Morning Five: 05.16.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 16th, 2013

morning5

  1. It’s now been nearly two days since the Andrew Wiggins Sweepstakes was won by Bill Self and Kansas. Reactions have run the gamut and we ran down a number of the better ones in yesterday’s M5. One we missed was this fantastic piece by Sam Mellinger at the Kansas City Star, who writes that everyone in the media and greater college basketball community needs to be very careful with the hyperbole when discussing Wiggins next season as the “Best High School Prospect Since Lebron.” Mellinger breaks down each of the best prep players in the last 10 years since Lebron, and the truth is that most of them can’t even sniff an NBA All-Star Game at this point. Some guys continue to progress, while others level off, and it’s a lesson worth remembering. Then he finishes things off with a fantastic anecdote about the humility of prep Lebron. Well worth a read.
  2. Once the ACC raided the Big East to lock up prized programs Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, it appeared inevitable that the league would eventually move its showcase event — the ACC Tournament — to Gotham in short order. Those premonitions seem to be coming true, as ESPN.com reported on Wednesday that the league is “thoroughly investigating” a move to the World’s Most Famous Arena at some point in the next several years. The ACC Tournament is scheduled to be in Greensboro in 2014 and 2015, but the options are open afterward, while the new Big East has contractually obligated MSG to hold its postseason tournament there until 2026. The crux of the matter is that the Big East will need to meet certain benchmarks to keep its deal with The Garden alive, and given just how shaky the league has become in the interim, many ACC insiders believe that the “legal ramifications” to move its own event will get worked out as a matter of course. Brooklyn’s Barclays Center is also an option too, of course, but make no mistake, the ACC Tournament will eventually reside at least part-time in NYC.
  3. While on the subject of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the league is holding its spring meetings in Amelia Island, Florida, this week and SI.com‘s Andy Staples caught up with commissioner John Swofford to get the inside scoop on how he pulled off “the most chaotic reorganization in the history of major college sports.” It’s somewhat wonky and process-oriented, but it gives a true insider’s perspective on the importance of the Maryland defection and how the perceived likelihood that the Big Ten would seek to continue moving south (Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia Tech) had Swofford failed to get his schools to agree to the media grant of rights deal in April. Although conference realignment has been disastrous to college basketball in some ways, we’re hoping like everyone else who loves the sport that this particular initiative holds steady and removes the incentive for continued raids for a good long while.
  4. Yesterday was a busy day on the transfer wire, as quite a few prominent names announced that they are on the move. The most surprising name was perhaps Penn State’s Jermaine Marshall, who was projected to be a key cog in the Nittany Lions’ resurgence next season but has instead decided to leave school to pursue professional options. The least surprising decision was that Arizona State’s Evan Gordon announced that he is headed to Indiana, where as a graduate transfer he will be eligible to play immediately for Tom Crean. A few other notables: Minnesota’s Joe Coleman is leaving the Gophers; Tulane’s Josh Davis will land at San Diego State; and, Florida’s Braxton Ogbueze will resurface at Charlotte. Davis will be eligible to play immediately at SDSU under the graduate transfer exception.
  5. Perhaps seeing a bit too much of Rick Pitino in the media lately, Kentucky head coach John Calipari held his own press conference yesterday to discuss the state of his program. And since we’ve already addressed the subject of hyperbole above, why not let Coach Cal bring us full circle: “We’re chasing perfection. We’re chasing greatness. We’re chasing things that have never been done before in the history of this game.” The perfection he refers to of course is the elusive-since-1976 undefeated season by a Division I men’s basketball team. Since Bobby Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers ran the table 37 years ago, no team has won the national title with fewer than two losses (including Calipari’s 38-2 championship squad in 2011-12). Look, we’re never going to say never because as soon as you do something like that, a Florida Gulf Coast goes to the Sweet Sixteen. But there have been an awful lot of great teams pass through the years without a sniff of a perfect season, and the concept that a team led by a bunch of freshmen — even freshmen as good as UK’s group will be — can bring the noise every single night for up to 40 games next year is nothing more than fantasy. Still, the players don’t know that, so it’s another great marketing/strategic ploy from the master salesman living in Lexington. For what it’s worth, the Wildcats sit as a 4:1 (20%) or 5:1 (17%) favorite in Vegas to win next year’s title.
Share this story

Minnesota Proves it has Staying Power; Illinois Continues Consistency Struggles

Posted by KTrahan on January 10th, 2013

Any remaining doubts about Minnesota’s ability to be a contender in the Big Ten were put to rest Wednesday night as the Gophers took down Illinois 84-67 in Champaign. On paper, it should have been a close game — #8 at #12 — but in reality, Wednesday’s game proved that Minnesota has staying power while Illinois could struggle to keep up its early-season pace.

