Big Ten M5: 01.14.14 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on January 14th, 2014

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  1. Injuries have plagued Michigan State throughout the season and have affected some of their most important players, including Gary Harris, Branden Dawson, and Adreian Payne. Payne did not play in Saturday’s win against Minnesota because of a nagging ankle injury. Now, Tom Izzo says he will keep his star big man on the bench until he’s 100 percent healthy. Michigan State has managed to keep winning despite its health misfortunes, but if this keeps being an issue, it could affect their chances of a Big Ten title and a protected seed in the NCAA Tournament. Sadly, this would deprive us of seeing the full potential of one of the better teams Izzo has put together during his tenure, a loss for fans of Big Ten basketball.
  2. It has not been the best of weeks for Ohio State. The Buckeyes are on a two-game losing skid after dropping games at Michigan State (in overtime) and at home versus Iowa. If the Buckeyes are to end this streak and insert themselves back into the Big Ten championship conversation, they’ll need to do it with their elite defense. LaQuinton Ross has been unable to replace last season’s Big Ten scoring leader, Deshaun Thomas (19.8 PPG), as many had projected. So the Buckeyes are left with focusing on their top-ranked defense (0.87 points per possession) to shore up their offensive inefficiencies. They failed to do this in the last two games when they gave up 0.96 and 1.14 points per possession, respectively, against the Spartans and Hawkeyes.
  3. Tom Crean‘s team isn’t where he hoped it would be at this point in the season. Indiana is 1-2 in conference play and 11-5 overall with no signature wins on its midseason resume. Things aren’t about to get any easier as an undefeated Wisconsin visits Assembly Hall tonight. Crean had high praise for Bo Ryan‘s squad on Monday: “I have tremendous respect for that program. That’s what a great team looks like. I think you can start with Bo, and that’s what a great coach looks like.” The Indiana head man has been at the receiving end of Ryan’s ‘greatness’ over the years, as he is 3-14 all-time in games against Ryan (0-10 while at Indiana). Given how the Badgers have been blowing out their lesser opponents, Crean will have to do one heck of a coaching job for his Hoosiers to earn his first Big Ten win over Ryan.
  4. Once the announcement came that Mitch McGary would opt to undergo back surgery and effectively end his season, most thought Michigan would struggle and might even fall apart. At least so far, the Wolverines have been able to tread water competently and are currently sit at 3-0 in the Big Ten. A big reason has been the aggressive play of freshman Derrick Walton, Jr., who had the tough duty of replacing last year’s National Player of Year, Trey Burke. Burke was a facilitator who made everyone on the team better, while Walton has focused more on getting his own shot because that is what his team needs right now. On the last possession of last Thursday’s game against Nebraska, Walton drove the ball for an and-one that secured the win. No one is expecting Michigan to compete for a Big Ten title this season, but Walton’s newfound confidence will keep the Wolverines competitive and set them up for high expectations next season.
  5. If you happened to catch Sunday night’s game of Illinois at Northwestern, you probably wished you had watched the Golden Globes instead, or even the Yule-Log channel. The Wildcats won an awkward, hard-to-watch, 49-43 affair where both teams shot below 40 percent from the field. While the game certainly didn’t help the overall brand of college basketball, it did get Northwestern’s first-year head coach, Chris Collins, his first Big Ten win. His father, former NBA head coach Doug Collins, was in Welsh-Ryan arena and was able to share the nice moment with him. It was a big moment in his early coaching career and is another step in the right direction for the rebuilding process in Evanston.
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Boeheim, K, Pitino & Roy: Considering Their Careers and Replacements

Posted by Christopher Kehoe on December 19th, 2013

Often when you think about a team like Duke or Syracuse, what comes to mind tends to be certain trademark characteristics that those schools exhibit and in turn becomes associated with them. For Syracuse, it’s the orange jerseys, the 2-3 zone, and head coach Jim Boeheim. For Duke, people envision Cameron Indoor Stadium with the Cameron Crazies, floor-slapping for a defensive stop, and head coach Mike Krzyzewski. The fact that these two coaches immediately come to mind is a testament to their staying power and the impact they’ve had on their respective universities and college basketball as a whole. Neither Krzyzewski (66) nor Boeheim (69) is a spring chicken, however, and that poses a serious dilemma for their schools as both are nearing retirement age.

