Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 25th, 2011

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

A Look Back

The national narrative about the Big Ten has been about the “tiers” in the conference. Last week, those tiers were even more pronounced as the top teams kept on winning and the middle and bottom ones battled it out. In the process, Illinois – a classic example of this philosophy – escaped with a solid home win over Michigan State, but a disappointing loss to Ohio State and Iowa got its first conference win of the season over Indiana. The top teams will start battling it out this week, as Ohio State welcomes Purdue on Tuesday for what will be the “Game of the Year” thus far in conference.

Those middle teams are ones you have to know come March. That’s when the true depth of the conference will be on display and teams like the Illini, Michigan State, Minnesota and maybe a Penn State or Northwestern will be trying to prove they belonged in the discussion all along.

  • Team of the Week: Ohio State: A big victory over Illinois on the road was the best win by any Big Ten team last week. The Buckeyes also took care of business against Iowa and now just have to beat Purdue at home and Northwestern on the road to enter February with a shot at perfection intact.
  • Player of the Week: Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State: With his team facing a tough situation at Illinois, the freshman put Ohio State on his back and carried them to an important road victory. He scored 27 points, including 13-15 shooting from the free throw line, grabbed 16 boards and blocked three shots. That was the follow-up to a ho-hum game against Iowa where he notched just 13 points and nine boards. It’s becoming hard to describe Sullinger’s day-to-day work. This Tweet from Monday afternoon summed up his ranks amongst NCAA freshmen very succinctly.
  • Newcomer of the Week: Josh Gasser, G, Wisconsin: I’m cheating a bit here by not giving both weekly awards to Sullinger, since he is technically a freshman even if he doesn’t play like one, but I wanted to highlight Gasser’s triple-double against Northwestern. In the 78-46 victory on Sunday at Welsh-Ryan Arena he had ten points, 12 rebounds and ten assists. That’s a heck of a day, and the first in Badger history.

Power Rankings

1. Ohio State (20-0, 7-0) – Jon Diebler is second in the nation in offensive rating according to Ken Pomeroy at 138.5. He’s shooting 47.6 percent from three-point range and is committing just 1.1 fouls per 40 minutes. No one has benefited more from DeShaun Thomas and Jared Sullinger patrolling the middle than this 6’6 senior shooting guard.

2. Wisconsin (15-4, 5-2) – After Sunday’s demolition of Northwestern, the Badgers have the second best offense in the country, according to Ken Pomeroy. Wait, let’s repeat that: Wisconsin has the second best offense in the country. Bo Ryan knows his offense is built upon solid principles, which is what made this article all the more amusing. Can we all agree the Wisconsin offense isn’t “struggling” anymore? (Not that it ever really was.)

3. Purdue (17-3, 6-1) – How Penn State lost a 6’10 forward that was the best player on the court at the end of a critical game, I’ll never know, but JaJuan Johnson knocked down the game-winner and Purdue got two home victories last week. Johnson has scored 20-plus points in each of his last four games and hasn’t scored fewer than 15 since December 7 against Valparaiso. Oddly, his rebounding totals are down lately. He grabbed seven boards combined against Penn State and Michigan State last week.

4. Michigan State (12-7, 4-3) – Tom Izzo must have an ear-to-ear grin on his face now, because while his team lost two games last week, they’ll get healthy with a three-game stretch against the bottom third of the conference. Of course if they lose one of those games I don’t want to be anywhere near that locker room.

5. Illinois (14-6, 4-3) – Oh, what might’ve been for the Illini. Illinois was up eight with under 13 minutes to play against Ohio State, but it failed to contain Jared Sullinger down the stretch. Demetri McCamey was 2-11 from the floor in the game and scored five points to go along with five assists and four turnovers. It’s a good thing Jereme Richmond and Bruce Weber have straightened things out, because it was the superstar freshman’s play that kept the Illini in it with 18 points, on 9-12 shooting, and 10 boards.

6. Minnesota (15-4, 4-3) – While Minnesota won its only game on the court last week it came at a terrible price. The Gophers will be without starting point guard Al Nolen for at least four weeks due to a foot injury, and possibly the rest of the season. Nolen is going to have surgery on Wednesday and will do anything to get back on the court, but for now, Tubby Smith is going to have to deal with this latest blow to his backcourt. The team was already thin at the guard spot after the transfer of Devoe Joseph.

