Otskey’s Observations: Episode XIV

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on February 26th, 2014

Each week throughout the season, RTC columnist Brian Otskey (@botskey) will run down his observations from the previous week of college basketball.

Wichita State Deserves a Number One Seed

There is a vocal group out there making it known that Wichita State should not receive a top seed in next month’s NCAA Tournament. They argue that the 30-0 Shockers “haven’t played anyone” and that alone should disqualify Gregg Marshall’s team from landing on the No. 1 seed line when the brackets are released two and a half weeks from now. We can debate the merits of the RPI all we want, but the fact is it remains one of many important selection criteria. Wichita State’s non-conference schedule ranks No. 34 in that metric, which is actually pretty good. By comparison, it is only four spots lower than Georgetown, a middling Big East team about whose schedule people have been raving. Perception is indeed a funny thing.

Ron Baker should be angry if his Shockers don't get a No. 1 seed. (photo courtesy rantsports.com).

Ron Baker should be angry if his Shockers don’t get a No. 1 seed. (photo courtesy rantsports.com).

Wichita State cannot control the strength of its own league, which also happened to lose Creighton to conference realignment this season. There is something to be said, however, for taking every team’s best shot each and every night and still winning with relative ease. The Shockers beat the second best team in the Missouri Valley, Indiana State, in convincing fashion in Wichita and won the return meeting in Terre Haute comfortably. Out of conference, the Shockers challenged themselves with games at Saint Louis, Tulsa and Alabama, along with a visit by Tennessee to Wichita (Note: Game was played off campus and not at the Roundhouse). Wichita State also played BYU in a two-day event at the CBE Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City. The Shockers have certainly not faced a murderer’s row type of schedule, but at 30-0 with a top 35 non-conference slate, that is good enough to be rewarded with a No. 1 seed. In the next two weeks you will hear a lot of pundits talk about tournament resumes, good wins and bad losses. Just remember, Wichita State doesn’t have any bad losses. It has NO losses, period. Dear Selection Committee: Do the right thing and give this team a No. 1 seed!

Jim Boeheim’s Meltdown Masks Syracuse’s Real Issue

Say the word “Syracuse” this week and most people will immediately think of Jim Boeheim’s classic meltdown at Cameron Indoor Stadium where the iconic Orange coach was ejected from a regular season or postseason game for the first time in 38 years as a head coach. While that was certainly a memorable moment, it masks the nosedive that Syracuse’s offense has taken over its last four games. Over the Orange’s first 24 contests, they recorded an offensive efficiency below 102.1 points per 100 possessions just twice (in wins over Miami and North Carolina). Over the last four games, Syracuse’s offensive efficiency has been 92.5, 94.3, 99.6 and 88.6. Ironically the 99.6 number was in the loss to Duke, but the Blue Devils are the best offensive team Syracuse has faced all season.

