Big Ten M5: 10.23.12 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on October 23rd, 2012

  1. The news coming out of Minnesota hasn’t been great recently, first with Trevor Mbakwe’s DUI and then assistant coach Saul Smith’s arrest on suspicion of DUI. Needless to say, the Golden Gophers are ready for the season to begin to put their offseason troubles behind them. However, to lighten the mood, here’s something everyone in America undoubtedly wants to see: Tubby Smith doing “Gangnam Style”. Tubby actually isn’t too bad, though he messes up the parts of the dance a couple of times. Women’s coach Pam Borton clearly had practiced for her routine. The dance was part of the Gophers’ “All Star Friday Night,” which included a dunk contest and a scrimmage to go along with the awful dancing.
  2. Iowa also held its kickoff event — the Black and Gold Blowout — this week, including a dunk contest and a scrimmage. Senior Eric May won the dunk contest with an alley-oop off a header. However, the highlight of the night might have been coach Fran McCaffery entering in a yellow Corvette. Scott Dochterman of The Cedar Rapids Gazette has some good stuff on the Blowout, including this nugget: The Hawkeyes had roughly 5,000 fans show up for the event, but the school averaged only 5,500 fans per game in May’s freshman season. This telling statistic shows that the Hawkeyes have certainly come a long way in two short years under McCaffery, both on and off the court.
  3. Last year, Purdue was one of the smaller teams in the Big Ten, sometimes relying on forward Robbie Hummel to take on a “center” role. That team was successful because of its experience and deadly perimeter shooting, but while this year’s team will be inexperienced, it will allow the Boilermakers to sport a more traditional-looking lineup. In fact, Matt Painter hasn’t had this much depth in the frontcourt in his eight years as coach at Purdue, writes Jeff Washburn of the Journal and Courier. The Boilermakers have added four-star, seven-foot center AJ Hammons, as well as four-star forward Jay Simpson to their frontcourt. Overall, Purdue will have six players who are at least 6’8″ or taller this season. It may be a young team in West Lafayette, but it will certainly be a talented one, as well.
  4. This doesn’t have much of a bearing on current news, but a friend pointed it out the other day and it’s an interesting point. This year, Northwestern will open its season against Texas Southern, and while that’s a game that typically wouldn’t have many storylines, it’s actually quite intriguing for several off-court reasons. Northwestern is one of only 17 schools to have never had a major NCAA violation. Texas Southern, however, is a walking NCAA violation. As pointed out by ESPN.com’s Eamonn Brennan, “Texas Southern is awful at following rules.” The Tigers were cited for “lack of institutional control” and the report on their transgressions is mind-boggling, as “the university allowed 129 student-athletes in 13 sports during seven academic years to compete and receive financial aid and travel expenses when they were ineligible.” There’s plenty more in the report, but the most hilarious thing is that Texas Southern is considered a “double repeat violator.” So this November, the goody-two-shoes of the NCAA will take on the double repeat violator. It should make for an interesting storyline, regardless of the yawner that is likely to occur on the court.
  5. CBS Sports put out its list of the 50 best point guards in college basketball, and the Big Ten was well-represented with two players in the top four and five overall. Michigan’s Trey Burke was the top-ranked point guard in the conference at No. 3, while Ohio State’s Aaron Craft came in right behind him at No. 4. Penn State’s Tim Frazier was No. 15, Michigan State’s Keith Appling was No. 28, and Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell round’s out the Big Ten’s representation at No. 33. Ferrell made the list on speculation alone, but the first four are proven and all obvious choices for the list. The only two point guards better than Burke, according to CBS?  Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan and Missouri’s Phil Pressey, who check in at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.
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Big Ten Non-Conference Schedule Analysis: Iowa Hawkeyes

Posted by KTrahan on October 16th, 2012

The Big Ten microsite will be analyzing the non-conference schedules for all of the Big Ten teams in the coming weeks. Today, we start with the Iowa Hawkeyes. Check out their full schedule here.

Where we left off: Iowa fans would probably rather forget about last season’s non-conference schedule, as the Hawkeyes were blown out by Clemson, Northern Iowa, Iowa State and Campbell. Yes, Campbell. This year, Iowa is a sleeper to make some noise in the Big Ten and the NCAA Tournament, but the Hawkeyes must avoid last year’s struggles in the non-conference season in order to have a shot to dance in March.

