso pointed out earlier this week, Purdue has experienced the biggest drop in Pomeroy’s projection of expected wins this year, among the 12 Big Ten teams. The projection has fallen to 15-14 (6-12 Big Ten), yet the team has shown an increase in several notable metrics. The Boilermakers’ field goal percentage is nearly 1o points higher and its 3-point shooting is up over last year — as a result, the team’s effective field goal percentage has risen to 55.8 percent from 46.3 percent in 2012-13. It’s defense has also held steady, with opponents’ effective field goal percentage staying in the 45 to 46 percent range. So, what has caused Purdue to start the season so slowly and the metrics-based outlook to change? The biggest answer is that this team’s biggest strength last year — rebounding the basketball — has dropped dramatically.

AJ Hammons low minutes has hurt Purdue, but its drop in rebounding has been the biggest issue (AP).

AJ Hammons’ low minutes has hurt Purdue, but its drop in rebounding has been the biggest issue (AP).

Last year, Purdue ranked 10th nationally in rebounding; this season, Purdue has seen its rank drop to 90th, and the problem lies on the defensive backboard.  average rebounds per game is nearly the same (39.4 to 40.3 RPG), the increase in Boilermaker possessions this season has this total looking worse. More possessions and more shots should mean more rebounds for a Purdue team that once thrived on the glass, but while it is rebounding at an elite level on the offensive end (43.5 percent, 13th best), it has struggled mightily to grab boards on the defensive glass (giving up 40.3 percent of those caroms, 309th in the nation). Part of this can be attributed to Hammons’ early struggles. He missed the first game due to a suspension and in the third game he sat on the bench for a large chunk of time due to foul trouble. In his two games he has averaged only 4.5 boards per game, a subtle but meaningful drop from 6.0 RPG last year. But even if his 40-minute average is still quite strong, as Purdue’s Associate SID notes below, it doesn’t mean much if your future draft pick doesn’t play. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big Ten Analysis: Iowa Overperforming, Northwestern Underperforming

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 18th, 2013

It’s been over a week since the season started and all 12 teams have at least three games under their belts. Michigan State is as good as advertised after beating #1 Kentucky (even if they followed it up with a lackluster performance against Columbia). But what can we conclude from the other teams’ performances, where most games have been lopsided victories against inferior opponents? This makes it difficult to gauge which team has under- or overperformed so early in the year, but we here at the RTC Big Ten microsite are always up for a challenge. Prior to the first tip, we recorded each team’s predicted outcome using KenPom.com. To measure how teams have performed thus far, we will now compare their season performances against their preseason expected outcomes.

The table below illustrates each team’s performance in games already played against what they were expected to do, helping us evaluate their consistency and long-term projections.

big ten analysis 11.18.13

The table above displays each team’s performance for each game relative to their expected preseason expected outcome.  For example, if a team was expected to win by 10 points, but ended up winning by only five points, then that team underperformed by five points (shown as -5 in the table). If that same team had won by 20 points, then that team would have overperformed by 10 points. Underperformances are marked in red and overtperformances are marked in green.  The average and standard deviation of each teams’ differential performances are calculated to measure their overall consistency so far.  Finally, the far-right column in the table shows the change in total wins for the season that KenPom is projecting. For example, if a team was initially expected to win 18 games, but is now expected to win 21 games, their record difference is shown as +3.  This metric not only takes into account each individual team’s season performance thus far, but also the performance of all its opponents.

Here are our five takeaways from this analysis:

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RTC Big Ten Preseason Rankings: #8 to #5

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on November 7th, 2013

With the basketball season set to tip off for some Big Ten teams tomorrow, the five of us at the Big Ten microsite took a poll to see how the 12 teams will finish this upcoming season. If you missed it, yesterday we previewed teams #12 to #9, and today we look at the teams we believe to be in the middle tier. These teams have a chance to finish higher if their freshmen play well and returnees develop, but these same question marks mean they could easily tumble lower too. Be sure to come back tomorrow to see the four teams we picked to land at the top of the conference. And feel free to debate, argue and discuss how much or how little we know what we’re talking about.

