Big Ten Weekly Five: 04.25.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on April 25th, 2012

  1. Wisconsin has been in the news quite a bit over the last week or two, and it’s not good offseason publicity for coach Bo Ryan’s program. Ryan and Jarrod Uthoff became embroiled in a very public and heated controversy about Uthoff’s options after a transfer from Wisconsin. After Ryan tried to place a number of restrictions on Uthoff’s transfer, he made a few important gaffes over the airwaves and via social media, and eventually the coach lifted all restrictions except for schools in the Big Ten. Think Wisconsin fans are ready for games to start already?
  2. Tom Izzo is another coach who has seen some ugly offseason incidents over the last few years, and there’s already been a hiccup this year in East Lansing. Derrick Nix, who became a big contributor in the post this year and figured to be a prominent leader for the Spartans next season, pleaded guilty to impaired driving and had a marijuana possession charge dropped in East Lansing. Nix and his coach addressed the media after the incident and Izzo — after suspending Nix indefinitely — said the center would be reinstated to the team under some specific to-be-determined guidelines. Stay tuned.
  3. There will be no surprises this yearJared Sullinger will not return to Ohio State for his junior year. What does that mean for the Buckeyes? We’re not entirely sure, but we know what it will mean for Amir Williams, who is likely to eat up a lot of Sullinger’s minutes in the post. The former McDonald’s All-American averaged just 1.7 PPG and 2.1 RPG  in 6.6 MPG as a freshman, but says he’s ready to make that leap to becoming a big-time contributor.
  4. Tubby Smith has a new boss at Minnesota and that could mean huge improvements for the Golden Gophers’ program. Smith has long said that the university needs to have Big Ten-type facilities to keep up with the conference’s elite such as Ohio State and Michigan State, two programs that boast some of the very best in the country. Norwood Teague said he recognizes the importance of those facilities and, coming from VCU where basketball was ever-important, his word could go a long way toward helping Smith’s recruiting pitch.
  5. Things are moving a mile a minute for new Nebraska head coach Tim Miles, who is doing all he can to catch up and progress in Lincoln at the same time. He’s been spending time with his family in Colorado, getting acquainted with folks in Nebraska, and burning hours upon hours recruiting all over the road. Miles seems excited, and he feels that the Nebraska fan base equally shares his enthusiasm. “The response has been incredible,” he told the World Herald. “People are hungry. This is how you play the game, being out there. Putting the program in the forefront. But the talking part is easy.”
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Complete NBA Draft List: After NCAA Deadline, Who’s Staying and Who’s Going?

Posted by EJacoby on April 10th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

In a rule that makes absolutely no sense, today (April 10) marks the new official date that college players had to withdraw their names from the NBA Draft pool if they wanted to return back to school with eligibility and had previously declared for draft entry. It’s the NCAA’s deadline. That means that all of the guys who declared since the end of the season (Kendall Marshall, Jared Sullinger, and Meyers Leonard to name a few) had to decide by today whether to forgo their NCAA eligibilities. But the NBA’s own deadline isn’t until April 29, meaning that players can still declare for the draft, but just can’t withdraw anymore and retain college eligibility. Essentially, it just means that “testing the waters” is now done, so if a player enters the draft from here then he is gone for good. Yes, it’s confusing and makes zero sense, but that’s an issue for another day. Today, we wrap up all of the players who are officially sticking in the NBA Draft, those who decided to return to school, and those that are still undecided until April 29. Here’s the status of all the top non-senior players of college basketball:

After Some Debate, Jared Sullinger Declared for the NBA Draft (AP Photo)

DECLARED – These players have entered their names into the NBA Draft and no longer have college eligibility.

