Big Ten Tournament: Iowa’s Freefall Continues

Posted by Walker Carey on March 14th, 2014

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Thursday evening’s Big Ten Tournament action between Northwestern and Iowa in Indianapolis. 

On February 15, Iowa earned a 12-point victory at Penn State to get to 19-6 overall and 8-4 in the Big Ten standings. It was around that time that the prevailing opinion became that the Big Ten was going to come down to a three-team race between Fran McCaffery’s Hawkeyes, Michigan, and Michigan State. Sure, Iowa’s defense had given up a lot of points all season, but Hawkeyes guard Devyn Marble and forward Aaron White had emerged as one of the best scoring duos in the country. The Hawkeyes also had rightfully earned a reputation as one of the deepest teams in the country, as they were playing 10 or 11 players every night and experiencing a great deal of success with that robust rotation.

It Was That Kind of Night for Iowa. Again. (AP)

It Was That Kind of Night for Iowa. Again. (AP)

Fast forward nearly a month and Iowa’s current position represents a nearly complete reversal of fortunes. The Hawkeyes closed out their regular season Big Ten slate by dropping five of six. They went from a ranking of #15 in the AP poll to receiving just four votes in the final regular season poll. An already shaky defense became an even more significant problem, as in those five losses, the opposition averaged 83.8 points per game. Losses at Minnesota and at Indiana highlighted just how poorly the Hawkeyes were playing on the defensive end of the court, as they allowed Minnesota to score 95 points and shoot 61.2 percent from the field, and Indiana to score 93 points and shoot 51.7 percent from the field.

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Two Key Questions as Michigan State Visits Iowa Tonight

Posted by Jonathan Batuello and Deepak Jayanti on January 28th, 2014

Michigan State took its first conference loss as it tries to overcome numerous key injuries. Iowa has proven it is one of the best teams in the Big Ten. Now the second and third place teams in the conference are set to square off this evening in Iowa City. Two of our Big Ten writers – Deepak Jayanti and Jonathan Batuello – address a couple of key questions heading into the battle for second place in the Big Ten standings.

Devyn Marble

Devyn Marble Looks to Lead the Hawkeyes to Second Place in the Big Ten

With Branden Dawson out and Adreian Payne’s status still uncertain, how does Michigan State limit the Hawkeyes’ rebounding – where it averages 10 more a game than its opponents – and their inside play?

DJ: They can’t limit Iowa’s rebounding without Payne and Dawson in the lineup. Even with one of those two forwards, they’d have to put up a fight to contain the multiple big men that Fran McCaffery uses in the paint. Aaron White, Gabrial Olaseni and Melsahn Basabe are not only good rebounders, but they are also very nimble around the paint – they move very well for their size. It is unfortunate that we can’t see the Spartans’ bigs battle this Iowa front line because the Hawkeyes’ depth keeps their less talented big men fresh. And I am not even including Adam Woodbury, a seven-footer, in this discussion. The best case scenario for the Spartans tonight is to limit the Hawkeyes’ offensive boards to five; otherwise, it will be very tough for them to give up too many easy baskets and still outscore the Hawkeyes on the other end. Expect to see Denzel Valentine play over 30 minutes because his directive would be to hit the defensive glass on every possession to make up for the absence of Dawson.

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Two Questions About Michigan vs. Iowa This Evening

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) & Jonathan Batuello on January 22nd, 2014

Nik Stauskas’ pull-up jumper to stun Wisconsin on the road has raised eyebrows around the Big Ten because it appears that Michigan has figured out how to play without Mitch McGary in the lineup. Iowa, on the other hand, doesn’t have any injury issues of its own and appears to be one of the best teams in the country. Two of our Big Ten writers – Deepak Jayanti and Jonathan Batuello – address a couple of key questions heading into Wednesday night’s big game in Ann Arbor.

Both and Nik have been awfully impressive to start the season. These two meet up tonight in Ann Ar

Both Devyn Marble and Nik Stauskas have been awfully impressive to start the season. These two meet up this evening in Ann Arbor.

