Big Ten M5: 01.02.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on January 2nd, 2014


  1. Since news broke of Indiana‘s Luke Fischer transferring on Monday, the rumors of where he is headed quickly followed. A Wisconsin native, the former top-100 recruit had many thinking he may return home to the Badgers, but that isn’t the case. Fischer announced on Twitter last night that he would not transfer to any other Big Ten school out of respect for Tom Crean and the Indiana program. It’s not certain if Fischer made this decision on his own or whether the Indiana coaching staff hinted they would block a transfer to another Big Ten program, but it does certainly eliminate plenty of places that people thought Fischer could end up.
  2. College athletics certainly has its costs, and for big programs that means paying smaller schools to come to their arena and (hopefully) trade a loss for a substantial check. A recent article reports that Michigan spent nearly $450,000 this season to host its five guarantee games. At this point it shouldn’t be news to read about the cost of these “guarantee” games, but it is interesting to see how much it typically costs a Big Ten program to bring in those small schools. For Michigan, as an example, it typically costs somewhere upward of $80,000 per game on hotel rooms, comped tickets and the team’s transportation. Not a cheap expenditure to add another W to the resume.
  3. It’s been a different kind of year for Wisconsin and Bo Ryan. Used to methodical games with little scoring, the Badgers have utilized a more high-powered offense to go along with its usual stingy defense this season. Their ability to avoid long scoring droughts like they experienced at times last year makes the Badgers confident that they can potentially win the Big Ten heading into their conference opener against Northwestern tonight. Wisconsin has raised its offensive statistics nearly across the board, with a higher shooting percentage, three-point percentage, free throw shooting and efficiency at this point in the season. Unlike some previous seasons, Bo Ryan’s team has shown it can win with multiple players having the ability to create their own shot and make it.
  4. The Big Ten is a conference loaded with plenty of stars and well-known names across the country like Michigan State’s Adreian Payne, Ohio State’s Aaron Craft and Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III. One name not often mentioned when discussing the conference’s top players is Minnesota‘s Andre Hollins. Rant Sports’ Paul Kilgas said Hollins is actually the conference’s most underrated player. It’s an interesting argument to consider because the league is loaded with solid guards. Hollins is averaging 16.2 PPG along with 3.0 APG and 4.0 RPG, but unless the Gophers have an outstanding season, he is likely to be left off many all-Big Ten ballots at the end of the year. He has certainly been the biggest key driving Minnesota’s strong start to the season, and if the Golden Gophers make a push for the upper echelon of the league standings, Hollins will without question be the catalyst.
  5. With non-conference play now over, the Big Ten Powerhouse writers got together and voted for their non-conference all-Big Ten team. It’s a solid group of five with Adreian Payne, Sam Dekker, Keith Appling, Rayvonte Rice and Tim Frazier on the list. It’s tough to really argue against that five, although Nik Stauskas has been just as phenomenal for Michigan as some of his teammates have been disappointing. Stauskas was in the next grouping of those receiving votes, along with Yogi Ferrell, Glenn Robinson III and DJ Newbill. All of these players will be looking to make the official all-Big Ten teams in a couple of months and have made excellent cases to start the season with their stellar play.
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Minnesota Half-Court Defense is Cause For Concern

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 28th, 2013

Ed. note: Minnesota finished up its Maui Invitational trip with an 83-68 win over D-II Chaminade on Wednesday afternoon.

Things were going so nicely for first-year head coach Richard Pitino and his Golden Gophers. They had won their first five games in convincing fashion; junior guard Andre Hollins was looking like a possible Big Ten Player of the Year candidate; and they had just taken it to top-ranked Syracuse losing only in the final minutes of their opening round game at the Maui Invitational. They entered their second game in Maui against an Arkansas team who had lost its most electric player in B.J. Young and was not expected to make the NCAA Tournament.  In fact, according to KenPom, the Gophers were expected to win the game by a 10-point margin. Things went as planned in the first half as Minnesota took a five-point lead to the locker room, but after that point, the bottom fell off for Pitino’s squad. The Gophers’ ineffective half-court defense allowed the Razorbacks to come back and win the game, 87-73, and the game tape it created may haunt them throughout the rest of the season.


