Morning Five: 03.06.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 6th, 2014


  1. When we saw a story on about Dean Smith we were tempted to overlook it particularly after the John Feinstein story that we linked to on Monday. We are glad that we did because Tommy Tomlinson’s article on Smith, his failing memory, and the people who stand by him is probably the best thing you will read all day. As we mentioned on Monday, we cannot remember anybody saying something negative about Smith on a personal level. If you were not aware of why that is, this article and the anecdotes within it should explain it.
  2. With Wichita State finishing the regular season undefeated, Matt Norlander decided it was time to compare this Wichita State team to the 2004 St. Joseph’s team, which was the last to go undefeated in the regular season. That 2004 team, which was led by Jameer Nelson and Delonte West, ended up losing a game in their conference tournament so Wichita State could make it a step further than them by the start of the NCAA Tournament. While it might be interesting to compare the two teams numerically they are very different teams. The Shockers certainly have their share of well-known players, but are overall a much more balanced team that that St. Joe’s team. In the end, the way that most people will remember this Wichita State team will be scripted in the next month.
  3. We already read Mike DeCourcy’s response to Mark Cuban and now Larry Brown, a man who has plenty of experience at both the college and professional level, has decided to respond to Cuban’s comments that the NBDL would be better for player development than the NCAA is. Brown, who is actually based in Dallas now as the head coach at SMU, strongly disagreed with Cuban and said that the coaching players get at the NCAA level is vastly superior to what they would get in the NBDL. We can certainly agree with that assessment at SMU under someone like Larry Brown although we would not be quite as sure about that at some other colleges.
  4. We are getting to the point in the season where people are starting to seriously look at end of season individual honors. Some awards like National Player of the Year are all, but locked up (the flight attendants on planes going to Omaha might want to start making space in the overhead bins). Most of the others are up in the air. With that in mind, Seth Davis took a look at the races for player/coach/freshman of the year in each of the major conferences. We tend to agree with Davis’ picks here, but we wouldn’t be surprised if there were some differences in the final decisions on some of these awards.
  5. Some of you may remember Russ Pennell from his brief stint as head coach at Arizona when he took them to the Sweet 16 in 2009. Since that time Pennell served as head coach at Grand Canyon State University (yes, the one that caused the uproar recently) and the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA. Now, Pennell is returning to Central Arkansas, where he played in college, to become the team’s new head coach. If you seem surprised that the name of a Southland Conference team seems familiar is because you may have heard of them when Corliss Williamson was briefly the coach there. Or perhaps you may have heard of one of their former players–Scottie Pippen.
Share this story

Big Ten M5: 03.05.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on March 5th, 2014


  1. Credit Indiana senior forward Will Sheehey for having some self-awareness when he was asked about his team’s NCAA Tournament chances. The reigning Big Ten Player of the Week said it feels like the team is in the midst of making a run, but that they still have plenty of work left to do. With how bad Indiana’s non-conference schedule was and the fact that the Hoosiers had a 4-8 conference record as recently as February 15, it’s a small miracle that they’ve even put themselves in the position to talk about landing a spot in the field of 68.
  2. In what has become sort of a running M5 tradition, here’s more talk of Michigan State and its latest injury news. While head coach Tom Izzo isn’t going to have Keith Appling miss anymore games, it is possible that he may cut the senior point guard’s minutes if he continues to be ineffective. It’s kind of a lose-lose situation for Izzo. On one hand, he has to let Appling continue to get reps so he’s not rusty for the postseason; on the other hand, if he’s not the same player he was prior to getting hurt (which he clearly is not), then do you take the chance of having a senior leader only playing limited minutes? The Spartans have until the middle of March to figure it out, but time is running out on this team.
  3. Ben Brust has been recognized as one of the best shooters in the Big Ten and for his ability as an undersized rebounder. But when Bo Ryan likens the Wisconsin senior to a mosquito, it’s hard not to scoff. The comparison makes sense, however, as Ryan explained how Brust can frustrate bigger opponents on the defensive end. The Badgers possess a certain grittiness on that side of the ball, and it all starts with Brust and fellow guard Josh Gasser both being able to take on players who are bigger and more athletic than they are.
  4. Many think that Michigan wrapping up the regular season Big Ten crown last night is enough to give John Beilein the Coach of the Year award. That’s not to say that Nebraska head coach Tim Miles doesn’t also offer a compelling argument. It is Miles who deserves the award if the Huskers make the NCAA Tournament, according to the Omaha World-Herald‘s Lee Barfknecht. It will be interesting to see how this and many of the other postseason honors play out. Miles has sped up the Nebraska rebuilding plan and then some, but Beilein dealt with the loss of a potential lottery pick in addition to losing two others starters now playing in the NBA.
  5. Things just keep getting worse for Purdue. First Sterling Carter tore his ACL and will miss the rest of the season, and now promising redshirt freshman Jay Simpson has also seen his Purdue career come to an end. Simpson was recently diagnosed with the heart ailment hypertrophic cardiomyotrophy (HCM). This is the same disease that ended the lives of players such as Hank Gathers and Reggie Lewis. Simpson had to be taken out of the game on February 23 against Nebraska despite not appearing to have suffered an injury, but very luckily the disease was discovered before tragedy struck.
Share this story

