Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 30th, 2012
- College basketball has a lot of diverse talent across the nation among its various conferences, regardless of their size and popularity. Especially with so many good mid-major programs receiving positive coverage over the years, there are few consensus agreements among the media. In this partisan environment, Indiana’s Cody Zeller has been selected for the preseason All-America team by all of the AP voters except for one. The near-unanimous pick is a rarity in today’s competitive hoops’ landscape. The sophomore forward received 64 votes and two other Big Ten players were selected as well – Michigan’s Trey Burke and Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas. Burke tied for the fifth slot with Lehigh’s C.J.McCollum. Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan make up the rest of this year’s preseason All-America team.
- After injuries to Mike Breusewitz and Josh Gasser, Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan understands that he has some holes in his lineup. But Ryan seems optimistic and realizes that the next player in line will step up and fill the void. Sports Illustrated explains that Ryan, after 41 years in the coaching business, doesn’t get “alarmed” or “nervous” when thinking about replacing experienced players on his squad. Brueusewitz will be back in a few weeks but Gasser will miss the entire season due to an ACL injury. The Wisconsin assistant coaches speak highly of redshirt freshman guard George Marshall, who took advantage of last season by practicing and learning from All-American guard Jordan Taylor. Ryan mentions that he prefers “well-blended” teams that don’t specifically focus on a single player to carry the load on either end of the court. Tough to disagree with a philosophy that has resulted in consistent success in Madison, but Marshall and Traevon Jackson will need to get up to speed quickly during the non-conference season after Gasser’s loss.
- Another coach who is very optimistic about his young team’s chances to make the NCAA tournament is Iowa’s Fran McCaffery. He is challenging his younger players to bring Iowa basketball back to relevance at the national stage after several years of mediocrity. He strongly believes that the loss of Matt Gatens’ production will be filled by junior wing Roy Devin Marble (11.5 PPG). Marble is described as “incredibly cerebral” and is expected to take the leap to the next level this season. Iowa hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2006 and with a young core of Aaron White, Adam Woodbury and Mike Gesell, the fans are hopeful with their expectations. Sophomore Aaron White averaged 11 PPG in just 24 MPG and his production should increase as he appears to be one of the primary scoring options now in the wake of Gatens’ departure.
- There have been several changes in the Illinois athletic department over the last two years. Long time athletic director Ron Guenther left the program so Mike Thomas was hired to revive Illinois athletics. Thomas then replaced both the football and the basketball coaches within a span of 12 months (which doesn’t happen very often in major programs). Football head coach Tim Beckman is off to a rough start in Champaign as his team is off to a 2-6 start, but John Groce’s performance will be under review as the basketball season tips off in two weeks. The Daily Illini discusses the pressure on Groce as he takes over a program that arguably is in the “rebuilding phase.” The overall energy level within the program is very high with Groce’s arrival but his coaching abilities will be immediately scrutinized during the non-conference season. Without a true big man in the post like Meyers Leonard, expectations are not very high but that doesn’t necessarily give Groce too much of a cushion if the losses begin to pile up during the first two months.
- Speaking of rebuilding, Purdue’s Matt Painter has several new faces in West Lafayette. None of the “Baby Boilers” are around anymore, but Painter has been in this situation after the departures of Carl Landry and David Teague at the beginning of the 2007-08 season. Even though Purdue has a young freshman core of center A.J. Hammons and guard Ronnie Johnson, D.J.Byrd doesn’t want this year’s team to be considered “Baby Boilers II.” Robbie Hummel’s class was a special one and this squad will need to form its own identity. Byrd (8.9 PPG) and Terone Johnson (9.2 PPG) will provide great leadership but the jury is still out on such a young squad with nine freshmen and sophomores. Ronnie Johnson is expected to take over the point guard position after Lewis Jackson’s departure.
Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 29th, 2012
- The injury bug has stung the Wisconsin Badgers this preseason. After losing Mike Bruesewitz for a few weeks with a leg injury, they have now lost one of their returning guards, Josh Gasser, for the season. Gasser tore his ACL during practice on Saturday. Gasser averaged 7.6 PPG and 4.2 RPG while playing 34.1 MPG last season and Bo Ryan indicated that he would start in the backcourt. Bruesewitz should be back by mid-December and his senior leadership will be a great asset for a young Badger squad but Gasser’s absence will be felt. Traevon Jackson and George Marshall will be called upon to step up in the backcourt and assume the point guard role as Ryan regroups before the season begins.
- Minnesota assistant coach Saul Smith will return to the sidelines after his DWI and temporary suspension. Gophers’ athletic director Norwood Teague said that Smith has been reinstated in terms of payroll as of last Friday but will not return to his job until November 13. Teague reiterated that this type of behavior will not be “taken lightly,” but didn’t think it was an offense that should cost Smith his job. According to the university, Smith’s court hearing will be on November 9. Gopher fans just want the season to get started and see their talented squad in action as Minnesota is considered as the next best team in the conference after Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin (per the preseason polls).
- Tom Crean recently received a huge commitment from Troy Williams, a top 50 recruit in the class of 2013. Williams, a 6’6 wing, plays for Oak Hill Academy and let Crean know about his decision over the weekend. The other finalists on his list of schools were Alabama, Arkansas, Louisville and North Carolina. The high school senior was in attendance for Hoosier Hysteria last weekend and was impressed by what he saw in Bloomington. Indiana will lose Christian Watford (12.6 PPG, 5.8 RPG) at the wing after this year, but Crean continues to set himself up with another good recruiting class upcoming.
- Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has never been one to remain quiet about his thoughts with the media. Izzo recently discussed the AP and Coaches preseason polls in the context of MSU’s primary rivals, Indiana and Michigan. IU comes in at #1 while Michigan is #5 and the Spartans are ranked at #14 in both of the major preseason polls. Izzo also talked about the role of image and national perception in the college hoops world and believes that it is an important ingredient to success. He added that there is no reason for him to like his rivals (specifically Michigan) but he can “respect them.” The rivals face off twice during the Big Ten season – on February 12 in East Lansing and on March 2 in Ann Arbor.
- Tom Izzo, Bo Ryan and Tubby Smith have been coaching for years in the business. Even though Thad Matta is only 45, his impact on the coaching ranks has been very impressive as he already has had several assistants move on to bigger opportunities at other programs. Eleven Warriors explores Matta’s coaching tree after Big Ten Media Day. Matta’s once-assistant John Groce, for example, will now be coaching against him at Illinois. Matta’s assistants include Butler head coach Brad Stevens and Arizona head coach Sean Miller, both of whom are considered rising coaches in the business. The Big Ten is known for its coaches with long tenures such as Bobby Knight and Gene Keady. If Matta stays in Columbus for another decade or so, his coaching tree will continue to expand and his footprint on Big Ten hoops will only continue to grow.