  • Harrison Barnes, North Carolina (Sophomore) – The super-hyped prospect had a strong two seasons but perhaps underachieved in the eyes of many UNC fans. He is a surefire lottery pick and could go in the top five so it’s a smart decision to leave.
  • Jared Sullinger, Ohio State (Sophomore) – Dominant as a Buckeye from day one as a freshman, Sullinger’s NBA stock has slowly dropped over the course of two seasons. It’s his time to go now, but he may be slipping out of the top 10. Everyone seems torn on him, but Sully is too talented of a player to fall out of the lottery.
  • Thomas Robinson, Kansas (Junior) – No-brainer. Robinson was a NPOY candidate, accomplished great things in three years at Kansas and will be a top-five draft pick.
  • Kendall Marshall, North Carolina (Sophomore) – Despite being a stacked draft, this year’s pool severely lacks point guards. Marshall lacks athleticism at the position but is a solid height (6’4”) and has elite passing skills and floor awareness that will translate at the NBA level. Could be a surprise top ten pick, and will probably go in the lottery.
  • Austin Rivers, Duke (Freshman) – Another player that scouts are torn on, many believe that Rivers could have used another year of seasoning at Duke. But his scoring prowess is undeniable and someone will grab his talents likely between picks 10 and 20. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten Season Wrap-Up: Ohio State

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on April 5th, 2012

The last five minutes of the Final Four game were a blur for the Buckeyes. Despite cruising for most of the game, Ohio State tightened up during the final few minutes of the loss to Kansas. Jared Sullinger had some issues in the paint against the longer Jeff Withey and Thomas Robinson dominated the Buckeyes in the paint on the offensive end. But regardless of the outcome of the game, Thad Matta did an excellent job with his young Buckeyes as he led them to its second Final Four in six seasons. What used to be a great accomplishment for OSU basketball to make the Final Four has now become an expectation during Matta’s regime. And that’s a good expectation because he has raised the bar in Columbus with consistent incoming talent and superb coaching. Both of his best recruiting classes – one with Greg Oden and another with Jared Sullinger — have resulted in a trip to the Final Four. It is only a matter of time before Matta cracks the Final Four barrier and wins the national title. Every young coach had to go through some growing pains – Bill Self, Roy Williams and the latest addition to the championship table, John Calipari. Let’s take a trip back through the 2011-12 campaign and assess OSU’s overall performance.

Aaron Craft will need to step up offensively for The Buckeyes in 2012-13

  • In a nutshell: Jared Sullinger returned to Columbus for another year of education, late night meals at Taco Bell, and a national championship.  Even though he fell short of the title, a Final Four caps off two great years of college ball before he heads to the NBA. Thad Matta’s freshman class 2011 showed tremendous improvement as Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft added new facets to their game. Along with Lenzelle Smith, Jr., the core of that group should be back next season for another run at a Big Ten championship. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 04.05.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 5th, 2012

