Conference Report Card: Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 13th, 2011


John Templon is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten conference. We will be publishing a series of conference report cards over the next week for conferences that got multiple NCAA bids to recap the conference, grade the teams, and look at the future for the conference.

Conference Recap

  • Coming into the season, the Big Ten was considered the best conference in America. Michigan State was expected to be in the Final Four again and Purdue, Ohio State, and Illinois were expected to be among the nation’s elite. Then the season started and the conference slipped a bit. The Big Ten didn’t live up to its lofty billing, with the exception of Ohio State, which sat at #1 in the polls for a large part of the season. Of course, Robbie Hummel’s knee injury didn’t help Purdue. Illinois wilted under the weight of too much talent and not enough leadership, whereas Michigan State just never seemed to find its footing against a difficult schedule.
  • As conference play went on, all the teams beat up on each other, creating a mess in the middle and leading to four teams (Michigan, Illinois, Michigan State and Penn State) receiving seeds between 8-10 in the NCAA Tournament. The conference went 2-2 in those games. But the disappointment in the NCAA Tournament came from the top seeds that failed to live up to expectations. Ohio State, the #1 overall seed, was dispatched by Kentucky in the Sweet 16 in Newark. Then again, that was better than Purdue managed to do, as the Boilermakers fell to VCU in Chicago. Wisconsin made it to New Orleans, but Brad Stevens outcoached Bo Ryan and the Badgers lost to a lower-seeded team once again.
  • Those losses meant the Big Ten finished a season of much promise with zero teams in the Elite Eight. Much like the conference’s well-publicized bowl game problems, the postseason left a sour taste after many teams played good basketball during the regular season.

The postseason was a struggle for everyone in the Big Ten, even Final Four regular Tom Izzo and his Spartans, which had to make a late run to even crack the field.

Team-by-Team Grades

A’s:

  • Michigan (A): Before the season the Wolverines were expected to compete with Iowa and Indiana to avoid the basement in the Big Ten standings. By the end of it, they were scaring #1 seed Duke in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. It was a remarkable job by JohnBeilein to get a young team ready to play. Darius Morris was the engine of the turnaround. The sophomore point guard scored 15.0 points per game and dished out 6.7 assists per game while leading a team composed of mostly freshman and sophomores. Tim HardawayJr., a freshman, was the team’s only other double-digit scorer at 13.9 points per game. Michigan didn’t have a single senior on its roster this season and, with two more talented backcourt recruits in CarltonBrundidge and TreyBurke coming in, it appears to be ready to be a big player in the conference moving forward although they are still waiting on Morris to officially decide on whether he will enter the NBA Draft.
  • Ohio State (A-): The Buckeyes didn’t get it done in the NCAA Tournament, but they were the #1 team in the polls for most of the season and had the best freshman in the country in Jared Sullinger. The loss to Kentucky certainly put a damper on the season. Still, Ohio State went 34-3 with its only two regular season losses being at Purdue and Wisconsin in conference play. David Lighty, DallasLauderdale, and JonDiebler all graduate, but if Sullinger is serious about sticking around the Buckeyes will be a national title favorite again next season. Especially considering they have two McDonald’s All-Americans in point guard ShannonScott and center AmirWilliams coming in along with small forwards SamThompson and LaQuintonRoss. It’s Thad Matta’s typical reload instead of rebuild plan.
  • Penn State (A-): Qualifying for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a decade makes the Nittany Lions’ season a success. Even though they lost to in-state rival Temple in the second round, 66-64, it was a thrilling game to end a satisfying season that included victories over Wisconsin (twice), Illinois, and Michigan State (twice). Oh, and a loss to Maine. Talor Battle finally got his chance to go to the NCAA Tournament and finished his career with 2,213 points, 624 rebounds, and 517 assists. He’ll certainly be missed next season along with frontcourt veterans David Jackson and JeffBrooks. Thus, Penn State has some size coming in with two 6’11 centers in PatAckerman and PeterAlexis, but the program is probably due for a bit of a backslide.

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Big Ten Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 10th, 2011

John Templon is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten. With action set to tip from Indianapolis on Thursday, get set for the postseason with RTC’s regular season wrap-up and postseason outlook.

Postseason Preview

The Big Ten Tournament should prove to be quite the entertaining tournament. With so many teams on the bubble, every game is going to have a do-or-die atmosphere to it. Three of the four quarterfinal games, excluding the one in which Ohio State is playing, could propel teams to NCAA Tournament at-large bids. Another important matchup to watch is Northwestern vs. Minnesota in Round 1 – where they’ll probably be playing for an NIT berth.

  • Cold Teams: Minnesota, Illinois, and Indiana
  • Is Battle Ready For last Stand?: The Nittany Lions’ Talor Battle will try to finally make the NCAA Tournament. Can he shoot Penn State off the bubble and into the field?
  • Is Nolen Healthy?: Al Nolen hasn’t played January 22 against Michigan, but he could return this week. Would it be enough to get the Gophers rolling?
  • Can Anyone Stop Ohio State?: The Buckeyes look like a juggernaut, and this isn’t the time to be putting big decisions in the hands of the selection committee. In order to feel comfortable about its #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, OSU probably needs to win the Big Ten’s first. Northwestern played them close at Welsh-Ryan Arena – is a big upset in the making?
  • Will Izzo’s Tournament Touch Get Going?: Of the teams playing in the first round, Michigan State seems like the most likely candidate to reach the tournament finals. It seems like Tom Izzo just has a knack for this kind of thing by now.
  • Is The Next Generation Ready?: There are nine seniors on the three All-Big Ten teams selected by the coaches, and just one freshman. Are players like Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, Illinois’ Jereme Richmond, Northwestern’s JerShon Cobb and Michigan’s Tim Hardaway Jr. ready to play significant crunch time roles? Or will they wilt under the bright lights in Indianapolis?

