Morning Five: 02.24.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 24th, 2014

morning5

  1. By now you have seen countless replays and photoshops of Jim Boeheim‘s meltdown at the end of Syracuse’s loss at Duke on Saturday night. You have also probably seen at least a dozen columns critiquing the call and Boeheim’s reaction to it. Even though we were there with almost a straight on view of Boeheim we won’t bore you with any more specific analysis of it other than to say it was amusing to see in person (as was Boeheim’s post-game press conference) or try to argue that he should be fined or suspended for his reaction (completely ridiculous). The point remains that there is no circumstance under which Boeheim should have reacted like that particularly in that situation. Boeheim’s 945 wins (and counting) at Syracuse will buy him more leeway for his reaction than some other coaches this season have received, but as we said right after it happened given the circumstances it might be the most meltdown this season.
  2. When Cody Doolin left the San Francisco basketball team early this season we figured that it would the last we would see of him as a college player. The senior point guard, who had started all 103 games of his college career and averaged 13 points and 7 assists with just 1.5 turnovers this season, left the team just four games into his senior season after reportedly getting into an altercation with a teammate during practice. At the time we mentioned that we have no idea what could have been so bad about the incident that Doolin would leave team, but on Friday he announced that he would be transferring to UNLV. Doolin will reportedly seek a waiver (presumably as a graduate student) to play immediately for UNLV. Honestly, we were not completely sure that leaving your team after the season had started would even qualify you for redshirt status for the season. If he is allowed to play for the Rebels next season he would join a team that returns Khem Birch, Roscoe Smith, and Bryce Dejean-Jones and is bringing in a top ten class.
  3. Tulsa senior guard Pat Swilling Jr, who was averaging 8.6 points per game this season, is being investigated for potential sexual assault charges stemming from an incident on January 27 in which a Tulsa student is accusing Swilling of raping her. Swilling, who is the son of former NFL Defensive Player of the Year and one-term Louisiana House of Representative member Pat Swilling Sr, was suspended from the team earlier this month, but no explanation was offered. Swilling has had an interesting college career to say the least. After initially being kicked out of St. Joseph’s for being in possession of a stolen laptop, Swilling has spent time at Louisiana Tech and College of Southern Idaho before ending up at Tulsa. He is scheduled to appear in court on March 4 for a hearing which would prohibit Swilling from having any contact with his accuser.
  4. We are not sure what Kevin Willard is doing at Seton Hall, but it seems like he is suspending players left and right. His latest target is sophomore guard Sterling Gibbs who he appears to have been suspended because of his attitude in practice. Gibbs, a transfer from Texas, is second on the team in scoring (14.3 per game to Fuquan Edwin’s 14.5) and leads the team in assists (4.4 per game). We won’t necessarily chalk up Seton Hall’s 1-point loss at Creighton to Gibbs’ absence, but we would assume that Gibbs’ VORP is worth at least one point. As for when Gibbs will return it appears that it could be as soon as the team’s game on Tuesday as he is meeting with Willard in Chicago.
  5. According to Indiana it is once again safe to enter Assembly Hall. After temporarily postponing games last week when an eight-foot, 50-pound steel beam fell from the ceiling onto seats, Indiana will resume playing games in Assembly Hall. The women’s team played their first game on Saturday afternoon without and the men’s first game will be on Thursday when they play Iowa as a make-up for last Tuesday’s postponed game. We imagine the seats near where the beam fell will be among the less popular ones to sit in for the rest of the season.
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Who Won the Week? Wahoos, BYU, Lumberjacks, But Not Hoosiers or Hoyas

Posted by rtmsf on February 21st, 2014

wonweek

Who Won the Week? is a regular column that outlines and discusses three winners and losers from the previous week of hoops. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), a Spokane-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game. That’s tough to do when the closest game in the week is two states away. There’s four schools, in four different conferences, within 90 minutes of his house. Figure it out, schedule-makers.

