Big Ten M5: 03.07.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on March 7th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Indiana more than likely saw their already slim NCAA Tournament hopes dashed by losing to Nebraska 70-60 on Wednesday night. Despite some flashes of quality play in some of their impressive wins they have gotten at home, this has really been a puzzling team to figure out through most of the season. Mediocre is a strong word to use for a team that lost two NBA lottery picks and two other senior starters, yet still has a 17-13 record. Inconsistent and unpredictable might be more apt terms to describe the 2013-14 Hoosiers. Their poor non-conference schedule hasn’t done them any favors as far as their resume goes, and it’s also lead to a team not being prepared for Big Ten play.
  2. Minnesota unexpectedly is losing a player who started 23 of their 30 games this season. Oto Osenieks is ending his basketball career after it was determined that a knee injury that he’s had multiple surgeries on simply is too damaged for him to continue on. Joey King has taken over the starting power forward spot, so look for he and Charles Buggs to continue getting the majority of the minutes at that spot.
  3. Ohio State faces a crucial test Sunday afternoon when they take on Michigan State. The game is significant because it’s Senior Day for Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. But Shannon Scott says that it’s more important to get the win “to get (us) into the best situation we can for the tournament.” Scott also said in the interview that he likes his role coming off the bench due to the fact that he can “fit in where (he) can and figure out what the team needs at the time and try and do it.” With Keith Appling of Michigan State having his best game in quite some time last night against Iowa, the Buckeyes will need big efforts from both Craft and Scott on Sunday night to make Senior Day a memorable one.
  4. Michigan’s sophomore class- especially Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert, Glenn Robinson III, and the injured Mitch McGary- garner most of the headlines and publicity for the recently-crowned Big Ten regular season champions. But you can’t overlook the contributions of freshmen Derrick Walton Jr, and Zak Irvin. They both have showed much more consistency as the season has gone along, and Coach John Beilein believes their improvement has been the key to turning things around after a shaky non-conference part of their season. Both have had played really well and they have both blended in seamlessly as the season has gone along. Michigan has had some outstanding players make substantial jumps between their first and second seasons in Ann Arbor, and if this trend continues, Walton and Irvin will be Big Ten mainstays for as long as they are donning the maize and blue.
  5. Switching over to the other Michigan school in the league, Adreian Payne and Keith Appling played their last game in East Lansing for Michigan State last night when they beat Iowa 86-76. The pair are victims of the program’s past success, as they and fellow senior Dan Chapman will have been the first senior class under Tom Izzo to have not played in a Final Four. It hardly seems fair that many will view their time with the program to have been unsuccessful unless they advance four spots into the bracket without taking a loss. The Spartans took a small step toward that goal however by impressively beating the Hawkeyes. Appling looked to be much more comfortable, and if he really is healthy finally, this team can be just as good as everyone thought in the preseason.
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Big Ten M5: 03.05.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on March 5th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Credit Indiana senior forward Will Sheehey for having some self-awareness when he was asked about his team’s NCAA Tournament chances. The reigning Big Ten Player of the Week said it feels like the team is in the midst of making a run, but that they still have plenty of work left to do. With how bad Indiana’s non-conference schedule was and the fact that the Hoosiers had a 4-8 conference record as recently as February 15, it’s a small miracle that they’ve even put themselves in the position to talk about landing a spot in the field of 68.
  2. In what has become sort of a running M5 tradition, here’s more talk of Michigan State and its latest injury news. While head coach Tom Izzo isn’t going to have Keith Appling miss anymore games, it is possible that he may cut the senior point guard’s minutes if he continues to be ineffective. It’s kind of a lose-lose situation for Izzo. On one hand, he has to let Appling continue to get reps so he’s not rusty for the postseason; on the other hand, if he’s not the same player he was prior to getting hurt (which he clearly is not), then do you take the chance of having a senior leader only playing limited minutes? The Spartans have until the middle of March to figure it out, but time is running out on this team.
  3. Ben Brust has been recognized as one of the best shooters in the Big Ten and for his ability as an undersized rebounder. But when Bo Ryan likens the Wisconsin senior to a mosquito, it’s hard not to scoff. The comparison makes sense, however, as Ryan explained how Brust can frustrate bigger opponents on the defensive end. The Badgers possess a certain grittiness on that side of the ball, and it all starts with Brust and fellow guard Josh Gasser both being able to take on players who are bigger and more athletic than they are.
  4. Many think that Michigan wrapping up the regular season Big Ten crown last night is enough to give John Beilein the Coach of the Year award. That’s not to say that Nebraska head coach Tim Miles doesn’t also offer a compelling argument. It is Miles who deserves the award if the Huskers make the NCAA Tournament, according to the Omaha World-Herald‘s Lee Barfknecht. It will be interesting to see how this and many of the other postseason honors play out. Miles has sped up the Nebraska rebuilding plan and then some, but Beilein dealt with the loss of a potential lottery pick in addition to losing two others starters now playing in the NBA.
  5. Things just keep getting worse for Purdue. First Sterling Carter tore his ACL and will miss the rest of the season, and now promising redshirt freshman Jay Simpson has also seen his Purdue career come to an end. Simpson was recently diagnosed with the heart ailment hypertrophic cardiomyotrophy (HCM). This is the same disease that ended the lives of players such as Hank Gathers and Reggie Lewis. Simpson had to be taken out of the game on February 23 against Nebraska despite not appearing to have suffered an injury, but very luckily the disease was discovered before tragedy struck.
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Will Michigan State Ever be the Team We Thought It Could Be?

