Posted by Brendan Brody on December 18th, 2013
- The up-and-down early part of Derrick Walton Jr.‘s college career took another turn on Saturday in Michigan’s loss to Arizona. Walton only played 14 minutes and contributed one point, one assist, and one turnover. John Beilein still has faith in his rookie point guard, though, and he will still be the starter when the Wolverines take on Stanford on Saturday. The fact that Walton hasn’t quite been what Michigan has expected so far is minimized by the play of Spike Albrecht, though. There’s no Darius Morris or Trey Burke to lead the way, but Michigan still has a chance to go far in March if the combination of Albrecht and Walton Jr. can be effective.
- The success Wisconsin has had so far has been the story of the B1G so far, and maybe the biggest story nationally in the first six weeks of the season. The major reason for this success is, of course, the coaching talent of Bo Ryan. Ryan runs one of the unique programs in the country, mainly because he preaches and practices the same fundamentals that many other coaches tend to gloss over. This is why the running joke in the preseason every year seems to be to avoid placing Wisconsin lower than fourth no matter who his players are. Ryan’s system and attention to detail is probably worth 18-20 wins a season by itself, but now that he has it in place and the talent on this year’s unit, you can see why the Badgers are 12-0 and the number-one ranked team in the RPI.
- Penn State blew a golden opportunity on Saturday, as the Nittany Lions let Princeton come back from a 20- point deficit to beat them in overtime. This overshadowed the team’s return to its old on-campus arena, the Rec Center. The Nittany Lions got a tremendous turnout at the gate, and the game seemed to bring some excitement to a program that hasn’t always been that popular in the shadow of a formerly dominant football program. The biggest takeaway from this game and some of the other losses B1G teams suffered on Saturday was that the middle pack of the league is still wide open. Minnesota, Illinois, Penn State, Nebraska and Purdue are all pretty equal, and the games when they play against each will go a long way to determining which teams go where in the postseason.
- Despite the success Indiana has enjoyed in the last two seasons and the success he had previously at Marquette, Tom Crean still has his fair share of critics. But the Hoosiers’ head coach was his own worst critic after Indiana lost to Notre Dame in Indianapolis on Saturday. Crean mainly thought his team did a poor job of getting the ball inside to center Noah Vonleh. The Hoosiers are not a great or even a good long-distance shooting team, and with a lack of great big men in the league, a renewed emphasis on pounding the ball inside will lead to better looks for shooters that need clean looks. The Notre Dame loss could serve as something of a wake-up call in terms of strategy and potentially turn the Hoosiers’ season around.
- Ohio State is winning, and they are winning with one of the best defensive teams in the country. One of its key contributors has been Shannon Scott, who along with fellow point guard Aaron Craft, is averaging over two steals per game. The Buckeyes have already had some notable defensive performances, highlighted by holding Marquette to 19 percent shooting from the field in its own building. On Saturday the Buckeyes held North Dakota State’s Marshall Bjorkland, the NCAA’s active field goal percentage leader, to a ‘mere’ 50 percent shooting, which is significantly less than his career mark of 66.6 percent. Defense is the primary reason why Ohio State is ranked second in the country and will have as good of a chance as any team in the B1G to cut down the nets in April.
Posted by Brendan Brody on November 6th, 2013
- Illinois head coach John Groce has done it again, as he picked up another recruit from the city of Chicago on Tuesday. D.J. Williams, a 6’7″ junior from Simeon High School, verbally committed to the Illini, making him the third Simeon player to commit there in the last year — Groce already has freshmen Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate on board this season. Simeon is the alma mater of Derrick Rose and Nick Anderson, just to name a few. They are a power in the city of Chicago hoops scene on a yearly basis, and with another Windy City prep superstar named Cliff Alexander potentially also getting ready to put on an Illinois hat when he announces his college decision on November 15, Groce is looking at turning the Illini into a future national powerhouse.
- Michigan has a lot coming back from what ended up being a phenomenal season last year, but someone is going to have to step in and try to replicate the production that Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. provided on the perimeter. Freshman point guard Derrick Walton has gotten more publicity, but fellow freshman Zak Irvin has contributed some of what Hardaway did last season in Michigan’s two scrimmages. To wit, Irvin has gone 4-of-7 from deep in these two scrimmages. With veterans Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary garnering more attention from other teams’ scouting reports when taking on the Maize and Blue, Irvin will provide a huge lift if he can knock down outside shots at that kind of level as teams pay attention to his more highly publicized teammates.
- Mo Walker has spent the better part of three seasons playing behind players like Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams at Minnesota, but after he slimmed down by 60 pounds in the offseason, he’s shown a commitment to stepping in and picking up some of the slack left behind by these graduated starters. Walker led the team in points and rebounds in the Gophers’ 101-67 win over Concordia on Monday night, tallying 17/13 in the victory. Minnesota’s biggest 2013-14 question mark has to be what kind of production Richard Pitino will get down low, and Walker seems to be off to an outstanding start in providing some answers for a team that is predicted to finish in the bottom half of the league.
- Yogi Ferrell only averaged 7.6 points and 4.1 assists per game last year, but he provided a steady hand in leading a team that spent essentially the whole season in the top five nationally. With Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls all now gone, this is now Ferrell’s team and he’s taken this added leadership role to heart, doing things like diagramming game-winning plays in practice scrimmages to show his development. Ferrell is arguably the most important player in the league this season — with expectations ramped up because of the Hoosiers’ two-year renaissance, all momentum will be lost if the team drops off this season. With eight freshman on the roster, it goes without saying that Ferrell and Will Sheehey have to do more than just produce on the court for Indiana to stay near the top of the B1g standings.
- With Minnesota losing three starters and its head coach from last year’s team, the Gophers need to plug some new pieces to fit new coach Richard Pitino’s up-tempo system. It’s looking like one of these pieces is going to be JuCo transfer Deandre Mathieu. Mathieu has impressed to the point where the Gophers are considering penciling him into the lineup with two other guards, Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins. Playing with a three-guard lineup will allow Minnesota to play at a much faster tempo, with the 5’9″ Mathieu pushing Andre Hollins to play off the ball and essentially taking on the role of a scorer. In the team’s two scrimmages, Mathieu averaged 10 points, eight assists, and two steals per game, which if duplicated once the games start for real, would put him in the running for Big Ten Newcomer of the Year.