2013-14 Rush the Court All-America Teams

Posted by Walker Carey on April 1st, 2014

Compiling preseason All-America teams is a difficult task because nobody knows what is going to occur during the season. There will always be players who will fail to live up to expectations and there will always be under the radar types who will unexpectedly emerge to stardom. When our group of eight RTC pollsters selected their preseason All-America teams back in November, nobody could have guessed that only six of the 15 names on that list would live up to the hype: Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Louisville’s Russ Smith, Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, Duke’s Jabari Parker, Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier, and Kentucky’s Julius Randle. The only two players that were projected to to be a first team All-America and finished there were McDermott and Smith (actually, we recognized at the time that a 33 percent accuracy rate was the AP’s historical norm, so we did a little better than that). The nine players we selected as preseason All-Americans who did not make our team – Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, Michigan State’s Gary Harris, Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, Michigan’s Mitch McGary (spent much of the year injured), Arizona State’s Jahii Carson, Arizona’s Aaron Gordon, Syracuse’s C.J. Fair, Michigan State’s Adreian Payne, and Virginia’s Joe Harris — all had exceptional seasons, but they were surpassed in achievements by the names that rose to the top of our list. Here are the 2013-14 RTC All-America Teams.

Note on methodology: voters took postseason performance to date into consideration. Players earned three points for a First Team vote, two points for a Second Team vote, and one point for a Third Team vote. McDermott and Napier were the only two consensus First Team All-America selections. Coming tomorrowThe RTC Coach of the Year.

First Team All-America

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  • Doug McDermott, Senior, Creighton (consensus) (26.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 52.6% FG, 44.9% 3FG). McDermott was the most prolific  and talented offensive player in the country in a season that wrapped up his marvelous collegiate career. The senior led the country in scoring and his brilliant play was the biggest reason why Creighton finished the season with a sterling 27-8 record. The brilliance of “Dougie McBuckets” saw him reach several amazing career milestones this year. His career-high 45 points in March 8′s Senior Night victory over Providence put him over the 3,000-point barrier, and he wound up finishing with 3,150 points, good for fifth on the all-time scoring list. There have been few players like Doug McDermott in college basketball history, and there will be few like him in the future. He was an amazingly unique talent that we were all privileged to watch play ball for the last four years.
  • Shabazz Napier, Senior, Connecticut (consensus) (18.1 PPG, 4.9 APG, 5.9 RPG, 1.7 SPG). You can make an argument that no player has meant more to his team this season than Napier has meant to Connecticut. The Huskies improbably took home the East Region title and are headed to the Final Four, thanks in large part to the heroics of Napier. After a sensational regular season where the guard took home the AAC Player of the Year award, he has only elevated his play in the postseason. In the Huskies’ four NCAA Tournament victories, Napier is averaging 23.3 points per contest and has displayed his flare for the dramatic by hitting several important shots when his team needed them most. Connecticut won a national title in 2011 mostly due to the brilliance of then-point guard and NPOY Kemba Walker. If the Huskies are able to replicate that feat this season, it will be mostly due to the brilliance of Napier.
  • Jabari Parker, Freshman, Duke (22) (19.1 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 47.3% FG). In a season when many freshmen around the country received a great deal of preseason hype, no other freshman lived up to the lofty expectations quite like Parker. The USBWA National Freshman of the Year became the first Duke freshman to earn consensus first-team All-America honors with selections to the AP and Wooden All-America teams. It is widely expected that Parker will enter the 2014 NBA Draft after just one season in Durham, and even though his Duke career did not include an NCAA Tournament victory, Parker’s terrific season will not soon be forgotten.
  • Russ Smith, Senior, Louisville (22) (18.2 PPG, 4.6 APG, 2.0 SPG, 46.8% FG). “Russdiculous” entered the season with high expectations and he more than lived up them by leading Louisville to another terrific campaign. After an excellent junior season, Smith only improved as a senior. Known for erratic decision-making much earlier in his career, the talented guard reinvented himself during his senior season. Smith improved his field goal percentage from by five percentage points and his three-point percentage from by six points. That brilliance led a spot as Louisville’s first consensus All-American since Clifford Rozier in the 1993-94 season. 
  • Sean Kilpatrick, Senior, Cincinnati (19) (20.6 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 42.3% FG, 84.5% FT). Kilpatrick finished his outstanding collegiate career with legendary Cincinnati status, as he joined NBA Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson as the only two Bearcats to top 2,000 career points. Along with joining Robertson in the Cincinnati record books, Kilpatrick also became the program’s all-time leader in games (140) and career minutes played (4,315). The elevation in Kilpatrick’s play as a senior also meant great things for an overachieving Cincinnati squad that was the co-AAC champion and was ranked #15 in the final AP poll.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.30.14 Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on March 30th, 2014

