Conference Report Card: Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 13th, 2011


John Templon is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten conference. We will be publishing a series of conference report cards over the next week for conferences that got multiple NCAA bids to recap the conference, grade the teams, and look at the future for the conference.

Conference Recap

  • Coming into the season, the Big Ten was considered the best conference in America. Michigan State was expected to be in the Final Four again and Purdue, Ohio State, and Illinois were expected to be among the nation’s elite. Then the season started and the conference slipped a bit. The Big Ten didn’t live up to its lofty billing, with the exception of Ohio State, which sat at #1 in the polls for a large part of the season. Of course, Robbie Hummel’s knee injury didn’t help Purdue. Illinois wilted under the weight of too much talent and not enough leadership, whereas Michigan State just never seemed to find its footing against a difficult schedule.
  • As conference play went on, all the teams beat up on each other, creating a mess in the middle and leading to four teams (Michigan, Illinois, Michigan State and Penn State) receiving seeds between 8-10 in the NCAA Tournament. The conference went 2-2 in those games. But the disappointment in the NCAA Tournament came from the top seeds that failed to live up to expectations. Ohio State, the #1 overall seed, was dispatched by Kentucky in the Sweet 16 in Newark. Then again, that was better than Purdue managed to do, as the Boilermakers fell to VCU in Chicago. Wisconsin made it to New Orleans, but Brad Stevens outcoached Bo Ryan and the Badgers lost to a lower-seeded team once again.
  • Those losses meant the Big Ten finished a season of much promise with zero teams in the Elite Eight. Much like the conference’s well-publicized bowl game problems, the postseason left a sour taste after many teams played good basketball during the regular season.

The postseason was a struggle for everyone in the Big Ten, even Final Four regular Tom Izzo and his Spartans, which had to make a late run to even crack the field.

Team-by-Team Grades

A’s:

  • Michigan (A): Before the season the Wolverines were expected to compete with Iowa and Indiana to avoid the basement in the Big Ten standings. By the end of it, they were scaring #1 seed Duke in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. It was a remarkable job by JohnBeilein to get a young team ready to play. Darius Morris was the engine of the turnaround. The sophomore point guard scored 15.0 points per game and dished out 6.7 assists per game while leading a team composed of mostly freshman and sophomores. Tim HardawayJr., a freshman, was the team’s only other double-digit scorer at 13.9 points per game. Michigan didn’t have a single senior on its roster this season and, with two more talented backcourt recruits in CarltonBrundidge and TreyBurke coming in, it appears to be ready to be a big player in the conference moving forward although they are still waiting on Morris to officially decide on whether he will enter the NBA Draft.
  • Ohio State (A-): The Buckeyes didn’t get it done in the NCAA Tournament, but they were the #1 team in the polls for most of the season and had the best freshman in the country in Jared Sullinger. The loss to Kentucky certainly put a damper on the season. Still, Ohio State went 34-3 with its only two regular season losses being at Purdue and Wisconsin in conference play. David Lighty, DallasLauderdale, and JonDiebler all graduate, but if Sullinger is serious about sticking around the Buckeyes will be a national title favorite again next season. Especially considering they have two McDonald’s All-Americans in point guard ShannonScott and center AmirWilliams coming in along with small forwards SamThompson and LaQuintonRoss. It’s Thad Matta’s typical reload instead of rebuild plan.
  • Penn State (A-): Qualifying for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a decade makes the Nittany Lions’ season a success. Even though they lost to in-state rival Temple in the second round, 66-64, it was a thrilling game to end a satisfying season that included victories over Wisconsin (twice), Illinois, and Michigan State (twice). Oh, and a loss to Maine. Talor Battle finally got his chance to go to the NCAA Tournament and finished his career with 2,213 points, 624 rebounds, and 517 assists. He’ll certainly be missed next season along with frontcourt veterans David Jackson and JeffBrooks. Thus, Penn State has some size coming in with two 6’11 centers in PatAckerman and PeterAlexis, but the program is probably due for a bit of a backslide.

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2011-12 RTC (Way Too Early) Top 25

Posted by KDoyle on April 5th, 2011

The 2010-11 season just concluded — we are just as sad as you guys are — but rather than get all nostalgic, teary-eyed, and lament the next  seven months without college basketball, let’s look towards the future. That’s right, folks, hot off the presses: the first 2011-12 Top 25. Our assumptions on who is staying/leaving are within the team breakdowns.

  1. North Carolina—The Heels have a whole lot coming back and lose next to nothing. Harrison Barnes looked like the stud he was advertised in the preseason as he developed into Carolina’s top player down the stretch, and Kendall Marshall flourished at the point guard position once he was given the keys to the car. It sure doesn’t hurt that a couple McDonald’s All-Americans will be joining the program next year, either. Look for Roy Williams to be significantly happier next season than he was for much of this season.