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Set Your Tivo: 03.01.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 1st, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Welcome to March, the best month of the year for all hoops fans. It’s a huge night for bubble teams across the country, with a few having a chance for that elusive marquee win that may put them over the top. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#19 Vanderbilt @ #22 Kentucky – 9 pm on ESPN (****)

Tonight, Josh Harrellson Will Be the Lone Kentucky Player Honored By the Senior Night Playing of "My Old Kentucky Home"

This is the only game in tonight’s preview that doesn’t feature a bubble team as both of these clubs are solidly in the field. They’re both projected to get 5-seeds and are actually right next to each other on the S-curve. The Commodores won the first meeting in Nashville by means of a strong shooting night on which they hit 55% from three. Kentucky held Vanderbilt to 41.2% shooting inside the arc in that game, however, and that’s something the Wildcats do very well on the whole. They rank fifth nationally in two point defense and block percentage, plus they rebound well with Terrence Jones and Josh Harrellson up front. Both teams have the ability to get silly from beyond the arc, so this game could very well come down to interior play.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.10.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 10th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

It’s another big night with post-season implications, as Connecticut and Vanderbilt look to improve their seeding while the other six teams need wins to make their cases or avoid falling farther towards the bubble. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#10 Connecticut @ St. John’s – 7 pm on ESPN (***)

St. John’s is an interesting case when it comes to the possibility of inclusion in the NCAA Tournament. They’ve beaten a bunch of quality teams, but the record isn’t anything special, just 13-9 (5-5) coming into tonight’s game. A loss would give the Johnnies double-digit losses, not something you want to brag about before the Selection Committee. More importantly, they’d dip under .500 in conference play and would obviously need to win plenty of games down the stretch — and they’ve got a few tough ones left.

Lavin's First Year Has Been Better Than Expected, Though We're Sure He's Nowhere Near Content

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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 8th, 2011

John Templon is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

A Look Back

  • Is the Big Ten, the highest-rated conference according to Ken Pomeroy, a four-bid league? That’s the question facing teams right now as the middle of the pack continues to churn. The only definite teams right now are Ohio State, Wisconsin and Purdue, but some mix of the next six teams in the conference could make it if things were to go well. Still, whether due to injuries, inconsistent play or a lack of opportunities, there seems to be something holding every team back.
  • Team of the Week: Wisconsin: The Badgers staked their claim to being the second best team in the Big Ten with a victory over Purdue and a crushing victory over Michigan State on Sunday. The Spartans didn’t know what hit them as the Badgers rained down threes during the first half; it led to some pretty epic offensive production.
  • Player of the Week: Jon Leuer, F, Wisconsin: Leuer played a big role in both of Wisconsin’s wins this week. He scored 24 points and grabbed 13 rebounds against Purdue and then followed it up with 20 and six against the overmatched Spartans. One thing to watch, though, is his turnovers. He had four in each of the past two games, more than half the team’s total of 15.
  • Newcomer of the Week: Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State: Sullinger had two double-doubles last week against Michigan and Minnesota. Days like 19 points and 15 boards against the Wolverines are becoming so typical it’s almost possible to lose sight of how good this freshman is. He’s consistent as well, as he scored 18 points and grabbed 13 boards against the Gophers. The weakness in the big man’s game is free throw shooting. Sullinger shot 7-19 from the line last week and is at 69% on the season.

Power Rankings

1. Ohio State (24-0, 11-0) – In another week of solid victories for the Buckeyes the most interesting thing with the program happened off the court. Luke Winn featured the Buckeyes’ assists to Jared Sullinger in his Power Rankings last week. That same graphic then appeared in an ESPN broadcast. ESPN gave credit to Winn after the game and has since apologized. The big takeaway? Jon Diebler gives 44.2 percent of the post feeds from guards to the big freshman, as the two of them play the two-man high-low game of pick your poison. Also, I think that Winn should get Subway to sponsor that feature in the future.

2. Wisconsin (17-5, 7-3) – This offense does some unbelievable things, including scoring 82 points in 54 possessions against Michigan State. That’s 1.5 points per possession and absolutely absurd. That’s what happens when a team shoots 64.7 percent from three, shoots 25-26 from the free throw line and turns the ball over just eight times. Jordan Taylor led the way with 30 points for the Badgers.

3. Purdue (18-5, 7-3) – Purdue played one game this week, a tough one at Wisconsin, and lost. There’s no shame in it. JaJuan Johnson continued his excellent season with 23 points and 3 blocks, but the secondary players from the Badgers just made more plays down the stretch.

4. Illinois (15-8, 5-5) – Bruce Weber’s team doesn’t deserve to be in this spot after losing on Saturday on CBS to Northwestern, but honestly, which other collapsing Big Ten squad would you put here? When in doubt, take the talent, even if they do have a propensity for losing close games.

5. Penn State (12-10, 5-6) – A shoulder injury to senior forward Jeff Brooks might have cost the Nittany Lions a key conference game agaist Michigan on Sunday. Brooks injured his shoulder in Penn State’s loss to Illinois and then sat out its 65-62 loss to the Wolverines. Coaches hope to have him back when the Nittany Lions travel to Michigan State on Thursday.

6. Minnesota (16-7, 5-6) – The Gophers have lost three games in a row. Two of them weren’t really a surprise (at Purdue, vs. Ohio State), but a 60-57 loss at Indiana isn’t good. Thankfully, not a single ranked team remains on the conference schedule and games against fellow bubble teams Illinois and Penn State are at home.