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March Madness is finally upon us, and we here at RTC are here to make everything a little bit easier for you. From the First Four until One Shining Moment, we’ll be dropping daily tidbits of knowledge regarding the teams in each region.

South Region

West Region

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Rushed Reaction: #2 Wisconsin 64, #1 Arizona 63 (OT)

Posted by AMurawa on March 29th, 2014

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Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) is the NCAA Tournament’s West Region correspondent. He filed this report from Anaheim after #2 Wisconsin’s 64-63 overtime win over #1 Arizona. RTC will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of the Elite Eight and Final Four. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Celebrate Bo Ryan - you are finally going to the Final Four. (Getty)

Celebrate Bo Ryan – you are finally going to the Final Four. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Late-Game Controversy. The officiating was a topic of conversation throughout the game, but it all boiled to a head in the final seconds of overtime. With under five seconds left and Arizona down a bucket, Nick Johnson drove to the hoop, looking to get a shot up. Contact was made between Johnson and Josh Gasser, the official blew the whistle and … charge. Reasonable minds can – and have – differed on whether it was the right call, whether a call should have been made at all, but without a doubt, there was going to be controversy of some sort on that play, regardless of what the official did. The officiating was put on focus again on the next play, as the Wisconsin in-bound pass was challenged by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and knocked out of bounds. The officials went to the monitor for minutes on end, and despite what appeared to be inconclusive evidence, the refs gave the ball back to Arizona, setting up Johnson for redemption. But after inbounding the ball with 2.3 seconds remaining, Johnson took three dribbles and the buzzer went off and the clock expired before launching the shot.
  2. Wisconsin’s Pace. The game was definitely played at the pace the Badgers were comfortable. Arizona went without a single fast-break point throughout, the Badgers fought the Wildcats to a draw on the glass and Wisconsin was plenty happy to slow the game down when they had the ball, using an average of 24 seconds on their possessions.
  3. Toughness. The Badgers, for all the things they do well, are not a stunningly athletic team. While Arizona’s got guys like Aaron Gordon and Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson who can leave your jaw on the floor with athletic above-the-rim plays, Wisconsin is not blessed with those types of players. So, in turn, they had to impose their will on this game. That included slowing the game down, limiting fast-break opportunities, and finding ways to manufacture points on the offensive glass. Sean Miller made a point on Thursday night to acknowledge that the perception that the Wildcats are a great rebounding team may not be true anymore since the Brandon Ashley injury. It became apparent that the Badgers sensed a little blood in the water, as Wisconsin does not normally dedicate a lot of resources to offensive rebounding (they were 280th in the nation in offensive rebounding this season), but tonight, they made additional effort to hit the offensive glass, grabbing 42.1% of offensive rebound opportunities in the first half and 33.3% over the course of the game. Read the rest of this entry »
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Three Reasons Why Wisconsin Will Beat Arizona

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 29th, 2014

Nine years ago, as a clear underdog, Bo Ryan’s Badgers, led by Mike Wilkinson, almost took down Sean May’s North Carolina Tar Heels in the Elite Eight. Few expected the Badgers to hang in there against an athletic UNC team, but the Badgers proved to be a matchup nightmare for most of the game. At the end, pure talent won out against a disciplined team. As Ryan heads into the second Elite Eight game during his tenure, he faces a similar challenge – Arizona is arguably the most athletic team in the country, led by freshman Aarno Gordon. Overlooking the Badgers in this matchup is not a good idea especially after their offensive performances against Baylor and Oregon. Currently, the oddsmakers have the Wildcats as a three-point favorite, but let’s dig deeper to understand why the Badgers can win the game on Saturday:

Will Bo Ryan finally take the Wisconsin program to the Final Four?

