Big Ten Weekend in Review: The Plot Thickens

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 17th, 2014

After Michigan got beaten pretty badly at home against Wisconsin early Sunday afternoon, Michigan State knew that all they had to do was beat Nebraska at home to take over sole possession of first place in the league. The broadcasters even said that the Spartans were watching the Michigan game in the locker room before their game. So of course Sparty got upset by the Cornhuskers because nothing is normal in the 2013-14 Big Ten season. With Wisconsin and Iowa winning over the weekend, there are now four teams within two games of the top spot. With all of these teams playing against each other next weekend (Michigan State at Michigan, Wisconsin at Iowa), absolutely nothing has been settled with three weekends left in the conference schedule. Minnesota got an important win at Northwestern to keep their tourney hopes alive, Purdue annihilated Indiana, and Ohio State and Illinois combined for a whopping 87 points. Here’s the rest of the weekend rundown.

Frank Kaminsky posted his third double-double of the season by scoring 25 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in Wisconsin's weekend win at Michigan. (Getty)

Frank Kaminsky posted his third double-double of the season by scoring 25 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in Wisconsin’s weekend win at Michigan. (Getty)

Player of the Weekend: Frank Kaminsky: This was probably the closest contest so far in the seven weeks of doling out this prestigious award. Sterling Carter and Melsaan Basabe were also worthy candidates, but Kaminsky gets the nod. He destroyed the Wolverines all day, and surprisingly did the majority of his damage inside the paint. In his other games this season where he’s gone for over 20 points, he did so by taking a good number of threes. Specifically, in his 43-point monsoon against North Dakota, Kaminsky went 6-for-6 from three and 4-for-7 on two’s. Sunday afternoon, he only took 2 shots from behind the arc. He was 10-for 14 on two’s and did a good deal of damage on the boards (4 offensive rebounds, 11 total). Kaminsky was as aggressive as he’s been all season trying to corral rebounds, and he attacked the basket the whole game. If he and Nigel Hayes can provide consistent paint points for the Badgers to go along with the ever-present outside attack, then Wisconsin just got a lot more dangerous.

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The “Save Your Season” Bowl: Key Questions for Ohio State-Wisconsin

Posted by Brendan Brody & Alex Moscoso on February 1st, 2014

The nosedive that Ohio State and Wisconsin have undergone in the last two weeks has been one of the biggest surprises in all of college basketball. Both teams have gone from the top five nationally to a combined 7-9 conference record. That’s part of what makes Saturday’s contest in Madison such a must-win for both squads. Forget the fact that this would have been a marquee NCAA seeding win two weeks ago. Now, both teams just need a win, period. Big Ten microsite columnists Brendan Brody and Alex Moscoso have decided to break down what these desperate teams need to do in order to start the process of getting things back on track Saturday.

Amir Williams needs to take advantage of Wisconsin's shaky post defense on Saturday. (Kirk Irwin, Getty).

Amir Williams needs to take advantage of Wisconsin’s shaky post defense on Saturday. (Kirk Irwin, Getty).

BB: Amir Williams has shot over 60 percent from the field for the majority of the season. Does Ohio State need to make a more concerted effort to get him the ball in the post and use his muscle against Frank Kaminsky?

AM: Absolutely. Wisconsin only has a block rate of 8.7 percent (268th in the nation) and they give up more shots at the rim than any other area of the court. The Badgers’ defense is more effective at denying looks on the perimeter where only 24.8 percent of their opponents’ shots are taken. Given this fact, going inside is the obvious and preferred choice for the Buckeyes. Williams is shooting 73.2 percent under the rim but is only sixth on the team in field goal attempts. He also has the highest eFG percentage on the team (61.9%) while Shannon Scott, Aaron Craft, and Sam Thompson — three players who all take more shots per game than the big man — have an eFG percentage below 50 percent. Thad Matta would be wise to figure out a way to get Williams involved even if it means diverting shots from players who are used to getting the ball. Lastly, getting Kaminsky to play more defense on the low block may rough him up a little and tire him out, which will take away from his offensive abilities.