Richard Pitino is trying to implement his father’s pressure defense in Minnesota, but its the half-court defense that may cost him.

As one of our fellow RTC Big Ten microsite columnists pointed out earlier this season, the press defense is a feature Pitino is trying to instill at Minnesota. Pitino learned the art of applying  a press from one of the best in the business, his father Rick Pitino. This focus on the press has helped them blow some lesser talented teams out in the early schedule, but it was a complete disaster in the second half against Arkansas. The Razorbacks scored 11 points off turnovers in the second half, but the remaining 41 points were scored in the half-court. Once Arkansas figured out how to break Minnesota’s press and began their offensive sets, they exposed Minnesota’s zone defense.  Unlike Syracuse, the Razorbacks had more than one shooter capable of dropping threes over the zone (four different Razorbacks hit from deep in the second half). They confused Minnesota by switching from attacking with three-pointers and drives, and the Gophers were completely feckless in stopping either. The Razorbacks’ 76 percent true shooting percentage (5-of-7 3FGs, 17-of-28 FGs, 13-of-14 FTs) for the second half was easily the team’s best of the year. The Gophers have been working on their press defense all season, but perhaps as a result, they seem to have completely forgotten what to do when they’re in the half-court.

Last year, Louisville provided a prime example of an elite team winning the National Championship while implementing the press on a consistent basis. So this isn’t a gimmick Pitino is trying to enable to mask some other defensive deficiencies. But the Big Ten is at its heart a half-court league, and Minnesota will find itself in numerous situations where it will have to rely on half-court defense to win games. If they can’t shore up that defense enough to at least provide some element of resistance, the conference schedule will expose this Minnesota team night in and night out.

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Minnesota’s Press is Somewhat Unique in the Big Ten

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 16th, 2013

Minnesota has gotten off to a pretty successful start in the Richard Pitino era, as the Gophers have beaten two not-so-horrible mid-majors in Lehigh and Montana so far. The Gophers were one of the more enigmatic Big Ten teams to try to figure out in the preseason. They are playing a much different system, and although they have some players back with experience, they’re incorporating several new pieces that make this a team to keep an eye on going forward. Everybody knows that two games does not a sample size make, but since it’s all we have to go with so far as Minnesota heads into its game today with Richmond, here’s are a few things I’ve observed in those two opening games.

Andre Hollins  is off to a good start for Minnesota.

Andre Hollins is off to a good start for Minnesota.

One question mark about Minnesota was its obvious lack of size, and the Gophers have started the year by going with a three-guard lineup in DeAndre Mathieu, Andre Hollins, and Austin Hollins. But whether this will hurt them once they hit the league schedule remains to be seen. One of their potential options in the low post, Maurice Walker, is suspended for six gamesEliott Eliason has shown early on, however, that he can be a force by altering shots and hitting the glass. So far he’s been the only true big man on the floor, and if he can continue to come close to getting 23.8 percent of the Gophers’ offensive rebounds and blocking shots at a 17.9 percent clip, he will go a long way toward alleviating these concerns (unsustainable numbers, but good ones nevertheless). He’ll never be Kevin McHale on the low block, but he’s shown so far that he can mix it up and get after the Gopher misses. Joey King and Oto Osenieks are more European-type big men, so while they’ll help some, it will be interesting to see what comes about from the Walker-Eliason combination once the suspended player comes back.

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RTC Big Ten Preseason Rankings: #12 to #9

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 6th, 2013

With just a couple days before the regular season tips off, it’s time to get down to how the five of us on the microsite feel that the 12 teams will shake out once the season gets rolling. What follows are the teams that we picked to finish in the bottom third of the league. Before the games tip off for real on Friday, we will show you teams #8-#5, and then close it out with teams #4-#1. Feel free to let the debates, arguments and discussions about how much or little we know what we’re talking about.