7. Northwestern (14-8, 4-7) – Michael “Juice” Thompson carried the Wildcats to a victory at home over in-state rival Illinois, 71-70, with some great three-point shooting (5-8 from distance) and clutch plays. The Wildcats are also starting to get a bit healthier as John Shurna returned from his concussion to play in the game against the Illini.

8. Michigan (14-10, 4-7) – 23 points from Darius Morris was enough to get a victory on the road at Penn State and help the Wolverines get a much-needed victory. With five winnable games left on the schedule Michigan has an outside shot at getting into the NCAA bubble (at 9-9 in conference with a very tough non-conference schedule) talk by the Big Ten Tournament, more likely the Wolverines are headed to the NIT.

9. Michigan State (13-10, 5-6) – The Spartans’ season is quickly spiraling out of control. Tom Izzo in the weekly conference call summed the past week up this way: “Definitely one of the most disappointing weeks of my coaching career.” Michigan State has lost five of its last six games, and suffered two blowout losses last week to Iowa (by 20 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena) and Wisconsin (by 28 in only 54 possessions at the Kohl Center).

10. Iowa (10-13, 3-8) – The Hawkeyes might be one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten. Their 20-point blowout of Michigan State was incredibly unexpected, but then they followed it up with a one-point victory over Indiana at Assembly Hall in Bloomington. Freshman Melsahne Basabe had 20 points and 13 rebounds against the Hoosiers.

11. Indiana (12-12, 3-8) – Just when it looked like the Hoosiers were turning things around a home loss to Iowa might’ve taken the wind out of their sails. Beating Minnesota was the highlight as Tom Pritchard scored 12 points on five shots and grabbed seven boards for Indiana. He also had a dunk-of-the-year nominee.

A Look Ahead (all times EST)

  • 2/8 – Indiana at Purdue, 7 p.m., ESPN
  • 2/9 – Northwestern at Michigan, 6:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 2/10 – Illinois at Minnesota, 9 p.m., ESPN
  • 2/12 – Ohio State at Wisconsin, 2 p.m., ESPN
  • 2/12 – Indiana at Michigan, 4 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 2/13 – Purdue at Illinois, 1 p.m., CBS
  • 2/13 – Northwestern at Penn State, 3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

Fun with Efficiency Margin and KenPom: As John Gasaway pointed out on Monday, there are no easy games in the Big Ten this season. The lowest rated team, Iowa, has an efficiency margin of -0.11 per possession. On the other hand, the conference leader, Wisconsin, is at +0.16. Yes, the Badgers, not Ohio State, have the best efficiency margin during conference play. The undefeated, #1 ranked Buckeyes are no slouches though at +0.14 points per possession. Seven of the 11 teams have a negative efficiency margin right now.

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Set Your Tivo: 01.28-01.30

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 28th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor

This weekend brings us yet another great slate of games with plenty of ranked teams heading out on the road to face unranked opponents. How many will go down this time? All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#21 Georgetown @ #6 Villanova – 12 pm Saturday on ESPN (****)

Despite their win at the Carrier Dome over Syracuse last week, Villanova has lost two of its last three games and now welcomes their rival Georgetown Hoyas to the Wells Fargo Center. The Hoyas have won three straight over the New York-area schools to climb back to 4-4 in Big East play. Georgetown has won four true road games but none of those wins were against teams the caliber of Villanova.

If Freeman and the Hoyas Plan On Finishing Strong, Tonight's a Good Night To Start

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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 18th, 2011

John Templon of Chicago College Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

A Look Back

It’s hard to figure out exactly what’s going on in the Big Ten this season. Ohio State has risen to No. 1 in the country in both polls, but after that it’s tough to tell which team is next. Purdue stumbled on the road at West Virginia, giving the conference yet another black eye in the non-conference, and Illinois had a bit of dysfunction. Those things allowed an old standby, Michigan State, to once again rise to second with two close overtime wins at home. That just goes to show the tightrope act that is conference play this season.

  • Team of the Week: Michigan State – The Spartans managed to pull off two dramatic comebacks on their home court in conference in the span of less than a week. Coming back to beat Wisconsin and Northwestern – both in overtime – helps put Tom Izzo’s team right back in the middle of the conference race and might help alleviate some of the concerns about this team playing close games in March.
  • Player of the Week: Draymond Green, F, Michigan State: The big reason why Michigan State won both games last week is that Green stepped up, averaging 21.0 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. He also went 17-19 (89.4 percent) from the free throw line, which helped the team in the close ones.
  • Newcomer of the Week: Aaron Craft, G, Ohio State: Craft also won the official Freshman of the Week award in the Big Ten and thus became the third Buckeye to win the award. Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas and Craft have swept the award this season. Craft won his after scoring 19 points to help Ohio State hold off Penn State.

