Evaluating Four of the Top Big Ten Sixth Man Candidates

Posted by Max Jakubowski on November 6th, 2013

Ed. Note: this list isn’t meant to be inclusive. Every team will have at least one solid sixth man candidate. These are meant to highlight only four of them.

Last year’s Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year Will Sheehey provided a huge spark to Indiana off the bench, averaging 9.5 points per game to go along with nearly 35 percent shooting from three. The Hoosiers lost four starters from last year, so that means not only will Sheehey need to start but also a new winner for for this award will be crowned. Here’s a look at some of the players who have a great shot to capture it this season.

Shannon Scott Leads a Strong Group of Big Ten Sixth Men This Season

Shannon Scott Leads a Strong Group of Big Ten Sixth Men This Season

  • Shannon Scott - Ohio State, junior point guard – Scott possess all the skills of a starting point guard in a big time conference, but due to Aaron Craft starting at the position, Scott begins the game on the bench. He still sees plenty of playing time, as his defensive guard skill set is a perfect complement to Craft’s. Both guards allow head coach Thad Matta to pressure the opponents’ guards up and down the floor, making even dribbling the ball past half-court a difficult test. Matta is also not afraid to use Scott on the offensive end with Craft playing off the ball. Last year the Buckeyes frequently enabled a lineup of Craft, Scott, Lenzelle Smith Jr., Deshaun Thomas and Sam Thompson. That is a small lineup, but it creates match-up nightmares as all five players can score from the perimeter. Scott will need to pick up his scoring average (4.9 PPG) as well as his 33 percent three-point average to make him an even more valuable offensive player off the bench.
  • Denzel Valentine – Michigan State, sophomore small forward – Comparisons of Michigan State great Draymond Green have been made with Valentine’s all-purpose game. But Valentine has not shown he can be the type of inside-out post player Green was. Keith Appling will be backed up by Valentine, who is a very good ball-handler for his size. He has shown in flashes that he can contribute in a number of ways for Tom Izzo, like when he put up nine points, six rebounds and six assists against Memphis in the third round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Valentine’s 4.1 RPG and 2.4 APG should increase this season, but the main area he needs to develop is his three-point shot.  He shot a dismal 28 percent from deep last season and the Spartans really need someone to become a three-point threat other than Gary Harris. If Valentine can push his percentage up to around 35 percent, it will be hard for Izzo to keep him off the court.

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2013-14 RTC Class Schedule: Michigan State Spartans

Posted by BHayes on September 6th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler. Periodically throughout the preseason, RTC will take an in-depth look at the schedules of some of the more prominent teams in college basketball.

Watch out for Sparty in 2013-14. Tom Izzo returns nearly every key contributor from his Sweet 16 squad of a year ago, with only bruising big man Derrick Nix since departed. More good news for East Lansing’s finest: the Big Ten shouldn’t prove quite as challenging as it did last season as fellow top-four finishers Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio State all suffered major personnel losses in the offseason. That may mean some turnover at the top, especially with a number of teams in the bottom half of the conference looking improved from a season ago. So, sure – you can expect a little reshuffling at the top of the Big Ten. But with the returns of Keith Appling, Gary Harris, and Adreian Payne (among others) to East Lansing, you should also feel pretty safe in believing that Sparty will be right where they always are come March – in the hunt for a Big Ten title, preparing themselves for a sustained Tournament push.

The Emergence Of Spartan Big Man Adreian Payne Makes Michigan State A Scary Team

The Emergence Of Spartan Big Man Adreian Payne Makes Michigan State A Scary Team (Getty Images)