Both Devyn Marble and Nik Stauskas have been scorching hot from the field lately. Do you expect them to continue their hot shooting in this game, or is there any way one of them and their teams can be slowed down by the opposing defense?

JB:  It isn’t just recently these two have been shooting and scoring well. Both have been the stars for their teams all season and have put themselves squarely in the Big Ten Player of the Year conversation. Granted, their play in the conference season has been particularly superb — in the past two games alone, Stauskas has scored 44 points and Marble 38 of his own. It seems safe to say they both will continue their strong play tonight as it is doubtful the other team can slow them down (Iowa and Michigan are both significantly better offensive teams than defensive ones). The only way they won’t be scoring much is if either team moves its offensive game plan away from them, an unlikely scenario.

DJ: I don’t disagree that both Marble and Stauskas have been carrying the offensive burden from day one, but I’d be a bit concerned if the former falls in love with his three-pointer. Shooting 37 percent from beyond the arc is impressive, but his strength is really his ability to get to the basket. Sometimes when a player is hot from long range, he develops a false confidence that will backfire against tougher competition, especially in games on the road. If Marble attempts more than five three-pointers, that’s cause for concern because instead of going inside-out with his offensive game, he’ll waste possessions without forcing Jordan Morgan or Jon Horford to defend him in the paint. On the other hand, it is equally likely that Stauskas could go cold from the field, but he has shown some maturity during this season in that he’s willing to beat defenders off the dribble when his shot isn’t dropping. He was excellent in pulling up from the mid-range off of picks against Wisconsin over the weekend, so he has proved that he can find a different scoring angle if his three-point jumper isn’t falling.

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Takeaways from Wisconsin’s Win Over Iowa

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on January 6th, 2014

With sub-zero temperatures dominating Sunday across the Midwest, the Wisconsin vs. Iowa match-up in Madison had the intensity of a cold-weather bruiser football game. Previous to Sunday night’s game, the average margin of victory over the past five meetings between these two teams was 3.8 PPG. Last season’s double-overtime thriller at Wisconsin is one such example, and this year’s thrilling 75-71 Badgers win was must-see television throughout. It was a tale of two halves for Bo Ryan’s team because the Badgers were dominated for the first half, entering the locker room facing a 35-24 deficit. But as national title contenders tend to do, Wisconsin buckled down defensively in the second half and pulled off the big win to stay unbeaten. Let’s example the positives and negatives of the Badgers’ performance yesterday.

Bo Ryan's Badgers showed that they can beat tough teams despite their weaknesses.

Bo Ryan’s Badgers showed that they can beat tough teams despite their weaknesses.

  1. Wisconsin’s lack of interior presence was exposed by Iowa. Frank Kaminsky (6.0 RPG) and Sam Dekker (6.4 RPG) had no answer for Iowa’s Melsahn Basabe and Aaron White in the first half as they were outrebounded 27-16 on the glass. Rebounding and toughness in the paint is a concern for these Badgers because they don’t have a designated forward whose job is simply to defend and clean up the glass. Jared Berggren was that player over the past two seasons, but Kaminsky can’t fill those shoes because, despite what he adds with his offensive versatility, he gives it back in terms of rebounding. With Mike Gesell and Devyn Marble consistently attacking the basket, the Badgers couldn’t control the weak side, and as a result, Iowa’s front line was able to feast on easy baskets. This will continue to be a concern for Bo Ryan when the Badgers face stronger front lines such as those at Michigan State and Indiana. At this juncture, there is no good solution for the problem except to ask the guards to play tougher perimeter defense to ensure their men don’t beat them off the dribble. Players who can beat Josh Gasser or Ben Brust off the bounce have an open lane to score easy baskets because Kaminsky is not a dominant defensive force inside. Read the rest of this entry »
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Three Takeaways From Iowa’s Performance at the Battle 4 Atlantis