The Gophers Have Proven To Be Much More Than Just Trevor Mbakwe

Statistically, Minnesota looks very likely to continue its early-season success. The Gophers are incredibly balanced with top players Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe in the frontcourt and the emergence of Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins, and Joe Coleman in the backcourt. That has led to an offensive efficiency rating that ranks 1oth in the nation and a defensive efficiency rating that ranks #14 nationally according to KenPom.com. Minnesota ranks only #51 in effective field goal percentage, but the Gophers are the best in the nation at offensive rebounding, getting a second shot off a ridiculous 48.5 percent of the time. Add in a defensive block percentage that ranks sixth and a steal percentage that ranks eighth nationally, and Minnesota is getting many more possessions than its opponents. So even on an “off” shooting night, the Gophers will always be in the game because they get so many more chances to shoot than their opponents.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Can Minnesota Win a Big Ten Title With No Discernible Three-Point Attack?

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on January 8th, 2013

Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.

After two months of basketball, there are six B1G teams ranked in the Top 25 and they can be viewed as the main contenders for the conference title at this juncture – Michigan, Indiana, Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio State and Michigan State. The Gophers were one of the sleeper picks to compete for the conference title during the preseason but they are now one of the favorites. They have great depth at the guard position (Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins, and Joe Coleman), an athletic wing (Rodney Williams) and a solid post presence (Trevor Mbakwe). But their offense does not rely on the three-point shot at all and they don’t really have a consistent three-point shooter. Can Tubby Smith’s Gophers win the Big Ten title without a discernible three-point attack?

Andre Hollins is the only Gopher that shoots over 40% from beyond the arc. (USA Today)

Andre Hollins is the only Gopher that shoots over 40% from beyond the arc. (USA Today)

Let’s examine how the Gophers’ long-range shooting compares to the rest of the contenders:

Team

3FG

eFG

Michigan

42%

59%

Indiana

41%

58%

Minnesota

33%

52%

Illinois

37%

52%

Ohio State

37%

52%

Michigan State

34%

52%

The Wolverines and the Hoosiers have clearly shoot the ball well because they have several guards who can fill it up from beyond the arc. John Beilein has Trey Burke (41% 3FG) and Nik Stauskas (54% 3FG) available, arguably the best shooter in the country at the halfway point of the season. Tom Crean’s crew can shoot lights-out because Jordan Hulls (51% 3FG) has a quick and accurate release on his jumper. But Dre Hollins is the only Gopher who is shooting over 40% this season. Austin Hollins shoots 37% from beyond the arc but he rarely looks to take the perimeter jumper. Maverick Ahanmisi has shot 38% this year but he only plays 11.6 MPG. Smith’s offense is very effective in its own right but the Gophers rely on moving the ball around in the half-court sets to find the open cutter (usually Coleman or Williams). There are very few plays that are drawn specifically for the guards to hoist a shot from beyond the arc, and as a matter of fact, only 20% of the Gophers’ total points come via the three-point shot.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten Team Previews: Minnesota Golden Gophers

Posted by KTrahan on October 24th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Big Ten microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Minnesota Golden Gophers. 

Where We Left Off: Minnesota’s 2011-12 season can best be described as streaky. The Gophers started the year 12-1, but lost their first four conference games before a three-game winning streak that included a good win at Indiana. Minnesota then traded wins and losses before ending the regular season on a 1-6 slide. However, the Gophers got hot in the Big Ten Tournament, knocking off Northwestern and nearly doing the same to Michigan. They then made a great run in the NIT, including a win against Washington before losing in the championship game to Stanford. It certainly was an up-and-down year, but it ended with plenty of promise.

Tubby’s Minnesota Teams Can Never Seem to Get Healthy and Eligible at the Same Time (AP)

Positives: This could be one of the most talented teams that Tubby Smith has had in Minnesota, and some — including yours truly — see the Gophers as a sleeper in the Big Ten title race. Sixth-year senior Trevor Mbakwe will be the face of the team, and the Gophers got a huge break when he avoided jail time after a parole violation for a summer DUI. This is a versatile team, which will allow the Gophers to play several big or small lineups. Talented young players such as Andre Hollins, Joe Coleman and Elliott Eliason will be complemented by more experienced players, such as Julian Welch, Rodney Williams, and Mbakwe.

