Big Ten All-Tournament Team: First Round Thursday

Posted by Brendan Brody on March 14th, 2014

There were some extraordinary performances during the first day of action in the Big Ten Tournament. There are still seven games left to be played, and many more outstanding games are likely going to be put forth. Here, however, is a brief look at the five tournament standouts from day one.

Tracy Abrams played with a renewed confidence in Illinois' first-round win over Indiana.  (B.Tse)

Tracy Abrams played with a renewed confidence in Illinois’ first-round win over Indiana. (B.Tse)

  • Tracy Abrams, Illinois: Abrams went for a season-high 25 points and also tied for a team-high seven rebounds. He was active defensively, and showed tremendous poise and leadership by only turning the ball over once as the primary ball-handler. This was the best game he’s played in quite some time after going through a horrible stretch where he only averaged 6.6 PPG and shot 23.2 percent from the field. This was the Abrams that Illinois needs to keep playing.
  • LaQuinton Ross, Ohio State: This was a slightly different version of the normally smooth forward with a lethal mid-range game. Ross instead was a monster on the boards, as he ended up with 15 (six offensive) caroms. He struggled to make shots out of his normal repertoire, but made up for it by being hyper-aggressive in retrieving his misses. He also added 19 points and two blocks on the afternoon. The junior is not always known for his toughness, but he earned his points in this one.

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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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Previewing the Holiday Tournaments: A Big Ten Perspective

Posted by Max Jakubowski on November 21st, 2013

The holiday tournaments tip off today and college coaches are huge fans of their teams participating in these events. With the quick turnarounds and neutral court sites, the events give players a glimpse of what their conference and postseason tournaments will feel like. From the prestigious eight-team Maui Invitational to the four-team Barclays Center Classic, each tournament provides valuable experience for teams and coaches alike to prepare for a postseason atmosphere. Along with gaining that precious experience, teams can also improve their non-conference resumes just by showing up. A couple of good performances or a holiday tournament championship looks pretty attractive to the selection committee in March. This year, the Big Ten has nearly the entire league competing in some sort of holiday tournament (Illinois and Ohio State are the two absentees). Let’s break down each of them, starting with the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, Charleston Classic and 2kSports Classic, beginning today.

NCAA Basketball: Maui Invitational-Butler vs Illinois

Illinois Jump Started its NCAA Tournament Season A Year Ago in Maui

Puerto Rico Tip off: November 21-24

  • Teams: Michigan vs. Long Beach State, VCU vs. Florida State, Georgetown vs. Northeastern, Charlotte vs. Kansas State
  • Favorite: VCU
  • Projected Michigan Finish: 3rd
  • Michigan Player to WatchDerrick Walton Jr.
  • The Skinny: In the eight-team field, Georgetown, VCU, and the Wolverines are the clear front-runners. Georgetown lucked out as they are on the opposite side of the bracket of both Michigan and VCU. This means that a match-up of last year’s NCAA Tournament third round game between the two schools is likely in the semifinals. Last year, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. shredded Shaka Smart’s “Havoc” defense on its way to a huge victory. Now, Walton is set to run the offense for Michigan and go up against a veteran VCU backcourt. This game could spell major trouble for John Beilein and his staff, but could also be an important teaching moment.

Charleston Classic: November 21-24

  • TeamsNebraska vs. UMass, UAB vs. New Mexico, Georgia vs. Davidson, Clemson vs. Temple
  • Favorite: New Mexico
  • Projected Nebraska Finish: 5th
  • Nebraska Player to WatchTai Webster
  • The Skinny:  The Cornhuskers play UMass and then either New Mexico or UTEP in the next round. New Mexico is a top 20 team while UMass is expected to compete for a NCAA bid out of the Atlantic 10. Chaz Williams for UMass is an explosively fast guard who can distribute the ball well and shoot lights out from three. Tim Miles will have his work cut out to try and stop Williams, and the freshman Webster will get a nice welcoming from the “Chaz Master.”

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Big Ten Analysis: Iowa Overperforming, Northwestern Underperforming

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 18th, 2013

It’s been over a week since the season started and all 12 teams have at least three games under their belts. Michigan State is as good as advertised after beating #1 Kentucky (even if they followed it up with a lackluster performance against Columbia). But what can we conclude from the other teams’ performances, where most games have been lopsided victories against inferior opponents? This makes it difficult to gauge which team has under- or overperformed so early in the year, but we here at the RTC Big Ten microsite are always up for a challenge. Prior to the first tip, we recorded each team’s predicted outcome using KenPom.com. To measure how teams have performed thus far, we will now compare their season performances against their preseason expected outcomes.

