Ten Tuesday (or Wednesday!) Scribbles: On Scoring, Rule Changes, Syracuse and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 27th, 2013


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

  1. Much has been made about the decline in scoring in college basketball over the last decade. These days, it is very common to see games played in the 60s, 50s or even 40s in some instances. It is true that scoring has decreased substantially over the last 10 years and the numbers bear it out. In the 2002-03 season, 172 teams averaged at least 70.0 PPG. That number has steadily declined, falling to 145 five seasons ago and 111 this year. With the advent of advanced statistics, one in particular stands out. Ten years ago, 123 teams averaged an adjusted tempo of 70.0 possessions per game. That was cut in half by 2007-08 (62 teams) and the number has continued to decline even since then. This season, only 28 of America’s 347 Division I teams play at that pace or greater. Why is this happening? Pace is certainly a factor but there are other issues at play here. With the proliferation of television coverage and video based scouting programs such as Synergy Sports Technology, scouting and video material is more available than ever. Head coaches and their staffs know everything about an opponent and that makes a huge difference for a lot of teams on the defensive end. A lot of teams run the same sets and it’s simply easier to prepare when you see the same thing over and over again. The elephant in the room, however, is the talent level in college basketball. Most of us probably wouldn’t like to admit it but the talent level has noticeably dipped in our sport over the last decade. I’m not talking about a once in 20 years type of player like Kevin Durant but the overall depth of talent in the game. There’s a reason a lot of people are saying this year’s NBA Draft class could be the weakest ever. That’s because it is. Until college basketball gets a much-needed infusion of talent, low scoring games will remain the norm.
  2. A lot of people would like to see the so-called “one-and-done” rule fade to black and that got me thinking about some much-needed rule changes in college basketball. I’m not going to discuss the one-and-done here, I’m talking about changes that need to be made during the actual games. If I had the power, the first thing I’d do is shorten the shot clock to 30 seconds. Five seconds may not sound like a lot but since there are roughly 66 to 67 possessions in an average Division I game, that would translate into another 10 possessions per game. Immediately you’d see an increase in scoring which makes the game more attractive to fans. One thing that annoys me is the amount of timeouts and stoppages in the game. There are already four mandated media timeouts every half and each team gets a total of five timeouts per game. In an era when coaches rarely leave timeouts on the table, there are 18 different timeouts in a typical college game, an average of one every two minutes and 13 seconds. It hurts the flow of a game in a big way and my proposal would be to reduce the number of timeouts to three per team and no extras in overtime. The end of every college basketball game these days seems to include a multitude of timeouts, fouls and official reviews. Officials reviewing plays has helped many sports get calls right, including college basketball. However, officials are abusing the monitor more than ever before. A big reason why is the NCAA rule change a few years ago regarding flagrant fouls and elbows thrown. I get why this rule was implemented (player safety) but there is no evidence this rule acts as a deterrent. Players have been taught from a young age to clear space with your elbows when being pressured by a defender. Now, a loose elbow can be deemed a flagrant foul even if there was no intent to injure by the offending player. This has to change. I have absolutely no problem with calling a flagrant foul for a malicious elbow or other physical contact. But calling a flagrant for an innocent or accidental elbow is wrong and is another thing that contributes to college games that lack an entertaining flow. A couple other changes I’d make include not resetting the 10-second count in the backcourt after a timeout, not being able to inbound the ball into the backcourt (it’s a bailout move for a team without a quality inbounds play) and starting the 1-and-1 bonus at nine fouls instead of seven. What are your thoughts on some of these proposals?