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on December 3rd, 2013

After three consecutive days of basketball at the Battle 4 Atlantis, we can now take a step back and summarize some takeaways from the tournament that was held in a hotel convention center. Freshman phenom Andrew Wiggins was supposed to steal the show during the tournament, but Kansas’ loss to Villanova moved the spotlight on to some of the other teams. Villanova’s resurgence will be well-documented over the next few days, but Iowa‘s subtle improvements on exhibit there also deserve attention. The following are three takeaways from the Hawkeyes’ performance in the Bahamas over the weekend:

McCaffery's Hawkeyes had a great weekend in the Bahamas. (AP/C. Neibergall)

McCaffery’s Hawkeyes had a great weekend in the Bahamas. (AP/C. Neibergall)

  • Devyn Marble appears to have improved his jumper. Sorta. As a junior, Marble’s jumper wasn’t horrible, but it also wasn’t very consistent from beyond the arc (33 percent from three). He relied heavily on cuts to the basket that were taken away by opposing defenses during the second half of the Big Ten season, but his offensive game appears to be more diverse this year. Still, he only shot 33 percent (6-of-18) from three-point land at this tournament. He was 4-of-10 against Xavier, but most of those misses came in the second half when he was dealing with leg cramps. The difference is that there were a few possessions in transition when he pulled up for a shot instead taking it all the way to the basket. This new angle to add the mid-range to his game will help keep defenses honest going forward. Read the rest of this entry »
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What Does Iowa Need to do in the Big Ten Tournament?

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 13th, 2013

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

Nowadays, everybody is a bracketologist and the potential list of 68 teams changes every five minutes even if there aren’t any games going on. Just because predictions are everywhere doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be because that is one of the best aspects of conference tournament weekend. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi’s bracket as of mid-day on March 13 has seven Big Ten teams as locks in the NCAA Tournament and the eighth team is Iowa. The Hawkeyes are in the final eight left out of the field but they control their own destiny in Chicago this weekend because if they win two games in the Big Ten Tournament including a victory over Michigan State, their stock should clearly be on the rise by Selection Sunday.

Devyn Marble (middle) will need to dominate in the Big Ten tournament in order to secure a bid to the NCAA tournament.

Devyn Marble (middle) will need to dominate in the Big Ten tournament in order to secure a bid to the NCAA tournament.

At the risk of looking ahead to the second day of the tournament, Iowa first needs to beat Northwestern on Thursday. The Wildcats have had trouble scoring against the Hawkeyes, as they scored just 50 and 51 points respectively in their games during the season. Without Drew Crawford and Jarod Swopshire in the lineup, the Wildcats don’t pose any real threat offensively, so unless Devyn Marble and his teammates come out sluggish, they should be able to win the game. It is unlikely that Fran McCaffery will tolerate a slow start in the first game of the event considering the stakes. Assuming that his team can get past Northwestern, Iowa is somewhat lucky because they play in the bottom half of the bracket because the bye teams — Ohio State and Michigan State — can be beaten with a tendency by each to sometimes slump offensively.

