NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Sweet Sixteen Thursday

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 22nd, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East) and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.

#1 Syracuse vs. #4 Wisconsin – East Region Semifinals (at Boston, MA) – 7:15 PM ET on CBS

Bo Ryan Is Looking For His Second Trip to the Elite Eight at Wisconsin

Perhaps the most fascinating matchup to date in the entire NCAA Tournament will take place in tonight’s first game from Boston. Wisconsin, the most patient and deliberate team in the country, takes on a Syracuse team that has won 33 games due in large part to a lethal transition attack. While Syracuse ranks #202 in tempo, the Orange thrive on the fast break. You hear a lot about Jim Boeheim’s team struggling on the defensive glass and some of that is due to the fact that his guards already start out on the break when a shot goes up, taking them completely out of position to rebound. Without Fab Melo around to man the middle, Syracuse’s rebounding issues could be a major problem against the physical and deliberate Badgers. It’s always easier to slow a game down than to speed it up and that’s what Wisconsin is going to do. Syracuse will be forced to score in the half court against one of the strongest defenses in the entire nation. The big question will be whether Syracuse, already not one of the better half court teams, can get the ball inside and avoid settling for jump shots. At times this season the Orange have been frustrated and forced into shooting contested jumpers. Syracuse needs to utilize strong ball screening action in order to free up shooters. Wisconsin’s players will fight through screens and stick with you so using the pick-and-roll also wouldn’t be a bad idea. As for Wisconsin, the Badgers match up very well on the defensive end. The question for them will be whether they can score enough to win. Syracuse obviously has more offensive weapons but Bo Ryan has Jordan Taylor to take control of the game for his team. Taylor is the only player on Wisconsin capable of creating his own shot and that will be critical against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone. Wisconsin shoots a bunch of three-pointers and it will have to make quite a few in order to knock off the top-seeded Orange. Syracuse’s zone encourages opposing teams to shoot over it but Wisconsin can actually make them, a major difference from Kansas State last week. If Boeheim chooses to extend his zone out on Wisconsin’s shooters, that will free up the Melo-less middle for Jared Berggren to go to work off screen and rolls in addition to opening up driving lanes for Taylor. Expect Jim Boeheim to adjust how his defense attacks Wisconsin as the game goes along, something he certainly has experience with. This will be a clean game between two teams with great defenses and terrific ball protection. Should it come down to free throws, Wisconsin has the edge. Syracuse is the better team and has many more offensive threats but the Tournament is all about matchups. We think the Badgers will make just enough shots to pull off the upset.

The RTC Certified Pick: Wisconsin

#1 Michigan State vs. #4 Louisville – West Regional Semifinal (at Phoenix, AZ) – 7:47 PM ET on TBS

One of the things we college basketball fans tend to really like about this time of year are the surprises. Not just the obvious ones like Butler running to the national title game or Villanova playing the perfect game against Georgetown, but more subtle ones like teams unveiling a new wrinkle to their offense or players making plays that you hadn’t known they were able to make. As for this game, however, don’t expect many surprises; we all more or less know how this is going to go down. We’ve seen Tom Izzo and Rick Pitino enough over the years to know what they want to do, and we’ve seen the 2012 vintages of both of these clubs to know what they are capable of. Michigan State is going to defend like crazy in the halfcourt, pound the glass on both ends of the court and try to knock Louisville around enough so that the Cards will be forced into submission late in the game. The Cardinals, meanwhile, are going to turn up the pressure defensively, try to force turnovers, rely on Gorgui Dieng to block shots in the middle and watch Peyton Siva get penetration and create offense off the bounce. It is likely going to be a low-scoring game that is still in doubt late into the second half and it will come down to which of these teams is capable of making the most plays down the stretch. While Siva’s numbers on the season are not great, he has been a different player since the Big East Tournament started, getting into the lane seemingly at will, creating opportunities for himself and for others and pitching in everywhere on the floor on his way to 13 points, 5.7 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game over the six-game stretch. He does a lot of damage in the pick-and-roll game, so not only will Spartan guard Keith Appling have to be on his game defensively, but whichever big man gets involved in the screen needs to do a good job of keeping Siva out of the lane. Draymond Green is clearly the big factor for Michigan State, and he too has been on fire of late, averaging 20 points, 12.5 rebounds, 8.0 assists and shooting it at a 64.3% eFG in the NCAA Tournament. Freshman Chane Benahan appears to be the most obvious individual matchup for Green, but it is going to have to be a full team effort for the Cards to slow the All-American down. Louisville will need to pressure the Spartan guards, keeping them from getting into their halfcourt offense easily and, perhaps more importantly, dedicate themselves to keeping Spartans like Green, Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix off the offensive glass. However, given their relative lack of size (only Dieng is taller than 6’8”) and struggles with defensive rebounding, this could be the eventual downfall of the Cards. While they’ll certainly get their share of stops and turnovers, allowing Green and company second opportunities is a recipe for disaster.