Power Rankings

  • 1. Ohio State (18-0, 5-0) – Behind a trio of Diaper Dandies, the Buckeyes have ascended to the top spot in the conference and the country. They’re playing good basketball, but hanging onto the top spot requires them going into Champaign and pulling out a victory. The play of the freshman has been impressive, but just as notable is how Thad Matta has gotten David Lighty and Jon Diebler to acquiesce to Deshaun Thomas and Jared Sullinger on offense and play important supporting roles.
  • 2. Michigan State (12-5, 4-1) – See the Team of the Week and the Player of the Week sections for more on a very successful Big Ten week for the Spartans.
  • 3. Wisconsin (13-4, 3-2) – Jon Leuer struggled as the Badgers lost at Michigan State, scoring just ten points on nine shots, but Wisconsin still had a chance to win. Jordan Taylor just needed to get a better look at the basket late. Leuer rebounded though to score 26 points on 16 shots against Illinois. Other player to watch is Keaton Nankivil. The 6’8 senior forward has scored in double figures each of his past five games.
  • 4. Purdue (15-3, 4-1) –A poor shooting week from E’Twaun Moore doomed Purdue on the road. He shot 6-18 at West Virginia and scored 14 points and went 2-14 for five points against Minnesota. What has to be more concerning for Matt Painter though was the defense that allowed the Gophers to shoot 52.9 percent from the field.
  • 5. Illinois (13-5, 3-2) – Two losses have brought back the dysfunctional team chemistry that plagued the Fighting Illini last season. Freshman Jereme Richmond was held out of the loss to Wisconsin because of missed practice time. Mike Miller over at Beyond the Arc had a bit more to say about it here, though judging by a statement from Richmond on Monday, there shouldn’t be any lingering issues regarding his status.
  • 6. Minnesota (14-4, 3-3) – Two wins got Minnesota back on track, but both were at home, and one was against Iowa. Let’s see if Tubby Smith’s team can go on the road and beat someone. No matter where they play, controlling the pace is going to be important. The Gophers haven’t played a game at a pace of more than 65 possessions since Big Ten play started. Last week, the game against Purdue was 70-67 in 58 possessions. On a night when Blake Hoffarber and Trevor Mbakwe both play well, the Gophers will look unstoppable. Hoffarber went off for 26 points against the Boilermakers, but was held to nine points on 2-10 shooting against the Hawkeyes. That’s when Mbakwe picked things up though with 16 points and 12 rebounds off the bench. It doesn’t appear that Mbakwe’s violation of a restraining order has slowed him down at all.
  • 7. Penn State (10-7, 3-3) – The Nittany Lions are going through a brutal stretch of four games, but making the most of it. Wins over Michigan State and Illinois instantly boosted their at-large profile and made them a contender in the conference. It hasn’t all been Talor Battle either, the frontcourt of Jeff Brooks, Andrew Jones and David Jackson are forcing opponents to pay attention to them. Jones showed what happens if you don’t against the Illini with a game-winning put-back slam after four players went at Battle.
  • 8. Northwestern (11-5, 2-4) – What might have been? Losing in overtime to Michigan State is a big blow to the Wildcats’ NCAA Tournament hopes. Northwestern had a chance to win the game even though John Shurna scored just six points. Drew Crawford has been hot lately with 19 points at Iowa and 16 against the Spartans. Because of an extra game on Thursday against SIU-Edwardsville, Northwestern plays three games in six days this week. The Green Bay-Chicago NFC Championship game also upended the schedule and the Wildcats will play Wisconsin at 11:30 a.m. CT.
  • 9. Indiana (10-8, 1-4) – Michigan figured out you have to guard Indiana in order to beat them. Jordan Hulls was a perfect 4-4 from the field, including 3-3 from beyond the arc, and scored 13 points and Verdell Jones III went 9-10 from the field and scored 24 points in the Hoosiers’ 80-61 victory over the Wolverines.
  • 10. Michigan (11-7, 1-4) – The Wolverines exhibit all the signs of a young team. They play up for the good ones and down to the bad ones. Unfortunately the numbers suggest that the games against the good teams might just be the kids playing over their heads. It’s the defense that’s been the problem lately.
  • 11. Iowa (7-10, 0-5) – The Hawkeyes are struggling to score points in Big Ten play. While Fran McCaffery has tried to spruce up the offense, Iowa still needs more talent. When Indiana comes to town on Sunday it might be the Hawkeyes’ best chance to steal a conference victory.

A Look Ahead (all times EST):

  • 1/18 – Michigan State at Illinois, 7 p.m., ESPN
  • 1/19 – Penn State at Purdue, 8:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 1/22 – Ohio State at Illinois, 12:00 p.m., CBS
  • 1/22 – Michigan State at Purdue, 9 p.m., ESPN
  • 1/23 – Wisconsin at Northwestern, 12:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 1/23 – Indiana at Iowa, 3 p.m., Big Ten Network

Fun with Efficiency Margin and KenPom

  • You might be surprised to learn that Purdue still leads the conference in efficiency margin during Big Ten play. Of course that has a bit to do with scheduling. The Boilermakers have feasted on an easy schedule and have avoided Michigan State, Ohio State, Illinois and Wisconsin during their first five games. Ohio State is second with Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan State coming up behind them. The Spartans are the second luckiest team in conference according to my count, with undefeated Ohio State being the first.
  • Before Iowa’s loss at Minnesota, there wasn’t a single team in the Big Ten that was scoring less than a point per possession, but the Hawkeyes have dipped below that minimum standard of competency again. On the other hand, Purdue and Michigan State are both allowing less than a point per possession in conference play. The Spartans are winning in conference on the strength of their defense.
  • Finally, the Bubble Battle between Penn State, Northwestern and Minnesota should be fascinating to watch all season. The Gophers did more than the other two during non-conference play, but the three of them have very similar efficiency margins in conference play.
  • After next week, every team in the conference will have played one-third of its conference schedule and I’ll provide a full rundown with all the numbers and predictions moving forward.
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Checking in On… The Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 11th, 2011

John Templon of Chicago College Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten conference.

RTC is interested in learning how to improve our Checking In On… series in each conference.  Let us know in the below poll where we can improve this weekly piece (feel free to add specific comments).  Thanks.