12. Nebraska

  • What they do Well: Nebraska does not turn the ball over, as it ranked 30th last season nationally in turnover rate. This is partially due to playing at a slow tempo, but their guards take care of the ball.
  • What they don’t do well: They do not get many second chance opportunities, as they ranked 319th last season in offensive rebounding rate.
  • Get to knowShavon Shields. Shields made a decent impact last year, as he was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice. He and fellow wing David Rivers will need to step up to offset the losses of Brandon Ubel and Dylan Talley.
Sparkly new arena and facilities aside, we at the microsite aren't buying Nebraska as a contender this season.

Sparkly new arena and facilities aside, we at the microsite aren’t buying Nebraska as a contender this season.

  • Why they’ll finish 12th: Tim Miles looks like one of the better young coaches in the land, but with this being one of the best and deepest conferences in the country yet again, they simply don’t have enough quality depth to compete just yet. Teams will exploit their lack of quality size and kill them on the boards.
  • Why they’ll finish higher: Tai Webster turns out to be much better than advertised, and he and Ray Gallegos will be able to produce on the perimeter, shooting a high percentage and taking care of the ball. Florida castoff Walter Pitchford uses his 6’10” frame to remedy the Huskers problem with offensive rebounding.

10 (tie). Northwestern

  • What they do well: Like Nebraska, the Wildcats are used to playing at a slow tempo to their advantage, ranking 37th nationally in turnover rate. This may or may not be the same strength this year as they look to play faster.
  • What they don’t do well: Northwestern ranked 337th in offensive block rate, meaning that they really struggled in finishing at the rim.
  • Get to know: Alex Olah. If Northwestern can get anything from this 7-foot Romanian, they’ll be balanced enough with their guards to surpass expectations in Collins’ first season at the helm.
  • Why they’ll finish 10th: There will be too much uncertainty as the players adjust to playing at a quicker tempo, transitioning from Bill Carmody and his Princeton offense to a more up-tempo style of play that Collins is implementing.
  • Why they’ll finish higher: The return of Drew Crawford and JerShon Cobb will lead to a better perimeter attack more athleticism. Olah becomes a physical presence inside that they will need to create extra possessions.

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Who’s the Best 3-Point Shooter in the Big Ten? An Analytical Look…

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 5th, 2013

The title of this post asks a pretty straightforward question: Who is the best shooter from deep in the Big Ten? Seems simple enough. But how do you define the “best” three-point shooter? Is it the player who makes the most threes? Is it the player who makes the highest percentage of his threes? Is it the shooting specialist who contributes the most to his team’s wins?  The best approach, of course, is to appreciate all three characteristics. So let’s do exactly that and look into the numbers.

Andre Hollins lit it up from deep last year.

Andre Hollins lit it up from deep last year. (AP)

First, we need to create a list of players in the Big Ten who meet certain criteria. For the purpose of this analysis, we will only include returning Big Ten players and use last season’s statistics for measurement. While we recognize that freshmen can be highly effective from long range right out of the gate — look no further than Michigan sophomore Nik Stauskas last year — we have no set methodology for projecting freshman output from their high school performance. Therefore, in the interest of convenience, no freshmen are included in this list. The next criterion is that players must have attempted at least 100 3-pointers last season and shot at least 30 percent from deep. This filters out players with a high percentage from a small sample size of 3-point attempts and gunners who put up too many bricks to be considered top-tier shooters.

The table below displays our initial list of candidates given those criteria, and their pertinent statistics from the 2012-13 season (from

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Rushed Reactions: #3 Florida 78, #11 Minnesota 64

Posted by WCarey on March 24th, 2013


Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 32 NCAA Tournament game between #3 Florida and #11 Minnesota in Austin.

Three Key Takeaways.