    Tubby Smith, Minnesota

    Tubby Smith has Minnesota pointed in the right direction

  3. This time of year, bubble talk dominates the discussion. My way of looking at bubble teams is simple: Did you beat quality opponents and what have you done away from home? This approach is one Jay Bilas mentions on television every year, something I wholeheartedly agree with. I remember years ago when Bilas went on ESPN and said something like, “Bubble teams have all proven they can lose. The question is, who did you beat and where did you beat them?” Truer words have never been spoken. You can’t dismiss all losses but when we’re talking about bubble teams, we’re usually looking at teams that have lost anywhere from 9 to 12 games, sometimes more. When I look at this year’s group of bubble teams, a few stand out. Minnesota is only 7-8 in Big Ten play but has multiple quality wins over Memphis (neutral), Illinois (away), Wisconsin (home), Michigan State (home) and last night’s massive upset of Indiana at the Barn on its resume. All of that trumps Minnesota’s loss to Northwestern and should get the Golden Gophers into the Big Dance.  Staying in the Big Ten, Illinois is in the same boat and I believe the Illini have done enough to warrant a bid at this point. Villanova is an interesting team. The Wildcats have a high number of losses (11) but wins at Connecticut and home versus Louisville and Syracuse have them in the NCAA discussion. I think Villanova is an NCAA-worthy team but the Wildcats need to do more to earn a bid because a pair of bad losses on their resume hurt the cause. Teams like St. Mary’s are harder to quantify. The Gaels have just one top 50 win (home vs. Creighton) on their resume and a pair of bad losses to Pacific and Georgia Tech. When a team wins a number of games against poor competition as St. Mary’s has, it’s very hard to determine if they’re NCAA-worthy. I think the Gaels are, but their resume leaves a lot to be desired. Beating Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament would prove to everyone that they deserve a spot. Read the rest of this entry »
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Can Cody Zeller Continue to Stay Out of Foul Trouble?

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on February 26th, 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.

After 27 games which include just three losses, you begin to wonder if the Hoosiers have any glaring weaknesses that can be exploited during the postseason. At the beginning of the year, especially after Derek Elston’s injury, I wasn’t sure if they would have enough interior depth to beat elite teams in case Cody Zeller picked up a couple of quick fouls in the first half. Because if Zeller is forced to sit, Tom Crean would would have to go with a smaller lineup of Christian Watford, Will Sheehey or (gulp) freshman Hanner Perea in the frontcourt. Although Watford and Sheehey are capable of defending a 6’8” power forward, they wouldn’t be as effective on the offensive end if forced to exert so much energy on defense. But looking back at the Hoosiers’ season so far, Zeller has somehow managed to stay out of foul trouble, a very impressive feat considering that the Hoosiers have already played Minnesota and Michigan State. He has picked up four fouls in just three games: against Jacksonville, Penn State, and Georgetown. Opposing coaches can clearly see that with Zeller on the bench, the inside is open, but they haven’t yet succeeded in exploiting that weakness. Let’s examine how he has managed to stay out of foul trouble and if it could be an issue in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

ody Zeller has shown that he is a smart player on defense. (Photo credit: Sandra Dukes/US Presswire)

Cody Zeller has shown that he is a smart player on defense. (Photo credit: Sandra Dukes/US Presswire)

Crean has done an effective job of putting Zeller in comfortable positions on the defensive end of the floor. By using the zone against good offenses for certain stretches of the game, Zeller is not asked to face off against the opposition’s best forward. Let’s take both of the games against Michigan State to illustrate this game plan:

Spartan forwards Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne have the size and the footwork in the paint to get Zeller into foul trouble, but neither was successful in either of their attempts this season. Zeller covered the paint as part of the zone during the first game in Bloomington and even though it opened up some opportunities for Payne to attack through the backdoor (resulting in a couple of highlight dunks), it kept Zeller from picking up easy fouls. The zone helps “hide” the sophomore forward for a decent portion of the game. When forced to play man, Crean opted not to put Zeller on Nix, but used Watford there instead. At first glance, asking Watford to guard Nix seems like a terrible idea, but Zeller was quick to double-team the MSU big man and force him to pick up his dribble. Very rarely do big men in college possess a great ability to pass the ball out of a double team, especially if a seven-footer with quick hands is trying to swat the ball from behind. Nix scored just eight points in each of the two games against Indiana. The zone combined with smart defensive positioning has helped Zeller stay out of foul trouble and this strategy could be used against any other team that has a similarly versatile forward in the low post.

