Season in Review: Northwestern Wildcats

Posted by KTrahan on April 17th, 2013

Now that the 2012-13 college basketball season has come to a close, we’re doing a review of each Big Ten team’s season, as well as looking ahead to next year. Today’s team: the Northwestern Wildcats.

Bill Carmody Couldn't Find Enough Answers This Season (Credit: ChicagoNow)

Bill Carmody Couldn’t Find Enough Answers This Season (Credit: ChicagoNow)

The Good

It was tough to find much good in Evanston this year, mainly because just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong. This was supposed to be Northwestern’s most talented team ever, but a slew of injuries meant the Wildcats essentially had to play with mostly guards and freshmen all season. The result was a 4-14 Big Ten record. You can’t find much good from that, but there were a few silver linings to the injuries, particularly the development of this year’s freshmen. Those freshmen — center Alex Olah and forward Kale Abrahamson, in particular — were thrown into the mix right away and didn’t have time to adjust with a veteran supporting cast. That led to a rocky start, but the extra experience helped them develop, and their collective improvement showed down the stretch. Olah still needs to work on his defense and he’s limited athletically, but he showed much better instincts in the post and developed as a good passer. Abrahamson was overmatched by his opponents for much of the year, but he too showed an ability to drive to the hoop late in the year to complement solid three-point shooting. Both players have a ways to go, but they have built a solid foundation that will bode well for the future.

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Big Ten M5: 03.12.13 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on March 12th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  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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Analyzing Northwestern’s Ups and Downs with the 1-3-1

Posted by KTrahan on January 29th, 2013

In Northwestern’s last two games, we have seen the good and the bad of the 1-3-1 defense. Trailing Minnesota in the second half, the Wildcats rode the 1-3-1 to spark a run and upset the Gophers at home. Just three days later, Nebraska used hot three-point shooting against the zone to secure an upset win of its own against Northwestern. NU fans have a love-hate relationship with the 1-3-1. When it works, they love it. When it doesn’t work, well, Bill Carmody summed it up well: “You hit a three against the 1-3-1 and everyone is like, ‘Oh mom, the zone.’”

Sometimes the 1-3-1 doesn't have any answers (Credit: ChicagoNow)

Sometimes the 1-3-1 doesn’t have any answers (Credit: ChicagoNow)

I broke down the 1-3-1 earlier this week, so you can check that out if you want more info on what exactly it is. Basically, it’s a way for the defense to try to trap the ball on the wings and force turnovers or low-percentage shots. However, it’s not meant to be used for entire games or against certain match-ups. Minnesota was a perfect match-up for the 1-3-1, though. The Gophers turn the ball over a lot and struggle shooting from outside. They couldn’t get the ball inside, and thus came up with too many empty possessions which allowed Northwestern to get additional fast break points. Nebraska, on the other hand, was a bad match-up for the 1-3-1. The Huskers, despite all their shortfalls, only have a turnover percentage of 17.6 percent, which is good for #33 in the country. Carmody tired to use the 1-3-1 to create turnovers against the Huskers and simultaneously spark a stagnant Northwestern offense, but Nebraska’s effective ball movement prevented those mistakes. The Cornhuskers, led by Ray Gallegos, started knocking down threes, helping them execute against the 1-3-1’s weakness.

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Should Northwestern Head Coach Bill Carmody Be on the Hot Seat?

Posted by WCarey on December 22nd, 2012

Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Friday evening’s game between Stanford and Northwestern.

Eleven of the current Big Ten schools have appeared in the NCAA Tournament. The only school from the conference that has not appeared in the Big Dance is Northwestern. The history of Wildcats basketball is marred with futility. The team has not won a Big Ten title since 1933 and has consistently finished in the bottom half of the league ever since – the Wildcats have not finished higher than fourth place since 1968. In its home at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Illinois, Northwestern has a lone banner honoring its seven National Invitational Tournament appearances amidst many other banners honoring NCAA Tournament appearances in other sports.