  1. A year after announcing in the losing locker room that he would be returning to Ohio State, Jared Sullinger has decided to forego his final two years of eligibilty and will enter the NBA Draft. As we noted after what turned out to be Sullinger’s last game in a Buckeye jersey he still need to work on his game quite a bit. Although Sullinger did show signs of rounding out his game as a sophomore by losing weight and developing an outside shot it was not evident in that game for Sullinger. Sullinger will need to continue developing his game to have a long NBA career. He will still end up being a lottery pick and most likely a top 10 pick despite his limitations, but those flaws probably cap his ceiling.
  2. Sullinger may be joined by another Big Ten underclassman as an initial report indicated that Michigan freshman Trey Burke was going to announce his intent to enter the NBA Draft. A few hours later his father released a statement indicating that Trey had not declared for the NBA Draft yet and was still taking classes at Michigan. While some viewed this as a denial of the earlier report to us it was just semantics as his father never said that Burke was not planning to declare for the Draft. Burke’s decision to continue classes is a little less reassuring to Wolverine fans because Michigan is currently in their Winter Term, which ends in less than two weeks with exam week the following week, so Burke could finish classes to preserve Michigan’s APR score and not affect his NBA Draft stock, which is important because he is a borderline first round pick.
  3. Yesterday, one key member of Kentucky‘s national championship team announced his intention to stay in Lexington as John Calipari announced that he was not looking to pursue a NBA coaching career at this time. The most obvious suitor would be the New York Knicks, who some believe have the inside track to steal him from Big Blue Nation. On some level we could understand Calipari’s desire to stay with a passionate fan base who no doubt reveres him after he brought them their eighth national title, but if Calipari is given a chance to shine on the NBA’s stage (and with the NBA’s millions) it may turn out to too tempting to pass up after his brief run in New Jersey went so poorly.
  4. Alex Oriakhi has listed his preliminary plans for his college visits. The Connecticut transfer will “definitely visit” North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, and Missouri while also listing Xavier, Ohio State, and UNC-Charlotte as potential visits. Outside of the UNC-Charlotte visit, which seems kind of random, the Ohio State visit becomes intriguing with the possibility that Oriakhi could potential step in to replace Sullinger. Clearly, Oriakhi is not quite the same caliber of player that Sullinger was at Ohio State, but he would be a nice bridge to the next dominant big man the Buckeyes want to bring in.
  5. Early this morning, Samford  will introduce Indiana assistant Bennie Seltzer  as its next head coach. Seltzer, who has also worked as an assistant at Marquette and Oklahoma, will be returning to his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama for his first job as a head coach. With two new head coaches without any previous head coaching experience in college basketball, Birmingham’s beat writers should be very active next season.
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Big Ten Morning Five: 04.04.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on April 4th, 2012

  1. The Hoosiers are getting some love for next season from ESPN. Several media outlets have ranked Indiana as one of the top teams in the country based on the talent returning to Bloomington. Now, we all know this is way too early. But for what it is worth, Andy Katz of ESPN ranked Indiana as his top team for the 2012-2013 season. If Cody Zeller comes back next season, Tom Crean’s squad should compete for a Big Ten title and beyond.
  2. The Jared Sullinger watch officially started, which started Sunday, ended today as the Ohio State junior announced that he would be entering the NBA Draft. Last season, after the loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16, Sullinger did not take much time letting the media know that he would return for his sophomore season. This season, however, he was almost as quick with his decision. It does not seem surprising that Sullinger is leaving Columbus even if his last performance in a Buckeye uniform raised plenty of questions about his ceiling as a pro.
  3. Tom Izzo‘s team has some issues off the court after an excellent season on the court. Derrick Nix was with marijuana and Izzo suspended him immediately after his arrest. Nix will be out indefinitely and Izzo has made it clear that such behavior will not be tolerated. Nix is a crucial part of the rotation for the 2012-2013 season and his suspension could be troubling news for Spartan fans.
  4. Tubby Smith‘s contract is still in works, but all reports indicate that he will be sticking around Minneapolis for a few more years. He has two years left on his current contract, but the administration is leaning towards giving Smith a multiple year extension by the end of April. The Gophers’ late season charge towards the NIT final has boosted his resume especially after losing his best player, Trevor Mbakwe to an injury for the whole season.
  5. Big Ten teams are not the only ones losing their cast upon graduation or to the NBA Draft. The Big Ten Network will be without one of their analysts next season as Keno Davis has been hired at Central Michigan. Davis coached at Providence before moving on to a job at the Big Ten Network for one season. Davis has midwestern roots because he coached at Drake in the Missouri Valley before heading to the Big East job at Providence. Davis won’t be a huge loss for BTN, but they need to make sure to hold on to Gus Johnson!
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Big Ten Morning Five: 04.02.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on April 2nd, 2012

