Wisconsin Looks to Remain a Factor in the Big Ten Race

Posted by Walker Carey on January 26th, 2014

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s game between Wisconsin and Purdue in West Lafayette.

Just two weeks ago, Wisconsin sat at 16-0 overall and 3-0 in Big Ten play – climbing all the way up to #3 in the AP Top 25. While several of those 16 victories had come against inferior non-conference competition, the Badgers more than proved their legitimacy with impressive victories over Florida, Saint Louis, Virginia and Marquette. Past Wisconsin teams under Bo Ryan were known for their slow and methodical style of play, but this season’s squad proved early on that it was quite different than its predecessors. Armed with an offensive-minded starting lineup of guards Ben Brust, Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson along with forwards Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin raised eyebrows nationally with a drastic contrast in style of play from the norm in Madison.

Bo Ryan Instructed His Team to a Nice Road Victory

Bo Ryan Instructed His Team to a Nice Road Victory

After an unbeaten run through non-conference play, Wisconsin continued its sizzling play through its first three Big Ten games. In the conference opener, the Badgers unloaded on an inferior Northwestern squad en route to a 76-49 victory. Facing a strong test at home against a very good Iowa team next, Wisconsin rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit  to earn a 75-71 victory. In the third Big Ten game, a red hot Illinois team invaded the Kohl Center and was thoroughly dismantled by the Badgers in a 15-point Wisconsin victory. At that point, Wisconsin’s ascendance earned the Badgers considerable national attention. For instance, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi placed Bo Ryan’s team as the #1 seed in the Midwest Regional. When the first RPI rankings for the were released on January 10, the Badgers sat atop the list. Everything seemed to be aligning for Wisconsin to be a bona fide contender in both the Big Ten and nationally.

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Wisconsin Guards Provide Stability With Rebounding

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on November 16th, 2013

Extrapolating a trend based on a small sample size is usually not recommended in statistics. However, after just three games, we can highlight a few interesting anomalies among the Big Ten teams. Going into tonight’s game against Green Bay, Wisconsin’s rebounding is a topic worth evaluating after two wins over St.John’s and Florida. The Badgers were not outrebounded in either game, but surprisingly, it was their guards who were the dominant rebounders on both nights — Josh Gasser, Traevon Jackson and Ben Brust combined for 15 boards against St. John’s and 18 boards against Florida. After the departure of Jared Berggren, it was unclear if Frank Kaminsky could be a legitimate replacement on the glass, but if the guards combine to average 15 boards per game, they may just be fine without a true big man inside.

Josh Gasser is one of the best rebounding guards in the nation.

Josh Gasser is one of the best rebounding guards in the nation.

It shouldn’t be surprising that Brust and Jackson are good rebounders based off last season’s results, but Gasser’s return certainly helps Ryan’s defensive unit. Because of his rebounding abilities, Ryan can play a three-guard lineup with Sam Dekker at the power forward position. Dekker is a “stretch-four,” and is not a rebounding force of nature by any means, but he can light it up offensively with the best of them (averaging 16 PPG so far this season). With the guards hitting the defensive glass, Dekker doesn’t need to worry about rebounding and can just focus on carrying the bulk of the offensive load. Another area where he can benefit from the guards’ rebounding abilities is in transition. He can take off as soon as Gasser or Brust hit the boards, which should spark more fast break opportunities for the Badgers. The third guard can take the outlet pass and start running, which will help the Badgers pick up a few easy baskets. This style would also help Frank Kaminsky, who runs the floor very well for a big man. It is unclear if this trend will continue and if Wisconsin’s tempo will actually increase over the long haul, but so far this season Bo Ryan’s group is using a couple more possessions per game than last year.