BCarmody1

Bill Carmody And Northwestern Seem to Always Come Up Just Short (image: P. Velasquez/Chicago Tribune)

In an attempt to change the course of its basketball history, Northwestern hired Bill Carmody in April 2000 to replace Kevin O’Neill. Carmody came to the Wildcats following a highly successful four-year stint as the head coach at Princeton. While at Princeton, Carmody led the Tigers to NCAA Tournament appearances during his first two seasons and NIT appearances in his third and fourth seasons. Since arriving in Evanston, Carmody has found out that winning consistently in the Big Ten is much harder than it was in the Ivy League. Now in his 13th season, Carmody’s overall record with the Wildcats is just 187-192, while his Big Ten mark is a lackluster 66-136. The best Carmody has ever finished in the Big Ten was in a fifth-place tie in the 2003-04 season – a season where the Wildcats still finished 14-15 overall and out of the postseason.

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Next Year Looking More and More Like “The Year” For Northwestern

Posted by KTrahan on December 18th, 2012

Every year, the question remains the same for a Northwestern team perpetually on the bubble: Can the Wildcats sneak into the NCAA Tournament? Last summer, it certainly seemed like this could be the year that NU would make the Big Dance for the first time in school history. Bill Carmody finally had two big men, an impressive recruiting class, a graduate transfer, and a solid group of returning stars including Drew Crawford, Dave Sobolewski, Reggie Hearn and JerShon Cobb.

The Loss of Drew Crawford Leaves Northwestern Searching For Answers

The Loss of Drew Crawford Leaves Northwestern Searching For Answers

However, things don’t always go as planned in college basketball, and NU certainly learned that quickly this year. Cobb was suspended for the season due to academic problems, the new players haven’t adjusted as quickly as fans had hoped, and Crawford wasn’t playing at all like himself. Now, we at least have an answer for the latter issue, as NU announced over the weekend that Crawford will miss the remainder of the season to have surgery on a torn labrum. Adding Crawford’s injury to the doubts following an inconsistent start to the season, it’s looking more and more like this won’t be “the year” for the Wildcats. But could that be a good thing for NU?

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Big Ten M5: 12.14.12 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on December 14th, 2012

morning5_bigten

  1. Michigan coach John Beilein isn’t scared to use his five highly-touted freshmen this year, and he solidified that this week when he said he would stick with a nine-man rotation, including all five of those rookies. Freshmen Nick Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III will continue to start alongside Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jordan Morgan, but Caris LeVert, Mitch McGary, Spike Albrecht and Jon Horford will all see significant minutes, as well. The Wolverines have one of the deepest teams in the league, and with the freshmen living up to the hype so far, they have the potential to put a dangerous lineup on the court for the entire game.
  2. With so many new faces, Northwestern has been fairly inconsistent en route to a 7-3 start. The Wildcats won at Baylor, but have home losses to Maryland, Illinois-Chicago and Butler, with Texas State and Stanford coming to Evanston next week. Northwestern has spent the last four years on the NCAA Tournament bubble and fans are becoming restless about the team’s chances this year. CBS Chicago’s Dave Wischnowsky wonders how much more “close but no cigar” NU will accept, and whether coach Bill Carmody will be shown the door if things don’t turn around this season.
  3. Michigan State’s Tom Izzo has been hitting the recruiting circuit hard recently, looking at top recruits Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor, Cliff Alexander and Tyus Jones, among others, but the Spartans’ head coach isn’t a fan of such road trips. Izzo would like the NCAA to shorten the length of time in which coaches are able to evaluate recruits in order to allow coaches more time with their families. Coaches have very little time off from September to March, and a change in the rules would also allow them more time to spend with their teams during the season. Izzo admits that his words go “on deaf ears,” but he thinks teams could get the same players even if the rules were changed.
  4. Iowa has three freshmen in its starting lineup this year, which means that some veterans have had to embrace bench roles. Zach McCabe and Melsahn Basabe, in particular, have given up playing time for the newcomers, but they’re OK with it if it helps the team. Coach Fran McCaffery is impressed with how his upperclassmen have bought into the program and accepted their new roles this season, even if it means they won’t be in the starting lineup. It’s not all bad for McCabe and Basabe, though, as both see minutes comparable to what the starters see. As long as they’re winning, the Hawkeye players don’t really care how it happens, even if that means sitting on the bench to start the game.
  5. It’s mid-December, which means it’s cupcake season in college basketball. Ohio State picked up a routine 85-45 cupcake victory over Savannah State this week, which will put another tally in the win column for the Buckeyes, but Rob Oller wonders if the game was really that beneficial. It’s a way for players — especially role players — to gain confidence, but there isn’t much good that it does for the starters. Since it’s difficult for players to get up for this kind of game, coach Thad Matta was forced to exaggerate what Savannah State brings to the table, all adding up to a yawner. But if this kind of game can inspire confidence in the players, that, says Oller, is really all that’s important.
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Andrew Smith Shows His Importance to Butler’s Long-Term Fortune