Previewing the Crossroads Classic

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on December 14th, 2013

In a state that considers itself the mecca for hoops, Indiana’s premiere college basketball programs are set to play in the Crossroads Classic’s third edition later today. In the past two years the event has brought buzzer-beaters and an upset over a No. 1 team, but this season, all four teams desperately need a win here to help their future NCAA hopes. It’s a day for state supremacy and bragging rights at Bankers Life Fieldhouse — on a Saturday afternoon of great basketball around the country, the Crossroads Classic is unlikely to disappoint. Below you will find three keys to both games for Indiana and Purdue to notch wins in this afternoon’s event.

The Crossroads Classic

The Crossroads Classic is Becoming a Hoosier State Tradition

Notre Dame vs. Indiana 3:15 PM, ESPN

  • Take care of the ball. The Irish are the more experienced team taking on the relatively young Hoosiers. This becomes especially important in the backcourt where Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell faces Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins. These two take care of and share the ball extremely well (Notre Dame is third in the country in assists per game). Ferrell will need to match their composure and not make mistakes if Indiana hopes to walk away with the victory here.
  • Use its athleticism. Indiana struggled against Syracuse’s zone with all of its tall, athletic and physical players. Notre Dame at least has the tall and physical part going for it. This means that the Hoosiers will need to use their athleticism to get out and run. If Indiana can turn this into a track meet game, it has a better chance of winning the contest where its athleticism can outmatch Notre Dame’s experience. This also helps alleviate the Irish having a strong starting five versus Indiana typically having to rely on a couple players to explode (read: Noah Vonleh, Jeremy Hollowell, Ferrell).

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Purdue’s Rebounding Problems Have Led to a Shaky Start

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on November 20th, 2013

It hasn’t been the ideal start to the season for Purdue despite its 3-0 record. After a disappointing campaign last year, the Boilermakers were hopeful that they would make a big turnaround and push for an NCAA berth this season behind potential NBA Draft pick AJ Hammons and a talented group of sophomores and freshmen. So far, though, the team has struggled against two of its three opponents, sneaking by Northern Kentucky and Rider while blowing out Central Connecticut State. As my fellow Big Ten microsite writer Alex Moscoso pointed out earlier this week, Purdue has experienced the biggest drop in Pomeroy’s projection of expected wins this year, among the 12 Big Ten teams. The projection has fallen to 15-14 (6-12 Big Ten), yet the team has shown an increase in several notable metrics. The Boilermakers’ field goal percentage is nearly 1o points higher and its 3-point shooting is up over last year — as a result, the team’s effective field goal percentage has risen to 55.8 percent from 46.3 percent in 2012-13. It’s defense has also held steady, with opponents’ effective field goal percentage staying in the 45 to 46 percent range. So, what has caused Purdue to start the season so slowly and the metrics-based outlook to change? The biggest answer is that this team’s biggest strength last year — rebounding the basketball — has dropped dramatically.

