Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on December 7th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

With a month to go in the non-conference season, we are starting to sort out the contenders from the pretenders. This weekend provides some additional match-ups that will give us a better indication of which teams we should watch out for come March. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Colorado at #10 Kansas  2:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN2 (***)

This Weekend Colorado Tries to Beat Kansas for the First Time Since 2003

  • You might call this game a renewal of a Big 12 rivalry but the reality is that it has been far from a “rivalry.” Kansas has not lost to Colorado since the 2002-03 season. While this will be the first time that CU plays Kansas as a member of the Pac-12, coach Tad Boyle is 0-3 against the Jayhawks since taking the helm in Boulder two seasons ago. The big question for the Buffaloes will be how they handle KU center Jeff Withey. A few weeks ago, CU was able to slow down another seven-footer in Isaiah Austin when they defeated Baylor. However, Withey is not a freshmen trying to fit himself into “The Pierre Jackson Show.” He’s a senior who has proven to be a dominant force on defense and a capable offensive threat. Withey also cleans up on the glass, particularly on the defensive end. Colorado needs to figure out how to grab some of those misses lest it become a long night. Keep an eye on the three-point shooting of Colorado guards Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie. Both are threats from deep and both need to be on target to have a chance to win this one.

Temple vs. #1 Duke  3:15 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (****)

  • Last season, Temple beat Duke in Philadelphia on the backs of Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson and Khalif Wyatt. Hollis-Jefferson and Wyatt combined to go 15-22 from the field in a somewhat surprising upset of the Blue Devils. The Owls also did it without this season’s leading scorer, Scootie Penn. However, when you compare this Duke team to last season’s team, they are more balanced and more patient without Austin Rivers dominating the ball. The Blue Devils have scoring threats all over the floor and point guard Quinn Cook is proving to be an excellent distributor. Additionally, Mason Plumlee has been superb. The key for the Owls will be figuring out a way to stop Plumlee in the paint. Unfortunately for Temple, scoring can come from anywhere when playing the Blue Devils. They are too balanced and too battle tested at this point to drop one to the Owls this year.
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Examining Some Warning Signs for Wisconsin’s Defense

Posted by KTrahan on November 28th, 2012

Defense has always been a hallmark of Wisconsin’s formula for success. By keeping scores low and turnovers to a minimum, the Badgers are able to win games year after year. But this season, Bo Ryan’s team has struggled to defend other top teams. The problem isn’t turnovers or a lack of offense; rather, as’s Big Ten Geeks writes, the Badgers have struggled with defensive rebounding and fouling too much. Wisconsin has done well against opponents it physically out-matches — the Badgers defeated Southeastern Louisiana, Cornell and Presbyterian by an average of 39 points each — but the team has struggled against opponents that can earn easy second-chance points. Wisconsin was out-rebounded by 18 against Florida and two against Creighton, while Florida got to the free throw line six more times than the Badgers, and Creighton got there 10 more times. Florida and Creighton are both very good teams, so losses in those games aren’t terrible for the Badgers’ postseason resume, but their defensive rebounding and fouling issues could lead to more trouble down the road.

It’s Hard to Believe That Bo Ryan’s Team is Struggling Defensively

No matter how Wisconsin defends, though, the Badgers will continue to struggle if they give teams extra possessions and frequently puts them on the line. Losing to Top 25 teams this early in the season may not matter all that much, but if this becomes a pattern, it could spell trouble for the Badgers down the road. We all know how tough  the Big Ten is this year, so Wisconsin won’t have as many chances to beat up on weaker teams once it gets into league play in January. The Badgers must use the rest of the non-conference slate to prepare for the coming uptick in competition, starting with consecutive games against Virginia and California, then later, a game against Marquette. That should give us a better understanding of where this Wisconsin team is headed.

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Set Your DVR: Thanksgiving Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on November 23rd, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The Battle 4 Atlantis and the NIT Tip-Off continue over the weekend with some very interesting match-ups. So grab some Thanksgiving left overs and settle in for some good hoops.

#5 Michigan vs. Kansas State (PNIT Finals) – 4:30 PM EST, Friday on ESPN (****)

The Wolverines are going to need better three-point shooting from Tim Hardaway Jr. against Kansas State. (Melanie Maxwell/

  • Both Michigan and Kansas State. are coming off tough semifinal wins in the NIT Tip-Off. Michigan was able to pull out a victory with strong second-half defense in the 1-3-1 zone and great defensive rebounding. While the Wolverines are not going to win many games going 3-17 from three-point land, it is encouraging to see them win with their defense, particularly because Kansas State brings a strong defense into any game. The Wildcats are only allowing teams to shoot 27.4% from downtown and are creating turnovers on 28% of opponents possessions. K-State also had eight players go double-figure minutes against Delaware while the Wolverines only had six players go into double-figure minutes against Pitt. The Wolverines could get tired in the second half due to K-State’s physical play if they do not get more minutes from the bench. KSU is going to have to improve its shooting significantly if they want to walk away with a big win. They’ve shot 41.5% eFG against Delaware and 44.8% eFG through five games this season. The Wildcats need to shoot over 50% eFG to have a chance at winning this one.