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Rushed Reaction: #4 Wisconsin 73, #13 Montana 49

Posted by AMurawa on March 15th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Three-point barrage. Wisconsin turned to their bread-and-butter early and often on Thursday, taking advantage of a porous Montana perimeter defense to hit six of their first nine attempts from deep and ten of 19 for the game. Jordan Taylor led the way with three threes, but six different Badgers hit at least one from deep against a Griz defense that couldn’t find its groove. Montana started in a zone, but when that got exposed, they switched back to their more customary man defense – to no positive effect.
  2. Ryan Evans wake-up call. Evans set the tone in the first half for the Badgers, scoring 14 points, grabbing six boards, and hitting six of his eight shots, including a three. And he made it look easy, hitting baseline jumpers and converting post moves inside. While he cooled considerably in the second half, Evans’ first half performance was a definite pick-me-up for a Badger team that turned the ball over and struggled defensively in the opening minutes of the game.
  3. Jared Berggren beast mode. Berggren is best known as a pick-and-pop big man for Bo Ryan’s team, but on Thursday he showed off his interior defensive skills, blocking seven Montana shots, besting his previous career best by three. Given that Berggren only played 24 minutes, that works out to a blocked shot on roughly one out of every three Montana two-point field goal attempts.

Star of the Game. Ryan Evans, Wisconsin. Evans wound up with 18 points and eight boards and was the spark early for the Badgers. While Jordan Taylor was often responsible for finding those good looks for Evans (Taylor wound up with six assists), credit Evans for knocking down his open looks.

Quotable. Jared Berggren, Wisconsin on his shotblocking performance. “There were a lot of situations where I ended up picking up the ball handler, normally a smaller guard attacking the rim.  Probably could have done a better job taking away the lane lines.  I let him get to the rim a little too easy sometimes, but I was lucky enough to get a finger tip on a few of them to alter the shot.”

Sights & Sounds. The Wisconsin band is legendary, and they did not disappoint, but give credit to a Montana band who also had a few good lines in attempting to heckle Badgers players. A sample, to Evans: “The 80s want their hair back.” Evans had the last laugh though.

Wildcard. Late in the first half, Montana was still within five points and showed every sign of being able to stick around for awhile. But then, over the last three minutes of the first half and the first seven of the second half, the Badgers turned off the water for the Griz and turned the last twelve minutes of the game into a mere formality. When Wisconsin enters lockdown mode like that defensively and is hitting threes at a greater than 50% rate, they’re darn near unbeatable.

What’s Next?  The Badgers will face the winner of our next game in Albuquerque between Vanderbilt and Harvard in a game that, regardless of opponent, could be a textbook example of fundamental basketball. Depending on the outcome of the second game the Badgers will be facing a team with a vastly different amount of NCAA Tournament experience although each prior NCAA Tournament experience for the Vanderbilt players has been short-lived.

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SEC NCAA Tournament Primer: Thursday/Saturday Games

Posted by EMoyer on March 15th, 2012

On Thursday, Kentucky and Vanderbilt open their NCAA Tournament runs facing Western Kentucky and Harvard, respectively. Here we preview the Thursday/Saturday possibilities for the Wildcats and Commodores.

