Big Ten M5: 04.03.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on April 3rd, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Frank Kaminsky wasn’t always a star at Wisconsin, so it’s easy to forget that he rarely saw heavy minutes behind a loaded Badgers’ frontcourt in his first two seasons. This year the junior burst on to the scene when he set the school’s single game record with 43 points against North Dakota. His progression into a star didn’t surprise his athletic family that knew it was just a matter of time before he got there. He has now certainly reached their expectations, as he won the West Region’s Most Outstanding Player award last weekend. Kaminsky’s on-court success lies in his ability to play both inside and outside the paint, causing nightmares for opposing teams and representing a big key to Wisconsin’s potential of winning a national championship this weekend.
  2. One of the Big Ten teams facing the most turnover this offseason is Michigan State. Sparty is for sure losing two starting seniors in Adreian Payne and Keith Appling, and is likely to also lose Gary Harris to the NBA. Add in the potential of Branden Dawson also going league and the Spartans could be looking at four new starters next season. This makes starting lineup projections interesting, with Travis Trice, Denzel Valentine, Kenny Kaminski, Matt Costello and probably Javon Bess or a three-guard lineup if Dawson leaves. Michigan State will be a very interesting team next season, having lost a great amount of talent and on paper appearing to be a middle of the pack conference team. Then again, while all the injuries hurt Tom Izzo’s team this season, it gave these reserves minutes that they wouldn’t have otherwise gotten.
  3. Another team facing plenty of questions right now is the other major school sharing the state. Michigan has three potential guys who could bolt to the NBA this spring, which creates quite a distinguishable best and worst case scenario for next season for the Wolverines. If Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary all return, John Beilein’s team won’t just be a favorite to win the Big Ten, but also a national title favorite. If all three leave school, Michigan will still be solid and likely to battle for a top four spot in the conference standings, but its national contender status would certainly be very different barring huge jumps from the remaining players.
  4. The Big Ten had three players in the McDonald’s All-American Game last night. With this in mind the Big Ten Network‘s Shawn Merriman evaluated the top former Big Ten players who participated in the game. Players were rated solely based on their collegiate careers and the winner is none too surprising. Not only is Michigan State’s Magic Johnson the best former Big Ten McDonald’s All-American to play in the game, but he could easily be argued as the best Big Ten player of all-time. Others on the list include plenty of big names like Purdue’s Glenn Robinson and Indiana’s Isiah Thomas and then some college stars like Michigan State’s Mateen Cleaves and Illinois’ Dee Brown. Will any of this year’s three participants have careers similar to what these guys accomplished? Probably not, but you never know until they show up on campus.
  5. Northwestern may have not gotten to play in the postseason again this year, but senior Drew Crawford still has another game to go. Crawford will play for the West in the Reese’s Division I College All-Star Game in Dallas this week. He is one of two Big Ten players invited to the game along with Indiana‘s Will Sheehey, who will play for the East. It is a solid career-ending honor for two seniors who were major contributors for their teams this season. Neither may have made the NCAA or NIT this season, but getting one more game will be good for them to showcase their skills.
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Big Ten Weekend in Review: Senior Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on March 11th, 2014

Throughout many campuses within the conference this weekend there were some sort of Senior Day festivities. In honor of this, and the fact that many seniors submitted some top-notch performances which lead to victories for their teams, the weekend in review will have a different format this time around. Before we get to some of these key performances, something else has to be discussed.

Terran Petteway(right) celebrates during Nebraska's 77-68 win over Wisconsin that could have clinched a spot in the field of 68 for the Cornhuskers. ( Bryan Anderson/Omaha World-Herald)

Terran Petteway celebrates during Nebraska’s 77-68 win over Wisconsin that might have clinched a spot in the field of 68 for the Cornhuskers. (Bryan Anderson/Omaha World-Herald)

Biggest Win: Nebraska continued with their incredible streak of home performances with their victory over Wisconsin on Sunday night. The atmosphere was probably one of the best in all of college basketball this season, as the BTN announcers literally had an app at their disposal where they were periodically checking the decibel level throughout the telecast. Shavon Shields and Terran Petteway essentially got to the basket whenever they wanted, and they both finished up with 26 points. They also got some timely shooting from Walter Pitchford and Ray Gallegos and were able to get the signature win of the Tim Miles era. Most bracket predictions have the team solidly into the field and off of the bubble for now. A win against either Purdue or Ohio State in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament would make it inevitable.

