Five Big Ten Players Who Need to Increase Their Production

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 16th, 2013

Late last week we took a look at seven Big Ten players who have put forth surprising performances over the first month of the season, so now it’s time to check in on five more Big Ten players who need to start playing up to the expectations they were afforded in the preseason. These five players were candidates for preseason accolades by various pundits, but none has played all that well to this point. If their respective teams want to enjoy deep NCAA Tournament runs in March, they will need to contribute at a much higher level than they have so far. Luckily, there’s still plenty of time to turn things around. It’s only mid-December.

Gary Harris needs to get healthy and start producing if Michigan State wants to get to a Final Four.

Gary Harris needs to get healthy and start producing if Michigan State wants to get to the  Final Four.

  • Glenn Robinson III, Michigan (13.0 PPG, 9.3 FGA, 32.4% 3FG, 3.9 FTA). Many thought that Robinson would have a breakout 2013-14 campaign, but Michigan’s close home loss to #1 Arizona on Saturday was the first time all season he looked like he might — 20 points and four rebounds on 8-of-9 shooting. For the most part, he has spent way too many possessions standing still on the perimeter instead of looking to attack the basket. Saturday’s game might be a start, but Michigan as a whole seems to still be figuring things out with the departures of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr., but they need Robinson to play like a star if they want to come close to duplicating last year’s success.
  • Will Sheehey, Indiana (10.2 PPG, 1.7 APG, 21.4% 3FG). To his credit, Sheehey has been really good defensively this year. For example, he absolutely locked down spectacular shooter Travis Bader last Tuesday in the Hoosiers’ win over Oakland. Where he needs to get his mojo back is on the other end of the floor. It was expected by many analysts that Sheehey would be able to pick up a good deal of the scoring slack. And although he put together his best offensive game of the season over the weekend with 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting, he’s having a horrible season putting the ball in the hole. On many possessions he seems to end with either a missed easy layup or a blocked shot. His shooting percentage has dropped nearly four percent and the career mid-30 percent three-point shooter is nowhere near that mark this season. If Sheehey can improve his scoring average by three or four points per game on good shooting in league play,  Indiana will be in much better shape come March.

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It’s Time to Discuss If Michigan Was Overrated Coming Into the Season

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on November 29th, 2013

One game doesn’t prove anything is drastically wrong with a team, but after Michigan‘s 63-61 loss to Charlotte last weekend, the preseason top 10 team’s struggles have already raised some eyebrows. The Wolverines now sit at 4-2, which could have very easily been 3-3 given its comeback overtime win over Florida State in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, but the loss certainly exposed plenty of issues across the board against an inferior opponent (Pomeroy had the 49ers rated 196th coming into the game). Michigan was outrebounded, it only had eight assists, and shot only 30 percent from the field and 22 percent from three-point range in the loss. The two players who everyone expected to lead this team were dismal, with Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary combining for 10 points. Robinson was particularly rough, failing to connect on any shot in his nine minutes of playing time. Nik Stauskas continued his season-long strong play with 20 points, but Zak Irvin’s 3-of-14 effort offset anything Stauskas was able to do.

Glenn Robinson III has struggled out the gate for Michigan. (US Presswire)

Glenn Robinson III has struggled out the gate for Michigan. (US Presswire)

So the real question is to wonder how much is this cause for concern for a team most analysts had picked to be second or third in the Big Ten? Does the Charlotte loss represent just one really bad night or was Michigan overrated as a top-10 team after losing two NBA draft picks and the reigning Player of the Year in Trey Burke? The easy answer is yes to both questions. Michigan likely had a really bad collective night to cause the loss, but the Wolverines haven’t really shown yet this season that it deserved to be so highly touted. Read the rest of this entry »

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Otskey’s Observations: Episode II

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on November 20th, 2013

Is there anyone out there who still thinks Marcus Smart made a poor decision in returning to Oklahoma State for his sophomore season? Smart is the star player on a team capable of making the Final Four and showed last night that he’s taking his commitment to improve all aspects of his game seriously. Remember, Smart was just a 40 percent shooter overall last season and an anemic 29 percent from three-point land. His talent is obvious but fine-tuning those skills are imperative if he wants to be successful at the next level of basketball. Consider last night’s 39-point performance against an overwhelmed Memphis squad a terrific start. Smart and his Cowboys blitzed the Tigers from the opening tip while the OSU guard enjoyed perhaps the hottest 10-minute stretch of basketball I have ever seen. Smart still has to prove he can hit jumpers with regularity and work on making better decisions, but he made significant progress last night, despite some ill-advised, quick shots and a couple of poor passes. Don’t forget about him: College basketball is not just all about Wiggins, Parker and Randle.

Marcus Smart was terrific against Memphis last night.  (AP Photo).

Marcus Smart was terrific against Memphis last night. (AP Photo).

It was interesting to note that John Beilein benched freshman point guard Derrick Walton Jr. down the stretch of Michigan’s 77-70 loss at Iowa State on Sunday. Instead, Beilein went with sophomore Spike Albrecht at the point as the Cyclones managed to pull away and pick up a big win. Beilein is a highly-regarded coach but this was a questionable decision. In a November game in a tough environment, I’d prefer to see the freshman in there to get that experience, good or bad. Nobody is going to be Trey Burke so what’s the harm of seeing what your young point man can do in a pressure spot? Yes, Albrecht is still young too but Walton Jr. seems like the point guard of the future for the Wolverines. I don’t think this decision cost Michigan the game but it was something I noticed immediately. Beilein should have let it ride with his promising freshman in that situation.

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