#23 Cincinnati vs. Iowa State (LV Invitational) – 6:30 PM EST, Friday on CBS College Sports (***)

  • While Cincinnati and Iowa State have two common opponents already, Campbell and North Carolina A&T, its tough to glean any significant information from the games because both were blowouts. The Bearcats come into the game with an adjusted defensive efficiency of 88.4, which is good for 11th in the nation. They are cleaning up on the defensive boards and shutting down two-point shooting. ISU is ranked 16th in the country in two-point shooting, hitting 56.9% of their shots inside the arc thus far. Keep a close eye on who wins the battle in the paint, as it should determine the winner of this one.

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The Big East’s Top 25 (or so) Non-Conference Games of 2012-13

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 9th, 2012

While Big East basketball is always a spectacle, this conference season has even more added juice with the impending departures of Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and (eventually) Notre Dame.  However, before we get to conference games, the Big East is involved in some really intriguing non-conference games this season. Big East teams will be playing all over the United States, Germany, and on a few aircraft carriers. Let’s take a look at the best that the Big East has to offer in the non-conference slate this season.

Syracuse and San Diego State tip off the season on the deck of the USS Midway this Sunday (AP)

25. Pittsburgh v. Oakland, November 17, 7 PM

The Panthers have a rather light non-conference slate this season, but don’t expect them to look past the Golden Grizzlies. Oakland has a history of playing tough schedules, and won’t be intimidated by the Zoo. Oakland is coming off of a bit of a down year in 2011-12 when they finished 20-16 (11-7), but made the NCAA Tournament in both 2009-10, when they were knocked out in the first round by Pittsburgh, and 2010-11.

24. DePaul @ Auburn, November 30, 9 PM

Look for DePaul to try to do the conference proud when they head down to take on the Auburn Tigers as part of the SEC-Big East Challenge. This DePaul squad should be better than it has been in years past, returning dynamic forward Cleveland Melvin and dangerous guard Brandon Young.  Auburn is coming off of a poor 15-16 season, and could be ripe for a big non-conference road win for the Blue Demons.

23. Rutgers v. Iona, Madison Square Garden, December 8, 9:30 PM

One of these New York metropolitan-area teams is coming off of a great season that ended in a heartbreaking NCAA tournament loss to BYU. The other is continually striving to build its program, and aspires to have such success.  It almost seems backwards that Iona is the more accomplished team at the moment, but isn’t that what makes college basketball so great? A big performance by the Scarlet Knights at the Garden could go a long way in setting the tone for a run at a tournament berth in the Big East.

22. St. John’s v. Detroit, November 13, 2 PM

The Johnnies tip off their season against a very dangerous Detroit squad led by superstar Ray McCallum. St. John’s has a number of impressive young players themselves, and head coach Steve Lavin will return to the sideline after battling cancer last season. While many look forward to what should be a fun match-up between McCallum and D’Angelo Harrison, the St. John’s star was recently benched in the team’s final exhibition for disciplinary reasons. If Lavin continues to have issues with his top guard, it could prove very problematic for the Red Storm next week.

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Big Ten Team Previews: Wisconsin Badgers

Posted by jnowak on November 6th, 2012

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

Where We Left Off: We last saw the Badgers finish off what seemed like just another typical season — steady as she goes. They started the season ranked in most polls around No. 15 in the country and stayed there for most of last year, climbing into the Top 10 at one point. They won a game in the Big Ten Tournament before losing to eventual champion Michigan State and won two more in the NCAA Tournament before dropping a one-point heartbreaker to Syracuse in the third round. Finishing fourth in the conference felt just about right for a Badgers squad that weathered some early-season struggles from All-American guard Jordan Taylor to end the year with a good showing in a tough conference.