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It’s Time to Give Northwestern Some Love

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 21st, 2014

After the non-conference season is over, most power conference teams usually come away with a record significantly over .500. So when you start off 7-6 before you even get into your conference, you’re usually going to be doomed to a season where you might win 11-12 games overall. This still might be the case for the 2013-14 Northwestern squad, but the Wildcats have turned things around quite significantly in their last three games. The team has become elite defensively, allowing opponents to score an average only 48 points in their last three games. So what are the catalysts for this impressive turn around where they’ve gone from the team that struggled to beat Brown at home, to beating Illinois and Indiana in consecutive weeks?

Alex Olah has turned into a defensive force for the improving Wildcats( Nam Y. Huh, AP).

Alex Olah has turned into a defensive force for the improving Wildcats. (Nam Y. Huh, AP)

  • Alex Olah: At the beginning of the season, Olah looked like an abnormally tall human being who was told to play basketball simply because of his size. There was no energy, no passion, and no coordination. If you fast forward and take a look at how he’s played from November 9 to the present, you can see a tremendous difference. This can seen without even using one statistic. He aggressively posts now and tries to seal his man, almost like he just woke up one day and realized that he’s 7-feet tall and weighs 265 pounds. He’ll occasionally take a three here and there that the team could do without, but he’s done a much better job being active both offensively and defensively. Part of the reason teams don’t get many points in the paint against Northwestern is because of the presence of Olah in the middle. He’s pushed his averages up to 10.5 PPG, 5.2 RPG, and 2.0 BPG in conference games, compared to 8.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 1.8 BPG in non-conference games. More importantly, he’s gone up from 25.1 MPG to 32.0 in league play. His ability to stay on the floor and not pick up cheap fouls that seemingly plague almost every big man in college basketball has lead to the team defense staying strong throughout the game. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten M5: 12.04.13 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 4th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. Despite the fact that the tournament this year just finished last Saturday, the field for the 2014 Battle For Atlantis was announced on Tuesday afternoon. Wisconsin is one of the eight teams listed, along with UCLA, North Carolina, Florida, Georgetown, Butler, Oklahoma, and UAB. Without the benefit of having a crystal ball to determine how all these teams will look next year, on paper this is a loaded field. The Badgers should return pretty much everyone of merit except for Ben Brust. Even if Sam Dekker decides to leave early, look for Wisconsin to do some damage here much like they have done with their non-conference schedule so far this season.
  2. Nebraska has gotten off to a decent start so far, but that hasn’t stopped Tim Miles from doing some tinkering with things at the early juncture of the season. He wouldn’t specifically name the changes to the starting lineup, but he just said that there will be some changes for the Miami game on Wednesday. If one were to speculate, Ray Gallegos would be a good candidate as someone to get the nod. Gallegos isn’t playing particularly well after returning from injury, so this could be something that gets the senior guard back to the level he was at last season. Nebraska has a lot of inter-changeable parts, so regardless of who starts, 9 players will probably get at least 10 minutes of playing time.
  3. Basil Smotherman was not overly hyped coming into his freshman campaign at Purdue, but he definitely made his presence felt for Purdue as they salvaged one victory in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando. Smotherman made his first career start in their win over Siena in that tournament on Sunday. He has shown that he has elite athleticism and the ability to guard multiple positions on the floor. Purdue seems to be still figuring out their rotation and how to divide up minutes one game at a time. If Smotherman keeps playing like this, he may cut into the minutes of players like Rapheal Davis and Errick Peck, who have not played consistently well in the early going.
  4. Have no fear Michigan State fans, Gary Harris has less than a 1% chance of not playing against North Carolina on Wednesday night at the Breslin Center. Harris missed the Spartans previous game against Mt St. Mary’s due to an ankle problem that has kept him from being 100% healthy thus far. Despite all this, Harris is the team’s leading scorer at 17.7 points per game, and although they didn’t need him in their last win, his presence will be beneficial against an up-and-down Tar Heel team that beat Louisville, but lost to Belmont and UAB.
  5. More injury concerns are happening right now in Evanston, as Drew Crawford suffered a back injury against Missouri last Friday. He is also planning on playing tonight as Northwestern takes on North Carolina State. Crawford is equally, is not more important to his team than Harris is simply because Northwestern simply doesn’t have the same amount of talent residing on their roster. The Wildcats are already an underdog playing in Raleigh, and without Crawford, they would really have their work cut out for them. If Northwestern wants to turn things around, Crawford absolutely has to stay on the floor as much as possible.
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Northwestern Showing Signs of Life But Still Has Problems