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Big Ten M5: 11.11.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on November 11th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. Ever watch a John Calipari interview during a game and think that he tries to be “too” humble? Well, Calipari may be at it again with his comments about the upcoming State Farm Champion’s Classic match-up against Michigan State. Calipari said that it was “unfair” for his team to play the Spartans this early in the season because Tom Izzo has a veteran team. Izzo responded, “I agree, I think he should forfeit. If Johnny doesn’t want to play it, I’ll take a win.” While the Spartans have two seniors, Kentucky will field five freshmen in the starting five. Regardless of the diversity of experience, the game will be very close and the Wildcats come in as the #1 team in the country.
  2. Wisconsin had to deal with terrible news a year ago when Josh Gasser was declared done for the season due to an injury. Traevon Jackson stepped in for Gasser and the Badgers still finished in the top four within the conference. This season, however, Gasser’s services are needed in Madison and the guard made a triumphant return against St. John’s on Friday night. He finished with 19 points and eight rebounds to prove that the Badgers will be a handful in the Big Ten once again. It is likely that Bo Ryan will play a three-guard line up with Gasser, Jackson, and Ben Brust, which could be appear to be small on paper. However, Gasser is one of the best rebounding guards and he showed his strength during the season opener.
  3. As we approach the middle of November, we need to keep an eye out for any news about highly recruited forward Cliff Alexander. According to Fox Sports, Alexander’s final decision is down to two schools – Illinois and Kansas. He eliminated Michigan State from his list last week and is expected to make a decision over the next two weeks. Another top recruit, Jahil Okafor, is considering Kansas too. It would be interesting to see if Alexander will choose to play alongside another forward in Kansas, if Okafor chose the Jayhawks. If he chooses to head to Champaign, we may have a contender for the Big Ten title and at least a Sweet Sixteen appearance at Illinois.
  4. The new hand-checking rules in college hoops will be under scrutiny over the first couple of months of the season. The rules could potentially hurt aggressive defenders such as Ohio State’s Aaron Craft. His head coach, Thad Matta, does not think it will affect his senior guard’s intensity. “Aaron Craft plays defense with his mind,” Buckeyes coach Thad Matta told Sporting News, fairly scoffing. Craft may get called for more fouls than the previous seasons, but it is tough to imagine a seasoned guard to struggle with the new rules. If he does take a step back on defense, that will certainly impact Ohio State’s chances to compete for a Big Ten title.
  5. Purdue is not expected to compete for a postseason bid because of the youth on their roster. Matt Painter, however, hopes that the “immaturity” issues are in the rear-view mirror after last season. “At Purdue, we have always been able to, when we have had a successful season, play hard,” Painter said. “And at times last season we didn’t do that. You can be young, but you can’t be immature.” Terone Johnson will play a pivotal role on the offense, but he will have to step up as a vocal leader to coach the young team on the floor, if the Boilermakers hope to compete in the Big Ten this year. Forward A.J. Hammons will also need to avoid picking up silly fouls on the defensive end and learn to stay composed against superior competition because his contributions will be needed against the likes of Indiana and Michigan.
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Wisconsin Looks Much More Perimeter Heavy This Season

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on November 8th, 2013

It’s not often that fast and Wisconsin basketball are used in the same sentence. Since Bo Ryan has been the head coach in Madison, the Badgers have been known for playing big men who execute a deliberate style on the offensive end coupled with strong, take-no-prisoners halfcourt defense. During the past five seasons, Wisconsin’s scoring average hasn’t landed in the top half of the Big Ten, and last season it sat at eighth after averaging 66.2 points a game. The Badgers have also ranked in the bottom 25 Division I teams for possessions per game during four of the past five seasons. Well, get ready for a new look Wisconsin squad. With the graduation of several interior players and the return of Josh Gasser from an ACL injury, the Badgers are likely to use three- and perhaps even four-guard lineups a lot more this season.

Ben Brust is one of many guards that Wisconsin will utilize this season.(Photo credit: Brian Snyder/Reuters).

Ben Brust is one of many guards that Wisconsin will utilize this season.(Photo credit: Brian Snyder/Reuters).