SEC NCAA Tournament Thursday/Saturday Capsules

SOUTH Region 

  • #1 Kentucky: Championship Appearances: 53; Record 107-47; Best Finish: Champion – 1948, 1949, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996, 1998; How Qualified: At-Large, SEC; Last Appearance: 2011 – L, National Semifinal
  • #16 Western Kentucky: Championship Appearances: 22; Record 19-22; Best Finish: Third Place – 1971; How Qualified: Automatic Bid, Sun Belt Conference; Last Appearance: 2009 – L, Second Round
  • #8 Iowa State: Championship Appearances: 14; Record 12-13; Best Finish: Final Four  – 1944; How Qualified: At Large, Big 12; Last Appearance: 2005 – L, Second Round
  • #9 Connecticut: Championship Appearances: 47; Record 35-43; Best Finish: Champion – 1999, 2004, 2011; How Qualified: At Large, Big East; Last Appearance: 2011 – Champion
All-Time Meetings
  • Kentucky vs Western Kentucky: Kentucky leads 3-2; Last Meeting: Nov. 15, 2001 (Western Kentucky 64, Kentucky 52)
  • Kentucky vs Iowa State: Kentucky leads 2-0; Last Meeting: Mar. 22, 1992 (Kentucky 106, Iowa State 98)
  • Kentucky vs Connecticut: Connecticut leads 3-1; Last Meeting: April 2, 2011 (Connecticut 56, Kentucky 55)
A Starting 5 of the Top Players Kentucky Could Face
  • Derrick Gordon, Western Kentucky, Fr., G: Gordon has amassed 400 points in his first year as a Hilltopper. Only two freshmen have scored more points in Western Kentucky history (Courtney Lee, 467;  Ralph Crosthwaite, 437). He is on pace to become the first Hilltopper freshman to pace the team in scoring and he will be the first in five years to lead in rebounding.
  • Chris Allen, Iowa State, Sr., G: Allen leads the team with 72 3-point field goals and he has played in the most NCAA Tournament games (14) in this year’s 68-team field. Allen played in two Final Fours for Michigan State (2009, 2010.
  • Jeremy Lamb, Connecticut, So., G: Lamb earned First-Team All-Big East honors and the NABC District I Player of the Year after leading the Huskies in scoring at 17.1 points per game.
  • Royce White, Iowa State, So., F: White is the only player in the nation to lead his team in scoring (13.1), rebounding (9.2), assists (5.1), steals (1.2) and blocks (0.9). He is on the verge of posting top-10 single seasons in assists and rebounds in Cyclone history. He is one of 12 players in the county to post a triple-double this season.
  • Andre Drummond, Connecticut, Fr., C: Drummond has tallied 10 double-doubles this season, a UConn freshman record under Coach Jim Calhoun. He won four Big East Rookie of the Week honors, and leads the team in rebounding (7.7) and blocks (2.7).
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Checking In On… the Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 28th, 2012

Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference. Follow him on Twitter at @Bill_Hupp for his thoughts on hoops, food, box fans and life.

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was:

  • Spartan Success: Despite losing guys like Korie Lucious, Kalin Lucas and Delvon Roe, the Michigan State express rolled on. Perhaps no other coach in the country teaches a system and its principles quite like Tom Izzo. Surprise losses on Sunday by both Ohio State and Michigan, however, meant that MSU’s weekend destruction of Nebraska clinched them of the at least a share of the Big Ten title. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
  • Chicago (Evanston) Hope: That wind you felt coming from Chicago might have been a collective sigh of relief from Northwestern fans after senior leader John Shurna sank two free throws with mere seconds to play to help the Wildcats escape Happy Valley with a 67-66 win. Two straight gut-wrenching losses in one week might have been more than Northwestern could have overcome as they sweat out life on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
  • Lousy in Lincoln: It’s no secret that Nebraska has struggled on offense this year. But not since 1961 has Nebraska been so putrid on offense as they were when they were embarrassed by Michigan State, 61-34, at home over the weekend. The Huskers shot under 30% for the game and the loss of leading scorer Bo Spencer to an injured ankle near halftime only hampered their scoring efforts.

The Perennial Lesson In College Basketball 101 Is To Never Count Out The Michigan State Spartans.