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 22nd, 2013

On Wednesday night, Northwestern went into the UIC Pavilion and ran Illinois-Chicago out of its own building. They won by 35 points, outdoing their expected KenPom outcome by 30 points. It was a much-needed win, considering up until then the Wildcats had been the most disappointing team in the Big Ten. Along with the losses of Jared Swopshire and Reggie Hearn, the team is still adjusting to Chris Collins’ new system and has reverted to throwing up threes when their half-court sets have fallen apart. Up until that game, nearly 44 percent of their total shots have been from the three-point line — most in the conference — and when they drove the ball to the basket, they weren’t finishing the play either (42.5 percent). On Wednesday the Wildcats finally began to attack the rim and couldn’t miss – hitting 64.5 percent of their two-point field goals. However, Northwestern’s blowout was more a product of a vulnerable opponent rather than any long-term fix.

Baylor's Athletic Size and Length Confounded Northwestern (AP Photo/C. Cherney)

Dave Sobolewski went for a career high 25 points on Wednesday (AP Photo/C. Cherney)

UIC, a team expected to finish in the middle of the Horizon League, has also underperformed relative to their already mediocre expectations. The Flames started the preseason ranked 262nd in the country, according to KenPom, but has since fallen to 302nd. Their defense has been less than stellar (giving up 106.4 points per 100 possessions) and their weaknesses played right into the Wildcats’ hands: poor perimeter defense and a stark lack of rim protection. For the season, UIC has allowed teams to shoot 46.7 percent from deep (342nd in the country). The Flames didn’t fare any better on Wednesday when they allowed the Wildcats to make 55 percent of their three-point shots. UIC has also allowed its opponents a free pass when they’ve been beaten off the dribble by only blocking 3.2 percent of all possible shots. Once Northwestern cleared space in the lane by sinking some threes, they were able to get to the rim easily. So as it turns out, UIC was a perfect match for the Wildcats to get the team’s confidence going.

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Big Ten Analysis: Iowa Overperforming, Northwestern Underperforming

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 18th, 2013

It’s been over a week since the season started and all 12 teams have at least three games under their belts. Michigan State is as good as advertised after beating #1 Kentucky (even if they followed it up with a lackluster performance against Columbia). But what can we conclude from the other teams’ performances, where most games have been lopsided victories against inferior opponents? This makes it difficult to gauge which team has under- or overperformed so early in the year, but we here at the RTC Big Ten microsite are always up for a challenge. Prior to the first tip, we recorded each team’s predicted outcome using KenPom.com. To measure how teams have performed thus far, we will now compare their season performances against their preseason expected outcomes.

The table below illustrates each team’s performance in games already played against what they were expected to do, helping us evaluate their consistency and long-term projections.

big ten analysis 11.18.13

The table above displays each team’s performance for each game relative to their expected preseason expected outcome.  For example, if a team was expected to win by 10 points, but ended up winning by only five points, then that team underperformed by five points (shown as -5 in the table). If that same team had won by 20 points, then that team would have overperformed by 10 points. Underperformances are marked in red and overtperformances are marked in green.  The average and standard deviation of each teams’ differential performances are calculated to measure their overall consistency so far.  Finally, the far-right column in the table shows the change in total wins for the season that KenPom is projecting. For example, if a team was initially expected to win 18 games, but is now expected to win 21 games, their record difference is shown as +3.  This metric not only takes into account each individual team’s season performance thus far, but also the performance of all its opponents.