7. Penn State (10-8, 3-4) – The Nittany Lions were the odd team out on Saturday, so they haven’t played since Wednesday, January 19. What a game that was. JaJuan Johnson had to hit a shot on the Boilermakers’ final possession to eek out the one-point win. That game showed the fight that Penn State has and no team can take them lightly during the rest of conference play. Still, the final play that Ed DeChellis drew up seemed designed for a lot less time. You’d hope to at least get a look at the basket on the final possession.

8. Northwestern (13-6, 3-5) – The Wildcats found out what both sides of a blowout feel like last week against SIU Edwardsville and Wisconsin. Even without star John Shurna, who was resting his injured ankle, and the third string playing the majority of the second half Northwestern ran past the overmatched Cougars, 98-55. Bill Carmody had his players run out the clock the final two possessions rather than score 100 on the obviously overmatched visitors. On Sunday though it was the home team that struggled. Northwestern got down early and never recovered against Wisconsin as the team’s NCAA Tournament hopes were dealt another crippling blow. Teams that blow out the Wildcats take away Drew Crawford. When the sophomore forward doesn’t score Northwestern’s offense struggles a lot and he didn’t score a point in 27 minutes against the Badgers.

9. Michigan (11-9, 1-6) – Tim Hardaway, Jr. has been given the green light for the Wolverines. In two losses last week the freshman attempted 28 shots, an even 14 in each game. He struggled against Northwestern, making three and scoring eight points, but on Saturday he exploded for 20 points against Minnesota in a five-point loss.

10. Iowa (8-11, 1-6) – Freshman Melsahne Basabe’s third 20-point game of the season was enough to carry the Hawkeyes to a 91-77 victory over Indiana and get them out of the conference cellar. This team still doesn’t look like it’ll bother anyone but the bottom tier of the conference, but players like Basabe are pieces to build on for the program’s future.

11. Indiana (10-10, 1-6) – A loss at Iowa probably wasn’t Tom Crean’s idea of a good time. While Christian Watford scored 30 points, Jordan Hulls was held under 10 points for the first time in seven games. Hulls is Indiana’s most efficient scorer and a three-point gunner that has connected on 49.4 percent of his attempts this season. Maurice Creek’s right knee can no longer elude surgery, and he’ll again miss a big chunk of conference play as he gets shut down.

A Look Ahead (all times EST):

  • 1/25 – Purdue at Ohio State, 9 p.m., ESPN
  • 1/26 – Northwestern at Minnesota, 8:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 1/27 – Michigan at Michigan State, 7 p.m., ESPN
  • 1/29 – Minnesota at Purdue, 1 p.m., CBS
  • 1/29 – Wisconsin at Penn State, 4 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 1/30 – Iowa at Michigan, 4 p.m., Big Ten Network

Fun with Efficiency Margin and KenPom: We’re starting to see some trends develop in the tempo-free statistics. A couple might be surprising and here are some of the highlights:

  • Wisconsin has joined the elite tier of the conference.  The Badgers play slowly, so sometimes you don’t see their blowouts as the great feats they are, but Bo Ryan has his team playing at peak efficiency in conference. After Sunday’s blowout Wisconsin is right in the middle of the upper tier behind Purdue (+0.18 efficiency margin per possession) and Ohio State (+0.14) at +0.16 points per possession in conference. That’s a very impressive mark.
  • Michigan State’s offense is in trouble as the Spartans rank 10th in the Big Ten in conference offensive efficiency at 1.04 points per possession. The fact that they’re scoring more than a point per possession and still near the bottom also tells you how deadly efficient every team has been this season. Still, Tom Izzo has to find a way to coax some more points out of his team or they’re going to struggle during the rest of conference play.
  • You might think that those great offensive efficiencies in Big Ten play are because of teams like Indiana and Iowa, but that’s not true. No Big Ten team is allowing less than a point per possession in conference play. Ohio State leads the way at 1.002.
  • The numbers indicate that Ohio State is really lucky to still be undefeated, not just overall but also in conference. Maybe the other shoe drops on Tuesday night against Purdue? On the other side you’ve got Wisconsin and Indiana as the unluckiest. All that said, it seems like this is related to two teams that are moving in different directions. The Hoosiers are playing worse lately and the Badgers better, which is skewing both of their respective numbers.
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Set Your Tivo: 01.18.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 18th, 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.