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 9th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC correspondent. He was in Evanston for Butler’s 74-65 victory over Northwestern at Welsh-Ryan Arena Saturday night. You can follow him @ChrisDJohnsonn

The biggest weak spot in Butler’s season body of work entering tonight’s game at Northwestern was a road defeat at Xavier. It was the Bulldogs’ second game of the season, and their only true road test. It was hard to know what to make of that result, mostly because Xavier itself remained something of a mystery. But over the next four weeks, as Butler notched impressive victories over Marquette and North Carolina at the Maui Invitational, and handled three consecutive home tune-ups against Hanover, Ball State and IUPUI, the perception lingered – however faint – that Butler needed to prove itself in a hostile road environment before drawing a long-term prospectus about the Bulldogs’ chances of competing in the new and improved Atlantic 10.

The Bulldogs dominated the paint against Northwestern, with Smith leading the charge en route to his best performance of the season (Photo credit: AP Photo).

Those doubts all but evaporated at Welsh-Ryan Arena Saturday night. Butler showed the poise, savvy and steadfast discipline that’s come to define Brad Stevens’ recent wave of national success. More importantly, it flashed newfound strength on the low block, a physical disadvantage that’s limited Butler in recent seasons against athletically superior teams. Senior center Andrew Smith had scored the ball at an efficient rate through the early part of the season, posting a 114.0 offensive rating and a 55.1% effective field goal percentage, but his usage rate (19.6 percent of available possessions) ranked behind two teammates and his main priorities typically hinged on defense and rebounding. Smith proved Saturday night he’s more than capable of carrying the load offensively. “I thought he played his best game of the year,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said following the Bulldogs’ 74-65 victory in at Welsh-Ryan Arena. “We needed every bit of it.”

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Two Key Observations From Northwestern’s Huge Win Over Baylor

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on December 5th, 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.

Northwestern visited Baylor Tuesday night after losing a game to Illinois-Chicago over the weekend, a bad loss on the Wildcats’ resume in their quest to finally receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament. While a 20-point loss to Maryland at home in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge looks bad on paper, a defeat to an opponent who will likely be competing for a bid in March can be written off as an anomaly. Baylor, on the other hand, was coming off a surprising road win at Kentucky over the weekend. The Bears controlled the tempo against the Wildcats and convincingly beat them by forcing numerous tough shots, 64-55. Tuesday night’s match-up between these teams meant more to Northwestern than the Bears and they played like it, utilizing a heightened sense of urgency right from the tip. Their defense was excellent for a majority of the game and even though they struggled to hold on during the last five minutes, a 74-70 road win against a potential top five seed in March potentially neutralizes the bad loss to the Flames when evaluating their non-conference performance. Here are two key observations from the Wildcats’ big road win:

Drew Crawford played with a sense of urgency against Baylor on Tuesday night.

