Big Ten M5: 03.06.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on March 6th, 2014

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  1. The recent skid for Michigan State has plenty of people questioning if this team is still a top contender. First it was the defense, as the Spartans need to switch on screens without Branden Dawson was causing issues. With his return, though, a loss at Illinois still happened. That prompted the players to air their frustrations with each other in a “players-only” meeting this week. The interesting aspects are that the Spartans were blaming each other, showing a team divided instead of coming together. This late in the season that is never how a team wants to be interacting and playing. Tonight at home against Iowa provides a good chance to see if the issues really were put to bed or if what Tom Izzo calls “the biggest joke in athletics” is just that and the Spartans continue to struggle.
  2. It shouldn’t be news to anyone how big of a week is coming up for Nebraska. It certainly is known to head coach Tim Miles as he admitted he has been checking projections and RPI rankings the past three weeks as his team has began flirting with the bubble. Every game is important for the Cornhuskers right now as they need every possible win to get into the tournament. It certainly would help if they could push themselves up to fourth in the Big Ten as well. Miles may believe they are a tournament team, and now is the chance for them to prove it. Do that and they will have surprised everyone in the country by not just playing in March, but playing in the main event.
  3. Indiana‘s Will Sheehey won’t be a player that sits at the top of the Hoosier record books. Still, he did plenty for the program as he played his final home game last night against Nebraska. Sheehey hit the 1,000-point mark, but the biggest thing he will be remembered for is coming into the program along with Victor Oladipo and helping change the culture. He is a 4-year player that helped lead the transformation from desolation to its first Sweet 16 appearance in a decade (he hit the winning shot against VCU in 2012 to reach it). He helped set a work ethic for the change, and while his last campaign has had road bumps, Sheehey’s legacy will be part of leading the revival.
  4. Penn State has strong guard play this season, that’s no question, but its future may be in the frontcourt. Lately, Pat Chambers has been playing his big men together on the court in Jordan Dickerson and Donovon Jack. Chambers says he plans to use the line-up for the remainder of the season but it struggles with staying on the court due to endurance and match-up issues. It is still one we will likely see in the future and it will be quite the change from a guard-oriented team to one that pounds the ball down low.
  5. We always like to discuss players and All-American status. For coaches it is typically limited to individual conference coaches of the year and the overall national one. Well, Bleacher Report’s Jason King decided to expand his list and he has two Big Ten coaches on his “King’s Court Coaches All-American Team.” Michigan’s John Beilein made the second team and Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan made the third team. He also gave Tim Miles of Nebraska the “most-underrated” award. It’s tough to argue about the Big Ten coach positions, though Beilein could likely make a case for being on the First-Team after losing Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and then Mitch McGary midseason yet still winning an outright Big Ten title. Miles being omitted but listed as the “most underrated” also seems deserving and the right spot. Tom Izzo could make a case for an addition dealing with all the injuries, but for the most part, the Big Ten was represented accurately. This could also be seen as another nod for Beilein as the Big Ten Coach of the Year, which most have him or Miles winning it.
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Anatomy of a Collapse: How Penn State Blew a Golden Opportunity Against Michigan State

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 3rd, 2014

As many B1G fans were watching the ending of the Illinois-Indiana game on Tuesday night, they may have been missing a good chunk of the Michigan State-Penn State first half. The Nittany Lions put quite a scare in Sparty, as they jumped out to a 47-40 advantage at halftime. This was largely based upon a torrid start from the three-point line (7-of-12), with a 10-of-10 performance at the free throw line and nine Michigan State miscues contributing factors. As an example, the Spartans had a 1:05 stretch at the end of the half where they turned the ball over on five possessions in a row, leading to an 8-0 Penn State run that put the score at 45-33. Michigan State went closed out the half strong, but Penn State was still in the driver’s seat. So after Michigan State went on to win the game, 79-63, by holding Penn State to 16 points in the second half (0.43 points per possession), what exactly went wrong?

Tim Frazier had an off night against Michigan State. (theschoolphilly.com)

Tim Frazier had an off night against Michigan State (Photo credit: theschoolphilly.com).

Let’s break down the half into sections.

  • 20:00-17:23: Things began to unravel early, as Donovon Jack picked up his third foul in the first minute. This forced Penn State to go with three guards. Tim Frazier sandwiched a missed runner between two turnovers and Gary Harris scored eight of Michigan State’s 10 points to start the half. He hit two wide-open threes and one could sense a bit of a momentum shift. Penn State burned a quick timeout as they went from seven up to down three all within the first 2:37 of the half. Read the rest of this entry »
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Penn State Proving It’s More Than a Two-Man Show

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 29th, 2013

With its win Tuesday night, Penn State upped its record on the young season to 5-1. As they head into their weekend mini-tournament in Brooklyn tonight, they will be tested by the likes of St. John’s and either Ole Miss or Georgia Tech. These are all “power conference” teams, but they are all beatable. If the Nittany Lions want to continue the roll that they’ve gotten on this season, they will need to continue to get contributions from their starting frontcourt. Players like Ross Travis, Brandon Taylor, and Donovon Jack are not household names outside of State College, but they have all been huge factors in the team’s play as of late.