Major tournaments: Iowa will go to the Cancun Challenge this year and face a relatively weak field compared to other preseason tournaments, drawing Western Kentucky in the first round and either DePaul or Wichita State in the second round. That’s not a terrible schedule — in fact, those are some of the better teams the Hawkeyes will face in the non-conference season. However, if Iowa wants to take the next step as a program, that’s a tournament it should win.

Key wins in non-conference play will go a long way towards a NCAA Tournament bid for Fran McCaffery’s crew (AP)

Toughest opponent: Northern Iowa will certainly be a formidable test for Iowa, especially at a neutral site in Des Moines, but Iowa State — which is coming off an NCAA Tournament berth — looks like the toughest team on the Hawkeyes’ non-conference schedule. Starters Chris Babb and Melvin Ejim return for the Cyclones, who also add Michigan State transfer Korie Lucious and Utah transfer Will Clyburn. Even without first round draft pick Royce White, Iowa State will likely be an NCAA Tournament team and could make some noise in the Big 12 race. This will be a home game for the Hawkeyes, but it will still be a tough test for Fran McCaffery’s squad, and it will be a major confidence booster if Iowa comes out with a win.

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Big Ten Team Previews: Iowa Hawkeyes

Posted by KTrahan on October 16th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Big Ten microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Where we left off: Last time we saw Iowa, the Hawkeyes were getting run over for 108 points by Oregon in the second round of the NIT. Of course, it was an accomplishment for the program to even get back to the NIT after a promising season, and now, with a number of stars back, Iowa is looking to take the next step to the NCAA Tournament. Head coach Fran McCaffery has done a good job of turning the team around, and now, in year three, expectations are high. Clearly McCaffery has his team on the right track, but is this the year Iowa finally makes it back to the NCAA Tournament? There is a lot of inexperience on parts of the court, but enough talent is certainly there for the Hawkeyes to make a run.

Fran McCaffery Has His Team on the Right Track (credit: AP)

Positives: Iowa’s biggest strength this winter will be its depth, and in fact, that could represent the most difficult part of McCaffery’s job. The Hawkeyes may have a hard time finding playing time for everyone with so much returning experience and new talent. Junior guard Roy Devyn Marble and sophomore forward Aaron White are locks to start, and they’ll likely be joined by junior forward Melsahn Basabe and freshman point guard Mike Gesell, but after that, the distribution of minutes gets foggy. Junior forward Zach McCabe will likely see considerable minutes, as will freshman center Adam Woodbury, but sophomore center Gabe Olaseni, who McCaffery calls the team’s most improved player, will also be slated for some time. In the backcourt, sophomore shooting specialist Josh Oglesby, freshman point guard Anthony Clemmons and senior Eric May will all push for playing time. There are a lot of different looks that this team can show, and while it might be difficult to figure out playing time, that’s a very good problem to have.

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Big Ten Summer Check In: Iowa Hawkeyes

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on July 16th, 2012

Iowa basketball made headlines this past week when its head coach Fran  McCaffery signed a huge contract extension to remain in Iowa City. After just two seasons, McCaffery has been chosen to lead th Iowa program for the next decade and can make up to $2M per year if the Hawkeyes return to the NCAA Tournament multiple times during that period. Hawkeye Nation definitely remembers the last time it tasted the NCAAs in 2006, when they were upset by Northwestern State in the first round. It has been a crazy ride for Iowa since then but they are beginning to see some light at the end of the rebuilding tunnel.

McCaffery Has Brought A New Culture to Iowa (AP/C. Neibergall)

Evaluating Last Year: Iowa’s 18-17 record in the 2011-12 season can be somewhat deceiving because the Hawkeyes were very competitive in most of their games, especially during conference play. Iowa fans were looking for improvement throughout the season and McCaffery’s crew certainly showed several encouraging signs. They finished the home stretch of the Big Ten season with a decent record of 7-4 and lost only one game at home to Northwestern who was making a serious push for a postseason at-large bid. Except for senior guard Matt Gatens, all of the key players were either freshmen or sophomores. Roy Devin Marble and Aaron White were two of the best young players in the conference as they averaged about 11 points per game, but more importantly showed great composure and maturity. Except for the Ohio State loss (76-47), the Hawkeyes remained competitive in every home conference game, which is a great sign pointing in the overall direction of a rebuilding program. After beating Dayton in the NIT, the Hawkeyes lost in a shootout to Oregon by a score of 108-97 in the second round.

