The Official RTC Bracket: South and East Regions

Posted by KDoyle on March 20th, 2013

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With the NCAA Tournament officially underway as of last night’s game between North Carolina A&T and Liberty — although, let’s be honest, things don’t really begin to heat up until Thursday afternoon — we are unveiling the Official RTC Bracket today. Up first are the South and East Regions with the Midwest and West Regions to follow later this afternoon. Prior to revealing the picks, some quick analysis, and four questions to our bracket experts, here’s our methodology.

The inspiration behind the bracket largely comes from our weekly Blogpoll where a number of ballots from key contributors are combined to form a single Top 25. Rather than have eight people put their heads together and collectively fill out the bracket, we asked each to select their own bracket. Afterward, those selections were tallied up and the team with the majority vote in each slot is the one picked to advance below. As an example, you will notice that in the #8 vs. #9 game in the South Region, North Carolina was picked to advance in seven of eight brackets — hence the 88% tally next to the Tar Heels’ name. Deeper into the bracket, you may wonder how it’s possible for Kansas to advance past Michigan in the Sweet Sixteen with just 50% of the brackets choosing the Jayhawks, but that’s because three brackets had Michigan and one bracket had VCU, thereby giving Kansas the edge.

Here’s the first half of the 2013 Official RTC Bracket:

 

South and East Regions

Quick Hitters From the South Region

  • Advancing to Atlanta: #3 Florida
  • Round of 64 Upset: #11 Minnesota over #6 UCLA
  • Later Round Upsets: #3 Florida over #2 Georgetown in the Sweet Sixteen and #3 Florida over #1 Kansas in the Elite Eight
  • Three Most Disputed Games: #11 Minnesota over #6 UCLA, #4 Michigan over #5 VCU, #1 Kansas over #4 Michigan

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Rushed Reactions: #3 Indiana 80, Illinois 64

Posted by WCarey on March 15th, 2013

rushedreactions

Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from the Big Ten Tournament at the United Center following Friday’s matchup between Indiana and Illinois. You can follow him at @walkerRcarey.

Three Key Takeaways:

  1. Cody Zeller was dominant. The All-American big man picked up where he left off after a sensational performance in Sunday’s victory over Michigan. Once again, Zeller was the go-to guy for the Indiana offense against Illinois, as he finished the afternoon with 24 points and nine rebounds. With the ball in his hands on the low block, the talented sophomore was able to do pretty much whatever he wanted against the Illini interior for the duration of the game. Zeller’s presence on the defensive end of the court was also quite notable as he anchored a Hoosiers’defense that did not let anything come easy for the Illinois offensive attack. There have been instances this season where Zeller’s production has not matched his level of talent, but if he can continue to put forth performances like he has in his last two games, there will be no ceiling on Indiana’s postseason hopes.
  2. Indiana’s defensive effort in the first half was phenomenal. ESPN analyst Dan Dakich tweeted at halftime that he and legendary Indiana radio announcer Don Fischer believed that the first half against Illinois was the best defensive half that the Hoosiers had played all year. The two men had a point as the Hoosiers were just suffocating on that end of the court for the first 20 minutes. The Illini were held to just 25.9% shooting in the first half and had to settle for many difficult looks due to the intense defensive pressure. The Hoosiers also forced Illinois into eight first half turnovers – many of which resulted in great transition opportunities. Illinois guards Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson were a combined 3-of-13 from the field and by containing the Illini’s two best scorers, Indiana was able to open up a 14-point halftime lead. Victor Oladipo rightfully gets most of the credit for Indiana’s strong defensive performances, but the Hoosiers have really made strides as a team in-terms of their defensive effort.
    Cody Zeller was all over the court Friday afternoon. (AP)

    Cody Zeller was all over the court Friday afternoon. (AP)