Negatives: Can this team be consistent? Of course, a lot of last year’s on-court issues can be blamed on Mbakwe’s injury before conference play. The Gophers were forced to throw a number of talented freshmen into action, and while there were bright spots early — particularly the win against Indiana — it took awhile for things to come together. Can Minnesota take advantage of the experience gained by its younger players last year, or will inconsistency continue to be the story of a team that can’t get over the hump?

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Tubby Smith Needs To Catch A Break

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on February 24th, 2012

Winters in Minnesota are all about highs and lows not just temperature wise, but also with their basketball team. The Golden Gophers had their lows during the Dan Monson era from 2000 to 2007 because they only made it to one NCAA tournament. It wasn’t all Monson’s fault as he was trying to rebuild a program dealing with probation assessed due to the actions of Clem Haskins, the prior coach. But when Tubby Smith was brought in from Kentucky to replace Monson, the fans had certain expectations.  Smith did not disappoint as he led the Gophers to the Big Dance three out of the first four seasons in Minneapolis. The fan base could feel the momentum shift at the turn of the decade after some tough winters. Smith recruited a top 25 class and the athleticism of the players was very obvious on the court. But similar to the temperatures, the program dropped again after those high points over the last couple seasons. Arguments could be made that Tubby Smith’s coaching has not been up to par but several events that led to the Gopher letdown were out of his control– on and off the court. Let’s examine a couple of those factors and understand how Smith dealt with them.

Tubby Smith Has Had A Rough Time With Injuries To His Star Players

Transfers

The stage was set for potential disappointment in 2010 when 6’8″ forward Royce White transferred to Iowa State. White joined other transfers such as Michigan State’s Chris Allen to play for Fred Hoiberg and the Cyclones. White is having a fantastic season – 12.9 PPG, 9.1 RPG, and 5.0 APG. In addition to White, the list of transfers includes Devoe Joseph to Oregon and Colton Iverson to Colorado State.  Joseph has Oregon sitting on the bubble for an NCAA tournament bid in a weak Pac-12 conference but his services would have certainly helped Tubby Smith’s team. He is averaging 16.3 PPG and Smith caught a fair amount of heat in 2011 when Joseph chose to leave Minnesota. Royce White’s case was a little different because of several off the court issues but nonetheless, Smith was counting on him to have a good career in Minneapolis and it fell short. Smith’s recruiting classes were very good and the performance of his ex-players shows that he knew what he was doing but for several other reasons, he couldn’t hold the team together. Is he to blame for all of the transfers? Not necessarily. Players don’t always pan out the way you expect them to, but the best you can do is bring them into the program and try to keep them away from trouble and focused on basketball.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking In On… the Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 17th, 2012

Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference. Follow him on Twitter @Bill_Hupp for his thoughts on hoops, food, Russian nesting dolls and life.

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was:

  • Gophers Golden Again: Not only did Minnesota win its first two conference games of the season this week, it’s the first time since 2009 that the Golden Gophers have won back-to-back conference road games.  UM was led by freshman and Minneapolis native Joe Coleman, whom Tubby Smith inserted into the starting lineup three games ago.  This week, Coleman hit four free throws in the final minute to help Minnesota hang on for a 77-74 upset at No. 7 Indiana, then exploded for a career-high 23 points in a win over Penn State. Nobody thought the Gophers were as bad as their original 0-4 Big Ten mark indicated, but learning how to win close games can build a young team’s confidence quickly.
  • Brandon Paul Pops Off in Champaign: Illinois junior guard Brandon Paul came into the Ohio State game averaging 12.1 points per game, but he earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors after he dropped a career-high 43 points out of nowhere on the Buckeyes. Paul’s 28 points in the second half included some very tough, contested shots near the end of a close game (full video highlights below). His 43 points were the third-most in a game in school history and the most since Andy Kaufmann went for 46 against Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1990.

Brandon Paul's Game To Remember Against Ohio State Stole The Headlines From The Big Ten Race (Heather Coit/AP)

  • Back in Black: Wearing black jerseys at home in a must-win game against No. 7 Michigan State, the Wildcats got an inspired effort from backup center Davide Curletti, who made his first start of the season and finished with season-high 17 points and six rebounds. He gave great energy for Bill Carmody while starting in place of the ineffective Luka Mirkovic. Teams had been averaging just 59.6 points against the Spartans through the first 17 games, but MSU allowed Northwestern to shoot 54 percent in the second half to pull away for an 81-74 win.  We’ve said before that the Wildcats would pull off an upset or two in conference play if they shot the ball well, and that’s exactly what happened in Evanston.