  • Team Outlook: Despite the arrival of a relatively underwhelming freshmen class – neither center Gavin Schilling nor shooting guard Alvin Ellis has the look of a minute-eating freshman, Tom Izzo’s cupboard is fully stocked. The backcourt features the Spartan’s two top scorers from a year ago in Keith Appling (13.4 PPG, 3.3 APG) and Gary Harris (12.9 PPG, 41% 3PT). Both battled nagging injuries throughout last winter, so an offseason of rest and rehabilitation may have been just what the Spartans needed although Harris appears to have suffered a temporary setback with a sprained ankle that will keep him out until at least the start of practice. With another year under their belt and improved health (knock on wood), there should be an expectation of increased, or at least more efficient, contributions from the duo. The third centerpiece of this Spartan club is center Adreian Payne, who broke out in his sophomore season posting season averages of 10.5 PPG, 7.6 RPG, and 1.3 BPG as the big man even showed an unexpectedly refined touch from deep. After only attempting two three-pointers in his first season in East Lansing, Payne went 16-42 from beyond the stripe last season, giving Izzo (and NBA scouts) hope that he might progress even further here in year three. Branden Dawson (8.9 PPG and 5.9 RPG) is the fourth Spartan returning starter, while versatile sophomore Denzel Valentine (5.0 PPG and 4.1 RPG) would seem like the top candidate to occupy the starting slot left open by the departure of Nix, an insertion that would necessitate a slide to the power forward position for Dawson. Sophomore Travis Trice (4.8 PPG, 1.9 APG) should operate as a capable backup for Appling at the point, but Tom Izzo will have decisions to make in rounding out the bench rotation beyond Trice. Matt Costello and Alex Gauna only averaged about six minutes per game each a season ago, but both could be thrust into larger roles this time around. Junior Russell Byrd and the freshman Schilling may also be options for Izzo in his quest to sort out the frontcourt rotation, as he seeks to at least partially replace the physicality and production that Nix brought to the table last season. Payne and Dawson should take care of plenty of that by themselves, and let’s also remember that this is Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans – if you can’t rebound you don’t see the floor, so expect the old coach to find some tough role players somewhere on the roster. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: #3 Michigan State 70, #6 Memphis 48

Posted by Will Tucker on March 23rd, 2013

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Will Tucker is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 32 NCAA Tournament game between #3 Michigan State and #6 Memphis from Auburn Hills. You can also find him on Twitter @blrdswag.

Three Key Takeaways:

Michigan State Ran Away From Memphis This Afternoon

Michigan State Ran Away From Memphis This Afternoon

  1. Michigan State’s brute force in the interior was too much for Memphis to handle. As athletic as the Tigers are, they don’t have enough size to defend the post against 6’9: Derrick Nix and 6’10: Adreian Payne, who weigh a cumulative 510 pounds. The Spartans’ imposing duo combined for 27 points and 18 rebounds, while Payne recorded five blocks. Tarik Black and Shaq Goodwin are the only players in Josh Pastner’s trusted rotation who measure at least 6’8″ and 240 pounds, and the two combined for 4 points and 6 rebounds. Despite his size, Goodwin went scoreless and played with the tentativeness of a freshman in his first huge college game, and Black played much of the second half with 4 fouls. Pastner afterward called MSU “probably the best in the country at offensive rebounding,” but it was on the defensive end that the Spartans established their +20 rebound margin, courtesy of Memphis shooting 30% from the field.
  2. Free throw shooting finally caught up with the Tigers. Inability to cash in at the charity stripe nearly derailed Memphis against Saint Mary’s on Thursday, when they shot 9-18. Down 12 with 5:13 remaining, Tarik Black went to the line after a Flagrant 1 was assessed to Derrick Nix. Moments after Geron Johnson had drilled a three, with an opportunity to turn the momentum and stage a final push, Black unceremoniously missed both free throws. Michigan State would go on a 12-2 run to close the game, despite losing Keith Appling to a shoulder injury. The Tigers finished at 66% on the season after shooting 5-10 from the line today.
  3. The Spartans’ backcourt depth is suspect. While their starting five is undeniably one of the best in the country, today’s game illustrated the dearth of talented depth behind Gary Harris and Keith Appling. Harris had a huge first half, heading to the break with 16 points and 4 threes, but only played 8 minutes after halftime once saddled with four fouls. Keith Appling didn’t show up on the box score, ending with 2 points and 2 assists, but he managed the game well until aggravating his right shoulder and leaving the game with 8:35 remaining. At that point Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine were left to orchestrate things, and while they combined for 9 points and 7 assists as MSU pulled away, there was a substantial drop-off in explosiveness in the Spartans’ backcourt. It wasn’t an issue in this game, but it could portend problems in a closer contest against potential regional opponents Duke or Louisville.