Brandon Taylor has gotten off to a hot shooting start for Penn State thus far (Jesse Johnson, USA Today).

Brandon Taylor has gotten off to a hot shooting start for Penn State thus far (Jesse Johnson, USA Today).

In its victory over La Salle, Penn State had all five starters in double figures. With a pass-first type of point guard getting them great looks with his dishing prowess, Taylor, Jack, and Travis have shown they can take advantage and hit shots. While none of these three is very physically imposing, they all have certain useful skill sets that they’ve displayed in the early going. Travis is a banger and a slasher, leading the team in rebounds at a 7.3 RPG clip. He has a nice mid-range game and can get to the basket, but his main role is that of someone to do a lot of the heavy lifting on the boards. Taylor went for 25 points in the team’s lopsided win against Longwood, mostly on the strength of his 5-of-9 shooting from deep. He too showed in that game and in others that he can knock down an open shot from mid-range, and displays athleticism and length defensively. Taylor is 11th in the B1G in block rate (5.78%) going into Brooklyn, and has a high of four in one game. Jack has a season high of 18 points, and while he tends to get pushed around a some in the low block, he works well in a high pick-and-roll situation with Frazier. Jack has also become a big fan of taking three-pointers from the top of the key, which will at times bring a center or power forward away from the basket and allow the others to crash the offensive boards.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Big Ten M5: 11.21.13 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on November 21st, 2013

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  1. Thad Matta thought he had a team that could play spectacular defense this year, and holding Marquette to 35 points on Saturday certainly proved it will be this team’s strength. What may be scary, though, is some Ohio State players think it can get better. Shannon Scott told reporters he would rank it “as an A playing that game (against Marquette). If we get to A-plus, we can beat all the best teams out there.” With his veteran squad, led by the well-known defensive stalwart Aaron Craft, Matta has players that know how to rotate and play help defense. Even with an offense that is still shaky (the 52 points against Marquette and 63 against American last night indicate that), if the Buckeyes can get to an “A-plus” level it may not matter.
  2. Mitch McGary is still working his way back and John Beilein plans to continue to ease him back into games. After playing 22 minutes in Michigan’s loss against Iowa State over the weekend, McGary will likely come off the bench in the Wolverines first game at the Puerto Rico Tip-off against Long Beach State today. His play is needed for Michigan to reach similar heights as it did last season, but as Beilein indicated in the article, it could take up to a month before McGary is completely back up to speed with conditioning and feeling comfortable with everyone on the court. The quicker that happens, the better for Michigan.
  3. Everyone is talking about Wisconsin’s scoring output this season (even if Bo Ryan and the Badgers players indicated before the season the team will be playing faster) and it’s 103-point game with Frank Kaminsky setting the single-game scoring record with 43 points. What’s been overlooked in the Badgers getting more baskets, though, is how this team has been giving up more as well. North Dakota shot 54.5 percent as it scored 83 points against Wisconsin. It may not be a huge issue for Wisconsin if it can continue to score at this rate, but North Dakota had players getting dribble penetration and hitting 3-pointers. Part of the issue could be inexperience on the inside and go away with time, but for a team that has been known for slow play and defense under Ryan, it certainly seems like an issue that could manifest itself later.
  4. It hasn’t always been easy for Purdue this season like it was last night in its 83-55 win over Eastern Illinois. That isn’t necessarily the worst thing according to Matt Painter, who likes that his team has had to face some adversity in its 1-point win over Northern Kentucky and 4-point win over Rider. It has also helped him see how strong his entire line-up is in pressure situations. This experimentation with rotations and different player groups is helping Purdue to build some depth for later this year. With the new rules and fouls increasing so far, it certainly helps Purdue to have players like Jay Simpson, Bryson Scott, and Sterling Carter getting meaningful minutes now should they be called upon for large stretches during the Big Ten season.
  5. Everyone knew about Tim Frazier and DJ Newbill coming into this season for Penn State. Well, at least everyone following Big Ten basketball new of the Nittany Lions backcourt duo, but these two haven’t been the only ones scoring so far. As Penn State has gotten off to a 3-1 start, including a solid 79-72 win over A-10 competitor LaSalle, it has gotten contributions from multiple players on its roster. Donovon Jack, Ross Travis, and Brandon Taylor contributed more than half of the team’s points in the LaSalle win and are making sure Frazier and Newbill don’t have to carry this team. For Penn State to be competitive in the B1G it will need this trend to continue. Certainly Frazier will still be the go-to player, but a solid starting cast surrounding them could help pull Penn State from cellar-dweller to middle of the pack.
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