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On Virginia, Middle Tennessee, Stony Brook and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 12th, 2013

tuesdayscribblesBrian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. Does Virginia want to make the NCAA Tournament? Since beating Duke almost two weeks ago, the Cavaliers have lost to Boston College and Florida State and barely escaped Maryland in overtime on Sunday in a game that each team tried to give away multiple times. The more and more I look at Virginia’s resume, the more I think this team will be in the NIT. It has gotten to the point where there are too many bad losses to overcome, barring a run this week in the ACC Tournament. The Hoos have a couple things going for them, mainly the win over Duke and the victory at Wisconsin in November. Home wins over North Carolina, NC State and bubble buddy Tennessee also help but Tony Bennett’s club has a stunning EIGHT bad losses on its resume. Virginia went 11-7 in the ACC but went 0-3 against Colonial Athletic Association teams. Go figure. From an efficiency perspective, this is a strong team that plays stifling defense, has a couple of great players in Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell to go along with a solid supporting cast. The resume lacks some punch though and Virginia has a lot of work to do this week in Greensboro. The Cavs will likely open with NC State on Friday, a game they really need to win.

    Tony Bennett will sweat it out this week

    Tony Bennett will sweat it out this week

  2. One team fighting with Virginia for a tournament berth is Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders were eliminated from the Sun Belt Tournament by Florida International on Sunday and now have to sit and sweat out the next five days. Kermit Davis’s team finished with an impressive 28-5 overall record and lost just once over a 20-game conference schedule, on the road in overtime to Arkansas State (the next best team in the league). Davis has been with the program since 2002 and has built it up to respectable mid-major status. Is this a team worthy of a chance at a bid? Absolutely. The question is, will it get one? If I were on the selection committee, I’d probably have to say no unfortunately. Despite doing what it was supposed to do in its conference, Middle Tennessee didn’t do much out of conference. Yes, it beat two SEC teams (Mississippi and Vanderbilt), but neither of those teams is making the NCAA Tournament (unless the Rebels have a great conference tournament). But the real reason why I’d leave Middle Tennessee out is the fact that it was not competitive against Florida or Belmont, two of its better non-conference opponents. A competitive showing in either game would likely have changed my mind. In addition, the Blue Raiders lost a tough one in overtime to Akron. Those are missed opportunities that may end up costing this team a chance to dance.
  3. The fact that Stony Brook had to go on the road in the America East Tournament is a travesty. The Seawolves won the conference by three full games and their reward was a road trip to face #4 seed Albany in its own gym. It’s not right. I realize these smaller conferences don’t have the budgets that the power leagues do but would it be so difficult to host the tournament at whichever school wins the regular season title? Is that too much to ask? Instead, the America East picked Albany to host the quarterfinals and semifinals with the championship being hosted by the higher seed. The final part makes sense but the rest of it seems like bizarro world. Stony Brook had a stellar year, going 23-6 (14-2) in regular season play. Hopefully Steve Pikiell’s team will be rewarded with a nice seed in the NIT and maybe even a home game! Read the rest of this entry »
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Handing Out the 2013 Big Ten Hardware

Posted by jnowak on March 12th, 2013

The best season of Big Ten basketball in recent memory blessed us with plenty of talented players, performances and games. So, without any further ado, our choices for this year’s Big Ten awards:

Player of the Year: Trey Burke, Michigan – Burke probably locked this up when he picked Keith Appling’s pocket in the closing seconds of Michigan’s narrow win against the rival Spartans in Ann Arbor a few weeks ago. It just goes to show you can never let your guard down against Burke, who nearly left for the NBA after his breakout season a year ago. He led the Big Ten in scoring during conference games, while leading the conference in assists (6.8 per game) by a long shot. He can put this team on his back and carry it deep into March.