AJ Hammons low minutes has hurt Purdue, but its drop in rebounding has been the biggest issue (AP).

AJ Hammons’ low minutes has hurt Purdue, but its drop in rebounding has been the biggest issue (AP).

Last year, Purdue ranked 10th nationally in rebounding; this season, Purdue has seen its rank drop to 90th, and the problem lies on the defensive backboard.  average rebounds per game is nearly the same (39.4 to 40.3 RPG), the increase in Boilermaker possessions this season has this total looking worse. More possessions and more shots should mean more rebounds for a Purdue team that once thrived on the glass, but while it is rebounding at an elite level on the offensive end (43.5 percent, 13th best), it has struggled mightily to grab boards on the defensive glass (giving up 40.3 percent of those caroms, 309th in the nation). Part of this can be attributed to Hammons’ early struggles. He missed the first game due to a suspension and in the third game he sat on the bench for a large chunk of time due to foul trouble. In his two games he has averaged only 4.5 boards per game, a subtle but meaningful drop from 6.0 RPG last year. But even if his 40-minute average is still quite strong, as Purdue’s Associate SID notes below, it doesn’t mean much if your future draft pick doesn’t play. Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

B1G Freshmen First Impressions

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 11th, 2013

I stay away from trying to analyze freshmen before they step on a college court for the first time. Don’t get me wrong, I follow recruiting to the point where I generally know the top 100 players and pay attention to where they sign. I just don’t feel comfortable going off of high school/AAU scouting reports and am of the mind that every newcomer steps in with a clean slate until they play at least once in their college careers. What follows are simply some first impressions of a handful of Big Ten freshman as they made their collegiate debuts this past weekend.

Noah Vonleh won the first B1G Freshman of the Week award of the season after a double-double effort on Friday.

Noah Vonleh won the first B1G Freshman of the Week award of the season after a double-double effort on Friday.

Indiana had six freshmen make an appearance in its blowout win against Chicago State on Friday night. After getting a chance to see Noah Vonleh and Troy Williams for the first time, my first thoughts were about how much length and athleticism they provide. The Hoosiers should have a chance to be scary good defensively. Between these two and Jeremy Hollowell, they will influence a number of shots in the paint, causing teams simply launch threes instead of coming at them inside. Vonleh had a nice overall line with 11 points, 14 rebounds, and three blocks, but he really got my attention by grabbing offensive rebounds and leading the fast break. He showed flashes of a number of different skills that will no doubt have him on the NBA’s radar. Williams, on the other hand, was drawing comparisons to Victor Oladipo throughout the telecast, and while he may never get to that level defensively, he has a chance to become a legitimate stopper on that side of the ball. Stanford Robinson and Devin Davis didn’t get as much time as the other two, but they also are nice, athletic wings who have a chance to earn more minutes for the Hoosiers down the line, especially if they can knock down shots from the perimeter.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten M5: 10.31.13 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on October 31st, 2013