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Big Ten M5: 02.25.14 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on February 25th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Last week, I stated Terran Pettaway was probably not going to win Big Ten POTY because he plays for a team unlikely to make the NCAA Tournament and his efficiency numbers were considerably lower than other contenders like Nik Stauskas. Well that might be changing as Nebraska keeps winning and Pettaway keeps dropping 20+ points, like he has in his last three games. He’s impressed so much that BTN.com’s Player of the Year Tracker now has him ranked as the front-runner for the award. Pettaway will need to keep up the strong performances, since the award is mostly given to a player from a top-tier team. While Nebraska has been as impressive as any team in the last few weeks, they are at best a bubble team. So Pettaway will really need to separate himself if he is to make his case against other players.
  2. It seems like we may never see a fully healthy Michigan State. Tom Izzo stated on Monday he would continue to play Keith Appling throughout the regular season. Appling is recovering from a wrist injury and did not play particularly inspiring basketball at Michigan on Sunday — finishing with only six points and two assists in twenty-five minutes. The Spartans have been trading wins and losses for almost four weeks now and Izzo needs all the men who are able to play out on the court to challenge for top seeding in the NCAA Tournament. For Izzo’s sake, Appling will need to either mend while playing or learn to live with the pain in order to get to this team’s goal of a Final Four appearance.
  3. It’s always tough to see players go down with season-ending injuries, but it’s even tougher when it happens to a senior. This is exactly what happened to Purdue’s Sterling Carter when he tore his ACL in Sunday’s game at Nebraska. Carter transferred from Seattle University to finish his career playing in the bright lights of the Big Ten. And while his season was cut short, Carter did get to finish his career, and play over twenty games, at a level he was not recruited at coming out of high school. There have been debates about whether the graduate transfer rule is beneficial or harmful to the game on the whole. But one of the positives are players like Carter who get the experience of playing big time basketball after proving himself in the low major levels –even if it is short lived.
  4. After a dominating performance on Saturday, Nik Stauskas may be back to his dominating ways. That’s good news for Michigan, but bad news for the rest of the league. He put on a show against Michigan State, scoring 25 points, 21 of which came in the second half. If Stauskas has indeed awoken from his February slump, he may run away with both the Big Ten regular season championship and the Big Ten POTY. That’s an amazing jump in performance from last season when he was thought of simply as a shooter. In the beginning of the season, most pundits though it impossible that any Wolverine could replace Trey Burke. And while Stauskas can’t run a team like Burke, he has a chance to give Michigan a consecutive Final Four appearance and Big Ten POTY.
  5. If you wanted to tweet at your favorite Iowa player this week, well, you can forget it now. Fran McCaffery has instructed his players to shut down their twitter accounts for the remainder of the season after Zach McCabe reacted to some negative comments made to him on the social media platform. Coaches are free to manage their team as they see fit and if McCaffery believes shutting down Twitter will help his team’s performance, more power to him. But perhaps it’s not by coincidence that shutting down Twitter (or removing names on the back of jerseys, etc.) always occurs after a tough loss. No coach seems to ban Twitter after a win. This appears like a reactionary maneuver from a coach trying to find any edge he can as the season comes to a close.
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Morning Five: 02.25.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 25th, 2014

morning5

  1. Syracuse fans might not be happy about it, but yesterday ACC commissioner John Swofford said that the ruling on the C.J. Fair charge play was a “judgement call” and would not be reviewed formally by the conference. Seth Davis talked to Tony Greene, the official in the middle of the controversy, and while Greene would not directly discuss the call it appears that he feels that he made the right call. The more interesting part of Greene’s comments are that when Fair got the ball Greene was already anticipating the drive and possible contact. Some might consider that being well-prepared, but others might view it as making a judgment before the play actually happens.
  2. At this point we have heard enough about this call and Jim Boeheim‘s reaction to it discussed to the point where we probably won’t even read another column about it, but the one thing that we are interested and haven’t heard discussed much is how people would have reacted if it had been Fair reacting the way that Boeheim did. This is something that we mentioned earlier this year when Fran McCaffery threw his temper tantrum and it is something that was touched upon during yesterday’s CBS College Basketball podcast: we tend to let college basketball get away with worse public behavior than nearly any other  sporting figure. Next time you are at a college basketball game take a little time to watch how the coaches are reacting and if you are close enough listen to what they say (cover the ears of any young children nearby). Can you imagine any other situation in which that behavior is acceptable?
  3. Speaking of Fran McCaffery, he is the latest coach to tell his Iowa players to get off Twitter at least for the rest of the season. Some might paint this as McCaffery joining the ranks of Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo in their general distaste for the platform, but it is more likely a reaction to Zach McCabe‘s tweet in response to some critical fans. As we said before we don’t agree with the idea that players cannot handle the “pressure” of social media, but when your players cannot act appropriately on the platform you are forced to step in.
  4. We are getting to the point in the season where some fan bases are looking forward to offseason so the head coaches of their teams can be fired. Dan Hanner took a more nuanced look at how long coaches typically last utilizing a Kaplan-Meier survival curve. His analysis suggests that coaches are most likely to get fired after three seasons so if your least favorite head coach is not there yet you might want to temper your hopes. Hanner also takes a look at which coaches might be most likely and least likely to be fired this off-season so if you are hoping for your coach to be fired it is definitely worth checking out.
  5. Following the loss of Brandon Ashley some analysts essentially wrote Arizona off as a national title contender. We even remember hearing that one Pac-12 coach reportedly said that the Wildcats were a Sweet 16 team without him. Nobody would argue that Arizona is not worse without Ashley in the lineup, but the question is how much worse are the Wildcats. We cannot necessarily look at their offensive and defensive numbers in the two periods because the post-Ashley period has been so brief that we do not have reliable sample sizes to work with so Ken Pomeroy took a look at how they performed as a team overall after Ashley was injured compared to their expected and it turns out that they were not that far off. Now this should obviously be interpreted with a somewhat similar caveat about sample size, but it shows that the Wildcats overall performance during this brief stretch might be closer to being a national title favorite than some people are giving them credit for.
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Award Tour: Doug McDermott Strengthens Grip on POY

