Big Ten Tournament: Friday Recap/Saturday Preview

Posted by Walker Carey on March 15th, 2014

With the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament in the books, we take a look at a few of the big takeaways from Friday, as well as storylines to keep in mind on Friday.

What went down on Friday:

The Top-Seeded Wolverines Survived an Upset Bid by Illinois Friday

The Top-Seeded Wolverines Survived an Upset Bid by Illinois Friday

  • Top-seeded Michigan survived a scare from a tenacious Illinois squad. The Wolverines saw a 13-point lead completely disappear before senior forward Jordan Morgan converted a layup with seven seconds left to give Michigan the 64-63 victory. The Wolverines were able to build their 13-point lead thanks to great assertiveness from sophomore Glenn Robinson III and the play-making ability of Big Ten Player of the Year, Nik Stauskas. The team’s fortunes, however, changed in the second half when Illinois dropped into a 2-3 zone that utterly frustrated Michigan throughout a majority of the second half.
  • Ohio State advanced to the semifinals with an epic 71-67 comeback victory over Nebraska. The Buckeyes trailed by 18 points with just over 13 minutes to play, but junior forward LaQuinton Ross and their suffocating defense took over and allowed Thad Matta’s squad to come all the way back to earn the victory. Senior guard Aaron Craft did not have the best game statistically, but he once again showed how valuable it is to have a confident, heady leader at the controls.
  • Wisconsin was very impressive in its 26-point mauling of a Minnesota team that could not find its way off the bubble. Senior guard Ben Brust turned in a career-best performance for the Badgers, finishing with a game-high 29 points. Bo Ryan’s squad also received a significant contribution from its bench, as guard Bronson Koenig and forward Nigel Hayes combined for 29 points. There have been questions all season about Wisconsin’s defense, but the Badgers were outstanding on that end of the court, limiting Minnesota to just 32.8 percent shooting for the game. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: #12 Wisconsin 83, Minnesota 57

Posted by Walker Carey on March 14th, 2014

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Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Thursday evening’s Big Ten Tournament action between Minnesota and Wisconsin in Indianapolis. 

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Wisconsin Continues to Look Like a #1 Seed Candidate

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. This was a one-sided thumping. Wisconsin dominated this game from the opening tip and never looked back on its way to a 26-point victory. Minnesota never led and was thrown off its rhythm all night long by the Badgers’ suffocating defensive attack. Golden Gophers guard Andre Hollins – the team’s leading scorer at 14.4 points per game –  had a nightmarish night, as he finished with just eight points on 2-of-14 shooting. The Golden Gophers as a team only managed to shoot 32.8 percent from the field for the game and its 29 percent mark in the first half greatly contributed to Richard Pitino’s team falling behind early. Minnesota also experienced issues with its defense, as Wisconsin was allowed solid looks all night and shot 54.5 percent from the field for the game.
  2. Minnesota did not do itself any favors with the selection committee. Richard Pitino’s group was squarely on the bubble entering the game, and while a loss to a good team like Wisconsin is probably not enough to completely kill their NCAA Tournament chances, one would think a 26-point shellacking does not bode well either. An argument can certainly still be made that Minnesota belongs in the field of 68, but when the committee decides its selections, its last impression of Minnesota will be Friday night’s embarrassing defeat.
  3. Wisconsin has the look of a potential one-seed. Minnesota certainly deserves plenty of blame for its embarrassing loss, but it must be noted just how well Wisconsin played. The Badgers led the entire game and it never even appeared as though Minnesota had any chance. Wisconsin starting guards Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson went scoreless for the night, but the Badgers were able to get past that due to a career performance from fellow starter Ben Brust and a 14-point performance from reserve guard Bronson Koenig. Starting big man Frank Kaminsky also struggled a bit offensively, but reserve forward Nigel Hayes contributed 15 points and six rebounds to the winning effort. Great teams find a way to keep things going when they may not get the expected output from key players and that is exactly what Wisconsin did Friday night. There is a lot of conversation nationally right now over which team will be getting the fourth #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and on Friday night, Bo Ryan‘s Badgers definitely looked like they belong in those conversations.

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Big Ten M5: 01.22.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 22nd, 2014