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Risky Decisions with Some Recent Coaching Extensions

Posted by EJacoby on July 12th, 2012

In the past few days alone, three power conference schools have provided their head coaches with multi-year extensions after seasons that showed solid progress. South Florida head coach Stan Heath received a new six-year contract last Friday, California rewarded Mike Montgomery with a two-year extension on Monday and Iowa provided Fran McCaffery with a massive seven-year deal yesterday. Notice a trend here? Cal has won just three NCAA Tournament games since 1997, never entering the Dance higher than a #6 seed. Iowa hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2001 and has qualified for the Tourney just twice in the past decade. And USF hadn’t even qualified for the Big Dance since 1992 before last year. Yet each team made enough strides in 2011-12 that was apparently enough to convince school administrators that each coach was deserving of several more years of service. Is there a risk that comes with locking up a head coach after a limited track record of success? These three schools are taking a solid gamble in hoping that relatively small sample sizes are enough to suggest a trend of future success.

Fran McCaffery will be manning the Iowa sidelines for the next seven years (AP Photo)

California, Iowa, and South Florida have all struggled with various levels of mediocrity over the past two decades and been largely overshadowed by their football programs. Cal would appear the biggest name of the three, having produced some exciting teams going back to the days of Jason Kidd and Lamond Murray in the early 90s. But the Golden Bears have surprisingly never received better a top-five seed in the NCAA Tournament nor advanced past the Sweet Sixteen since 1980. Iowa has actually had better historical success, receiving a top-four NCAA Tourney seed five times since 1980, though advancing past the Sweet Sixteen just once with a subsequent loss in the 1987 Elite Eight. USF, meanwhile, had never won an NCAA Tournament game in program history before last year’s two victories, making it just twice before in the early 90s as low seeds.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 12.13.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on December 13th, 2011

  1.  On the surface, the brawl between Cincinnati and Xavier this weekend had nothing to do with the Big 12 Conference. However, here’s an interesting perspective on the whole deal from a Big 12 point of view: Should the fight affect the way the league views Cincinnati as an expansion candidate? This particular writer argues that the incident will give the university a black eye when it comes to expansion, but we think the hoopla may blow over soon. Mick Cronin‘s lack of harsh punishment has also added to the public relations disaster, but this is only one event in one sport. The entire athletic department of Cincinnati hasn’t been tarnished.
  2. Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg is 5-1 against the Iowa Hawkeyes as a coach and player after his team’s victory last Friday, and he told reporters after the game, “I wish I was playing.” The Cyclones have now won three straight games in the rivalry, which has lost some luster with the nosedive both programs have taken in recent years. ISU may be on the way up, though. Guard Scott Christopherson broke out again against Iowa, scoring 16 points. Last year, he scored 30, and he’s never lost to the Hawkeyes. “It’s a great thing to say you’ve never been beat by the Hawkeyes,” he said.
  3. With the new Associated Press and Coaches’ Polls released on Monday, both Missouri and Kansas predictably jumped up in the rankings. MU now sits at #8 in the AP poll, while KU jumped to #12 after knocking off #2 Ohio State. Had Jared Sullinger played on Saturday, the Jayhawks would have likely gotten a lot more credit for their win. Still, there’s no reason to downgrade that victory against a very tough squad, even if the game was at the Phog.
  4. Speaking of Missouri, the Tigers are starting to get some outstanding publicity from major analysts. Jay Bilas, for example, says Missouri can win the national championship. Nobody doubted Missouri would be good this season, despite the departure of its head coach and the loss of All-Big 12 forward Laurence Bowers. The Tigers returned an experienced group with three straight NCAA Tournaments under their belts — but at 9-0, this team is flying higher right now than anyone imagined. It’s not that Missouri is just winning. It’s that MU is dominating the competition, and it has looked terrific on both ends of the floor.
  5. Hey, did you notice Oklahoma is 7-1 right now? The Sooners haven’t played a murderer’s row so far, but they look like a different team under first-year head coach Lon Kruger. He has helped guard Steven Pledger elevate his game, as he’s now among the Big 12′s leading scorers as a junior. Mike Anderson, who coached against OU as Missouri’s coach and saw his Arkansas team lose to the Sooners over the weekend said “I think more than anything, they’re older. They’re mature.” And it’s showing. We’ll find out a little more about this team, though, once January rolls around and Big 12 play begins.
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