Florida Outmuscled and Outshot the Gophers Today (AP)

Florida Outmuscled and Outshot the Gophers Today (AP)

  1. Florida’s offense was very impressive. The Gators shot the ball very well all game. They finished at a 56.8% mark from the field along with a very impressive 50% mark from deep. Florida was able to build a very comfortable lead because of its torrid shooting, 65.2% from the field, in the first half. While Minnesota fought back in the second half to trim the Gators’ lead, Florida’s offense still played quite well in the second frame. Billy Donovan’s squad has had balanced scoring all season with four players (Kenny Boynton, Erik Murphy, Mike Rosario, and Patric Young) averaging more than 10 points per contest. The Gators only had three guys in double figures in Sunday’s victory, but it was evident that the team focuses on sharing the ball among all five players instead of looking to one as its go-to guy. Rosario showed that he has the ability to go off from behind the three-point line, as he finished with a career-best 25 points on 6-of-9 shooting from deep.
  2. When Florida plays like it did in the first half, a national title is its ceiling. A statistic that shows just how dominant the Gators were in the first half: Rosario and Murphy combined for 32 first half points, while Minnesota, as a team, only managed to score 27 first half points. The Gators shot a scorching 65.2% from the field and connected on 7-of-14 three-point attempts during the opening frame. Florida also defended quite well during the first 20 minutes, as it held Minnesota to just 39.1% shooting, forced the Golden Gophers into many bad shots, and forced nine turnovers. The Gators have had a reputation for inconsistent play this season – especially late in the season – but if they can put forth similar performances to what they showed during the first half against Minnesota, they could cut realistically cut down the nets in Atlanta on April 8.
  3. Minnesota deserves a great deal of credit for fighting hard. When Minnesota fell behind by 21 at half, it could have definitely laid down and ended up losing by 30+. The Golden Gophers did not do that though, as instead they battled until the final buzzer. While the closest they got to Florida was seven points, they definitely had the Gators worried for awhile in the second half. Guard Andre Hollins was red hot from behind the arc in during that time, which resulted in Florida having to make adjustments to its perimeter defense. By opening the second half on a 17-5 run, Minnesota forced Florida back into attack mode as that was needed to ensure the victory. A lot has been discussed nationally about Tubby Smith‘s job status as the leader of the program. While some of the whispers are probably fair, the team’s effort definitely suggests that Smith did not lose his team this season.

Star of the Game. Mike Rosario, Florida. The senior was feeling it all night for the Gators. He finished with a career-best 25 points – on 8-of-12 shooting from the field and 6-of-9 shooting from deep. Whenever Florida needed a big shot, it looked to Rosario and he answered the bell. After having a subpar performance in the team’s Round of 64 victory over Northwestern State, Rosario was the best player on the floor in the Round of 32 and his performance has the Gators prepping for another Sweet 16 appearance.

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Rushed Reactions: #11 Minnesota 83, #6 UCLA 63

Posted by WCarey on March 22nd, 2013


Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 64 NCAA Tournament game between #6 UCLA and #11 Minnesota in Austin.

Three Key Takeaways.

Did Ben Howland Coach His Last Game in Westwood?

Did Ben Howland Coach His Last Game in Westwood?