WINNER: Virginia

The Cavaliers picked off a pair of pesky road games, winning at a bubble-bound Clemson and pesky rival Virginia Tech, and  – thanks to timely losses from Syracuse and Duke – have the inside track on their first outright ACC title since 1980-81, when Ralph Sampson was a sophomore. In Saturday’s 63-58 win against the Tigers, four Virginia players scored in double digits, led by senior guard Joe Harris’ 16. Tuesday’s 57-53 win over the Hokies was a little uglier, with sophomore guard Malcolm Brogdon leading the team with 12 points, but he and Harris combined to shoot 5 for 21 from the field. The molasses-slow Hoos haven’t crested 70 possessions in a game this season, but their 10-game winning streak dates back to a 69-65 loss at Duke on Jan. 13, their only stumble in conference play. Their last four games are Notre Dame, Miami and Syracuse at home before a road trip to Maryland.

Malcolm Brogdon Has Helped the Cavs Turn the Corner (Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty)

Malcolm Brogdon Has Helped the Cavs Turn the Corner
(Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty)

(Related winners:  Virginia coach Tony Bennett, who coaches the best basketball you don’t ever want to watch. Related losers: Duke, which after losing to rival North Carolina cannot win the conference unless Syracuse and Virginia to both lose each game they play not against each other; Syracuse, no longer undefeated and now the only top-20 team with a loss to a team outside the top 150 of the RPI.)