Will Bo Ryan finally take the Wisconsin program to the Final Four?

  1. Frank Kaminsky’s spin moves in the paint will get Kaleb Tarzcewski into foul trouble. Lack of height or length is not an issue for the Wildcats, but their lateral movement on defense will be challenged by Kaminsky. While it is clear that Kaminsky can shoot the three effectively, his ability to drive into the paint off the pump-fake has been overlooked over the past few weeks. Against Baylor, he repeatedly faked the ball at the top of the key and was able to drive very easily against Isaiah Austin and if he continues to do that against Arizona, Brandon Ashley’s presence will be sorely missed because Sean Miller will have to dig deeper into the bench. Arizona is extremely stingy on defense, giving up just 0.9 points per possession in the PAC-12, but it hasn’t defended a talent like Kaminsky. As we look back to the Badgers’ game Elite Eight game in 2005, Wilkinson’s ability to hit the deep shot against UNC was extremely important. Along those lines, Kaminsky can definitely put up 20 points against the depleted Arizona frontline. Miller will have to consider assigning Aaron Gordon to guard the Wisconsin big man, but that’ll create a hole on the other side of the wing because Sam Dekker will have an easier matchup. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: #2 Wisconsin 69, #6 Baylor 52

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on March 27th, 2014

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Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) is the NCAA Tournament’s West Region correspondent. He filed this report after #2 Wisconsin’s 69-52 win over #6 Baylor. RTC will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

A Wisconsin player scoring at the rim was a familiar sight Thursday night. (Harry How/Getty Images)

A Wisconsin player scoring at the rim was a familiar sight Thursday night. (Harry How/Getty Images)

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Soft Baylor Zone. Two possessions in, one of the story lines of this game became clear: there was going to be a ton of space in the middle of the Baylor zone for Badger players to operate. On back-to-back plays, Frank Kaminsky caught the ball in the middle of the lane and turned around to find the Baylor defender, only to discover that there was nobody there. On the first, he wheeled to the rim for a layup and on the second, he settled for a jumper (which he missed), but this scenario played out time and time again: Badger catches the ball in the lane only to be surprised by the fact that there was no Baylor player there to defend him. And credit Wisconsin for continuing to take advantage of that. Of their 29 first-half points, 16 came in the paint. The second half was distorted some by free throws, but still 20 of the Badgers 40 second half points came in the paint. And on every possession it seemed that the Badgers made it a priority to get the ball inside first and work inside-out. And it was deadly.
  2. Wisconsin Perimeter Defense. Baylor’s offense is predicated on being able to shoot the three well; they take 34% of their field goal attempts from deep and knock in 38.6% of those shots. However, the Badgers’ biggest defensive strength is their ability to limit good looks from deep, allowing the opposition to take just 25.9% of their field goals from three coming into the game. Tonight, those stats played out as Baylor was only able to take 26.3% of their shots behind the three-point line. And many of those were bad looks, resulting in a 2-of-15 night from deep for the Bears.
  3. Dunks and Layups. We mentioned Baylor’s awful defense above, but let’s give credit to the Badgers for running great offense. Against a team that plays primarily zone, like Baylor does, it is all too easy to get caught up in launching perimeter jumpers. The Badgers did not settle for that fool’s gold, instead attacking the rim. Of their 26 field goals, 16 were either dunks or layups. And many of the perimeter jumpers they did get (and often make) came as the result of inside-out offense after the ball was worked inside and then back out for a clean look after the Baylor defense collapsed. Really, the whole thing was a clinic for the Badgers. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: #2 Wisconsin 85, #7 Oregon 77

Posted by Walker Carey on March 22nd, 2014

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Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion@RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

