Big Ten Weekend in Review

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 17th, 2015

Valentine’s Day weekend in the Big Ten was dominated by love for the three-pointer. Indiana showed its affection for the trifecta by bombing away to the tune of a school-record 18 makes against Minnesota. Purdue was able to nail eight threes of its own in a key win against Nebraska, including four from a struggling Kendall Stephens. Northwestern hit on nine attempts from long distance in its surprising upset of Iowa. Finally, Michigan State’s aptly-named Denzel Valentine broke hearts all over the Buckeye State by hitting a game-winning three in the waning seconds of its win. Here are the rest of the highs and lows from an interesting weekend around the league.

Troy Williams led Indiana in reboudning as they dominated the glass against Minnesota.  (Chris Howell/Herald Times)

Troy Williams led Indiana in reboudning as the Hoosiers dominated the glass against Minnesota. (Chris Howell/Herald Times)

  • Player of the Weekend: In a weekend full of great performances, Indiana’s Troy Williams gets this weekend’s nod in that he managed to do his usual work on the glass (nine boards) while also scoring 19 points on a very efficient 10 field goal attempts. The sophomore also tripled his three-point output for the season, hitting both of his attempts after entering the game only 1-of-6 on the year. If Williams can add a long-range shot to his offensive arsenal, he will be a certain first-round pick whenever he chooses to leave Bloomington for the professional ranks.
  • Super Sub of the Weekend: Chicago Catholic League alumnus and Northwestern freshman Scottie Lindsey has largely struggled to adapt to Big Ten play. Heralded as a knockdown outside shooter, the lanky swingman didn’t hurt Iowa over the weekend with his shooting prowess. Instead, Lindsey subbed for fellow freshman Vic Law (foul trouble) and played a season-high 38 minutes off the bench. He contributed seven points, six rebounds, a couple assists and three of his team’s 13 blocks as the Wildcats notched a win that they desperately needed.

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Three Takeaways From Iowa’s Dominant Win at Michigan

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 6th, 2015

Iowa ended a three-game losing streak on Thursday night when it efficiently took care of an undermanned Michigan team, 72-54. The Hawkeyes shot 62.7 percent from the field and managed a commanding 42-14 advantage on points in the paint. All five starters scored in double-figures, and they held the Wolverines to 40.4 percent from the floor. Here are some quick observations from the lopsided road win for Iowa:

Adam Woodbury played maybe his best game of the season Thursday night as he had 11 points, seven boards, and six assists. (hawkeyesports.com)

Adam Woodbury played maybe his best game of the season Thursday night as he had 11 points, seven boards, and six assists. (hawkeyesports.com)

  1. Iowa’s Front Line Can be Dominant: Even with its full roster intact, Michigan’s strength does not come from its inside play. Injuries have limited the Wolverines’ depth, but give Iowa credit for taking full advantage of its better inside players. The Hawkeyes put on an offensive clinic last night, and it was spearheaded by junior center Adam Woodbury. The seven-footer is known primarily for offensive rebounding and for drawing the ire of Dan Dakich, but in this game, he displayed an excellent passing touch by dishing six assists to go along with 11 points and seven rebounds. Jarrod Uthoff and Aaron White also stepped up, combining to shoot 13-of-18 from the floor, proving that when Iowa plays inside-out, the Hawkeyes can be pretty good. Outside shooting is not a strength on this team, but Peter Jok and Mike Gesell can knock down open looks well enough to keep defenses honest. In several games this season, Iowa has looked like it has the worst offense in the league — this performance (1.38 points per possession), however, proves that they can do a lot better. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten Weekend in Review

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 3rd, 2015

In a league defined by chaos this season, last weekend was fairly uneventful and arguably almost normal. There were no upsets, although there were a couple close calls as an undermanned Illinois squad had to sweat it out against Penn State at home, while Rutgers hung with Indiana thanks to the heroics of Myles Mack. Michigan State needed overtime to knock off a gritty Michigan team that once again was without the services of point guard Derrick Walton Jr. Meanwhile, Minnesota avenged an earlier loss to Nebraska by forcing an obscene 20 turnovers and holding the Cornhuskers to just 42 points. It would be obscene not to read the rest of this, so here’s the best and worst of weekend number five in the B1G.