Star of the Game. Adreian Payne left his mark on every portion of the court with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks. The junior seems to be shedding his mercurial reputation, and turned in an MVP performance after apologizing to his teammates for a disappointing showing in Thursday’s Valparaiso win. Gary Harris also deserves to be acknowledged for his career-high 23 points in only 25 minutes on 6-9 shooting. Tom Izzo noted after the game that the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year seemed to thrive on the big stage in front of a sellout crowd of 21,723.

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Set Your DVR: Week of 02.04.13

Posted by bmulvihill on February 5th, 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 only a month to go in the regular season, the conference pictures are still not 100% clear. Let’s take a look at six match-ups this week that will continue to clear things up as we head towards March. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

#12 Ohio State at #3 Michigan – 9:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN (****)

  • If you break games up into ten minute segments as KenPom does in his box scores, Michigan has only played two poor ten minute segments this season. The first ten minutes against Ohio State and the first ten minutes against Indiana. Both games were on the road in very hostile environments. In their last game in Columbus, Ohio State punched the Wolverines in the mouth in those first ten minutes with tenacious defense. Michigan recovered by limiting mistakes and forcing the Buckeyes to execute their half-court offense, which is virtually nonexistent  Don’t expect Michigan to be rattled like they were in Columbus but they still need to be careful with the basketball. If Ohio State wants to win in Ann Arbor, Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott are going to need to be even more disruptive on defense. Also, keep a close eye on Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III for the Wolverines. Stauskas had zero points against the Buckeyes and GRIII was virtually nonexistent in both of Michigan’s losses. If Michigan is going to win the Big Ten and make a deep run in the tournament, these two need to be at their best every night. The addition of those two as scoring threats is what makes Michigan so tough to beat. If the scoring sits squarely on the shoulders of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan becomes much easier to beat.
Round Two of OSU-Michigan Will Be Another War

Round Two of OSU-Michigan Will Be Another War

#21 Minnesota at #6 Michigan State – 7:00 PM EST, Wednesday on BTN (****)

  • After four straight losses, the Gophers have steadied a bit with wins against Nebraska and Iowa. They have avoided an Illinois-like tailspin, which is keeping them in the hunt in the Big Ten. Michigan State is sitting one game back of Indiana and is looking to avenge their New Year’s Eve loss to Minnesota. The difference in that game was offensive rebounding, free throws, and 60% two-point shooting from the Gophers. The Spartans are still having a tough time defending the two, so keep a close eye on the interior defense they get from Adreian Payne, Derrick Nix, and Denzel Valentine. These three players need to lead the way for Michigan State, if they want to win this game. In the last meeting, Nix went 5-15, Payne had 4 points, and Valentine had 5 points. All three players need to be more productive for Michigan State to keep pace not only in this game but the rest of the Big Ten season. For Minnesota, they need to stop turning the ball over and play better defense without fouling. Keep a close eye on turnovers and free throws for the Gophers throughout the game. If they can limit both, they can beat Sparty again.

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Big Ten M5: 01.23.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on January 23rd, 2013