    Roy Williams should be in a good mood next season

  2. SyracuseJim Boeheim’s squad returns virtually all the pieces to the puzzle — a puzzle that certainly went unfinished this year — and the Orange look like they may be the top dog in the Big East next season. Scoop Jardine has the ability to be one of the top guards in the BE and Kris Joseph is a very explosive scorer, who should continue to develop in the offseason. The development of Fab Melo is an absolute must in the offseason, though, if this team wants to reach its potential.
  3. Kentucky—With the instability of the NBA next year, the Wildcats may be fortunate enough to hang onto their young stars for at least another season. Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones are all NBA talents and all three of them could enter the NBA Draft, but if even one of them returns, this team will be very dangerous, particularly with the class that John Calipari is bringing in, which might be one of the best assembled in the past ten years. If two of those three return to play with that class, this team immediately becomes the favorite to cut down the nets next April.
  4. Ohio State—Will he stay or will he go? Obviously, we are referring to Jared Sullinger’s decision to remain a Buckeye for another year. While graduation will claim Jon Diebler and David Lighty, there is still ample talent returning to help the Buckeyes take care of some unfinished business. William Buford could be the X-factor that determines just how good the Buckeyes will be.
  5. Louisville—The coaching prowess of Rick Pitino and his most important assistant Ralph Willard was a thing of beauty this year. Not much was expected out of the Cardinals, but the ‘Ville had an exceptional season up until their Tournament collapse to Morehead State. Loftier goals will be set for Louisville next year with Preston Knowles the only player departing. The Cardinals might not have quite as publicized a recruiting class as their in-state rivals, but still have one of the top incoming classes in America. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 03.29.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 29th, 2011

  1. It is a good thing that Ken Krayeske was not from Kentucky or John Calipari might be having some YouTube-worthy press conferences as a new report indicates that Kentucky leads the nation in spending on basketball recruiting with a budget of $434,095 last year, which was significantly more than any program other than Kansas, despite the state (like many others) facing a large deficit. Before the Wildcat fan start ripping us apart, it is worth noting that the basketball program had an operating profit of $5.2 million last year.
  2. Late last week Ralph Nader questioned how athletic scholarships are handled, which started a small controversy online. Now David Steele has weighed in on the subject and says that while Nader was right to question how college athletics function he was wrong by focusing on the athletes and should have focused on the people in charge of the athletes.
  3. With the college basketball season nearing its conclusion many fans will start shifting their focus to whether certain players will declare for the NBA Draft. Michigan fans appear to be among the first to get that news as Darius Morris has decided to test the NBA waters although John Beilein believes that Morris won’t stay in unless he has a guarantee of being a first round selection. Based on what we have seen and heard we would expect Morris to be back in a Wolverine uniform if that is in fact true.
  4. UCLA fans were less fortunate as Tyler Honeycutt has declared for the NBA Draft and signed with an agent. They will have a new point guard though as Larry Drew II, the controversial former UNC point guard, has elected to play for the Bruins. Now we all have to hope for a UNC-UCLA match-up in Chapel Hill to bring up all the Larry Drew II-Kendall Marshall story lines again.
  5. The AP announced its All-American team yesterday and most of the selections won’t be a surprise. The notable parts of the selection process were that three senior were on the first team, which is the most since 2006, and there were no unanimous selections as Jimmer Fredette came the closest to being a unanimous selection, but was 1 vote short (time for an investigation). The one selection that might be a little controversial is JaJuan Johnson over Derrick Williams particularly after the NCAA Tournament, but other than that the team seems pretty sound and even the Johnson selection is defensible.
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Make Your Case: Michigan Wolverines

Posted by jstevrtc on March 13th, 2011

Around this time of year we like to yield the soapbox to representatives of bubble teams and give them the opportunity to explain to the hooping nation why their team should be granted admission into the NCAA Tournament. We encourage them to be as irrational and nonpartisan as they want. As always, feel free to tell us how you think they did in the comments section. If you’d like to make the case for your school, send us an e-mail at JStevRTC@gmail.com and we’ll hear your preliminary arguments.

Joe Stapleton of The Michigan Daily now makes the case for the Michigan Wolverines.

So, this is an interesting place we Wolverines find ourselves. In January, Michigan lost to Minnesota at home — badly — after dropping two ugly road losses in a row against Indiana and Northwestern. It appeared the team was dead in the water. It seemed this season would go how the majority of Wolverine nation thought it would from the beginning, given the team’s youth and inexperience: not very well. The idea that they would win their next game — Michigan State in East Lansing — was laughable.

Then they did it. They downed the Spartans and absolutely took off. After beating Michigan State at the Breslin Center, the Wolverines won eight of their last 11 games (their only losses being at Ohio State, at Illinois and Wisconsin at home) to enter the Big Ten Tournament as one of the hottest teams in the field.

Do Beilein's Boys Deserve a Spot?

And as it stands now, the Big Ten Tournament appears to offer them a golden chance to make the NCAA Tournament field of 68. After poring over projections from Crashing the Dance, Bracketology 101, Joe Lunardi and all the rest, it appears there is a consensus: if Michigan would have lost its first-round game to Illinois, it still would have been 50-50 (bordering on unlikely) that the Wolverines made the Tournament. If they beat the Illini, they’re in. They beat the Illini.