8. Illinois

John Groce

John Groce Starts His Second Season With Numerous Questions

  • What they do well: Let’s be honest, there are a lot of question marks with this team thanks to only five returnees. In Groce’s first season as head coach, though, the team took good care of the ball, averaging a turnover on only 14.7 percent of possessions. The new guards will need to continue this trend as Illinois was 25th in the country last year in this statistic.
  • What they don’t do well: Sharing the ball was a struggle for Illinois. It only averaged 10.1 assists per game last season, ranking 319th in the NCAA.
  • Get to know: Rayvonte Rice. The redshirt junior has been lighting it up for Illinois in the exhibition contests and could earn the starting spot at the shooting guard position. He appears to have drastically improved his outside shot and with five freshmen on this team, his play and leadership will be needed.
  • Why they’ll finish eighth: The team takes time to gel and the freshmen, while talented, aren’t quite ready to compete for a Big Ten championship. The loss of players like Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson are too much for the program to overcome.
  • Why they’ll finish higher: They get solid guard play from Tracy Abrams and Rice’s outside shot isn’t just strong in exhibitions. The youth is as talented as believed to be as it wins a lot of early games and has a confidence that carries into Big Ten play.

7. Purdue

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Big Ten M5: 10.31.13 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on October 31st, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. With the loss of Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State has a big scoring void to fill. Thomas averaged 19.8 points, which was nearly double that of the Buckeyes next leading scorer in Aaron Craft. Ohio State is hoping without just one scorer, though, everyone will get involved forcing opposing teams to guard everyone on the floor. Everyone already knows Craft will have to add some offense to his well-known defense, but LaQuinton Ross, Lenzelle Smith, Sam Thompson, and Amir Williams are the keys to the Buckeyes. If the team gets consistent scoring from all of those players, it will certainly cause opponents bigger headaches than last season when taking away Thomas meant shutting down Ohio State.
  2. Michigan State has plenty of strength returning to its starting lineup in Gary Harris, Keith Appling, Branden Dawson, and Adreian Payne. There’s still one open spot, though, and it appears freshman forward Gavin Schilling is making his case to seize it. In the Spartans first exhibition, a 101-52 win against Grand Valley State, Schilling played the most minutes and scored four points with five rebounds coming off the bench behind sophomore Matt Costello. This position will be an important one to keep an eye on for Michigan State as it tries to make a national title run. The four returning starters already make them a strong team, but if Schilling can continue to prosper and make every position on the Spartans starting five strong, it only makes their chances for a national title better. If he doesn’t get into the starting lineup, it at least makes it a small drop-off if Schilling has to play minutes for Costello or Payne at the forward positions.
  3. There’s plenty of hope surrounding the Purdue basketball program following a disappointing campaign last year. A big key to that will be what the newcomers provide to the Boilermakers, one of which is 5th year transfer Errick Peck. The 6-foot-6, 223 pound forward was in the starting lineup for Purdue in its 80-73 exhibition win over University of Indianapolis last night as he scored five points, had six rebounds and even attempted a 3-pointer. This versatility is something that Matt Painter has noticed and hopes to utilize in the Cornell transfer this season. Peck will likely find himself getting plenty of minutes with AJ Hammons still serving his three-game suspension and could very well find himself playing all over the court for Purdue. His ability to play with his back to the basket or from the outside allows Painter to use a big lineup with Peck at the three alongside Jay Simpson and Hammons or smaller with Peck at the four.
  4. With Mitch McGary and other post players returning to Michigan, John Beilein has a decision coming up soon. According to MLive’s Brendan Quinn, the Wolverines coach will have to decide whether he wants to redshirt freshman Mark Donnal. The 6′ 9″ forward played just more than five minutes and scored three points in Michigan’s 117-44 exhibition win over Concordia, which was more than only the walk-ons. With fellow freshmen Zak Irvin and Derrik Walton, Jr. filling the roles left by Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr., Donnal is the only freshman with plenty of upperclass experience ahead of him. Whether Beilein does redshirt Donnal or not is interesting because, as Quinn points out, Michigan only has 11 scholarship players this season. If he uses a redshirt, that makes the Wolverines very thin with only 10 total scholarship players.
  5. It’s always great to see when a head coach uses his position to help the greater good. Iowa’s Fran McCaffery has certainly done his best to help fight cancer after losing both his parents to colon cancer. Tuesday, McCaffery hosted his second annual Coaches vs. Cancer event where he was hoping to raise more than the $52,000 that was raised a year ago. It’s also given the coach a chance to touch a few people who have dealt with the deadly disease, including the one this story highlights in Wil Roling who joined Iowa on the team’s trip to Indiana last year. Now, Roling has had a going-away party from his hospital and was back at the Coaches vs. Cancer event, but this time he was healthy and playing with McCaffery’s two oldest sons. That’s something we can all celebrate.
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Big Ten Coaches on the Not-So-Hot Seat, Part II