Exactly how often Wisconsin may use a perimeter-heavy lineup isn’t certain, but based on its current roster, the Badgers will be doing it early and often. With the graduations of Jared Berggren, Ryan Evans and Mike Bruesewitz, the majority of the team’s inside presence is gone outside of Sam Dekker. Those three averaged a total of more than 26 points and 19 rebounds a game for the team, with the best returning inside player other than Dekker being Frank Kaminsky, who only averaged 10 minutes per game last season. This makes interior play a huge question mark for this team, but Ryan certainly has plenty of known commodities on the perimeter. As he said at Wisconsin’s media day, “You think 12 guards is a lot?. It just panned out this way. It keeps a very high competitive level in the backcourt and all our drills and all our possessions.”

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20 Questions: Does Sam Dekker Make Wisconsin a Final Four Contender?

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 21st, 2013

seasonpreview-1

Semantics matter. And semantics makes this one a no-brainer, in so many ways. No, Sam Dekker does not make Wisconsin a Final Four contender. Now don’t get me wrong, Wisconsin may well indeed be a Final Four contender (a question I’ll get to later), but if so, it is not solely due to Dekker. First and foremost, basketball is a team sport that requires five competent players on the court playing well together. And even in the best of cases, one superstar coupled with four, well, schmucks, does not make for a Final Four team, no matter how good that superstar is. And at a place like Wisconsin with a coach like Bo Ryan, this goes double. Under Ryan’s swing offense, the Badgers are going to run sound fundamental offensive basketball, coupled with hard-nosed stingy defense on the other end of the court, and they are going to take what the opponent gives them. Sometimes that will mean Dekker will be able to have big nights, but on other occasions, Wisconsin is going to need big contributions elsewhere. Even if Dekker has the best year in the history of Wisconsin basketball, the Badgers will still need some help.

Sam Dekker Leading Wisconsin To A Final Four? There Are Plenty Of Reasons To Be Skeptical (Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports)

Sam Dekker Leading Wisconsin To A Final Four? There Are Plenty Of Reasons To Be Skeptical. (USA Today Sports)

The second thought about this question, even taking away the nitpicking first paragraph of my answer is this: What has Sam Dekker done so far to deserve anything approaching a “yes” answer here? I like Dekker’s game and I know damn well that one of the things that makes Ryan such a successful coach is his ability to get players to improve from year to year. So I fully expect him to significantly better his 9.6 point and 3.4 rebound per game averages from his freshman campaign. And clearly with Mike Bruesewitz, Ryan Evans and Jared Berggren all gone from the Wisconsin front line, there is going to plenty of room for Dekker to pile up minutes and crank up the production. But the fact that those three seniors have graduated means this team is less likely to compete for a Final Four this season than last, a year in which, I might remind you, the Badgers got knocked out in their opening game of the NCAA Tournament. Even if Dekker goes out and averages something like the 19.4 points per game he dropped in Wisconsin’s summer trip to Canada (a nightly average which would be the best year out of a Wisconsin player since Alando Tucker won the Big Ten Player of the Year in 2007), he’s still going to need plenty of scoring help from the returning backcourt of Ben Brust and Traevon Jackson, along with Josh Gasser, who returns from a season lost to an ACL tear. And frankly, while we can expect Dekker to improve, can we really expect him as a sophomore to be as good or better than guys like Tucker or Jon Leuer were as seniors? I think not.

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Big East M5: 12.07.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 7th, 2012