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Set Your DVR: Week of 02.04.13

Posted by bmulvihill on February 5th, 2013


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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Set Your DVR: Week of 01.21.13

Posted by bmulvihill on January 21st, 2013


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

We just had one of the most memorable weekends in recent memory in college hoops. Every game seems to be up for grabs and it’s making for an exciting season. This week should be no different as each conference has its share of important match-ups. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

Cincinnati at #3 Syracuse – 3:30 PM PM EST, Monday on ESPN (***)


Jim Boeheim’s Team Looks Great After This Weekend

  • Cincinnati barely snapped a three-game home losing streak on Saturday with an overtime win against Marquette. The Bearcats were without star guard Cashmere Wright as he continues to heal up from a knee injury. Wright is day-to-day so we don’t know quite yet if he will be available against Syracuse, though. If he is unable to play, his three-point shooting will be missed greatly against the Orange’s match-up zone defense. Although, even if he plays, the size of the Orange backcourt will surely create issues for the 6’0″ guard. In its huge win at Louisville over the weekend, Syracuse proved its size and length on defense makes Jim Boeheim’s team a clear title contender. Both of these teams excel on the offensive glass, so keep a close eye on which team is getting more second-chance opportunities and making the most of them — this could be another place where the Syracuse size makes a difference. More than likely this game will be won on the defensive end.  However, if the Bearcats don’t find a better shooting stroke quickly, this game will not be close regardless of their defensive effort. They shot 41.4% eFG against Marquette, so a shooting number like that won’t cut it against Syracuse.

#12 Michigan State at Wisconsin – 7:00 PM PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN (****)

  • It felt like Iowa was due for a big win at home and it happened to come against Wisconsin on Saturday. After the Badgers’ huge win against Indiana last week, the weekend loss to Iowa brought the team back to reality, but they don’t get much rest with the Spartans coming to town. In order for the Badgers to beat the Spartans, they must play their typically great defense. Bo Ryan‘s squad is 1-4 against teams that shoot over 50% eFG against them so it’s clear that they do not have the offense to go back and forth with teams. Luckily, the Spartans are not a great shooting team with nine games under 50% eFG themselves on the season. This should make for a very close defensive-oriented contest in Madison. Keep an eye on free throws, as they will be a major factor in determining the outcome. Wisconsin must play good defense without fouling; if they are sending Michigan State to the line early in each half, they could very easily drop two games in a row. Look for Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix to be all over Wisconsin forward Jared Berggren, forcing someone else on the Badgers to beat them. This should be another slugfest in the Big Ten.

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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on January 18th, 2013


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

The top teams in several conferences go head-to-head and a non-conference mid-major battle in the midwest should provide a spectacular weekend of college hoops. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

#6 Syracuse at #1 Louisville – 4:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (*****)

Jim Boeheim and Rick Pitino Meet on Saturday Again...

Jim Boeheim and Rick Pitino Meet on Saturday Again…

  • The cream of the Big East crop lock up in what should be an epic defensive battle. This may be the best defensive match-up we will see all season. Jim Boeheim’s match-up zone versus Rick Pitino’s press will be fun to watch. Louisville is known for its ability to create lots of turnovers, but Syracuse is almost just as good at causing teams to make mistakes. Additionally, Syracuse blocks a bunch of shots and locks down the perimeter. Louisville counters with its own shot-blocker deluxe in Gorgui Dieng. The question for Syracuse is how they will break the Louisville press — look to see if they use their length to make passes over the top of the Cardinals’ defense to get down the court.  Also, watch the guard match-up between Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams of Syracuse and Peyton Siva and Russ Smith of Louisville. Triche and Carter-Williams have a significant size advantage that could make scoring from the Louisville backcourt limited, although Smith just seems to find ways to score anyway. Ultimately, this game will come down to whose defense plays better, but this game is shaping up to be a classic.

#17 Missouri at #8 Florida – 2:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (****)

  • Florida is coming off a dominant win against Texas A&M and is beginning to separate itself from the rest of the SEC. A win by Missouri on the road would be huge for the Tigers as they head into a stretch of games against the bottom tier of the league. Missouri needs to find a way to control the offensive boards without Laurence Bowers available if they are going to have a shot at winning this game. The Gators have been one of the toughest teams to shoot against this season, so don’t expect the Tigers to get a lot of great looks. However, as one of the better offensive rebounding teams in the country, the Tigers have a chance if they can get put-backs and tip-ins. The key will be the battle down low between Alex Oriakhi and Patric Young so pay close attention to those two big men battling inside. Also, keep an eye on Missouri’s perimeter defense. Florida is taking 40% of its total shots from three — if the Gators’ shooters  are hitting from the outside, it’s going to be tough sledding for Missouri in its first SEC trip to Gainesville.