  1. It came down to the wire for Ohio State in its national semifinal loss to Kansas on Saturday, and it did not end well. The Buckeyes let a game that they were seemingly in control of nearly throughout slip away as the Jayhawks climbed back from a 13-point margin. Thad Matta saw his team playing some of its best basketball at the end of the year, but did not see it execute well at the end of the game that mattered most.
  2. And with that, we likely bid farewell to Jared Sullinger, possibly Deshaun Thomas and definitely William Buford as the last Big Ten team puts the finishing touches on its season. Sullinger surprised a few by coming back for his sophomore season and Thomas has emerged as possibly the team’s best talent. So how much will be left in the cupboard next year? Possibly more than you think, says Bob Hunter of The Columbus Dispatch.
  3. The clock ran out on Michigan State‘s exceptional season, but the accolades continue to pile up for star senior Draymond Green and coach Tom Izzo. Green was named the National Player of the Year by the NABC on Sunday, the first Spartan to receive such an honor since Shawn Respert in 1995. In turn, Izzo was named Coach of the Year for the second time of his career. “For me to win an award of such great magnitude means a lot for me to be able to contribute to making this an even better program,” Green said.
  4. Michigan coach John Beilein had a few things to say on Yahoo! Sports Radio this weekend, but did not get into the situation regarding his star point guard’s possible return to Ann Arbor. Beilein reflected on the season, refusing to call it a disappointment. “We had a great group of young guys that played their tails off, we won a Big Ten championship, which has only happened 13 times in Michigan history,” Beilein said. “(It) hasn’t happened in (26 years). We feel good.” The topic of Trey Burke, who is expected to make a decision about the NBA Draft early this week, did not come up.
  5. For Patrick Chambers, his first year at Penn State was all about attitude. He saw enough, and he’s looking for more. Chambers looked back on this past season, said he liked what he saw, but is hopeful for a brighter future for the Nittany Lions.
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Rushed Reaction: #2 Kansas 64, #2 Ohio State 62

Posted by rtmsf on March 31st, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Ohio State Found Fool’s Gold With First Half Threes. In the first half it looked like Ohio State might run away with the game, hitting five threes in the first 13 minutes of action but only hitting one more for the entire rest of the game. Like many teams, but especially one that shoots only 33% from deep, if a few long-range bombs drop early it can throw a team off its game plan by losing sight of its greater strength in attacking the basket. The Buckeyes attempted 12 more threes in the second half (making three) but way too many possessions ended with wayward jumpers, giving KU just enough space to make and complete the comeback.
  2. Kansas Gutted This Out Playing Kansas Basketball. If you’ve watched Kansas at all this year, you know that Bill Self’s team thrives through grinding it out and making plays down the stretch to win games. They’ll drive you crazy with some of the things they do — such as Tyshawn Taylor’s steal leading to a horrid pass behind the cutter that gave OSU new life in the final minute — but if they can get any team into a close game they have a really good chance to win. You can’t help but think about the last time Calipari and Self’s teams met in the national championship game — unlike Louisville, Kansas has enough offensive weapons to compete with Kentucky in that kind of a game. It’ll make for a very interesting Monday night.
  3. Jared Sullinger Needs to Reinvent His Game. His game was picked apart by the Twitterati and will no doubt provide many ledes around the country’s newspapers tomorrow, but the reason Ohio State is no longer playing largely falls on Jared Sullinger’s poor offensive game. The two-time All-American shot 5-19 from the field, ending up with a very tough 13 points but wasting numerous other Buckeye possessions by choosing to shoot jumpers or taking the ball up against Jeff Withey when he clearly did not have the hops to get the ball up over him. For Sullinger to maximize his abilities, he needs to realize that he’s not a dominant big man — he’d do well to watch how former Arkansas star Corliss Williamson reinvented his game so as to become a serviceable NBA player.

Star of the Game. Jeff Withey, Kansas. Withey’s defense on Jared Sullinger in the second half of this game set the tone that Kansas was going to fight and claw its way all the way back. There was one sequence in particular where Sullinger could not get the ball up and over Withey, and although, he only ended up with seven blocks, it certainly seemed as if he had more. He only had four points (on four shots), but he also grabbed eight rebounds and provided the defensive spark in holding OSU to a 5-of-21 shooting in the second half from two-point range. There were no good looks.

Quotable. “My teammates see me… as a rim protector. When I blocked Jared, I was just staying straight up.” — Kansas center Jeff Withey, describing his seven blocks and in particular, his interior dominance over Jared Sullinger.