What awards did Trey Burke and Victor Oladipo earn this year? (AnnArbor.com)

What awards did Trey Burke and Victor Oladipo earn this year? (AnnArbor.com)

All-Big Ten First Team

  • Trey Burke, Michigan – Directed the conference’s second-best offense, and narrowly missed the Big Ten scoring title. Sharp on defense, brilliant in the lane. An NBA point guard.
  • Victor Oladipo, Indiana – All aspects of the game considered, the most fun player in the Big Ten this season. Can rebound, drive, defend and lead his team to a title.
  • Cody Zeller, Indiana – Billed as the Big Ten’s top player entering the year, it’s incredible to think that this honor and 16.8 PPG and 8.1 RPG would be any kind of disappointment.
  • Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State – The conference’s leading scorer (19.7 PPG) and the player most valuable to his respective team in the conference.
  • Adreian Payne, Michigan State – His visible growth during conference play slides him into this up-for-grabs fifth spot on the first team.

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RTC Top 25: Week 17

Posted by KDoyle on March 11th, 2013

Despite dropping a game for the second straight week — this time on Senior Night against Ohio State — Indiana maintained its spot atop the rankings. It was certainly easier to put the loss to Ohio State in the back of mind after Indiana stunned Michigan in Ann Arbor on Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t so much the Hoosiers’ win that was so shocking, but the manner in which they did so, as they scored six points in the final minute to win 72-71 in a sweep of the regular season series from the Wolverines. Since the return of Ryan Kelly, Duke is looking stronger than ever after demolishing North Carolina over the weekend. The Blue Devils garnered two #1 votes with Louisville securing the final #1 ballot. As for Gonzaga, despite having 30 wins and not losing since that unbelievable game at Hinkle Fieldhouse against Butler, the top team in the AP/Coaches polls checks in here at #4.

More good stuff with the Quick n’ Dirty after the jump…

Week 17

Quick n’ Dirty Analysis.

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Three Thoughts on the Indiana – Michigan Rematch

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 11th, 2013

Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of RTC. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.

If you tuned into ESPN’s Sportscenter last night or any sports channel for that matter, you would have seen “the roll” that gave Indiana its first outright Big Ten title in 20 years. After two months of arguably the most competitive regular season in recent history, Jordan Morgan’s tip-in rolled off the rim and the Hoosiers beat the Wolverines 72-71 to win the conference crown and probably lock up a #1 seed for the NCAA Tournament. The game will be remembered for the final play and Trey Burke’s missed free throw on the previous front end of a one-and-one, but the first 39 minutes featured two competitive teams that had scouted each other effectively and showed that they were ready for postseason basketball. The following are three key thoughts about one of the best games of the season.

Victor Oladipo may have gained a slight edge in the Player of the Year stakes against Trey Burke on Sunday.

Victor Oladipo may have gained a slight edge in the Player of the Year stakes against Trey Burke on Sunday.

  1. Once again, the Hoosiers forced Burke to beat them with his jumper: After two games against Burke, the Hoosiers’ Victor Oladipo has essentially written the book about how to make Burke one-dimensional — take away his dribble penetration and make him beat you with his jumper. Burke has averaged about 14 field goal attempts throughout the season but in both games against Indiana, he has taken 24 and 20 shots, respectively. Sure, Burke averaged 22.5 PPG in those two but he seems to be out of rhythm when he can’t drive to the basket to get his wings — Glenn Robinson and Nik Stauskas — active and involved in the offense. Oladipo and even Yogi Ferrell during certain possessions played excellent defense against the pick-and-roll, challenging Burke to drain shots from beyond the arc. John Beilein’s offense needs the wings to be more involved, but watching Burke hoist long-range shots is not part of the plan. It isn’t like the talented point guard is a ballhog, but Oladipo’s defense on Sunday never let him get into his normal rhythm because he took almost twice the number of shots than he usually does in a game. Read the rest of this entry »
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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XII

Posted by jbaumgartner on March 11th, 2013

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…. seeing Cody Zeller want, demand and pursue the ball with the game on the line against Michigan. Yes, Michigan helped blow this one with a last-minute collapse, but credit Zeller for being aggressive and relentless on the glass in IU’s biggest game to date. Winning in Ann Arbor has been brutal for road teams in the last two years, and Zeller’s fingerprints were all over this comeback – which is exactly what the Hoosiers will need during the next four weeks if they want to cut down the nets in April.

