The Big Ten Player of the Year Ladder: Volume One, Part I

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 15th, 2015

Since we’re a month into the season, we’ve acquired a decent sample size to start ranking and rating how various players have performed. Unfortunately for the sake of this exercise, a certain player from a certain team that is currently ranked number one in the country has been playing out of his freaking mind. Now that the suspense as to who will end up number one and the end of this list has been sufficiently lifted, here’s a brief look at how things stand according to the humble opinion of yours truly. The list goes from #10 to #6, with numbers #5 to #1 to come later on.

  • 10. Robert Carter Jr, Maryland: (12.5 PPG, 6.7 RBS, 1.4 BPG, 61.3 FG%, 117.0 O-Rating) — Carter Jr. has been a huge reason why Maryland is ranked in the top ten. He had good numbers at Georgia Tech, but the transfer has fit in seamlessly in College Park. He can score inside and out, and leads the Terrapins in rebounding, blocked shots, and field goal percentage.
  • 9. Andrew White III, Nebraska: (16.5 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 83.7% FT, 42.2% 3PT) — Many may have thought that White III would be the second banana behind Shavon Shields. Instead he’s emerged as Nebraska’s best scorer, doing so while only averaging 11 field goal attempts per game. The Kansas transfer has been at his best shooting from deep, as he’s made over three triples in six of the team’s 11 games.
Despite missing two games, AJ Hammons has been a top player in the Big Ten this season. (AP Photo/Darrell Hoemann)

Despite missing two games, AJ Hammons has been a top player in the Big Ten this season. (AP Photo/Darrell Hoemann)

  • 8. AJ Hammons, Purdue: (12.6 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 2.2 BPG, 62.3% FG, 114.6 O-Rating) — Hammons hasn’t been as much of a topic of conversation for two reasons. First, the team has been so deep and dominant, the individual numbers don’t pop as much, as the Boilermakers don’t have anyone averaging more than 27.2 MPG. Secondly, Isaac Haas has gotten off to such a solid start as the pivot position has become more of a platoon-type situation. A deeper look at the numbers however show that the senior is attacking the glass at a higher clip, shooting for a higher percentage from the floor, and he has a higher offensive rating from a year ago (114.6-104.2) on similar usage.

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Levy’s B1G Layup Line: Week 4

Posted by Adam Levy on December 11th, 2015

The week after the ACC/Big Ten Challenge usually consists of a bunch of major conference teams playing a bunch of cupcakes to beef up their win columns, and that’s exactly what we had here in the Big Ten. Outside of the Iowa vs. Iowa State game last night, it was a pretty uneventful week in terms of competitiveness and good basketball, but one shall always strive for giving some love to those who deserve it and hating on those who suck or continue to suck. It’s week four of the Layup Line.

REPORT CARD

A: Andrew White

Nebraska's Andrew Smith

Nebraska’s Andrew White Has Been a Revelation in Lincoln (USA Today Images)

Nebraska has played three and a half good teams so far in Villanova, Cincinnati, Miami, Creighton (they’re the half, obvi) and lost them all, so I’m not going to bore you with details on how bad they are. However, I will bore you with details on how good their junior guard/forward, Andrew White, was this past week. 30 points, seven rebounds, four steals, four treys and 14/16 from the line in a win against Abilene Christian; 28 points, eight rebounds, three steals and three treys in a win at Creighton. He’s fourth in the Big Ten in scoring just behind Michigan’s Caris LeVert and finds himself in the top five in three pointers made.

What most casual fans don’t realize is that White is a Kansas transfer. He was the 48th best prospect in the Class of 2012 according to ESPN but found himself playing behind the likes of Ben McLemore, Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden, etc. throughout his first two seasons. He’s a good spot up shooter with an excellent mid-range game. This kid is no joke and could very easily find himself on an All-Big Ten Team by season’s end.

B: Brandon Taylor and Shep Garner

It’s finally time for some Penn State love. It has been an up and down season for the Nittany Lions so far, but they had a decent week by beating Eastern Michigan and Canisius and playing a very underrated George Washington team close on the road. They may not be any good, and they may not have any supporters whatsoever (because, you know, Penn State basketball), but amidst all of the negativity throughout the Pat Chambers era arises a two-player nucleus that has made some noise this season.