Posted by Jameson Fleming on January 17th, 2014

AwardTour

Jameson Fleming is an RTC columnist who also works for CBSSports.com as the site’s social media editor. You can follow him on Twitter @JamesonFleming.

As usual, there are many candidates knocking on the door of the Player of the Year race. Florida’s Casey Prather dropped out temporarily after missing the last two games with an injury. He’ll likely be back in the rankings at some point as he’s Julius Randle’s top competition for SEC Player of the Year. After a few rough games, UMass’ Chaz Williams is back on track thanks to a 26-point, eight-assist performance in the Minutemen’s thrilling win against George Mason. Andrew Wiggins is inching closer to the rankings after a monster double-double game against Iowa State, with 17 points and 19 rebounds against the Cyclones. Michigan State’s Gary Harris and Keith Appling have also picked up the slack for the injured Adreian Payne as Sparty continues to roll on.

It's a safe bet that these three guys will be in the mix for POY honors.

It’s a safe bet that these three guys will be in the mix for POY honors.

Player of the Year

10. Russ Smith – Louisville. Last Week: 10
2013-14 stats: 18.1 PPG, 4.9 APG, 113.4 oRTG

Russ Smith hasn’t put together a complete game in a while and that trend continued Thursday night against Houston. He hasn’t scored fewer than 18 points since December 17, but his turnovers are out of control. He has committed 19 miscues in his last four games including five more against the Cougars. He’s logged at least four turnovers in seven of Louisville’s last eight games after doing so well with just three times in the Cardinals’ first 10 games. With Chane Behanan’s dismissal and Chris Jones’ recent struggles (10+ points in just one of Louisville’s last nine games), Smith’s production has to remain elite WITHOUT turnovers for Louisville to be considered a national title threat.

9. Lamar Patterson – Pittsburgh. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats:  17.6 PPG, 4.6 APG, 123.4 oRTG

It’s a gamble to add Lamar Patterson to the Player of the Year rankings considering Pitt basically hasn’t played anyone all season. The Panthers’ first major challenge comes Saturday in the Carrier Dome against Syracuse. This weekend will be Patterson’s chance to show he has in fact emerged as one of the best players in the country. He’s currently tearing it up in Oakland to the tune of 58 percent from two, 43 percent from three, and a studly 123.4 offensive rating on a 27.5 percent usage rate. He’s the main reason Jamie Dixon’s squad is the second best team in the ACC.

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Otskey’s Observations: Episode VIII

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 15th, 2014

RTC national columnist Brian Otskey (@botskey) gives his weekly observations on the game in his column, Otskey’s Observations. 

A Cause for Concern or Just a Speed Bump for Wisconsin?