Boeheim and Pitino confer in a meeting of Hall of Famers

Boeheim and Pitino confer in a meeting of Hall of Famers

Perhaps not in the exact same boat but not too far behind are Louisville’s Rick Pitino (61) and North Carolina’s Roy Williams (63). Neither head coach has been a ‘lifer’ at one program like Boeheim and Krzyzewski, but they remain living legends in their own right. While Syracuse and Duke owe a resounding amount of their present success to their two current coaches, Pitino and Williams have added substantially to illustrious program legacies with Final Fours and championships. Regardless, all four coaches are bona fide Hall of Famers with 100s of wins and at least one national title each. More specifically, the four coaches are responsible for 29 Final Fours, nine national championships, and an unfathomable .760% winning percentage over more than 3,700 college basketball games. If it’s even possible, these staggering numbers do not even do justice on their impact on the sport of college basketball.

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Big Ten M5: 12.11.13 Edition

Posted by Brendon Brody on December 11th, 2013

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  1. Though he’s slightly lost in the shuffle due to Iowa‘s outstanding depth, Melsahn Basabe is starting to come on and is contributing a lot more for the 10-1 Hawkeyes. His career has been a bit of a roller coaster in terms of how his production has been up and down, but to date this season he’s averaging 7.7 PPG and 6.3 RPG in only 18 minutes of action per contest. In his last two games, he’s hit for an average of 14 points and 10 boards per outing. Iowa needs selfless players like Basabe to continue to contribute in limited minutes in order to take advantage of their depth without a drop in production.
  2. Northwestern has had a shaky beginning to the Chris Collins regime in Evanston. His former college coach and colleague, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, watched the team’s recent 51-35 win over Western Michigan, and then spoke to the team afterward. His message was for the team to stay together and fight through adversity. Coach K served as a decent good luck charm, as the Wildcats held the Broncos to 24.4 percent shooting from the field on the night. Collins may have found something with his switch to starting James Montgomery and Nikola Cerina in his lineup, emphasizing the need for tougher defense in order to get things on track from the start of the game.
  3. Penn State is right around the middle of the pack in rebounding in the B1G, but the Nittany Lions may have turned a corner in the second half of their win Saturday against Marshall. The team only allowed three offensive rebounds in the second half after giving up 12 in the first 20 minutes. They attributed this turnaround simply to a renewed emphasis on being tougher and getting to more loose balls. Without the talent that many other league teams possess, intangibles and hustle stats like rebounding will be vital if Penn State hopes to exceed expectations and make a run at an NCAA berth.
  4. Indiana knocked off Oakland 81-54 on Tuesday night, as the Hoosiers got another strong outing from senior transfer Evan Gordon. Gordon has now gone 17-of-21 from the field in his last two games. He had looked like he wouldn’t be able to contribute much offensively before those last two contests, despite the fact that he came in from Arizona State with a pretty good reputation as a scorer. If he can continue this production as an instant threat off the bench, the Hoosiers may solve some of their problems with inconsistency in their half-court production that they’ve been struggling with.
  5. NBC Sports’ College Basketball Talk released their list of the 10 most disappointing players of the first month, and they listed both Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III in their rankings. McGary seems to be playing his way into shape, with averages of 9.7 PPG, 8.9 RPG, and 2.1 SPG on the season. Robinson has been an enigma, however — disappearing for numerous key stretches and hardly noticeable at times as the team has struggled through an uneven start. My other occupation aside from writing for this website is that of a adjunct English professor, so in honor of it being finals week, McGrady gets a B- for his play thus far, while Robinson gets a D — both players are passing, but they could stand to really show some improvement.
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Big Ten M5: 11.25.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on November 25th, 2013