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Big Ten M5: 01.30.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on January 30th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Michigan State is obviously a better team with Adreian Payne on the floor. The big man had a realistic chance to win the Big Ten Player of the Year award given the way he started the season, but he hasn’t played in the Spartans’ last six games. With his pain still lingering, Tom Izzo has had to defend his cautious approach to playing his talented big man. It can’t be easy to see his team play without Payne, but let’s keep in mind that this Michigan State team has higher aspirations than just winning the conference. Going without him right now to avoid further aggravation of the injury seems well worth it if Payne will be (hopefully) 100 percent come NCAA Tournament time.
  2. Yogi Ferrell has been impressive. The Indiana sophomore went from role player to star and has seen his scoring shoot up quite a bit this season. His ability to stay at that level as Big Ten play wears on is just as important if Indiana is to go from bubble team back to the NCAA Tournament. Ferrell is the clear leader of a young team and has done admirably in guiding an up-and-down Hoosiers squad. He is also the only player who can routinely hit outside shots to help open things up for Noah Vonleh inside. With a softer part of the schedule coming up for Indiana, look for Ferrell to really dominate.
  3. It wasn’t the player who we thought would be the dominant one for Michigan. In fact, he wasn’t even one of the two players expected to be the star for the Wolverines. Yet, Nik Stauskas is learning to adjust on the fly to becoming the opponent’s top defensive focus. The strategies to try and stop him have almost all been ineffective, as Stauskas is the biggest reason Michigan has gone from what appeared to be a lost season with the Mitch McGary injury to sitting in first place by itself nearly halfway through conference play. It’s been an impressive run and one Stauskas will need to continue if his team is to stay on top .
  4. It doesn’t get much better than how Iowa had it coming into Tuesday night’s game against Michigan State. The Spartans were without Payne and wing player Branden Dawson. It was in front of a sold out and raucous home crowd. Yet Iowa could not close the deal, and the loss represents a huge blown opportunity. The defeat really sets the Hawkeyes back now, because Fran McCaffery’s group dropped to three games back of first place as result. It’s no wonder the head coach called them out for not being tough enough. If they are going to have any shot at winning the Big Ten title, they can’t afford any more home losses this season.
  5. It is never an easy decision for a coach when a player picks up multiple early fouls. In the last two games, Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan has had to deal with this decision regarding his interior star, Frank Kaminsky. If the decision were up to Kaminsky, he’d stay in the game despite the foul trouble. It is no surprise to hear a player wants to play no matter the circumstance, but the key issue in these coaching decisions is always the game situation. In the Badgers’ last game against Purdue, Wisconsin was able to utilize an offense/defense substitution pattern with Kaminsky. It also helped that the team never trailed so it never became imminent to have its better offensive player in the game. It will be interesting to see what happens when Kaminsky is in foul trouble, though, and the Badgers are losing.
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Wisconsin Looks to Remain a Factor in the Big Ten Race

Posted by Walker Carey on January 26th, 2014

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s game between Wisconsin and Purdue in West Lafayette.

Just two weeks ago, Wisconsin sat at 16-0 overall and 3-0 in Big Ten play – climbing all the way up to #3 in the AP Top 25. While several of those 16 victories had come against inferior non-conference competition, the Badgers more than proved their legitimacy with impressive victories over Florida, Saint Louis, Virginia and Marquette. Past Wisconsin teams under Bo Ryan were known for their slow and methodical style of play, but this season’s squad proved early on that it was quite different than its predecessors. Armed with an offensive-minded starting lineup of guards Ben Brust, Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson along with forwards Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin raised eyebrows nationally with a drastic contrast in style of play from the norm in Madison.