Oregon at #21 UCLA – 4:00 PM EST, Saturday on CBS (****)

  • The Pac-12 is looking like a three team battle between Arizona, UCLA, and Oregon. With the Ducks already knocking off the Wildcats, they can make a huge statement early in the conference season with a road win against the Bruins. It won’t be easy, however, as UCLA has quietly put together a 10-game winning streak including back-to-back road wins against Utah and Colorado. Keep a close eye on turnovers in this game. Oregon is turning the ball over frequently at a rate of over 21% of its possessions. We have seen road teams get down early recently because of multiple mistakes in a hostile environment. If the Bruins can create turnovers early with some tough defense, it will make things very difficult for the Ducks in Pauley Pavilion. Also, watch the rebounding numbers. The Ducks are a far superior team on the glass at both ends. UCLA’s Kyle Anderson and the Wear brothers need to box out. Rebounding will keep Oregon in the game and could prove to be the difference if they are able to avoid turnovers.

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Big Ten M5: 01.16.13 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on January 16th, 2013


  1. Despite a valiant comeback effort that nearly resulted in a win at Assembly Hall, Minnesota ended up falling to Indiana in its first Big Ten loss on Saturday. The Gophers fell behind by 23 at halftime due to a slow start, and Tubby Smith said part of that was due to a lack of aggressiveness. The Indiana game wasn’t the only slow start Minnesota has had. The Gophers also got into an early hole against Illinois before coming back for an impressive win. They did the same against some inferior competition in non-conference season. Minnesota has the talent to hang with anyone in the country, but in games against top teams,the Gophers must make sure they are strong from the start.
  2. The Big Ten has some fairly active coaches on Twitter. Indiana’s Tom Crean tweets a lot of biblical passages while Nebraska’s Tim Miles tweets about his games at halftime. But don’t expect Tom Izzo to join Twitter any time soon as the Michigan State coach hates the social media platform. There are a lot of good quotes in that article from Izzo, who said he thinks his players listen to criticism more because of it. He has also had conversations with Derrick Nix, who searches his name after every game to retweet fans who criticized him during the game.
  3. In Tim Miles’ first season in Lincoln, nobody expected Nebraska to make much noise in the Big Ten. And while the Huskers have still yet to win a conference game, they have kept things close with both Michigan and Michigan State on the road, thanks to stellar defensive play. Tom Izzo came away impressed with Miles’ squad and said, “I don’t think anybody wants to play them home or away.” Even more impressive, Nebraska held its own against Michigan State without top player Brandon Ubel.
  4. Ohio State has struggled to score this year, and that was very evident at Illinois in a lopsided loss. The Buckeyes have been able to score in transition and have gotten points in the paint at times, but they don’t have consistent shooters. However, the defense was outstanding in their win over Michigan on Sunday and the offense was good enough. Aaron Craft frustrated Trey Burke and the Buckeyes did the same to freshman stars Nick Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III. The Wolverines admitted to noticing the pressure. Considering how inconsistent the offense is, Ohio State’s season outlook could depend on how the defense plays from here on out.
  5. When Wisconsin arrives at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday, Iowa will be facing the Big Ten’s lone undefeated team. That plus the prospect of playing a rival makes the game a good one, but an added emotional dimension will be in play, as well. The Hawkeyes will be honoring the legacy of former player Chris Street, who died in a car accident 20 years ago. Rick Brown of The Des Moines Register has a nice story on Street’s legacy, his family, and the impact he has left on the University of Iowa.
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Big Ten M5: 01.03.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on January 3rd, 2013