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  1. Tom Izzo isn’t necessarily a reticent person. While everybody in the college hoops world has chimed in on their view about the new rules changes on defense, Izzo has been relatively quiet; but he fears for the overall hoops style under the new rules that were instituted during the offseason.  “I just feel bad. I feel bad for the officials,” Izzo said. He added, “And you know what the problem is? We’ve played in more games that haven’t been like this. We’ve taken six free throws in one game. Twelve. Ten.” The inconsistency bothers him during the young season and he is concerned that the officials may not be able to figure out by the time the games count in the conference season. His team’s bruising style may be hurt under the new rules but it is unclear if his players will be able to to adapt over the next few weeks.
  2. It is tough to follow in a legend’s footsteps but Richard Pitino has his job cut out. While Rick Pitino’s Cardinals are the defending national champions, his son, Richard, has to find a way to balance the senior’s impact on his own coaching style. Richard understands that and is trying to balance his dad’s legacy, while maintaining his own style. “Tell them to watch the national championship game because the team that won the national title plays that style,” Richard said. “I believe in the style of play, and it’s been proven to win and we’re going to hang our hat on it.” When asked about his dad’s style of play, the younger Pitino responded, “I believe in the style of play, and its been proven to win and we’re going to hang our hate on it.” Guard, Andre Hollins, will be one his explosive scorers, but the tweaks on defense may pay off over the season as the Gophers could mix up the defensive schemes between a zone and a full-court press.
  3. We know that Aaron Craft will have a huge impact on Ohio State this season, but he needs help. Craft, by no means, is a great offensive player and he needs junior forward, LaQuinton Ross, to chip in on the offensive end. Last season, Deshuan Thomas averaged more than 15 points per game and Ross is expected to fill in Thomas’ shoes, but hasn’t found his rhythm yet. After two weeks, he has averaged only 7 points per game and is struggling to find his role in the offense. I think Q is a great basketball player and we need him to play well,” Matta said. “But you’ve got to, and not just Q, you’ve got to respect the game and you’ve got to respect the opponents. Without Ross, the Buckeyes don’t stand a chance to compete for the Big Ten title.
  4. Is there such a thing as a “good loss?” It can be debated but a young team could benefit from a close loss early in the season. Indiana features two freshmen, Noah Vonleh and Troy Williams, and should benefit from close games during the first two months of the season because they can make the improvements by conference season. Tom Crean hopes that his team will learn from the the close loss to Connecticut. When you play great teams, the margin for error … is so small. You can’t give them easy baskets,” Crean said.He added, ” We’ve got to grow mentally as fast as we can.” The Hoosiers will eventually figure out how to use Ferrell and Vonleh together and when they do, they could contend for a top-3 finish in the Big Ten.
  5. Northwestern’s head coach, Chris Collins, can’t avoid comparisons to the football coach, Pat Fitzgerald because Fitzgerald has been moderately successful in Evanston. Fitzgerald doesn’t recruit great talent to Evanston, but he does an excellent of job competing in the Big Ten and has averaged at least 6 wins over the past few seasons. Collins has a different challenge because the basketball culture in Evanston isn’t ready for a transformation yet, but he is certainly ready to handle the diversity. After a 2-2 start, Collins has his task set out for the season, but he has time to make the changes in Evanston.
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Northwestern Showing Signs of Life But Still Has Problems

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 22nd, 2013

On Wednesday night, Northwestern went into the UIC Pavilion and ran Illinois-Chicago out of its own building. They won by 35 points, outdoing their expected KenPom outcome by 30 points. It was a much-needed win, considering up until then the Wildcats had been the most disappointing team in the Big Ten. Along with the losses of Jared Swopshire and Reggie Hearn, the team is still adjusting to Chris Collins’ new system and has reverted to throwing up threes when their half-court sets have fallen apart. Up until that game, nearly 44 percent of their total shots have been from the three-point line — most in the conference — and when they drove the ball to the basket, they weren’t finishing the play either (42.5 percent). On Wednesday the Wildcats finally began to attack the rim and couldn’t miss – hitting 64.5 percent of their two-point field goals. However, Northwestern’s blowout was more a product of a vulnerable opponent rather than any long-term fix.