The Wisconsin Home Crowd Carried the Badgers Through to Victory

The Wisconsin Home Crowd Carried the Badgers Through to Victory

  1. Wisconsin’s second half comeback was monumental. An Oregon offensive flurry had the Ducks leading 49-37 at halftime, but Wisconsin responded with its own flurry to begin the second half. The Badgers went on a 22-9 run to begin the second stanza to take a 59-58 lead at the 13:26 mark. The two teams battled back-and-forth for the rest of the game until a three-pointer from Wisconsin guard Ben Brust gave the Badgers a 77-75 lead with 1:07 to play. That was a lead they would not relinquish. There were many reasons why Wisconsin was able to charge back in the second half, but none was more important than its increased intensity on both ends of the court. After allowing Oregon to shoot 55.6 percent from the field in the first half, the Badgers tightened the screws on their defense and only allowed the Ducks to make 9-of-22 field goals in the second half. The increased intensity on the offensive end of the court was highlighted by its 11 second half offensive rebounds and seven second half three-pointers.
  2. This was essentially a home game for the Badgers and that environment played a role in the team’s comeback. The Bradley Center in Milwaukee is only 75 miles from Wisconsin’s campus in Madison, and that resulted in the Badgers being extremely well-represented at the arena. For the game with Oregon, a reasonable estimation would be that the crowd was 99-to-1 in favor of Wisconsin. The crowd was raucous at the start of the game, but you could sense a nervous energy when Oregon took a 12-point lead into the half. With Wisconsin’s scorching start to the second stanza, however, the crowd once again regained its mojo and made the Bradley Center a hostile environment for the remainder of the game. If you did not know better, the environment would have made you believe that the game was being played in Wisconsin’s home arena. When the victory was in hand in the final seconds, Wisconsin forward Sam Dekker made a point to salute the crowd in a pretty grand fashion.
  3. Wisconsin’s inconsistent defense is going to be an issue in Anaheim. During the Bo Ryan era at Wisconsin, defense has been this team’s calling card. This season’s more offensive-minded personnel has resulted in a shift in mantra. Consequently, Wisconsin’s defense has been a bit all over the place this season. For example, the Badgers held American to just 35 total points and 29.7 percent shooting in Thursday’s round of 64 victory. And while Oregon is a much more talented team, it not arguable that Wisconsin’s defense played with far less intensity in the first half Saturday. Oregon took advantage of a plethora of open looks to put up 49 first half points on a sizzling 55.6 percent shooting. The Badgers made some adjustments in the second half and had far more success containing the high-powered Oregon offense. If Wisconsin is not able to string together more consistent defensive efforts this coming week at the West Regional, the Badgers’ stay in Anaheim could only last a single night.

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Evaluating the Big Ten Teams in the West Region

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on March 19th, 2014

Is the West region really up for grabs because Arizona might have a match-up against a dangerous Oklahoma State team? While Marcus Smart will cherish the challenge to prove that he can compete with the best teams on the national stage, the Wildcats are still the favorite out of this region because they have figured out how to play without Brandon Ashley. Under the assumption that Arizona makes it to the Elite Eight, is there a Big Ten team that can challenge them out west? Nebraska and Wisconsin could end up playing each other in the Sweet Sixteen, if both teams make it that far, meaning the one left standing could be poised for a shot at the Wildcats. The following are a few thoughts about both teams’ chances in this region.

Terran Petteway can't have an off-night against Baylor. (HallUniversity.com)

Terran Petteway can’t have an off-night against Baylor. (HallUniversity.com)

  • Can the Huskers keep up with Baylor? The Bears’ game plan is fairly straightforward: outscore the opponent using a dribble-drive offense that consists of athletic players such as Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson. Averaging 1.11 points per possession on the offensive end shows that they will challenge the Huskers to outscore them. Terran Petteway will need some help because he can’t win the game by himself. Shavon Shields will need to be that guy but all of the Huskers’ wings will be busy chasing around the Bears on defense. Austin should be able to dominate the paint because Tim Miles doesn’t have another big guy beyond Walter Pitchford who can hang with the future NBA center. Having said that, Miles may have a slight edge over the Bears in that his squad is a much more disciplined team after going through the rigors of the Big Ten. Haphazard offense has been an occasional issue for Drew’s team over the years and the Bears could find a tough time scoring when Nebraska cuts off the driving lanes and force the guards to beat them from distance. That gamble could ultimately pay off, but this is a tough first round match-up for the Huskers. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten Tournament: Friday Recap/Saturday Preview

Posted by Walker Carey on March 15th, 2014

With the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament in the books, we take a look at a few of the big takeaways from Friday, as well as storylines to keep in mind on Friday.