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Set Your Tivo: 03.11.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 11th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

One auto bid and a host of major conference games are on tap today, two days out from Selection Sunday. The afternoon session features plenty of bubble teams making their closing arguments to the Selection Committee. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

SEC Quarterfinals (at Atlanta, GA): Georgia vs. Alabama – 1 pm on ESPN FullCourt (***)

We’ve heard all kinds of things about this game from an elimination game to a play-in game. Whatever it may be, one team will be looking better than the other by the time it’s over. Alabama beat Georgia in the regular season finale six days ago and now they meet again in another game with major NCAA implications. RTC’s resident bracketologist had Georgia in and Alabama the first team on the “out” list as of last night while Joe Lunardi over at ESPN has the Bulldogs as the last team in the field and the Crimson Tide in the same position as RTC. This game will be played almost exclusively in the paint as neither team shoots it well from deep. Both teams rank in the top 20 in interior defense but Georgia has to avoid turnovers to win. Alabama thrives on giveaways despite their slower tempo, ranked #28 in defensive turnover percentage. Georgia committed 16 turnovers in the loss to the Tide last week and lost the game despite out-shooting Alabama from the floor. Senario Hillman leads Alabama in steals and will look to harass the Georgia guards all game long. The battle in the paint between Trey Thompkins and JaMychal Green could determine the outcome of the game if the Bulldogs don’t turn it over often.

Big Ten Quarterfinals (at Indianapolis, IN): Michigan vs. Illinois – 2:30 pm on ESPN (***)

Illinois is generally considered to be in the field of 68 but Michigan could really use a win. The Wolverines are likely in as of now but a loss here and other results around the country could make it a very close call on Sunday. The Illini won the only meeting of the regular season, a two point win in Champaign on February 16. Michigan protects the ball very well but rebounding and defense did them in against Illinois in that game. John Beilein would love to play this game in the half court where his team can probe and dissect the Illinois defense, although the Illini rank tenth in three point defense and Michigan fires up almost 23 triples per game. With two dynamic playmakers in Darius Morris and Tim Hardaway Jr, Michigan can break a team down off the dribble of spot up for a three. This is a game they definitely can win but a better effort on the glass is needed. Michigan ranks near the bottom of D1 in offensive rebounding percentage (that will happen when you shoot so many threes) and was out-rebounded in the loss to Illinois last month.

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Big Ten Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 10th, 2011

John Templon is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten. With action set to tip from Indianapolis on Thursday, get set for the postseason with RTC’s regular season wrap-up and postseason outlook.

Postseason Preview

The Big Ten Tournament should prove to be quite the entertaining tournament. With so many teams on the bubble, every game is going to have a do-or-die atmosphere to it. Three of the four quarterfinal games, excluding the one in which Ohio State is playing, could propel teams to NCAA Tournament at-large bids. Another important matchup to watch is Northwestern vs. Minnesota in Round 1 – where they’ll probably be playing for an NIT berth.

  • Cold Teams: Minnesota, Illinois, and Indiana
  • Is Battle Ready For last Stand?: The Nittany Lions’ Talor Battle will try to finally make the NCAA Tournament. Can he shoot Penn State off the bubble and into the field?
  • Is Nolen Healthy?: Al Nolen hasn’t played January 22 against Michigan, but he could return this week. Would it be enough to get the Gophers rolling?
  • Can Anyone Stop Ohio State?: The Buckeyes look like a juggernaut, and this isn’t the time to be putting big decisions in the hands of the selection committee. In order to feel comfortable about its #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, OSU probably needs to win the Big Ten’s first. Northwestern played them close at Welsh-Ryan Arena – is a big upset in the making?
  • Will Izzo’s Tournament Touch Get Going?: Of the teams playing in the first round, Michigan State seems like the most likely candidate to reach the tournament finals. It seems like Tom Izzo just has a knack for this kind of thing by now.
  • Is The Next Generation Ready?: There are nine seniors on the three All-Big Ten teams selected by the coaches, and just one freshman. Are players like Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, Illinois’ Jereme Richmond, Northwestern’s JerShon Cobb and Michigan’s Tim Hardaway Jr. ready to play significant crunch time roles? Or will they wilt under the bright lights in Indianapolis?

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Set Your Tivo: 02.26-02.27

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 25th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

We are now only about two weeks away from Selection Sunday. Teams are locking up bids and others are hurting their chances down the stretch. It’s another big weekend in the college hoops world, headlined by a top ten battle in the Mountain West. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#20 Syracuse @ #11 Georgetown – 12 pm Saturday on CBS (****)

Coach Thompson and the Hoyas Will Likely Be Without Their Most Important Player on Saturday

The Orange will look to avenge another home defeat by winning on the road, this time in Washington, D.C. Here’s a quirky fact for you: Syracuse has lost to all three of its repeat opponents (Georgetown, Villanova and Seton Hall) at the Carrier Dome but a win on Saturday would give them wins in the home buildings of all three teams. That has become more likely in this one, after Chris Wright broke his hand in Wednesday’s loss to Cincinnati. As a talented senior point guard, Wright is Georgetown’s most indispensible player. He doesn’t wow you with his shooting but he passes the ball well and does an excellent job of running John Thompson III’s complex offensive sets.