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Big Ten M5: 02.11.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on February 11th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo seems to be just fine with Michigan and Indiana hogging all of the attention at the national stage. The Spartans are 9-2 in the Big Ten and may arguably be the most underrated top 10 team in the country right now. Izzo, however, is not getting carried away as the Spartans await the Wolverines on Tuesday night in East Lansing. ”I know our deficiencies, and I think they know their deficiencies,” Izzo said after the Spartans dominated Purdue in a 78-65 victory on Saturday night. The Spartans’ main concern at this juncture of the season may be the health of Gary Harris and Travis Trice. Harris had some issues with his back against Minnesota but will need to be healthy down the stretch if the Spartans were to win the Big Ten title.
  2. Devyn Marble‘s slump has been heavily scrutinized over the past couple of weeks. He didn’t play any role in Iowa’s close losses to Minnesota and Wisconsin but Marble has made it clear that he will do whatever it takes to dig himself out of the slump. “Everybody’s thinking I’m about to die or something,” Marble said. “It’s just one of those situations. I’ve had a rough month. I’m just trying to look at the positive end of it and just get back on track.” Marble scored 21 points as the Hawkeyes beat Northwestern 71-57 over the weekend and such a game should help his confidence during the homestretch of the season.
  3.  In case you missed it, the Wisconsin Badgers stunned the Michigan Wolverines on Saturday in Madison. Badgers guard Ben Brust heaved a shot from the half court which tied the game to force it into overtime. NBA players who have attempted to make Brust’s shot succeeded only 3% of the time, but most might just consider the last minute shot “near-impossible.” Brust also hit a clutch shot from beyond the arc to give the Badgers a three-point lead in overtime. Saturday’s win against a top-5 team may put the Badgers back into the top-25 polls on Monday.
  4. More on the thriller in Madison, Michigan head coach John Beilein has caught some criticism regarding his decision not to foul Ben Brust which would have prevented the game from going into overtime. Beilein said that the players were asked to foul immediately. but did not execute his instructions, which led to Brust’s game tying shot. Brust was guarded by freshman guard Caris Lavert who had his hand up to defend the shot very well, but luck just wasn’t on the Wolverines’ side in Madison.
  5. Victor Oladipo may be their most valuable player for the Hoosiers because of his defense and energy on both ends of the floor. After the win over the Wolverines a week ago and a road win against the Buckeyes in the Columbus, Oladipo is gaining recognition for the national player of the year honors. CBS broadcaster and Big Ten legend, Clark Kelogg said, “Victor Oladipo is like a baby’s bottom, smooth and sometimes explosive.” Oladipo is enjoying the national attention but has made it clear that his main goal is to win the national title before leaves Bloomington.
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Late Game Struggles Continue to Haunt Iowa

Posted by KTrahan on February 8th, 2013

With 20 seconds left in regulation of Wednesday night’s Iowa-Wisconsin game, Traevon Jackson’s three-pointer bounced off the rim, then the backboard, then fell into the hoop to tie the game up. Josh Ogelsby’s three-pointer just before the buzzer looked good, but then rimmed out. Thus has been the story of Iowa’s season so far, as the Hawkeyes went on to lose 74-70 in double overtime. Iowa certainly has a squad that looked capable of making the NCAA Tournament this year, but the script in every chance to get a marquee win has been the same — a blown late lead and a heartbreaking loss. The Hawkeyes have blown late leads to Indiana, Michigan State, Purdue, Minnesota and now Wisconsin. The only late leads that they’ve held onto against marquee opponents have come against Wisconsin (in the previous meeting this season) and Iowa State. Jon Rothstein and Ken Pomeroy both sympathized with Iowa fans after the loss:

Fake Fran McCaffery was clearly frustrated, as well (great Twitter follow, by the way):

Apparently it was possible to get closer to the hump without going over it. Dammit.

— Fran’s Red Face (@FransRedFace) February 7, 2013

It’s tough to know what to make of all of Iowa’s late-game collapses. The Hawkeyes have clearly had trouble figuring out how to play with a lead at the end of games — they nearly even blew the home lead to Wisconsin. It’s almost as if Iowa goes into prevent defense, to use a football term. And, as the saying goes, the only thing prevent defense does is prevent you from winning the game. The Hawkeyes try to avoid fouling and get very conservative, which allows the other team to get back into the game. Since Iowa isn’t a great shooting team, it’s tough for the Hawkeyes to make the last shot at the end of games.

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Devyn Marble Controls Iowa’s Chances of Making the NCAA Tournament

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on February 6th, 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.

We are approaching that time of the year when almost every conversation about college hoops will involve the word “bubble.” Every game means that much more for teams that are not a lock for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Iowa Hawkeyes are squarely on the bubble at this point and badly need quality wins against ranked opponents. Losers of two out of their last three games heading into last Sunday’s match-up against the Minnesota Gophers, the Hawkeyes let one slip away in Minneapolis. The Gophers’ Austin Hollins drilled a shot from beyond the arc as he came off a screen with 11 seconds left to put his team up by one, and then followed his shot with clutch defense on the other end as he forced Mike Gesell to turn the ball over. Except for home wins over Wisconsin and perhaps rival Iowa State, Iowa doesn’t have many other quality wins. They had their chances against Michigan State and the Gophers, and either win would have been a huge boost to their resume. We knew that they were a young team starting three freshmen but the key to an NCAA Tournament bid this year will be held by junior Devyn Marble. The seasoned wing has been out of rhythm offensively over the past two weeks, unable to deliver against formidable completion when his team has most needed a spark.