Baylor's Athletic Size and Length Confounded Northwestern (AP Photo/C. Cherney)

Dave Sobolewski went for a career high 25 points on Wednesday (AP Photo/C. Cherney)

UIC, a team expected to finish in the middle of the Horizon League, has also underperformed relative to their already mediocre expectations. The Flames started the preseason ranked 262nd in the country, according to KenPom, but has since fallen to 302nd. Their defense has been less than stellar (giving up 106.4 points per 100 possessions) and their weaknesses played right into the Wildcats’ hands: poor perimeter defense and a stark lack of rim protection. For the season, UIC has allowed teams to shoot 46.7 percent from deep (342nd in the country). The Flames didn’t fare any better on Wednesday when they allowed the Wildcats to make 55 percent of their three-point shots. UIC has also allowed its opponents a free pass when they’ve been beaten off the dribble by only blocking 3.2 percent of all possible shots. Once Northwestern cleared space in the lane by sinking some threes, they were able to get to the rim easily. So as it turns out, UIC was a perfect match for the Wildcats to get the team’s confidence going.

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Big Ten M5: 11.14.13 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on November 14th, 2013

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  1. National Letters of Intent were beginning to be signed yesterday with several Big Ten programs reeling in top talent. One of the best classes in the conference belongs to Northwestern as head coach Chris Collins signed four solid recruits. Collins’ first class is highlighted by forward Victor Law, rated No. 86 by Rivals, who Collins was more than happy to build a class around. The class is rounded out with three other 3-star players, including guard Bryant McIntosh, who turned down offers to play for Memphis, Purdue, Iowa and Clemson, among others. The group provides Collins with a strong first recruiting class and shows promise for the Wildcats’ future. As the head coach attempts to get the program to its first NCAA tournament berth, this recruiting class could prove to be the turning point as he likely picked up two starters from day one.
  2. Michigan certainly can’t wait to get Mitch McGary back from injury, but for now, it helps to have a player like Jon Horford who can step into the starting line-up. The redshirt junior has experience in the system and understands his role, which was on display in Michigan’s latest game where he scored nine points along with grabbing 15 rebounds against South Carolina State. The Wolverines would certainly prefer to have Horford in a backup role to McGary, but his increased playing time now could be crucial later in the season should he ever be called upon for large minutes. Horford isn’t as versatile offensively, but on a team that has plenty of scorers and shooters on the outside, his ability to grab rebounds and get some points down low complement the rest of the team well.
  3. It wasn’t the normal home opener for Wisconsin on Tuesday against No. 11 Florida. With an impressive performance, though, the Badgers showed they will be able to compete with the best this season. This early season slate certainly is one of the most challenging Bo Ryan has ever had for his team. It has given a good chance to see what the Badgers have after the loss of its three big men from last season’s squad and the early answer is plenty. The team has gotten out in transition more as Billy Donovan noted in the article, willing to use their guards compared to just slashing, cutting and battling down low in a half court set. If Wisconsin can get some more points along with their always stingy defense, don’t be surprised if once again we are talking about this squad playing some important games in the Big Ten race come February and March.
  4. Ohio State has started the season 2-0, but a few problems have already come up for the Buckeyes. Most notably in their 79-69 win over Ohio was rebounding, which was 34-33 in favor of Ohio State. Thad Matta has really pressed defense with this group realizing its offense could need some work, so it has to be troubling that the rotations on the defensive end are causing issues with rebounding. With players rotating away from the basket the Buckeyes were left vulnerable on the glass as no player had more than four defensive rebounds. This is a problem that needs to be fixed quickly with the game against No. 17 Marquette Saturday, which had 21 offensive rebounds alone in its last win.
  5. Purdue‘s Ronnie Johnson had a wake-up call earlier this year when freshman Bryson Scott started over him in the Boilermakers’ first exhibition game. Since then, Johnson has used the team competition to push himself. It’s showed early on as he hit the game-winning free throws in Purdue’s first game and scored 11 points with four assists to only one turnover in the win last night against Central Connecticut State. Johnson is a player some expect to have a breakout season for the Boilermakers, so anything to help push him more is certainly a good thing. It also helps Purdue overall to have back-ups who force the starters to play well to keep their spot, but don’t expect to see Johnson losing it any time soon either.
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Big Ten M5: 11.05.13 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on November 5th, 2013