A few teams face key road tests tonight, one night after the home squads went 3-1 in the season debut of ESPN’s Big Monday. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#19 Michigan State @ #18 Illinois – 7 pm on ESPN (****)

A Top 50 Rebounder, Green Has Been Solid Of Late For MSU (Excepting That 2-10 Against Penn State)

The Spartans needed overtime to dispatch their last two opponents at home, Wisconsin and Northwestern. Michigan State is doing just enough to get by as Korie Lucious and Durrell Summers have struggled lately. Lucious went 0-8 from the floor against Northwestern while Summers has scored just seven points in the last two games. For MSU to have any sustained success going forward, Tom Izzo must get these two players going somehow. Luckily for them, Draymond Green has stepped up, averaging 21/8.5 over the last two games.

Read the rest of this entry »

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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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Morning Five: 01.18.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 18th, 2011

  1. Illinois freshman forward Jereme Richmond sought to put to rest rampant rumors surrounding a possible transfer by releasing a statement on Monday that, despite some personal issues that caused him to miss two practices last week, he will remain “an Illini for life.”  He also sat out the Wisconsin game over the weekend after driving to Madison from his Waukegan, Illinois, home rather than taking the team bus from Champaign with the rest of the players.  Like many freshmen, Richmond has found the college game much more difficult than anticipated — his minutes and offensive output have dropped since Big Ten play began (in part due to a nagging Achilles injury), but he’s certainly capable of producing (8/5) for Bruce Weber in limited minutes.  He just needs to keep his head up and continue to work hard; his time will come.
  2. The Nike Hoop Summit team was announced over the weekend, with Kentucky and Duke as the big winners.  This team will face the World Select team on April 9 in Portland, and generally tries to choose the ten best high school seniors in America.  The complete list: Anthony Davis, Michael Gilchrist & Marquis Teague (Kentucky); Austin Rivers & Quinn Cook (Duke); Rakeem Christmas (Syracuse); Tony Wroten (Washington); Bradley Beal (Florida); James McAdoo (UNC); Adonis Thomas (Memphis).
  3. Jeff Goodman describes the current state of Sean Miller’s Arizona Wildcat program in year two of its rebuild.  Everybody knows from his time at Xavier that the guy can coach, but despite the Wildcats’ current 15-3 overall record (4-1 in the Pac-10), he’s still lacking the across-the-board talent that Arizona teams in years past became accustomed to.  At one time in the mid-2000s, for example, UA had produced more current NBA players than any other collegiate program in America.  With the hope that super-soph Derrick Williams returns for his junior season and a top recruiting class featuring point guard Josiah Turner from Sacramento on the way, Miller believes that Y3 of the renaissance in the desert could be the season that gets the Wildcats back into the national consciousness.
  4. Seth Davis’ Hoop Thoughts discusses the Trevor Mbakwe and Wesley Witherspoon situations from last week, as well as what will happen with Missouri’s Tony Mitchell and of course a host of other interesting notes.  We gave our opinion on the Mbakwe situation a few days ago, and it appears that Tubby Smith’s analysis  came down in a way similar to what we thought (big mistake, but learn from it).
  5. It’s not often that you’ll read a rival school write so fondly about a place where its basketball program took it on the chin to the tune of a 7-52 (.119) record the last half-century, but this piece from Steven M. Sipple discusses how much he’ll miss visiting Allen Fieldhouse as a member of the press corps for Nebraska basketball after the Huskers move permanently to the Big Ten next season.  But that’s what happens when you’re a football school playing a basketball game — you refer to things like “charm” and “fun” while getting waxed over and over again.  We dare say that Husker fans won’t find the Big House or Horseshoe quite so endearing if they win 12% of their games there over the next 60 years.
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RTC Instant Analysis: Evening Games

Posted by nvr1983 on December 4th, 2010

As part of our on-going attempt to bring you the best college basketball coverage on-line, we are introducing a new feature where we give your our thoughts after each set of games over the weekend. We’ll be back later tonight for the late game analysis.

