The RTC Big Ten Podcast: And Your Big Ten Champion Is…

Posted by Alex Moscoso on March 1st, 2016

The Big Ten microsite crew is back to chat the league as the regular season winds down. In the second RTC Big Ten PodcastAlex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso), Brendan Brody (@berndon4) and Patrick Engel (@PatrickEngel_) discuss a slew of topics that include Iowa’s now-familiar late-season meltdown, Indiana clinching a share of the regular season title, Denzel Valentine’s dominance, John Groce’s grip on his team, Wisconsin’s resurgence back to relevance, the amazing group of rookies in the Big Ten, and whether adding Rutgers was worth it. The full rundown is below. Push play and enjoy the lively banter between three Big Ten basketball heads, and let us know if you want us to cover any new topics for the next episode at @rushtheB1G.

  • 0:45 – 6:30 — Iowa’s late season meltdown
  • 6:31 – 12:59 — Indiana as Big Ten champs
  • 13:00 – 28:53 — Denzel Valentine’s historic season (with some ranting about Illinois and John Groce in between)
  • 28:54 – 37:59 — Wisconsin’s resurgence
  • 38:00 – 53:15 — The league’s best rookies
  • 53:16 – 59:40 — Quick hits: Ohio State’s postseason and Rutger’s ineptitude
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The RTC Big Ten Podcast: Debut Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on February 2nd, 2016

Welcome to the first-ever Big Ten microsite podcast! Big Ten microsite writers Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) and Patrick Engel (@PatrickEngel_) are here to give you a quickish overview of the league at the turn. In this episode, we analyze the two first-place teams in detail, select a few others that are poised to challenge for a regular season title, discuss whether any of the teams currently outside the bubble can get back on to it, consider a few Big Ten POY candidates, and finally talk about the few coaches on the hot seat. Let us know if you enjoyed the podcast and, if so, what topics we should cover next time, at @rushtheB1G. The complete rundown is below.

  • 1:06 – 8:35 — Indiana and Iowa
  • 8:36-17:39 — Maryland and Michigan’s regular season title hopes
  • 17:40-25:59 — Ohio State and Nebraska’s chances at an at-large bid
  • 26:00-31:41 — Jarrod Uthoff and A.J. Hammons as possible Big Ten POYs
  • 31:42-47:00 — Coaches on the hot seat
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Big Ten Weekend Look Ahead: 01.29.16 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on January 29th, 2016

The Big Ten season is about halfway done and it looks like the top six schools–Iowa, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Purdue, and Michigan State – are putting some distance between themselves and the rest of the conference. While there are no head-to-head matchups between any of these teams this weekend, there are still a handful of consequential games. Here are the three most important of them:

Shavon Shields faces a huge frontline this weekend when they face Purdue. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)

Shavon Shields will take on a huge frontline this weekend when the Cornhuskers battle Purdue. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)

Nebraska at #21 Purdue (Saturday 4:30 pm ET, BTN). Time is running out for the Cornhuskers’ hopes for an at-large bid. While they have a nice win at Michigan State, they’ll need another win over a highly-ranked team to make up for some of the questionable losses of late 2015. They will get a great opportunity to do so this weekend when they travel to West Lafayette. The Boilermakers are still ranked in the Top 25 and sit 27th in RPI. But Purdue has also recently had some shaky performances, most notably a loss at Illinois and a near-defeat at Minnesota. If the Boilermakers look past Nebraska towards a matchup with Maryland next week, they could easily be upset. Look for Shavon Shields to try to find some open lanes against the massive Purdue frontcourt; if he’s successful, the Cornhuskers will have a shot at a critically important victory.

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Let’s Play Big Ten Secret Santa…

Posted by Patrick Engel (@PatrickEngel_) on December 25th, 2015

Your class, company, or family probably plays Secret Santa during the holidays. To get in the giving spirit this Christmas, we’ll play Secret Santa with the Big Ten’s 14 teams and coaches. As much fun as it would be to give Richard Pitino more hair gel or Tom Izzo some stilts, we’ll stick to practical basketball-related gifts that each Big Ten coach would be thrilled to unwrap.