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  1. The Cliff Alexander recruitment may now need to be classified as an official circus. Earlier in the day, long-time Illinois-based recruiting analyst Roy Schmidt tweeted that when Alexander announces, the “2 final caps on [the] table will be Illinois & DePaul,” effectively eliminating Kansas and Memphis from contention. After which, Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com tweeted that Alexander had not in fact cut his list to these two schools. Schmidt later clarified that his tweet did not mean Alexander will necessarily cut his list but that these two schools would be there until the end. It seems with this recruitment there is a new rumor each and every day. Alexander is supremely talented, and his recruitment is certainly worth any headache it may cause John Groce and his staff. But the topsy-turvy nature of his recruitment reflects poorly on him and begs the question of whether Alexander will be as big of a distraction on the court as his recruitment has been. It’s probably in the interest of Alexander and those around him to get past this side show and back to basketball.
  2. Mitch McGary was instrumental in Michigan’s run to the National Championship game last March. After a somewhat disappointing freshman year, relative to his standing in the rankings, McGary finally put it together and averaged 14.3 PPG and 10.7 RPG during the NCAA Tournament. Though he had the opportunity to leave for the NBA, McGary decided to come back to lead the Wolverines to a Big Ten championship and another Final Four run. On Monday, McGary was selected by the Associated Press as a Preseason First Team All-American. The departure of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. will give McGary ample opportunity to take on a bigger role and make another leap in his development. Now that his freshman jitters are gone, McGary will need to prove he can consistently be the star that everyone thinks he can be.
  3. Apparently, Yogi Ferrell is still not over Indiana’s loss to Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen. In case you forgot, Indiana’s high-powered offense was completely neutralized by Syracuse’s zone. Ferrell went scoreless in that game and the bad taste in his mouth has driven him to address one of his biggest weaknesses from last season: shooting. Last year, Ferrell shot a very pedestrian 40.3 percent from the field and 30.3 percent from beyond the arc, but he has taken this offseason to fix his mechanics and hit the gym hard. We may have gotten a taste of what’s to come when he hit six three-pointers in the Hoosiers’ October 26 exhibition game. If Ferrell can be a consistent threat from deep, that will open up the driving lanes for himself and Will Sheehey. It will also give more space down low for freshman Noah Vonleh to be effective scoring on the block.
  4. Drew Crawford is one good teammate. He was on pace to graduate at the end of the spring semester and could have applied for a graduate transfer to another school. He could have easily gone to a school where he would have had the opportunity to do something he’s never done before — play in the NCAA Tournament. Additionally, the coach that had recruited and mentored him during his tenure at Evanston was now gone. He had every reason to go but decided to stay to help his school and teammates transition into the Chris Collins era. The current environment has both coaches and players eager to make moves to the next best situation, so what Crawford did here is refreshing. Northwestern will struggle this season and Crawford will most likely never play in the NCAA Tournament in his collegiate career, but his selflessness is to be commended and admired.
  5. Gary Harris was selected as the Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year during media day. An outstanding freshman, he was hampered by a nagging shoulder injury last season and is still recovering from an ankle injury he suffered back in August. If there is any concern with him this season, it’s his ongoing health. His performance during last night’s exhibition game may have alleviated some of those fears.  Harris scored 21 points and went 5-of-7 from deep. While projecting what a player will do in a season based off one exhibition game is unwise, we already know Harris is a special player and he will be in store for a special season as long as he can stay healthy.
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Big Ten M5: 11.01.13 Edition