  1. Illinois is back: Illinois might have missed the NCAA Tournament last year, but this year they should be a Sweet 16 team and have an outside shot of making the Final Four. Much like Florida, who actually made the NCAA Tournament last year, the Fighting Illini did not that much in terms of new players (freshman Jereme Richmond is the one major addition with 9.0 PPG and 4.4 RPG), but unlike the Gators they have made significant strides this year. A convincing win at Gonzaga along with solid wins against Maryland and UNC should help ensure that Bruce Weber gets back to the NCAA Tournament agian barring a major me)ltdown in the Big Ten.
  2. Demetri steals the show: Kyrie Irving may be dominating the headlines in the early season and he might be the best point guard in the country already, but Demetri McCamey isn’t far behind. The Illinois senior has been nothing short of sensational this season as he has averaged 15.3 PPG (on 52.3% FG and 51.6% 3-point shooting) and 7.8 APG (2nd in the nation) thus far. He has also shown the leadership ability that Bruce Weber expects coming up big in big games so far against Texas, Maryland, UNC, and Gonzaga. The Fighting Illini may not win the loaded Big Ten this year, but because of McCamey they will have a chance in every game they play this year.
  3. Is Syracuse a top 10 team?: Syracuse may have escaped yet again, but I can’t believe that anyone would be buying this team after what we have seen this season. They will probably still be a top 10 team next week, but they have been underwhelming so far as they have yet to play a legitimate NCAA Tournament team yet, but have struggled with a 3-point win at home against William & Mary, a 3-point win against Michigan, a 4-point win against Georgia Tech (lost to Kennesaw State by 16), and a 6-point win at home against NC State (lost to Wisconsin by 39). Simply put, Jim Boeheim cannot be looking forward to their game against Michigan State on Tuesday. If the Orange don’t improve significantly before that time, I would expect the Spartans to rebound from their loss against Duke and expose the Orange.
  4. Steve Donahue is getting it done at BC: Boston College might not threaten Duke this year, but things are looking good in Chestnut Hill where new coach Steve Donahue has the Eagles playing solidly. Outside of an early loss to Yale (perhaps he thought he was still at Cornell), the Eagles only loss has been against Wisconsin. The Eagles also piled up wins against Texas A&M, California, and Indiana before beating an undefeated UMass team today. The Eagles don’t have a “star”, but the combination of Reggie Jackson, Joe Trapani, and Corey Raji provide them with a solid nucleus and they have a good group of role players who can contribute on any given night (like Josh Southern tonight with 16 points on 7/7 FG and 7 rebounds). Look for the Eagles to compete for a NCAA Tournament spot in the weak ACC this year.
  5. Who is in charge of scheduling?: Who is in charge of planning these big in-season match-ups? I understand that it is hard to do too much because every school has a lot of committments and there are a ton of sports, but why would you schedule Duke-Butler, a rematch of the national title game against the SEC title game? I’m not going to blame the people who “run” college basketball for scheduling against Oregon-Oregon State because nobody expected that to be for a BCS title game bid, but the SEC title game has essentially been a game that is a direct bid for the BCS title game. Even if it was scheduled on this date was scheduled well ahead of time ESPN should have been able to adjust the time to give the game the attention it deserves.
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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 29th, 2010

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

A Look Back

  • Ken’s Favorites: The Big Ten boasts five schools checking into Ken Pomeroy’s top 20, more than any other conference in the nation. The upcoming ACC/Big Ten challenge should heighten the non-conference strength of schedule.
  • Player of the Week: Kalin Lucas, G, Michigan State: Lucas struggled in the Spartans’ loss to Connecticut, shooting 4-12 from the field, committing five turnovers and scoring ten points, but he rebounded to drop a career-high 29 points on just 13 shots in the victory over Washington. That was followed up with a 15-point effort against Tennessee Tech. Lucas will have to be on for Michigan State to take down Duke in its challenge game.  An honorable mention here goes to John Shurna. Northwestern only played one game, but he scored 23 points, grabbed six boards and dished out four assists in the Wildcats’ 65-52 victory over Creighton.
  • Newcomer of the Week: Jereme Richmond, F, Illinois: You could give this award to Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger every week, but to avoid that, let’s recognize the efforts of Richmond. He’s starting to work his way into Bruce Weber’s regular rotation and is playing well. He scored 12 points and grabbed five boards at Western Michigan in a 78-63 victory.