  1. Some of the speculation circling the Big East‘s media contract negotiations sound fairly dire, but conference officials and commissioner Mike Aresco remain optimistic. While the league expected to sign off on a deal around $100 million in value, the major hits that the conference has taken in both school departures and in the restructuring of the football postseason system has left the Big East very solidly in the sixth spot, behind the other five power conferences. CBS Sports.com reported that the conference’s deal may only come out to $60-$80 million, well short of original expectations. The Big East is now trying to add value by negotiating with multiple potential media partners, and discussing structures that would pit bigger name schools against each other more often in basketball: “The media companies really like that idea, and so do our basketball schools… It’s the kind of thing that will strengthen our conference.”
  2. In order to teach his team the value of defense, Rick Pitino dusted off some DVDs from all the way back in the mid-2000s and showed his team the play of past Cards such as Andre McGee, Earl Clark, and Terrence Williams. Pitino seems to be stressing the zone this year, which has been a trend throughout the Big East. Obviously, Syracuse has been playing nearly-exclusive zone since the mid-90s, but Louisville has started playing more of the defense over the years, and even Georgetown has added the 2-3 to its repertoire this year (to great success). Jim Boeheim has used his zone to give his team easy offensive opportunities for years, as well as to bait opposing teams into strings of bad possessions, and other programs are catching on. Of course, Pitino isn’t the only coach adding some new weapons to the arsenal that other teams have featured. Boeheim put Syracuse in a Pitino-esque full court zone-press for virtually all of the team’s game against Eastern Michigan. Just as one might assume these old coaches can’t be taught new tricks, they steal one from their rival’s bag.
  3. One of Connecticut‘s  major struggles this year has been generating any kind of presence down low. Enter:  Enosch Wolf. The 7’1″ German center had a breakout performance in the Huskies’ loss to NC State at Madison Square Garden earlier this week, scoring 12 points and pulling down nine rebounds. While Tyler Olander and DeAndre Daniels continue to struggle, if the Huskies can get serious production out of Wolf, it takes a lot of pressure off of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, a duo who currently account for 47% of UConn’s total offense.
  4. After only averaging 10.3 minutes per game in 2011-12, Michael Carter-Williams has emerged as a star for Syracuse, averaging 11.5 points and leading the nation with 9.5 assists per game this season. The rangy sophomore has flirted with a triple-double on a few occasions this year, coming one assist shy at Arkansas and three rebounds away against Eastern Michigan. “MCW” has four double-digit assist games, and also averages 3.7 steals per contest. When he was recruited, few knew much about the then-three star Carter-Williams, but he quickly shot up the recruiting boards to eventually become a McDonald’s All-American, and at 6’6″, Syracuse fans salivated at the thought of him playing at the top of the zone. That potential seems to be coming to fruition, and if Carter-Williams can consistently knock down his jumper this season, he may develop into another high draft pick for Syracuse very soon.
  5. Coming off of a poor showing in an 82-49 loss to Florida, Marquette takes on in-state rival Wisconsin on Saturday. Wisconsin, which under Bo Ryan is known for the swing offense, has transitioned into more of a Princeton-offense style team this season, a switch which concerns the Marquette staff. The team was used to seeing the Badgers on a regular basis but will be fairly unfamiliar with how Wisconsin plays this season. They may be without Josh Gasser, but Buzz Williams still thinks that Wisconsin is an extremely dangerous team: “I think offensively, as they’ve figured out how to play without Josh and as they’ve become more accustomed to their new offensive system, I think they’re getting better.” Despite the change in system, Wisconsin still beats teams in the same ways: efficient, well-rounded shooting from three-point range, and aggressive man-to-man defense that prevents other teams from doing the same. A win in this rivalry game would really help take the bad taste from the Florida loss out of Golden Eagles fans’ mouths.
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Big Ten M5: 11.16.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 16th, 2012