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on October 30th, 2013

Yesterday, we examined why John Groce, Tom Crean and Fran McCaffery are currently not in danger of losing their jobs. Today, we continue our examination of the conference’s coaching landscape.  Specifically, we’ll explain why we expect the head men at Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State and Purdue to be here next year.  Here’s our take:

Matt Painter's past success, and his very large contract, are among the reasons he'll be in the Big Ten for a while.

Matt Painter’s past successes, and his very large contract, are among the reasons why he’ll be in the Big Ten for a while.

Richard Pitino (Minnesota): This is Pitino’s first year as a head coach in the Big Ten and second year as the head coach of anything. He spent one year at Florida International before accepting the job at Minnesota, but while at FIU, Pitino led the Panthers to their best conference record in school history. He seemed on the way to turning around a program that had won only 26 of 65 games under NBA legend Isiah Thomas.  In April, he got an offer he couldn’t refuse: a chance to compete with the best in the business in the Big Ten. So he accepted and now is set to go through the ultimate learning experience as he coaches against the likes of Izzo, Matta and Ryan every week. Pitino will get the years of learning on the job he needs to try to build something special.  Minnesota wouldn’t make this type of hire without knowing it’ll be marathon and not a sprint. He’s obviously fine right now.

Tim Miles (Nebraska): I wrote a post last week detailing the situation at Nebraska. In short, Miles has been given state-of-the-art facilities and the resources to secure top-tier assistant coaches that can deliver talented recruits.  And while boosters will expect to see a return on the money they invested, they’re realistic about the task at hand and know it won’t happen overnight. It’ll be interesting to see how the Cornhuskers fare in this, Miles’ second year. If they are able to show noticeable improvement, he and his assistants can sell recruits on being a part of a “program on the rise.” Regardless, the administration is invested both in this program and Miles as the head coach — he’ll be given the appropriate time to turn the ship around.

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Expectations on Sophomore Big Ten Stars Should Be Tempered

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on October 29th, 2013

This year’s sophomore class in the Big Ten includes a number of players who will have huge roles on their respective teams. Some are stepping into roles involving greater expectations, such as Yogi Ferrell at Indiana and Glenn Robinson III at Michigan, due to players leaving for graduation or the NBA. Others have a good bit of talent returning around them, like in the cases of Gary Harris at Michigan State and AJ Hammons at Purdue, and they will try to meld their skills into the team concept as they help their teams compete. There’s a common assumption that freshman college basketball players will make a “jump” in their learning curves between their first and second years in a program, but there’s a lot of dispute over just what that jump actually entails.