Power Rankings – subject to a lot of early season fluctuation

  1. Ohio State (5-0) – The Buckeyes’ ranking is purely based on their victory over Florida earlier in the season because Morehead State and Miami (OH) proved to be nuisances, but also 19- and 21-point victories. Ohio State’s defense appears to be in midseason form.
  2. Minnesota (6-0) – The Golden Gophers are still undefeated after an easy victory over North Dakota State. Minnesota won’t get much of a test playing at home against Virginia to start the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. In fact, no real big non-conference games exist before Tubby Smith’s team opens Big Ten play against Wisconsin on December 28.
  3. Illinois (6-1) – The Illini are about to start a tough stretch of non-conference games with home games against North Carolina and Oakland plus a road trip to Spokane to play Gonzaga for their next three. Demetri McCamey is still the leader, but four other players averaging double figures in scoring have emerged to give him help early.
  4. Michigan State (5-1) – The Spartans still might be the best team in the Big Ten, but slide them down a bit after their upset against Connecticut at the Maui Invitational. Still, rebounding to take out Washington is always a good start towards redemption. In the periphery, Derrick Nix returned to the team after staying in East Lansing while his team went to Maui.
  5. Northwestern (4-0) – A victory over Creighton gave Northwestern its best start in 17 years. That probably says more about the Wildcats’ basketball history than their record. Northwestern hasn’t lost in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge since 2008 and the Wildcats desperately need a victory over Georgia Tech, especially since it’s at home, as part of their NCAA Tournament profile.
  6. Purdue (5-1) – The Boilermakers dropped this far because of their loss to Richmond in the finals of the Chicago Invitational Challenge. The game against the Spiders showed some cracks in the offense. Whether it is something systemic or just an off night is what will determine Purdue’s future spots in this ranking.
  7. Wisconsin (4-2) – The Badgers played very good defense at the Old Spice Classic, but they also didn’t play much offense. The offense was effective in spurts against Notre Dame, but it wasn’t enough for Wisconsin to pull out the victory. Still, the win over Boston College might prove useful later in the season.
  8. Indiana (6-0) – The Hoosiers’ game against Boston College on Wednesday will be their first real test of the season. Indiana doesn’t need to win, but Tom Crean needs something to build on before his young team plays Kentucky on December 11.
  9. Penn State (5-1) – The Nittany Lions played at Ole Miss and lost a shootout 84-71 in 60 possessions. They rebounded for a victory over Furman, but the game against Maryland is a really big one if Penn State wants to be taken seriously as an NCAA Tournament at-large candidate.
  10. Michigan (3-2) – Two losses might not look pretty, but considering they were against Syracuse and UTEP, it’s not the end of the world. The defense is playing well and keeping the Wolverines in games, but the offense is going to have to fix itself in order to beat Clemson or maybe even Harvard when former coach Tommy Amaker’s returns to Ann Arbor on Saturday.
  11. Iowa (3-3) – The Hawkeyes can score a lot of points against bad teams – like the 111 they put up on SIU-Edwardsville on Friday, but it’s been a real struggle against even mediocre competition.

A Look Ahead

The ACC/Big Ten Challenge starts this week and the predictions are rolling in that the Big Ten will take the title for the second straight season. While it could happen, it’s likely going to be very close and come down to an upset or two. The Big Ten isn’t coming off the best of weeks either, as Wisconsin, Purdue and Michigan State are all looking to recover from losses. What’s Coming Up? (all times EST)

  • 11/30 – Ohio State at Florida State – 7:30 p.m., ESPN
  • 11/30 – Illinois vs. North Carolina – 9:30 p.m., ESPN
  • 11/30 – Northwestern vs. Georgia Tech – 7:00 p.m., ESPN2
  • 12/1 – Michigan State vs. Duke – 9:30 p.m., ESPN
  • 12/1 – Wisconsin vs. North Carolina State – 7:15 p.m., ESPN2
  • 12/1 – Purdue at Virginia Tech – 7:30 p.m., ESPN
  • 12/1 – Penn State at Maryland – 9:15 p.m., ESPN2
  • 12/1 – Indiana at Boston College – 7:15 p.m., ESPNU
  • 12/4 – Illinois at Gonzaga – 5:15 p.m., ESPN
  • 12/4 – Purdue at Alabama – 3:30 p.m., ESPN2
  • 12/4 – Penn State vs. Duquesne
  • 12/4 – Michigan vs. Harvard

Fun With Efficiency Margin

At the moment, Ohio State appears to be the class of the Big Ten and one of the top teams in the nation along with Kansas and Duke. I’m sure a lot of college basketball fans are ruing the day that the ACC/Big Ten Challenge was scheduled and pitted Michigan State against the Blue Devils instead of the Buckeyes.

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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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The Week That Was: November 12-18

Posted by rtmsf on November 19th, 2010

David Ely is an RTC contributor.