I LOVED…. Mark Few’s honesty about being No. 1 in the nation. After downplaying the accomplishment previously, the Gonzaga coach said this in a Seattle Times story after beating Loyola Marymount in the WCC Tournament — “I was kind of surprised at how many of my (coaching) colleagues reached out to me,” said Few, referring to the No. 1 vote. He smiled sheepishly and said, “I’ve adjusted my thoughts on it.” While it may be up for debate whether the Zags should be there (though at this point, it’s becoming hard to argue), it is undeniably a huge accomplishment for a mid-major program and it’s cool to see Few come to that realization.

I LOVED…. the emotion from Victor Oladipo and Tom Crean after Sunday’s win. What a special moment as they embraced after clinching the title, with Oladipo barely able to hold it together. Yes, it’s just a game – but these guys give a lot of themselves to one area of their life, and it’s special to catch a glimpse of just how much work and effort goes into it.

Indiana Hoosiers head coach Tom Crean hugs guard Victor Oladipo (4) after the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Crisler Center. Indiana won 72-71. (Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

Victor Oladipo Had a NPOY Caliber Regular Season For Indiana

I LOVED…. While on the same subject, Yahoo! columnist Pat Forde’s great feature on Victor Oladipo’s conflicted relationship with his dad. Definitely worth a few minutes.

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Big Ten Power Rankings: March 8 Edition

Posted by jnowak on March 8th, 2013

In this week’s power rankings, we consider each team’s ceiling in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament. This week’s voters were Deepak Jayanti, Joey Nowak and Kevin Trahan.

  1. Indiana — Despite their flaws, including two home losses during Big Ten play, the Hoosiers remain in this top spot mostly because no one has made a real good case to claim it from them. Ohio State is the hottest team in the conference right now but doesn’t have the same body of work or depth of talent that the Hoosiers have. If Indiana can beat Michigan this weekend, they’ll leave no doubt that they were the best team in the conference during one of the Big Ten’s all-time best seasons. If they lose, they won’t really have much that makes them stand out above the rest. Ceiling for the Big Ten Tournament: The Hoosiers are built for tournament success. They’re the deepest team in the Big Ten, which makes playing three games in three days much easier to handle. They match up well enough with everybody in the conference and have two of the best players in the Big Ten. Anything but a championship next weekend in Chicago will be a disappointment.

    Despite their flaws, Cody Zeller and Indiana remain in the top spot of our power rankings. (Getty)

    Despite their flaws, Cody Zeller and Indiana remain in the top spot of our power rankings. (Getty)

  2. Michigan — It wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win on the road in the Big Ten and that’s exactly what Michigan pulled out this week at Purdue. Now the Wolverines can refocus on their new biggest game of the season, this weekend against Indiana. Both teams are vulnerable, and the Wolverines have the benefit of playing on their home floor, where they have not lost this season. One last chance for Trey Burke to prove he deserves the Big Ten (and/or National) Player of the Year. Ceiling in the Big Ten Tournament: Some of the things that have made the Wolverines great — their three-point shooting and their talented freshmen — are things that can come back to bite you in tournament play. When you rely so heavily on the long ball or inexperienced players, those things can falter when you’re playing every day on a quick turnaround. But Michigan has been steady all season in both departments, and there’s no reason they can’t ride that wave to the championship.
  3. Ohio State – Look at where the Buckeyes have suddenly ended up. After seemingly playing their way out of the conference race with three losses in four games, we’ve come to realize that basically every team in the conference has at least one of those stretches this season and it’s not going to determine the fate of their season. So after huge wins against Minnesota and Michigan State and a terrific performance at Assembly Hall against Indiana, the Buckeyes have catapulted themselves back into the mix and shaken things up in the standings. All of a sudden, the tiebreakers indicate the Buckeyes could enter the Big Ten Tournament as the #2 seed. And with the way Aaron Craft is playing, the Buckeyes are defending, and they’re playing even with a subpar Deshaun Thomas, who says they can’t win it? Ceiling in the Big Ten Tournament: Like I said, with things clicking the way they are (the Buckeyes have to be the hottest team in the conference right now), who says they can’t win the whole thing? Of course they could be one-and-done (it’s hard to believe they’ll continue to roll with Thomas not reaching his average), particularly with such little depth, but they have the pieces. It may not be likely, but that’s their ceiling. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on March 8th, 2013