Here are our five takeaways from this analysis:

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Big Ten Openers: Time to Judge the One-Game Judgements

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on November 11th, 2013

Opening weekend has come and gone, and every Big Ten team has played at least one game, with Illinois and Iowa suiting  up for two. After the weekend, the Big Ten sits at 14-0. Of course, such a short examination period isn’t the best time to make judgments, but they certainly were out in force for some teams and players. With this post, we will examine some of the potential overreactions involving Big Ten teams. We’ll also try to gauge if that overreaction could be warranted as something to worry about as the season progresses or if really it was a one-game situation that will be forgotten by next week.

Iowa

Iowa is 2-0 and That’s About All That Matters at This Point

Illinois

It was an impressive opening two games for Rayvonte Rice, shooting 55 percent from the floor while putting up 35 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Thinking the redshirt junior (he transfered from Drake and sat out last season) will sustain close to these numbers against better teams is foolhardy, though. A big question mark coming into the season was how accurate Rice would be (he shot 43.6 percent in his last season at Drake) and it’s unlikely his strong opening weekend shooting will continue. He’ll be good, but not this good all season.

Indiana

It was quite the debut for heralded freshman Noah Vonleh, finishing with a double-double of 11 points and 14 rebounds. Some people even started comparing him to Cody Zeller after one game. Well, Vonleh certainly was spectacular in his debut, but let’s not put him down as an All-American already. This rebounding pace won’t continue at such a high rate and his offense still needs a lot of work. It’s likely he makes an All-B1G of some sort and could be Indiana’s best player, but one game against inferior competition isn’t All-American status just yet.

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RTC Big Ten Preseason Rankings: #12 to #9

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 6th, 2013

With just a couple days before the regular season tips off, it’s time to get down to how the five of us on the microsite feel that the 12 teams will shake out once the season gets rolling. What follows are the teams that we picked to finish in the bottom third of the league. Before the games tip off for real on Friday, we will show you teams #8-#5, and then close it out with teams #4-#1. Feel free to let the debates, arguments and discussions about how much or little we know what we’re talking about.

12. Nebraska

  • What they do Well: Nebraska does not turn the ball over, as it ranked 30th last season nationally in turnover rate. This is partially due to playing at a slow tempo, but their guards take care of the ball.
  • What they don’t do well: They do not get many second chance opportunities, as they ranked 319th last season in offensive rebounding rate.
  • Get to knowShavon Shields. Shields made a decent impact last year, as he was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice. He and fellow wing David Rivers will need to step up to offset the losses of Brandon Ubel and Dylan Talley.
Sparkly new arena and facilities aside, we at the microsite aren't buying Nebraska as a contender this season.

Sparkly new arena and facilities aside, we at the microsite aren’t buying Nebraska as a contender this season.

  • Why they’ll finish 12th: Tim Miles looks like one of the better young coaches in the land, but with this being one of the best and deepest conferences in the country yet again, they simply don’t have enough quality depth to compete just yet. Teams will exploit their lack of quality size and kill them on the boards.
  • Why they’ll finish higher: Tai Webster turns out to be much better than advertised, and he and Ray Gallegos will be able to produce on the perimeter, shooting a high percentage and taking care of the ball. Florida castoff Walter Pitchford uses his 6’10” frame to remedy the Huskers problem with offensive rebounding.