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 3rd, 2014

Branden Dawson’s return on Saturday was supposed to be the first positive step towards a full-strength resurgence for Michigan State, a “welcome back” moment for a bona-fide National Championship contender. Instead, the Spartans looked more like a fledgling team with a disorganized collection of talent than a veteran bunch ready to make a deep March run. “We didn’t play like a Michigan State team is supposed to play,” Tom Izzo said after the  53-46 home loss to Illinois. But with only a handful of games remaining before the stakes are significantly raised, the question has suddenly become two-fold for Izzo and his struggling group: Will they hit their peak before it’s too late? And—perhaps more ominous—is their peak even as high as first thought?

The concerns are piling up for Tom Izzo and the Spartans. (Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports)

The concerns are piling up for Tom Izzo and the Spartans. (Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports)

Despite his noticeable rust on the offensive end, Dawson’s first game back was actually encouraging in a lot of ways for the Spartans. The athletic junior seemed just as aggressive on the glass and tenacious on defense as he did before suffering the broken hand that kept him out a month. In 25 minutes of action, Dawson was energetic and unafraid, pulling down a team-high four offensive rebounds to go along with a pair of steals and a blocked shot—all-around pretty good, considering the long absence. The larger, more glaring concern was the play of Keith Appling; only recently back from an injury himself (wrist), the point guard remains nowhere near the player he was before the affliction. The Appling of old would confidently (and accurately) launch from behind the arc, explosively attack the basket, and knock down free throws when he earned trips to the line. It’s the reason he scored in double figures for seven straight games earlier this season and was in the conversation for Big Ten Player of the Year. But since his three-game hiatus in mid-February? The senior leader has attempted only three three-pointers, seldom penetrated the lane, and has gone just 2-for-8 from the charity stripe in 103 minutes of combined action. Among his misses were several potentially game-altering attempts against the Illini on Saturday that might have changed the outcome had they gone in. Whether it’s the lingering wrist injury or something else, Appling cannot continue to play at this level if the Spartans are going to make a run in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournament—he’s simply too important, both as a scoring option and a facilitator, to remain a non-factor.