Bo Ryan Instructed His Team to a Nice Road Victory

Bo Ryan Instructed His Team to a Nice Road Victory

After an unbeaten run through non-conference play, Wisconsin continued its sizzling play through its first three Big Ten games. In the conference opener, the Badgers unloaded on an inferior Northwestern squad en route to a 76-49 victory. Facing a strong test at home against a very good Iowa team next, Wisconsin rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit  to earn a 75-71 victory. In the third Big Ten game, a red hot Illinois team invaded the Kohl Center and was thoroughly dismantled by the Badgers in a 15-point Wisconsin victory. At that point, Wisconsin’s ascendance earned the Badgers considerable national attention. For instance, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi placed Bo Ryan’s team as the #1 seed in the Midwest Regional. When the first RPI rankings for the were released on January 10, the Badgers sat atop the list. Everything seemed to be aligning for Wisconsin to be a bona fide contender in both the Big Ten and nationally.

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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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Trending Upward: Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes is Making an Impact

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 4th, 2014

Wisconsin has been the story of the B1G thus far, as the Badgers improved to 14-0 on the season with their 76-48 win at Northwestern on Thursday night. Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky have garnered most of the attention from the rest of the college basketball world, but freshman Nigel Hayes is starting to come on strong as well. He’s emerging as a legitimate factor, giving the Badgers a tremendous athlete coming off the bench. Hayes scored a career-high 19 points in that game, and his play of late is something of which to take notice.

Nigel Hayes is starting to give the Badgers another weapon on offense (Jeff Potrykus, Journal Sentinel).

Nigel Hayes is starting to give the Badgers another weapon on offense. (Jeff Potrykus, Journal Sentinel).

“He listens, he works, he’s athletic and strong for a freshman so the combination is pretty tough to beat, and he feels that there really isn’t anything that he can’t do, but he knows he’s not a three-point shooter, so he doesn’t shoot three-point shots. He just does what he knows and he can do and what he does well. “

Bo Ryan’s quote here was in reference to his standout freshman while speaking with the ESPN crew after the win. The quote illuminates the fact that Hayes seems to know his place and is bent on fitting in and contributing wherever he can. He rarely forces anything on the offensive end, but you can see his confidence growing with each game. He’s now going aggressively to the basket, where in the beginning of the season he was more likely to have deferred to a teammate. In looking at Hayes’ numbers, you can see an upward progression as he’s gone for 15.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals, and a block per game in his last three outings. He has done this while shooting a stellar 63 percent from the field and getting to the free throw line 30 times. He was named B1G freshman of the week on December 30, and has a good chance to win it again after this weekend is over.

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Examining Volume Shooters in the Big Ten: Why Jarrod Uthoff Should Shoot More

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on December 14th, 2013

Who among college basketball fans hasn’t been frustrated by a volume shooter on their team? We all know the volume shooter, right? That player who hasn’t seen a shot he didn’t like. He starts off the game, seemingly, unable to buy a bucket. But then, all of a sudden, he gets hot and makes everything, maybe even the game-winning shot. Wash, rinse, repeat. The emotional roller coaster a volume shooter puts his fans through, while frustrating, is another example of the up-and-down nature of college basketball that diehards love about the sport. But how many players are really “volume” shooters? To clarify, how many players become more efficient the more often they shoot the ball? According to the numbers, the answer is not many, and they’re likely not the players you’d expect.

Jarrod Uthoff is the type of player who gets more accurate the more shots he puts up.

Jarrod Uthoff is the type of player who gets more accurate the more shots he puts up.