Maurice Walker was unstoppable in the post in Minnesota's 60-42 victory over Nebraska on Saturday. (Ben Garvin, Pioneer Press)

Maurice Walker was unstoppable in the post in Minnesota’s 60-42 victory over Nebraska on Saturday. (Ben Garvin, Pioneer Press)

  • Player of the Weekend: Maurice Walker essentially stole Walter Pitchford’s lunch money, gave him a swirly, and then forged a note making fun of the teacher to get him in trouble. Cheesy elementary school metaphors aside, Walker was dominant on the low blocks for Minnesota, scoring at will on his way to a 19-point effort on 7-of-10 shooting from the field. The rest of the Gophers’ offense was nonexistent for most of the contest, so give the guards credit for pounding the ball inside to him. The fifth-year senior also added eight rebounds, two blocks and three steals. Minnesota is great at taking the ball away ( 14.8% steal rate, third nationally), but Walker is actually fourth in the Big Ten with a steal rate of 3.99 percent. He has really quick hands and does a nice job poking the ball away from post players without fouling. He had three first-half steals in this game as Nebraska coughed the ball up a total of 14 times before halftime.
  • Super Sub of the Weekend: Tom Crean wasn’t happy with the way Indiana had been playing, so he shook things up a bit on Saturday against Rutgers. The change meant that Troy Williams -- despite the fact that he’s had a really good season with some outstanding performances — came off of the bench. He had some silly turnovers but the sophomore also contributed a double-double in the form of 14 points and 10 rebounds. He scored on his usual array of drives and dunks, but one thing slightly unique about this performance was that he was led the break after grabbing a defensive rebound. This led to a faster break out in transition, and it also gave the Hoosiers an ability to have Yogi Ferrell spot up on the perimeter with the rest of the shooters. Don’t expect Williams to become a point forward  at Indiana anytime soon, but this was a neat look that takes advantage of Williams’ outstanding ability in the open court while giving Ferrell more looks.

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How Can Iowa Fix Its Offensive Problems? A Few Ideas…

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 16th, 2014

Iowa has gotten off to an 8-3 start this season, with what should be an important road win over North Carolina already on its resume. The Hawkeyes also don’t have any bad losses (unless Syracuse ends up faltering in the ACC), using their depth and size to bully the teams that they should beat — winning those games by an average of 25.9 points. While last year’s bugaboo, the defense, has improved significantly, the offense has faltered, going from the fifth best offensive efficiency nationally to 64th. If it’s not one thing; it’s another — that might be the mantra around Iowa City this season. What has caused Iowa’s offensive problems this season, and what can the team do to fix them?

Iowa (Photo Credit: AP)

Iowa Has Traded Better Defense for Worse Offense This Season (Photo Credit: AP)

The Hawkeyes have worse offensive numbers pretty much across the board this season. Losing go-to scorer Roy Devyn Marble has hurt considerably, but the loss of Melsahn Basabe and his 11.7 percent offensive rebounding rate hasn’t helped. Iowa is playing at a slower tempo (two fewer possessions per game), but it’s also taking more threes (25 percent vs. 21 percent). They also have a tendency to settle for long twos, leading to fewer free throw attempts and a drop in effective field goal percentage from 51.2 to 47.0 percent this year. Aaron White is still doing Aaron White things, meaning he gets to the line and scores in transition; and Gabriel Olaseni is also still putting up numbers consistent with his production from last season. But Mike Gesell, Jarrod Uthoff, Adam Woodbury and Josh Oglesby have all seen their offensive ratings take a dip without a corresponding increase in usage rates. Losing Marble has obviously caused a strain across the board, as he not only took a high volume of shots but could also create for himself when things got tough.