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  1. When Michigan head coach John Beilein refers to a schedule that includes three games against top 10 opponents consecutively as an “incredible opportunity,” some might claim that the rigors of Big Ten play have made him slightly insane. If the Wolverines can somehow win all three of these games against Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan State, however, his quote will prove rather prophetic. Winning against Iowa tonight won’t be an easy task though, and Beilein acknowledges as much when he states that the Hawkeyes’ length, versatility, and experience make for a opponent different from any team his Wolverines have seen so far. It will certainly be interesting to see how they match up with the waves of players Iowa can throw at them.
  2. Two desperate teams will meet in Columbus tomorrow night. In advance of this crucial game between Ohio State and Illinoishead coach John Groce gave his team a much-needed day off on Sunday. The Illini had just come off of a stretch of three games in seven days, all of which resulted in losses and a drop from being ranked to completely off of the NCAA bubble. Maybe getting a chance to rest up and hit the reset button will be the cure for what ails this team.
  3. Speaking of bubble teams, Minnesota is going to need both Andre and Austin Hollins to be at full strength for the Gophers to make a run to the NCAA Tournament. That’s why it has to be moderately disturbing to learn that Andre Hollins has been playing through a toe injury. Head coach Richard Pitino said that the injury is probably why he has had some trouble with effectiveness in the second half of recent games. There really isn’t much margin for error if Minnesota wants to let him rest and fully recover. Unlike Michigan State — a team boasting a deeper roster that enables the Spartans to rest injured star Adreian Payne — the Gophers need every win they can get. Hollins is just going to have to play through the pain of the injury for the team to get to the postseason in Pitino’s first season in Minneapolis.
  4. Iowa has been somewhat hit or miss with its shooting from the three-point line despite the Hawkeyes’ 15-3 overall record. They have a pretty good percentage on the year (38.2%), however, and this number has risen lately thanks to the hot shooting of junior Josh Oglesby. The junior went 5-of-7 from deep as the Hawkeyes turned a close game into a blowout against Minnesota on Sunday. Oglesby, Jared Uthoff, Roy Devyn Marble, and Mike Gesell can all get hot and knock down a handful of threes in a given game. They’re all somewhat streaky, but the ability to get this kind of production from multiple players is just one of many reasons why Iowa remains extremely dangerous in the long run.
  5. Wisconsin is coming off of a two-game losing streak, and the Badgers’ lack of production from the bench has been a key part of that. Freshmen Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig now realize with the intensity of the conference season in full swing that they can’t play like rookies anymore. They both have learned what to expect after dealing with the crowd at Indiana’s Assembly Hall last week. Hayes is needed to provide frontcourt depth, and Koenig needs to be able to come in and spell the Badgers’ guards. The quicker these two can morph into consistent bench options, the better the chances for the Badgers to go on another long winning streak.
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Big Ten M5: 01.08.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 8th, 2014

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  1. Bronson Koenig came to Wisconsin despite having offers from Duke, North Carolina and Virginia. Needless to say, he had a decent amount of hype attached to his game, but he hasn’t made a huge impact yet despite some good moments in his 14 games of action. One of the biggest things he’s dealing with in Bo Ryan’s offense is knowing when to score and when to pass. Koenig doesn’t really need to do much more than what he’s doing right now, however, on a team with veterans Ben Brust, Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson ahead of him in the rotation. He provides the Badgers with a someone to play 10 to 15 minutes per game at either the point or on the wing, and the experience he gains this season will pay off much more next year after Brust graduates.
  2. Purdue is in trouble after an 0-2 start that saw the Boilermakers give up 78 points to an offensively challenged Ohio State team and 82 points to Minnesota on Sunday. One of the major catalysts to their struggles has been the defensive end of the floor. Minnesota hit 11-of-24 shots from behind the arc, and Purdue does not rank higher than eighth in the B1G in scoring defense, three-point defense, field goal defense and defensive rebounding. This goes against the blueprint that Matt Painter laid out in the early part of his tenure in West Lafayette, where his teams were mostly known for their defensive intensity. The Boilermakers almost came back and beat Minnesota largely because of the late success of their defensive pressure, but they need to start performing for 40 minutes to get some wins in this difficult conference.
  3. Northwestern lost a transfer on Tuesday afternoon, as 7’2″ Chier Ajou has decided to pursue other opportunities. To date, Ajou had only played in one game and two minutes this season. This frees up a roster spot for next season when head coach Chris Collins can pick up someone who will make for a better fit in his system. It’s a credit to Collins that the transition over from Bill Carmody has gone relatively smoothly, with only two players (Ajou and Mike Turner) transferring so far.
  4. The play of Derrick Walton Jr. has mostly been up and down, but both Michigan head coach John Beilein and Walton himself seem to think that things will become easier for the freshman point guard. He has already cut down on his turnovers — with only six in the last five games — and it’s taken a while for him to learn the complexities of Beilein’s offense, but he is starting to get more comfortable. If Walton Jr. can at a minimum limit his turnovers and knock down an open jumper here and there, the Wolverines will be in decent shape at the point with he and Spike Albrecht splitting time there.
  5. Ohio State almost pulled off another thrilling comeback on Tuesday night, but instead lost its first game of the season to Michigan State in overtime, 72-68. The game showed much of what is already known about the Buckeyes. They are an elite defensive team, especially at the guard spots, but they are still and probably will continue to be a mediocre offensive team. Just like in the Notre Dame game a few weeks ago, this comeback was essentially fueled with tremendous on-ball pressure that created turnovers. The Buckeyes got almost nothing in their half-court offense last night, and unless LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith can develop more consistency on this end of the floor (or Marc Loving morphs from potential superstar to superstar), this will be how it is all season for Thad Matta’s team.
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Big Ten M5: 11.19.13 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 19th, 2013