For this post, we did a quick analysis to determine the Big Ten’s volume shooters. To start, we only looked at players averaging double-figure points per game and measured player efficiency by using true shooting percentage to take into account the full spectrum of scoring opportunities: three-pointers, two-point field goals, and free throws. We used “true” shots (the denominator of true shooting percentage) as the measure of quantity or “shots taken.” Next, we counted each game as one observation and plotted each player’s game efficiency and quantity of shots on a graph. Lastly, we ran a simple regression analysis for all players to determine which ones had the most positive relationship between efficiency and the number of shots taken. From this analysis, we found that Iowa’s Jarrod Uthoff (10.3 PPG), Wisconsin’s Ben Brust (12.0 PPG), and Frank Kaminsky (14.7 PPG) were the three players with the most positive relationship between efficiency and shots taken. To illustrate this, the graph below maps each player’s regression line with one another. As a comparison, we included the regression lines of the Big Ten’s leading scorers: Michigan’s Nik Stauskas (18.9 PPG) and Penn State’s D.J. Newbill (18.5 PPG). Keep in mind that a regression line maps a player’s expected efficiency given the number of shots he takes in a game. Click on the graph for a larger view.

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The Seven Most Surprising Big Ten Players So Far This Season

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 13th, 2013

With the season now a little over a month old, it’s time to take a look at how different players are performing in accordance with their preseason expectations. I’m always more of a good news first kind of guy, so I’ll start with the guys who are making a better-than-expected impact first, with the disappointments coming next week. Many of these players are transfers, although some are simply just producing more in additional minutes. The common thread with all seven of these Big Ten breakout players is that they are heavily contributing to wins in more than one way, and doing so at a high level.

Frank Kaminsky has played his way into B1G Player of the Year consideration (Getty)

Frank Kaminsky has played his way into B1G Player of the Year consideration (Getty)

  • Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin (14.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.1 BPG, 1.1 SPG, 42.9% 3FG, 55.4% FG). “Frank the Tank” is leading the Badgers in scoring, steals and blocks. People thought that he’d be able to have an impact with more minutes due to the graduation of Jared Berggren, but no one thought he’d be capable of dropping 43 points in a single game. Kaminsky leads a balanced attack on the offensive end that has five different players capable of scoring 20 on a given night, and he’s a defensive presence to the tune of blocking 7.06 percent of all opponents’ field goal attempts. Wisconsin in general has been a surprise, but Kaminsky has been an even bigger one.
  • Eliott Eliason, Minnesota (5.7 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 2.5 BPG). Eliason got lost in the shuffle last season with Trevor Mkakwe and Rodney Williams getting most of the frontcourt minutes in 2012-13. This year he has emerged as a major rebounding and shot-blocking threat for the Gophers. Eliason is currently third in the league in defensive rebounding rate (26.5%), sixth in offensive rebounding rate (12.6%), and third in block rate (11.74%). On a team that frequently features a three-guard attack, it is vital that someone can clear the glass and protect the rim, which Eliason is doing at an elite level in the early going.

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An Early Look at the Big Ten POY Candidates

Posted by Max Jakubowski on December 6th, 2013

We are a little over one-fourth of the way through the season. Non-conference play lasts about another three weeks, and before you know it, New Year’s Eve will arrive and conference games will be here. The Big Ten Player of the Year award is of course won and lost during conference play, but let’s take a very early look at five players who have positioned themselves to possibly be among the favorites for the award (in alphabetical order).

Wisconsin big man Frank Kaminsky is one of many early candidates in the mix for POY. (Reuters)

Wisconsin big man Frank Kaminsky is one of many early candidates in the mix for Big Ten POY. (Reuters)

  • Keith Appling, Michigan State: Appling has two teammates in Gary Harris (now injured) and Adreian Payne who are also deserving of this award, but it has been the point guard who has done a little bit of everything for the Spartans this year. His impressive stat line of 16.9 PPG, 5.6 APG, 3.0 RPG and 52 percent from deep are conference POY numbers. Perhaps his most impressive performance was against then #1 Kentucky, exploding for 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in a consummate performance. If Appling continues to put up big games like that, he might be on track to become the second Spartans’ senior to win Big Ten POY in the last three years (Draymond Green was the other).
  • Tim Frazier, Penn State: It is extremely hard for a player on a team with a losing record to take home the conference POY award, but Frazier could possibly accomplish that this season. He is only averaging 19.4 PPG, but expect that number to rise into the 20s by the time conference play is in full swing. The fifth-year senior is also averaging a league high 7.0 APG and that stat may be underrated too because Frazier will need to get his teammates active on the offensive end of the floor to open up more space for him to work with.