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Big Ten M5: 12.16.14 Edition

Posted by Eric Clark on December 16th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Indiana had a solid weekend, destroying Grand Canyon by 28 points and turning the ball over only four times in the process. Prior to that win, the Hoosiers had been averaging 12.9 turnovers per game. Their relative lack of turnovers this season has been a godsend for head coach Tom Crean, as Indiana ranked 330th in the country in turnover percentage last year. This year, they’re turning the ball over on only 17 percent of their possessions, which ranks among the top 40 teams in the country.
  2. Iowa’s offensive limitations were exposed against Iowa State on Friday night as the Hawkeyes took a 15-point thumping at home against the Cyclones. Jordan Garretson of STATS.com reported that Iowa’s Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons rank 49th and 50th, respectively, in field goal percentage among Big Ten guards who have played at least eight games. There are only 65 guards that qualify for this metric, thus demonstrating the Hawkeyes’ poor performance from its backcourt so far this season. Iowa has leaned heavily on Aaron White and Jarrod Uthoff and has had trouble establishing reliable threats from the three-point line — the Hawkeyes are shooting a chilly 30.3 percent from long-range, ranking 259th in the country.
  3. Graham Couch of the Lansing State Journal wrote a column about Michigan State freshman Tum Tum Nairn’s performance so far this season, comparing him favorably to Kentucky guard Tyler Ulis. Ignoring their scoring totals – Nairn has played over 20 minutes in seven games this season, yet his highest point total of the year is only three — the two are most comparable when considering their per-minute assist and turnover rates. The only thing hindering Nairn from becoming the Big Ten’s next big thing is confidence in his shooting, but he is going to have to become a scoring threat for the Spartans to reach their potential this season.
  4. It’s hard to find any positives in Michigan’s abysmal play over a two-week period that culminated in the Wolverines laying an egg on Saturday at Arizona, losing by 27 in a game that the Wildcats thoroughly dominated. John Beilein has essentially turned over the center position to the trio of Ricky Doyle, Mark Donnal and Max Bielfeldt, and it worked fairly well until the end of November. In the Wolverines’ last three games, however, they have averaged fewer than 10 points and five rebounds combined, a big reason for the team’s current slide. Beilein hopes that this current skid will help motivate his big men to perform more consistently, because the Wolverines need something from them on a nightly basis.
  5. Ohio State defeated Morehead State, 87-71, on Saturday, but head coach Thad Matta found plenty of deficiencies in the Buckeyes’ play regardless. His team turned the ball over 17 times and allowed the Eagles to shoot 61.3 percent from the floor, becoming the first team to shoot over 50 percent from the field against the Buckeyes this season. Outside of the team’s nine-point loss to Louisville, Thad Matta’s squad has blown through its early season schedule with all eight wins coming by double figures. The only glaring deficiency in Ohio State’s game right now is its free throw shooting, ranking 278th nationally in getting to the line and converting their chances. It’s safe to say that we don’t really know what kind of team Ohio State is right now – and we probably won’t find out until the first week of January at the start of Big Ten play.
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Three Keys for Iowa to Beat Texas Tonight

Posted by Alex Moscoso on November 20th, 2014

One of the Thursday night headliners will take place in Madison Square Garden where Iowa faces #10 Texas in the 2K Sports Classic. The Hawkeyes have gotten off to an impressive start by beating both their two opponents by an average of 32.5 points per game, but after last year’s late-season tanking, many are hesitant to jump back on the Iowa bandwagon. Fran McCaffery‘s squad is without question a talented bunch, so the Longhorns present a November opportunity to gain back some of that trust. An win Thursday night means the Hawkeyes would have a top 10 win before December, something they couldn’t muster at all last season. Here are three keys to the game that Iowa will need to address if they’re going to pull off the upset.

Adam Woodbury will look to use his size against Texas's big frontcourt on Thursday night

Adam Woodbury will look to use his size against Texas’s big frontcourt on Thursday night

  • Use their size. It won’t be very often this season that Texas looks across the floor and sees a team that has more size than them, but that will be the case tonight against Iowa. Three of the Longhorns’ starters are listed at 6’8”, 6’9”, and 6’9”, while the Hawkeyes have three starters at 6’9”, 6’9”, and 7’1”. Iowa will need to use its size advantage in the frontcourt — especially with Adam Woodbury — to defend under the basket. Through two games, 35.6 percent of Texas’ total shots have come at the rim, and they have been extremely effective from this spot (76.2% FG). The Hawkeyes need to challenge every shot and dare the Longhorns to hit that same rate over the arms of their big guys.