Power Rankings

  1. Michigan State (24-5, 13-3) – As good as Michigan State has been this season, how would the Spartans be if Delvon Roe hadn’t been forced to drop basketball due to chronic knee problems? Roe’s presence would have given them more depth and would have taken the load off of Draymond Green at certain points. But it also forced youngsters like Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne to grow up quickly. While they’ve struggled with consistency, those guys are a big part of why the Spartans are Big Ten champs.
  2. Ohio State (23-6, 11-5) – Strange times in Columbus. After riding a 39-game winning streak and destroying most visitors who dared enter Value City Arena, the Buckeyes have now lost two of their last three games at home. Jared Sullinger has seemingly disappeared in big games and crucial moments this season. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.04.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on February 4th, 2012

  1. Breathe easy, Michigan State fans — it looks like senior captain Draymond Green will be able to go on Sunday against rival Michigan. The Spartans are coming off a one-point loss at Illinois this week (Green left the floor with a knee injury with just under four minutes remaining and did not return), and dropped a one-point contest in Ann Arbor on January 17. It’s a must-win for the Spartans if they want any chance at a share of the Big Ten title, and it seems improbable that they’d be able to do it without Green. In addition to unquestionably being the heart and soul of the group, Green also currently ranks in the top 15 among Big Ten players in nine categories.
  2. Good news for Big Ten basketball fans: Game tickets are in extremely high demand. Bad news: They’re in such high demand that scalpers have gone to lengths to reproduce counterfeit tickets. According to Bob Baptist of the Columbus Dispatch, Ohio State officials have warned fans that there are a number of counterfeit tickets circulating, particularly for Ohio State’s February 11 game against Michigan State and late-February game against Wisconsin (both are sold out).
  3. In much more uplifting conference news, four Big Ten players were honored as an NCAA Division I Academic All-District selection by the College Sports Information Directors of America. Michigan’s Zack Novak, Ohio State’s Aaron Craft and Northwestern’s Drew Crawford were recipients out of District 5, and Wisconsin’s Jared Berggren was a recipient out of District 6. Craft is second in the conference in assists and first in steals, Crawford is averaging 17.4 points per game, Novak averages 33.6 minutes per game and Berggren is averaging 10.5 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.
  4. They say it’s not how you start, but how you finish. If that’s the case, Indiana has some work to do on both. The Hoosiers fell victim to a disastrous beginning and end of their game against Michigan this week, resulting in yet another Big Ten road loss for Tom Crean. Michigan led by as much as 20 before Indiana snapped out of it and eventually narrowed the margin to two. But Michigan controlled the late stages of the game, as well, resulting in the double-digit margin of victory. One thing is for sure: If Indiana is to start closing road games, a fully efficient 40 minutes will be necessary.
  5. There was an important change at the top of the Minnesota athletic department this week, as Joel Maturi announced his retirement as athletic director. But fifth-year Golden Gophers basketball coach Tubby Smith told the Star Tribune that he doesn’t expect the shift at the top to affect his job status as head coach. “Oh, I’ll be back here,” Smith told the paper. “[University President] Dr. [Eric] Kaler and I have visited some early in the year. Certainly this is the right place for me and my family. … We’ve had our share of mis-steps and disappointments, losses, injuries and departures. All those things go into play when you start to make decisions, but I expect to be back here.” Smith, who won the national championship in his first year at Kentucky in 1997-98, is 96-56 in a somewhat tumultuous tenure at Minnesota. The Gophers are 16-6 this season, but have been without double-double machine Trevor Mbakwe since November 27.
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They Are Who We Thought They Were: Revisiting Indiana and Wisconsin

Posted by jnowak on February 3rd, 2012

Remember when there was talk of Indiana as a Final Four-caliber team? And that Wisconsin wouldn’t even have a chance at dancing its way to New Orleans because there was an outside chance the Badgers would miss the NCAA Tournament? In calendar terms, those days aren’t that far behind us. But in basketball days, they seem light years away. In a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately society, we tend to get really, really excited about the here and now. Wisconsin loses a string of three games with a couple rare losses at home mixed in, and pundits are wondering what the heck has gone wrong in Madison. Indiana sends shock waves across basketball with a few early-season major upsets and lights up the first half of its schedule, and there seemed to be no limit to what the Hoosiers could do.