LOSER: Indiana

It’s tough to tell which is falling apart faster: the Hoosiers’ season or Assembly Hall. Indiana got smoked by in-state rival Purdue 82-64 for its third straight loss and now sits at 14-11 and 4-8 in Big Ten play. Cold shooting did the Hoosiers in, with a 39 percent effective field goal rate against a team that usually gives up nearly 48 percent effective shooting. Oh, and Tuesday’s game against Iowa was postponed when a large piece of metal came unfastened from storied Assembly Hall’s roof, falling into the seats. Since then, more pieces of the ceiling have been found to be unsound, so who knows what’s going to happen in that regard. But as poorly as the Hoosiers are playing, maybe any distraction is welcome. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big Ten M5: 02.21.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 21st, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Minnesota did some severe damage to their NCAA Tournament chances with a loss at home to bottom-feeder Illinois Wednesday night. There were almost too many problems to name for the Gophers if one were to catalog exactly what went wrong. A good starting point would be the fact that they shot 4-for-25 from three-point range. Deandre Mathieu did not have a good game at all, as his point total matched his turnover total with 3 of each. He fouled out in 24 minutes, showing that Minnesota will only finish strong in their last 4 games if he’s on his game.
  2. East Lansing has loosely resembled a soap opera for much of the season, but all was well for Michigan State Thursday night. They simply went nuts on Purdue from the perimeter in beating them 94-75 in West Lafayette. The Spartans hit 17 three’s on the game, and 13 of them came in the first half. Gary Harris was the ringleader, as he continued to make schools in his home state of Indiana pay. Harris has shot an absurd 56.9 percent from three in his career against Indiana and Purdue.  If this game is the beginning of a hot streak for the future lottery pick, then much of the drama surrounding the program due to injury concerns could very easily go away.
  3. Harris was one high school star from the Hoosier state that went elsewhere, but James Blackmon Jr. will be donning the cream and crimson next season for Indiana. Blackmon Jr. based part of his choice on going somewhere that he can fit in right away, and he feels as though he can help the Hoosiers immediately with his perimeter shooting abilities. If he is as good as advertised, he will play heavy minutes immediately alongside Yogi Ferrell next season, giving IU a sorely-needed shooter from the perimeter that they are currently lacking.
  4. Ohio State has won 5 of their last 6 games, but questions still remain about their viability or ceiling in March. The main questions still are the fact that they can’t get consistent play in the paint, and that they are prone to shooting slumps. Each player on the team has some sort of hole in their respective games, but their defensive pressure and athleticism, and experience could still lead to a deep tournament run. They’ve looked better as of late, and with Aaron Craft starting to attack the basket with a little more aggressiveness, they could very well be peaking at the right time.
  5. Nikola Cerina is normally a fairly under the radar member of the Northwestern basketball team. He generally plays about 10 MPG to spell Alex Olah. Cerina made news Wednesday night however, as it was determined that he threw a punch at Ohio State’s Amir Williams which resulted in his being ejected from the game. Cerina will now have to miss the Wildcats’ next game against Indiana on Saturday. With next to no depth already, this suspension could be a huge problem if Olah gets into foul trouble against the Hoosiers.
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Big Ten M5: 02.20.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on February 20th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. The Big Ten may not have a freshman who is as heralded as the numerous national ones like Tyler Ennis, Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and the others. Still, there have been plenty of impact rookies to talk about, including a likely top 10 pick should Indiana’s Noah Vonleh leave for the draft. The Big Ten Geeks took a look at the conference’s Freshman of the Year race, essentially narrowing it down to the trio of Vonleh, Michigan’s Derrick Walton Jr. and Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes. It’s hard to argue against those three being the best, although Illinois’ Kendrick Nunn has been impressive too. Overall, the Geeks give Vonleh the slight edge and I would agree with them unless Michigan wins the Big Ten title. If the Wolverines finish the season on top, it would be tough to argue against Walton given how much he has turned up his play in conference action. He is the biggest reason this team has responded so well to loss of Mitch McGary and overcome Nik Stauskas’ recent scoring slide.
  2. Everyone knows letdown games occur, but it is extremely rare to have a player candidly admit as much. Michigan State‘s Matt Costello did just that when discussing the Spartans’ recent struggles against Nebraska, and his candor is refreshing. Michigan State losing at home to a Cornhuskers team that had been dismal on the road was certainly a shocker, and the fact that Costello (and maybe in turn the rest of the team) didn’t respect Nebraska appears to have been a contributing factor. Outsiders can look to injuries as well, but this team has overcome injuries all season long. A lackadaisical attitude was the bigger factor and we’ll see if they learned to not overlook an opponent when the Spartans go to Mackey Arena to face Purdue tonight.
  3. Michigan has had plenty of players raise their games in Big Ten play, and recently it has been Caris Levert who has stepped up as the Wolverines’ scoring leader over the last five games. He has proven to have no problem attacking the basket to create his own shot while drawing the foul or stepping outside to shoot the three. Michigan will need to continue getting solid contributions from Levert with its massive intrastate rivalry game against Michigan State coming up this weekend. Also of note in this article — John Beilein discusses the Olympics and the sport of curling. Who doesn’t like curling?
  4. The postponement of the Iowa vs. Indiana game following a beam falling on Tuesday night was certainly a scary situation. It is very fortunate that it happened when no one was in the arena, but with the Indiana women at home last night, it appears the Hoosiers will still be able to host the Hawkeyes later this season. The question is when will it happen and how the team will respond? Tom Crean says it is just a matter of adjusting to changing circumstances and being ready to play no matter what. The two schools will still have another day to schedule the game before the Big Ten is obligated to step in and schedules it for them.
  5. Wisconsin has plenty of players that contribute every game, but this is news it certainly did not want to see. Senior guard Ben Brust left practice yesterday after he was hit from behind and knocked down. The injury appears to be to his back and he is currently listed as day-to-day. The Badgers have likely clinched an NCAA Tournament berth barring a complete collapse, but with a game at Iowa coming that could have big seeding implications, this injury is certainly not good news. Brust isn’t just a good scoring threat for the Badgers, but he is also one of the best leaders on Bo Ryan’s team. Not having him in a raucous Carver-Hawkeye Arena over the weekend could be a daunting task for the Badgers.
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Big Ten M5: 02.19.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 19th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. As many know by now, the Iowa-Indiana game scheduled for Tuesday night was postponed due to a metal beam falling from the roof. It landed and damaged some seats in the upper corner of Assembly Hall. Thankfully, this didn’t happen while a game was taking place where a spectator could have been seriously injured or even worse. The women’s game between Michigan and Indiana also slated to take place at Assembly Hall will take place as scheduled Wednesday night. So now the question is, when will this game be made up? A decision is expected to be made by noon Wednesday, but it will be interesting to see what the teams decide to do with limited flexibility in their schedules at this point in the season.
  2. With losses in four of their last seven games, questions are starting to be raised about Michigan State. The three main questions would have to be: how should they be seeded with their recent struggles, are they still a viable national championship contender, and when will they actually play with their whole lineup intact? Questions two and three are still up in the air, but question one is a little easier. Even with all the injuries, the Spartans can’t truly be taken seriously if they keep losing. They sit at 10-3 in the Big Ten, and 21-5 overall with games at Michigan and at Ohio State left. They also have to play Iowa at home. Unless they win two of those games, and make at least the championship game of the Big Ten Tournament, they may drop as low as a four seed, even with all the injuries.
  3. Speaking of March Madness dreams, it’s almost unfathomable that Nebraska has played their way onto the bubble. Especially after they started out 0-4 in league play. The fact that Nebraska, Northwestern, and Penn State all have played much better than they were predicted could be the biggest storyline of the 2013-14 Big Ten campaign. People still may scoff at the Cornhuskers making the tournament field, even after they win in East Lansing Sunday afternoon. But their resume really is on a par with many of the heavyweights in the college game, many of whom are nationally ranked. With a manageable schedule going forward, they could legitimately sitting at 18-12 before the Big Ten Tournament. If they win a game there, they’ll have built a very solid case to make the field.
  4. Northwestern ranks 342nd out of 345 teams in scoring. They’ve gotten most of their wins-specifically in Big Ten play through their stingy defensive play. One player who’s been able to provide a huge chunk of their offensive output however has been Tre Demps. Demps ranks second in the country in scoring for players that have not started a game at 10.7 PPG. He still plays starters minutes despite starting the game next to Chris Collins, and has really done a nice job in recent games distributing as well. He’s averaging 3.4 APG in his last five games, and sports a 19.1 percent assist rate, good for 16th in the conference.
  5. Wisconsin has had quite the roller coaster of a season thus far after starting out 16-0, losing 5 out 6, then coming back recently and winning 4 in a row. Because of their recent hot streak, they have a legitimate chance at winning the regular season Big Ten title. Their biggest remaining challenge will probably be playing at Iowa on Saturday afternoon. They are projected by KenPom to win the rest of their games after that. The fourth-place Badgers could jump ahead of Iowa with a win against them, and if they won out from there, a 13-5 record could get the job done.
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Morning Five: 02.19.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 19th, 2014