  1. Alex Olah played a perfect role in the half court: Olah was heavily involved in the offense during the second half. He was active around the high post and helped move the ball from one side of the court to the other as the Wildcats set up the backdoor cuts which are an integral part of their Princeton offense. Olah racked up six assists during the game and he was involved in most of the plays that resulted in scores on those cuts. There were a handful of plays where Olah received the ball from Dave Sobolewski at the top of the key, took a couple of dribbles towards the other side of the court, and handed it to Drew Crawford or Reggie Hearn on the perimeter. The play usually then resulted in either Crawford or Hearn receiving the pass while the other slid towards the basket during the handoff. Hearn had a couple of easy layups using this backdoor as Baylor’s Brady Heslip was thoroughly confused with the cutting movement among the three Wildcats. When Heslip or A.J. Walton tried to play the backdoor cuts conservatively by staying back, the play resulted in Crawford nailing two key three-pointers from the perimeter because his defender gave him space. Olah also held his ground in the low post while defending Isaiah Austin who is taller but lacks the weight to back down for easy baskets in the paint. Because Austin was forced away from the paint, he had to settle for mid-range jumpers and only scored eight points. Read the rest of this entry »
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Northwestern’s Loss To Maryland Won’t Help Its Case In March

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 28th, 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.

A loss in November should not be a huge factor when determining a team’s destiny for an NCAA bid in March, especially if it is to another team from a power conference like ACC. But for Northwestern, it is a big deal. The Maryland Terrapins are talented and they have two potential first round NBA picks in Alex Len and Dez Wells. Mark Turgeon is one of the better coaches in the business and barring a breakdown defensively, they will be in the hunt for an NCAA bid in March. So, why is this loss bad for the Wildcats? Because they could have had a chance to pull away in the first half and potentially boost their resume with a solid win for the selection committee as they make their case for the postseason. The Wildcats may not win more than nine games during the Big Ten season, so they need to bank on beating other “good but not great” teams at home before January. It is very likely that Maryland won’t run away with the ACC and they will be on the bubble too in March, but the Wildcats will be right up there in the conversation about resumes and RPI rankings. The selection committee will look at these kinds of inter-conference match-ups to determine which team took advantage on its home court and Bill Carmody could have helped his case with at least a strong showing on Tuesday night. Let’s examine how the Wildcats could have kept the game closer than a 20-point blowout loss.

Louisville transfer Jared Swopshire (ball) was ineffective against Maryland. (Chicago Tribune)

  • Alex Len Didn’t Get Enough Touches in the First Half: The game was much closer during the first 20 minutes because the Terps could not figure out how to take advantage of the Wildcats in the paint. Len was guarded by Alex Olah for most of the first half until he caught an elbow in the head which forced him to come out of the game. Olah did a good job of holding his ground against Len and the Terps’ wings – Dez Wells and Pe’Shon Howard – had a tough time feeding the post. Len got the ball a couple of times and got around Olah but he was fairly quiet until the second half. Even after Olah left the game, Wells and Nick Faust could not find a way to get Len the ball, making him very ineffective. With Len out of the equation, Drew Crawford and Dave Sobolewski should have taken advantage of their backdoor cuts and secured a lead, but instead, they were mostly flat-footed and lethargic on the offensive end. Crawford in particular settled for jumpers rather than driving to the hoop. Overall, the Wildcats shot just 24% from beyond the arc for the game and most of those shots went in during the second half. Carmody’s team had its chance to pad a little bit of a lead in the first half but once Turgeon made adjustments to get Len more touches, the game was out of their hands. Setting the tone in the first half against a younger Maryland team was extremely crucial for the Wildcats, but they did not fully utilize the Terps’ early mistakes. Read the rest of this entry »
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Which Big Ten Coach Faces the Most Pressure This Season?