Cody Zeller and the young Hoosiers have struggled on the road this year. (Andy Lyons/Getty)

Well, about a month after Indiana was 15-1 and Wisconsin dropped three in a row, both clubs have returned to their mean. That is to say, both clubs have either regressed or progressed to just about where we expected them to be at season’s tipoff. Indiana has taken a tremendous step forward under Tom Crean and is showing signs that it will be contending for Big Ten titles soon enough. The Hoosiers are an NCAA Tournament team. Wisconsin, meanwhile, is back to competing for Big Ten championships, frustrating opponents (particularly at the Kohl Center), and dictating pace in the Big Ten.

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Set Your TiVo: 02.03 – 02.05

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 3rd, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

There are lots of good games on Saturday, highlighted by the big one in Columbia. Overall it’s a very nice day of hoops despite only a handful of truly terrific games.

#4 Kansas @ #6 Missouri – 9:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN (*****)

KU Needs Taylor To Be Good Tyshawn on Saturday (credit: Missourian)

  • It doesn’t get much better than this. Two teams that don’t particularly like each other and a Border War rivalry with roots in the Civil War era. Missouri enters this game after surviving Texas in Austin on Monday. The Tigers have perhaps the best offense in the nation with incredible balance at the guard and wing positions. The question for Frank Haith and his team will be how effective Ricardo Ratliffe can be against Thomas Robinson inside. Ratliffe shoots almost exclusively in the paint and converts an astounding 75.1% of the time. However, Ratliffe will be going up against a front line of Robinson and Jeff Withey (3.1 BPG) in this one and needs to utilize his patented pick-and-roll more in this game. Ratliffe won’t have great success going one-on-one against either Robinson or Withey inside. Kansas’ defense ranks #4 in two-point percentage against but the Jayhawks are vulnerable to the three-ball. That’s where Missouri and snipers Marcus DenmonKim English and Michael Dixon can really take advantage of Bill Self’s team.
  • The Jayhawk offense is essentially a two-man operation. While players like Withey and Travis Releford contribute offensively, Kansas’ fortunes depend on Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. Taylor has taken his game to another level over the last month, highlighted by the back to back 28-point efforts against Iowa State and Baylor. The Kansas senior hasn’t shot under 40% from the floor since January 4 but will be the focus of Haith’s perimeter defense. Taylor is prone to turnovers and you can bet the Missouri guards will be ball hawking him all night long. If Taylor has a good ball handling night, Kansas will be in very good position to grab a road win. Robinson will get his points but it’s up to Taylor to put the Jayhawks in a position to win this game.
  • It’s hard to pick against Missouri at home but if any team is going to win in Columbia, Kansas is the one. With ESPN in the house for the top two teams in the Big 12, this will be as charged an environment as you will see all year in college basketball. Despite Ratliffe’s stellar shooting percentage, Kansas should win the battle inside. The duo of Robinson and Withey is incredibly difficult to score against and Robinson is obviously a load on the offensive end as well. However, the friendly confines of Mizzou Arena and the Tigers’ perimeter attack and balance should be enough to put Missouri over the top.

#3 Ohio State @ #23 Wisconsin – 2:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN (****)