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  1. The Purdue Boilermakers will likely not make the NCAA Tournament this season because they are rebuilding with a young core of players. But would they have a better shot at making the postseason if they had landed Michigan freshman Glenn Robinson III on the recruiting trail? The 6’6″ wing could have followed the footsteps of his famous father and Purdue legend, Glenn Robinson, but Matt Painter did not have any scholarships left to offer him. Robinson came into his own in high school after committing verbally to John Beilein, rising up the rankings by the time he graduated. He was a three-star prospect at the time of his verbal commitment but finished his prep career ranked #11 by Rivals during his senior year in high school. While his team’s prospects wouldn’t have been as promising, his scoring average would probably be higher than 12.1 PPG if he were playing in West Lafayette this season as a primary scoring option on a younger team.
  2. Speaking of Purdue, long time assistant and Indiana native Bob King passed away this week at the age of 92. King was an assistant coach for the Boilermakers from 1960-74 and was inducted into the Indiana basketball Hall of Fame in 1986. He was an assistant and associate athletics director from 1974-93 and oversaw one of the best stretches of basketball in West Lafayette under former head coach Gene Keady. Current Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke added, “He coached, mentored, listened and held people accountable — all with a sense of compassion.”
  3. It is never too early to look ahead to a game that could potentially be a classic match-up when it occurs. The Wolverines head to Bloomington on February 2 and if both Michigan and Indiana continue to play well, the game could feature two top five teams battling for Big Ten supremacy. Hoosier State of Mind provides a very premature preview of the game between the two best teams in the Big Ten so far. Nik Stauskas (12.6 PPG) is described as a player that “could shoot as well as Jordan Hulls but can also drive to the hoop with some power.” Stauskas needs to be pull himself out of his current mini-slump before traveling to Indiana in order to help John Beilein’s squad notch a quality win on the road.
  4. Michigan has already proven that it can win in a tough road environment by beating Minnesota in Minneapolis. Star-Tribune‘s Amelia Rayno addresses the Gophers’ loss to the Wolverines and other questions about Tubby Smith’s team in her weekly mailbag. She credits last season’s run to the NIT championship game as a key factor in helping these young Gophers gain some confidence before this season started. Rayno believes that Andre Hollins and Joe Coleman grew during the process as mature leaders and adds, “It allowed the Gophers to go into their offseason with immediate memories of success, but also a reminder that they had not suddenly become perfect, they still had flaws and there was still much work to be done.” Hollins has averaged 14.3 PPG and 3.7 APG and is arguably the best guard in the Big Ten this season after Michigan’s Trey Burke.
  5. Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo is never satisfied despite having won five straight Big Ten games heading into Madison last night. Before the game Izzo said, “We’re not as solid as we were last year,” when asked about the Spartans’ performance so far this season. Izzo has tried numerous lineups with Derrick Nix, Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson rotating role players around them, but he hasn’t found a combination that has worked consistently so far. He certainly has the flexibility of playing a big lineup with those three players and bringing Travis Trice off the bench along with freshman Denzel Valentine. After a tough win on the road against the Badgers last night (49-47), the Spartans are continuing to improve and may change their coach’s mind over time.
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Evaluating Big Ten Freshmen After the Non-Conference Season: Part Two

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on January 4th, 2013

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

In case you missed it earlier this week, we evaluated the freshmen from Indiana, Michigan and Iowa after the non-conference season. Today, we look into the true freshmen from Michigan State, Wisconsin and Purdue.

Gary Harris has shown flashes of brilliance so far but is capable of more for Michigan State (Detroit News)

Gary Harris has shown flashes of brilliance so far but is capable of more for Michigan State (Detroit News)

Michigan State: Gary Harris and Denzel Valentine

Harris has been a tease with the Spartans so far this season. He has shown flashes of brilliance such as against Kansas when he scored 18 points by consistently cutting to the hoop to make easy layups. Since that game, however, he has not been overly impressive with his scoring because he has settled for the three-point shot too much. Harris can improve his long-range shooting from 31% but his main strength lies in the ability to score around the basket. Against the Gophers he was 1-of-5 from beyond the arc but needs to better play to his strengths during the conference season. Overall, he hasn’t disappointed with his 12.3 PPG in 26.5 MPG but he will continue to be called upon to pick up some scoring slack especially if Keith Appling draws the best defending guard from the opposition. While Harris’ role is clearly defined, his fellow freshmen guard Valentine has been a jack of all trades for Tom Izzo. Valentine can best be described as a “grinder” with his style of play. His statistics aren’t impressive – just 6.0 PPG in 22.3 MPG, but Valentine is an excellent rebounder for a guard (4.3 RPG) and has shown a knack for playing excellent defense. Rarely do you find a player who will impress Izzo as a freshman because Michigan State always has great upperclassmen, but you can tell that Valentine will be a special player in East Lansing by the time he leaves campus. Expect him to average about 23 MPG and help the Spartans on the defensive end during the rigorous Big Ten season.