10 (tie). Northwestern

  • What they do well: Like Nebraska, the Wildcats are used to playing at a slow tempo to their advantage, ranking 37th nationally in turnover rate. This may or may not be the same strength this year as they look to play faster.
  • What they don’t do well: Northwestern ranked 337th in offensive block rate, meaning that they really struggled in finishing at the rim.
  • Get to know: Alex Olah. If Northwestern can get anything from this 7-foot Romanian, they’ll be balanced enough with their guards to surpass expectations in Collins’ first season at the helm.
  • Why they’ll finish 10th: There will be too much uncertainty as the players adjust to playing at a quicker tempo, transitioning from Bill Carmody and his Princeton offense to a more up-tempo style of play that Collins is implementing.
  • Why they’ll finish higher: The return of Drew Crawford and JerShon Cobb will lead to a better perimeter attack more athleticism. Olah becomes a physical presence inside that they will need to create extra possessions.

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Is Drew Crawford’s Return Enough to Lead Northwestern to a Winning Season?

Posted by Brendan Brody on October 29th, 2013

One of the more splashy offseason coaching hires was when Northwestern tabbed Chris Collins to replace embattled Bill Carmody. Collins brings with him the instant credibility of having played and coached at Duke under Mike Krzyzewski. More importantly, he was a high school legend in the north suburbs of Chicago, where you would have to believe he will be able to make inroads there on the recruiting trail. In the long term, this is an outstanding hire for a Northwestern program that has never made the NCAA Tournament in its 75-year history. The long-term future looking brighter does nothing for the prospects of this year’s team, however, although one of the positives has to be the return from injury of 2011-12 Third Team all-B1G selection Drew Crawford. Crawford could have applied for a graduate transfer exemption and headed elsewhere for his final season, but Collins may have done his best recruiting job already in getting Crawford to stay in Evanston. He doesn’t have the players around him to end the aforementioned tournament drought, but Crawford is one of the top guards in the league when healthy.

How Much Impact Will Crawford Have This Season? (Credit: Melanie Maxwell / AnnArbor.com)

How Much Impact Will Crawford Have This Season? (Credit: Melanie Maxwell / AnnArbor.com)

As mentioned previously, Crawford was an all-B1G selection two years ago who, along with First Teamer John Shurna, almost broke through and went dancing. That team went 19-14 overall, and was probably one close loss to Ohio State away from finally making the NCAA Tournament. Crawford averaged 16.1 points per game that season, displaying a solid all-around skill set with no real holes in it. Games where he put up 34 points in a close loss against Creighton and 27 points against Ohio State went a long way toward cementing the postseason honors that he received. Crawford is not a superstar athlete, but he does more than enough to get by. Where he stands out is in his ability to shoot the ball, as he hit 41.2% from three in 2011-12, and is a 36.0% shooter from there for his career. His career numbers aren’t great, but 41% is pretty close to elite, especially when you figure that he took about 4.5 treys per game. If he can equal or duplicate that number this season, and Northwestern also takes advantage of the return of JerShon Cobb from suspension, they will be in good shape on the perimeter.

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Morning Five: 04.22.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 22nd, 2013