  •  Ohio State can take command of the Big Ten with a win in this game. The Buckeyes hold a one game lead over Wisconsin in the loss column heading into Saturday’s matchup. If Ohio State has one weakness, it’s three-point shooting. Thad Matta is not going to beat Wisconsin, a team that shoots well over 20 threes a game, from outside. Matta has the best player on the floor in Jared Sullinger and he needs to use him early and often in order to set the tone. Ohio State is not going to turn Wisconsin over and fast break points will be at a minimum. The Buckeyes must execute their half court offense in order to win this game and the way to do that is through the big man in the middle.
  • The Badgers have righted the ship with six straight wins but will need a big game out of their supporting cast if they are going to make it a seventh. Jared Berggren in particular must contain Sullinger on the low block or else Aaron Craft can feed him all day long with no consequences. Offensively, Wisconsin will run everything through Jordan Taylor but guys like Josh Gasser and Ben Brust need to be hot from deep in order for the Badgers to pull off the win. Wisconsin will be limited to one shot per possession most of the time as it loves to run the shot clock down and shoot threes. Ohio State ranks fourth in defensive rebounding percentage, mostly thanks to Sullinger.
  • This game features the top two defensive teams in the nation in terms of efficiency. It’s likely to be a low scoring, low possession affair that comes down to the final minutes. Players like Ryan Evans for Wisconsin and Ohio State’s Lenzelle Smith could be the determining factors. The battle at the point guard position between Taylor and Craft will be phenomenal but the complementary players usually put a team over the top in matchups like these. We think that’s what will happen at the Kohl Center on Saturday.
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Checking In On… The Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 31st, 2012

Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference. Follow him on Twitter (@Bill_Hupp) for his thoughts on hoops, food, PR, various city river walks, and life.

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

  • Tom Izzo is a Big Ten Legend: The emotional Michigan native won his 400th career game this week when Tom Izzo guided the Spartans to a comfortable 68-52 home win over Minnesota. No matter who leaves, the guy simply gets the most out of his teams year in and year out by emphasizing selflessness, defense, rebounding and toughness. There’s a reason that Michigan State always seems to be playing its best ball by the time March rolls around.
  • Up Comes Frazier!: Raise your hand at home if you had Penn State’s Tim Frazier as a likely first-team All-Big Ten candidate in February. If you did, you are a basketball savant and should be writing this column [Ed. Note: Or you are a Penn State homer.]. The 6’2” junior dominated against Penn State’s soft non-conference schedule, but hasn’t slowed down in Big Ten play. In league games, he is leading the conference in scoring (18.7 PPG), assists (5.3 APG), and steals (2.5. SPG). Admittedly, wins have been hard to come by for the Nittany Lions this season, but Frazier has been a bright spot in Happy Valley.
  • Welcome Back, Wisco: With Bo Ryan still at the helm, nobody thought Wisconsin would be down for long, and while it hasn’t always been pretty, the Badgers ran their current winning streak to five games after they downed Indiana at the Kohl Center this week. During this streak, they ground out tough road wins over Purdue and Illinois and claimed home victories over Nebraska, Northwestern and Indiana.

After a 3-2 start to conference play, Ohio State Has Won Its Last Four Games By A Combined 90 Points. (Al Messerschmidt/Getty)

Power Rankings

  1. Ohio State (19-3, 7-2) – Value City Arena isn’t the first Big Ten gym to come to mind when you think of fearsome places to play in the conference, but teams that have entered “The Grey” recently haven’t had much success. The students are passionate and the place is big and cavernous, more of a professional arena than a cozy college gymnasium. There’s a reason why the Buckeyes have won 38 straight at VCA and are winning their home Big Ten games in the nation’s best conference (according to the RPI) by an average of 24 points.
  2. Michigan State (17-4, 6-2) – Perhaps the most encouraging thing about Michigan State’s win over Minnesota was that it proved that point guard Keith Appling can go 1-8 from the field and score seven points … and the Spartans can still win by double digits. Freshman Branden Dawson continues to show flashes of brilliance, as he stepped up to score 16 points in Appling’s stead. Someone needs to provide a second scoring option to Draymond Green and if it can’t be Appling that day, it falls to Dawson or Valpo transfer Brandon Wood. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… The Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 10th, 2012

Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference. Follow him on Twitter @Bill_Hupp for his thoughts on hoops, food, Russian nesting dolls and life.