Sam Dekker struggled on Tuesday but don't expect that to continue. (Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports)

Sam Dekker struggled on Tuesday but don’t expect that to continue. (Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports)

Wisconsin’s 75-72 loss at Indiana on Tuesday night was surprising in many ways. For one, it marked the first time since the 1995-96 season that the Badgers have given up at least 70 points in three consecutive games (h/t @nickfasuloSBN). It was an uncharacteristically poor defensive effort from a historically good defensive team under the tutelage of Bo Ryan. Wisconsin could never seem to get a stop when it needed one and allowed Indiana to shoot 51.6 percent from the floor for the game. Coming into the contest, Bo Ryan was 14-3 all-time in head-to-head matchups against Indiana head coach Tom Crean. Crean had never beaten Ryan while at Indiana and the Hoosiers had dropped 12 consecutive games to the Badgers dating back to 2007. In a strange twist of fates, perhaps Ryan’s best team ever fell to Crean’s least talented team in the last three seasons. While Frank Kaminsky and Traevon Jackson did yeoman’s work for Wisconsin, Sam Dekker and Ben Brust had off nights. Dekker, Wisconsin’s leading scorer and rebounder, totaled only 10 points and three rebounds in 35 minutes of action. Brust was cold all night from the three-point line, but tried to adjust, attempting a season-high seven shots from inside the arc, most of those curling to the basket off screens. It was a strange night in Bloomington and something just didn’t feel right. I am inclined to think this is just a bump in the road for Wisconsin and I would expect a much more focused defensive performance at home against Michigan this coming Saturday.

Creighton Ascending in the Polls Despite Grant Gibbs’ Injury

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Morning Five: 01.08.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 8th, 2014

morning5

  1. As we suggested yesterday, it turns out there was more to the story of the suspended UTEP players than was initially reported as they are accused of betting on at least one sporting event. The accused players include not only already suspended juniors Jalen Ragland and Justin Crosgile, but also McKenzie Moore, the team’s leading scorer. At this point, all the school is saying is that they are not aware of any evidence that implicates the players in point-shaving or even betting on games that involve UTEP. We suspect that this will become a bigger story moving forward.
  2. It appeared that it would not take long for Notre Dame transfer Cameron Biedscheid to find a new home as news broke yesterday that he was headed to Missouri, but much like Biedscheid’s initial decision to leave Notre Dame now there is some question as to the veracity of the original report as Biedscheid came out later in the day and denied that he had made a decision yet. If Biedscheid does transfer to Missouri it would be a big pick-up for Haith as Biedscheid was a top-tier talent coming out of high school before his relatively disappointing freshman year in South Bend.
  3. Biedscheid may still be deciding on where he is transferring to (or at least when he will publicly admit it), but Providence transfer Brandon Austin has decided and like so many other recent transfers is headed to Oregon. To call Austin a Providence transfer might be a little misleading because he along with fellow freshman Rodney Bullock were suspended indefinitely before the season started with the suspension extended to the entire season just a few weeks ago. While the addition of Austin, a top-50 recruit, could mean big things in the future for the Ducks it also might take them out of the running for Louisville transfer Chane Behanan.
  4. It should not come as a surprise, but yesterday Fran McCaffery received a one-game suspension for his altercation with an official during Sunday’s game with Wisconsin that led to his ejection. McCaffery’s ejection came at a point in the game where the momentum swung in favor of Wisconsin so it would hardly be a stretch to call it a turning point in the game. For his part, McCaffery has publicly expressed remorse for his actions. Still given McCaffery’s history we doubt that this will be the last time we see his infamous temper on a public stage.
  5. It turns out that Grinnell can do more than set ridiculous scoring records. It can also set ridiculous assist records as Pat Maher handed out a NCAA-record 37 assists on Monday night in Grinell’s 164-144 win over College of Faith. As you might expect the usual suspects are already out criticizing Grinell’s scheduling, which we can admit is questionable. To us, the most interesting aspects of the record (we haven’t seen video of the game so for all we know Maher was throwing passes to guys who were hitting half-court shots all night) is that Grinell did this without Jack Taylor, who holds the NCAA record with 138 points in a game and sat out last night, and Maher broke the record of David N. Arseneault, the team’s associate head coach, who happens to be the son of the head coach and is a former Pioneer himself.
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Fran McCaffery Earns One-Game Suspension for Sunday Outburst

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 7th, 2014

During Iowa’s 75-71 loss at Wisconsin on Sunday night, Fran McCaffery briefly lost his mind and went after the officials, getting two technical fouls in succession as his team was leading the game by two. He was miffed over a couple of non-calls on Gabriel Olasemi under the basket, and then a foul call on Olaseni on the defensive end as the Badgers’ Nigel Hayes went up and drew contact. McCaffery stated that he intended to get one technical foul, but that he didn’t plan on getting the second one. After receiving the whistle, he went after the refs in an aggressive manner and was immediately given the second T whereupon he was ejected. Today, per a release from the Big Ten,  McCaffery will have to serve a one-game suspension as a result. Iowa was also fined $10,000 and McCaffery was publicly reprimanded.