Yogi Ferrell Leads a Strong Sophomore Group in the Big Ten

Yogi Ferrell Leads a Strong Sophomore Group in the Big Ten

How big of a jump can a team expect from players who already produced plenty as freshmen? The best way to analyze this would be to look at all Big Ten freshmen’s changes in their statistical profiles from their first to second years, but without going overboard with too much analysis on this, it makes just as much sense to review the all-Big Ten Freshman teams. As you can see below on the attached Excel sheet (click through to open the entire document), the devil is in the details. For freshmen who already substantially produced in their first collegiate year, the “jump” that we were expecting doesn’t really show up during their sophomore seasons.

All-B1G Freshman to Sophomore Stats

Increases in production are minimal from these players: an addition of less than one point per game, less than half an assist and less than a third of a rebound. In terms of shooting percentages, there is a notable decrease both overall and from the three-point line. For teams like Indiana and Michigan that are expecting big bumps from their returnees playing larger roles, these trends could be a sign of worry. In terms of points production, no single player had a greater than four-point per game increase and only four out of the 21 who stayed for their sophomore seasons saw an increase of more than two points per game.

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Big Ten M5: 10.29.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 29th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. Matt Painter needs A.J.Hammons to step up this season in order to compete in the Big Ten, but Hammons needs to show more maturity and his recent suspension will not help his case. Painter suspended his sophomore big man for the Boilermakers’ first two exhibition games and the season opener for violating team’s rules. “A.J. has been suspended for the first three games of this season for conduct not representative of this program or university,” Painter said in a news release. Hammons averaged 10 points per game last season, but is expected to increase his scoring average with an offseason of strength training and general skills improvement. If Hammons can stay healthy and disciplined, his physical talents will carry him through his sophomore season.
  2. New head coaches need help with several facets of the game, including recruiting, player development and strength training. Chris Collins hired former Notre Dame guard Chris Quinn to help him develop his talent in Evanston. Quinn averaged 17.7 points per game at Notre Dame and played six seasons in the NBA before moving into coaching. He was an excellent shooter who played in a disciplined offense under Mike Brey in South Bend. Collins is trying to change the culture at Northwestern and Quinn’s success should help him develop talented wings such as JerShon Cobb.
  3. Speaking of experienced guards, Ohio State has a veteran backcourt with Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith, Jr. College hoops fans don’t need any introduction to Craft’s ability to influence the game on the defensive end, but Smith has the skill set in place to explode offensively for Thad Matta. Two years ago, the pair started in a Final Four game and they are ready to lead the Buckeyes back to the Final Four again. “You have to lead guys,” Smith says. “As senior leaders, a lot of teammates will come to us. Being the older guys, you have to be the one who knows what to do.” If Smith can provide an offensive spark and LaQuinton Ross can take the scoring load vacated by DeShaun Thomas, then Craft can focus on defense and use his leadership skills to help Matta get back to another Final Four.
  4. Experience is something that Tom Crean‘s Indiana squad will lack this season. Will Sheehey is incumbent leader returning, so the coach knows that he will have to rely on freshmen to step up on both ends of the floor. Crean remains patient about the freshmen this season and understands that there will be some necessary growing pains. Freshman forward Noah Vonleh impressed Hoosier fans in the exhibition games, but he will have to evolve his game throughout the season to perform well against Big Ten defenses. “The bottom line every day for us: Do you come in mentally prepared? Do you come in with great energy? Do you come in ready to not only work hard, but compete to win?” Crean asks. Vonleh and another talented forward, Troy Williams, will need to pick up easy points in transition to allow Yogi Ferrell to carry most of the burden in the half-court.
  5. If you haven’t heard the buzz in the Big Ten, Michigan State is the favorite to lock down the league title and contend for a national championship. Sophomore forward Matt Costello is looking to increase his contribution as a sophomore to help his team cut down the nets next April. He hopes to bring a “bad boy” attitude to the floor and help in the “hustle” aspects of the game. “If I can be a Dennis Rodman, I’ll be great with that,” Costello said, referencing the energetic, defensive standout on the Pistons’ “Bad Boy” squads of yesteryear. Tom Izzo’s squads are known as scrappy and Costello could end up being one of those guys who brings great intangibles to a team full of offensive talent with Gary Harris, Adreian Payne and Keith Appling.
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Morning Five: 10.29.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 29th, 2013