  1. Wisconsin guard Ben Brust injured his lower leg during practice on Wednesday but is supposedly “fine” after going through a few tests. Brust is averaging 11.8 PPG and 6.8 RPG as the starting guard while playing a very important role in the Badgers’ offense after the loss of Josh Gasser for the season. The junior guard will be ready to play against Penn State to open conference play on Thursday in Madison. Bo Ryan needs his experience and three-point shooting (42% 3FG) during Big Ten play in order to finish in the top half of the league and win 10 games.
  2. Wolverines’ guard Tim Hardaway Jr. is questionable for Michigan’s conference opener against Northwestern on Thursday. He was on the sidelines with an ankle brace against Central Michigan over the weekend and the UM training staff will not be sure about his status until Thursday’s practice. Hardaway had started 81 games in a row in the maize and blue but his streak was snapped on Saturday. He is averaging 15.8 PPG but has not practiced since last week. The Wildcats will be seeking some revenge after their overtime loss to the Wolverines the last time they met in Evanston during the 2011-12 season.
  3. While John Beilein might miss his best wing on Thursday night, Northwestern’s Bill Carmody will not have his best forward on Thursday either as Reggie Hearn hasn’t practiced since twisting his ankle against Stanford on December 21. Hearn had been averaging 14.5 PPG and 5.5 RPG this season and had clearly stepped up since Drew Crawford was declared out for the season, scoring 18 points in a tough loss to the Cardinal in Evanston. The Wildcats have a very tough schedule ahead – five out of their first six games are against Big Ten teams currently ranked in the top 11 teams of the AP poll. When the head coach was asked about Hearn’s injury, Carmody replied, “Three weeks ago, we had Drew and Reggie and they gave me 30 a game. Who are you going to get it from?” Sophomore guard Dave Sobolewski (11.3 PPG) and Jared Swopshire (8.8 PPG) will need to carry the offensive load while Hearn is out.
  4. Tom Izzo‘s big frontcourt of Derrick Nix, Adreian Payne, and Branden Dawson did not work too well against Minnesota earlier this week as the Spartans lost 76-63 in Minneapolis. Izzo said “Payne did not play very well” because he could not stay out of foul trouble. Nix shot just 5-of-15 from the field in scoring 10 points and appeared to be too “relaxed” in the second half as he missed a couple of easy shots around the basket. The Spartans play the Boilermakers on Saturday which won’t be an easy game especially after Painter’s team beat Illinois at home to open the conference season. A little bit of home-cooking should help Nix and Payne after a rough outing on the road against a Gophers team that at this point looks like a solid candidate to win the Big Ten title.
  5. Speaking of Minnesota, the Gophers made a bold statement in their win against the Spartans. The Star Tribune’s Amelia Rayno outlines the key factors from their big win on New Year’s Eve. Tubby Smith’s squad showed that they are tough by holding Michigan State to just 32 rebounds and dominating the glass, with Trevor Mbakwe leading the charge by pulling down 12 rebounds in just 28 minutes. Depth is a huge asset for Smith but he chose not to use it during the game as Julian Welch only played four minutes. The Barn will be a tough place to win for visiting teams this season but the Gophers need to prove that they can be as effective on the road if they want to compete for a conference title.
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Big Ten M5: 12.26.12 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on December 26th, 2012