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Checking in on… the Big 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 22nd, 2011

John Templon is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

A Look Back

  • The Big Ten bubble picture is so muddled that it’s not worth even trying to sort through it at this point. Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Minnesota have all thought they were assured of dancing this season before some difficult events transpired. Right now, the Fighting Illini look to be at the top of the heap, but it’s almost guaranteed that some middling Big Ten team will end up on the outside looking in.
  • Thankfully, the conference will have three heavyweights waiting to defend it in the NCAA Tournament. Purdue vs. Wisconsin and Purdue vs. Ohio State showcased the quality of the upper tier teams in this league. They’re built for March and all three have contributors that can have a big night.

Team of the Week: Purdue – You can’t have a better week than Purdue had last week. The Boilermakers beat Wisconsin on Wednesday and then followed it up with a victory over Ohio State on national television. Lewis Jackson had a big game against the Badgers with 18 points and five assists and JaJuan Johnson had 20 points and ten boards. Sunday, though, belonged to the guy named Player of the Week.

Player of the Week: E’Twaun Moore, G, Purdue: Moore scored 19 points against Wisconsin, but with his team playing the #2 team in the country on Sunday, he really delivered. He scored 38 points. He did it efficiently too, shooting 13-18 from the field, 7-10 from three-point range and committing three turnovers. The senior shooting guard also had five assists and two steals.

Newcomer of the Week: Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State: After an off night against Michigan State – during which he had 11 points, Sullinger went out and dominated the Purdue front line on the way to 25 points on 9-14 shooting. His rebounding totals have slipped a bit lately, but he’s still averaging almost a double-double at 18 points and 9.9 boards per game on the season.

Power Rankings

1. Ohio State (25-2, 12-2) – Thad Matta keeps shortening his rotation, but if he does it much more, he won’t be able to put five players on the court. In the victory over Michigan State, DeShaun Thomas played three minutes. While he logged 12 against the Boilermakers, a lot of that was due to foul trouble from Dallas Lauderdale. Can the Buckeyes make a deep tournament run with only six players?

2. Purdue (22-5, 11-3) – Purdue beat the team above it and the team below it in the Power Rankings this week. So why are the Boilermakers ranked below Ohio State? Through a full season of work, the Buckeyes have been slightly more consistent and both of Purdue’s victories came at home. Maybe Matt Painter’s team will get a chance to even the score in the Big Ten Tournament final?

3. Wisconsin (20-6, 10-4) – Purdue showed that Jon Leuer can get his points and Wisconsin can still lose. He scored 23 against the Boilermakers, but it wasn’t enough. At home versus, Penn State Keaton Nankivil went 5-5 from three and scored 22 points and Josh Gasser added 11 in a much more balanced effort that ended in a 10-point victory. The Badgers are going to need to have players step up on the road moving forward.

4. Illinois (17-10, 7-7) – If Illinois follows its up-and-down pattern, the Illini are in for a huge victory at Ohio State on Tuesday. Their last seven games have evenly alternated between wins and losses. The latest, a loss at Michigan State, may have helped the Spartans jump back onto the NCAA bubble.

5. Michigan (17-11, 7-8) – The Wolverines needed overtime and 30 points from freshman guard Tim Hardaway, Jr., to beat Iowa. Still, they got the win and that’s all that matters right now. Darius Morris had 20 points and nine assists in the victory and Jordan Morgan continued to build on his strong play of late with 18 points and eight boards.

6. Michigan State (15-11, 7-7) – The chances just keep on coming for Michigan State to prove it deserves to be in the NCAA Tournament. The Spartans played well but faded down the stretch against Ohio State on the road before beating Illinois at home. Kalin Lucas has been playing great basketball as of late. He scored 25 points against the Illini and was the only Michigan State player in double-figures.

7. Penn State (14-12, 7-8) – Talor Battle is always going to get his points. The senior guard scored 28 against Minnesota to keep the Nittany Lions in the NCAA discussion. A tough schedule makes their overall record a bit deceiving, but a loss to Maine and zero road wins are pretty tough sells. Penn State gets another chance for a road victory when it goes to Welsh-Ryan Arena on Thursday.

8. Minnesota (17-9, 6-8) – In-season strife has hit the Gophers harder than any other team in the Big Ten. Minnesota will now essentially play four straight bubble elimination games down the stretch of the regular season. Three of them are home games, though, which should give the Gophers a leg up on the competition.