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Big Ten M5: 12.04.15 Edition

Posted by Patrick Engel on December 4th, 2015

morning5_bigten

  1. Riding a string of three straight losses, the wheels have predictably started to fall off at Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights got even worse news when head coach Eddie Jordan announced forward Deshawn Freeman will miss the next two weeks with a sore knee. It’s a tough blow for a team facing upcoming games against Seton Hall, George Washington and mid-major darling Monmouth in the next 17 days. The junior leads Rutgers in scoring (13.1 PPG) and field goal percentage (54.4 percent) while ranking second in rebounding (5.3 RPG).
  2. While the Big Ten tied or won its seventh straight Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Wednesday, Indiana’s abhorrent lack of defense was one of the Challenge’s biggest storylines. In a 94-74 loss to Duke, the Hoosiers allowed 1.52 points per possession while three Duke players posted an offensive rating of 160.0 or higher, per KenPom.com. The Blue Devils didn’t merely take advantage of a handful of bad matchups; they throttled a team that didn’t display much effort on defense all night. Since the start of last season, the Hoosiers have allowed at least 1.2 points per possession six separate times, and also allowed a terrible Alcorn State team to score 70 points against them on Monday.
  3. Perhaps the biggest win of the Challenge was Wisconsin’s 66-58 road victory at Syracuse. The Badgers’ offense isn’t nearly as efficient or high-scoring as it was the last two seasons, but freshman Ethan Happ’s 18-point, 15-rebound night is exactly what Bo Ryan’s team needs: a legitimate third scoring option to take some of the pressure off of Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes. Depth has been an issue as Wisconsin reboots its system this season, so Happ needs more performances like he had in the Carrier Dome. If Brevin Pritzl is ruled out for the season, the bench could be even shorter. He’s only played in just four minutes this season due to complications from a broken foot suffered in August and should learn his fate on Friday after undergoing additional tests.
  4. Despite its issues in the frontcourt, Michigan has shot the three-pointer well again this season. The Wolverines shoot 43.0 percent from three as a team, but Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton, Jr., and Duncan Robinson’s shooting numbers are the most impressive part. Robinson and Walton are each shooting over 60 percent from deep and have combined for 34 made threes on 55 attempts (62 percent). In Robinson’s last three games, he has made 14-of-20 three-point attempts. That makes LeVert’s own impressive 52 percent mark from beyond the arc seem rather insignificant. While these numbers won’t last all season, Michigan has proven it is capable of shooting its way to victory on any given night.
  5. We detailed Iowa’s depth on Wednesday, but Jarrod Uthoff’s fantastic start to the year shouldn’t be lost in the Hawkeyes’ deeper-than-expected offense. Uthoff ranks third in scoring in the Big Ten with 17.7 PPG, is second in blocked shots with 2.6 per game and is one of three players in the conference posting averages of at least 17 points and six rebounds per game (Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine and Ohio State’s Marc Loving are the others). His 8.1 percent turnover rate also ranks fifth in the conference. Don’t sleep on Uthoff — he’s playing like a shoo-in for First Team All-Big Ten.
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Big Ten M5: 11.30.15 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 30th, 2015

morning5_bigten

  1. Before the season started, Wisconsin was given the benefit of the doubt despite all of its personnel loses from the team a year ago. Things have not started out great for the Badgers, however, and they may have hit a new low on Sunday when they lost at Oklahoma by 17 after shooting a pedestrian 23.5 percent from the floor for the game. This has brought on some speculation as to whether Bo Ryan can get this year’s team rolling despite early struggles. If not, his string of top four finishes in Big Ten play, and a bid in the NCAA Tournament might be in jeopardy.
  2. Denzel Valentine has gotten the majority of the Michigan State publicity as the Spartans have rolled to a 7-0 start. But it can’t be ignored that Tom Izzo has one of the deepest rosters in the country. In their win in the Wooden Legacy Championship game Sunday night over Providence, the bench made a number of contributions to the win. Eron Harris was especially important, as the junior transfer from West Virginia made a number of key plays down the stretch. The potential for this team to get even better can be seen by the fact that Harris hasn’t been consistently good on offense yet. If he can get into a groove, this team could do some serious damage later on in the season.
  3. Having four seniors in your lineup makes the combination of playing a game at 9:00 AM local time and putting back-to-back losses in the rearview mirror a bit easier. Just ask Iowa, as the Hawkeyes shook off a disappointing start to the Advocare Invitational by beating Wichita State. The win was Fran McCaffery’s 100th career victory at the school. Iowa has more work to do in non-conference play, especially with a win over a depleted Wichita State team not looking particularly strong right now. Credit McCaffery and the senior leaders for being ready to play and gaining something from the event.
  4. Indiana is off to a staggering start this year in the turnover department. With some blown opportunities to pick up key non-conference wins in Maui, the Hoosiers need a quality win against Duke desperately. Tom Crean saw a silver lining in diagnosing what went wrong in islands, in that the problems with the offensive miscues came from “trying to make plays that weren’t there for others.” It did seem like the Hoosiers were trying too hard to play fast in their 1-2 trip to Hawaii. They were almost trying to make too many passes at times. This is an elite offense when they don’t turn the ball over, so it will be interesting to see what they can do on Wednesday night against the Blue Devils.
  5. Michigan started their trip to the Battle 4 Atlantis with a loss, but they ended the trip 2-1 after destroying Charlotte, and then hanging on against Shaka Smart and Texas Friday evening. The Maize and Blue are working in newcomers like Duncan Robinson and Moritz Wagner into the rotation, but holdovers like Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr. made the key plays at the end of the Texas game when the Longhorns started to make a run. Michigan has to be given a pass with their three top players all coming off of either missing games last season, or having an injury in the off season. They could be a much better team once everyone regains full health, so starting 4-2 isn’t too shabby.
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Big Ten M5: Thanksgiving Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on November 26th, 2015