What went down on Friday:

The Top-Seeded Wolverines Survived an Upset Bid by Illinois Friday

The Top-Seeded Wolverines Survived an Upset Bid by Illinois Friday

  • Top-seeded Michigan survived a scare from a tenacious Illinois squad. The Wolverines saw a 13-point lead completely disappear before senior forward Jordan Morgan converted a layup with seven seconds left to give Michigan the 64-63 victory. The Wolverines were able to build their 13-point lead thanks to great assertiveness from sophomore Glenn Robinson III and the play-making ability of Big Ten Player of the Year, Nik Stauskas. The team’s fortunes, however, changed in the second half when Illinois dropped into a 2-3 zone that utterly frustrated Michigan throughout a majority of the second half.
  • Ohio State advanced to the semifinals with an epic 71-67 comeback victory over Nebraska. The Buckeyes trailed by 18 points with just over 13 minutes to play, but junior forward LaQuinton Ross and their suffocating defense took over and allowed Thad Matta’s squad to come all the way back to earn the victory. Senior guard Aaron Craft did not have the best game statistically, but he once again showed how valuable it is to have a confident, heady leader at the controls.
  • Wisconsin was very impressive in its 26-point mauling of a Minnesota team that could not find its way off the bubble. Senior guard Ben Brust turned in a career-best performance for the Badgers, finishing with a game-high 29 points. Bo Ryan’s squad also received a significant contribution from its bench, as guard Bronson Koenig and forward Nigel Hayes combined for 29 points. There have been questions all season about Wisconsin’s defense, but the Badgers were outstanding on that end of the court, limiting Minnesota to just 32.8 percent shooting for the game. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: #12 Wisconsin 83, Minnesota 57

Posted by Walker Carey on March 14th, 2014

rushedreactions

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

wisky minny

Wisconsin Continues to Look Like a #1 Seed Candidate

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. This was a one-sided thumping. Wisconsin dominated this game from the opening tip and never looked back on its way to a 26-point victory. Minnesota never led and was thrown off its rhythm all night long by the Badgers’ suffocating defensive attack. Golden Gophers guard Andre Hollins – the team’s leading scorer at 14.4 points per game –  had a nightmarish night, as he finished with just eight points on 2-of-14 shooting. The Golden Gophers as a team only managed to shoot 32.8 percent from the field for the game and its 29 percent mark in the first half greatly contributed to Richard Pitino’s team falling behind early. Minnesota also experienced issues with its defense, as Wisconsin was allowed solid looks all night and shot 54.5 percent from the field for the game.
  2. Minnesota did not do itself any favors with the selection committee. Richard Pitino’s group was squarely on the bubble entering the game, and while a loss to a good team like Wisconsin is probably not enough to completely kill their NCAA Tournament chances, one would think a 26-point shellacking does not bode well either. An argument can certainly still be made that Minnesota belongs in the field of 68, but when the committee decides its selections, its last impression of Minnesota will be Friday night’s embarrassing defeat.
  3. Wisconsin has the look of a potential one-seed. Minnesota certainly deserves plenty of blame for its embarrassing loss, but it must be noted just how well Wisconsin played. The Badgers led the entire game and it never even appeared as though Minnesota had any chance. Wisconsin starting guards Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson went scoreless for the night, but the Badgers were able to get past that due to a career performance from fellow starter Ben Brust and a 14-point performance from reserve guard Bronson Koenig. Starting big man Frank Kaminsky also struggled a bit offensively, but reserve forward Nigel Hayes contributed 15 points and six rebounds to the winning effort. Great teams find a way to keep things going when they may not get the expected output from key players and that is exactly what Wisconsin did Friday night. There is a lot of conversation nationally right now over which team will be getting the fourth #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and on Friday night, Bo Ryan‘s Badgers definitely looked like they belong in those conversations.