Sights & Sounds. The NCAA Tournament can be brutal in its finality, and this is especially true when a team loses on the biggest stage in a heartbreaker of a game. Our seat was in front of the Ohio State fan section, and there was a group of girls, aged between 8 and 12 perhaps, who screamed their heads off the entire game. They were chanting, yelling, buzzing, chirping. We love to see the spirit in young folks supporting the game, but when Ohio State let things slip away at the end, their tears and sobs told the entire story of how only one team can advance.

What’s Next? A national title game, that’s what. Kansas may have been the absolute best team in 2010, and could have been the best again last year, but both of those Jayhawk teams were unceremoniously dumped by mid-majors prior to the Final Four. Not this year. Bill Self’s plucky group will return to the SuperDome on Monday to face off with the team that everyone thinks is destined to cut the nets down this year, Kentucky. It’s Calipari vs. Self, redux, and we can’t wait.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.31.12 Edition

Posted by WCarey on March 31st, 2012


  • When former Kansas coach Larry Brown watched this year’s Jayhawks practice early in the season, he was not sure if this year’s squad would win 15 games. Considering this notion, Bill Self has really done an exceptional job this season.
  • During his first three seasons at Kansas, Tyshawn Taylor would be hardly allowed to play through his miscues. Now, the senior guard has the freedom and responsibility to correct errors and lead the team on the right path.
  • Even though he only played a limited role last season, many pundits still saw Thomas Robinson as a first round pick. Bill Self believes Robinson made the absolute right choice in coming back to school, as Self said, “Thomas wasn’t prepared to make a living.”
  • Most of the attention usually gets paid to Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson, but it cannot be overlooked that Elijah Johnson has quietly become the Jayhawks’ top weapon in the NCAA Tournament.


  • John Calipari was a pretty big flop when he coached in the NBA with the New Jersey Nets. There will be rumors this offseason about Calipari returning to the NBA to coach the New York Knicks, but the question will emerge if Calipari deserves that opportunity.
  • John Calipari has made several stops in his coaching career, which has exposed him to a lot of different people. All those people do have something in common though and that is Calipari considers them part of his family.
  • Freshman phenom Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has had to deal with a lot in his life for being only 18 years old. The death of the forward’s father and uncle have helped shape who he is as a person and a player.
  • In Kentucky’s storied basketball history, it had never had an AP Player of the Year. This all changed Friday when freshman standout big man Anthony Davis was named AP Player of the Year.
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.30.12 Edition

Posted by WCarey on March 30th, 2012


  • Bill Self has enhanced his already strong coaching reputation by leading a Kansas team with not as much talent as Kansas teams of the past to the Final Four.
  • Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News believes the career of Tyshawn Taylor mirrors that of a Shakespeare character. DeCourcy notes that Taylor’s career has consisted of conflict, resolution, dramatic twists, and ultimate redemption.
  • Despite the fact that Danny Manning and Barry Hinson have taken head coaching jobs at Tulsa and Southern Illinois respectively, Bill Self assured the public that all of Manning and Hinson’s attention is on Kansas this weekend.
  • Kevin Young compiled a career-best 14 points when Kansas defeated Ohio State on December 10. Young, a transfer from Loyola Marymount, arrived at Kansas via some unusual circumstances.


  • Assistant coach Richard Pitino noted that there has been a pretty prominent change in the way his father, Rick Pitino coaches. The younger Pitino believes his father has a much better relationship with his players than he used to.
  • News broke that Rick Pitino will not be a member of this year’s Naismith Memorial National Basketball Hall of Fame class. Considering Pitino’s resume, this is a bit shocking.
  • Rick Pitino has been through a lot in his coaching career and his life, so it would be unfair to define the man solely based on the Karen Sypher extortion scandal.
  • Gorgui Dieng and Russ Smith might be the most unlikely roommates of all-time, but the two are great friends and are keys to Louisville’s success.
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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: National Semifinals

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 30th, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him on Twitter @botskey.