With Mike Bruesewitz out for at least a month, the Badgers will have some holes to fill in the early going. (Greg M. Cooper/US Presswire)

Positives: Even with the losses of two upperclassmen (Mike Bruesewitz — albeit temporary — and Josh Gasser, but we’ll get to that in a moment), this may be the most experienced team in the Big Ten. It will be anchored by senior center/forward Jared Berggren, and he’ll get a hand from senior Ryan Evans and junior Zach Bohannan (who transferred from Air Force) and Ben Brust. Experience comes into play most on the defensive end, and defense is arguably the important aspect of the game in the Big Ten (the Badgers led the conference in scoring defense last year). Also, the more time familiar with Bo Ryan‘s system, the more easily these guys can jump right in and hope to contend in a rough-and-tumble conference this year. And with the help of the upperclassmen, freshman point guard George Marshall should have plenty of assistance in the important area of floor leadership.

Negatives: Right now, Wisconsin is more of a “have-not” than a “have.” They’ll be without the senior forward Bruesewitz, who suffered a freak leg injury in practice in early October, until sometime around the Creighton game on November 23 (which means he’ll miss the Florida game on November 14). Then, when junior guard Gasser tore his ACL in practice later last month, that took away a second certain starter for the Badgers who were already going to be fighting to be in the top tier of a loaded conference. The pair of Bruesewitz and Gasser have combined to start 115 games for the Badgers. Those are two talented, veteran players the Badgers will be hard-pressed to replace, at least in the early going.

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Big Ten M5: 10.10.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 10th, 2012

  1. Do Wisconsin fans even care about preseason rankings? Does it even matter if the Badgers get any hype before tip-off? Bo Ryan’s squads are perennially left out of key lists in the preseason and none of the Badgers are listed in the top 100 players in college hoops per A handful of players are on the list from the following Big Ten teams – Indiana, Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan, Illinois, Penn State and Minnesota – but none from Wisconsin. The omission is not necessarily outrageous because there is no particular standout on this year’s squad. Jordan Taylor was an All-American last season but Ryan Evans and Jared Berggren will be the veterans on this team. Evans averaged 11 PPG last season and Berggren scored about 10.5 PPG. Both of their statistics will go up with an increased role in the offense and one of them ought to be a top 15 player in the conference by the end of the season. Freshman phenom Sam Dekker may just steal the whole show by February if he can pick up Bo Ryan’s swing offense quickly.
  2. Michigan State’s Branden Dawson seems to be recovering well ahead of schedule according to the medical staff in East Lansing. Dawson’s knee brace will be coming off soon and should see an increased role during practice. Dawson tore his ACL towards the end of last season and could not help Tom Izzo during the postseason. But his recovery indicates that he should be in fairly good shape by early next year. Izzo doesn’t expect Dawson to contribute heavily on the offensive end but will need his defensive intensity during the conference season. Dawson averaged 8.4 PPG but also pulled down 4.5 RPG and defended the best wing of the opposing teams. Returning junior Keith Appling will be expected to carry the offensive load for the Spartans and his 11.4 PPG from last season should increase with the departure of Draymond Green.
  3. Speaking of defensive stoppers, the Hoosiers will heavily bank on Victor Oladipo to assume that role as they begin the season with high expectations. Alex Bozich breaks down Oladipo’s game on Inside The Hall and stresses his significance on the preseason #1 team.  Oladipo can pick his fair share of points on the offensive end as he averaged 10.3 PPG last season but he possesses the athleticism to guard the best player on the opposing teams. Even though the time at the point guard position will be split by Jordan Hulls and Yogi Ferrell, expect Oladipo to put pressure on other Big Ten guards such as Ohio State’s Aaron Craft or Michigan State’s Keith Appling. Tom Crean’s team is loaded with talent and the secret sauce to winning the championship will be to convince each of the players to assume their specific role and embrace it. If Oladipo can take a step back on the offensive end and channel his energy towards locking down the best guards, the Hoosiers might just finish the season as the top ranked team in the country.
  4. Another key player who needs to understand his role on a preseason top 10 team is Michigan’s Tim Hardaway, Jr. UMHoops asked a group of Michigan writers about what to expect from the junior wing this season. Several writers pointed towards his 28% shooting from beyond the arc has a weakness. Hardaway can’t afford to be in a shooting slump and continue to take shots because there will be other teammates who can pick up the slack on any given night. The addition of freshman Glenn Robinson III will increase the depth of John Beilein’s team, so Hardaway should just let the game come to him rather force bad shots. He also needs to step up on the defensive end because the Big Ten features very good offensive guards such as Keith Appling and Christian Watford. Last season, senior guards Zach Novak and Stu Douglass would pick up the defensive duties but Hardaway will need to fill those shoes if Michigan hopes to make a serious run at the Final Four.
  5. Illinois head coach John Groce will make his debut in the Big Ten in less than a month. IlliniHQ writes that most of the fan base so far has been very impressed with Groce on the recruiting front. Groce has been active on the recruiting trail by receiving commitments from top 60 players such as Kendrick Nunn. He also understands that recruiting in the Chicago Public League will establish relationships and improve the communication about future recruits as he settles down in Champaign. Groce also recruited another guard for the 2013 class from the Simeon academy – Jaylon Tate. He understands the need for a true point guard on next year’s squad because current sophomore Tracy Abrams will need a backup. Even though Abrams only averaged 4.3 PPG last season, he will see an increased role in Groce’s guard oriented offense this year. Illini fans eagerly await to evaluate Groce’s coaching abilities because he has shown them enough about this zeal on the recruiting front. Expect a high tempo, guard oriented offense that will consistently push the ball up the floor.
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Pac-12’s Five Most Important Non-Conference Games