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Why Not Frank Kaminsky as Big Ten Player of the Year?

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on February 25th, 2014

As the saying goes, “basketball is a game of runs.” This season’s Wisconsin team is a prime example of that notion. The Badgers started the season with 16 straight wins, including impressive victories over Florida and Virginia. Then they hit a midseason lull to lose five of six games, dropping their conference record to a middling 4-5 by the start of February. After winning its last five games, Wisconsin appears to have righted the ship. Through it all, it has been seven-foot junior Frank Kaminsky who has remained consistently effective during the ups and downs. Lately, he’s also added “clutch performer” to his resume. On Saturday, the junior big man scored 20 points at Iowa, including two key baskets to build a lead and some clutch free throws to seal the game away. Kaminsky has not only led his team back to a placement in the top three of the standings, he’s also leading the league in terms of overall efficiency.

Frank Kaminsky is the most efficient player in the league. (Getty)

Frank Kaminsky is the most efficient player in the league. (Getty)

Back in November, fellow Big Ten microsite writer Brendan Brody wrote that Kaminsky could follow in the footsteps of former Badger Jared Berggren and other bigs in Bo Ryan’s system by taking a significant leap in production with his expanded role. Hopes were already high because of returning starters Traevon Jackson, Ben Brust, Josh Gasser, and Sam Dekker; but Kaminsky, a three-star prospect who had provided spot duty for two seasons in Madison, was regarded as the unknown commodity in the starting lineup. He had shown some indications that he was capable of taking on a bigger role, but his capabilities were regarded as suitable for a “pick-and-pop” forward most typical of Wisconsin’s big men. With the departures of Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz from last year’s team, there was also significant concern that Kaminsky would not be a reliable rebounding presence on the blocks. He’s done nothing but blown all of these misconceptions out of the water, exhibiting a developed footwork skill set that has allowed him to score either directly under the basket or create a layup from 10 feet away. When Bo Ryan needs a bucket now, he instructs his players to get the ball to Kaminsky on the blocks.

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Big Ten M5: 02.24.14 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on February 24th, 2014

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  1. Better late than never, but Michigan’s Caris LeVert is starting to get his due for his contributions to the Wolverines this season. After a 23-point performance against rival Michigan State on Sunday — his fourth 20+ game in the last four — he has catapulted his team to a one-game lead in the loss column of the Big Ten standings. His marked improvement, specifically on the offensive end, sets up the Wolverines to control their own destiny with four games left in pursuit of the conference championship. The LeVert-Nik Stauskas combo will be very dangerous in March, and has, at least for the moment, helped make Maize and Blue faithful forget about Mitch McGary.
  2. John Groce’s Illini are unlikely to make the NCAA Tournament, but the last few weeks of play should ultimately yield positive results for his young team. Against Minnesota, freshman guard Kendrick Nunn scored 19 points and showed that he has the makings of a future superstar. He has great form on his shot, and he is also excellent on the defensive end. He has proven to be a player with a knack for the ball during key possessions, and his experience and continued growth over the final few weeks will allow him to gain more confidence heading into next year.
  3. Indiana‘s season has gotten derailed over the past few weeks, but the Hoosiers snapped their recent three-game losing streak by beating Northwestern in Evanston over the weekend. At this juncture of the season, Tom Crean can only find several small moral victories in an otherwise disappointing season. His team was committed to feeding the post against the Wildcats, which led to a season-low seven turnovers in the game. Crean said, “These guys know if we get good looks and if we get a chance to get on that board and if we get to that foul line, we can be pretty good.” It is unlikely that the Hoosiers will surge towards the NCAAs in the final few weeks, but a confident young core should be pay dividends next season.
  4. It has been an up and down season for Wisconsin forward Frank Kaminsky. After pouring in 43 points against North Dakota early in the non-conference season, he struggled a bit in January during Big Ten play. However, he is making a strong comeback over the past three games, averaging 21.0 PPG in three wins to lead the Badgers into third place in the Big Ten standings. Already equipped with an excellent jumper from the beyond the arc, Kaminsky is challenging defenses by taking his game into the paint and utilizing a nice spin move to create angles for easy shots. If Kaminsky can keep up his recent offensive surge, the Badgers become a very interesting team at both the conference and national level.
  5. Injuries have been a persistent issue for Tom Izzo’s Spartans this season. First it was Adreian Payne who was sidelined; then it was Branden Dawson; and finally Keith Appling got bit by the injury bug a few weeks ago. Payne is now back and healthy, but Appling’s return against Michigan on Sunday was concerning. Playing with a sore right wrist, he scored just six points and clearly appeared to be banged up as the Spartans tried to prevent the Wolverines from running away with the Big Ten title. Dawson’s contributions are necessary for Michigan State to reach its potential, but yesterday’s game proved that Appling might be the most important player in the Izzo’s lineup.
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Big Ten M5: 02.18.14 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on February 18th, 2014