morning5_bigten

  1. Coming into this week’s Maui Invitational, Indiana was selected among the favorites to win the whole thing. But what was once a highly-anticipated event for the Hoosiers has turned into an early season meltdown as they finished 1-2 which for a sixth place finish. This has reignited dour discussions about the direction of the program and Tom Crean’s future. Indiana started the first round with a shocking four-point loss to Wake Forest, came back with a 10-point win over St. John’s, but ended the event on Wednesday with a three-point loss to UNLV. This is a devastating blow Indiana’s hope for a Final Four, as their resume has taken a hit with losses to two marginal opponents.
  2. To add injury to insult, the Hoosiers have also had to deal with some offcourt issues as well. After Indiana’s loss to Wake Forest, Crean decided to change his lineup and bench Troy Williams. While this adjustment may have worked in its goal of motivating the players — they defeated St. John’s after the change — it did not sit well with Williams’ mother, who shared her displeasure on Facebook. She later apologized for the incident, but the whole situation was embarrassing for all involved and just added more publicity to what seems to be a deteriorating situation in Bloomington.
  3. This has been a season full of early upsets, but a few Big Ten teams have already racked up two. Ohio State lost its second consecutive game of the season when they were defeated 82-74 by Louisiana Tech on Wednesday to move the Buckeyes to 2-2. This has been the worst start for Thad Matta in his entire 12 seasons at Columbus and follows what was a pretty middling season last year (at least compared to the usual lofty standard of Matta and Ohio State). All of the sudden, the trajectory for this program seems to be pointing downward after a long period of Big Ten success in the earlier half of this decade. The Buckeyes will have a chance to turn things around when they play Memphis on Friday.
  4. On Wednesday, Maryland defeated Rhode Island, 86-63, to win the Cancun Challenge. The Terrapins may be 5-0 but they didn’t get there in dominating fashion; in fact, this was the first time since the opener that Maryland won with a comfortable lead. I’ve pointed out before how their defense has become an issue, but another major factor has been their pedestrian shooting from the three-point line — 30.1 percent before Wednesday’s game. The Terps may have turned the corner on their poor shooting against the Rams as they hit 10-of-17 attempts from long distance. Next they’ll see if they can keep up the good play versus Cleveland State on Saturday.
  5. Finally, many believed this year’s Michigan team would bounce back from the disappointing and injury-plagued 2014-15 season, but things have not played out exactly as hoped. In addition to losing to Xavier on Friday, the Wolverines were easily handled by Connecticut in a 74-60 loss. While Caris Levert has been good as advertised, the rest of his teammates have yet to catch up. As of right now, this team looks closer to squad that lost to NJIT last year as opposed to the Michigan teams that won consecutive Big Ten titles a couple years ago.
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Big Ten Weekend Look Ahead: 11.20.15 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 20th, 2015

By the second weekend of the season, most power conference teams have moved past playing cupcakes from one-bid leagues — although some of those cupcakes ultimately got the last laugh — and are now moving up in competition. Stiffer tests begin in earnest for two Big Ten squads tonight, as Wisconsin and Michigan take part in marquee match-ups against Big East opponents and wo more B1G teams face challenging mid-majors on Saturday. Here are the four games to watch involving Big Ten teams this weekend.

Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig scored a combined 29 points in last year's thriller against Georgetown (Daivd Banks-USA Today Sports).

Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig scored a combined 29 points in last year’s thriller against Georgetown (Photo: David Banks, USA Today Sports).

  1. Georgetown vs. Wisconsin (Friday, 5:00 PM ET, ESPN). Oddly enough, this game isn’t part of the slate of Gavitt Tipoff Games but instead a part of the 2K Classic event taking place in Madison Square Garden over the weekend. It’s also a rematch of a classic from last season, when the Hoyas — behind a 29-point effort from D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera — nearly upset the second-ranked Badgers in the Battle 4 Atlantis. These teams look to be more evenly matched this year, with Smith-Rivera perhaps looking to finish what he started a year ago in the Bahamas. Both squads have already suffered unexpected home losses to teams they have no business losing to (Wisconsin to Western Illinois; Georgetown to Radford), so the loser here will find itself in an early hole in its pursuit of a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
  2. Xavier at Michigan (Friday, 9:00 PM ET, BTN).  The Wolverines will host the Musketeers tonight in the final game of the Gavitt Tipoff Games. Caris Levert‘s team has looked resurgent in its first two outings, beating its two opponents by a combined 54 points in an effort to erase memories of an injury-plagued and disappointing 2014-15 season. Michigan will face its first real test when Trevon Bluiett’s Musketeers invade the Crisler Center. It’ll be a mismatch of styles — the Wolverines are a quintessential jump-shooting team while Xavier thrives off attacks of the rim and getting to the free throw line —  so whichever team sets the tone early will earn a distinct advantage. Read the rest of this entry »
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Levy’s B1G Layup Line: Week 1

Posted by Adam Levy on November 19th, 2015

Welcome to Rush the Court’s first ever edition of Levy’s B1G Layup Line, a weekly column set to give you all the water cooler material you need for all things Big Ten basketball. If you’re reading this, congratulations – you’re losing your virginity to this column, and so am I. We’re now linked together forever as eskimo brothers; if we’re going to embark on this season-long journey together, we may as well check ourselves into the EBDBBnB and enjoy it.

Before we do that, though, let’s break in the 2016 season by recapping what was a very interesting first week in the Big Ten.

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Denzel Valentine Put on a Show in Chicago Tuesday Night

Denzel Valentine Put on a Show in Chicago Tuesday Night

A: Denzel Valentine

I could make this all about Michigan State’s incredible come-from-behind victory against a rock-solid Kansas team poised to win its 12th straight Big 12 title. But I won’t. Reason being: Denzel Valentine is a freak of nature. The captain of both a veteran Spartans’ team and the “How is He Still In College?” team made history on Tuesday night in front of 50+ NBA executives and scouts at the United Center, becoming the fourth player in Michigan State history to post a triple-double (Magic Johnson – 8; Draymond Green – 3; Charlie Bell – 1) with an absurd 29/12/12 stat line and earning himself a postgame phone call from Magic Johnson. Valentine scored or assisted on 22 straight points in the second half to dig his team out of an 11-point hole and give Sparty a permanent lead. Without him, Michigan State loses by over 20. You don’t usually see the best individual performance of the season happen in mid-November, but this very well may have been it.

B: Caleb Swanigan

Speaking of Michigan State, their favorite non-Spartan had himself a weeeek. He recorded a double-double in each of his first two collegiate games (12.5 points, 12.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game), earning his first Freshman of the Week honor in as many tries. With two massive seven-foot centers and no big to stretch the floor last season, Swanigan was the key missing variable to solving Purdue’s frontcourt equation. Now that AJ Hammons is back, it’s absolutely terrifying to think about what that frontcourt is capable of doing.

C: Maryland Terrapins

You’d be hard pressed to find a basketball fan out there who didn’t think Maryland was a top-five team nationally heading into the season. What those people need to be reminded of is that 60.0 percent of this team’s starting five is brand new (Rasheed Sulaimon; Robert Carter; Diamond Stone). It will take more than a week for Mark Turgeon to mold the clay and allow his team time to develop chemistry and learn to play together. It was no surprise to see Maryland struggle to put away a gritty Georgetown team in a game where Melo Trimble did not score until about five minutes left in the first half. And after all that talk about Maryland’s top notch frontcourt, it was the Terps’ small-ball lineup (Jake Layman at the four; Carter at the five) – the method that led to their 28 wins last season – that won out. Sure, a win’s a win. But this thing will take a little time. Patience, people.