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Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

With the first tickets to the Big Dance being given out this weekend and regular season titles still up for grabs in the Big East, Big Ten, ACC, and A-10, it should be one amazing weekend of college hoops. It’s the most amazing time of the year, so sit back and enjoy. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

#17 Syracuse at #6 Georgetown – 12:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (****)

Better Make It a Double.

Boeheim is looking for answers at Syracuse.

  • Syracuse broke a three-game losing streak this week against DePaul while Georgetown lost for the first time in 11 games against Villanova. With the loss, the Hoyas dropped into a three-team tie for first place in the Big East with Marquette and Louisville. The Orange have struggled recently and had a tough time against the Hoyas defense two weeks ago at the Carrier Dome. Jim Boeheim’s team only went 4-20 from downtown and could not get anything going from their guards. The Hoyas struggled on offense as well but were able to rely on Otto Porter once again who put in 33 points. In order for Syracuse to snap out of this funk, they need to get more production from guards Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams. If both players can take better shots by driving the ball to the hoop, we will see a completely different Syracuse team. Georgetown put Villanova on the foul line 42 times earlier this week. Given the size of Triche and Carter-Williams, both players should be going straight to the basket in an attempt to draw fouls or get lay-ups. Keep a close on both players, as they are the keys to this game. If they are settling for jumpers, Syracuse is going to struggle again.

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Big Ten M5: 03.06.13 Edition