The table below illustrates each team’s performance in games already played against what they were expected to do, helping us evaluate their consistency and long-term projections.

big ten analysis 11.18.13

The table above displays each team’s performance for each game relative to their expected preseason expected outcome.  For example, if a team was expected to win by 10 points, but ended up winning by only five points, then that team underperformed by five points (shown as -5 in the table). If that same team had won by 20 points, then that team would have overperformed by 10 points. Underperformances are marked in red and overtperformances are marked in green.  The average and standard deviation of each teams’ differential performances are calculated to measure their overall consistency so far.  Finally, the far-right column in the table shows the change in total wins for the season that KenPom is projecting. For example, if a team was initially expected to win 18 games, but is now expected to win 21 games, their record difference is shown as +3.  This metric not only takes into account each individual team’s season performance thus far, but also the performance of all its opponents.

Here are our five takeaways from this analysis:

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Who’s the Best 3-Point Shooter in the Big Ten? An Analytical Look…

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 5th, 2013

The title of this post asks a pretty straightforward question: Who is the best shooter from deep in the Big Ten? Seems simple enough. But how do you define the “best” three-point shooter? Is it the player who makes the most threes? Is it the player who makes the highest percentage of his threes? Is it the shooting specialist who contributes the most to his team’s wins?  The best approach, of course, is to appreciate all three characteristics. So let’s do exactly that and look into the numbers.

Andre Hollins lit it up from deep last year.

Andre Hollins lit it up from deep last year. (AP)

First, we need to create a list of players in the Big Ten who meet certain criteria. For the purpose of this analysis, we will only include returning Big Ten players and use last season’s statistics for measurement. While we recognize that freshmen can be highly effective from long range right out of the gate — look no further than Michigan sophomore Nik Stauskas last year — we have no set methodology for projecting freshman output from their high school performance. Therefore, in the interest of convenience, no freshmen are included in this list. The next criterion is that players must have attempted at least 100 3-pointers last season and shot at least 30 percent from deep. This filters out players with a high percentage from a small sample size of 3-point attempts and gunners who put up too many bricks to be considered top-tier shooters.

The table below displays our initial list of candidates given those criteria, and their pertinent statistics from the 2012-13 season (from basketball-reference.com).

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Big Ten M5: 01.30.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on January 30th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. Michigan State forward Adreian Payne showed his versatality on the offensive end against Indiana by scoring 18 points from several different spots on the floor. He drained a couple of shots from beyond the arc and had a jaw-dropping reverse dunk off a pass from Travis Trice. If Payne continues his offensive explosion, he may work himself up to the NBA Lottery of next summer’s draft. The junior forward has averaged 9.4 PPG and 6.9 RPG in primarily playing the power forward position for Tom Izzo, but Cody Zeller also had a tough time scoring (nine points) against Payne’s defense which will also impress the NBA scouts.
  2. Michigan forward Jordan Morgan tweaked his ankle in the first couple of minutes of the game against Illinois on Sunday. Head coach John Beilein confirmed that nothing is broken in his ankle which is great news for Wolverines fans. According to the staff, it is “just a sprain” but his playing time will be determined based on how he feels during practice over the next couple of days. Morgan has averaged 5.2 RPG this season but his defensive presence will be needed as Michigan visits Bloomington for arguably the biggest game of the 2012-13 season. Mitch McGary filled in for Morgan against Illinois, but he will have an extremely tough time keeping up with Cody Zeller and defending Christian Watford off the screens.
  3. Speaking of the Hoosiers, they have a big week ahead of them as they visit West Lafayette to play the Boilermakers tonight and then play Michigan at home on Saturday. The coaching staff is taking a “fresh” approach to these games and wants to manage fatigue effectively as the team heads into February. Head coach Tom Crean said, “What we’ve done is we’ve started to back off the practices a little earlier than we did last year.” He has plenty of depth at the wing position with Will Sheehey (10.4 PPG) and Remy Abell (5.3 PPG) available, but he doesn’t have much depth in the frontcourt considering Derek Elston’s injury to begin the season. But if the Hoosiers run their offense through the perimeter and look for scoring opportunities in transition, they may be able to give Zeller some rest over the next few weeks.
  4. In case you missed it, Illinois has lost six out of its last nine games but head coach John Groce remains positive. When asked about the Illini’s slump, Groce said, “We’re focusing on getting better. That’s the culture and environment we want.” His team has more turnovers (261) than assists (225) right now, and as a result most of the Illini guards settle for poor shots from beyond the arc. The lack of a true point guard on this team hurts its ball movement and even though Tracy Abrams (11.3 PPG and 3.2 APG) handles the ball in most half-court sets, he is still learning to play the position as exhibited by his 2.9 turnovers per game.
  5. After getting hammered by Iowa in Evanston two weeks ago, the Wildcats went to Champaign to pull off an upset against the Illini and then comfortably beat Minnesota at home. After losing Drew Crawford for the season due to a back injury, the Wildcats have showed no particular pattern this season in their performance. Sophomore point guard Dave Sobolewski said, “We should get up for every game, especially in this league.” They will have a shot against the #1 ranked team in the nation this week as they visit Ann Arbor tonight to play the Wolverines for the second time this season (the first contest was a 28-point Michigan blowout).
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Three Thoughts as Iowa Dominated Northwestern