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Big Ten M5: 02.25.14 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on February 25th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Last week, I stated Terran Pettaway was probably not going to win Big Ten POTY because he plays for a team unlikely to make the NCAA Tournament and his efficiency numbers were considerably lower than other contenders like Nik Stauskas. Well that might be changing as Nebraska keeps winning and Pettaway keeps dropping 20+ points, like he has in his last three games. He’s impressed so much that BTN.com’s Player of the Year Tracker now has him ranked as the front-runner for the award. Pettaway will need to keep up the strong performances, since the award is mostly given to a player from a top-tier team. While Nebraska has been as impressive as any team in the last few weeks, they are at best a bubble team. So Pettaway will really need to separate himself if he is to make his case against other players.
  2. It seems like we may never see a fully healthy Michigan State. Tom Izzo stated on Monday he would continue to play Keith Appling throughout the regular season. Appling is recovering from a wrist injury and did not play particularly inspiring basketball at Michigan on Sunday — finishing with only six points and two assists in twenty-five minutes. The Spartans have been trading wins and losses for almost four weeks now and Izzo needs all the men who are able to play out on the court to challenge for top seeding in the NCAA Tournament. For Izzo’s sake, Appling will need to either mend while playing or learn to live with the pain in order to get to this team’s goal of a Final Four appearance.
  3. It’s always tough to see players go down with season-ending injuries, but it’s even tougher when it happens to a senior. This is exactly what happened to Purdue’s Sterling Carter when he tore his ACL in Sunday’s game at Nebraska. Carter transferred from Seattle University to finish his career playing in the bright lights of the Big Ten. And while his season was cut short, Carter did get to finish his career, and play over twenty games, at a level he was not recruited at coming out of high school. There have been debates about whether the graduate transfer rule is beneficial or harmful to the game on the whole. But one of the positives are players like Carter who get the experience of playing big time basketball after proving himself in the low major levels –even if it is short lived.
  4. After a dominating performance on Saturday, Nik Stauskas may be back to his dominating ways. That’s good news for Michigan, but bad news for the rest of the league. He put on a show against Michigan State, scoring 25 points, 21 of which came in the second half. If Stauskas has indeed awoken from his February slump, he may run away with both the Big Ten regular season championship and the Big Ten POTY. That’s an amazing jump in performance from last season when he was thought of simply as a shooter. In the beginning of the season, most pundits though it impossible that any Wolverine could replace Trey Burke. And while Stauskas can’t run a team like Burke, he has a chance to give Michigan a consecutive Final Four appearance and Big Ten POTY.
  5. If you wanted to tweet at your favorite Iowa player this week, well, you can forget it now. Fran McCaffery has instructed his players to shut down their twitter accounts for the remainder of the season after Zach McCabe reacted to some negative comments made to him on the social media platform. Coaches are free to manage their team as they see fit and if McCaffery believes shutting down Twitter will help his team’s performance, more power to him. But perhaps it’s not by coincidence that shutting down Twitter (or removing names on the back of jerseys, etc.) always occurs after a tough loss. No coach seems to ban Twitter after a win. This appears like a reactionary maneuver from a coach trying to find any edge he can as the season comes to a close.
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Big Ten M5: 02.24.14 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on February 24th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Better late than never, but Michigan’s Caris LeVert is starting to get his due for his contributions to the Wolverines this season. After a 23-point performance against rival Michigan State on Sunday — his fourth 20+ game in the last four — he has catapulted his team to a one-game lead in the loss column of the Big Ten standings. His marked improvement, specifically on the offensive end, sets up the Wolverines to control their own destiny with four games left in pursuit of the conference championship. The LeVert-Nik Stauskas combo will be very dangerous in March, and has, at least for the moment, helped make Maize and Blue faithful forget about Mitch McGary.
  2. John Groce’s Illini are unlikely to make the NCAA Tournament, but the last few weeks of play should ultimately yield positive results for his young team. Against Minnesota, freshman guard Kendrick Nunn scored 19 points and showed that he has the makings of a future superstar. He has great form on his shot, and he is also excellent on the defensive end. He has proven to be a player with a knack for the ball during key possessions, and his experience and continued growth over the final few weeks will allow him to gain more confidence heading into next year.
  3. Indiana‘s season has gotten derailed over the past few weeks, but the Hoosiers snapped their recent three-game losing streak by beating Northwestern in Evanston over the weekend. At this juncture of the season, Tom Crean can only find several small moral victories in an otherwise disappointing season. His team was committed to feeding the post against the Wildcats, which led to a season-low seven turnovers in the game. Crean said, “These guys know if we get good looks and if we get a chance to get on that board and if we get to that foul line, we can be pretty good.” It is unlikely that the Hoosiers will surge towards the NCAAs in the final few weeks, but a confident young core should be pay dividends next season.
  4. It has been an up and down season for Wisconsin forward Frank Kaminsky. After pouring in 43 points against North Dakota early in the non-conference season, he struggled a bit in January during Big Ten play. However, he is making a strong comeback over the past three games, averaging 21.0 PPG in three wins to lead the Badgers into third place in the Big Ten standings. Already equipped with an excellent jumper from the beyond the arc, Kaminsky is challenging defenses by taking his game into the paint and utilizing a nice spin move to create angles for easy shots. If Kaminsky can keep up his recent offensive surge, the Badgers become a very interesting team at both the conference and national level.
  5. Injuries have been a persistent issue for Tom Izzo’s Spartans this season. First it was Adreian Payne who was sidelined; then it was Branden Dawson; and finally Keith Appling got bit by the injury bug a few weeks ago. Payne is now back and healthy, but Appling’s return against Michigan on Sunday was concerning. Playing with a sore right wrist, he scored just six points and clearly appeared to be banged up as the Spartans tried to prevent the Wolverines from running away with the Big Ten title. Dawson’s contributions are necessary for Michigan State to reach its potential, but yesterday’s game proved that Appling might be the most important player in the Izzo’s lineup.
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Big Ten Award Spotlight: Does Denzel Valentine Deserve Recognition?