Devyn Marble (middle) has been very inconsistent offensively over the past two weeks.

Devyn Marble (middle) has been very inconsistent offensively over the past two weeks.

The 6’6″ wing has averaged just 7.0 PPG during the last four games (down from 13.6 PPG on the season), which is not enough if the Hawkeyes want to keep their bubble hopes alive. He wasn’t comfortable at all against the Gophers’ full-court press on Sunday, as he was held scoreless in addition to committing three turnovers. McCaffery kept him on the bench for most of the second half as his teammates Gesell (11 points) and Aaron White (10 points) built a small lead heading into the final minutes. But one of Marble’s miscues came at the worst possible time — during the last minute of play, he threw the ball over Gesell’s head because Hollins stopped him from going left into the paint. That single play is very indicative of Marble’s recent struggles because opposing defenders have been able to scout his tendencies and know his comfort zones. A gifted athlete nevertheless, Marble is comfortable breaking his man down in isolation but defenders have learned to cheat back so as to force him to pull up for a jumper off the dribble. For a right-handed player, going to the left after crossing the ball over and pulling up for an off-balance shot is a shot that most professionals, much less a player like Marble, don’t make consistently.

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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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Big Ten M5: 01.09.13 Edition

Posted by jnowak on January 9th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. Here’s something we don’t see coming out of Wisconsin very often: a player going too fast. The Badgers, known to slow the pace and get the most out of each and every shot clock, have a player in Ben Brust, who sometimes finds himself speeding things up a little bit. “There are times when you’re on the interstate, so to speak, and there are times when you’re in a residential neighborhood and you have to know when you can go faster,” associate head coach Greg Gard said of Brust, who has a 3.0 assist-to-turnover ratio, but can sometimes get into trouble when he dribbles into traffic. “Time and score of the game. Flow of game. Do we need a basket? Are we on a run? When is the time to slow things down and get a high-quality possession or make the other team guard? All those things come into play. He’s getting better and better at it.”
  2. Want an easy — and sometimes early — indicator for how Indiana might do on any given night? Watch Christian Watford. The Indiana Daily Student points out that any time Watford is a key contributor, the Hoosiers have rolled. To be more concise, Indiana’s 23-point win against Penn State this week was its smallest of the season in games in which Watford scored 15 points or more. Each of those previous wins were by at least 31 points. Watford has always been somewhat of an enigma, and an “as he goes, the team goes” type of player. So the Hoosiers would do well to get him involved early and often the rest of the way.
  3. Iowa got smoked when it traveled to Ann Arbor to take on No. 2 Michigan last week. So what is coach Fran McCaffery considering doing to remedy the problem? Possibly keeping arguably his two best players — Aaron White and Devyn Marble — off the floor. McCaffery told the Iowa Gazette he is considering changing some things with his rotation, pointing to the two aforementioned players as culprits in a Hawkeyes’ struggling defense that surrendered 95 points in each of its two true road games this year. Michigan State comes to town on Thursday, and is just the No. 7 scoring offense in the conference (71.1 PPG), but a big scoring output from the Spartans coupled with Michigan State’s typically-stingy defense could be a recipe for an 0-3 start to begin Iowa’s Big Ten campaign.
  4. One thing college basketball pundits love to debate is the importance of a loss over the course of the season — whether an undefeated team needs to lose at some point, or a team on the roll might want a wake-up call before the NCAA Tournament. Michigan, of course, has not lost a game this season, but with the Big Ten shaping up the way it has, they are almost assured to do so. And what happens then? AnnArbor.com‘s Nick Baumgardner explores that idea in this column, pointing out that Michigan has led in nearly 93 percent of the minutes of action of its contests this season and has not faced a great deal of adversity. This team is young — it relies on freshmen for scoring and as fantastic as he’s been this season, Trey Burke is only a sophomore — and when a problem hits, John Beilein might just welcome it at this point.
  5. We have posed this very question on this site a number of times since the season started, and the Big Ten Geeks would like to know the same thing — is Ohio State good? As we have mentioned, and as the NCAA-released RPI showed this week, the Buckeyes don’t have a real quality win this season (although they looked better at Purdue last night, certainly). The Big Ten Geeks point out that a strong second scoring option behind Deshaun Thomas hasn’t presented itself at this point and the Buckeyes will need that to contend in the Big Ten. They make a number of other interesting points about the rest of the conference as well. Be sure to check it out.
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Big Ten M5: 01.04.13 Edition