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Big Ten M5: 12.11.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on December 11th, 2012

  1. It sounds like the 2013-14 college basketball season is going to break ground on a large scale yet again, and with Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis again at the forefront of the idea, at least one Big Ten team is likely to participate in his latest and greatest idea. But as the culmination of the season — the NCAA Tournament and, particularly, the Final Four — has grown larger by the years and come to fill bigger spaces and stadiums, could the postseason suddenly be looking to slim down again? The Final Four hasn’t been played in a conventional basketball arena since 1996 and the next four Final Fours have already been scheduled for domes, but television executivess and NCAA administrators aren’t ruling out a return to arenas beyond that.
  2. Illinois has quietly been building one of the most impressive — and, perhaps, surprising — seasons around the country thus far, and their star is finally seeing the fruits of his labor. After leading the Illini to an impressive win at Gonzaga over the weekend, Brandon Paul was named the Big Ten Player of the Week. But should we be surprised? Just a few days after scoring 14 against Western Carolina, he went off for a season-high 35 against the Zags, shooting 10-of-16 from the field and 10-of-11 from the free throw line, all the while catapulting himself into the early national and conference Player of the Year discussion.
  3. It was just last year we were talking some promising freshmen at Iowa, and here we are again doing the same. With Aaron White now a sophomore, it’s newcomers like Adam Woodbury and Anthony Clemmons who are drawing high praise. Tork Mason of The Daily Iowan says that this incoming class has given the Hawkeyes some much-needed swagger, combining for 36 points over the last two games. In that span, Clemmons has a superb 16 assists and just one turnover.
  4. For the most part, as Deshaun Thomas goes, so goes Ohio State. And when things aren’t going well — consider his 3-of-10 shooting in the first half against Long Beach State, which led the preseason All-American to get down on himself recently — Thomas has been prone to show it on the floor. But coach Thad Matta has noticed an improvement in Thomas’ maturity, which has been critical as he’s stepped into a leadership role for the Buckeyes this season. “It’s just me learning the game and becoming an impact player and knowing there are other things than just scoring,” Thomas told ElevenWarriors.com. “There are other things in the game of basketball.” Unfortunately for the rest of the Big Ten, Thomas can do most everything within the game of basketball.
  5. Michigan State freshman Denzel Valentine has thrilled Spartan fans this season with his dazzling style of play and court vision, but he’s also maddened them at times when his inexperience has shone through. It’s the latter trait that has led Tom Izzo to rein Valentine in a bit lately, saying the freshman is on “a choker leash.” Valentine had just one turnover in the second half against Loyola on Saturday, after a couple frustrating moments earlier in the season. It’s never a good idea to question the coaching strategies of the six-time Final Four head coach, so it’s reasonable to expect to see Valentine slowly but surely getting more comfortable with a controlled role during the rest of the season.
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Big Ten M5: 11.16.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 16th, 2012