9. Northwestern (16-10, 6-9) – After beating Iowa and winning at Indiana, the Wildcats’ record looks somewhat respectable. Now comes the hard part. Northwestern has to win at the Kohl Center in Wisconsin to have any chance of finishing .500 in league play, but before that comes a tough test against a Penn State team that just seems to have Bill Carmody’s number.

10. Iowa (10-17, 3-12) – Two close losses against Michigan and Northwestern don’t help the Hawkeyes. They want victories. Melsahn Basabe and Jarryd Cole both scored in double-figures in both games this week. Cole’s 17 points against Northwestern tied a season-high that he set in the very first game against South Dakota State.

11. Indiana (12-15, 3-11) – The Hoosiers allowed Northwestern to come into Assembly Hall and win for just the second time ever even with a week to prepare and the Wildcats coming off a two-day turnaround. The Wildcats shot 21-25 from the free throw line compared to 14-19 for the Hoosiers in the six-point game. With four really tough games to end the season, Tom Crean could be looking at some angry fans come March.

A Look Ahead (all times EST):

  • 2/22 – Illinois at Ohio State, 7 p.m., ESPN
  • 2/22 – Michigan State at Minnesota, 9 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 2/23 – Wisconsin at Michigan, 6:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 2/24 – Penn State at Northwestern, 9 p.m., ESPN
  • 2/26 – Michigan at Minnesota, 4:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 2/27 – Purdue at Michigan State, 1 p.m., ESPN
  • 2/27 – Indiana at Ohio State, 4 p.m., CBS

Fun with Efficiency Margin and KenPom:

  • Ohio State is no longer the #1 team in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. Duke passed the Buckeyes after their loss to Purdue. The game against the Boilermakers was Ohio State’s worst per possession offensive output in conference play this season.
  • The Wisconsin-Penn State game featured some spectacular offense, and not much defense. 76-66 on 55 possessions is one high-scoring affair. It was Penn State’s second best showing of the conference season, just behind its opener against Indiana.
  • The metrics don’t believe in Michigan or Ohio State at the moment. Both teams have suffered from difficult schedules. It should be noted that the Buckeyes (+0.11) are third in efficiency margin in the conference behind Wisconsin (+0.13) and Purdue (+0.12).
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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 8th, 2011

John Templon is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

A Look Back

  • Is the Big Ten, the highest-rated conference according to Ken Pomeroy, a four-bid league? That’s the question facing teams right now as the middle of the pack continues to churn. The only definite teams right now are Ohio State, Wisconsin and Purdue, but some mix of the next six teams in the conference could make it if things were to go well. Still, whether due to injuries, inconsistent play or a lack of opportunities, there seems to be something holding every team back.
  • Team of the Week: Wisconsin: The Badgers staked their claim to being the second best team in the Big Ten with a victory over Purdue and a crushing victory over Michigan State on Sunday. The Spartans didn’t know what hit them as the Badgers rained down threes during the first half; it led to some pretty epic offensive production.
  • Player of the Week: Jon Leuer, F, Wisconsin: Leuer played a big role in both of Wisconsin’s wins this week. He scored 24 points and grabbed 13 rebounds against Purdue and then followed it up with 20 and six against the overmatched Spartans. One thing to watch, though, is his turnovers. He had four in each of the past two games, more than half the team’s total of 15.
  • Newcomer of the Week: Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State: Sullinger had two double-doubles last week against Michigan and Minnesota. Days like 19 points and 15 boards against the Wolverines are becoming so typical it’s almost possible to lose sight of how good this freshman is. He’s consistent as well, as he scored 18 points and grabbed 13 boards against the Gophers. The weakness in the big man’s game is free throw shooting. Sullinger shot 7-19 from the line last week and is at 69% on the season.

Power Rankings

1. Ohio State (24-0, 11-0) – In another week of solid victories for the Buckeyes the most interesting thing with the program happened off the court. Luke Winn featured the Buckeyes’ assists to Jared Sullinger in his Power Rankings last week. That same graphic then appeared in an ESPN broadcast. ESPN gave credit to Winn after the game and has since apologized. The big takeaway? Jon Diebler gives 44.2 percent of the post feeds from guards to the big freshman, as the two of them play the two-man high-low game of pick your poison. Also, I think that Winn should get Subway to sponsor that feature in the future.

2. Wisconsin (17-5, 7-3) – This offense does some unbelievable things, including scoring 82 points in 54 possessions against Michigan State. That’s 1.5 points per possession and absolutely absurd. That’s what happens when a team shoots 64.7 percent from three, shoots 25-26 from the free throw line and turns the ball over just eight times. Jordan Taylor led the way with 30 points for the Badgers.

3. Purdue (18-5, 7-3) – Purdue played one game this week, a tough one at Wisconsin, and lost. There’s no shame in it. JaJuan Johnson continued his excellent season with 23 points and 3 blocks, but the secondary players from the Badgers just made more plays down the stretch.

4. Illinois (15-8, 5-5) – Bruce Weber’s team doesn’t deserve to be in this spot after losing on Saturday on CBS to Northwestern, but honestly, which other collapsing Big Ten squad would you put here? When in doubt, take the talent, even if they do have a propensity for losing close games.