Power Rankings

  1. Ohio State (16-3, 4-2) – It’s doesn’t seem fair for opposing teams when Lenzelle Smith Jr., a.k.a. “Ohio State’s forgotten starter” can hit 10-of-12 from the field, score 28 points and grab seven rebounds on a whim.  It’s really a “pick your poison” scenario when you are playing a team with so many potential offensive threats.
  2. Michigan State (15-3, 4-1) – Draymond Green may be a bruising power forward at 6’7’’ and 230 pounds, but he has shown a nice touch from the outside this season.  Besides being a force down low, Green leads the Spartans with 24 triples on the season. It’s an offensive skill that has “Day-Day” (as Tom Izzo calls him) a virtual lock for first-team All-Big Ten honors.
  3. Indiana (15-3, 3-3) – Some uncharacteristically poor three-point shooting this week spelled doom for the Hoosiers, who dropped games to Minnesota and Ohio State. A team that averages nearly 50% from beyond the arc was a combined 11 for 39 (28%). They feel behind early in both games and couldn’t shoot their way back into either contest.  One positive this week was that Cody Zeller averaged 19.5 points in the losses.
  4. Illinois (14-3, 4-1) – With his imposing size and impressive array of skills, the Illini should have the premier go-to scorer in the conference in center Meyers Leonard. Yet too often, it seems like he is catching the ball facing the basket, instead of posting up on the block where he could turn and score over his left shoulder or kick it out to three-pointer shooters like Brandon Paul or D.J. Richardson. Leonard needs to park himself down low where he can maximize his offensive efficiency.
  5. Michigan (14-4, 4-2) – Michigan barely survived Northwestern at home in OT, then got blasted by 16 at Iowa. In both games, it seemed like the Wolverines stopped attacking the basket and were content to settle for threes, jacking up 30 against NU and 31 against Iowa. Their motion offense, cutting and dribble penetration gets them easy buckets at the rim, so they struggle to score when they get too willing to fire from long range.
  6. Wisconsin (14-5, 3-3) – It wasn’t especially pretty against Purdue or Nebraska, but the Badgers earned a pair of hard-fought five-point wins to even their conference mark at 3-3.  Needing a win to snap a three-game losing streak, Wisconsin blitzed Purdue early hitting five of their first six threes to build a 22-4 lead. They came back to earth after that, however, shooting 2 of 18 from distance against the Cornhuskers.
  7. Purdue (13-5, 3-2) – Purdue faced a desperate Wisconsin team and dug themselves a 22-4 first half hole at Mackey Arena a before battling back and eventually falling. It’s not a good sign for the Boilers when Lewis Jackson finishes with two points and the team only hits 33% of their three-point field goal attempts.
  8. Minnesota (14-5, 2-4) – With star Trevor Mbawke sidelined, the Gophers needed other players to step up and help Rodney Williams shoulder the scoring load. Well, it looks like Joe Coleman, Austin Hollins and Julian Welch are starting to come of age. You knew Tubby Smith had plenty of athleticism and talent at The Barn, it was just a matter of fitting the right pieces together. Now he has five starters who are averaging between 8.3 and 12.5 points per game in conference play.
  9. Northwestern (12-5, 2-3) – Teams often struggle once conference play begins because their young point guard takes a few steps back. Not Northwestern, where starting guard Dave Sobolewski leads the Big Ten and is near the top of the nationally with a 4. 2 assist-to-turnover ratio, and really excels at backdoor feeds.
  10. Iowa (11-8, 3-3) – Talk about an enigma of a team. After getting destroyed by an average of 32.5 points in road losses to Ohio St. and Michigan St., the Hawks turned around and cruised past Michigan, 75-59 at home on Saturday. Iowa can light up the scoreboard when its shots are falling, which is why they’ve scored 75 points or more in nine of their 11 wins this season.
  11. Nebraska (9-8, 1-5) – Where were you when Nebraska won their first Big Ten game in school history? Since getting pasted by Ohio State, the Cornhuskers sandwiched their lone conference triumph over Penn State between narrow five-point road losses at Illinois and Wisconsin, holding all three opponents under 60 points. They don’t score much, but NU seems to be a natural fit for the conference in terms of their grinding, methodical style of play.
  12. Penn State  (9-10, 1-5) – One of the most difficult, but important things to teach a young team is how to defend on a nightly basis. The Nittany Lions have dropped three straight, and in each loss, allowed their opponent to shoot over 50%. That’s not going to cut it in any conference, let alone the deepest and toughest in the country.