Posted by KDanna on October 10th, 2012

The best thing about October isn’t watching football or the MLB playoffs; no, it’s all about analyzing college basketball non-conference schedules. Where are the potential RPI boosts? Trap games? Guarantee ones? So many possibilities for those ’12 or ’13 tilts!

But way out west, promise has quickly turned into embarrassment in November and December for the Pac-12 in recent years. Last season, the Pac went 9-38 against teams that finished the regular season in the RPI Top-100 and 3-28 against those finishing 50th or above, according to Numbers like those are why Washington didn’t get an at-large bid even as the conference’s regular-season champion. So, it goes without saying that the first two months of the season are HUGE for a conference like the Pac-12 to regain respect around the college basketball world. With that in mind, we’re ready to begin circling some dates to keep an eye on in the conference calendar. Here are my choices for the five most important non-conference games for the Pac in 2012-13, in order of appearance:

Maui Invitational

USC Will Represent The Pac-12 At The Maui Invitational This Year (Alex Prosperi, EA Sports Maui Invitational)

1. USC vs. Illinois (November 19) – Talk about the ultimate RPI-boost game. Illinois is the Trojans’ first-round opponent of the Maui Invitational, which means a certain D-II team will be lurking in the consolation bracket. If the Trojans beat the Illini, they get to play Texas, another high-quality RPI opponent. If the Trojans lose… that’s right, Chaminade is up next (assuming Texas doesn’t Oklahoma 2010-11 it). In case you were wondering, the Silverswords are not a high-quality RPI opponent. Neither the Trojans nor the Illini are coming off storybook seasons (USC went 1-17 in an extremely down Pac-12, while Illinois absolutely imploded, finishing the season 2-12 after a 15-3 start), but a little early-season karma can do a body of work good. And, we’ll get a chance to see just how much difference USC’s new faces (like Ari Stewart, J.T. Terrell and Eric Wise) and newly healthy returnees (with senior point guard Jio Fontan exhibit A) can make.

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Big Ten Summer Check In: Wisconsin Badgers

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on July 17th, 2012

Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan clearly does not care about preseason rankings. The regular season rankings don’t seem to bother him much either. Seemingly every year, his program is said to be having a tough time to keep up with the rest of the Big Ten because of departing players or numerous other reasons. But the Badgers recharge, they understand their talent, they play good defense, and they play within a system. Wisconsin fans have gotten used to this trend for years and it has resulted in consistent success in Madison. Michigan State and Ohio State can boast about their Final Four appearances, but Wisconsin’s consistency is its hallmark trait that has resulted in Big Ten championships and its own share of postseason success.

Bo Ryan will reload once again to remain competitive in the Big Ten.

Evaluating Last Year: The Badgers had their shot against top seeded Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen when the ball was in Jordan Taylor’s hands, their best player and most experienced veteran. Wisconsin fans couldn’t have asked for more than a shot to win that would have resulted in their second Elite Eight appearance in seven years. Ryan’s crew played their hearts out, as they challenged the 2-3 zone and hit 52% (14-27) from beyond the arc before falling short in a nail-biter. The chaotic last possession should not be used to judge their regular season by any means because the Badgers finished fourth in the B1G with a 12-6 record, just one game behind the co-champions. That level of performance along with another Sweet Sixteen appearance should definitely be considered a success for a team that could not find a consistent second scoring option after Jordan Taylor last year. Junior wing Ryan Evans averaged 11 points per game but couldn’t consistently deliver during the clutch when opposing teams double-teamed Taylor. Despite those limited scoring options, Wisconsin’s 2011-12 campaign was definitely a success.