  1. Michigan State freshman Gary Harris came into this season a highly touted recruit for Tom Izzo. He was ranked in the top 30 by Rivals and proved his worth against Kansas by scoring 18 points on Tuesday night. But the other freshman Spartan, Denzel Valentine, may end up being just as valuable as Harris this season. Valentine has the ability to become a great guard in Izzo’s system with his passing skills (four assists against KU) and the zeal to buckle down on the defensive end. Both Harris and Valentine may end up being a dynamic duo for Izzo over the next couple of years assuming both of them stay in school.
  2. Bo Ryan may find guards to fill in the void created by Josh Gasser’s injury on the offensive end but the defensive side might suffer a bit this season. Shane Ryan of Grantland outlines the Badgers’ defensive issues based on the road game against Florida on Wednesday night. Gasser was a lockdown defender on defense last season and his freshman replacements, George Marshall and Traevon Jackson, may have issues keeping up with superior backcourts. Both of them are athletic enough but it takes a while for freshmen to understand and communicate properly about the defensive sets. Ryan’s teams have ranked in the top 10 defensively in the nation for a long time and will need to figure out their issues soon before conference play begins.
  3. After long discussions with Minnesota’s Charles Buggs‘ family, Tubby Smith and Buggs have decided that he will redshirt this season. The 6’9″ forward’s services may not be needed because Trevor Mbakwe will play a major role in the frontcourt for Tubby Smith. Buggs weighs about 195 lbs. right now, so one of his main goals during the redshirt year will be to add some size in order to compete in the rugged B1G. Smith compared him to forward Damian Johnson who redshirted as a true freshman and became a key defensive player for Smith in Minneapolis. Rodney Williams will mostly play at the power forward position once Mbakwe is back to 100% game shape over the next couple of months.
  4. Northwestern has signed point guard Jaren Sina and guard Nate Taphorn for the 2013-14 season. Sina was also considering Seton Hall, Alabama, Memphis and Pittsburgh, while Taphorn is supposed to have great range on his jumper and should contribute from the wing next season after Drew Crawford’s graduation. Head coach Bill Carmody continues to bring in quality guards to Evanston but he will have to recruit some athletic size who can hold their own in the paint if he wants to win more than nine or 10 games in the conference season. Forward Chier Ajou may end up being a valuable big man for Carmody as he gains more experience over the course of the season.
  5. After a 2-0 start, Illinois will play Hawaii on the road on Friday night. John Groce and his Illini took a trip to Pearl Harbor and met some World War II veterans while in Honolulu. The Illini could beat Hawaii convincingly but they will have a big challenge against USC on Monday night to kick off the Maui Invitational in Lahaina. This talented group of new Trojans may not compete with Arizona and UCLA for the Pac-12 regular season title but could very well end up among the top five teams in their conference. A win against USC would be a huge confidence booster for Illinois as it learns to adjust to Groce’s up-tempo offensive schemes.
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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On November Rituals, Head-Scratchers, and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 13th, 2012

Brian Otskey is a regular contributor for RTC. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. In what seems to have become an annual November ritual, fans and members of the media tend to overreact in making bold statements about teams and players after just one or two games have been played. While I recognize that is the nature of the “what have you done for me lately?” society we live in, fans and the media alike must take a step back. While some early season wins may appear to be huge and some losses head-scratching, we all must remember that the college basketball season is a long, evolving process. The NCAA Tournament doesn’t begin for another four months. Most teams will play 12 non-conference games before they begin 16 or 18-game conference schedules.  It’s OK to say something nice about a team that came up with a great early season win or to be skeptical of a school coming off a loss you might never have expected, but making statements such as “Florida State is a bust because it lost to South Alabama!” is just plain foolish. While a loss like that certainly gives you pause, we’ve seen this movie before time and time again in November, especially as the college season has started earlier and earlier over the years. A loss to South Alabama is hardly a definitive indicator of how Florida State will perform in 2012-13. It’s just one of 30+ games the Seminoles will play this season. With that said, I do have a couple of questions about FSU. One, does the team miss the steady point guard presence of Luke Loucks from a season ago (nine assists, 17 turnovers against USA)? Two, is Leonard Hamilton’s defense not as strong as we are accustomed to seeing? South Alabama shot 9-of-15 from deep and Buffalo shot 50% overall from the floor in FSU’s second game on Monday. Those are examples of legitimate concerns, but not affirmative statements about how Florida State’s season will turn out. The Seminoles have plenty of time to come together and fix their weaknesses. Just don’t bury Florida State, or any other team for that matter, before Thanksgiving for crying out loud.