morning5

  1. One of the key topics discussed in NCAA reforms has been the use of one-year renewable scholarships that some say provide schools to get rid of student-athletes who are no longer fit in the program’s plans. Last year, the NCAA allowed schools to offer multiyear scholarships, but as The Chronicle of Higher Education points out very few schools have moved in that direction. The schools offer a variety of explanations mostly focusing on not wanting to give 17- or 18-year olds “more entitlement” (as if they coaches and administrators are not living similar lives with high salaries, plenty of benefits, and relatively little oversight). As the article points out schools can include a variety of stipulations–both academic and legal–that provide them a way out if the student-athlete fails to live up to his or her obligation. In our opinion, schools should use the option of multiyear scholarships to their advantage by using them as a tool to help lure recruits to their school over schools that do not offer multiyear scholarships.
  2. We cannot remember many players who went from (non-medical) redshirts for first-round picks in one season, but Kelly Olynyk appears to be on the verge of doing so after declaring that he would be entering the NBA Draft and forgoing his senior year. Olynyk, who had shown flashes of brilliance in international play appeared to be a flop at Gonzaga before sitting out a year and returning with a revamped game, averaged 17.8 points on a ridiculous 63% from the field and 7.3 rebounds per game on his way to becoming a consensus first team All-American. Given the depth of next year’s class and the fact that we don’t expect Olynyk to continue on his meteoric trajectory (a fact that NBA team would probably mark him down for) this seems like a reasonable decision. The West Coast Conference should still be Gonzaga’s to lose, but this should take them out of the discussion as national title contenders.
  3. Midnight Madness could be coming sooner than you had previously expected as NCAA approved a motion to allow schools to start practicing six weeks before their first game instead of the prior rule of practicing four weeks before their first game. The actual amendment is slightly more complicated than that as it allows schools to start practicing six weeks before the first game for a maximum of 30 days of practice (essentially allowing schools to practice five days a week on average for those six weeks). The only thing in the way of starting practices two weeks earlier is a May 2 meeting in which the Board of Directors can strike down the measure. We do not see much harm in the measure (it is the coaches job to make sure their players do not wear down as the season goes on) and it should make for a higher level of play early in the season and we think that everybody is for that.
  4. Chris Collins’ job of getting Northwestern into the NCAA Tournament might have to wait a few years, but he should at least field a competitive team next year as the team’s top player–Drew Crawford–announced on Friday that he would be returning for his senior year. Crawford, who averaged 13.5 points per game last season before undergoing surgery for a torn labrum, will not make the Wildcats a NCAA Tournament team it should keep them out of the Big Ten cellar. Perhaps the biggest effect of Crawford’s return to Evanston on a national level will be his decision not to go to Missouri or Marquette, which were the two schools most often cited as potential destinations for Crawford who will graduate in June and could have transferred without sitting out a year as a graduate student.
  5. Unfortunately for Eddie Jordan he was not afforded the same luxury as his top player–Eli Carter–has decided to transfer from the school and was granted a release on Friday. Carter is the fifth Scarlet Knight player to transfer from the school since the Mike Rice videotapes were released. When combined with players graduating this means that the team will be losing four of its top six players. We are not sure if there was anything that could have been done to prevent this (well outside of not letting Rice stay on as coach to terrorize his players), but the slow process that Rutgers is using to officially hire Jordan (he still has not officially been named the coach) is not helping matters.
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Next Year Looking More and More Like “The Year” For Northwestern

Posted by KTrahan on December 18th, 2012

Every year, the question remains the same for a Northwestern team perpetually on the bubble: Can the Wildcats sneak into the NCAA Tournament? Last summer, it certainly seemed like this could be the year that NU would make the Big Dance for the first time in school history. Bill Carmody finally had two big men, an impressive recruiting class, a graduate transfer, and a solid group of returning stars including Drew Crawford, Dave Sobolewski, Reggie Hearn and JerShon Cobb.

The Loss of Drew Crawford Leaves Northwestern Searching For Answers

The Loss of Drew Crawford Leaves Northwestern Searching For Answers

However, things don’t always go as planned in college basketball, and NU certainly learned that quickly this year. Cobb was suspended for the season due to academic problems, the new players haven’t adjusted as quickly as fans had hoped, and Crawford wasn’t playing at all like himself. Now, we at least have an answer for the latter issue, as NU announced over the weekend that Crawford will miss the remainder of the season to have surgery on a torn labrum. Adding Crawford’s injury to the doubts following an inconsistent start to the season, it’s looking more and more like this won’t be “the year” for the Wildcats. But could that be a good thing for NU?

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On Butler-Indiana, Arizona-Florida, Jim Boeheim, and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 18th, 2012