Reader’s Take 


The Week That Was:

  • OT Madness in Madison: It was just one of the most unusual endings to a basketball game in recent memory. Ryan Evans banked home a turn-around desperation heave from the right wing as time expired, and many thought the Michigan StateWisconsin game in Madison was heading to a second overtime tied at 63. It was waved off, however, after officials discovered the there was a 0.2-second disparity between the game clock on the basket and the one on the scoreboard. By rule, the officials used the clock on the basket, which expired with the ball in Evans’ fingertips. (The must-see full video is after the jump). Ball game over as Wisconsin’s woes continued under truly bizarre circumstances.
  • Bertrand to the Rescue: A subtle, underrated move by Illini coach Bruce Weber has Illinois at 3-1 and currently tied for second in the conference. Looking to shake up his lackluster team, Weber gave little-used sophomore wing Joseph Bertrand more minutes against Missouri. Bertrand responded by going 9-9 from the field for 19 points. In the last five games, Bertrand has averaged 15 points and 3.2 rebounds in 29.2 minutes, and has even started the past two. He poured in a career-high 25 points on 11-12 shooting to help the Illini survive Nebraska at home.
  • Road Warriors: First, Iowa took down Wisconsin at the Kohl Center. As a follow-up act, the Hawkeyes went up to The Barn this week and knocked off Minnesota. That’s no small feat for team who was blown out by Campbell earlier this season and whose leading scorer in conference play is 28th in scoring (Matt Gatens at 10.5 PPG). It’s doubtful Fran McCaffrey’s bunch will finish conference play with even a .500 record, but they have proven they can make shots and win on the road.

Who Will Stop Draymond Green And Michigan State? (Al Goldis/AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Ohio State (15-2, 3-1) – When you consider that Ohio State plays in the nation’s top-ranked conference (according to the RPI), it’s pretty insane that the Buckeyes have won three of their Big Ten games by an average of 31 points. They aren’t just beating lesser opponents; they are destroying them. It’s a clear indication of why the Buckeyes are considered by many the class of the conference and one of the favorites to win it all in New Orleans. Another reason is that OSU is ranked in the top 3 in 16 of the Big 10’s 21 statistical categories. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 23rd, 2011

Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference. Follow him on Twitter (@Bill_Hupp) for his thoughts on hoops, food, Russian nesting dolls and life.

Reader’s Take 


The Week That Was

  • Bo Knows Defense: There are several tenets that a Bo Ryan-led team will always posses: It will slow the tempo down and limit the number of possessions in a game; Wisconsin’s big guys will be able to knock down a three; they’ll limit turnovers and take care of the basketball; and they will guard you from start to finish. You can stay close in a lot of games when you are holding opponents to under 45 points per game. Unlike Missouri, Ryan’s defense isn’t predicated on quickness and forcing a lot of turnovers. Rather, they require you to stay patient on offense and make contested shots. Not a lot of teams can do that consistently in college basketball, which is why the Badgers rank in the top three in the country in scoring defense (first – 44.7 PPG), field goal percentage defense (second – 33.7%) and three point FG percentage defense (third – 23.7 %) – all this despite playing teams like Marquette, North Carolina and UNLV in their non-conference slate.
  • He Went to Jared: No matter how many other weapons Ohio State has on the floor, it really needs Jared Sullinger to man the middle. The super sophomore has missed a couple games in December with nagging injuries (back spasms and a sprained tendon in his left foot) and its clear the Buckeyes missed him. You just don’t replace a guy averaging nearly a double-double (16 PPG and 9.2 RPG). His presence on offense alone keeps the defense honest and opens up the floor for Aaron Craft, DeShaun Thomas and William Buford to get shots. In their only loss, Kansas All-American Thomas Robinson exploited this weakness to post 21 points and seven boards. It’s obvious that any team missing their first-team All-American will be worse, but just how much worse became readily apparent that day in Lawrence.
  • Fattening Up On Cupcakes: Super soft non-conference schedules have led to rather gaudy records for Minnesota, Illinois and Northwestern. But according to stats guru Ken Pomeroy, those squads are ranked 42nd, 55th and 58th in the country right now, respectively.  The best of those 34 collective wins was probably Illinois’ 82-75 home defeat of Gonzaga. Minnesota hasn’t played a true road game yet and their best win is by three points over Virginia Tech.  Northwestern has decent wins over Georgia Tech, LSU and Seton Hall – but they have lost their two most difficult games to Baylor and Creighton.  Each of these schools need strong showings in conference play to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Freshman Cousy Award Nominee Trey Burke Is Having A Standout Year That Many Didn't See Coming. (Angela J. Cesere/

Power Rankings

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