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  1. Tom Izzo deserves credit for his team’s success throughout all the injuries. Sparty is still atop the Big Ten standings and a legitimate threat to reach the Final Four despite — at times — losing the services of Keith Appling, Gary Harris, and Adreian Payne. Appling’s recent injury puts him in jeopardy of missing the remainder of the regular season and returning for the postseason. With Appling, Harris, and Payne most likely gone after this season, Izzo is no doubt thinking long-term. He has the most Final Four-ready team in years, and a national championship, not another regular season championship, is the prize.
  2. Indiana may have said goodbye to its NCAA Tournament prospects after its 82-64 loss at Purdue on Saturday. That loss was its third in a row from a slate of games which were thought to be one of the Hoosiers’ easiest stretches of the season. Now, they find themselves with a 4-8 conference record with upcoming games against Iowa, at Wisconsin, Ohio State, and at Michigan still in its schedule. Tom Crean has stated that his players need to block out “unneeded pressure”. Crean further explains that some players on his young team are dealing with adversity for the first time as they were mostly winners on their respective high school and prep school teams. That may be true, but it’s also true that what plagued them in December plagues them today: too many turnovers and inconsistency on offense (outside of transition).
  3. It’s high time we start grouping Terran Pettaway in with other elite Big Ten players. On Sunday, he led his team in minutes and points to register a huge win at Michigan State. Thanks to Pettaway, who earned co-Player of the Week honors, the Cornhuskers are now back to .500 in the conference. Pettaway’s efforts, which have also propelled him into being second in the league in scoring (17.7 points per game), beg the question: shouldn’t he be in contention for Big Ten Player of the Year? However, there are some issues working against him. First, he’s playing for a team that will most likely miss the NCAA Tournament. Second, he is not as efficient as other elite scorers in the league; he averages around 1 point per possession while other top scorers are usually around 1.2 or greater. Despite these facts, we should recognize and appreciate the impact he is having on his team.
  4. Another player who should be recognized for his unexpected impact is Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky. The junior forward chipped in 25 points in the Badgers’ Sunday win at Michigan, scoring most of his points in the second half, including a three-point dagger that all but put the game away. He was also named co-Player of the Week on Monday and has helped put the Badgers back into the conversation of Big Ten regular season champions, now that they are only two games back. Unlike Pettaway and the Cornhuskers, Kaminsky has an arsenal of other teammates who can step up and have big scoring nights of their own. However, Kaminsky’s improvement this season has given Bo Ryan the most potent offense of his coaching career.
  5. One of the players Kaminsky has to rely on is freshman sensation Nigel Hayes. The young big man scored 15 points and grabbed 4 rebounds in their win against Minnesota this week. Hayes has now won his fourth Freshman of the Week award, only trailing Indiana’s Noah Vonleh with seven.  Vonleh will most likely win the Freshman of the Year honors due to his absurd rebounding numbers, and he is also projected to be a better NBA prospect than Hayes. But since conference play, Hayes has stepped up his game and is averaging 10.4 points per game, not too far off of Vonleh’s 11.3 points per game mark. Regardless of whoever people consider the best, it’s nice to see the tradition of talented big men continue in the Big Ten.
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