tuesdayscribblesBrian 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. After enduring the dreaded finals week, we college basketball fans were given a treat on Saturday afternoon courtesy of two teams who call basketball heaven, otherwise known as the state of Indiana, home. In what was the game of the year to date, the Butler Bulldogs overcame a second half deficit and tons of foul trouble and knocked off the top-ranked Indiana Hoosiers. While an unranked team beating #1 is always an amazing accomplishment, nobody should be surprised by this result. Butler has done this time and time again over the last few seasons with a variety of different players (although this was the program’s first victory over a #1-ranked team) who embrace the same unselfishness and winning culture. The Butler Way, as it has been deemed, is the reason why Brad Stevens is considered among the top coaches in the college game. This meteoric rise for the 36-year-old Stevens, in only his sixth year as a head coach, doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. Butler won the game by torching Indiana from deep and dominating inside, consequently exposing preseason All-American Cody Zeller’s deficiencies. Roosevelt Jones and Andrew Smith took it to Zeller all game and made him look like a very average center in the process, one who struggled to rebound and had difficulty scoring against the physical Butler defense. Zeller’s stat line may look alright (18 points, five rebounds), but 10 of his points were scored at the foul line. He wasn’t a major factor on either end of the floor, a credit to Stevens and his preparation as well as Butler’s personnel. This is a blueprint for future opponents with the proper personnel on how to attack Zeller and Indiana. The Hoosier defense, which up until Saturday’s game had looked much improved, did not look all that impressive on this day. Aside from Victor Oladipo (who is quickly becoming Indiana’s most important player), the Hoosiers didn’t defend the way they needed to against Butler’s deliberate offensive sets. Indiana has plenty of time to fix the problems and remains a legitimate national title contender but Saturday’s result was a good reality check. There is no truly dominant team in college basketball this season and we will see more results like this as the year progresses.

    Alex Barlow's Game-Winner Knocked Off Indiana

    Alex Barlow’s Game-Winner Knocked Off Indiana

  2. Another fantastic game broke out later Saturday night in Tucson where Arizona overcame a six point deficit in the final minute to shock Florida and remain undefeated. In a 40-minute game, the Wildcats led for only a stunning one minute and 24 seconds, out-played in their own building for the vast majority of the game. What did I draw from this game? Not much except that it was fun to watch and both teams are legitimate top ten outfits. Who is the better team? I’m sticking with Florida. The Gators went into the McKale Center and methodically dismantled Arizona for 37 of the 40 minutes played. The problem for Florida was meltdowns at the end of both halves which proved fatal. The Gators held an 11-point lead with under two minutes remaining in the first half but two turnovers and a blown defensive assignment on Nick Johnson allowed Arizona to cut the lead to three at the half. Florida weathered the storm and slowly built up a comfortable lead in the second half before Arizona charged back. A Scottie Wibekin triple with 2:44 remaining seemed to be the dagger but Florida would not score again. In a final minute disaster, the Gators committed three turnovers and 90% free throw shooter Kenny Boynton missed the front end of a one-and-one. Mark Lyons still had to hit a tough shot off the glass to give Arizona the win but this was a total giveaway by Florida, a team that had no business losing this game given the way it played out. What did I like about the Gators? A lot, from Patric Young’s smooth touch and suffocating defense to Mike Rosario’s newfound self-control and poise. Billy Donovan’s team does a great job in zone defense and I thought they should have played some more possessions in it. After a made basket, I really liked Florida throwing on some light full court pressure before settling back into the 2-3 zone. It served them well by confusing Arizona for the better part of the game. Offensively, Florida has nice balance and utilizes Erik Murphy in the perfect way with pick-and-pops as well as a series of staggered screens that really confused Arizona’s defense. Rosario and Boynton play more under control this year and don’t chuck as often as in the past. This is a team that should win the SEC and contend for a national championship. As for Arizona, this is a very good team but not one I’m sure can contend for a national title. Sean Miller’s club must cut down on its turnovers (which it did against Florida) and improve its three point defense. I mentioned Arizona’s poor opponents three point percentage in a previous edition of this column and the Wildcats failed to stop Florida’s shooters on Saturday. That has to get better in the long run if Arizona wants to go deep in March. Kaleb Tarczewski is a tremendously talented young center but he was exposed by Young. Tarczewski will keep getting better but any team with a skilled big should be able to handle Arizona inside. Don’t get me wrong, Arizona will likely win the Pac-12 and advance deep in the NCAA Tournament but this team is flawed, as are many. This was a great resume-building win for Arizona but I’m not so sure the Wildcats would have beat Florida if the game wasn’t in Tucson. Read the rest of this entry »
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