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RTC Big Ten Preseason Rankings: #9 to #5

Posted by Alex Moscoso on November 13th, 2014

We continue our preseason Big Ten rankings today with spots #9 through #5. The bottom tier of teams, #14 to #10, released earlier this week. These middle tier teams will be fighting to be on the right side of the bubble — and providing us with great drama — all season long.

9. Maryland

  • What they do well: Defense. Mark Turgeon has had a top 40 squad in adjusted defensive efficiency the past couple seasons and it’ll likely be his area of focus once again.
  • What they don’t do well: Retention. Seth Allen, Charles Mitchell, Nick Faust, Roddy Peters and Shaquille Cleare all transferred out of the program in the offseason — not exactly inconsequential players.
Dez Wells is one of the few familiar faces in College Park this year. (Charlie DeBoyace/The Diamondback)

Dez Wells is one of the few familiar faces in College Park this year. (Charlie DeBoyace/The Diamondback)

  • Get to know: Melo Trimble. The top 40 recruit will need to use his offensive skill set to help replace all the lost scoring from last season.
  • Why they’ll finish 9th: The exodus of key players and unfamiliarity in the Big Ten will cause some very sharp growing pains for the Terrapins.
  • Why they’ll finish higher: This team still has talent and is used to playing top-notch competition. If they can get all their new pieces to gel together, they can compete in a relatively down Big Ten.

8. Iowa

  • What they do well: Offense. Last season, the Hawkeyes were fifth nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency and they bring a majority of that roster back this year.
  • What they don’t do well: Mental toughness. Last season, Iowa wilted in close games against Villanova and Iowa State. Things really spiraled out of control at the end of the season when they lost seven of their last eight contests.

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How Does Iowa Replace Roy Devyn Marble?

Posted by Brendan Brody on October 30th, 2014

Iowa was in the Top 25 for much of the 2013-14 season, making it as high as a #10 ranking thanks to its impressive 15-3 start. This prosperity did not last, though, as the Hawkeyes closed out the season 5-10, winning only one of their last eight contests. Defensive lapses and a lack of consistency plagued the team throughout this poor stretch, but an overreliance on Roy Devyn Marble to bail the team out offensively also didn’t help. Iowa brings back quite a bit of talent from last season’s first round loser, but the loss of Marble leaves Fran McCaffery searching for a go-to scorer. How does Iowa learn from its previous mistakes and replace one of the best players in the Big Ten? How does it account for the fact that it no longer has a player who used the third most possessions in the league at 27.3 percent, and was fifth in the league in scoring with 17.0 PPG?

Aaron White will have to score more this season for Iowa to offset the loss of Roy Devyn Marble.(Brian Ray, The Gazette via AP)

Aaron White will have to score more this season for Iowa to offset the loss of Roy Devyn Marble. (Brian Ray/AP)

Marble contributed 12 games last season where he cracked the 20-point plateau, leading or tying for the team lead in scoring 16 times. It’s safe to say that the offense went through him a good chunk of the time, as he proved equally adept at driving to the hoop or shooting from deep. There are now 29.6 percent more shots available given his departure and it would be wise for Aaron White and Jarrod Uthoff to take most of them. White posted the third best offensive rating in the Big Ten among players who used 20 percent of their team’s possessions last season. He shot a whopping 63.1 percent on his two-pointers, getting points around the rim and from the mid-range. He’s also an excellent free throw shooter who has proven over the last two seasons that he can get to and convert from the line, knocking his five free throw attempts down at an 81 percent clip during his junior season.

The question with White is whether he can be as efficient if he has to shoulder a heavier load. Uthoff did most of his damage during non-conference games, but he showed a great deal of potential in some of those early contests. He averaged 10.8 PPG on 56.0 percent shooting from the field before league play, but dropped down to 5.6 PPG on 44.2 percent shooting once conference games started. If Uthoff can channel his early-season success shooting the ball into this year, he could end up surpassing White as the go-to scorer. He gets to the line less than his colleague, but he shoots a similar quality percentage once there (81.7 percent). He’s also shown that he’s a much more dependable shooter from behind the arc (42.5 percent), which is something that White has yet to do.