Posted by Max Jakubowski on November 1st, 2013

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  1. The Big Ten held their annual media day in Chicago on Thursday.  Michigan State was the unanimous #1, followed by Michigan and Ohio State. For some unusual reason, the conference only releases the top three teams. It would have been interesting to see where teams like Iowa and Purdue were ranked, especially since they are expected to compete for a NCAA Tournament berths. The Preseason All Big Ten team was announced as well, with Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary, Michigan State’s Gary Harris and Adreian Payne, Ohio State’s Aaron Craft and Penn State’s Tim Frazier making the roster. One glaring omission was Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker.
  2. Richard Pitino of Minnesota and Chris Collins of Northwestern took in their first Big Ten Media Day Thursday.  Both coaches are facing up hill challenges this year but are also building for the future.  Pitino is finally out of the shadow from his Hall of Fame father, Rick, after landing a major Division 1 job at Minnesota.  Pitino recently picked up another commitment this week, building upon an already strong 2014 class.  Collins also announced that he will not totally blow up the Princeton offense that has long been Northwestern’s calling card.  Collins is focusing on getting his team prepared defensively first before he moves to configure Northwestern’s offensive sets.
  3. Nebraska finished at the bottom of the conference last season and was picked to do the same again.  That’s not keeping coach Tim Miles from saying that he expects more from his team this year.  Miles believes he has enough fight on his team to not finish 12th again.  The Cornhuskers return their second leading scoring from last year in Ray Gallegos, but others will need to step up to avoid another last place finish.
  4. Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo opened up about how Chicago has been a tough recruiting ground for the Spartans recently.  The Spartans lost out on Jabari Parker last year, even after Izzo recruited him very aggressively.  If losing out on Parker wasn’t bad enough, Izzo went 0-3 for the 2014 class out of Chicago, losing out on Tyler Ulis (Kentucky), Jahlil Okafor (undecided), and now Cliff Alexander.  There were reports that Alexander might take an unofficial visit to East Lansing this weekend, but those reports were all but dashed when Alexander said he has “no relationship” with Izzo and the Spartans.
  5. While Michigan State is struggling in the recruiting department, Indiana picked up a major score Thursday, re-securing a commitment from James Blackmon Jr. Blackmon had actually committed to Indiana three years ago but decomitted back in August.  Kentucky was long to be presumed the front-runner, but Tom Crean made a late surge to bring Blackmon back to Bloomington.  Blackmon joins an Indiana recruiting class that includes fellow top 100 recruits Robert Johnson and Max Hoetzel.
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Big Ten Coaches on the Not-So-Hot Seat, Part II

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on October 30th, 2013

Yesterday, we examined why John Groce, Tom Crean and Fran McCaffery are currently not in danger of losing their jobs. Today, we continue our examination of the conference’s coaching landscape.  Specifically, we’ll explain why we expect the head men at Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State and Purdue to be here next year.  Here’s our take:

Matt Painter's past success, and his very large contract, are among the reasons he'll be in the Big Ten for a while.

Matt Painter’s past successes, and his very large contract, are among the reasons why he’ll be in the Big Ten for a while.

Richard Pitino (Minnesota): This is Pitino’s first year as a head coach in the Big Ten and second year as the head coach of anything. He spent one year at Florida International before accepting the job at Minnesota, but while at FIU, Pitino led the Panthers to their best conference record in school history. He seemed on the way to turning around a program that had won only 26 of 65 games under NBA legend Isiah Thomas.  In April, he got an offer he couldn’t refuse: a chance to compete with the best in the business in the Big Ten. So he accepted and now is set to go through the ultimate learning experience as he coaches against the likes of Izzo, Matta and Ryan every week. Pitino will get the years of learning on the job he needs to try to build something special.  Minnesota wouldn’t make this type of hire without knowing it’ll be marathon and not a sprint. He’s obviously fine right now.

Tim Miles (Nebraska): I wrote a post last week detailing the situation at Nebraska. In short, Miles has been given state-of-the-art facilities and the resources to secure top-tier assistant coaches that can deliver talented recruits.  And while boosters will expect to see a return on the money they invested, they’re realistic about the task at hand and know it won’t happen overnight. It’ll be interesting to see how the Cornhuskers fare in this, Miles’ second year. If they are able to show noticeable improvement, he and his assistants can sell recruits on being a part of a “program on the rise.” Regardless, the administration is invested both in this program and Miles as the head coach — he’ll be given the appropriate time to turn the ship around.