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Introducing the RTC Preseason All-Big Ten Second Team

Posted by Patrick Engel on November 12th, 2015

It’s the eve of the start of the college basketball season and we’re well into our preseason awards lists. We’ve already released our third team all-conference selections and our projected league standings (#14-#8 and #7-#1), so now it’s time to unveil our All-Big Ten second team. Here are the next five best players in the league, as voted on by our three-man staff.

A healthy Caris LeVert is poised for a big senior season (Gregory Shamus, Getty).

A healthy Caris LeVert is poised for a big senior season (Gregory Shamus, Getty).

  • Bronson Koenig (JR, Guard, Wisconsin). Koenig stepped into the starting point guard spot for the Badgers last January after Traeveon Jackson suffered an untimely foot injury. The sophomore started the remaining 24 games, averaging 11.5 points per contest and producing an offensive rating (120.7), turnover percentage (11.3%) and three-point percentage (40.5%) that were all better than those of Jackson. As a junior, Koenig is primed for an even bigger year in his first full season as the starting point guard.
  • Caris LeVert (SR, Guard, Michigan). LeVert led the Wolverines in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks through 18 games last year before suffering a season-ending foot injury. Michigan struggled to keep its head above water when he was healthy (11-7), but the team plummeted after his injury (5-9). Much like last season, the Wolverines have a deep and talented backcourt but an unproven and young frontcourt. John Beilein’s club should be better with Derrick Walton Jr. healthy and an improved Zak Irvin in the lineup, but LeVert will once again be this team’s leader. He can score many different ways and his length makes him a sturdy perimeter defender.

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RTC Big Ten Preview: The Top Tier (#7 – #1)

Posted by Alex Moscoso on November 11th, 2015

We continue our Big Ten microsite predictions and superlatives with the second half of our preseason standings. We presented our preseason standings with teams #14 – #8 on the microsite yesterday; today, we unveil the top half. These are the teams that we as a group believe will finish near or atop the league when all the dust settles and will result in the likely conference representatives in the NCAA Tournament.  Enjoy!

It's Jarrod Uthoff's turn to lead the Hawkeyes to another NCAA Tournament.

It’s Jarrod Uthoff’s turn to lead the Hawkeyes to another NCAA Tournament.

  • 7. Iowa: With Aaron White now graduated, all eyes turn to senior Jarrod Uthoff to take the baton and lead the Hawkeyes to a third consecutive NCAA Tournament— something this program hasn’t accomplished since the early 1990s. With players like Adam Woodbury, Peter Jok and an experienced backcourt to work with, Uthoff will have a supporting cast with enough talent to get it done.
  • 6. Michigan: The Wolverines are a talent-laden team with a number of players similar to Caris LeVert who fit perfectly into John Beilein’s prolific three-point offense. Both he and Derrick Walton were sidelined with injuries for the majority of last season, which gave the rest of the young roster experience to draw from this year. Now fully healthy, Michigan is set up for a comeback campaign pushing toward the top of the Big Ten.

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Can Perimeter Depth Carry Michigan?

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 2nd, 2015

After a run to the National Championship game in 2012-13 and an Elite Eight appearance a year later, Michigan slumped to a 16-16 record a season ago. Injuries were the biggest obstacle to another postseason jaunt last year, but in a roundabout way they may have helped set the Maize and Blue up for success this year. Aubrey Dawkins averaged 11.4 PPG and shot 46 percent from behind the arc in his last 14 games; Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman averaged 7.9 PPG in his last 14 contests; and leading the way, Zak Irvin scored 14.7 PPG, grabbed 5.6 RPG and dished 2.4 APG. With Derrick Walton Jr. and Caris LeVert both sidelined by injuries, Irvin stepped up and performed as the primary option for the first time in his collegiate career. His emergence along with that of the freshmen didn’t lead to much success a year ago, but it does set things up nicely for John Beilein‘s team this season. Michigan’s perimeter attack is one the most talented and deepest in the B1G; is it good enough for the Wolverines to contend for the league title and return to the NCAA Tournament?

Aubrey Dawkins emerged as a diamond in the rough for Michigan last season (Rick Osentoski, USA Today).

Aubrey Dawkins emerged as a diamond in the rough for Michigan last season (Photo: Rick Osentoski, USA Today).