  1. Michigan State freshman Gary Harris came into this season a highly touted recruit for Tom Izzo. He was ranked in the top 30 by Rivals and proved his worth against Kansas by scoring 18 points on Tuesday night. But the other freshman Spartan, Denzel Valentine, may end up being just as valuable as Harris this season. Valentine has the ability to become a great guard in Izzo’s system with his passing skills (four assists against KU) and the zeal to buckle down on the defensive end. Both Harris and Valentine may end up being a dynamic duo for Izzo over the next couple of years assuming both of them stay in school.
  2. Bo Ryan may find guards to fill in the void created by Josh Gasser’s injury on the offensive end but the defensive side might suffer a bit this season. Shane Ryan of Grantland outlines the Badgers’ defensive issues based on the road game against Florida on Wednesday night. Gasser was a lockdown defender on defense last season and his freshman replacements, George Marshall and Traevon Jackson, may have issues keeping up with superior backcourts. Both of them are athletic enough but it takes a while for freshmen to understand and communicate properly about the defensive sets. Ryan’s teams have ranked in the top 10 defensively in the nation for a long time and will need to figure out their issues soon before conference play begins.
  3. After long discussions with Minnesota’s Charles Buggs‘ family, Tubby Smith and Buggs have decided that he will redshirt this season. The 6’9″ forward’s services may not be needed because Trevor Mbakwe will play a major role in the frontcourt for Tubby Smith. Buggs weighs about 195 lbs. right now, so one of his main goals during the redshirt year will be to add some size in order to compete in the rugged B1G. Smith compared him to forward Damian Johnson who redshirted as a true freshman and became a key defensive player for Smith in Minneapolis. Rodney Williams will mostly play at the power forward position once Mbakwe is back to 100% game shape over the next couple of months.
  4. Northwestern has signed point guard Jaren Sina and guard Nate Taphorn for the 2013-14 season. Sina was also considering Seton Hall, Alabama, Memphis and Pittsburgh, while Taphorn is supposed to have great range on his jumper and should contribute from the wing next season after Drew Crawford’s graduation. Head coach Bill Carmody continues to bring in quality guards to Evanston but he will have to recruit some athletic size who can hold their own in the paint if he wants to win more than nine or 10 games in the conference season. Forward Chier Ajou may end up being a valuable big man for Carmody as he gains more experience over the course of the season.
  5. After a 2-0 start, Illinois will play Hawaii on the road on Friday night. John Groce and his Illini took a trip to Pearl Harbor and met some World War II veterans while in Honolulu. The Illini could beat Hawaii convincingly but they will have a big challenge against USC on Monday night to kick off the Maui Invitational in Lahaina. This talented group of new Trojans may not compete with Arizona and UCLA for the Pac-12 regular season title but could very well end up among the top five teams in their conference. A win against USC would be a huge confidence booster for Illinois as it learns to adjust to Groce’s up-tempo offensive schemes.
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Big Ten M5: 11.13.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 13th, 2012

  1. Michigan State guard Travis Trice is questionable for the Spartans’ game tonight against Kansas due to “concussion symptoms.” Trice played 18 minutes against Connecticut and had to leave the game after getting hit on the head. The Spartans flew back from Germany to Atlanta and may not have one of their experienced guards ready for tonight’s game against the top 10 Jayhawks. Brandon Kearney played only seven minutes in the first game and is still recovering from a sickness as well. Freshman guard Denzel Valentine will have to step up with the likelihood of increased playing time. Tom Izzo will need whatever he can get from the younger guards to avoid another 0-2 start for the season (recall that MSU started with the same record last season).
  2. Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan is very impressed with freshman wing Sam Dekker after the home opener. The Badgers led 43-17 but during his halftime speech, Ryan asked Dekker if he knew the score of the game. Dekker replied “zero-zero” which caught his head coach by surprise in a positive way. Dekker is a 6’8″ wing who perfectly fits in Ryan’s offense and will have plenty of opportunities to shine as Ryan tries to fill in the shoes of Jordan Taylor and Josh Gasser. Dekker scored eight points in just 17 minutes of his collegiate debut but will play an integral role in the offense as the season progresses.
  3. Michigan fans are extremely happy to see forward Jon Horford return from a foot injury. The fans gave him an ovation when he entered the game against Slippery Rock after missing most of last season with the December injury. Horford, a 6’10” junior forward, will back up Jordan Morgan and Mitch McGary to provide much-needed depth for John Beilein’s frontcourt. McGary can find himself in foul trouble once conference play begins and Beilein needs Horford to provide some additional size off the bench. Horford played eight minutes against Slippery Rock and five minutes against IUPUI last night but should see increased playing time as he returns to game shape.
  4. Minnesota assistant coach Saul Smith pleaded guilty for his DWI charges and has been sentenced to 40 hours of community service by a judge. Smith is supposed to re-join the Gophers today after being suspended by the athletic director following the arrest about a month ago. He registered a 0.18 blood alcohol level while driving on October 20 in Minneapolis. Tubby Smith should be glad to get all of his program’s off-court troubles in the past as the Gophers begin their campaign to contend for the conference title and make a run at the NCAA Tournament. The Gophers beat Toledo 82-56 last night at home.
  5. Illinois head coach John Groce has the Illini off to a 2-0 start and continues to lock up quality talent for next season. Another top 100 recruit, Austin Colbert, verbally committed to the Illini on Monday. Colbert is ranked in the top 100 by ESPN and is a 6’9″ forward who also considered Villanova and Miami. Groce has put together a class that will likely be ranked in the top 30 or 40 next season. Guards Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill will join Colbert in Champaign along with another big man, Maverick Morgan. In addition to the freshmen, Groce will also add wing Rayvonte Rice, a transfer from Drake.
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Big Ten M5: 11.12.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 12th, 2012