Lenzelle Smith, Jr., Showed The Nation That The Buckeyes Go Beyond Sullinger, Craft And Buford (Getty)

Looking Ahead

  • Tuesday, 1/17: No. 9 Michigan State @ No. 19 Michigan – One of the most underrated rivalries in college hoops has added significance this season with each team being in the hunt for a Big Ten title.  State is looking to rebound after having their 15-game winning streak snapped at Northwestern, while the Wolverines are trying to remain unbeaten at home (11-0).  Look for whoever wins the intriguing PG battle between emerging Spartans sophomore Keith Appling and Michigan’s stud freshman Trey Burke to win the game.
  • Wednesday, 1/18: Northwestern @ Wisconsin– An important game between two teams with similar styles each desperate to continue the momentum built this past weekend. Both are pretty reliant on the three-point shot (NU first, Wisconsin fourth in three-pointers per game), so whoever has the hotter hand should emerge victorious.
  • Saturday, 1/21: Purdue @ No. 9 Michigan State – The Boilers could use a signature win (Butler and Illinois don’t count) to impress the Selection Committee.  As always, Ryne Smith and co. will have to knock down treys, but that’s a tall order against MSU, which is stingy on the perimeter (second in conference allowing 30.2% from three).

Caught on Film

It’s amazing how a player’s success on offensive end can carry over to his defensive performance. Brandon Paul poured in 43 points, the highest single-game point total in the Big Ten in 20 years.  But he also made his presence felt defensively, grabbing a couple steals and swatting four emphatic shots. As you can see from the below video, he was on fire from distance and a monster on the defensive end.

Share this story

RTC Summer Updates: Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 8th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Big Ten correspondent, Will Green.

Readers’ Take

Summer Storylines 

  • Sully’s Back, But With Demands – In the year 2011, in the age of ‘now,’ in a profit-first educate-yourself-later society, amidst a flittering of teenage NBA draft picks, ferocious freshman phenomenon Jared Sullinger decided to stay in school. How quaint. Of course, there’s absolutely nothing quaint about Sullinger, his (rightly) assumed sense of on-court leadership, his brutally physical style of play, or that Ja Rule-esque snarl that makes him look like a squirrel who just ate a questionable nut. But seriously, it’s highly unlikely that anyone other than Jordan Taylor will stand in the way of Sullinger winning the Big Ten Player of the Year Award, and rightfully so. He has spent the better part of the off-season slimming down and getting faster. The best player on the best team in the conference simply can’t suffer a slump; he’s worked too hard and has clearly made a commitment to improving his game before leaving for the pros. The question is less about what Sullinger’s level of performance will be than it is about the effect his performance will have on other members of his team. Last year, his 17 /10 were a reflection of consistent contribution that was also part of a greater team-wide cohesion. Jon Diebler, David Lighty and even Dallas Lauderdale each had pronounced and vital roles on last year’s team. They’re all gone now. While some of the supporting cast and several new stars-in-the-making will join Sullinger, will increased reliance upon him make OSU more of a one-man show? Or will the Buckeyes continue to roll out a team-focused squad with four scorers in double figures and a core group of five guys who notch 30 minutes a game? Whatever happens, Sullinger will be back and he will be better than last year. Consider yourself warned.
  • Welcome, Nebraska – On July 1, Nebraska officially joined the B1G, an acronym whose ludicrousness we continue to subconsciously validate by pronouncing it ‘Bih-one-ggg’. If you’re scoring at home, UNL’s entry makes for 12 teams in the Big Ten, a conference that shouldn’t be confused with the Big 12, which only has ten teams now since Nebraska left it. Now that we’ve all scratched our heads for second, we should pause to consider how massive the amount of potential football revenue must have been to persuade the intransigent Big Ten to alter its ranks. The Cornhuskers’ inclusion marks only the second change in league makeup since the 1950s. So how will the other 11 schools adjust to the adjustment? Football-wise, they should all watch their backs. On the basketball court, though, it probably won’t have a big (or should we say, a ‘B1G’) impact. Sadly for Husker fans, their roundball team loses two of their top three scorers and has some major offensive issues to solve in a league whose tempo of play limits even the country’s very best offenses. Head coach Doc Sadler continues to recruit a healthy mix of transfers and high school players, but over his five-year tenure nine of them have left due to reasons other than matriculation or the NBA. Nebraska has had some encouraging moments in recent years, including a five game improvement in Big 12 play from 2009 to 2010 (from 2-14 to 7-9). The team’s defensive efficiency would’ve finished fourth and it’s adjusted tempo would’ve finished fourth slowest in last year’s Big Ten. In some respects, Nebraska feels like a perfect match for the conference. And yet, for many of those same reasons, it might be a little out-matched in its first few years.
  • Ed DeChellis Leaves For Navy – Nowadays, stories like these are rarer than that bloody slice of carpaccio you once had at a fancy restaurant: a coach leaving a higher paying, higher-infrastructure, higher strength-of-schedule situation for a middle of the pack team in a unambiguously low-major conference. Make no mistake: Ed DeChellis didn’t become the new head coach at Navy. He stopped being the head coach at Penn State. Unless they’re ousted via scandal or especially egregious results you simply don’t hear about power six coaches voluntarily leaving for a “lesser” job. And yet, that’s exactly what happened. Or is it? The answer to that question centers around just how much “less” of a job the Navy coaching position really is, and if anything DeChellis might have done warranted the move. The wink-wink nudge-nudge consensus is that while DeChellis didn’t necessarily knock anyone’s socks off, the school refuses to take basketball seriously. Some have lambasted the athletic department’s commitment to DeChellis and the program overall at a school that’s known best for intense linebackers and an 84 year-old Italian-American man. It will be interesting to observe new head coach Patrick Chambersin his first few seasons and see whether or not he runs into a similar set of struggles as DeChellis did during his tenure. If the holistic drawbacks of coaching in University Park really outweigh the benefits to the extent that someone would walk away from the position, then PSU has bigger problems to fix than figuring out how to win in the Big Ten this season. But if anyone can overcome whatever said “drawbacks” may or may not be, it’s Chambers.