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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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Challenges Aplenty for Chris Collins at Northwestern

Posted by KTrahan on April 1st, 2013

Northwestern announced the hiring of Duke associate head coach Chris Collins as its new head coach last week, and on Tuesday, the Collins era will officially begin in Evanston with an introductory press conference. There was little drama in this coaching search — everyone knew all along the job was Collins’ if he wanted it, and he took it, citing the chance to come home (he’s a Northbrook, Illinois, native) and lead a high-major program. But Northwestern isn’t just any high-major program. Truthfully, it could be the toughest job in all of college basketball. The Wildcats have never been to the NCAA Tournament, and while their last coach, Bill Carmody — a terrific coach in his own right — got NU to heights it had never seen before, the program still lagged far behind most of the Big Ten as far as sustained success goes. Carmody was in Evanston for 13 years and the challenges got even tougher for him throughout his tenure, as he explained in his final press conference.

Collins Has Been a Fixture on the Duke Bench For Years

Collins Has Been a Fixture on the Duke Bench For Years

“There’s not much different now about what Northwestern offers than it was when Kevin O’Neill was here and (Ricky) Byrdsong and Bill Foster and all those,” he said. “So everyone knows, people have talked about it, it’s sort of like an arms race. So the gap might be widening that way.” These challenges — particularly the lack of good facilities and Northwestern’s stringent academic standards — will still be there for Collins. The question now is if NU is willing to do anything to change them, or if Collins will have to work around them. Facilities-wise, the football program is currently receiving its long-awaited face-lift, so it’s unlikely that basketball will get a similar upgrade in the near future. But what about academics, which could potentially be changed right away? Nobody is expecting NU to accept everyone who applies, but right now, the perception is that the Wildcats won’t bend for good players like Duke, and maybe even Harvard, will.

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ACC M5: 03.28.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 28th, 2013

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  1. Blogger So Dear: Wake Forest improved markedly this season under Jeff Bzdelik. But this isn’t a good sign going forward, as Bzdelik’s first recruit — Chase Fischer – is reportedly planning to transfer. That’s a bad look on a very young team that lacks perimeter depth (much less outside shooting). Throw in this six-part interview with Ron Wellman from Dan Collins of the Winston-Salem Journal and Gary Parrish’s blackjack metaphor looks more and more fitting. Lacking tangible results (i.e., wins) Wellman’s only defenses for keeping Bzdelik on board are that he inherited an impossible situation to turn around quickly (true), and that he’s building a strong foundation of players who love the program. This latest news calls the latter into question.
  2. Richmond Times-Dispatch: Speaking of transfers from programs that look to be in a rough spot going into next season, Robert Brown has decided to transfer closer to home (likely somewhere in Florida) following his roller coaster sophomore season. His transfer puts the Hokies in a tough spot, as James Johnson likely would have looked for Brown to carry an increased load next year, especially in the scoring column. Johnson has a couple of wings coming in this year, but who knows if they’re ready to compete at the ACC level night in and night out.
  3. WRAL: Mark Gottfried ended his 48-hour Twitter hiatus by seemingly quashing any UCLA rumors saying, “#WPN I am committed to being at @NCState for a long time [sic] Still as dedicated to rebuilding the program as I was 2 yrs ago when I arrived.” But coaches often do these sorts of vague non-denials. The truth is that if UCLA wants Gottfried, the school will have to shell out a ton of money for him (notably, it will have to cover his $3.5 million buyout). That said, I think this is a “dream job” trump card if Gottfried is offered the job. Basically, despite Gottfried’s tweet, this is still something to watch.
  4. CBSSports.com: Jeff Goodman has a nice piece on the resurgence (or “surgence”?) of Miami‘s basketball program. The real challenge lies ahead, both for this year’s team and going forward. Miami’s ACC championship means a lot to many fan bases, but a deep run in the NCAA Tournament would solidify the program’s status in what looks to be a rebuilding year next season. But if Jim Larranaga can keep the excitement going, Miami could very well be on its way to a consistently relevant program. Think about it… It’s in Miami — how hard can it be to get college kids to come live by the beach for four years?
  5. Raleigh News & Observer: Chris Collins took the Northwestern job, which he will start as soon as Duke’s season is complete. Rumors are that he’ll be hiring Greg Paulus to join his staff (Paulus has been working as a video coordinator for Ohio State, so he knows the Big Ten well). Coach K sounded thrilled for Collins, who’s coached as K’s right hand man at Duke since 2000. The immediate impact for the Blue Devils is that Nate James will move back into his previous position as an assistant coach.
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