  1. Minnesota’s effort was outstanding. For a team that was woefully inconsistent in the regular season, the Golden Gophers put together a very strong performance in its victory over UCLA. In last week’s loss to Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament, Minnesota only managed to score 49 points and looked horrible on offense for almost the entire game. Friday night was a completely different story for the Golden Gophers as they took advantage of a very poor UCLA defense and exploded for 83 points. Minnesota got a ton of good looks throughout the game, which is evident by its 50% shooting mark from the field and its 60% mark from three. UCLA was not exactly top-notch competition, but the Minnesota team that won Friday night looked much more like the Minnesota team that had beat Michigan State and Indiana than the Minnesota team that put up 49 points against Illinois last weekend.
  2. UCLA played like it wanted its season to end. When Jordan Adams went down with a broken foot in the Pac-12 Tournament, it was huge blow to the Bruins. Many national pundits believed UCLA would struggle against Minnesota without Adams, as he was the team’s best defender all season. There is no way the pundits thought that the Bruins would struggle as bad as they did in the blowout loss. Minnesota came into the game averaging 68.4 points per game on the season and it scored 83 against the Bruins. Minnesota came into the game shooting 44.2% from the field on the season, it shot 50% against the Bruins. Tubby Smith‘s squad was able to reach these figures due to the countless open looks that were afforded them by the UCLA defense. Golden Gophers guard Andre Hollins finished with 28 points and was 5-of-8 from deep. UCLA did not make a single adjustment when Hollins started to get hot. There were also several instances of where Minnesota big men Trevor Mbakwe and Elliott Eliason just outworked the Bruins’ interior players to grab offensive boards to help their team retain possession. UCLA’s offense was also horrible, as it shot just 31.7% from the field including a ghastly 18.2% from three. While it is understandable that teams do have poor shooting night, what was so dumbfounding about UCLA’s is that it continued to take horrible shots on bad looks until the final buzzer. The Bruins played like they did not want to be in the NCAA Tournament and it showed on both ends of the court in their pathetic loss to Minnesota.
  3. It might be time for a coaching change in Westwood. While the Bruins did finish 25-10 and win the outright regular season Pac-12 title, with the riches of talent the team has possessed over the years, the team just has not won enough. UCLA has missed the tournament in two of the last four seasons and only has two tournament wins since 2008. Considering that Steve Lavin was let go by UCLA after making the tournament in six of his seven seasons in Westwood and taking the Bruins to five Sweet 16s, it should be to the surprise of no one if UCLA decides to make a coaching change after this flameout against Minnesota. Another thing that works against Howland is that according to a Chris Foster story in Tuesday’s Los Angeles Times, “he had received no indication from his bosses about his status or what his team had to accomplish for him to stay on the job.”

Star of the Game. Andre Hollins, Minnesota. The sophomore guard put forth quite the offensive performance for the Golden Gophers. He tallied 28 points on 8-of-16 from the field and knocked back 5-of-8 from deep. Hollins was Minnesota’s go-to guy all night and he responded with a very good offensive performance. If Minnesota wants any chance at beating Florida on Sunday, it is going to need a similar performance from Hollins.

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Big Ten Slowly Eating the Golden Gophers Alive

Posted by BHayes on February 21st, 2013

Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

Next time Tubby Smith feels inclined to show off his dance moves, he might think twice. After the old coach cut up a rug in the Gopher locker room following an overtime win over Wisconsin, all his team has done is go on the road and get smacked twice, dropping games to Iowa and Ohio State by a combined 47 points. Suffice it to say that there was no two-stepping going on in the visitor’s locker room in Columbus last night, as Minnesota has now dropped five consecutive road contests. Dazzling computer numbers and a handful of quality victories should prevent the Gophers from slipping all the way out of the NCAA Tournament field, but for a team that was once 15-1 and in the top 10 of both national polls, this late February predicament feels like one that never should have happened.

Tubby Smith, Minnesota

Tubby Smith Is Wondering What Happened To His Gophers

The Gopher offense still ranks in Ken Pomeroy’s top-25 nationally in regard to offensive efficiency, but the recent slide has coincided with some serious issues putting the ball in the bucket. Minnesota exceeded 70 points in all but two of their first 18 games; in the last nine affairs (a stretch where they went 3-6), Tubby’s crew has managed 60 points just twice. Star guard Andre Hollins’ production has been equally dismal over that stretch, having shot just 32% from the field over those nine games. Tubby Smith had to expect his team’s offense to drop off a bit when they hit Big Ten play, but the grade of that cliff has proven far steeper than he would have liked.

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Rodney Williams Holds the Key to Minnesota’s Mid-Season Slump

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on January 29th, 2013

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.

About two weeks ago, the Minnesota Gophers were ranked #8 in the polls and were considered as one of the contenders to win the Big Ten title. After a tough loss to Indiana (88-81) on the road, the Gophers unexpectedly hit a mid-season slump by dropping three more games in a row to Michigan, Northwestern and Wisconsin. The Gophers still have the talent to become a top team in the Big Ten but they might need some help from their senior forward Rodney Williams. Even though forward Trevor Mbakwe has been averaging a double-double (12 PPG and 11.5 RPG) and guard Andre Hollins has averaged 16 PPG during the losing streak, Williams holds the key for the Gophers to return to their winning ways. It is not coincidental that Williams has struggled mightily during the team’s losing skid — he scored 11, 11, seven and two points during the four losses against Indiana, Michigan, Northwestern and Wisconsin, respectively.