When a Beilein-coached team (including stops at both Michigan and West Virginia) has finished the season with an adjusted offensive efficiency at 113.9 or greater, it has averaged 26.4 wins per season. It has happened five times now, with accompanying postseason results including a trip to the National Championship game, two Elite Eight appearances, a Sweet Sixteen appearance, and an NIT championship. KenPom projects the Michigan offense as the ninth-best outfit in the country this preseason. Last season, Indiana boasted the ninth-best offense in the country with an adjusted offensive efficiency of 116.7.  With Michigan’s injured set to return and their former backups now bolstered by the confidence and experience of playing featured roles last season, the pieces are in place for another Beilein offensive juggernaut. Read the rest of this entry »

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Three Takeaways From Iowa’s Dominant Win at Michigan

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 6th, 2015

Iowa ended a three-game losing streak on Thursday night when it efficiently took care of an undermanned Michigan team, 72-54. The Hawkeyes shot 62.7 percent from the field and managed a commanding 42-14 advantage on points in the paint. All five starters scored in double-figures, and they held the Wolverines to 40.4 percent from the floor. Here are some quick observations from the lopsided road win for Iowa:

Adam Woodbury played maybe his best game of the season Thursday night as he had 11 points, seven boards, and six assists. (hawkeyesports.com)

Adam Woodbury played maybe his best game of the season Thursday night as he had 11 points, seven boards, and six assists. (hawkeyesports.com)

  1. Iowa’s Front Line Can be Dominant: Even with its full roster intact, Michigan’s strength does not come from its inside play. Injuries have limited the Wolverines’ depth, but give Iowa credit for taking full advantage of its better inside players. The Hawkeyes put on an offensive clinic last night, and it was spearheaded by junior center Adam Woodbury. The seven-footer is known primarily for offensive rebounding and for drawing the ire of Dan Dakich, but in this game, he displayed an excellent passing touch by dishing six assists to go along with 11 points and seven rebounds. Jarrod Uthoff and Aaron White also stepped up, combining to shoot 13-of-18 from the floor, proving that when Iowa plays inside-out, the Hawkeyes can be pretty good. Outside shooting is not a strength on this team, but Peter Jok and Mike Gesell can knock down open looks well enough to keep defenses honest. In several games this season, Iowa has looked like it has the worst offense in the league — this performance (1.38 points per possession), however, proves that they can do a lot better. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten Sophomore Spotlight: Michigan’s Zak Irvin

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 23rd, 2015

Many sophomores in the Big Ten have a significantly greater role this season than they did as freshmen. That is to be expected, of course, as the offseason between their first and second years is often when players make their biggest strides in development. Some highly-recruited guys, however, continue to disappoint, while others who may not have been so highly regarded have by now become viable contributors for their teams. This series of posts is meant to check in on a few of the different sophomores in the league to determine whether they have improved and what it means for their teams going forward. Next up in the series is Michigan forward Zak Irvin.

Zak Irvin has to produce now more than ever with Caris LeVert done for the season due to an injury. (Leon Halip, Getty)

Zak Irvin has to produce now more than ever with Caris LeVert done for the season due to an injury. (Leon Halip, Getty)

  • 2013-14: 15.4 MPG, 6.7 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 0.2 SPG, 43.4% FG, 42.5% 3FG, 59.2% eFG, 19.4% Usage, 117.8 Offensive Rating
  • 2014-15: 34.6 MPG, 13.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 0.8 SPG, 39.6% FG, 35.9% 3FG, 48.4% eFG, 21.6% Usage, 100.6 Offensive Rating

Things just got real for Irvin. Caris LeVert is now out for the rest of the season with a foot injury, so in following the “next man up” theorem throughout sports when a superstar gets injured, all the signs point to Irvin as the new main option for the Wolverines. To this point in the season, however, Irvin’s play has to be considered a mild disappointment. His general offensive productivity has declined as he has significantly increased his minutes and shot attempts commensurate with the team’s focus. Like Michigan as a team, things started out pretty well this season for the Indiana native, as he averaged 20.4 PPG on 43.4 percent shooting from deep in the first seven games of the season. Beginning with the Wolverines’ catastrophic loss to NJIT, however, his numbers dropped to 11.3 PPG on 30.8 percent shooting from three. Five of his first seven games exhibited offensive ratings above 100, but he has only managed to hit that number three times in his last 12 outings. He has somewhat made up for it in Big Ten play with better rebounding (4.7 RPG), and getting to the free throw line (3.4 FTA), but Irvin is on the floor to make shots from the perimeter, which he hasn’t been doing nearly enough lately.

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