5. Penn State (12-10, 5-6) – A shoulder injury to senior forward Jeff Brooks might have cost the Nittany Lions a key conference game agaist Michigan on Sunday. Brooks injured his shoulder in Penn State’s loss to Illinois and then sat out its 65-62 loss to the Wolverines. Coaches hope to have him back when the Nittany Lions travel to Michigan State on Thursday.

6. Minnesota (16-7, 5-6) – The Gophers have lost three games in a row. Two of them weren’t really a surprise (at Purdue, vs. Ohio State), but a 60-57 loss at Indiana isn’t good. Thankfully, not a single ranked team remains on the conference schedule and games against fellow bubble teams Illinois and Penn State are at home.

7. Northwestern (14-8, 4-7) – Michael “Juice” Thompson carried the Wildcats to a victory at home over in-state rival Illinois, 71-70, with some great three-point shooting (5-8 from distance) and clutch plays. The Wildcats are also starting to get a bit healthier as John Shurna returned from his concussion to play in the game against the Illini.

8. Michigan (14-10, 4-7) – 23 points from Darius Morris was enough to get a victory on the road at Penn State and help the Wolverines get a much-needed victory. With five winnable games left on the schedule Michigan has an outside shot at getting into the NCAA bubble (at 9-9 in conference with a very tough non-conference schedule) talk by the Big Ten Tournament, more likely the Wolverines are headed to the NIT.

9. Michigan State (13-10, 5-6) – The Spartans’ season is quickly spiraling out of control. Tom Izzo in the weekly conference call summed the past week up this way: “Definitely one of the most disappointing weeks of my coaching career.” Michigan State has lost five of its last six games, and suffered two blowout losses last week to Iowa (by 20 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena) and Wisconsin (by 28 in only 54 possessions at the Kohl Center).

10. Iowa (10-13, 3-8) – The Hawkeyes might be one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten. Their 20-point blowout of Michigan State was incredibly unexpected, but then they followed it up with a one-point victory over Indiana at Assembly Hall in Bloomington. Freshman Melsahne Basabe had 20 points and 13 rebounds against the Hoosiers.

11. Indiana (12-12, 3-8) – Just when it looked like the Hoosiers were turning things around a home loss to Iowa might’ve taken the wind out of their sails. Beating Minnesota was the highlight as Tom Pritchard scored 12 points on five shots and grabbed seven boards for Indiana. He also had a dunk-of-the-year nominee.

A Look Ahead (all times EST)

  • 2/8 – Indiana at Purdue, 7 p.m., ESPN
  • 2/9 – Northwestern at Michigan, 6:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 2/10 – Illinois at Minnesota, 9 p.m., ESPN
  • 2/12 – Ohio State at Wisconsin, 2 p.m., ESPN
  • 2/12 – Indiana at Michigan, 4 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 2/13 – Purdue at Illinois, 1 p.m., CBS
  • 2/13 – Northwestern at Penn State, 3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

Fun with Efficiency Margin and KenPom: As John Gasaway pointed out on Monday, there are no easy games in the Big Ten this season. The lowest rated team, Iowa, has an efficiency margin of -0.11 per possession. On the other hand, the conference leader, Wisconsin, is at +0.16. Yes, the Badgers, not Ohio State, have the best efficiency margin during conference play. The undefeated, #1 ranked Buckeyes are no slouches though at +0.14 points per possession. Seven of the 11 teams have a negative efficiency margin right now.

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The Week That Was: Jan. 25-Jan. 31

Posted by jstevrtc on February 1st, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor 

Introduction:

It’s Feb. 1. That means there’s only 40 days left until Selection Sunday, or 40 days left for teams to build up their resume so their bubble doesn’t pop. We’re sure there are going to be a lot of heated discussions about teams hovering within that last four in-last four out zone over the next six weeks. Heck, here at TWTW, we’ll probably change our opinion on certain squads three  or four times until the end of the regular season. It should be a crazy six weeks, but we know it’s going to be fun.  

What We learned

After a weekend that saw 13 ranked teams lose (and the entire top 25 go 22-20 for the week, as Seth Davis pointed out on SI.com) the chic thing to do is talk about the gigantic bulging central part of the bell curve that symbolizes this college basketball season. It’s nearly impossible to make sense of who’s good and who’s bad on a weekly basis, as a team is liable to have a monumental win one night and then lose to a lesser school a few days later. Let’s use Georgetown as an example. Just over two weeks ago the Hoyas were a mess at 1-4 in the Big East and losers of four of their previous five games. Now, they’ve won five in a row, including recent triumphs at Villanova and at home against Louisville. Georgetown isn’t the only school that enjoys playing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Check out this paragraph from Davis’ Monday column

“Texas can lose at USC and then win at Kansas. Tennessee, which should be this movie’s poster child, can win at Villanova and Pitt (at the Consol Energy Center) and lose to College of Charleston and Charlotte. Louisville loses at home to Drexel but beats UConn on the road. Providence loses to LaSalle but beats Louisville and Villanova. Auburn loses to Samford, Campbell and Presbyterian, but it beats Florida State, which later beats Duke. What, you didn’t know Presbyterian was better than Duke? And on Sunday, St. John’s (which lost to Fordham) blew out Duke.” 