Santa has a variety of interesting presents for Big Ten teams to unwrap

Santa has a variety of interesting presents for Big Ten teams to unwrap

Here are the gifts we gave each coach and team (in alphabetical order):

  • Illinois (John Groce): This is one of the easier teams to shop for: The injury bug has cursed Illinois, so it gets healthy players from Santa. The Fighting Illini are playing this season without their starting point guard (Tracy Abrams), power forward (Leron Black) and center (Mike Thorne, Jr.).
  • Indiana (Tom Crean): Another easy team to shop for. If you haven’t heard of Indiana’s horrific defensive efforts, you’ve been living under a rock. The Hoosiers gave up 70 points to Kennesaw State and 72 to Alcorn State, respectively. Those teams rank 322 and 349 in the KenPom ranks, and average 64.1 and 60.3 PPG, respectively. Crean needs to start thinking of new ways to get his players to play better defense. Santa gives him a “D-Fense” sign that he can throw at players after bad defensive efforts. Better loosen up your arm, Tom.
  • Iowa (Fran McCaffery): The Hawkeyes aren’t elite in any one area, but don’t have a lot of gaping holes. They do struggle to get to the foul line, with a 25.8 free throw rate, which ranks 337th in the nation, per KenPom. Santa gives Iowa more free throw chances, especially to Peter Jok. The junior wing is Iowa’s second-leading scorer, but has attempted just 23 free throws.
  • Maryland (Mark Turgeon): The one knock on the Terps has been turnovers. They turn it over on 20 percent of their possessions and have six players who turn the ball over at least 19 percent of their used possessions. Maryland finds sturdy handles under its tree this year.

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Big Ten M5: 12.02.15 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on December 2nd, 2015

morning5_bigten

  1. I’ve grown numb to feelings of empathy for John Groce and Illinois. No man or program who has undergone so much bad fortune in such a short period of time can be innocent of prior wrongdoing. The Basketball Gods have proven angry with the Illini and they’ve recently claimed yet another soul with the likely season-ending injury of Mike Thorne. The graduate senior tore his meniscus in the Iowa State game on Saturday and subsequent surgery has left him out of the lineup indefinitely. Look for Leron Black and maybe even Malcolm Hill to fill in for his time spent at the four, while Michael Finke and Maverick Morgan try to replace his big shoes at center.
  2. Scoring is up this season, which was the goal of this year’s rule changes designed to create a more free-flowing game. But not everyone is happy with these changes. After Michigan State’s Sunday night victory against Providence at the Wooden Classic — a game in which the two main stars, Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — ran into early foul trouble, Tom Izzo criticized both the officiating and the new rules. It’s not a total surprise that Izzo would react unfavorably to this shift since his style of play isn’t frenetic, but Sparty seems to be adjusting just fine with a 7-0 record and a #3 ranking in the latest AP Poll.
  3. Speaking of the Spartans, Denzel Valentine has erupted onto the national stage with his incredible early performances against Kansas and Providence. Through a couple weeks, he has jumped out in front as the early favorite for National Player of the Year by averaging 19.9 PPG, 8.6 APG, and 8.9 RPG. Yahoo Sports‘ Jeff Eisenberg writes about how the Lansing native has gone from begging Izzo for a scholarship to a legitimate NPOY candidate. The way it’s looking now, Valentine will join a couple of other famous Michigan natives in Mateen Cleaves and Draymond Green who also rose to national prominence under Izzo’s tutelage.
  4. We’re in the midst of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge this week and the leagues are deadlocked at 4-4 with six games remaining. One of the nicer Big Ten wins last night was Michigan notching a 66-59 victory at NC State. The road victory represents a potential resume-enhancing win, but an ankle injury suffered by guard Derrick Walton may be the most lasting outcome from the game. If the junior needs to miss any significant time, it could spell trouble for the Wolverines as Spike Albrecht, the backup point guard, is coming off a hip injury of his own and is not thought to be fully healthy (although he did play some minutes last night).
  5. Finally, Purdue had the most impressive win of the night when it went into the Pete and defeated Pittsburgh by 13 points. The star of the evening was senior center A.J. Hammons, who recorded a double-double (24 points and 12 rebounds) and came up with several key buckets in the second half to help the Boilermakers close out a tight game. The big man has been coming off the bench since he missed the first few games this year because of an off-court issue. It’s no guarantee that Matt Painter will give him a starting spot back — his replacement Isaac Haas has been outstanding — but it also doesn’t much matter because he will get the bulk of the available minutes. Hammons is so integral to the success of this team that whether he’s technically starting is irrelevant.
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Big Ten Weekend Look Ahead: 11.20.15 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 20th, 2015