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Big Ten Season Grades: Ohio State, Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on April 18th, 2014

Continuing our season-ending analysis, we look at the performances of Ohio State, Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois. Earlier this week, we handed out grades for Indiana, Northwestern, Penn State and Purdue.

Ohio State

Grade: C-

This season (25-10, 10-8): What would be a successful season for most programs was a relative disappointment for the Buckeyes. Ohio State did not capture a Big Ten regular season or tournament title for the first time since 2008-09, and similar to that season, they were also bounced out of the NCAA Tournament in their first game. The issue for the Buckeyes – which was a clear problem area in the preseason – was generating offense without Deshaun Thomas in the lineup. Thomas’ replacement, LaQuinton Ross, almost doubled his scoring average, but the Buckeyes failed to find reliable offensive firepower anywhere else. In the end, Aaron Craft and Ohio State’s excellent showing on defense wasn’t enough to overcome the team’s offensive woes.

Thad Matta had a let-down of a season relative to his own success. Don't expect it to continue next season. (Gettyl)

Thad Matta had a let-down of a season relative to his own success. Don’t expect it to continue next season. (Getty)

Next season: The Buckeyes lose Craft, Amedeo Della Valle, Ross, and Lenzelle Smith Jr. They welcome in an elite recruiting class that includes D’Angelo Russell, Keita Bates-Diop, and Jae’Sean Tate; and they also will get graduate transfer Anthony Lee from Temple next year. These additions along with several talented players already on their roster should have no one worrying about the state of the program going forward. This season was merely a hiccup in the Thad Matta era.

Iowa: C

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A Quality Performance Today in Indianapolis is a Must For Iowa

Posted by Brendan Brody on March 13th, 2014

You could make a case for any number of Big Ten teams really needing to show out at the Big Ten Tournament if they hope to make a run in the bigger March tournament. Minnesota is situated squarely on the bubble after finishing with a conference record of 8-10. Nebraska was inhabiting the same patch of bubble real estate until their win over Wisconsin. They should be in the field of 68 now, but another win would be nice for their collective peace of mind. Michigan State wants to prove that they are worthy of the preseason hype they generated with their team all back from their different injuries. Indiana and Illinois need to win four games in four days to get there. But Iowa has the most to prove out of anybody in the field. They’ve plummeted from a potential #3 or #4 seed, to a team that with an early loss, could be looking at double-digit territory. So how do the Hawkeyes fix things to get back on track?

Gabriel Olaseni and Josh Ogelsby need big games for Iowa to advance in the Big Ten Tournament. (John Schultz/Quad City Times)

Gabriel Olaseni and Josh Ogelsby need big games for Iowa to advance in the Big Ten Tournament. (John Schultz/Quad City Times)

  • Fix the Defense Immediately: Here’s a quick breakdown of what the Hawkeyes have given up in their last six games in terms of points per possession: 1.22, 1.32.1.12, 1.06, 1.26, and 1.12. Even in their lone victory in the bunch over Purdue, they still allowed the Boilermakers to shoot 49.1% from the field. On their KenPom page under defensive footprint, it says inconclusive. Nothing sums up their lack of a defensive identity better than that. They do a decent job blocking shots and Roy Devyn Marble and Mike Gesell do a pretty good job getting into the passing lanes and getting steals. But in their recent rough patch they’ve given up far too many easy baskets in the paint. Whether it means extending their zone press and getting more aggressive with it (which they have the depth to do), or just hanging back and sticking to either a man-to-man or a zone, Iowa needs to pick a style and go with it. I don’t know if their is confusion about what their responsibilities are, or that they just don’t care because they think they can outscore people. Either way, what they’re doing right now isn’t working, and hasn’t for a number of games. Read the rest of this entry »
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Weekend Game To Watch: Iowa Looking For Its Signature Win At Wisconsin