Posted by jnowak on March 6th, 2013

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  1. When your NCAA Tournament hopes went out the window months ago, and there’s only a teeny-tiny chance you’ll be playing any postseason basketball at all, you have to focus on other ways to get something out of the season. That’s an unfamiliar feeling for Purdue, but it’s becoming a reality during this rebuilding season. While searching for the smaller things to get excited about, Matt Painter has found pleasure in the Boilermakers’ stretch of three games following their off-week. They’ve won two of the three, including an improbable win in Madison on Sunday against Wisconsin. “I think anytime you get extra time in the gym to get shots up, it helps,” Painter said. “My point to them was this is something you should always do, and I think coming from a team standpoint, it helps us.” The Boilermakers can use all the good mojo they can muster with tough games against Michigan and Minnesota remaining before the Big Ten Tournament.
  2. Cody Zeller may not be the National Player of the Year, or even the Big Ten Player of the Year, that we thought he’d be at the beginning of this season. But Tom Crean believes what many others still believe to be true — Zeller’s time in Bloomington may still be short, so he advises Hoosier fans to enjoy watching the center in an Indiana jersey while they can.  The Hoosiers are likely to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and should make a good run at the school’s first national title since 1987. The closer they get, the more likely Zeller is to bolt for the NBA. He’ll almost certainly be a lottery pick. So as Assembly Hall honored the team’s seniors on Tuesday night against Ohio State, was it also the last time Zeller set foot on the floor as a player?
  3. It’s impossible to have the conversation about the Big Ten’s talented freshmen this year without talking about Wisconsin‘s Sam Dekker. It’s not often that Bo Ryan lands a high-profile recruit, and it’s not often that a freshman makes his way into the Wisconsin playing rotation, but Dekker is clearly a special player. He joins Josh Gasser, Alando Tucker, and Devin Harris as the only players to ever start for Ryan in their first year, and he leads all Big Ten sixth men with 9.6 PPG this year. He’s been blanketed at times in the rotation by Ryan Evans, but you can believe we will be seeing plenty of this young player for many years to come.
  4. Keith Appling has been known as Michigan State‘s closer, and one of the Spartans’ best defenders (and, at times, both). Now, he’s struggling in both of those departments. The junior guard was better against Michigan on Sunday, but is still mired in a bit of a funk that has gone on while the Spartans have dropped three straight. It’s no coincidence that as Appling’s play has declined, the Spartans have continued to lose. And the perception of them also has continued to slip. “Things just haven’t been going my way lately, but I’m a mentally tough person,” Appling said. “So, I don’t let it bother me too much. I just watch the film and try to grow from it.” It’s no secret that if the Spartans are going to make one of their patented March runs, they need Appling play more like himself.
  5. There were plenty of differences between Michigan State’s romp over rival Michigan a few weeks ago and the Wolverines’ close win on Sunday in Ann Arbor. But few were more significant than the play of Michigan freshman Mitch McGary, who had four points and four turnovers in the first meeting, then turned around and had 11 points and four boards (three offensive) in 21 minutes of the rematch. Derrick Nix dominated the Wolverines inside in the first meeting, either by scoring or kicking back out to find the Spartans’ guards, but the Michigan State big man was rendered mostly ineffective on Sunday and much of that credit has to go to McGary. The Wolverines have always had one of the best backcourts in the country, but if they can get consistent play from the freshman, they are back to being a national title contender.
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Set Your DVR: Week of 03.04.13

Posted by bmulvihill on March 5th, 2013

setDVR

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

For some teams, the Championship Fortnight (as Kyle Whelliston would call it) begins this week. For most others, this is the final week of the regular season. Many teams sit squarely on the bubble and need to impress in their final two contests to show they deserve to be in the Tourney. We’ve waited all year for March. It’s finally here and all indications tell us it’s going to be a wild month. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

Illinois at Iowa - 7:00 PM EST, Tuesday on BTN (***)

illinois john groce

It looks like John Groce and Illinois are in but a couple more losses might change the equation

  • This is a hugely important game for both teams. At 7-9 in the Big Ten, Iowa is need of two wins to make its case for an at large tournament bid. They close the regular season at home against Illinois and Nebraska. If they can pick up the two victories and get to .500 in conference, Fran McCaffery and company make a decent case to get in. For Illinois, it looks like they will get in however they can ill afford to drop their next two games. In addition to this game at Iowa, they must travel too Ohio State. A loss against the Hawkeyes puts a ton of pressure on John Groce’s team heading into the last game of the season, so this one is critical. Look to see if Iowa’s size bothers the Illini. Illinois is a much better two-point shooting team than they are at three-point shooting team. However, getting points inside against Iowa’s length could be tough to come by. Regardless, Brandon Paul, Tracy Abrams, and D.J. Richardson must be aggressive in taking the ball to the basket and trying to get to the line. If Illinois is settling for jumpers on the outside, they will lose. Iowa needs to win this game with defense. Their offense just isn’t strong enough to win it for them. Protecting the ball and playing good defense without fouling are their top priorities. If they are turning the ball over and fouling, Illinois will win. The team that wins the free throw battle should come out on top in this match-up.