A Look Back

  • The Big Ten powers continued to dominate this week, as Illinois, Purdue and Ohio State are a combined 10-0 in conference. The other teams though are starting to look very vulnerable. Michigan State’s loss at Penn State revealed some problems with the Spartans’ attack, while Minnesota doesn’t seem to have the firepower to hang with the top teams in the conference. And where is Wisconsin going to be when this all shakes out? The Badgers are the conference’s biggest enigma.
  • Oh and Northwestern’s NCAA Tournament hopes? They were probably dealt their deathblow on national television at Assembly Hall in Champaign, Illinois. Matt Norlander wrote a lovely obituary over on CBS’ new college basketball blog. That said, maybe life support is the better analogy as the Wildcats did beat a reeling Indiana team on Sunday night.
  • Team of the Week: Purdue – Two blowouts over inferior opponents get the Boilermakers the team of the week award this week. If Saturday showed us anything it’s that winning on the road in conference isn’t easy and Purdue won at Penn State, where Michigan State went on to lose, and also blew out Iowa at home. This team is really coming together and looks to be a dangerous NCAA Tournament style squad.
  • Player of the Week: Rhyne Smith, G, Purdue: Smith scored a team-high 18 points on 6’9 three-point shooting in Purdue’s victory over Iowa. He also was leading scorer in the Boilermakers’ victory over Penn State with 20 points on 5-5 three-point shooting and 5-7 free throw shooting. He’s a catch-and-shoot scorer who thrives off the open looks that come from playing with two All-Americans.
  • Newcomer of the Week: Melsahn Basabe, F, Iowa – Basabe went for 22 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks on Tuesday against Ohio State. He was held to eight points, with four turnovers, against Purdue.

Power Rankings

  1. Ohio State (16-0, 3-0) – The Buckeyes are showing a disturbing trend of letting teams back into games. Iowa and Minnesota both played them close before falling late. This could come back to haunt Thad Matta’s team at some point. Jared Sullinger had a double-double in both games this week with 24 and 12 against Iowa and 15 and 12 against Minnesota. The first team to stop him is going to have a legitimate chance to knock off the Buckeyes.
  2. Purdue (15-1, 4-0) – Check out the player of the week section about Ryne Smith. Players like Smith, Lewis Jackson and Terone Johnson are starting to step up for Purdue and are making this team even harder to beat.
  3. Illinois (13-3, 3-0) – If the Illini continue to shoot as well as they have in Big Ten play, they’re going to be unbeatable. Northwestern got shellacked at Assembly Hall as Illinois shot 70.5 percent from the field. The one weakness for Bruce Weber’s squad is that they turn the ball over too much. Even in the 25-point victory, it was evident, as the Illini turned it over 22 times. Of course, Mike Davis and Demetri McCamey both had seven assists on the way to a team total of 25.
  4. Wisconsin (12-3, 2-1) – Jon Leuer gets a lot of the press, but Jordan Taylor is the guy that drives the Badgers’ offense. He’s in the mold of other Wisconsin point guards like Devin Harris and Trevon Hughes where he just gets his points. Taylor scored 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds in Wisconsin’s 66-50 victory over Michigan. That’s 66 points in 54 possessions, by the way. This offense is absolutely deadly.
  5. Michigan State (10-5, 2-1) – It’s time to accept that this Michigan State team isn’t that good right now. The Spartans barely escaped at Northwestern and then lost to Penn State. Kalin Lucas had an okay week scoring the basketball, but the assists aren’t there right now. If he doesn’t have more games like the one against Minnesota where he had seven assists and two turnovers, the Spartans are going to struggle in league play.
  6. Minnesota (12-4, 1-3) – While a three-point loss to Ohio State isn’t a big deal, the Golden Golphers suffered a bigger loss off the court when Devoe Joseph, who started 25 of 76 games in his Minnesota career, was granted his release by the team on Wednesday. Joseph clashed with head coach Tubby Smith. The versatile guard had averaged 11.2 points per game this season and his departure will prove to be a big loss moving forward. The team needs a lot of depth to play Smith’s system and doesn’t really have it right now. One player benefitting is freshman Maverick Ahanminsi, who had a total of 25 minutes of time in the games versus Indiana and Ohio State after just three total minutes in the games against Wisconsin and Michigan State.
  7. Michigan (11-5, 1-2) – Man are the Wolverines going to be wishing they beat Kansas come Selection Sunday, but still, a 67-60 overtime loss to the No. 3 team in the country isn’t bad. Zack Novak played a strong game with 12 points and 11 boards to follow up on a 15-point performance in the loss to Wisconsin earlier in the week.
  8. Penn State (9-6, 2-2) – Penn State seems to be a dangerous team in league play. The Nittany Lions really struggled in the non-conference, but they’re slowly getting better. Even though Talor Battle didn’t have his best game against Michigan State, Penn State still won because Jeff Brooks stepped up with 17 points and 12 boards. Of course, Battle eventually hit the clutch shots down the stretch that allowed Ed DeChellis to get a big league win. Big Ten teams are locking in on Battle, who shot 6-22 against Purdue and 3-14 against Michigan State, so someone else will have to continue to step up for the Nittany Lions.
  9. Northwestern (10-4, 1-3) – John Shurna’s ankle is still bothering him, but he did manage to drop 24 on Indiana. I’m sure all the Wildcats want to forget the game against Illinois, but freshman JerShon Cobb did score 18 points in that game and followed it up with 11, on 3-4 three-point shooting, against the Hoosiers.
  10. Iowa (7-8, 0-3) – While the Hawkeyes can be dangerous at home, they’re going to struggle on the road, especially when teams like Purdue can shut down Matt Gatens and force other players to score points. Before Penn State’s victory over Michigan State, Iowa near miss, 73-68, against Ohio State was the most shocking score of the week.
  11. Indiana (9-8, 0-4) – Not much is going right for Indiana right now. The Hoosiers were down big to Northwestern before making the margin more respectable. Freshman Will Sheehey played well against the Wildcats with nine points and another freshman Victor Oladipo started and scored 13, but it’s hard to win Big Ten conference games relying on freshmen. The game against Northwestern was Oladipo’s fifth in a row in double-figures.