By the second weekend of the season, most power conference teams have moved past playing cupcakes from one-bid leagues — although some of those cupcakes ultimately got the last laugh — and are now moving up in competition. Stiffer tests begin in earnest for two Big Ten squads tonight, as Wisconsin and Michigan take part in marquee match-ups against Big East opponents and wo more B1G teams face challenging mid-majors on Saturday. Here are the four games to watch involving Big Ten teams this weekend.

Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig scored a combined 29 points in last year's thriller against Georgetown (Daivd Banks-USA Today Sports).

Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig scored a combined 29 points in last year’s thriller against Georgetown (Photo: David Banks, USA Today Sports).

  1. Georgetown vs. Wisconsin (Friday, 5:00 PM ET, ESPN). Oddly enough, this game isn’t part of the slate of Gavitt Tipoff Games but instead a part of the 2K Classic event taking place in Madison Square Garden over the weekend. It’s also a rematch of a classic from last season, when the Hoyas — behind a 29-point effort from D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera — nearly upset the second-ranked Badgers in the Battle 4 Atlantis. These teams look to be more evenly matched this year, with Smith-Rivera perhaps looking to finish what he started a year ago in the Bahamas. Both squads have already suffered unexpected home losses to teams they have no business losing to (Wisconsin to Western Illinois; Georgetown to Radford), so the loser here will find itself in an early hole in its pursuit of a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
  2. Xavier at Michigan (Friday, 9:00 PM ET, BTN).  The Wolverines will host the Musketeers tonight in the final game of the Gavitt Tipoff Games. Caris Levert‘s team has looked resurgent in its first two outings, beating its two opponents by a combined 54 points in an effort to erase memories of an injury-plagued and disappointing 2014-15 season. Michigan will face its first real test when Trevon Bluiett’s Musketeers invade the Crisler Center. It’ll be a mismatch of styles — the Wolverines are a quintessential jump-shooting team while Xavier thrives off attacks of the rim and getting to the free throw line —  so whichever team sets the tone early will earn a distinct advantage. Read the rest of this entry »
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Levy’s B1G Layup Line: Week 1

Posted by Adam Levy on November 19th, 2015

Welcome to Rush the Court’s first ever edition of Levy’s B1G Layup Line, a weekly column set to give you all the water cooler material you need for all things Big Ten basketball. If you’re reading this, congratulations – you’re losing your virginity to this column, and so am I. We’re now linked together forever as eskimo brothers; if we’re going to embark on this season-long journey together, we may as well check ourselves into the EBDBBnB and enjoy it.

Before we do that, though, let’s break in the 2016 season by recapping what was a very interesting first week in the Big Ten.

REPORT CARD

Denzel Valentine Put on a Show in Chicago Tuesday Night

Denzel Valentine Put on a Show in Chicago Tuesday Night

A: Denzel Valentine

I could make this all about Michigan State’s incredible come-from-behind victory against a rock-solid Kansas team poised to win its 12th straight Big 12 title. But I won’t. Reason being: Denzel Valentine is a freak of nature. The captain of both a veteran Spartans’ team and the “How is He Still In College?” team made history on Tuesday night in front of 50+ NBA executives and scouts at the United Center, becoming the fourth player in Michigan State history to post a triple-double (Magic Johnson – 8; Draymond Green – 3; Charlie Bell – 1) with an absurd 29/12/12 stat line and earning himself a postgame phone call from Magic Johnson. Valentine scored or assisted on 22 straight points in the second half to dig his team out of an 11-point hole and give Sparty a permanent lead. Without him, Michigan State loses by over 20. You don’t usually see the best individual performance of the season happen in mid-November, but this very well may have been it.