morning5

  1. With the way this season has been going some of the more overzealous Indiana fans might be feeling like the sky is falling and yesterday they were right as a large metal beam fell from the ceiling onto the seats yesterday. Fortunately, this happened earlier in the afternoon before their scheduled game last night. As a result and perhaps out of concern for additional danger, yesterday’s game between Iowa and Indiana was postponed. What has not been postponed is tonight’s women’s basketball against Michigan will go on as scheduled with fans kept away from the corner. We suspect that the crowd at Assembly Hall will be even thinner than usual tonight.
  2. Wyoming may have suffered a major setback late last night when Larry Nance Jr. injured his right knee in a win against Fresno State. Nance, who leads the Cowboys in scoring (15.3 per game), rebounds (8.8), blocks (2.1), and steals (1.4), was injured with 14:51 left in the game. The extent of Nance’s injury is unknown at this point, but he was on the floor for several minutes and had to be helped off unable to bear weight on that leg. We are expecting that Nance will get imaging on his knee and some sort of prognosis within the next 48 hours, but it does not look good at the time being for the Cowboys star.
  3. Chris Obekpa‘s right ankle sprain comes at a particularly bad time for St. John’s as the Red Storm have turned their season around and are at least on the bubble in many mock brackets. Obekpa’s injury–a sprain and a bone bruise–is expected to keep him out for 10 to 14 days. That will Obekpa, the team’s leading shot blocker at 3.2 per game (11th in the nation), out for Saturday’s game against Villanova and next Tuesday’s game against Xavier. Even though St. John’s was able to beat Butler easily without Obekpa their next two games will not be nearly as easy.
  4. We have heard of NCAA bracket pool winners employing a variety of deep analytic methods–picking which mascot would win a fight is a popular one–to win significant office pools. With Warren Buffett’s $1 billion perfect contest being announced a few months ago, Chris Jones of ESPN The Magazine reached out to Craig Gilmore, last year’s ESPN Tournament Challenge winner, to find out how he did it (winning the pool not going undefeated, which he didn’t). Gilmore’s strategy–four pints of Guinness–is certainly not unique (we assume at least a few college students might have had something to drink around the time they filled out their brackets), but it might be the first time we have seen it cited as a strategy. In Gilmore’s case he claims that going with his gut and not overanalyzing his bracket was the key to his success. We are expecting that we will see plenty of columns like this in the coming months with various writers trumpeting some method to help you win a billion dollars, but in the end it all comes down to one thing: luck.
  5. At this point we are very familiar with athletes using the graduate student transfer waiver. So when we heard that Aaron Bright was using it to transfer from Stanford to St. Mary’s we were not particularly surprised. That is until we tried to figure out what graduate programs St. Mary’s offered that Stanford did not. We are not trying to knock St. Mary’s which is an excellent school, but we were just curious as to what programs a school as prestigious as Stanford would not offer that a nearby school would. The best answer we have comes from RTC correspondent C.D. Bradley who pointed out that St. Mary’s offers three masters programs–Kinesiology, MA in Leadership, and MFA in Creative Writing–that Stanford does not. Honestly, we never really doubted that Bright would end up in a program that Stanford didn’t offer, but it made us wonder (even before seeing the options) how many players end up getting majors in things that they have no interest in just to obtain a graduate student waiver.
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Battle for Hoosier State Supremecy: A Preview By the Numbers