Posted by jnowak on January 4th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. Without a doubt, the biggest upset of the early Big Ten season was when scuffling Purdue rose to the occasion and knocked off Illinois in West Lafayette this week. As NBCSports.com‘s Rob Dauster points out, the Boilermakers were able to do so by controlling Brandon Paul — with ball-screen defense, switching and the individual defense of Terone Johnson, who probably turned in the best all-around performance of his career. Illinois goes as Paul goes, but the nearly-3o-minute stretch of play during the game during which Purdue held Paul scoreless was certainly the difference-maker in this one. Will other teams in the conference be able to duplicate such an effort?
  2. Iowa put up a good fight against Indiana in its conference opener earlier this week, and it was essentially all without a contribution from Devyn Marble. The junior guard missed 13 of the 14 shots he took in the game — a four-point loss for the Hawkeyes — but Scott Dochterman says it hasn’t affected Marble’s confidence moving forward. “It was frustrating, but I’m not going to let it affect my game or depict what I’m going to do next,” he said. “On the final play, as you saw, I kept shooting.” Granted, Marble has been more up than down this season, turning in a 30-point effort against Northern Iowa and a 27-point game against South Carolina State. Considering what lies ahead this season, he and the Hawkeyes will need all the confidence they can muster.
  3. We know the Big Ten is the toughest conference in the country this season (see: previously-embarrassing Purdue knocking off previously-unbeaten Illinois this week), but what will it take to win the league? In previous years, the Big Ten regular season champion has finished with anywhere from two to five losses (Ohio State won it two years ago with two losses, while Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State all tied for first last year each with five losses). USA Today‘s Eric Prisbell and Nicole Auerbach agree that five losses sounds about right for a conference champion again this season, and any team that emerges from the Big Ten with three losses is a certain national title contender. What do you think? How many losses can Big Ten teams afford to have and still have a shot at the conference championship?
  4. Minnesota has just one loss this season, is ranked in the top 10, has a slew of signature victories already — including a rare win against Michigan State to open the Big Ten slate — but could the Gophers still be flying under the radar? The Star Tribune‘s Amelia Rayno reports that some national pundits (namely Jay Bilas of ESPN) believe Minnesota is still underrated. “I think the Gophers have plenty more to prove before they can be introduced to that level of respect, but right now, they’re doing all the right things,” Rayno writes in response. “There’s no need to talk about the Gophers being underrated right now. Perhaps they were at the beginning of the year, but now, they’re gaining more respect week after week.” What do you think?
  5. Quick: Who is Indiana’s most valuable player? The easy answer, of course, is preseason National Player of the Year sophomore center Cody Zeller. But midway through the season, could another candidate have emerged for the Hoosiers, who remain that same title contender? ESPN‘s Andy Katz points to Victor Oladipo as somewhat of a surprise — surely, we’ve known he was important to the Hoosiers, but perhaps not this important — and calls Oladipo a “game-changer” who makes winning plays. It’s been perplexing for much of Zeller’s career that he hardly ever seems to be the go-to guy down the stretch, which is precisely a trait that Oladipo possesses.
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