  1. With the loss of Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State has a big scoring void to fill. Thomas averaged 19.8 points, which was nearly double that of the Buckeyes next leading scorer in Aaron Craft. Ohio State is hoping without just one scorer, though, everyone will get involved forcing opposing teams to guard everyone on the floor. Everyone already knows Craft will have to add some offense to his well-known defense, but LaQuinton Ross, Lenzelle Smith, Sam Thompson, and Amir Williams are the keys to the Buckeyes. If the team gets consistent scoring from all of those players, it will certainly cause opponents bigger headaches than last season when taking away Thomas meant shutting down Ohio State.
  2. Michigan State has plenty of strength returning to its starting lineup in Gary Harris, Keith Appling, Branden Dawson, and Adreian Payne. There’s still one open spot, though, and it appears freshman forward Gavin Schilling is making his case to seize it. In the Spartans first exhibition, a 101-52 win against Grand Valley State, Schilling played the most minutes and scored four points with five rebounds coming off the bench behind sophomore Matt Costello. This position will be an important one to keep an eye on for Michigan State as it tries to make a national title run. The four returning starters already make them a strong team, but if Schilling can continue to prosper and make every position on the Spartans starting five strong, it only makes their chances for a national title better. If he doesn’t get into the starting lineup, it at least makes it a small drop-off if Schilling has to play minutes for Costello or Payne at the forward positions.
  3. There’s plenty of hope surrounding the Purdue basketball program following a disappointing campaign last year. A big key to that will be what the newcomers provide to the Boilermakers, one of which is 5th year transfer Errick Peck. The 6-foot-6, 223 pound forward was in the starting lineup for Purdue in its 80-73 exhibition win over University of Indianapolis last night as he scored five points, had six rebounds and even attempted a 3-pointer. This versatility is something that Matt Painter has noticed and hopes to utilize in the Cornell transfer this season. Peck will likely find himself getting plenty of minutes with AJ Hammons still serving his three-game suspension and could very well find himself playing all over the court for Purdue. His ability to play with his back to the basket or from the outside allows Painter to use a big lineup with Peck at the three alongside Jay Simpson and Hammons or smaller with Peck at the four.
  4. With Mitch McGary and other post players returning to Michigan, John Beilein has a decision coming up soon. According to MLive’s Brendan Quinn, the Wolverines coach will have to decide whether he wants to redshirt freshman Mark Donnal. The 6′ 9″ forward played just more than five minutes and scored three points in Michigan’s 117-44 exhibition win over Concordia, which was more than only the walk-ons. With fellow freshmen Zak Irvin and Derrik Walton, Jr. filling the roles left by Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr., Donnal is the only freshman with plenty of upperclass experience ahead of him. Whether Beilein does redshirt Donnal or not is interesting because, as Quinn points out, Michigan only has 11 scholarship players this season. If he uses a redshirt, that makes the Wolverines very thin with only 10 total scholarship players.
  5. It’s always great to see when a head coach uses his position to help the greater good. Iowa’s Fran McCaffery has certainly done his best to help fight cancer after losing both his parents to colon cancer. Tuesday, McCaffery hosted his second annual Coaches vs. Cancer event where he was hoping to raise more than the $52,000 that was raised a year ago. It’s also given the coach a chance to touch a few people who have dealt with the deadly disease, including the one this story highlights in Wil Roling who joined Iowa on the team’s trip to Indiana last year. Now, Roling has had a going-away party from his hospital and was back at the Coaches vs. Cancer event, but this time he was healthy and playing with McCaffery’s two oldest sons. That’s something we can all celebrate.
Share this story

Big Ten M5: 10.23.12 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on October 23rd, 2012

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

Around The Blogosphere: July 28, 2011

Posted by nvr1983 on July 28th, 2011

If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to We will add to this post throughout the day as the submissions come in so keep on sending them.

General News

  • U of L basketball earns top academic honor: “The University of Louisville men’s basketball team has earned the 2010-11 BIG EAST Conference Team Academic Excellence Award, which recognizes the highest collective grade-point averages in each of the conference’s 26 sports.” (Card Chronicle)
  • Basketball Prospectus ranks Draymond Green the 14th best returning player in the country: The senior is expected to step up this year as the lone Spartan in the top 100. (The Only Colors)
  • Miller To Try Out For World University Games Team: “Kentucky forward Darius Miller is going to give international competition another try as the former U19 gold medalist will begin camp with Team USA Friday in hopes of making the World University Games roster. Miller is one of 22 players who accepted the invitations to the camp, which will be held in Colorado Springs and trimmed to the final playing roster August 8. The team will compete in China August 12-23 and will be coached by Purdue’s Matt Painter.” (Kentucky Sports Radio)
Share this story