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Wisconsin Faces Another Test Against St. Louis

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 26th, 2013

With two quality victories in the bank already against St. John’s and Florida, Wisconsin will look to put another significant win on their resume Tuesday night in Cancun against a 5-0 St. Louis team. While the Billikens are not ranked in the Top 25 yet, they are the defending Atlantic 10 Tournament champions and a team with good experience at a number of key positions. This game could have been projected as a rock fight of the 45-43 variety in years past, but what makes this one particularly interesting is that Wisconsin is averaging 80.2 PPG despite not really playing terribly fast (67.3 possessions per game, 258th nationally). The Badgers are making things happen by simply shooting the lights out in the early going, notching a 45.2 percent output from three, and a 57.9% eFG. St. Louis is stingy in giving up the three-ball, however, and this highlights what will be one of the more intriguing Feast Week match-ups in the B1G.

Frank Kaminsky looks to stay hot against a quality St. Louis team.  (Getty)

Frank Kaminsky looks to stay hot against a quality St. Louis team. (Getty)

Wisconsin has been lights-out shooting the ball this season, but St. Louis has just as impressive numbers defensively. The Billikens are holding opponents to a minuscule 20.3 percent from behind the arc, and they also check in with a 41.8% defensive eFG. Both statistics rank in the top 20 nationally. For the most part, they play a hard-nosed man-to-man with athletic guards that will challenge the shooters and not give allow many open looks. Mike McCall Jr. and Jordair Jett fly around the perimeter making things difficult, and then collectively, the Billikens don’t give out too many second chances after a miss. SLU ranks 44th in the country (26.7%) in letting teams retrieve their misses. To summarize, St. Louis is good at forcing teams into tough threes, then grabbing the defensive rebounds off those misses that often lead to great looks from kickouts. Wisconsin only gets 28.6 percent of their offensive rebounds as it is, so chances are they won’t get many second chance opportunities Tuesday night.

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Big Ten M5: 11.26.13 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on November 26th, 2013