Given all this uncertainty, can anyone honestly say with any assurance that there’s a clear-cut elite set of teams? Ohio State might be undefeated, but the Buckeyes have had their fair share of nail biters over ho-hum teams (Michigan, Penn State, and most recently, Northwestern). TWTW would like to put its eggs into Texas’ basket. The Longhorns are this week’s Team du Jour, having torched four ranked teams in the last 13 days, but you wouldn’t be shocked if Texas didn’t have a hiccup or two to an unranked team before the season’s end, would you?

This Tristan Thompson-Nathan Walkup Encounter Accurately Summarizes Texas' Throttling of the Aggies Last Night (B. Sullivan/Dallas Morning News)

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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 1st, 2011

John Templon of Chicago College Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

A Look Back

This look back is better summed up in three short lists.

  • Rising: Ohio State, Penn State, Indiana, Michigan
  • Falling: Illinois, Michigan State, Northwestern
  • Steadying: Minnesota, Purdue, Wisconsin, Iowa

It seems like very few teams have found their level thus far in the Big Ten. Every week brings some notable surprises and last week was no different. One point can be the difference between an awesome week and a tough one as Northwestern, Ohio State, Indiana and Michigan State all found out this week.

Team of the Week: Indiana: The Hoosiers look much improved recently. A victory over Illinois was followed up by a heart-wrenching one-point loss at Michigan State in overtime. Tom Crean’s squad was left as an afterthought at the beginning of the season, but they’re starting to prove the mantra that there will be no easy games during conference play this season. Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford are taking over the offense for the Hoosiers and it’s proving to be an effective strategy. Hulls missed the final shot against Michigan State, but he scored 18 points against the Illini on nine shots, and followed it up with 15 against the Spartans.

Player of the Week: Darius Morris, G, Michigan: Morris scored 17 points dished out eight assists in Michigan’s victory over rival Michigan State and then against Iowa he recorded a triple-double, the third in Michigan history, with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.

Newcomer of the Week: Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State: Sullinger had 17 points and seven boards against Purdue and then 21 points and eight boards, including the game-winning free throw, against Northwestern. Sullinger is the best player on the nation’s best team and is incredibly impressive in person. His steal, behind-the-back dribble, fast break dunk against Northwestern was one of the more nimble plays you’ll see a power forward make.

Power Rankings

1. Ohio State (22-0, 9-0) – The number one team in the nation and only undefeated left, the Buckeyes sure do like to make things interesting. After blowing out Purdue and essentially staking their claim as the biggest bully in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes needed a Jared Sullinger free throw with 3.2 seconds remaining to escape Welsh-Ryan with a hard earned victory. It was Ohio State’s sixth conference victory by five points or less this season.

2. Purdue (18-4, 7-2) – Purdue went 1-1 last week and firmly solidified its place as the second-best team in the conference. The Boilermakers, though, need to figure out what’s happened to E’Twaun Moore’s shot. The senior guard from Chicago shot 4-13 against Ohio State and 3-13 against Minnesota. He’s had a few of these clunkers this season, including a 2-10 performance against Penn State and a 2-14 game in Purdue’s other Big Ten loss at Minnesota.

3. Wisconsin (15-5, 5-3) – The Badgers are a much better home team than they are road team. All three of their conference losses have come away from the Kohl Center, with the most recent being a 56-52 loss to an improving Penn State team. Wisconsin went just seven deep in the rotation in that loss.

4. Penn State (12-8, 5-4) – When the Nittany Lions lost to Maine I don’t think anyone would’ve fathomed they’d put it back together like this. Talor Battle isn’t going to let this team fall behind by too much ever. Penn State hasn’t lost a game by more than three points since a January 15 drubbing by Purdue and is 4-2 in the conference during that stretch. This is a team on the rise and one that is starting to put together a good NCAA bubble resume.

5. Minnesota (16-5, 5-4) – The Golden Gophers survived their first test without Al Nolen against Northwestern relatively comfortably, but against Purdue on Saturday both Lewis Jackson and Ryne Smith found room on the perimeter scoring 13 and 15 points respectively to carry the Boilermakers to the win. Perimeter defense is a place where Tubby Smith is going to definitely miss his senior point guard.

6. Michigan State (13-8, 5-4) – After Sunday’s one-point overtime escape against the Hoosiers, the Spartans maintain an above .500 conference record, but it’s a mirage of sorts. The team turns the ball over too much and doesn’t shoot many free throws and opponents are able to find clean looks beyond the three-point arc. Michigan State has picked up its last four conference victories by a total of 11 points and three of those were against teams in the bottom tier of the conference. Now Korie Lucious has been suspended for the rest of the season and Tom Izzo has a lot of work to do in East Lansing.