Wow it sure does feel great to have college basketball in our lives. After a summer of baseball (boring) and a fall of the NFL (violent) and college football (unsatisfying) it’s nice to have the sport that brings everything to the table on a nightly basis.  You want drama? Utah State-BYU offered plenty Wednesday night for your viewing pleasure (assuming you had the Mountain Sports Network, of course). Nine lead changes, seven ties … is it March yet?  You want big time matchups? There was #4 Ohio State at #9 Florida, and #22 Virginia Tech at #3 Kansas State. While both games turned out to be laughers, you still had to plan your day around those two showdowns.

Hard to Not Get Excited About This One

It was a fantastic time to be a college basketball fan, and a top-notch way to kick off the first full-throttle week of competition in style. ESPN deserves major props for its 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon. College basketball used to begin with a whimper — not really emerging into the mainstream consciousness until February. ESPN’s over-the-top (but in a good way) hoops celebration is a great way to let the nation know tis the season of buzzer beaters and court rushings.  And now it’s my job to help you make sense of it all. Every week I’m going to do my best to sift through all the box scores, highlights and reports to let you know what’s important and what’s not. The season might just be a little more than week old but there still are things you can glean from the past seven days, and judgments most definitely can be made.

What We Learned Last Week

  • The fine folks in Knoxville, Tennessee, just can’t seem to catch a break. First there was the Lane Kiffin fiasco, leading to a forgettable first year under new coach Derek Dooley. Fans might have thought they were going to get a break once basketball season tipped off, rightfully so considering last year’s trip to the Elite Eight, but then Bruce Pearl had to go and ruin everything with the news of recruiting violations. The drama in Tennessee now has shifted to the court where the Vols are a team in disarray. They lost a home exhibition game to Indianapolis by 15 points and had unimpressive wins over Belmont (85-76) and Missouri State (60-56). Who should be the favorite when the Vols play VCU at the Preseason NIT on Nov. 24? Your guess is as good as mine.
  • Move over Butler, there’s a new mid-major darling that’s poised to captivate the nation. I’m talking about San Diego State, which won at #11 Gonzaga 79-76 on Tuesday night. The Aztecs had never been ranked in the AP poll before this season, but they have all the ingredients to be a poll mainstay in 2011. San Diego State has experience with five seniors on its roster and has size with four players 6’8 or taller. The schedule shapes up nicely for the Aztecs (they don’t play another ranked team until Mountain West Conference play), and it’s not out of the question to think that SDSU could be one of the last undefeated teams standing.
  • Ohio State looks really good, but it comes with an asterisk. The Buckeyes went down to Florida and put a thumping on a Gators squad many believe to be an SEC title candidate. Ohio State shot an unworldly 63% (39-62) for the game and had a team assist to turnover ration of 22:8. They Buckeyes also had four players with at least 14 points (David Lighty and Jared Sullinger both had a game-high of 26). Those aren’t the kind of offensive numbers you expect to see this early in the season. But was this more about Ohio State’s offense or Florida’s suspect defense? Florida was known as a soft team last year, and the Gators did nothing to disprove that notion against the Buckeyes.
  • Is trouble on the horizon for Memphis? Few would be surprised if that turns out to be the case as there are already signs of a potential meltdown for Josh Pastner & Co. RTC’s Andrew Murawa pointed out the Tigers’ oftentimes poor body language during the second half against Miami — a game the Tigers won. It makes me uneasy to see a team, albeit a young team, show that kind of immaturity this early in the season in the middle of a tightly contested game, at home no less. Maybe this was just the players’ way of voice their displeasure with the removal of Jelan Kendrick. But ether way, I would not want to be Pastner right now.
  • Louisville’s new arena might be the new crown jewel of the hoops world, but the name ruins everything. The KFC Yum! Center is just a ridiculous combination of the corporate world encroaching upon college athletics and food that makes me want to throw up. Now when ever I watch the Cardinals at home, I won’t be focused on Rick Pitino’s vaunted full-court press, I’ll be thinking about the KFC Double Down. I can see it now … whenever Louisville scores 100 points, free Double Downs for everyone!