A Look Ahead

While every game is big in conference play, here are the key match-ups to keep an eye on in the upcoming week (all times EST). It also includes one special non-conference CBS Sunday afternoon treat.

  • 1/11 – Wisconsin at Michigan State, 7 p.m., ESPN
  • 1/12 – Ohio State at Michigan, 6:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 1/12 – Northwestern at Iowa, 8:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 1/13 – Purdue at Minnesota, 7 p.m., ESPN
  • 1/15 – Illinois at Wisconsin, 3 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 1/15 – Michigan at Indiana, 8 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 1/16 – Purdue at West Virginia, 1:30 p.m., CBS

Fun with Efficiency Margin and KenPom: Three teams, Purdue (0.27), Illinois (0.18) and Ohio State (0.13) have efficiency margins greater than 0.10 during conference play. That’s very impressive.  Of course, those numbers will come down once they start playing each other, but each has been dominant thus far. The Boilermakers are just tearing things up on a per possession level.  On the other end of the spectrum are three teams: Indiana (-0.17), Michigan (-0.18) and Iowa (-0.19), all below -0.10 per possession. Michigan is at the level even with a win because of two blowout losses. The Wolverines’ game against Wisconsin is especially troublesome because the 16-point loss came in just 54 possessions as the offense disappeared in the second half. Michigan has shown in non-conference play that it can be very competitive against elite teams, so maybe this is a hiccup that will be corrected as the conference plays some more games and things even out.

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Set Your Tivo: 12.27.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 27th, 2010

***** – Quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – Best watched live, but if you must, Tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – Set your Tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – Set your Tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – Don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the Tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Conference play in the Big Ten and Big East opens with one game from each conference with the latter being what should be one of the best games of the year. All rankings from RTC and all times EST.

Penn State @ Indiana – 6:30 pm on Big Ten Network (**)

Each team enters the conference opener having lost two in a row with Penn State coming off a discouraging loss at home to Maine. The Hoosiers had a tough trip to Las Vegas before Christmas, going 0-2. Penn State has the best player on the floor in this game with Talor Battle, but Indiana has quite a few match-ups tilted in their favor. The Nittany Lions struggle shooting the ball and defending the three–two areas Indiana that will look to take advantage of the Nittany Lions.Tom Crean’s team is #14 in the nation in effective field goal percentage buoyed by 38% three point shooting and the #13 ranked two point field goal percentage. Indiana hasn’t knocked off anyone of note but they shoot the ball really well at 50% and have a stud in the post in 6’8″ forward Christian Watford. He’ll go up against PSU’s Jeff Brooks, a solid player in his own right. Brooks averages 12/8 and shoots 53% from the floor. However, he will have his hands full trying to defend Watford as the Hoosier big man can step out an shoot from beyond the arc with some consistency. Pulling Brooks away from the basket will open up the middle for the guard-heavy Hoosiers to drive or pull up and score. Indiana should enjoy a slight advantage rebounding, allowing them to get easy second chance opportunities from close range. The Hoosiers can also shoot it from deep as well with Jordan Hulls(52% from 3) on the perimeter. Battle will have to shoot it well for Penn State to have a realistic shot to win on the road. The Nittany Lions will also have to shoot well as a team (they average a dismal 42%), rebound and count on their senior trio of Battle, Brooks and David Jackson to lead them. Those three players score 65% of Penn State’s points and cannot afford an off game on the road. Penn State is not a deep team but must use their slower tempo to frustrate Indiana and force turnovers. It’s not impossible for PSU to win, but you have to favor the Hoosiers at home in the first Big Ten game of the year.

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Set Your Tivo: 12.01.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 1st, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

It’s going to be hard to top the game of the year to date, Georgetown’s thrilling overtime win over Missouri last night, but we have some good matchups on the schedule tonight as we head into the second month of the season. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#25 Richmond @ Old Dominion – 7 pm on WSKY4 Hampton Roads, VA (****)

Richmond is coming off a huge win for their program, a 65-54 win over Purdue to take the Chicago Invitational crown. The Spiders star player, Kevin Anderson, led the way with 28 points and Richmond’s defense held the Boilermakers to 30% shooting. Old Dominion is coming off a tournament victory of their own as they defeated Xavier to win the Paradise Jam last week. Richmond is a solid offensive team, eighth in the country in effective field goal percentage. That will be the story of the game as they go up against an Old Dominion defense ranked #16 in efficiency. The one weakness for the Monarchs defensively is their three point defense, #193 in the country. Richmond is an outstanding three point shooting team averaging almost 43% on the season behind Anderson and quite a few other shooters such as Darien Brothers (64% from deep). Richmond is going to get points from the outside so Old Dominion must try to lock them up inside through physical play, rebounding and blocked shots. Key to that effort will be Frank Hassell who averages 13/10 and blocks almost two shots per game. He’ll have to stop 6’10 Justin Harper who has a height advantage on Hassell. However, Hassell outweighs Harper by 20 pounds so he should be able to get position and be physical with the Richmond big man. These are arguably the two best teams in the state of Virginia going at it, although we’re sure Seth Greenberg and the folks from Blacksburg may have something to say about that. If Richmond gets off to a hot start they should win this game as ODU lacks offensive punch and would rather win the game in the 50’s. Expect a hard fought, close game with the winner holding the edge on the glass and in the paint.