Fran McCaffery was suspended one game by the Big 10 for his actions on Sunday night against Wisconsin (Andy Manis/AP).

Fran McCaffery was suspended one game by the Big 10 for his actions on Sunday night against Wisconsin (Andy Manis/AP).

On the surface, this isn’t as big a deal as the amount of news and attention it’s receiving today. The reason for this is because Iowa’s next game is against Northwestern. Not to pick on the 7-8 Wildcats, but Iowa should be able to beat them with Peter Jok serving as player/coach. So in the general scheme of things, McCaffery missing one game is unlikely to affect the B1G standings. If you dig a little deeper, however, check back on Iowa at the end of January to see where they stand. Iowa is in a place right now that they haven’t been in quite a while in terms of expectations. None of the players currently on the roster have ever been part of a Top 25 team until this season, and none have never played in an NCAA Tournament game.

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Big Ten M5: 01.07.14 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on January 7th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. For the second year in a row and the first time this season, Illinois has cracked the AP Top 25. John Groce was lauded for turning around the Illini last season, but what he has been able to do this year with this roster is more impressive. This is a deeply flawed team. They do not shoot the ball well from deep, have no semblance of an inside scoring threat, and do not get to the free throw line very often. They do, however, play excellent defense and get offensive rebounds, which, along with Groce’s philosophy of Toughness and Togetherness (T-N-T), have kept the Illini competitive against more talented teams. A huge test awaits them on Wednesday when they head up to Madison to play undefeated Wisconsin.
  2. In the preseason, everyone named Gary Harris as the Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year. But the sophomore star has been hampered by injuries and has not made the impact most of us thought he would by this point of the season. Despite these setbacks, Harris has managed to lead the Spartans in scoring and appears poised to live up to the expectations we all placed on him. This past weekend, the Indiana native returned to his home state to play the Hoosiers and scored 26 points. After the game, Harris made it clear he’s ready to take off, saying about his performance: “I was more aggressive with my shot. I was ready to shoot more.”
  3. For college basketball diehards like us, we know how impressive the job Thad Matta has done at Ohio State has been. But for most of the sports-watching general public, Ohio State will always be associated with football dominance. Matta knows this and is OK with it. In ESPN.com‘s Dana O’Neil’s interview with him, the Buckeyes’ head coach made it known that he is concentrated on his players and becoming the best basketball program Ohio State can be. That’s not always true for an occupation as eg0-driven as coaching high level sports, as some coaches would prefer to be the main attraction at their respective school. But Matta seems to know his place in the grand scheme of things in Columbus and that suits him just fine.
  4. Michigan‘s season has not gone as it had hoped. In addition to having four losses already, they also lost Mitch McGary to back surgery for an indefinite amount of time. While no one on the roster can replicate what McGary does when he’s 100 percent, Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan have managed to fill the role admirably with their two very different styles. Horford has a more advanced offensive game, while Morgan commands the defense. What both players provide that McGary may not have had, is the leadership that comes with experience. Both upperclassmen have been with the program not just during its very successful season in 2012-13, but with some of the missed opportunities from seasons past. Their tenure gives them the perspective needed to lead this team through adversity.
  5. On Monday, Fran McCaffery once again apologized for his Sunday outburst when his Hawkeyes were playing Wisconsin. It’s not the first such explosion for the Iowa head coach, as he has had a previous episode of slamming chairs. Apparently, this latest incident was a step too far for McCaffery’s boss, athletic director Gary Barta, who made a strong statement where he said that his coach “crossed the line of acceptable behavior” with his conduct. It’s unclear whether McCaffery’s ejection had any real effect on Sunday’s game (besides the five immediate free throws) or the season going forward, but not angering your boss should be reason enough for him to change his behavior and keep his cool on the sidelines going forward.
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Weekend Game To Watch: Iowa Looking For Its Signature Win At Wisconsin