    How Much is FSU Missing Luke Loucks Right Now? (Reuters)

  2. There were quite a few of those aforementioned head-scratchers over the first four days of the season. In addition to Florida State, teams such as Mississippi State, Virginia, Rutgers, South Florida, Purdue, Drexel and Georgia all started the season on the wrong foot. Other schools including Oklahoma State, Texas and Providence struggled with inferior opponents but managed to hang on and win. In some circumstances like those faced at Mississippi State, Virginia, Georgia and Purdue, these are teams rebuilding after critical personnel losses. While it’s unfair to blast their November performance, these losses could be a sign of things to come. On the other hand, you could say a team like Drexel just had a bad night. The Dragons are a talented bunch and the overwhelming favorites in the depleted Colonial Athletic Association. Above all, however, the worst loss of them all belongs to North Texas. The Sun Belt favorites, who boast the talented Tony Mitchell, lost to Division II Alabama-Huntsville on Monday night. What does this mean? Not a whole lot in the grand scheme of things but it underscores how important it is for teams to put forth maximum effort every time out. The instances in which a team can get away with an off night have shrunk over the years due to parity and better talent assembled on non-power six rosters. When trying to analyze a team at this early stage of the season, don’t dismiss a disappointing loss but don’t throw the team under the bus at the same time. There is a very long way to go. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten Team Previews: Wisconsin Badgers

Posted by jnowak on November 6th, 2012

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

Where We Left Off: We last saw the Badgers finish off what seemed like just another typical season — steady as she goes. They started the season ranked in most polls around No. 15 in the country and stayed there for most of last year, climbing into the Top 10 at one point. They won a game in the Big Ten Tournament before losing to eventual champion Michigan State and won two more in the NCAA Tournament before dropping a one-point heartbreaker to Syracuse in the third round. Finishing fourth in the conference felt just about right for a Badgers squad that weathered some early-season struggles from All-American guard Jordan Taylor to end the year with a good showing in a tough conference.

With Mike Bruesewitz out for at least a month, the Badgers will have some holes to fill in the early going. (Greg M. Cooper/US Presswire)

Positives: Even with the losses of two upperclassmen (Mike Bruesewitz – albeit temporary — and Josh Gasser, but we’ll get to that in a moment), this may be the most experienced team in the Big Ten. It will be anchored by senior center/forward Jared Berggren, and he’ll get a hand from senior Ryan Evans and junior Zach Bohannan (who transferred from Air Force) and Ben Brust. Experience comes into play most on the defensive end, and defense is arguably the important aspect of the game in the Big Ten (the Badgers led the conference in scoring defense last year). Also, the more time familiar with Bo Ryan‘s system, the more easily these guys can jump right in and hope to contend in a rough-and-tumble conference this year. And with the help of the upperclassmen, freshman point guard George Marshall should have plenty of assistance in the important area of floor leadership.

Negatives: Right now, Wisconsin is more of a “have-not” than a “have.” They’ll be without the senior forward Bruesewitz, who suffered a freak leg injury in practice in early October, until sometime around the Creighton game on November 23 (which means he’ll miss the Florida game on November 14). Then, when junior guard Gasser tore his ACL in practice later last month, that took away a second certain starter for the Badgers who were already going to be fighting to be in the top tier of a loaded conference. The pair of Bruesewitz and Gasser have combined to start 115 games for the Badgers. Those are two talented, veteran players the Badgers will be hard-pressed to replace, at least in the early going.