B: Caleb Swanigan

Speaking of Michigan State, their favorite non-Spartan had himself a weeeek. He recorded a double-double in each of his first two collegiate games (12.5 points, 12.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game), earning his first Freshman of the Week honor in as many tries. With two massive seven-foot centers and no big to stretch the floor last season, Swanigan was the key missing variable to solving Purdue’s frontcourt equation. Now that AJ Hammons is back, it’s absolutely terrifying to think about what that frontcourt is capable of doing.

C: Maryland Terrapins

You’d be hard pressed to find a basketball fan out there who didn’t think Maryland was a top-five team nationally heading into the season. What those people need to be reminded of is that 60.0 percent of this team’s starting five is brand new (Rasheed Sulaimon; Robert Carter; Diamond Stone). It will take more than a week for Mark Turgeon to mold the clay and allow his team time to develop chemistry and learn to play together. It was no surprise to see Maryland struggle to put away a gritty Georgetown team in a game where Melo Trimble did not score until about five minutes left in the first half. And after all that talk about Maryland’s top notch frontcourt, it was the Terps’ small-ball lineup (Jake Layman at the four; Carter at the five) – the method that led to their 28 wins last season – that won out. Sure, a win’s a win. But this thing will take a little time. Patience, people.

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John Groce’s Illini Simply Can’t Catch a Break

Posted by Alex Moscoso on November 3rd, 2015

Everyone has had one of those days where NOTHING goes right. You wake up late and burn the coffee, only to realize there isn’t enough time to make another pot. You try to brush your teeth but forgot you threw out your toothbrush last night, so you have to use your finger. You leave the lunch you made the night before in your fridge. This and more, all before 9:00 AM.

John Groce has had a rough offseason; exactly when he needed a break or two.

At a time when he needed a break or two, John Groce has had a rough off-season.

For Illinois head coach John Groce, this kind of bad day must have felt like it lasted for the entire offseason. Now entering his fourth season as the Illinois head coach, the 44-year old is at a breaking point in his tenure. The Illini have missed two consecutive NCAA Tournaments and are an uninspiring 24-30 in conference play over the same span. Memories of the excitement of his first season in Champaign are long gone; in those days, the Illini were a play or two away from the Sweet Sixteen and in the mix to land a few different blue-chip recruits. But monumental setbacks this offseason both within and outside his basketball program have the likelihood of a comeback campaign feeling quite remote. The head coach needs to coax some signs of life out of his program soon in order to rally the troops.

The list of mini-crises that have adversely affected the Illinois basketball program is long; here are a few of the lowlights:

  1. Football and women’s basketball scandals. The revelation that Illini football coach Tim Beckman was a real life Bud Kilmer — and appropriately fired one week before the start of the season — summoned a dark cloud over the entire athletic program. Ultimately, a different investigation found no wrongdoing into claims of racial discrimination against the women’s basketball coaching staff, but the public relations damage had already been done. These external distractions do not create an environment for the kind of administrative “support” the head basketball coach needs coming into a make-or-break season. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten Storylines Heading Into Next Season

Posted by Brendan Brody on April 17th, 2015

There are still some dominoes to fall in terms of Big Ten roster turnover in coming weeks but we already have a pretty good idea of how the league will look next year. Here are a few things to ponder as Big Ten fans brace themselves for seven months without any games with which to occupy their time.