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on January 14th, 2013

Deepak Jayanti is an RTC correspondent for the Big Ten microsite. He filed this report after the Iowa – Northwestern game in Evanston on Sunday afternoon. 

After a heartbreaking loss to Michigan State earlier in the week, the Iowa Hawkeyes needed a win against Northwestern in Evanston to avoid a disastrous four-game losing skid. Describing Sunday’s match-up as a “must-win” game may sound extreme for an 11-5 team, but Fran McCaffery’s squad needed to get on board in conference play and gain some confidence because they start three freshmen – Adam Woodbury, Anthony Clemmons and Mike Gesell. The Hawkeyes dominated the game to record their first win in the Big Ten this season, winning by a final margin of 70-50. The following are three thoughts from Sunday’s game:

Fran McCaffery's Hawkeyes needed the win against Northwestern to avoid an 0-4 start in conference play. (AP/C. Neibergall)

Fran McCaffery’s Hawkeyes needed the win against Northwestern to avoid an 0-4 start in conference play. (AP/C. Neibergall)

  1. The Iowa freshmen continue to struggle during conference play – It isn’t surprising to see a freshman backcourt and a center struggle during the first three games of the conference season against such top teams as Indiana, Michigan and Michigan State. The game against the Wildcats was an opportunity for Iowa’s young players to show any improvement but they struggled offensively again. Woodbury was 1-of-7 from the field but gobbled up nine rebounds against a weak Northwestern front line. Gesell did a good job of only turning the ball over once but couldn’t find his shot. Devyn Marble handled the ball at the top of the key in the half-court, so there were not many opportunities for Gesell to drive the ball, therefore he had to settle for jumpers (0-of-4 from beyond the arc). Another reason for a poor shooting performance was the Wildcats’ zone defense. It is tough to understand how to break the zone until you’ve seen it multiple times and except for Michigan, not many of Iowa’s opponents have used the zone so far this season. Clemmons played only 14 minutes and barely saw the floor after turning the ball over against the press early in the second half. Overall, the Hawkeye freshmen could not figure out the Northwestern defense but fortunately they were bailed out by the upperclassmen during the game. Read the rest of this entry »
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Next Year Looking More and More Like “The Year” For Northwestern

Posted by KTrahan on December 18th, 2012

Every year, the question remains the same for a Northwestern team perpetually on the bubble: Can the Wildcats sneak into the NCAA Tournament? Last summer, it certainly seemed like this could be the year that NU would make the Big Dance for the first time in school history. Bill Carmody finally had two big men, an impressive recruiting class, a graduate transfer, and a solid group of returning stars including Drew Crawford, Dave Sobolewski, Reggie Hearn and JerShon Cobb.