morning5

  1. Most of the major recruiting battles we follow involve coveted high school recruits, but as we have all seen sometimes the top junior college players can also have a big impact particularly when they wind up at the right program. So although yesterday’s announcement that Kadeem Allen, one of the top junior college players in the country, was committing to Arizona might not blow up the message boards it could still be a significant move. Allen is a 6’3″ guard who was a high-major recruit coming out of high school, but was unable to qualify so went to junior college in Kansas where he averaged 17.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game last year as a freshman on his was to junior college All-American honors. Assuming Allen honors his commitment he should have another year to learn the Arizona offense under T.J. McConnell before he will really have to compete for the job so even if Allen doesn’t work out Sean Miller should have plenty of time to find a replacement for McConnell.
  2. After missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in seven years, Purdue was hoping to bounce back this season. Much of their hopes coming into the season appear to rest on the shoulders of sophomore center A.J. Hammons, but those hopes will have to be put on hold temporarily as Hammons was suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules. Hammons, who averaged 10.6 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game last season, will miss Purdue’s two exhibition games and its season-opener against Northern Kentucky. The actual suspension should not necessarily be a cause for concern for Boilermaker fans (Matt Painter said it was a conduct-related suspension and not one related to academics), but the fact that Hammons, who was supposed to lead the team this year (see our post on the topic published yesterday and written before the announcement), would be reckless enough to get suspended might be a reason to be worried.
  3. Speaking of reckless… Yesterday, Roy Williams announced that North Carolina would finally reveal P.J. Hairston‘s punishment in two weeks for his multiple transgressions over the summer. We have no idea what Hairston’s suspension will be since it has previously been announced that he would miss some regular season games, but has been practicing with the team. At this point, we doubt any significant suspension is coming (unless the NCAA steps in), but the length of Hairston’s suspension will be significant because the Tar Heels have some stiff competition early including a match-up against Louisville in their fifth game (potentially). Michigan State in their seventh game, and Kentucky in their ninth game. Without Hairston’s offense and experience these would likely be almost certain losses for the Tar Heels and would pose an interesting dilemma for NCAA Tournament seeding when Selection Sunday rolls around.
  4. Most of the season previews you will be reading over the next week will focus on the star players and occasionally some key role players, but as Mike DeCourcy notes in his piece on Evansville senior Bryce Weiler there is more to the college basketball experience than what most of us are exposed to. As DeCourcy notes, despite Weiler’s blindness (the result of congenital abnormalities when he was born four months premature) he has managed to become an integral member of an Evansville team that went from being a 9-21 team his freshman year to a 21-15 team last year (his junior year). For all of the ridiculous stories we see around college sports (ranging from the suspensions to individuals throwing away their careers) it is nice to see stories like this.
  5. If you are like us you have probably been been waiting impatiently for the season to start. To keep ourselves occupied we have been reading through all sorts of preview pieces, but two of the most interesting “previews” that we have seen come from Ken Pomeroy (featured as the current rankings) and Dan Henner (ESPN Insider access only), who have somehow produced a rating system to predict how good different teams are coming into the season using an algorithm that is probably way too complex for us to understand. One of the more interesting things about the aspects is how widely they differ on how they project some teams. John Templon took on the Herculean task of comparing the two rankings systems. The wide divergence for top teams (like Arizona, which is Hanner’s #8 team, but only Pomeroy’s #23 team) will probably draw the most attention, but the bigger spread for some other teams is probably more interesting for the overall comparison. It will be interesting to see how close these two preseason rankings end up to the final rankings when the season is done.
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