Melo Trimble could be a first team All-American next season for Maryland. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Melo Trimble could be a first team All-American next season for Maryland. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

  • Return to Multiple Conference Championship Contenders: Wisconsin essentially went wire-to-wire this season, going from the unanimous preseason favorite to winning both the conference regular season and postseason titles. Next season should be a bit more like the 2013-14 campaign with several teams with a realistic shot to win the league. Maryland is rightfully getting a good deal of love in the preseason “way-to-early” top 25 lists. The Terps will return two of their top three players in Melo Trimble and Jake Layman and will add a bruiser down low in freshman Diamond Stone. Indiana (assuming both Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon Jr. return to Bloomington), and Michigan State could also very well start the season in the top 15 nationally. Thomas Bryant will give the Hoosiers someone to keep defenses honest inside, while Sparty adds Eron Harris, Devonta Davis, and Caleb Swanigan to a nucleus of eight players who were contributors on a Final Four squad. These three should all challenge for the top spot in Big Ten play next season.
  • Wisconsin Rebuild: It will be fun to observe how Bo Ryan replaces the multiple talented pieces that he is losing from a group that went to back-to-back Final Fours. He has certainly earned the benefit of the doubt so as to figure that players like Vitto Brown and Zak Showalter will break out with more playing time next season. Getting key starters Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig back is also a pretty decent starting point. How far will the Badgers actually fall, and how long will it take for the newcomers to make an impact?

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News & Notes: Day Two at the Big Ten Tourney

Posted by Bennet Hayes on March 13th, 2015

An afternoon of upsets (Michigan and Penn State both toppled higher-seeded foes) gave way to a more predictable evening at day two of the Big Ten Tournament. Meanwhile, the two bubble teams in action may have each punched tournament tickets… to different, less-prestigious tournaments. Indiana may be good to dance after defeating Northwestern, but Illinois is surely NIT-bound after its decisive loss to Michigan. A few other news and notes on Thursday’s action from the United Center:

John Groce’s Seat Warming Up: Thursday’s loss to Michigan means Illinois is almost certainly headed to the NIT, where the Illini will seek to salvage some shred of meaning from a disappointing season. John Groce has recruited well since arriving in Champaign, but the former Ohio University head man has yet to finish a season with a winning Big Ten record. His only NCAA Tournament appearance at Illinois came in 2012-13, and that happened with a team largely constructed by his predecessor, Bruce Weber. Groce is going nowhere this offseason, but if the Illini find themselves in a similar spot next postseason, his job status will be far less certain. The good news for Illinois is that the return of Tracy Abrams and another talented incoming freshman class could, and maybe even should, lead to a happier result in Champaign a year from now. It will be interesting to see how much the Illini miss Rayvonte Rice next year. On the one hand, he was a legitimately efficient volume scorer – a player prototype that doesn’t exactly grow on trees. But Illinois’ 6-3 record without Rice this season raise the question of whether his ball-dominating nature might have often been counterproductive. We’ll find out in a critical 2015-16 campaign for Groce and the Illini.

John Groce, Rayvonte Rice And The Illini Saw Their Tournament Hopes All But Die Thursday Afternoon

John Groce, Rayvonte Rice And The Illini Saw Their Tournament Hopes All But Die Thursday Afternoon (Getty Images)

Nittany Lions Drop Hawkeyes: Iowa was a trendy sleeper pick heading into the action yesterday, but Penn State quickly and effectively ended the Hawkeyes’ Big Ten Tournament. The loss changes little for the Hawkeyes except for the fact that Fran McCaffery’s team is now squarely staring down the barrel of a dreaded #8/#9 game. Things could be worse, though – they seem to be safely in the field, and unlike last year, shouldn’t be headed to Dayton. On the other side, Penn State won its third straight Big Ten game — no small feat considering the Nittany Lions had won just three of 17 league games before embarking on their recent surge. More good news for Penn State fans: Purdue awaits the Lions in the next round. No disrespect to the Boilers and their impressive 12-6 Big Ten season, but they are clearly the easiest option among the four teams that received double-byes. Penn State pushed Purdue to overtime in State College in their only meeting of the season; can the tournament’s most unexpected quarterfinalist find a way to extend its stay in Chicago for at least another day?

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