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Weekend Wrap: Buckeyes to the Final Four; Spartans, Hoosiers, Badgers Fall

Posted by jnowak on March 25th, 2012

Four teams enter, one team leaves. The Big Ten had four representatives advance to the second weekend of NCAA Tournament play, but just Ohio State — considered by many to be the toast of the league for much of the season before Michigan State emerged as Big Ten Tournament champions and the conference’s lone #1 seed — will be suiting up in New Orleans next weekend. Here are a few thoughts from the weekend’s action:

Ohio State's Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Deshaun Thomas celebrate their team's win against Syracuse on Saturday. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

  • Tom Izzo was right — The esteemed Michigan State coach, who knows a thing or two about getting through March, has recognized all along that this is not his most talented team but it had as much capability as any other because of its intangible qualities. Because of this, Izzo has also said all along that the group’s margin for error was smaller than maybe ever before. That came to fruition against a red-hot Louisville group on Thursday, as the Spartans turned in one of the worst offensive performances of the tournament. The Cardinals never allowed the Spartans to get into a rhythm and it led to an early exit. If it’s any consolation, Michigan State has been eliminated by a Final Four team in six of the last eight seasons.
  • Does Ohio State have what it takes? — The Buckeyes are Bourbon Street-bound, but can they win two more games? They wouldn’t have to play the top team in the tournament (Kentucky) presumably until the national title game, and have shown that they can keep finding ways to win. They did it without Jared Sullinger for most of the first half Saturday, and William Buford and Deshaun Thomas were both pretty quiet. If everything clicks for this group, they can certainly hang with anybody.
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Rushed Reaction: #1 Syracuse 64, #4 Wisconsin 63

Posted by nvr1983 on March 22nd, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Syracuse weathers the storm. People have said a lot of things about this Syracuse program over the past five months, but they are definitely resilient. From the Bernie Fine scandal to the Fab Melo suspension (both of them), the Orange have persevered and now find themselves on the verge of taking Jim Boeheim to just his fourth Final Four in his storied career. Tonight the Orange were able to fend off some ridiculously hot shooting from the Badgers who went 14-27 from the 3-point range including six straight three-pointers in less than four minutes midway through the second half. The Orange managed to withstand the barrage and are on the verge of heading to New Orleans.
  2. Berggren in foul trouble. When someone looks at the box score from this game in the future they will probably barely notice Jared Berggren‘s 3 fouls, but those who watched the game will know that the second foul he picked up with 12:03 left in the first half had a huge impact in the game. Berggren had just scored 10 straight Wisconsin points in 3:17 stretch that turned a 7-5 Syracuse lead into a 15-9 Wisconsin lead. From that point forward, Berggren did not play a single second in the first half. The Orange then went on a 24-8 run to give themselves a 10-point lead before a late four-point spurt by the Badgers cut the halftime deficit to six.
  3. Contrasting styles made for a great game. Early in the game nearly every media member was tracking how much of the shot clock Wisconsin was using before they took a shot. On the other end, we could barely keep up with how quickly Syracuse was getting its shots off. The contrast was also notable in the team’s shot selection. Wisconsin scored 42 of its 63 points from beyond the arc while only 15 of Syracuse’s 64 points came from three-point range. In the end, Wisconsin had exactly what it wanted–the ball in the hands of its senior All-American point guard. Wisconsin could have called a timeout to set up a play, but you can hardly fault Bo Ryan for letting Jordan Taylor work against a Syracuse defense that the Badgers had picked apart in the second half with its three-point shooting. This time though, Syracuse stepped up and forced Taylor into an ugly desperation three that the Badgers didn’t need and their last gasp came up short.

Star of the Game. C.J. Fair, Syracuse. Berggren may have had the big first half and Dion Waiters may have exploded towards the end of the first half, but it was fair who gave the Orange 15 points, seven rebounds, and four steals that probably was the decisive factor. Fair has been quiet offensively over the past six games totaling just 20 points over that period, which spanned a month, but he gave his team the lift it needed to get over a tough Wisconsin team.

Sights & Sounds. Our seat was next to the Wisconsin bench and while we didn’t get to watch Jim Boeheim’s facial expressions we got an earful of Bo Ryan yelling about every single call. As we noted earlier Ryan was particularly vocal about his thoughts that the officials were favoring the Orange, which was not evident as Syracuse was actually called for one more foul (13-12). The one time when Ryan did not have something to say was when a reporter asked him what he said immediately after the game to Jordan Taylor.

What’s Next?  The Orange will be taking on the state of Ohio in some form. They could get a Big East match-up with Cincinnati, who they split the season series with winning at Cincinnati in January, but then dropping the Big East semifinal to a surging Cincinnati team. Or they could get a game against Ohio State that Orange fans have feared with the presence of Jared Sullinger potentially highlighting the absence of Fab Melo on the inside.

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