  1. It’s been hard to convince anyone who has watched or covered Hawkeye basketball for much of the past decade to jump onto the “Iowa is back” bandwagon just yet, and for good reason; the Hawkeyes have been inconsistent at best. But this year, after an 11-2 start, Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids Gazette is ready to jump on the bandwagon. The Hawkeyes have a very young team and have been inconsistent at times, but they have impressive wins against Iowa State and Northern Iowa, and they’ll be a tough out at home this year. The Big Ten slate starts off against Indiana at home and then with two on the road against Michigan and Michigan State, so it certainly won’t be an easy task to get to March. Still, with a Big Ten slate that is easier than most teams’ schedules in the conference, this may finally be the year Iowa returns to the NCAA Tournament.
  2. Non-conference basketball means cupcake season for the most part, and that has led to criticism of top teams like Indiana that play so many guarantee games in November and December. However, Terry Hutchins of the Indianapolis Star said that the criticism is misguided, because much of the reason for the easy schedule is revenue-driven. The Hoosiers need to make sure that they have 18 to 20 home games per year, and an easy way to do that is to pay teams a fee to come to Assembly Hall for a beatdown. That leads to more home games and more ticket sales, which is what non-conference games are all about. The Hoosiers always go to some early season non-conference tournament, play an ACC/Big Ten Challenge game, and, this year, will have a very difficult Big Ten schedule. Playing a few cupcakes in the first two months of the season certainly isn’t something to get up in arms about.
  3. Minnesota has a history of starting fast in the non-conference season and then slumping at the start of Big Ten play, but this year’s Gophers have put together an impressive resume and look like the real deal. The Minneapolis Star Tribune recently handed out a report card on Minnesota’s non-conference schedule, and a lot of the focus is on Trevor Mbakwe, a player who is starting to look like he did before last year’s ACL injury. He is gaining strength and could potentially re-enter the starting lineup which already features stars Andre Hollins and Rodney Williams. The Gophers have so much depth that this certainly looks like Tubby Smith’s best team yet in Minnesota. Now, with conference play about to start, we’ll get some more answers about a team that has a lot of potential but still also some unknowns.
  4. When eight-year-old Mackenzie Kelley found out that her favorite player, Penn State star Tim Frazier, might not be able to play next year if he isn’t granted a medical hardship waiver, she decided to take the matter up with Santa by asking him to put a good word in with the NCAA. Kelley is a diehard Penn State fan and has met Frazier a couple of times. After she met him initially at a preseason event, she met him again and was excited to find out that “out of all the people he meets he remembered me.” Frazier got a hold of the letter and thanked Mackenzie on Facebook; luckily for Mackenzie — and Frazier — the injury happened early enough in the season that Frazier should be back on the court next year, a gift from old St. Nick indeed.
  5. Derrick Nix has been asked to take on more of a leadership role for Michigan State this year after the departure of Draymond Green, and he’s still improving, as exhibited by a career high 25 points to go along with 11 rebounds in a win on Saturday against Texas. However, the area in which Nix has improved the most isn’t something you would expect from a man his size — free throws. Nix was a bad free throw shooter when he first got to MSU, but endless hours of practice has helped him become much better, improving from a 27 percent free throw shooter as a freshman to a 70 percent free throw shooter this season. Nix said that coach Tom Izzo would rather he was moving around more before practice, but he’s always at the free throw line practicing his shot, and it’s paid off for the Spartans in the long run.
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Big Ten M5: 12.05.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on December 5th, 2012

  1. Entering this season, there hardly seemed a more unlikely candidate to be a Michigan State captain than Derrick Nix, who had a somewhat eventful offseason. The senior center, who had gradually slimmed down since he arrived on campus, was arrested on drug charges in early April and was suspended indefinitely. But the past is behind him and now he’s focusing on leading his team, something he admits has been harder than he anticipated while balancing it with his own personal performance. “It is hard,” Nix told Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press. “I’m just trying to stay level-headed and stay positive.”
  2. Patrick Chambers has changed the relationship between Penn State basketball and in-state recruits for the better, StateCollege.com‘s Ben Jones writes. For years, Philadelphia products were assumed to be heading to either Villanova or Temple, but Chambers — who played at Philadelphia University and was later an associate head coach under VU’s Jay Wright — has the right ties to the area to potentially bring some of those top players to State College. It’s no easy task but with the Big Ten’s further expansion east into the big Atlantic seaboard markets, Philadelphia recruits in particular may not be as hesitant to consider the league’s schools as another viable destination.
  3. Nebraska coach Tim Miles secured a commitment this week from an international player who may be able to soon help the Cornhuskers on the local front. Miles shored up his fall recruiting class with New Zealand native Tai Webster — a four-star recruit, according to ESPN — who averaged 13.5 PPG in the 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament while playing for his country’s national team. He will join Nick Fuller and Nathan Hawkins in the class. “I’m excited to have Tai join us,” Miles said, according to the Omaha World Herald. “He is an excellent player who will thrive in our style of play and has high-level international playing experience which will help him acclimate to basketball in the U.S.”
  4. Sharing is caring for Minnesota, which has burst onto the national scene this fall with an impressive start to a season filled with promise. The Gophers have had a variety of leading scorers over their first 10 games of the year, a balance that could provide Minnesota with its first starting five to average in double figures since way back in the 1965-66 season. “This is definitely the most balanced team that we’ve had since I’ve been here,” senior Rodney Williams said. “You never know who it’s going to be on any given night.” It is that balance that could allow the Gophers to aspire to greater things even if forward Trevor Mbakwe never quite recaptures his dominance from before his injury.
  5. There is something that’s worked at home for Iowa this season that has resulted in some dominating performances at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. But if coach Fran McCaffery has figured out that magic formula, he’s not quite ready to share it. McCaffery continues to keep his lineup under lock and key in the early going, tinkering with things in advance of the Big Ten season. It’s a good problem for a coach to have — to be able to mix and match to create match-up problems or to better fit your opponents — and the Hawkeyes have been able to utilize experience, youth, size and speed at different points this season.
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Big Ten M5: 11.30.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 30th, 2012