7. Illinois (14-7, 4-4) – There is a ton of talent in Champaign, but the results just aren’t there. A perplexing loss to Indiana led to a court storm for the Hoosiers. Unfortunately Bruce Weber’s team had an extra day or two to ponder the loss too, because they were the odd team out in the Big Ten’s weekend schedule of games. One of Illinois’ big problems is that they’re not getting to the foul line. The Illini rank 320th in the nation in free throw rate, and even against the hack-happy Hoosiers, the Illini attempted only eight free throws against 59 field goal attempts.

8. Michigan (13-9, 3-6) – The Wolverines went into the Breslin Center and got a big upset victory in a rivalry game thanks to some hot shooting. Michigan shot 10-21 from three-point range to get its first victory in East Lansing since 1997. Then on Sunday against Iowa there was no letdown thanks to Darius Morris’ outstanding effort. His triple-double helped lead Michigan, which had all five starters score at least 12 points in the victory.

9. Northwestern (13-8, 3-7) – It was another moment of coming so close, but falling short for the Wildcats against Ohio State on Saturday night. Playing without John Shurna, who suffered a concussion when his head bounced against the basket support after a nasty tumble against Minnesota, Northwestern did everything right for about 39 minutes, but it couldn’t figure out a way to get the victory. With a tough schedule remaining, Bill Carmody’s squad might be hard pressed to qualify for the NIT. Northwestern has a week off to regroup before a nationally televised game against Illinois on CBS on Saturday. Northwestern has picked up the tempo this season, but after almost upsetting Ohio State playing the old 35-second routine, you might see slower games in its future as well.

10. Indiana (11-11, 2-7) – See the “Team of the Week” mention above.

11. Iowa (8-13, 1-8) – The Hawkeyes are playing competitive basketball, but lost a close one to Penn State and played Michigan tough before succumbing to Morris’ triple-double. One of the more interesting players to watch in the Big Ten is on Iowa. That’s freshman Melsahn Basabe. He alternates between great games, 25 points on 11 shots, eight boards, two blocks against Michigan, and poor ones, four points on 1-4 shooting against Penn State. It typically has to do with the experience of the front line he’s playing against.

A Look Ahead (all times EST):

  • 2/1 – Purdue at Wisconsin, 7 p.m., ESPN
  • 2/1 – Penn State at Illinois, 9 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 2/3 – Michigan at Ohio State, 7 p.m., ESPN
  • 2/5 – Illinois at Northwestern, 1 p.m., CBS
  • 2/5 – Iowa at Indiana, 4 p.m., ESPN2
  • 2/6 – Michigan State at Wisconsin, 1 p.m., CBS
  • 2/6 – Ohio State at Minnesota, 2 p.m., ESPN

Fun with Efficiency Margin and KenPom: There is no defense in the Big Ten. None. It’s crazy, but every team is scoring above a point per possession in league play and every team is allowing more than a point per possession as well. Ohio State slipped over the mark after allowing Northwestern to score 57 points in 49 possessions, which also happened to be the second slowest game in the NCAA this season behind Notre Dame’s effort against Pittsburgh. Iowa slipped over the point per possession mark in scoring due to the Hawkeyes’ 65-possession shootout against Michigan, which ended 87-73. Michigan shot 50 percent from three during the game (14-28) and finished with an effective field goal percentage of 71.4 percent. Of course that’s nothing compared to the 80.7 percent mark Illinois put up against Northwestern earlier this season or even the 80.2 percent mark it hit against the Hawkeyes on December 29.

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ATB: The Day After

Posted by jstevrtc on January 28th, 2011

The Lede. Hopefully everyone was over their Jimmer hangovers by the time the games started tonight. Judging by Twitter, and…well, pretty much every sports outlet in the nation, the transitive verb “to Jimmer” has entered the American sporting lexicon with some serious impact. We can’t remember when a college baller’s name has ever been used in this fashion; nobody ever said “You got Turnered/Walled,” or “He Morrisoned them,” or “They Hansbrough’d the heck out of that poor team.” And the only name we can think of that contains a reverent “The” at the beginning that’s in regular use today belongs to U2 guitarist The Edge, though — and credit to Seth Davis for starting the trend — “The Jimmer” is now commonplace usage in referring to just about everybody’s favorite player.

Darius Morris and Crew Start the Celebration (J.Gonzalez/Detroit FP)

But enough of that for now. We’ll have many chances to discuss him later. Tonight we saw three tough conference road wins, two of them in games involving bitter rivals. We have a couple of RTCs we have to weigh in on, and a pair of outstanding tweets from the Gonzaga vs St. Mary’s game. First, though, we start…with Sparty.

Your Watercooler Moment. On the halftime coverage of ESPN2′s St. Mary’s @ Gonzaga game, when asked about how dire the situation was for Michigan State this year after their loss to Michigan tonight, even the understated Dan Dakich hesitated for effect and said gravely, “Well…it’s pretty serious.”

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