#13 Ohio State at #1 Indiana - 9:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN (****)

  • In the first match-up this season between these two squads, Ohio State had no answer for Cody Zeller and Victor Olidipo. They combined to go 16-of-21 from the field and 17-of-21 from the line, grabbed 16 rebounds, and scored 50 of the 81 points. Throw in Christian Watford’s 20 points and IU’s front line obliterated OSU. If the Buckeyes want any chance to win this game in Bloomington, they must get way better defense from Evan Ravenel, Amir Williams, DeShaun Thomas, and LaQuinton Ross. Offensively, they can’t run with Indiana, however OSU’s half-court offense is suspect at best. So while their defense must create turnovers and get out on the break, they must be careful not to turn this game into a track meet. OSU’s ability to win this game sits squarely on the shoulders of their frontline. They need better defense and more scoring. If they can get that, they have a chance to win. Otherwise, this could be a blowout. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.28.13 Edition

Posted by jnowak on February 28th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. ESPN.com‘s Eamonn Brennan gets right to the point: What’s the matter with Michigan? It’s been a strange few weeks for the Wolverines, who were ranked No. 1 in the country at one point this season but have now been blown out by Michigan State and upset by the only team in the conference who didn’t have a Big Ten win entering play Wednesday. Penn State gave the Wolverines a run for their money in Ann Arbor on February 17 and the Nittany Lions finally finished the deal on Wednesday in State College. Before that, Michigan snuck by Ohio State in overtime and was beaten by Wisconsin in overtime prior to the MSU loss. The problem, Brennan writes, has been their defense, which is giving up 1.11 points per possession over its last seven games. Michigan’s offense is and always has been there. But the defense is fading fast. Can they figure it out in time to play like a Final Four team when it matters most?
  2. All of Tubby Smith‘s naysayers have probably grown pretty quiet for the time being. The Minnesota head coach has had doubters ever since his time at Kentucky, and they were chattering pretty loudly when the Gophers experienced their fall from grace after beginning the season 15-1 and rising as high as No. 8 in the country. But Smith says he doesn’t really listen to what people are saying — good or bad — so whether the team is on a slide or they’ve just upset the No. 1 team in the national polls, it’s not something that gets to him.
  3. Almost every team has one player who sets the tone for the rest of the team. For Michigan State, that guy is Keith Appling. As Appling goes, so go the Spartans, and Appling hasn’t been going much of anywhere lately. He’s been a non-factor in both Indiana losses this season, and he hurt more than he helped against Ohio State this week by allowing Aaron Craft to dismantle the Spartans’ backcourt. If the Spartans have any fighting chance at working their way back into the Big Ten title chase, they’ve got to beat Michigan on Sunday in Ann Arbor. And to do that, they need Appling to play like an all-Big Ten-caliber player again. Tom Izzo is confident Appling will do just that, saying that Appling has done a good job of carrying this team all year long, and there’s no reason to believe he can’t find that in him again this weekend.
  4. As Ben Axelrod writes, Thad Matta had not made a midseason starting lineup change for anything other than an injury since the 2008-09 season — that is, until he moved Evan Ravenel to the bench in December. But that move has allowed Matta to bring an experienced senior off the bench and is working well for the Buckeyes. Ravenel had a career game against Michigan State, and he’s proven to be a guy who Ohio State wants on the floor at the end of games, despite losing his starting spot to Amir Williams. ”That was kind of what we were looking for, a little bit more of what Evan had brought to the table last year when he would come in,” Matta said. “I thought he was pretty effective, especially down the stretch of the Big Ten season.”
  5. Last week, ESPN broadcasters spent some time during the Michigan State-Indiana game dissecting a play that officials were reviewing in which it appeared Derrick Nix hit Cody Zeller with a cheap shot. As further review took place on the web after the game, it appeared that Zeller may have staged the incident by grabbing Nix’s arm. Either way, it was hard to draw any real conclusions. Then there was another strangely similar incident in Tuesday’s Indiana-Minnesota game in which Indiana’s Will Sheehey fell to the ground clutching his face while defending Minnesota’s Andre Hollins in a trap on the baseline. Officials again went to the monitor to review it, and many on the Internet speculated again — is there something fishy going on at Indiana, with players trying to draw attention with these “dirty” plays? We’re used to flops on charges and blocks, but is this something else, something more?
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