  1. College hoops’ opening day was supposed to feature two of the best Big Ten teams against formidable opponents, but only one of them was able to play on Friday. Michigan State‘s game in Germany against Connecticut started at the scheduled time but the Ohio State Buckeyes never got past the warm-ups against Marquette because the Carrier Classic game was cancelled due to condensation on the court. Referee John Cahill discussed the problem with both of the head coaches and decided that the conditions on the deck of USS Yorktown were too risky for the players and it was called off. According to reports, the athletic directors will discuss scheduling the game again but it likely won’t be during this season. The Buckeyes would have had their hands full against a Marquette squad who may not win the Big East but will be competitive throughout the year.
  2. Even though the Spartans were able to play their game at Ramstein Air Base, it was not a pleasant one. They not only lost the game to Connecticut but might also lose sophomore guard Travis Trice for a couple of games because of a minor concussion suffered during the game. After having played about 18 minutes off the bench, Trice left in the second half after getting hit on the head. He will go undergo further tests but Spartan fans can expect Tom Izzo to slowly bring him back into the rotation due to the nature of the injury. Trice will be an integral part of the Spartan backcourt this year, therefore any major setback will mean more minutes for freshman guard Denzel Valentine.
  3. It is never too early to make changes and Purdue head coach Matt Painter is quick to pull the trigger on his rotations. The Boilermakers were upset by Bucknell on Friday, 70-65, and Painter decided to shift his lineup for their next game against Hofstra on Sunday. Senior Dru Anthrop and freshman Rapheal Davis started that game and the Boilers won 83-54. Painter has several underclassmen on his roster and Purdue fans can expect several combinations of starting lineups during the non-conference season until his team’s identity is established. Junior guard Terone Johnson missed the first game due to an ankle injury but returned for the Hofstra game and contributed six points in the victory.
  4. While Purdue lost its home opener, Illinois beat Colgate 75-55 in Champaign on Friday night. The win was expected but the home crowd took the occasion to execute the “Orange Hush” during the game. In this coordinated event, the fans remain silent until the Illini score their 10th point, a tradition that exists at John Groce’s Alma Mater, Taylor University. Once the home team scored the 10th point, the crowd erupted in a celebration. The fans at Taylor University call it “Silent Night” and go through the tradition in one game every season. The Orange Krush and the home crowd carried this tradition to Champaign and it was a nice gesture to welcome Groce and his family to Champaign.
  5. Life is pretty good for Tom Crean nowadays. His contract has been extended through 2020 and his athletic director Fred Glass announced the extension to the home crowd after the Hoosier starting lineup was announced on Friday. His base salary will increase to $3.16 million per year after the contract extension. As if the #1 ranking in the country wasn’t enough to justify Crean’s presence in Bloomington, he backed it up by proving his recruiting prowess as top high school recruit Noah Vonleh committed to Indiana to join the Hoosiers in the 2013-14 season. Vonleh is a 6’8″ forward who was also considering Ohio State, Georgetown, North Carolina, Syracuse and Connecticut.
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Big Ten M5: 11.07.12 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on November 7th, 2012