    The Buckeyes, led by big man Jared Sullinger, are easy favorites in the Big Ten.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Recruiting Rumor Mill: 09.27.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 27th, 2010

After a prolonged absence from the summer circuit it appears like Sonny Vaccaro, who was once quiet possibly the most powerful man in AAU basketball, is making his triumphant return. As Gary Parrish notes, Vaccaro should make things more interesting.

  • It’s already almost a week old, but ESPN released its team recruiting rankings and you will be shocked to see who is #1.
  • Arizona was able to land some big names like Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson over the past few weeks, but as we pointed out last week their haul would be coming to an end soon due to the Lute Olson-era sanctions against the program. Now we see the results as Sean Miller has told super recruit LeBryan Nash that there isn’t any room for him in Tucson.
LeBryan isn’t welcome in Arizona
  • Speaking of the Wildcats, last week we mentioned the refreshing case of Norvel Pelle who was just starting to do in-house visits, but now Pelle has moved ahead to planning official visits as he recently expressed interest in St John’s, UTEP, UConn, and “the whole PAC 10 except Arizona according to a phone interview with Adam Zagoria, although Pelle has not committed to any official visits yet.
  • In yet another reaction to Arizona’s filling its scholarships already . . . Quinn Cook, who had been high on Arizona before Turner’s surprise commitment, is now considering Duke, Kansas, UCLA, Villanova, and UNC. In a rather unsurprising surprising comment, Steve Smith, his new coach at Oak Hill, says Cook is “comparable” to Rajon Rondo, Ty Lawson, Marcus Williams (hopefully leaving the laptops out of it), and Brandon Jennings who all played at Oak Hill. Cook is a talented prospect, but outside of Williams I think Smith might be stretching the truth a bit. To be fair, I can say my paycheck is comparable to John Paulson’s paycheck, but Paulson made way more than I did (at least before the RTC royalty checks get processed).
  • Last week we noted that Austin Rivers had taken Florida off his list of potential schools and now it seems like he has set dates for his official visits: UNC (October 1st), Duke (October 15th), and Kansas (October 22nd). You can guess that the basketball coaches will be especially interested in the football team’s performances those weekends against East Carolina (could be challenging for the depleted Tar Heels), Miami (this one could be ugly), and Texas A&M (depends on the week for the inconsistent Jayhawks).
  • Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story