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on January 5th, 2014

The game to watch this weekend is, without a doubt, today’s match-up of Iowa visiting Wisconsin. It’s the only Big Ten contest this weekend where both teams are ranked, and the Badgers are a robust eight-point favorite according to KenPom.com. This isn’t surprising given that the Badgers have been the most impressive team in the conference and Madison is a tough place for any team to visit. It would therefore seem as if this game is all upside for Fran McCaffery’s group as it has nothing to lose. Thus far, Iowa has been good enough to break into the AP Top 25 and steadily move up the rankings, but not great enough to convince skeptics that the Hawkeyes are poised to battle the likes of Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State for the conference title. Iowa needs an impressive road win to convert those doubters and start to make a case for a coveted high seed in the NCAA Tournament. Their best hope for doing just that today is to capitalize on the few defensive vulnerabilities of the Badgers.

Aaron White may need a big game on Sunday to get a win in Madison (Brian Ray, The Gazette via AP)

Aaron White may need a big game to get a win in Madison (Credit: Brian Ray/The Gazette via AP)

It will be no small task to get a win at Madison — both teams are highly efficient at scoring (Wisconsin scores 1.17 points per possession vs. Iowa’s 1.16) and the Badgers have the edge on defensive efficiency (0.92 PPP vs. 0.94). Bo Ryan relies on excellent man-to-man defense to deny the other team good looks at the basket; still, Iowa can look to exploit several facets of the Badgers’ defense. More specifically, the Badgers’ lack of a true shot blocker has resulted in a low block percentage of 8.6 percent (206th nationally). If McCaffery can set up Roy Devyn Marble and Jarrod Uthoff on cuts to the basket to draw weak side defenders, even slightly, they can dish it off to Aaron White, who is shooting a blistering 75 percent under the basket. Another flaw in Wisconsin’s defense is that it does not cause many turnovers. This is good for Iowa since it is not turnover-prone itself but does cause opponents to give up the ball at an above-average rate (19.5 percent of possessions).

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Otskey’s Observations: Episode VI

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on December 18th, 2013

Battle For Iowa Lived Up To Its Billing

For my money, the best game in recent days was Iowa State’s thrilling win over Iowa on Friday night at Hilton Coliseum. This game was the true essence of what college basketball is all about. It was a heated in-state rivalry between two quality teams in a crazy atmosphere, smack dab in the middle of a basketball-crazed state. It is simple: This was a fun game, period. Although Fred Hoiberg’s Cyclones came away victorious, you may be somewhat surprised to find out that my biggest impression taken from this game was just how good Iowa is. I actually thought the Hawkeyes were the better team for most of this contest. Don’t get me wrong, Iowa State played really well. After all, it beat a team I thought was very impressive so that should tell you something about the Cyclones as well. I thought Iowa had a terrific game plan and evidence of top-notch coaching and scouting was present throughout the game.

Devyn Marble

Devyn Marble and his mates were outstanding. But Iowa State was just a little bit better. (AP)

One specific example of great scouting came late in the first half when Roy Devyn Marble got in the middle of a dribble hand-off by Georges Niang and broke it up, leading to two Iowa points on the other end. Marble read the play perfectly and it paid off for his team. Fran McCaffery’s squad excelled in transition and got almost anything it wanted offensively on the low block with Aaron White leading the charge. Iowa ran some beautiful half-court sets that resulted in plenty of clean looks, especially for White and Marble. The Hawkeyes dominated the glass (but did not take full advantage of it) and answered the bell nearly every time Iowa State put together a charge, except for the final minute where it wound up costing them the game. Iowa simply didn’t make the plays it needed to win late, highlighted by Mike Gesell’s two missed free throws. McCaffery and his team can learn a lot from this game but in the end it is on the players to step up and lead down the stretch. Whether that’s Marble (most likely), White, Gesell, or someone else, Iowa needs someone to be “the man” in order to take the next step and contend at the very highest level in the Big Ten.