Rodney Williams has struggled during the Gophers losing streak (Star Tribune)

Rodney Williams has struggled during the Gophers’ recent losing streak (Star Tribune)

Except for the IU game, Williams hasn’t been comfortable in the offense and his hesitancy can be attributed to the overall pace of the game and his offensive skill set. The athletic forward runs the court very well and is a great recipient of passes in transition because he finishes so strongly around the basket. The IU game was played at a frantic pace because Tom Crean’s team prefers it that way and it suited Williams’ offensive strengths. But the Wildcats and the Badgers slowed the game down against Minnesota with their defense, and it forced the senior forward to find other ways to score in the half-court.  He shot just 3-of-11 from the field against the 1-3-1 zone in Evanston because he wasn’t given the ball in his favorite spots on the floor. When he isn’t scoring in transition, Williams is excellent off the pick-and-roll where he sets a screen at the high post or the baseline and uses his quickness to cut to the basket to finish with a variety of dunks. A majority of his points in the half-court are a result of layups or dunks as the Gopher guards get into paint. The Wildcats forced Hollins to instead settle for jumpers (2-of-7 3FG), so he couldn’t get Williams involved. Even though the Badgers didn’t play a similar zone, Ben Brust and Traevon Jackson were still able to prevent Hollins from driving past the first layer of defense. Hollins still scored 20 points but didn’t have much success getting all the way to the basket. It is clear that Williams struggles offensively when Hollins and the other guards can’t get into the paint. His performance against the Wolverines looked fine on paper (11 points) but he turned the ball over four times because he was trying too hard to create his own shot — not one of his offensive strengths.

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Big Ten M5: 01.23.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on January 23rd, 2013


  1. The Purdue Boilermakers will likely not make the NCAA Tournament this season because they are rebuilding with a young core of players. But would they have a better shot at making the postseason if they had landed Michigan freshman Glenn Robinson III on the recruiting trail? The 6’6″ wing could have followed the footsteps of his famous father and Purdue legend, Glenn Robinson, but Matt Painter did not have any scholarships left to offer him. Robinson came into his own in high school after committing verbally to John Beilein, rising up the rankings by the time he graduated. He was a three-star prospect at the time of his verbal commitment but finished his prep career ranked #11 by Rivals during his senior year in high school. While his team’s prospects wouldn’t have been as promising, his scoring average would probably be higher than 12.1 PPG if he were playing in West Lafayette this season as a primary scoring option on a younger team.
  2. Speaking of Purdue, long time assistant and Indiana native Bob King passed away this week at the age of 92. King was an assistant coach for the Boilermakers from 1960-74 and was inducted into the Indiana basketball Hall of Fame in 1986. He was an assistant and associate athletics director from 1974-93 and oversaw one of the best stretches of basketball in West Lafayette under former head coach Gene Keady. Current Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke added, “He coached, mentored, listened and held people accountable — all with a sense of compassion.”
  3. It is never too early to look ahead to a game that could potentially be a classic match-up when it occurs. The Wolverines head to Bloomington on February 2 and if both Michigan and Indiana continue to play well, the game could feature two top five teams battling for Big Ten supremacy. Hoosier State of Mind provides a very premature preview of the game between the two best teams in the Big Ten so far. Nik Stauskas (12.6 PPG) is described as a player that “could shoot as well as Jordan Hulls but can also drive to the hoop with some power.” Stauskas needs to be pull himself out of his current mini-slump before traveling to Indiana in order to help John Beilein’s squad notch a quality win on the road.
  4. Michigan has already proven that it can win in a tough road environment by beating Minnesota in Minneapolis. Star-Tribune‘s Amelia Rayno addresses the Gophers’ loss to the Wolverines and other questions about Tubby Smith’s team in her weekly mailbag. She credits last season’s run to the NIT championship game as a key factor in helping these young Gophers gain some confidence before this season started. Rayno believes that Andre Hollins and Joe Coleman grew during the process as mature leaders and adds, “It allowed the Gophers to go into their offseason with immediate memories of success, but also a reminder that they had not suddenly become perfect, they still had flaws and there was still much work to be done.” Hollins has averaged 14.3 PPG and 3.7 APG and is arguably the best guard in the Big Ten this season after Michigan’s Trey Burke.
  5. Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo is never satisfied despite having won five straight Big Ten games heading into Madison last night. Before the game Izzo said, “We’re not as solid as we were last year,” when asked about the Spartans’ performance so far this season. Izzo has tried numerous lineups with Derrick Nix, Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson rotating role players around them, but he hasn’t found a combination that has worked consistently so far. He certainly has the flexibility of playing a big lineup with those three players and bringing Travis Trice off the bench along with freshman Denzel Valentine. After a tough win on the road against the Badgers last night (49-47), the Spartans are continuing to improve and may change their coach’s mind over time.
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Set Your DVR: Week of 01.14.13