Pour This Man A Scotch

Better make it a to-go cup as who knows how much longer Paul Hewitt will be at Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets lost 80-63 at Kennesaw State on Nov. 15, and it now looks like it isn’t a matter of if Hewitt will get fired, it’s a matter of when. Just look at this opening nugget from Atlanta Journal Constitution columnist Mark Bradley from a blog post following the loss “If Paul Hewitt isn’t the worst basketball coach in the country, it’s only because ours is a mighty big country.”  Yikes. Not that anyone would argue differently. Georgia Tech is expected by most of the hoops world to finish near the bottom of the ACC for the second time in three seasons. The loss at Kennesaw State confirms everyone’s worst fears about the Yellow Jackets.  Right now the only saving grace for Hewitt is the nice $7 million buyout check he’ll get whenever he gets the axe. But until then, drink up Paul. You’re going to have to in order make it through this season.

KenPom vs. the AP

Read the rest of this entry »

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Set Your Tivo: Opening Night Edition

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 8th, 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.

After 216 excruciating days, our long off-season national nightmare is over. College basketball is back! The 2010-11 season opens tonight with four opening round games in the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer.  Here’s your schedule/bracket, and here are the two games tonight that you should be tracking.  All times eastern.

Rhode Island @ #5 Pittsburgh – 7 pm on ESPNU (***)

Pitt Hopes to Have a Celebratory Season

Game one features a Pittsburgh team picked to win the Big East against a solid Rhode Island team selected fifth in the Atlantic 10 preseason poll behind the “big four” of Temple, Xavier, Richmond and Dayton. For Pitt, years of preseason optimism have almost always ended in disappointment relative to expectations. There should be no doubt that Jamie Dixon has built a top program there but they have yet to make the leap and get to the Final Four. Many are saying this could finally be the year. The Panthers return four starters from last year’s team that caught everybody by surprise and taught us all never to doubt him again. They are led by junior point guard Ashton Gibbs, the scoring leader last year at 15.7 PPG. Gibbs is an outstanding three-point shooter, connecting at a 40.4% clip from downtown for his collegiate career. Versatile Brad Wanamaker (12.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 4.7 APG), Gilbert Brown and Gary McGhee should also start for Pitt. With Nasir Robinson out due to injury, Dixon may turn to redshirt freshman Talib Zanna who started and played 22 minutes in an exhibition win over Indiana (PA) on Thursday night. For Rhode Island, Jim Baron’s team is coming off a successful 26-win year that ended with a loss to North Carolina in the NIT semifinals. Gone is leading scorer Keith Cothran as well as Lamonte Ulmer, but Delroy James returns for his senior campaign in Kingston. The 6’8 James saw his production drop towards the end of the regular season but broke out in the NIT against Nevada, scoring 34 points on 10-19 shooting, including 5-7 from deep. James can stretch the defense and that could cause some problems for Pitt in this game tonight. He scored 23 points against Temple and 22 at Dayton last year, teams that play a similar style to Dixon’s Panthers. Rhody will also miss 7’0 senior Will Martell (injury) in this game, presenting some depth issues for Baron. Pitt should be ready for this game as it’s certainly no cupcake while Rhode Island hopes to make a huge statement on the first night of the season. Rhody’s main problem may well be defense as the Rams were ranked #110 in defensive efficiency last year per Ken Pomeroy. A realistic expectation would be to play relatively close and show the rest of the A-10 that there may be another team to reckon with this season. That will be hard to do in the raucous Petersen Events Center.

UC Irvine @ #13 Illinois – 8 pm on (**)