The Loss of Drew Crawford Leaves Northwestern Searching For Answers

The Loss of Drew Crawford Leaves Northwestern Searching For Answers

However, things don’t always go as planned in college basketball, and NU certainly learned that quickly this year. Cobb was suspended for the season due to academic problems, the new players haven’t adjusted as quickly as fans had hoped, and Crawford wasn’t playing at all like himself. Now, we at least have an answer for the latter issue, as NU announced over the weekend that Crawford will miss the remainder of the season to have surgery on a torn labrum. Adding Crawford’s injury to the doubts following an inconsistent start to the season, it’s looking more and more like this won’t be “the year” for the Wildcats. But could that be a good thing for NU?

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Big Ten Team Previews: Northwestern Wildcats

Posted by KTrahan on October 18th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Big Ten microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Northwestern Wildcats.

Where we left off: The NIT. Again. For yet another year, Northwestern inched closer to the NCAA Tournament — this year closer than ever — and the Wildcats fell short again. NU’s season was defined by close losses to Michigan (twice), Ohio State, Indiana and Illinois. Had the Cats won just one more of those games, they could have potentially made the Tournament. Heck, if they had just beaten Minnesota in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament — another close loss — maybe they could have gotten there. Now, with a number of new faces, they begin this season firmly on the bubble once again.

Positives: I did an interview with coach Bill Carmody earlier in the offseason and he remarked that, with its new lineup, NU will “have some scoring inside.” That will be a much-needed addition after last year’s centers — Luka Mirkovic and Davide Curletti — struggled mightily. This year, 7’0″ freshman Alex Olah is expected to start at center and the Wildcats will also have 7’2″ freshman center Chier Ajou, who provides depth, even if he doesn’t play much initially. Additionally, senior Drew Crawford returns and Louisville transfer Jared Swopshire is expected to make a big impact right away. It will be a very big frontcourt for NU, something that has seemingly happened overnight and hasn’t occurred in Evanston for a long time.

Louisville transfer Jared Swopshire (ball) will be a key player to watch for Northwestern fans this season (Chicago Tribune)

Negatives: Can this team play defense? The Wildcats have added a lot of potential inside scoring with Swopshire and Olah, but the jury is out on whether the team can defend and grab rebounds, unlike last year’s squad. The perimeter defense is questionable, as well, as the team’s best perimeter defender — JerShon Cobb — was suspended for the year. And can this team find someone to take the last shot? Last year it was Crawford, and even though that didn’t work very well, this year it seems likely to be either Crawford or Swopshire. The Big Ten will be very strong again this year, meaning NU will be involved in a lot of close games. It must find a way to make big shots and play good defense in crunch time.

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Set Your TiVo: 02.29.12

Posted by EJacoby on February 29th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

It’s another big Wednesday night in college hoops. Three bubble teams have home games against top 15 opponents, so we will see who really wants to earn their way into an at-large bid. Let’s jump into the breakdowns:

#8 Marquette at Cincinnati – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2 (****)

Cincinnati Will be Fired Up at Home Against #8 Marquette (AP Photo/A. Behrman)

  • Buzz Williams’ team continues to impress. Even a suspension of four of its best players for at least one half couldn’t stop Marquette from winning at West Virginia last Friday. Now the Golden Eagles will look to add another quality road win to an already sparkling resume. Jae Crowder’s campaign for Big East Player of the Year is gaining steam as he ranks in the top 10 in the conference in points per game (17.6), rebounds per game (7.7), steals per game (2.9), field-goal percentage (52.4%), and offensive rating (123.9). He and Darius Johnson-Odom are the most potent and consistent one-two punch in the league, and they both have versatile games that should thrive against the Cincinnati zone defense. Marquette leads the conference in scoring but must adapt to the Bearcat attack that plays at a slow pace and limits turnovers.
  • The last time the Bearcats were on national television, they had another ranked Big East foe at home in what Rick Pitino called the best home court advantage his team had faced all season. Cincinnati will look to mimic that environment in this game, facing the high-flying Golden Eagles. To slow down Marquette, Cincinnati needs a big game from its veteran guards who can control pace and hit shots. As a team, the Bearcats commit just 9.6 turnovers per game, best in the conference, and they score 31.5% of their points from the three-point line. Dion Dixon, Cashmere Wright, and Sean Kilpatrick will win or lose this game for Cincy. It will be up to Yancy Gates to keep the Marquette defense honest inside as well as trying to shut down Crowder in the paint.
  • This game is a pick’em in Vegas, which feels accurate. Cincinnati will be fired up on Senior Night and a win over a top 10 opponent will guarantee its entrance into the Big Dance, but Marquette has been simply fantastic in Big East play, winning 12 of its last 13 games in a variety of fashions. As a believer in this Bearcats team, I think they pull this one out and lock up a postseason bid.
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Checking In On… the Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 21st, 2012

Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference. Follow him on Twitter (@Bill_Hupp) for his thoughts on hoops, food, box fans and life.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Boiling Over: Give credit to Matt Painter for making a difficult decision in the stretch run of a season. Painter kicked Kelsey Barlow off the team and suspended D.J. Byrd for the Michigan State game for a “violation of team rules.” They’ll miss Barlow’s experience and slashing ability, but sometimes this kind of incident can galvanize a team.
  • Lincoln > Land of Lincoln: Any doubts about whether Illinois was still playing for embattled head coach Bruce Weber were answered when Nebraska used a 52-12 run to bury the Illini, 80-57, on Sunday. Brandon Paul and Meyers Leonard combined for 11 total points. You just can’t let the worst offensive team in the Big Ten put up 80 on you. Illinois has now lost eight of its last nine games and Weber seems resigned to his likely fate (see video below).
  • Shurna Can Score: Congrats to John Shurna, a nice kid and a fantastic (if unorthodox) scorer who is now the all-time leading scorer in Northwestern history. His deep three-pointer midway through the second half against Minnesota gave him 18 points to surpass Billy McKinney (1,900 points).  More importantly to Shurna, the Wildcats picked up a win to stay in the hunt for first-ever NCAA Tournament berth.

The Spartans And Buckeyes Have Company At The Top Of The Standings. (AP/Carlos Osorio)

Power Rankings

  1. Michigan State (22-5, 11-3) – Not since Tim Duncan in 1997-98 has a player averaged more than 15 points per game, 10 rebounds a game and three assists per game. But Draymond Green has done just that, and he continued to show his versatility on Sunday at Purdue with a 20-point, 10 rebound and seven-assist performance to lead the Spartans to a road win. He has to be the Big Ten POY if MSU wins the conference.
  2. Ohio State (22-5, 10-4) – William Buford has had big games for Ohio State this season, but his struggles late in the regular season may cost Ohio State a Big Ten crown. He shot a combined 5-for-24 in the Buckeyes’ losses to Michigan State and Michigan, and just hasn’t shown the big game leadership that you would expect out of a senior. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten Game On: 02.11.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on February 11th, 2012

It was a quiet Friday night in the Big Ten (because, you know, there were no games), but the action certainly picks up on the court today as two of the top teams in the league face off.  Also, on Sunday we have some schools desperate for a win on the road against opponents who need a victory to keep pace within the conference.  It all bodes for a very interesting Big Ten weekend.

Nebraska at Penn State, 1 pm ET Saturday

  • Though these two teams currently sport the bottom two records in the league, don’t think for a second that this game doesn’t mean something. Nebraska desperately needs to get on the right track in their first season in the Big Ten, and a road win at Penn State would help get things moving in that direction. Meanwhile, Penn State has lost five straight and eight out of their last nine; and in no way do they want that streak to continue. It helps that the Nittany Lions will have the best player on the court in guard Tim Fraizer.

#12 Michigan State at #3 Ohio State, 6 pm ET Saturday

  • This is the biggest marquee game for the league so far this season and not just because it is between two teams that are within a game of each other at the top of the standings. Both teams have good size, tremendous guard play, and it will be strength-vs-strength when the Spartans and Buckeyes do battle on national television (ESPN). In the yesterday’s Big Ten Morning Five there was a link to an article talking about the headache Big Ten coaches have had in trying to figure out how to properly defend Jared Sullinger. Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo probably is the best equipped to deal with the Buckeye big man, as beefy Derrick Nix and long-armed Adreian Payne can be used to slow Sullinger down. Draymond Green may also take his turn on Sullinger, but his foremost job will be to continue his Big Ten-best 10.6 RPG along with his 15 PPG. Green’s leadership will also be key for this road test as sophomore guard Keith Appling and freshman forward Branden Dawson will be the other Spartans expected to score. Look for Ohio State guard William Buford to try and loosen things up for Sullinger early on as the senior knows how important a win and two-game cushion over Michigan State would be.

Containing Jared Sullinger will be the top priority for Michign State. (Greg Shamus/Getty)

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