#18 Purdue @ Virginia Tech – 7:30 pm on ESPN (****)

Coming off the aforementioned loss to Richmond, Purdue faces a tough road game in the hostile environment of Cassell Coliseum. If there’s any good news for the Boilermakers it’s that Virginia Tech is struggling a bit itself when considering injuries and on-court performance. The Hokies escaped Oklahoma State but lost to UNLV in the 76 Classic, their second loss of the season. Malcolm Delaney has been doing it all offensively for Seth Greenberg but he’s not getting much help elsewhere. Jeff Allen and Dorenzo Hudson are Virginia Tech’s other main scoring threats but Allen has a hard time staying on the floor with foul trouble and Hudson is nursing an injured finger on his shooting hand. After that, Greenberg is having a hard time figuring out a rotation. The Hokies are thin up front and that’s something Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson should exploit this evening. Purdue’s star big man is averaging 17/9 and three blocks but is just 11-29 (38%) shooting in his last two games. He’ll go up against Victor Davila in this game and should be able to break out against the thin Hokie front court. With Allen coming over to help, foul trouble could become a concern yet again for the Virginia Tech forward. Johnson and Purdue do have to get to the line more often, ranking #241 in free throw attempts per field goal attempts. The Boilers don’t shoot it very well from there, either. This should be a low scoring game as both teams are strong defensively and force turnovers. Extra possessions and rebounds will be something to watch as Virginia Tech averages only 34 RPG, giving Purdue second chance opportunities and leading to foul trouble for the Hokies. Virginia Tech is not a strong outside shooting team other than Delaney so they’ll have to get a lot of their scoring inside against a tough Purdue defense that will get in the passing lanes and really disrupt their half court offense. Virginia Tech definitely can win this game but more has to go right for them than for Purdue. Matt Painter’s team has more options plus the matchup advantages are in their favor for the most part. However, playing on the road is always difficult, especially in a nationally televised game such as this. Expect this game to come down to the very end with free throws possibly deciding the outcome.

#6 Michigan State @ #1 Duke – 9:30 pm on ESPN (*****)

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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2010

John Templon of Chicago College Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

A Look Back:

  • Hot Start: According to Ken Pomeroy’s early season rankings, which are open to a lot of fluctuation, the Big Ten doesn’t have a single team ranked outside the top 100. The Big Ten and the Big 12 are the only conferences that can claim such a feat. With a 36-5 record out of the gate, the Big 10 has made a huge impression whether you go by Pomeroy’s advanced stats or simply wins and losses.
  • Team of the Week: Minnesota: All the Golden Gophers did last week was go to a neutral site and beat Western Kentucky, North Carolina and West Virginia. Those last two wins are going to be critical if Tubby Smith’s team finds itself on the bubble come Selection Sunday. Though after two wins like that, maybe it is time to consider the fact that the Gophers might actually compete for the Big Ten title. Marquette transfer Trevor Mbakwe has been a revelation in the post this season and is averaging 14.0 points per game and 9.4 rebounds per game. Ralph Sampson III has improved his game as well. Teams also have to contend with Blake Hoffarber and Al Nolen. At 5-0 this team is off to a roaring start.
  • Player of the Week: Demetri McCamey, G, Illinois: While Illinois lost a game at Madison Square Garden, it certainly wasn’t McCamey’s fault. He was the best player on the court for the Illini in both games. Against Maryland, he was absolutely deadly, as he scored 20 points on just nine shots and dished out seven assists.
  • Newcomer of the Week: Jared Sullinger, C, Ohio State: The highly recruited freshman has made his mark during the opening of the season. In Ohio State’s three games thus far he’s averaged 18.7 points per game and 10.7 rebounds per game. That includes a 26 point, 10 board performance in the Buckeyes’ victory over Florida.