Bruce Weber’s Illinois team enters the season with their highest expectations since a trip to the 2005 championship game. The Fighting Illini return essentially everyone of significance from last year’s 21-win team. Of the players who averaged at least 10 minutes per game, only Dominique Keller and Jeff Jordan are not returning. Illinois has four seniors playing key roles this year, all of them determined to end their collegiate careers on a high note: Demetri McCamey(15.1 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 7.1 APG) is a rock at the point, leading the nation in assist rate last year; Mike Davis (10.7 PPG, 9.2 RPG) and Mike Tisdale (11.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG) anchor the frontcourt with Bill Cole serving as a glue guy inside off the bench. Freshman swing Jereme Richmond and returnee D.J. Richardson (10.5 PPG, 39% 3FG) are expected to complete the starting lineup. Illinois’ starting five is imposing and can go head to head with any team in the Big Ten and likely the nation. Weber has pretty good depth with Cole, Tyler Griffey, Brandon Paul and two good freshmen coming off the bench. Illinois’ freshman class of Richmond, Crandall Head (brother of Luther) and Meyers Leonard was rated #11 by This class, along with another year of experience for the returning players, should push the Illini from the NIT to well into the NCAA Tournament this year. Illinois struggled offensively at times last year but the firepower returning and coming in should allow them open it up more. With a dynamic play-making guard in McCamey, Illinois is poised for a big year and could contend with Michigan State and Ohio State at the top of the conference. UC Irvine went just 12-18 against D1 opponents last season. Led by junior forward and preseason first team all-Big West player Eric Wise (16.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 3.0 APG), the Anteaters have been tabbed sixth in the conference media preseason poll. Darren Moore can really stroke it from three point range (39.4%) but first year coach Russell Turner doesn’t have much else to work with. Michael Hunter and Zack Atkinson are gone so players like Patrick Rembert and Pavol Losonsky must improve for UC Irvine to move up in the Big West standings. UCI was not good defensively last year, giving up almost 70 points per game, and didn’t fare much better on the other side of the ball. While the game probably won’t be close, one thing fans should look for is how often Illinois gets to the free throw line. Last year the Illini ranked #337 out of 347 D1 teams in percentage of points from the line (16.3%). For a team that shot over 70% from the line last year, that’s an awfully low percentage. It could indicate a slow pace of play and/or a lack of aggressiveness which could hold them back somewhat this year outside of the Big Ten. Playing at home in the season opener, the deep and talented Illini should pick apart the Anteaters and win this game by a comfortable margin.

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RTC Conference Primers: #1 – Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 8th, 2010

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

Predicted Order of Finish

  • 1. Michigan State (15-3)
  • 2. Ohio State (13-5)
  • 3. Illinois (12-6)
  • 4. Wisconsin (11-7)
  • T5. Purdue (9-9)
  • T5. Minnesota (9-9)
  • T5. Northwestern (9-9)
  • 8. Penn State (7-11)
  • 9. Indiana (6-12)
  • 10. Michigan (5-13)
  • 11. Iowa (3-15)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • G: Demetri McCamey, Illinois (15.1 PPG, 6.8 APG)
  • G: Kalin Lucas, Michigan State (14.9 PPG, 3.9 APG)
  • F: Jon Leuer, Wisconsin (15.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG)
  • F: John Shurna, Northwestern (18.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG)
  • C: JaJuan Johnson, Purdue (15.2 PPG, 7.1 RPG)

6th Man

G: E’Twaun Moore, Purdue (16.6 PPG, 3.7 RPG)

Jared Sullinger (above) and three returning double-figure scorers succeed Evan Turner in Columbus, but Michigan State is the team to beat in the Big Ten.

Impact Newcomer

C: Jared Sullinger, Ohio State: Sullinger is a consensus top-five recruit. The 6’9 post player from Columbus played his high school basketball at Northland High School and won three national AAU championships with the All-Ohio Red team. He was named Ohio’s Mr. Basketball his junior and senior seasons and the Naismith National High School Boy’s Basketball Player of the Year in 2010. While some have compared him to Greg Oden, scouts say that Sullinger has a better face-up offensive game than the former Buckeye, but isn’t as intimidating on the defensive end. The hype reached epic proportions when Gary Parrish named Sullinger to his Preseason All-America team along with Harrison Barnes.

What You Need to Know

The Big Ten is one of the best conferences in college basketball, potentially the best this season. The pace is typically slower (eight of the 11 teams played at an adjusted tempo that ranked lower than 200th in the nation last season) and the play might be a little rougher (the top seven teams in the conference had a defensive efficiency that ranked 53rd or better last season), but there are a lot of teams that are a tough out come tournament time. Michigan State always seems to overachieve in the NCAA Tournament and there’s seldom a shortage of talent. Northwestern is the oddball in the conference, as the Wildcats are the only major conference team to have never been to the Big Dance.

Predicted Champion

Michigan State (NCAA Seed: #1): The Spartans took a five-seed in the NCAA Tournament last season and ran with it all the way to Final Four before falling to Butler in the National Semifinals. Most of that team returns this season. Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers will drive the backcourt, but there is also depth behind those two to help counter the conference grind. Up front, Draymond Green is an underrated force in the paint that should be able to absorb the minutes left behind from Raymar Morgan, the biggest loss from Michigan State’s Final Four team. Adreian Payne and Keith Appling are two high-profile recruits that can only help bolster the Spartans’ rotation. The Spartans have the look of a team that will be in the top five all season. Read the rest of this entry »

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