Michigan Back On Track?

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Key Questions to Answer in Advance of the Iowa-Iowa St. Matchup

Posted by Brendan Brody & Brian Goodman on December 13th, 2013

One of the best games of the weekend should take place in Ames, Iowa, on Friday night, as Iowa State hosts Iowa for state bragging rights. Big Ten correspondent Brendan Brody and the Big 12’s Brian Goodman decided to address some key questions heading into the contest in the hopes of providing some insights for the viewers to watch for as the game plays out.

Roy Devyn Marble will play a vital role if the Hawkeyes want to pull off a road upset against Iowa State Friday night (Joe Camporeale, USA Today Sports).

Roy Devyn Marble will play a vital role if the Hawkeyes want to pull off a road upset against Iowa State Friday night (Joe Camporeale/USA Today Sports).

B12: Iowa State has risen to the Top 25 and is getting contributions from a number of players, but what is Iowa’s best bet to contain the three-headed monster of Melvin Ejim, Georges Niang, and DeAndre Kane?

B1G: The best way that Iowa can do this is to force turnovers and bad shots with their diamond press that they employ on a good number of possessions. Aaron White and Mike Gesell are the key defensive players here, with White’s length a problem for Iowa State at the head of the press. Gesell harassed Farleigh Dickinson’s best guard, Sidney Sanders, into a 5-of-17, four-turnover evening recently, so look for him to start off on Kane to try to force similar results. Another advantage the Hawkeyes have is strength in numbers. They have multiple players who they can rotate in and out to cover each of the Cyclones’ Big Three. Speaking of which, Iowa has one of the deepest teams in the country, with 10 players averaging over 15 MPG. How can the Cyclones negate this Iowa advantage?

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Winners and Losers from the 15th Annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge

Posted by Lathan Wells on December 5th, 2013

The 2013-14 ACC/Big Ten Challenge had a different look this year thanks to realignment, but for the second consecutive year, the event ended in a 6-6 tie. In the end, the Challenge produced one shocking upset, showcased two Duke players heading in opposite directions, and delivered one game that set basketball back a few decades. Here are several glaring winners and losers from this year’s version:

Winners

1)       North Carolina. The most confusing team in the country went into East Lansing and knocked off the top-ranked Spartans, despite only an average night scoring the basketball by Marcus Paige.  Sure, there were injury issues on the Spartans’ side, but the ability of this UNC team to bounce back from puzzling losses to knock off powerhouses (Louisville after a home loss to Belmont; Michigan State after a road loss to UAB) speaks volumes about Roy Williams’ ability to motivate a roster he didn’t envision leaning on when the season began.

UNC celebrates huge win over No. 1 Michigan State (credit: goheels.com)

UNC celebrates huge win over No. 1 Michigan State (credit: goheels.com)

2)      Quinn Cook. Everyone knew about Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood. Most of the questions about the Blue Devils were about the supporting cast. With Rasheed Sulaimon a no-show (more on that later), the inconsistent Cook of a year ago seemed like a different player as he exploited the Michigan backcourt in a solid win Tuesday night. If Cook can consistently hit his outside shot and remain largely turnover-free, a team that appeared to lean heavily on two players suddenly has more versatility at its disposal. Cook’s 24 points and nine turnovers helped keep Duke’s 13-year non-conference home winning streak alive.

3)      Iowa. Fighting off a tougher-than-expected challenge from Notre Dame with 57 percent shooting was impressive, but even more impressive was that this was the Hawkeyes’ fourth game in six days. Fran McCaffery’s bunch was coming off a solid showing in the Battle 4 Atlantis, losing only an overtime title game to a very good Villanova squad. Iowa has a solid nucleus in Aaron White, Devyn Marble and Jared Uthoff and has already shown its natural ability to score in bunches. Their resolve in fighting off fatigue and a charging Notre Dame team spoke to their toughness. This is definitely a team worth watching in the Big Ten this season.

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