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on January 5th, 2014

The game to watch this weekend is, without a doubt, today’s match-up of Iowa visiting Wisconsin. It’s the only Big Ten contest this weekend where both teams are ranked, and the Badgers are a robust eight-point favorite according to KenPom.com. This isn’t surprising given that the Badgers have been the most impressive team in the conference and Madison is a tough place for any team to visit. It would therefore seem as if this game is all upside for Fran McCaffery’s group as it has nothing to lose. Thus far, Iowa has been good enough to break into the AP Top 25 and steadily move up the rankings, but not great enough to convince skeptics that the Hawkeyes are poised to battle the likes of Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State for the conference title. Iowa needs an impressive road win to convert those doubters and start to make a case for a coveted high seed in the NCAA Tournament. Their best hope for doing just that today is to capitalize on the few defensive vulnerabilities of the Badgers.

Aaron White may need a big game on Sunday to get a win in Madison (Brian Ray, The Gazette via AP)

Aaron White may need a big game to get a win in Madison (Credit: Brian Ray/The Gazette via AP)

It will be no small task to get a win at Madison — both teams are highly efficient at scoring (Wisconsin scores 1.17 points per possession vs. Iowa’s 1.16) and the Badgers have the edge on defensive efficiency (0.92 PPP vs. 0.94). Bo Ryan relies on excellent man-to-man defense to deny the other team good looks at the basket; still, Iowa can look to exploit several facets of the Badgers’ defense. More specifically, the Badgers’ lack of a true shot blocker has resulted in a low block percentage of 8.6 percent (206th nationally). If McCaffery can set up Roy Devyn Marble and Jarrod Uthoff on cuts to the basket to draw weak side defenders, even slightly, they can dish it off to Aaron White, who is shooting a blistering 75 percent under the basket. Another flaw in Wisconsin’s defense is that it does not cause many turnovers. This is good for Iowa since it is not turnover-prone itself but does cause opponents to give up the ball at an above-average rate (19.5 percent of possessions).

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Examining Volume Shooters in the Big Ten: Why Jarrod Uthoff Should Shoot More

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on December 14th, 2013

Who among college basketball fans hasn’t been frustrated by a volume shooter on their team? We all know the volume shooter, right? That player who hasn’t seen a shot he didn’t like. He starts off the game, seemingly, unable to buy a bucket. But then, all of a sudden, he gets hot and makes everything, maybe even the game-winning shot. Wash, rinse, repeat. The emotional roller coaster a volume shooter puts his fans through, while frustrating, is another example of the up-and-down nature of college basketball that diehards love about the sport. But how many players are really “volume” shooters? To clarify, how many players become more efficient the more often they shoot the ball? According to the numbers, the answer is not many, and they’re likely not the players you’d expect.

Jarrod Uthoff is the type of player who gets more accurate the more shots he puts up.

Jarrod Uthoff is the type of player who gets more accurate the more shots he puts up.

For this post, we did a quick analysis to determine the Big Ten’s volume shooters. To start, we only looked at players averaging double-figure points per game and measured player efficiency by using true shooting percentage to take into account the full spectrum of scoring opportunities: three-pointers, two-point field goals, and free throws. We used “true” shots (the denominator of true shooting percentage) as the measure of quantity or “shots taken.” Next, we counted each game as one observation and plotted each player’s game efficiency and quantity of shots on a graph. Lastly, we ran a simple regression analysis for all players to determine which ones had the most positive relationship between efficiency and the number of shots taken. From this analysis, we found that Iowa’s Jarrod Uthoff (10.3 PPG), Wisconsin’s Ben Brust (12.0 PPG), and Frank Kaminsky (14.7 PPG) were the three players with the most positive relationship between efficiency and shots taken. To illustrate this, the graph below maps each player’s regression line with one another. As a comparison, we included the regression lines of the Big Ten’s leading scorers: Michigan’s Nik Stauskas (18.9 PPG) and Penn State’s D.J. Newbill (18.5 PPG). Keep in mind that a regression line maps a player’s expected efficiency given the number of shots he takes in a game. Click on the graph for a larger view.

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