Power Rankings

  1. Ohio State (3-0) – This team isn’t just Sullinger, currently five Buckeyes are averaging at least 10 points. The rotation, which was very short last season, has been loosened a bit by Thad Matta and eight players have played at least 10 minutes per game this season. William Buford, essentially Evan Turner’s replacement at point guard, has performed very well averaging 13.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.7 steals per game.
  2. Michigan State (3-0) – The Spartans took it easy before heading off to the Maui Invitational this week. They’ll take on Connecticut and one other high-profile program during the week, so it should be a good test. An 82-73 victory over South Carolina was the team’s warmup for the tournament.
  3. Minnesota (5-0) – See the Team of the Week section, but the Gophers are rolling.
  4. Illinois (4-1) – Give the Illini credit as they went to New York and played two very competitive games against Texas, losing in overtime, and Maryland. Demetri McCamey showed more athleticism than in the past and looks prepared to carry this team. Brandon Paul is also giving this team a spark off the bench and averaging 11.8 points per game. Interior defense might be this team’s Achilles’ heel and freshman Jereme Richmond, just 7.8 points per game, should be looking to do more on the offensive end.
  5. Purdue (3-0) – The record might suggest that Purdue is going to be just fine without Robbie Hummel, but Oakland was the first decent team that the Boilermakers played and they led by just four points at the break. E’Twaun Moore has picked up the slack on offense averaging 20.3 points per game. JaJuan Johnson is averaging almost a double-double with 15.7 points per game and 9.0 rebounds per game. Purdue is in the Chicago Invitational Challenge this week and a possible game against Richmond might be a good early season test.
  6. Wisconsin (2-1) – Credit the Badgers for playing a tough road game at UNLV, but the loss isn’t the result that Bo Ryan wanted. Freshman Josh Gasser is starting for Wisconsin and averaging 11.7 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game. The Badgers are already dictating tempo, averaging 64 possessions per game through the first three games.
  7. Northwestern (3-0) – The Wildcats survived a strange trip to Texas-Pan American then came home and crushed Arkansas-Pine Bluff and now are taking 10 days off before playing against Creighton. Bill Carmody will have the team working on defense, because the offense is just fine. John Shurna is averaging 22.7 points per game and Drew Crawford is averaging 20.7. Another worry is that the minutes for point guard Michael Thompson are already starting to build up. He averaged 35.0 minutes per game as Northwestern took down three very easy teams.
  8. Indiana (4-0) – The Hoosiers, like the Wildcats, really haven’t played anyone yet, so it’s hard to judge this team. The trio of Christian Watford, with 17.8 points per game and 7.8 rebounds per game, Verdel Jones III, 14.3 points per game, and Maurice Creek, 12.0 points per game, is going to help Indiana put a lot of points on the board. This team does have a bad habit of letting bad teams hang around, so that’s something to watch moving forward.
  9. Penn State (4-0) – Talor Battle has a competent wingman in Jeff Brooks it appears and the Nittany Lions might be more dangerous than people expect. Senior forward Brooks is averaging 17 points and 7.5 rebounds per game as Penn State has racked up four easy home victories thus far. To his credit, Battle has continued his outstanding play and is averaging 16.3 points per game even though he’s shooting just 26.9 percent from beyond the arc.
  10. Michigan (3-0) – Three terrible opponents has resulted in three home victories for the Wolverines. Things though are about to get much tougher, as Michigan takes on Syracuse in the Legends Classic on Friday.  After averaging just 4.4 points per game last season, sophomore guard Darius Morris is averaging 14.7 points per game and 8.3 assists per game this season. Freshman Tim Hardaway, Jr., has made an immediate impact as well, averaging 14.3 points per game.
  11. Iowa (2-2) – The Hawkeyes lost to South Dakota State in their season opener, but have since righted the ship. Iowa got a victory over a decent Alabama squad in the Paradise Jam Tournament on Saturday.

A Look Ahead

Two big games for the conference include the Spartans taking on Michigan State in Maui and Michigan tipping off against Syracuse in Atlantic City, but the conference is otherwise quiet until the ACC-Big 10 challenge comes.

  • Nov. 23 – Michigan State vs. Connecticut in the Maui Invitational, Lahaina, HI
  • Nov. 23 – Ohio State vs. Morehead St., Columbus, Ohio
  • Nov. 26 – Penn State vs. Ole Miss, Oxford, Miss.
  • Nov. 26 – Michigan vs. Syracuse, Legends Classic, Atlantic City, NJ
  • Nov. 26-27 – Purdue vs. Southern Illinois and someone else, Chicago Invitational Challenge, Hoffman Estates, Ill.
  • Nov. 28 – Northwestern vs. Creighton, Evanston, Ill.

Fun With Efficiency Margin

There’s not much in this space right now, but once conference play begins expect to see tempo-free efficiency margins for in conference play in the Big Ten. Last season Wisconsin won the efficiency crown. We’ll see if the Badgers can repeat or if another team takes the title.

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Set Your Tivo: 01.21.10

Posted by rtmsf on January 21st, 2010

SYT Star System

***** - quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** - best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** - set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** - set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2012
* - don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Louisville @ Seton Hall – 7 pm on ESPN  (**)

It appears the basketball gods are punishing us for such a great night of basketball on Wednesday.  These two teams are both battling losing streaks right now, and it is highly likely that one or both of these teams will not make the tournament.  Samardo Samuels and Edgar Sosa have both scored above their season averages in their last two games, but they lost at home to Villanova and on the road to Pitt.  Seton Hall started out the season 8-0, playing teams like Monmouth and the infamous NJIT, and is now being punished for not challenging themselves early on.  Since scoring 134 points in a win against VMI, the Pirates have gone 2-6.  One reason to watch this game is the play of Seton Hall’s Jeremy Hazell, who can torch defenses in a hurry (five games of 30 points or more including a 41-point outburst against West Virginia).  Also working in SHU’s favor is the home court advantage, as Louisville is just 1-3 on the road this season.  We know Louisville has talent, but they are also the team that followed up a 22-point embarrassment against Charlotte with a loss against Western Carolina.  This is Louisville’s game to lose.

Indiana @ Penn State – 7 pm on ESPN2  (*)

This is the definition of a one-star game.  I am not sure why ESPN is broadcasting this, except to show a Big Ten matchup in which both teams are so bad there will be no chance of rushing the court.  With three losses in their last four games, Indiana joins the Nittany Lions at 8-9.  Penn State comes into tonight as losers of their last five games, all of which came against Big Ten teams.  This game will also likely be in the sixties, as Indiana gives up 69.7 points per game on defense while Penn State allows 61.6 points on average.  If you like missed shots and turnovers, this game may actually be entertaining for you.  Maurice Creek, Indiana’s leading scorer is injured, so this game actually has the possibility of the 40s, like Indiana did against Michigan.  Penn State’s go-to scorer, Talor Battle, can shoot from anywhere and is a threat to rebound and distribute as well, so fans may see some fireworks.  After Battle, Penn State has three guys that average 7.9, 7.9, and 7.8 points per game in David Jackson, Chris Babb and Jeff Brooks, so it may be difficult to pinpoint where to attack such a well-balanced team.  Indiana has shown signs of life this year, including their win against Pitt, so look for Verdell Jones III and Christian Watford to lead Indiana to an ugly win.

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