Posted by Brendan Brody & Alex Moscoso on February 15th, 2014

Heading into Saturday’s game in West Lafayette, Indiana and Purdue both currently sit in the bottom third of the Big Ten standings with matching 4-7 conference records. In addition to playing for state bragging rights in one of the best Big Ten rivalries, both teams are clinging to quickly fading NCAA Tournament hopes. Brendan Brody and Alex Moscoso decided to look at some key numbers for the upcoming game in the form of predicting some over/unders to try to figure out who will come away with the win on Saturday afternoon (4:00 PM EST, ESPN).

Yogi Ferrell needs to score and distribute for Indiana to beat their in-state rival. (Darron Cummings, AP)

Yogi Ferrell needs to score and distribute for Indiana to beat their in-state rival. (Darron Cummings, AP)

Yogi Ferrell over/under 25 points+assists

Alex Moscoso: I’m definitely taking the over. Ferrell is a fantastic college player because he comes up big when Indiana needs him the most. When the Hoosiers upset then-undefeated Wisconsin a few weeks ago, the sophomore put up 25 points and four assists. Against Michigan (undefeated at the time in Big Ten play), he put up 27 points and a couple of assists. Now, his team needs him to step up to get to the right side of the bubble, and I think he’ll deliver.

AJ Hammons over/under 10 rebounds

Brendan Brody: Hammons will have fewer than 10 rebounds in this one. Indiana has outrebounded its opponent in each of their last five games. They’ve also only allowed one player (Jordan Morgan) to grab double-figure boards against them in those games. Purdue does do a pretty good job cleaning the glass, especially on the offensive end, but the combination of Indiana’s rebounding prowess and the potential for Hammons to be in foul trouble at some point in the game makes the prediction 10+ boards too risky.

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Big Ten Valentine’s Day Candy Heart Messages

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on February 14th, 2014

It’s the day celebrating romance and love. It also marks the final home stretch of the regular season. In honor of this day, it felt appropriate (or just fun) to take aim at each Big Ten team and the thing they most want — in the form of a candy heart message. So, in alphabetical order, I give you the simple message each conference team would want most to come on a candy heart. Enjoy Valentine’s Day everyone.

Can Tom Crean's Hoosiers end the Badgers' winning streak? (AP).

Tom Crean and company would love to start winning the games its supposed to. (AP)

Illinois: “Not Last In My Heart” – Oh what once was for the Illini this season. The great non-conference play has fallen apart and Illinois is sitting in last place in the Big Ten. Getting out of the cellar would be great for the team.

Indiana: “Your Love Overcomes a Bad Team” – The Hoosiers are quite the fickle team this year. Beating Wisconsin and Michigan but losing at home to Northwestern and Penn State? This team would love to win the games it should the rest of the way and pull off a few more upsets to find itself back on the NCAA bubble.

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Big Ten M5: 02.14.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 14th, 2014