Posted by bmulvihill on January 14th, 2013


Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Conference season has leveled the playing field as the remaining unbeaten teams have all lost. The Big Ten schedule is proving to be an absolute gauntlet and the Mountain West is nothing to sneeze at. Both leagues have stellar games this week along side a few other notable match-ups from around the nation. Let’s get to the breakdowns:

#1 Louisville at Connecticut – 7:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN (****)

kevin ollie napier

  • The Louisville Cardinals are moved into the top spot in the nation after losses this weekend by Duke and Michigan and a loss by Arizona earlier last week. Their first game as #1 will be no easy contest as they head to Connecticut in a tough Big East road match-up. The Huskies are coming off a significant win at Notre Dame, which rarely loses at home, but it looks like UConn has their number, as they account for ND’s only two losses at home in the last two and a half years. UConn guards Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier will be the focus of this game, as they face intense pressure from the Louisville defense. Up to this point in the season, both players have protected the ball quite well, particularly Napier who is only giving it up on 11% of his possessions. They must be able to handle the press however in order to give the team a chance to win this game. Also, keep an eye on UConn’s Tyler Olander. He went 8-9 from the field against Notre Dame going for 16 points and 7 rebounds. He will be surrounded by very athletic big men on Louisville. UConn needs him to produce against Gorgui Dieng and company to take some pressure off the guards. The difference in this game may actually be Louisville on the offensive boards. The Huskies rank 298th in defensive rebounding percentage. With the Cardinals throwing Dieng, Chane Behanan, and Wayne Blackshear at the glass on the offensive end, it’s going to be tough for UConn to prevent second chance points. However, if they can limit turnovers, they have a shot to win at home.

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Minnesota Proves it has Staying Power; Illinois Continues Consistency Struggles

Posted by KTrahan on January 10th, 2013

Any remaining doubts about Minnesota’s ability to be a contender in the Big Ten were put to rest Wednesday night as the Gophers took down Illinois 84-67 in Champaign. On paper, it should have been a close game — #8 at #12 — but in reality, Wednesday’s game proved that Minnesota has staying power while Illinois could struggle to keep up its early-season pace.

The Gophers Have Proven To Be Much More Than Just Trevor Mbakwe

Statistically, Minnesota looks very likely to continue its early-season success. The Gophers are incredibly balanced with top players Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe in the frontcourt and the emergence of Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins, and Joe Coleman in the backcourt. That has led to an offensive efficiency rating that ranks 1oth in the nation and a defensive efficiency rating that ranks #14 nationally according to Minnesota ranks only #51 in effective field goal percentage, but the Gophers are the best in the nation at offensive rebounding, getting a second shot off a ridiculous 48.5 percent of the time. Add in a defensive block percentage that ranks sixth and a steal percentage that ranks eighth nationally, and Minnesota is getting many more possessions than its opponents. So even on an “off” shooting night, the Gophers will always be in the game because they get so many more chances to shoot than their opponents.

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