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Big Ten M5: 11.05.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 5th, 2012

  1. Exhibition games don’t mean much in the grand scheme of the season, but you get a good first look at the freshmen. Michigan State’s Gary Harris is arguably the most interesting freshman in the conference and will be scrutinized especially as Branden Dawson tries to get back to 100% after an ACL injury. After two exhibition games, Harris has impressed Tom Izzo on the offensive end of the court. He looked really good off the dribble in the game against Northwood and scored 14 points. However, he admits that he needs to be more effective on defense specifically against the pick-and-roll. Izzo will demand Harris’ improvement on defense but his offensive production will help the Spartans during the non-conference season.
  2. Speaking of freshmen in the league, Purdue has a couple of good guards who are expected to contribute immediately. Even though Ronnie Johnson and Rapheal Davis were not ranked in the top 30 by Rivals coming out of high school, both of them have the talent to be very good players in the league. Each of the freshman guards scored 16 points in Purdue’s exhibition win over Newberry with Davis scoring all of his points in the second half. Ronnie Johnson may be the primary point guard in the rotation after the departure of Lewis Jackson but Davis will play a significant role off the bench. Guard Terone Johnson (9.1 PPG last season) will carry the offensive load for the Boilermakers; he scored 18 points in the exhibition.
  3. As Matt Painter tries to incorporate new talent into the rotation, Bo Ryan has to figure out how to replace Josh Gasser at the point guard position. Every guard on the roster will need to help out with Gasser’s loss and the latest scrimmage in Madison has obviously led to more scrutiny of the guards. Redshirt freshman George Marshall has been impressive and appears to be the frontrunner to replace Gasser. Traevon Jackson‘s jumpers were a good sign and Ben Brust showed why his minutes will increase this season — Brust averaged 7.3 PPG in 21 MPG last season and is expected to play a key role in the backcourt. Ryan once again praised Frank Kaminsky, a forward who has a good jumper for a big guy which fits perfectly in the Ryan’s offensive system.
  4. The Iowa Hawkeyes are considered a sleeper in the Big Ten mainly due to their underclassmen such as Aaron White (11.1 PPG) and Adam Woodbury. Junior wing Roy Devyn Marble (11.5 PPG) will be their primary scorer offensively, but Fran McCaffery believes that Eric May, the only senior with a scholarship on the roster, needs to be effective for Iowa to meet their lofty expectations this season. May averaged 4.3 PPG in 14.7 PPG last year but wants to be a lock-down defender for the Hawkeyes during his final season. May is supposed to be in “great shape” according to the coaches and Iowa will definitely need somebody to set the tempo on the defensive end after losing Matt Gatens to graduation. They will push the tempo and play a fast brand of basketball but if they are not able to defend, McCaffery’s team will fall short of making the NCAA Tournament.
  5. Speaking of former Big Ten seniors, Illinois’ Mike Davis was drafted as the fifth overall player in the NBA Development League over the weekend. Davis had a solid career at Illinois as he averaged at least 11 PPG from his sophomore season on. He was not highly recruited out of high school but former Illini coach Bruce Weber appreciated his work ethic and intensity. Davis also averaged eight rebounds per game during the final three seasons, and he has the size (6’9″) to continue to play professional basketball at some level for a few years. He might not make the NBA but he can certainly work his way out of the Development League and possibly play in Europe for a few seasons.
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Big Ten M5: 11.02.12 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on November 2nd, 2012