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  1. On a day where love is celebrated, Indiana fans are not feeling much of that emotion toward Tom Crean and his squad after they squandered a double-figure lead at home against Penn State Wednesday night. The Hoosiers were booed off their homecourt after playing as though they had never encountered a full-court press before. They turned the ball over 3 times in the last 2:06 against said press, and coughed it up 20 times total during the contest. Indiana fans have already been on edge due to some uneven performances this season, and now after this latest loss, things aren’t going to calm down anytime soon.
  2. People tend to forget that Michigan has a really young roster. That’s why head coach John Beilein admitted that they’ve had more success than he necessarily envisioned this season. The Wolverines are tied for first in the conference with 6 games left to play, despite losing Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr, and Mitch McGary. Nik Stauskas is a Player of the Year candidate, but it’s been a different player stepping forward every night that has lead to their 10-2 league record. The jury is still out as to how far they’ll go come March, but if they get their defense in order, they could be right back in the Final Four.
  3. Lost in the shuffle of Shavon Shields’ 33-point effort for Nebraska on Wednesday night was the play of backup point guard Benny Parker. Parker was an absolute nuisance of that side of the floor, as he had 4 steals and caused countless other disruptions for the Illinois offense in their 67-58 win. While not much of an offensive threat, Parker has seen his minutes increase in the wake of Deverell Biggs being dismissed from the team. Coach Tim Miles essentially counted him out in the preseason, but he’s definitely earned an increase in minutes going forward, especially with the ineffectiveness of Tai Webster in recent games.
  4. In the preseason many people thought that Ohio State would still be really good even with the loss of 2012-13 leading scorer Deshaun Thomas. It hasn’t necessarily worked out that way however, as the Buckeyes currently have a 6-6 conference record with 6 games left. The loss to Michigan Tuesday night highlighted an ongoing theme for this year’s team, the inability to make open shots. The Buckeyes slogged through a 3-for 20 effort against the Wolverines, and they proved that despite having a tenacious defensive unit, their lack of NBA-ready talent and their lack of offensive punch will probably be their undoing during the 2013-14 campaign.
  5. Illinois head coach John Groce are still left searching for answers in the wake of their most recent stumble at Nebraska Wednesday night. Tracy Abrams is one of the major culprits when looking at potential scapegoats for the team’s poor performance ever since Big Ten play started. The junior guard quietly went 0-for-4 from the field against the Cornhuskers, and committed 3 turnovers. Groce isn’t worried about the shooting, but he’s more worried about Abrams playing better defense and taking care of the ball. Veteran players like Nnanna Egwu are still bringing the effort and intensity, as are the five freshman that are on the roster. In watching the Illini however, you have to wonder whether some of the other upperclassmen like Abrams and Joseph Bertrand have already checked out once they realized that their season will not likely include an NCAA berth.
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Big Ten Weekend in Review: A Slight Return to Normalcy

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 11th, 2014

After the finish of the Penn State-Illinois game on Sunday afternoon, a look at the standings showed that the upside-down nature of the first six weeks of the Big Ten season has self-corrected a little bit. The five teams that the media and our microsite predicted to finish in the top 5 are situated that way with just three games separating first through fifth place. Illinois climbed out of the basement with a win at Penn State, Nebraska got a road win, and Indiana continued to be as inconsistent as any team in the league/country. Here’s the rest of the highlights from the weekend:

Mike Gesell tallied 8 assists with only 1 turnover in Iowa's win over Michigan Saturday. (Matthew Holst, Getty)

Mike Gesell tallied 8 assists with only 1 turnover in Iowa’s win over Michigan Saturday. (Matthew Holst, Getty)

Player of the Weekend: Mike Gesell. Iowa got solid efforts from pretty much everyone in their rotation in their vital home win over Michigan. Roy Devyn Marble hit six three-pointers in the first half and carried them offensively. Their starting frontcourt of Melsaan Basabe, Aaron White, and Adam Woodbury combined for 11 offensive rebounds. Although he didn’t put up a ton of points, Gesell played the biggest role. Part of the problems he has had at times this season has been forcing things on the offensive end. His assist-to-turnover numbers coming into the game in Big Ten play was 2.38/1. So for him to deliver 8 assists to 1 turnover in the game shows what the Hawkeyes can do when he is playing well. He had an offensive rating of 170 and he also had 3 steals. Although he didn’t take many shots, he was efficient in knocking down both threes he attempted, going 3-for-5 from the field for the game. Gesell has gone from a bit of a timeshare with Anthony Clemmons, to playing more minutes. If he can continue to distribute and cause problems on the defensive end like this, Iowa can make a run late in the season at winning the league.