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 5th, 2012

College basketball coaches are consistently under the microscope throughout the year. Talent on paper does not always translate to wins and when it doesn’t, the fans demand an explanation. The Big Ten has five teams ranked in the preseason Top 25 but the entire league from top to bottom is considered by many as the best in the nation. The joy of looking good on paper will only last a few more days for each team because once the season tips off, the coaches in the conference will have to answer pointed questions about team chemistry, injuries and player rotations. Every coach feels pressure, but the following are five coaches from the Big Ten who need to show results and have to meet fairly high expectations this season. Any issues on or off the court will be heavily scrutinized and they will feel the pressure for different reasons throughout the season.

  • Tubby Smith: Even though Smith’s contract was extended through the 2016-17 season over the summer, his job security is not guaranteed after recent issues off the court with Trevor Mbakwe and Saul Smith. Even though Smith can’t be blamed directly for Mbakwe’s legal troubles, his son’s DWI is a bad mark on his ability to control the program. Minnesota’s athletic director has to be concerned with the negative press that the program has received over the past few months. Keep in mind that this program went through a period of probation from violations committed under former head coach Clem Haskins in the late ‘90s. It took years to recover from those penalties and Smith was brought in to lead the Gopher program back to relevance. Even though he has been able to recruit quality talent to Minneapolis, he has not been able to compile much consistency during his tenure. The injury bug has bitten his teams over the years but certain players did not mesh with the program and Smith has not been able to implement the proper amount of discipline to foster good team chemistry. Both Royce White and Devoe Joseph were expected to contribute for a couple of seasons but they left the program on a bitter note. At some point, Smith needs to have a season where he wins 24 games, competes for the conference title, and make a serious run to reach for the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. He has a talented squad this year and if his team continues to find turmoil and not make the postseason, he might be in trouble.
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Highlighting Six Power Conference Coaches Feeling the Heat This Season

Posted by Chris Johnson on November 1st, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Expiration dates on coaching tenures vary based on a variety of different factors. Signs of positive momentum and progressive change no doubt correlate positively long coaching tenures, but there are other elements involved: Program expectations, buyout fees, revenue accumulation, recruiting success, and so on. The checklist differs at each program, which makes nailing down a hard-and-fast list of general standards practically impossible. Despite the vague criteria that define the profession, and the fundamental truth that administrators – not fans, players or boosters – make the final call on coaches’ job statuses, we enter every college basketball season with a pretty good idea of where each coach stands in his current state of employment. Perhaps the most obvious trend, the one most easily spotted across a wide sample of coaches, is the fateful decline. Win totals plummet, fan support wanes, administrators stay mum while perusing the market for a replacement – then, the rumors, the denial, the wait and, last but not least, the long-expected press release signaling the end of a coach’s time at the program. Pretty boilerplate stuff. The path to the dreaded fall is fairly predictable. What follows are six coaches (one from each of the power conferences) feeling the heat this season. All of them may or may not last the year, but there’s a decent chance at least one of these guys will get the axe by next April. To quantify this hot seat breakdown, I’ve added a meter that gauges a coaches’ “heat level” on a 1-through-5 scale. I wish these coaches well, but their inclusion here is not a positive way to begin the season.

Herb Sendek (Arizona State)
Heat Meter: 4

Unless Sendek leads a major renaissance in Tempe this season, he could find himself out of a job (photo credit: Getty Images).

In most years, finishing with a 6-12 record in the Pac-12 is not a terrible result. Winning in league play is difficult, and winning in one of the nation’s better high-major conferences is even more difficult. Notching six wins won’t get you into NCAA Tournament (or even NIT) consideration, but it’s hardly a death sentence, either. The problem with this line of thinking is that last season’s Pac-12 was not the usual Pac-12. It was awful – so bad that regular season champion Washington didn’t qualify for an at-large bid. Considering the league’s top-to-bottom futility last season, managing just six wins is proof enough to raise serious questions about the direction of Arizona State’s program. Now Sendek finds himself at a crossroads: after last year’s disappointment, two of his best assistants left the program, including one, Lamont Smith, who joined Lorenzo Romar’s Staff at Washington. When you’re losing your top assistants to league competitors, job security develops a tenuous, even artificial, feel. Sendek can save his position if the Sun Devils show noticeable signs of improvement, and with highly-touted recruit Jahii Carson eligible this season, that’s a reasonable expectation to have. Another six-win league total – and this year, six Pac-12 wins won’t be as easy to come by – is a doomsday scenario.