  1. Tubby Smith’s Gophers are rolling and have shown great depth but Trevor Mbakwe’s playing time has been limited. Gopher fans might wonder why Mbakwe isn’t starting but Smith is trying to shape the other players’ roles as Mbakwe returns to 100% game shape. Elliott Eliason has earned his spot at the forward position during Mbakwe’s recovery and plays a bruising style of basketball that Smith appreciates. Mbakwe will eventually return to the starting lineup and his athleticism will certainly improve the Gophers, but Eliason provides a different type of game that can complement Mbakwe”s skill set. Eliason pulled down 10 rebounds against a tough Florida State squad on Tuesday night and showed why he can add value. Regardless of when Mbakwe returns to the starting lineup, Eliason’s development will only help Minnesota as they appear to be one of the top five teams in the B1G this season.
  2. Tom Izzo prefers to play a traditional lineup with a center and a power forward rather than four guards and a center. He has played Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne together for most of the Spartans’ games this season but he might move away from that lineup soon. Nix has great post moves and Payne can run the floor with the best of them; together, they can cause unique match-up problems to opposing teams but it could also lead to spacing issues on the floor with both of them cloggin the lane inside. Nix and Payne struggled on the road against Miami earlier this week and Izzo might try to experiment by playing four guards on the court at the same time to mix things up over the next few games.
  3. Is there a “Free Laquinton Ross” movement waiting to happen? Ohio State played an excellent game for 34 minutes on the road against Duke on Wednesday night but fans might be wondering when the sophomore wing will get more playing time. Ross only played 11 minutes but scored nine points against the Blue Devils while another sophomore wing, Sam Thompson, played 25 minutes. Thompson is a bit more mature on the defensive end but Ross can put up points quickly if given a chance. If Ross improves defensively, Matta might give him more minutes but it is only a matter of time before he has a big impact on games. The Duke game proved that the Buckeyes will be a very competitive team throughout the season in large part due to their depth at the wing position.
  4. Speaking of players who have been let loose this season, Illinois’ Tyler Griffey looks like a brand new player in Champaign. Griffey is not a traditional forward who likes to play in the paint but he has a great jumpshot and the new coaching staff has convinced him to pull the trigger from beyond the arc whenever he wants this season. Griffey has been shooting a whopping 56% from beyond the arc thus far and he hit the game winning shot against Gardner-Webb at home last Sunday afternoon. He will continue to play a significant role in the Illini resurgence as head coach Johen Groce’s offense relies on players who can consistently shoot the ball from anywhere on the floor.
  5. Michigan’s Trey Burke could have entered last year’s NBA Draft and probably would have been picked in the first round but he decided to come back for another season in Ann Arbor to lead his team to a Final Four. After a hot start during the first two weeks of the season, he is quickly rising up the NBA Draft boards as one of the best point guards eligible for next year’s draft. Burke has been shooting 48% from the field but his assists have gone up from 4.5 to 7.6 APG as well this year. The sophomore has adapted very well to playing as a true point guard and it should continue to bolster his position on the draft boards especially if Michigan makes a deep run in March.
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