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  1. Minnesota, under the leadership of first-year head coach Richard Pitino, has had a hot start to the season. They have won their first five games which includes an impressive road game at Richmond. As nice as their start has been, the Gophers ran into reality when they lost 75-67 to #8 ranked Syracuse in their first-round game at the Maui Invitational. As we mentioned in yesterday’s M5, the term “good loss” gets thrown around a lot, but if there is such a thing, then this game might classify as such for Pitino’s squad. The Gophers were competitive throughout the contest and only down a basket with less than three minutes to go to a top-ten team on national television in one of the premier non-conference tournaments. If they can beat Arkansas today and win the next game, they’ll leave the Maui 2-1;  a successful tournament for Minnesota by any measure.
  2. We have had some big performances from some notable Big Ten players this season thus far – players like Gary Harris, Andre Hollins, Nik Stauskas, etc. So when Frank Kaminksy was named Big Ten Player of the Week yesterday, it stuck out since most haven’t heard of the junior big man from Wisconsin before his offensive outburst last week. Kaminsky is, at best, the fourth best scoring option for the Badgers – behind Sam Dekker, John Gasser, and Ben Brust. Bo Ryan was merely hoping Kaminsky would be able to improve his rebounding enough to make up for the loss Jared Berggren. But Kaminsky averaged 26 points and 4.7 rebounds last week, which includes a 43-point showing against North Dakota. If you can believe it, Wisconsin is averaging over 80 PPG. There’s no doubt that having four players who can possibly fill it up is a major reason for their new high-powered offense.
  3. The rubber is about to meet the road for Iowa. Since the preseason, they have had a lot of hype because of all their returning players. Thus far, they have lived up to the hype behind a high-powered offense and for their troubles, they were ranked in the AP poll (#25) this week, the first time since 2006. But all of their wins have come against inferior mid-major opponents. Yesterday, they flew to down to the Bahamas where they will participate in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. Fran McCaffery says they are treating this like a business trip. They will need to be all business when they meet undefeated Xavier on Thursday. The Musketeers will be Iowa’s first real test against a high-major team with an NBA-level stud in Semaj Christon. Last year, Iowa was punished by the NCAA selection committee for not having a challenging non-conference schedule. With other teams like Kansas, Tennessee, and Villanova also in the Battle 4 Atlantis, that will not be the case this year.
  4. Purdue is desperately trying to avoid missing consecutive NCAA tournaments since 2004-2006. They are not off to the steadiest of starts despite their undefeated record. One facet of their game where the Boilermakers are steady is leadership. Senior guard Terone Johnson is the leader of this team and is setting the right tone for Purdue. He just recently scored 1,000 career points which makes him the 47th player to do so in the school’s history. But Johnson has never measured success in personal accomplishments. He wants the Boilermakers to challenge for the Big Ten title in his final season. While most don’t see this as a realistic goal, in order to at least make the tournament, Johnson is going to need to exercise some of his leadership on his younger teammates. Specifically, he will need to motivate sophomore big man A.J. Hammons to exert full effort throughout the game and avoid foul trouble if they are to return to being Big Ten contenders.
  5. Just three years ago, Jereme Richmond was being billed as the key component to returning Illinois back to Big Ten contenders. He had just finished a prolific high school career and was about to take Champaign by storm before heading to the NBA. Now, Richmond is about to spend significant time in jail. Yesterday, he was sentenced to three years for threatening his parole officer. His downward spiral has been as fast as it has been sad. Richmond does not come from a typical broken home. He has two parents who have, at least stated publicly, wanted to keep a level head on him in the face of his recruitment by universities since before he started high school. The only takeaway from this sad story may be that no matter how talented someone may be, it can all come apart with a handful of bad decisions.
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Otskey’s Observations: Episode II

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on November 20th, 2013

Is there anyone out there who still thinks Marcus Smart made a poor decision in returning to Oklahoma State for his sophomore season? Smart is the star player on a team capable of making the Final Four and showed last night that he’s taking his commitment to improve all aspects of his game seriously. Remember, Smart was just a 40 percent shooter overall last season and an anemic 29 percent from three-point land. His talent is obvious but fine-tuning those skills are imperative if he wants to be successful at the next level of basketball. Consider last night’s 39-point performance against an overwhelmed Memphis squad a terrific start. Smart and his Cowboys blitzed the Tigers from the opening tip while the OSU guard enjoyed perhaps the hottest 10-minute stretch of basketball I have ever seen. Smart still has to prove he can hit jumpers with regularity and work on making better decisions, but he made significant progress last night, despite some ill-advised, quick shots and a couple of poor passes. Don’t forget about him: College basketball is not just all about Wiggins, Parker and Randle.

Marcus Smart was terrific against Memphis last night.  (AP Photo).

Marcus Smart was terrific against Memphis last night. (AP Photo).

It was interesting to note that John Beilein benched freshman point guard Derrick Walton Jr. down the stretch of Michigan’s 77-70 loss at Iowa State on Sunday. Instead, Beilein went with sophomore Spike Albrecht at the point as the Cyclones managed to pull away and pick up a big win. Beilein is a highly-regarded coach but this was a questionable decision. In a November game in a tough environment, I’d prefer to see the freshman in there to get that experience, good or bad. Nobody is going to be Trey Burke so what’s the harm of seeing what your young point man can do in a pressure spot? Yes, Albrecht is still young too but Walton Jr. seems like the point guard of the future for the Wolverines. I don’t think this decision cost Michigan the game but it was something I noticed immediately. Beilein should have let it ride with his promising freshman in that situation.

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