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  1. For the past thirteen years, Michigan State has had great players lead them to success – players like Shannon Brown, Kalin Lucas, and Draymond Green. Now, this Spartans team, led by Gary Harris, has done something those other teams haven’t- be the #1 ranked team in the AP poll. This is their first top ranking since January 8, 2001. The Spartans fully expect to make the Final Four – just like each of those other teams did – but what the Spartans really seek is a National Championship, something that’s eluded them since 2000. Despite their impressive showing at the Champions Classic last week, some believe the Spartans won’t be able to match the talent on teams like Kentucky, Duke, and Kansas come March. But this Spartans team, like all successful Spartans teams of the past, will rely on execution and rebounding to bridge any talent gaps. And it would seem silly to bet against Tom Izzo, especially when he has the #1 team in the country.
  2. With the departure of Deshaun Thomas, we wondered who would pick up the scoring in his stead for the Ohio State Buckeyes. While no one is coming close to replicating Thomas’ 19.8 PPG, Sam Thompson has upped his contribution significantly this year, improving his 7.8 PPG from last season to 13.0 PPG. The increase in points scored is not simply due to an increase in shots taken; Thompson has an eFG% of 55.4 percent and a player efficiency rating of 20.8. Despite coming off the bench, Thompson may be Thad Matta’s most important player. He has the highest ceiling, as far as potential, because of his elite athleticism and his ability to hit the long ball. If Thompson is able to improve throughout the season, the Buckeyes’ concerns on offense may be answered.
  3. Rayvonte Rice has been the most important addition to the Illini this season. But the other starting transfer, Jon Ekey, made his presence known on Sunday night against an old Missouri Valley foe, the Bradley Braves. Ekey was brought in to be a stretch 4 but had started the season ice-cold, going 3 for 12 from the three-point line in his first three games. He got out of his slump against the Braves scoring 19 points including going 5 for 7 from deep. The Illini are hoping he can keep this up since no one in their starting backcourt is a consistent threat from deep. An effective Ekey from three will open up the lane for Rice and Joseph Bertrand to be more effective off the dribble where the Illini have been very effective thus far.
  4. Michigan took their first loss of the season when they got hit by Hilton Magic, losing to Iowa State 77-70. But while everyone was caught up with Iowa State’s impressive victory, they may have missed something that became clear on Sunday: Nik Stauskas has developed into a complete player. His stat line for the game – 20 points, 4 rebounds, and 6 assists – speaks for itself. But more impressive than that was John Beilein calling plays for the Canadian sophomore at the end of the game. This is a clear sign that Beilein trusts him, above other players, to lead the team at the end of games. The Wolverines have the impossible task of replacing Trey Burke this season. They will need players like Stauskas, and others like Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III, to take on bigger roles than last season for continued success in Ann Arbor.
  5. Bo Ryan doesn’t like to rely on freshmen. The Wisconsin “way” has players learn the system as underclassmen and then seamlessly transition into the starting lineup and contribute significantly as upperclassmen. Yet, when George Marshall suffered a concussion before the UW-Green Bay game, Ryan was forced to let freshman Bronson Koenig played his first extended minutes. Koenig played 23 minutes and scored 7 points on 3-of-3 shooting. But Ryan was happier with the poise Koenig showed throughout the game than with his scoring. In all likelihood, we won’t see much of Koenig once Marshall returns. Still, it must be reassuring to Badgers fans, and Ryan, that they have another talented underclassman waiting in the wing and for his turn to continue the tradition of great Badger basketball.
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Who’s Got Next? Indiana Scores With Noah Vonleh; Nigel Hayes Becomes A Badger…

Posted by CLykins on November 13th, 2012

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Chad Lykins, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to discussing the recruitments of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions dedicated solely to Duke Basketball at Duke Hoop Blog. You can also follow Chad at his Twitter account @CLykinsBlog for up-to-date breaking news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: ESPN Recruiting used for all player rankings

Indiana Adds Noah Vonleh To Loaded Class

As Saturday night concluded, the Indiana Hoosiers landed a significant piece to its 2013 recruiting class that quickly vaulted them up the class rankings to join the likes of Kentucky and Memphis. Five-star forward Noah Vonleh, who reclassified back into his original class of 2013 in September, ended his college recruitment quicker than expected by giving the Hoosiers a verbal pledge after his official visit during Indiana’s season opener. Vonleh, the No. 8 ranked prospect in the class of 2013, was also considering Connecticut, Georgetown, North Carolina, Ohio State and Syracuse.

While visiting, 2013 No. 8 prospect Noah Vonleh chose the Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday night

“From Day One, Indiana has been recruiting me the hardest,” Vonleh told Adam Finkelstein of ESPN.com. “They were just letting me know how they could develop me into the player I want to be at the next level. Their academics are good, they’re the No. 1 team in the country and they’ve got another great class coming in next year.” With the addition of Vonleh, head coach Tom Crean has landed his highest-ranked prospect since taking the Indiana job in 2008. At 6’9″ and 220 lbs., the Massachusetts native is best described as a freak athlete. He uses his great length especially well rebounding the basketball on both ends of the floor, as he is arguably one of the best rebounders in the class, and altering shots with his shot-blocking. For a combo forward, he also has excellent ball-handling ability with an ever-improving jump shot. As his body continues to mature, with added strength to his 6’9″ frame he will be more efficient from the low post with his endless potential.

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