For even more analysis of these fantastic games, check out Zach Hayes’ ultimate breakdowns for each matchup. UK-UL can be found here and OSU-KU here.

#1 Kentucky vs. #4 Louisville – National Semifinal (at New Orleans, LA) – 6:09 PM ET on CBS

The RTC NPOY Is Two Wins From a Championship

Kentucky. Louisville. In the Final Four. Armageddon in the Commonwealth. Yep, it’s well worth the hype. The 44th meeting between these bitter in-state rivals comes to us from the ultimate setting in the national semifinals at the Superdome on Saturday night. Kentucky leads the all-time series, 29-14, and has won six of the past eight meetings dating back to 2004. The Wildcats enter this game with just two losses on the season and the heavy favorite to cut down the nets on Monday night. In order to advance to the championship game, Kentucky must continue to defend at a high level. By no means is Louisville an offensive juggernaut and that’s where the stifling UK defense must take control of the game. With shot blocker extraordinaire Anthony Davis on the back line of its defense, Kentucky and its #1 eFG% defense should be able to limit the Cardinals offensively. Do that and you would think the Wildcats have enough offensive weapons to win the game. But it’s not always that simple. While John Calipari and his team have a huge edge in talent, all the intangibles favor Louisville. When Rick Pitino said they would need to put fences on bridges in Lexington if Kentucky loses to Louisville, he wasn’t kidding. All of the pressure is on Kentucky, a team expected to win a national title. Louisville, a team that went 10-8 in a down Big East, certainly wasn’t expected to make it this far. The Cardinals have absolutely no pressure on them in this game and Pitino would love nothing more than to stick it in the face of Calipari and Kentucky fans. Pitino and his players couldn’t wait to talk about the matchup last week while Cal and his squad kept on saying this is just another game. That’s pure BS. They know the stakes and the weight on the collective shoulders of this young team could perhaps be Louisville’s best chance to win. The Cardinals boast the top defensive efficiency in the land so a grinder-type game should be expected. Three of the last four games in this rivalry have been decided by nine points or less and, despite the talent gap, we’d be surprised if this one isn’t as well given the stakes. The key for Louisville will be to push the pace and score in transition without allowing Kentucky to do the same. UK is lethal in transition but a game with fewer possessions favors the Wildcats. They excelled at a slower pace in the second half of the SEC season and we’re just not sure Louisville will be able to score enough points in a low possession half court game. That means Louisville, and Peyton Siva specifically, can’t turn the ball over. If the Cardinals wait and let Davis and UK set up in half court defense, their task becomes incredibly tough. Scoring in transition takes the Davis defensive threat away and allows the Cardinals to set up their zone press. Pitino is a master at morphing his matchup zone into man-to-man defense in the blink of an eye and changing defenses could throw Kentucky off balance. The best way to beat UK is to take away Davis inside (Gorgui Dieng can do that, provided he stays out of foul trouble) and force them to make jump shots. Kentucky doesn’t take many outside shots but Louisville’s defense could force them into contested mid-range looks that might not fall. One problem area for the Cardinals could be the defensive glass. If UK is taking lots of jumpers (a good thing for Louisville), UL must block out and prevent Davis, Terrence Jones and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist from crashing the offensive glass. Louisville has struggled all year in this department but must come up with a better effort on Saturday night. Siva makes everything go for Louisville and it’ll be interesting to see if Calipari puts Kidd-Gilchrist on him at times as he has done with other point guards this season. The freshman with an unquenchable motor could frustrate Siva and force him into turnovers, fueling UK’s transition attack. While we feel the intangible aspect of this game favors Louisville in a big way and we’d love to pick the Cardinals just for that (and to be different), Kentucky’s superior talent is undeniable. Louisville will make it close but Kentucky simply has too much in the end and should advance to play for all the marbles on Monday night.

The RTC Certified Pick: Kentucky

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