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Big Ten M5: 10.24.12 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on October 24th, 2012

  1. Last year’s Northwestern team had so little depth that at times it was forced to use just six players all game and play John Shurna at the center spot. This year, the Wildcats will be fine depth-wise as they bring in nine new players. Yes, nine. Three of them are redshirts — freshmen Tre Demps and Mike Turner both sat out last year, as did junior Nikola Cerina, who transferred in from TCU. The Wildcats also added two seven-footers — freshmen Alex Olah and Chier Ajou — at center and graduate transfer forward Jared Swopshire, who came to Evanston from Louisville and is expected to make a major impact on the court. Chris Johnson, a Rush the Court contributor who also runs InsideNU.com with me, sat down with coach Bill Carmody to preview all nine freshmen. Carmody seems very excited about Swopshire and added some insight into the center situation, saying Olah has the upper hand on Ajou right now. He was also high on Sanjay Lumpkin, a freshman guard/forward combo who fits nicely in NU’s system and should see significant playing time.
  2. Wisconsin forward Mike Bruesewitz was injured in a workout on October 9, running into the bottom of the hoop and gashing his leg. He could see his bone through the gash and needed over 40 stitches to close it up, but luckily, it was just a flesh wound. Bruesewitz is still recovering, but he finally opened up about the injury that he initially feared could be much worse. He said he first thoughts were if he could ever play — or even ever walk — again. Bruesewitz will play again this year, though the timeline for his return is unclear. ESPN.com’s Andy Katz reported that Bruesewitz likely won’t be available for the Badgers’ November 14 game at Florida, but could be back for a November 23 contest against Creighton in Las Vegas.
  3. The Big Ten basketball media poll was released yesterday, and not surprisingly, Indiana ended up in first place. The poll included 24 writers — two from each team — and the Hoosiers received 21 first place votes, with Michigan, the second-place team, taking the remaining first-place votes. Interestingly, Ohio State was picked behind the Wolverines in the Big Ten, despite being ranked No. 4 in the USA Today Coaches Preseason Top 25. You can see the whole poll at the link above. Look out for No. 6 Minnesota and No. 10 Northwestern as sleepers, while No. 5 Wisconsin and No. 9 Illinois might be susceptible to a fall. Obviously, preseason rankings aren’t that important, but it’s an interesting look at how deep the league is and how far down some good teams are buried.
  4. Michigan State is the first school to land a visit from top recruit Jabari Parker, who will make the trip to East Lansing this weekend. The Spartans are in the top five finalists for Parker, who also lists Duke, Florida, BYU and Stanford as possibilities. MSU has yet to secure a commitment in the Class of 2013, losing out on James Young to Kentucky and Jonathan Williams III to Missouri. However, ESPN recruiting analyst Dave Telep tells the Lansing State Journal that Parker is the Spartans’ top priority, and now they’re shifting their focus to underclassmen since most other top 2013 recruits have already committed.
  5. The common refrain for coaches whose teams receive high rankings typically goes something like this: “We aren’t worried about preseason rankings. We have to take care of business on the court or else that doesn’t matter.” But not Tom Crean. The Indiana coach had a very different response to his team being preseason No. 1, writes Bob Kravitz in the Indianapolis Star. “How cool is that?” Crean said. Some people will see that comment as cocky or misguided, but it’s refreshing to see a coach who doesn’t pretend to ignore the media and preseason rankings. As Kravitz wrote, Crean knows the ranking is meaningless in terms of how IU will fare this season, but it’s an important stepping stone for a coach whose team went 6-25 in his first year in Bloomington.
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