  1. Exhibition season has officially begun in college basketball and Minnesota kicked off the year with an 81-56 victory over Minnesota State-Mankato Thursday night. The Gophers started the exhibition with the same starting five as the end of last year — Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins, Joe Coleman, Rodney Williams and Elliot Eliason — because that group has performed well in practice together, but coach Tubby Smith also mixed in star forward Trevor Mbakwe, who was injured last season, and Mo Walker, who redshirted last season. Walker had eight points in 11 minutes, while Mbakwe had four points and three rebounds. Minnesota has another scrimmage against Southwest Baptist on Monday before opening the regular season on November 9 against American.
  2. If Michigan is going to have the season many media members predict — challenging for the conference crown — then the Wolverines’ freshmen are going to have to step up. They did just that in Thursday’s 83-47 exhibition win against Northern Michigan, as Nik Stauskus, Spike Albrecht and Glenn Robinson III led Michigan with 17, 16 and 13 points, respectively, along with junior Tim Hardaway Jr.’s 13 points. At one point, coach John Beilein had five freshmen in the game at the same time and he said he didn’t even realize it. Of course, there’s a long way to go before we crown his team as the next Fab Five, but these freshmen certainly didn’t disappoint in their first time on a college court. The Wolverines have another exhibition, this time against Saginaw Valley State, on Monday before opening the regular season on November 9 against Slippery Rock.
  3. Like Minnesota’s Mo Walker, Indiana’s Maurice Creek shined in his exhibition game following a redshirt year. Creek, who had to sit all of last year with a ruptured Achilles’, had 12 points to lead the Hoosiers in their 86-57 win over Indiana Wesleyan. Indiana also received contributions from preseason national player of the year Cody Zeller and Will Sheehey, who both had 11 points and five rebounds. Christian Watford had 11 points and six rebounds, while Victor Oladipo had 10 points and seven rebounds. This is a deep team, and while a win against Indiana Wesleyan proves nothing, IU certainly showed it has plenty of options and can spread the ball around.
  4. Wisconsin has yet to play a game this year, but it has already dealt with injuries to two key players — Mike Bruesewitz and Josh Gasser. Bruesewitz will be back in the non-conference season, but Gasser is out for the season with a torn ACL. CBS Sports has a first-hand account of Gasser’s injury from guest blogger Zach Bohannon, a Badgers forward. Bohannon gives an emotional account of Gasser’s injury and the effect of an ACL injury on teams in general. It was a shocking injury for the Wisconsin players, as Bohannon said they saw Gasser as “indestructible.” It’s a humanizing account of “the face of the program” and puts the careers of college basketball players into perspective.
  5. The Big Ten is known for its low-scoring games and its defense, so it’s not surprising that two of the top 10 scariest defenders in the game, according to ESPN.com, play in the conference. ESPN ranks Ohio State’s Aaron Craft as the scariest defender in the country, citing his one-on-one defensive skills on the perimeter and his ability to steal the ball. Indiana’s Victor Oladipo checks in at No. 5, due to his versatility and ability to defend on the perimeter and in the post. Craft has a reputation throughout the nation as a top defender and he has an effect beyond standard statistics, as laid out by the Aaron Craft Turnometer created by Sports Illustrated’s Luke Winn. Only a junior, Big Ten teams likely have two more years of dealing with Craft’s spectacular defensive skills.
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Weekend Wrap: Buckeyes to the Final Four; Spartans, Hoosiers, Badgers Fall

Posted by jnowak on March 25th, 2012

Four teams enter, one team leaves. The Big Ten had four representatives advance to the second weekend of NCAA Tournament play, but just Ohio State — considered by many to be the toast of the league for much of the season before Michigan State emerged as Big Ten Tournament champions and the conference’s lone #1 seed — will be suiting up in New Orleans next weekend. Here are a few thoughts from the weekend’s action:

Ohio State's Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Deshaun Thomas celebrate their team's win against Syracuse on Saturday. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

  • Tom Izzo was right — The esteemed Michigan State coach, who knows a thing or two about getting through March, has recognized all along that this is not his most talented team but it had as much capability as any other because of its intangible qualities. Because of this, Izzo has also said all along that the group’s margin for error was smaller than maybe ever before. That came to fruition against a red-hot Louisville group on Thursday, as the Spartans turned in one of the worst offensive performances of the tournament. The Cardinals never allowed the Spartans to get into a rhythm and it led to an early exit. If it’s any consolation, Michigan State has been eliminated by a Final Four team in six of the last eight seasons.
  • Does Ohio State have what it takes? — The Buckeyes are Bourbon Street-bound, but can they win two more games? They wouldn’t have to play the top team in the tournament (Kentucky) presumably until the national title game, and have shown that they can keep finding ways to win. They did it without Jared Sullinger for most of the first half Saturday, and William Buford and Deshaun Thomas were both pretty quiet. If everything clicks for this group, they can certainly hang with anybody.
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