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Big Ten M5: 02.10.14 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on February 10th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Spartan fans barely had any time to enjoy Adreian Payne’s return, when they got the news that point guard, Keith Appling, will be out for a “couple of weeks.” Backup point guard, Travis Trice, stepped up against Wisconsin by scoring 13 points and hitting a clutch three-pointer during the final minute of the game. Trice’s offense ought to be adequate as long as Gary Harris doesn’t go through a cold shooting slump, but Appling’s health could be concern if he doesn’t come back after two to three weeks because his experience will be pivotal for the Spartans in March.
  2. Speaking of adequate offense, Ohio State‘s struggles with regards to scoring have been well-documented, but when they do put up points in the 60s, they are a tough team to beat. Stating the obvious, when the the “shots fall,” they are an excellent team because their defensive intensity goes up by that much more. Over the past week, Lenzelle Smith Jr. has averaged 14 points per game against Iowa and Purdue, as the Buckeyes are trying to make their way back into the top-25 rankings. Smith is certainly the wildcard because LaQuinton Ross’ 14.2 points per game will need a consistent complement over the next six weeks as Thad Matta’s team hopes to return to the Sweet 16 again in the NCAAs.
  3. Not sure if you have heard, but Michigan’s Nik Stauskas is the team’s best offensive player and the Big Ten defenses have decided to lock him down and force other Wolverines to beat them. Over hte past three games, Stauskas’ has barely averaged 9 points per game because defenses are double-teaming him all over the perimeter, forcing him to pass the ball to the open man on the weak side. Against Iowa, the defensive intensity caused him to turn the ball over four times and he ended up with zero assists. The last three games are not just an anomaly because every team, especially in the NCAAs, will try to force Stauskas to give up the ball, which will not only test his passing abilities but also test Caris Levert and Glenn Robinson’s ability to hit the clutch shots during the final minutes of the game.
  4. More on Iowa‘s defensive intensity, they did not waste any time trying to establish a lead over the Wolverines and were able to shut down Nik Stauskas for most of the game. Their depth on the roster is a strength on the offensive side but can be even more valuable on the defensive end because they can use fresh legs, specifically in the frontcourt, because Melsahn Basabe, Gabriel Olaseni, and Adam Woodbury are formidable defenders in the paint. Roy Devyn Marble, has stepped up defensively too, by guarding Stuaskas for most of the game. Saturday’s win may be a turning point for the Hawkeyes as they continue to gain confidence about their ability to compete with the top teams in the country.
  5. Continuing on the defensive theme, Indiana can’t seem to be get stops when they need to, over the past two weeks. Ten days ago, they lost to the Huskers and they couldn’t hold onto a lead against Minnesota over the weekend either – mainly because of a lackluster defensive effort. “We had some awareness issues at the end of possessions,” Tom Crean said, referring to a handful of defensive breakdowns late in the shot clock Saturday. Crean’s team is technically still on the bubble, but will need to defend, especially against the middle-of-the-pack teams such as Penn State, Purdue or Nebraska.
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Big Ten Postseason Watch: 02.08.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on February 8th, 2014

Conference play has hit the midway point. The top of the Big Ten is already a two team contest contained to the state of Michigan, but the middle of the conference is as muddled as ever with 10th place a mere game and a half back of fourth. With that in mind we examine where the conference’s teams are at in terms of postseason play. All teams currently have a shot of playing somewhere after the conference tournament concludes and RTC’s Daniel Evans currently lists six Big Ten teams in the NCAA Tournament (as does ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, who adds Indiana in his first four out). The teams will be put into tiers depending on where they currently stand, and we will give you a look at what’s coming up in terms of importance along with the KenPom rankings and RPI according to ESPN. Feel free to tell us how wrong we are in the comments and through social media or how your team’s fortunes will change in the final five weeks of the season.

Fighting for a No. 1 seed

Adreian Payne's return is huge for a Michigan State team wanting to claim a No. 1 seed in March (AP Photo/Al Goldis).

Adreian Payne’s return is huge for a Michigan State team wanting to claim a No. 1 seed in March (AP Photo/Al Goldis).

  • Michigan State (KenPom #12, RPI #10): The injuries to Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson have put the Spartans in a bind inside, but it also has let other players develop their games. Payne’s return comes at the perfect time for the team as it makes the final push for a Big Ten championship and a top seed in March. This team can’t afford to lose many more if it hopes to take a top spot, but with everyone back, even a No. 2 or 3 seed would work just fine for a healthy squad that can contend for the national title.
  • Michigan (KenPom #14, RPI #15): This team is far from dead after the injury to Mitch McGary. The development of freshman point guard Derrick Walton Jr. has been instrumental to the Wolverines becoming stronger in conference play. The potential for John Beilein’s team to grab a No. 1 seed could be decided this week with two massive tests at Iowa and at Ohio State. Win both and it looks reasonable; lose either and it will be battling for a top four protected seed.

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