  1. Michigan State freshman guard Denzel Valentine got a rough awakening in his first college game, putting together a sloppy performance against St. Cloud State. He’ll have to be much better in the Spartans’ regular season opener against UConn in the Armed Forces Classic on Friday. While Valentine had five points, five assists and 10 rebounds in the exhibition, he also had eight turnovers, and coach Tom Izzo called for a better performance this weekend. Izzo went as far as to call Valentine the Spartans’ best passer, but he warned that the freshman needs to “learn to play at the speed of college instead of the speed of high school.” However, Izzo pointed out that Magic Johnson had “eight or nine” turnovers against Central Michigan in his MSU debut, and “he turned out OK.”
  2. The loss of Jordan Taylor looks, at least on paper, to be the biggest obstacle the Wisconsin lineup faces this season. However, the Badger Herald argues that not having Taylor on the team might be a good thing for the Badgers. There is no doubt that Taylor was a very talented guard, but because he was the Badgers’ go-to scorer, the author argues that he actually detracted from Bo Ryan’s system. In that system, everyone must be able to shoot, but since Taylor was the one very reliable option, others didn’t have the opportunity to take advantage. With Taylor now gone, other players who can collectively take on his role will be forced to step up.
  3. One thing is clear about Ohio State this year: The Buckeyes have a lot of pure talent. Experience, though? Not so much. This lack of experience means OSU has a bit of an identity crisis heading into the season. Last year, the Buckeyes could rely on Aaron Craft, William Buford or Jared Sullinger to make plays when needed, but with Buford and Sullinger now gone, Craft and DeShaun Thomas will be called upon to lead the way. Leadership is often something that a player either embraces or he doesn’t, and we have every reason to believe that both returnee upperclassmen will take on the challenge put forth on them by head coach Thad Matta. But one minor critique of Craft after Tuesday night’s exhibition game: It’s not “October” anymore.
  4. The biggest criticism of last year’s Purdue team was its size, as the Boilermakers were often forced to play forward Robbie Hummel at center. This year, there is a lot of inexperience in West Lafayette, but Matt Painter’s team certainly will have more than enough size to compete in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers add three freshmen who are 6’8″ or taller, including 7-footer AJ Hammons. Painter notes that Purdue must become a better rebounding team, and that the Boilermakers “are in trouble” if that is not the case, especially considering the scoring punch that they lose from Hummel. However, with so much size at his disposal, rebounding should improve if the freshmen pan out as expected. As long as Purdue can get “possessions back on the glass,” they should be able to make up for some of the loss of last year’s offensive output.
  5. Speaking of size, Northwestern should also have a much bigger, albeit much more inexperienced, frontcourt this season. The Wildcats add two 7-foot freshmen, two more freshman forwards, a junior forward transfer and a graduate forward transfer. Lost in the shuffle is Mike Turner, a redshirt freshman center, who, at 6’8″, is undersized for his position, but he should also be slated for some minutes for the Wildcats this year. Turner admitted that it’s a mismatch trying to size up to some of the larger centers in the league, but he is also a mismatch for many of those who will struggle to defend his quickness. Turner isn’t likely to start for the Wildcats, but after a year in anonymity, he should see the court enough to make some noise even if he’s much smaller than the opponents he matches up against.
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Who’s Got Next? Gary Goes Green, Mitchigan for McGary and More…

Posted by Josh Paunil on November 10th, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing or different things you’d like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Lead Story: McGary to Michigan, Program-Changing Recruit For Beilein

Michigan Fans Will Go Crazy When Mitch McGary Steps On Campus.

Elite Recruit Gives Wolverines A Top-Five Class. When Class of 2012 power forward Mitch McGary (#2) committed to Michigan last Thursday, he did more than just announce where he’s going to college, his decision sent the rest of the Big Ten a message that they need to look out for the Wolverines. McGary and Class of 2012 small forwards Glenn Robinson and Nik Stauskas will look to give Michigan its first conference championship since the 1980s — yes, it’s been that long — and McGary is the perfect player to build a team around. McGary is a high-energy, consistent big man who has an endless motor that makes him one of the best prospects in the country. He is an excellent rebounder and productive shotblocker who can impact the game in a variety of ways on both ends of the court. He can score inside and out and has an impressive mid-range game that will take his defenders out of the paint. McGary is strong, creates scoring opportunities for his teammates and has good footwork as well. The Wolverines also have gotten off to a quality start with the Class of 2013 by signing point guard Derrick Walton, shooting guard Zak Irvin, small forward Austin Hatch and power forward Mark Donnal.

What They’re Saying

  • Junior Julius Randle on almost committing to Oklahoma two years ago and great advice he received: “I was ready to commit, I had a ball and I loved everything about the campus. Coach Capel and I were close and I loved what he was doing. I had so much fun that I was ready to be a Sooner. Then I got the best advice that I could ever get. My mom and coach told me to not to get caught up in the emotions of the visit.”
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