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 20th, 2014

The phrase “glue guy” is used almost to the point of it being a cliche. It’s thrown around by announcers almost every game to describe players, many of whom simply aren’t very good or have much of a lasting impact. Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine has been neither of those things this season: He’s been very good in his sophomore campaign, and he has made a significant and necessary impact for the 21-5 Spartans. He’s been the almost-literal definition of a glue guy, as he’s one of only two Michigan State players to have played in all 26 games during an injury-riddled season for a team that still has a chance to make the Final Four in Arlington and cut down the nets. But has he done enough to merit all-Big Ten consideration?

Denzel Valentine has been stuffing the stat sheet all season long for Michigan State. (Eric Gay, AP)

Denzel Valentine has been stuffing the stat sheet all season long for Michigan State. (Eric Gay, AP)

Before laying out the case statistically for Valentine and his impact, here’s a comparison to consider:

  • Player A: 25.5 MPG, 9.9 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.9 BPG
  • Player B: 29.0 MPG, 7.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.4 BPG

Player A is Draymond Green’s sophomore numbers, and player B is Denzel Valentine’s sophomore numbers. As you can see, they aren’t all that different. Green played more out of the post, but both players have filled similar roles early in their careers. Neither were asked to score, but they were both counted on by Tom Izzo to distribute the ball, hit the glass, and defend their butts off. Green was named to the all-Big Ten third team in his sophomore season, so it’s not all that far-fetched that Valentine would earn similar recognition this season. Consider his impact: He’s currently the only player to rank in the league’s top 10 in both rebounds and assists; he’s in the top 20 in steals (13th); and he’s fifth with a 2:1 assist to turnover rate. Whether his numbers are a bit inflated because of how many players Michigan State has had injured is irrelevant — his level of production is still quite solid.

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Big Ten M5: 02.18.14 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on February 18th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Tom Izzo deserves credit for his team’s success throughout all the injuries. Sparty is still atop the Big Ten standings and a legitimate threat to reach the Final Four despite — at times — losing the services of Keith Appling, Gary Harris, and Adreian Payne. Appling’s recent injury puts him in jeopardy of missing the remainder of the regular season and returning for the postseason. With Appling, Harris, and Payne most likely gone after this season, Izzo is no doubt thinking long-term. He has the most Final Four-ready team in years, and a national championship, not another regular season championship, is the prize.
  2. Indiana may have said goodbye to its NCAA Tournament prospects after its 82-64 loss at Purdue on Saturday. That loss was its third in a row from a slate of games which were thought to be one of the Hoosiers’ easiest stretches of the season. Now, they find themselves with a 4-8 conference record with upcoming games against Iowa, at Wisconsin, Ohio State, and at Michigan still in its schedule. Tom Crean has stated that his players need to block out “unneeded pressure”. Crean further explains that some players on his young team are dealing with adversity for the first time as they were mostly winners on their respective high school and prep school teams. That may be true, but it’s also true that what plagued them in December plagues them today: too many turnovers and inconsistency on offense (outside of transition).
  3. It’s high time we start grouping Terran Pettaway in with other elite Big Ten players. On Sunday, he led his team in minutes and points to register a huge win at Michigan State. Thanks to Pettaway, who earned co-Player of the Week honors, the Cornhuskers are now back to .500 in the conference. Pettaway’s efforts, which have also propelled him into being second in the league in scoring (17.7 points per game), beg the question: shouldn’t he be in contention for Big Ten Player of the Year? However, there are some issues working against him. First, he’s playing for a team that will most likely miss the NCAA Tournament. Second, he is not as efficient as other elite scorers in the league; he averages around 1 point per possession while other top scorers are usually around 1.2 or greater. Despite these facts, we should recognize and appreciate the impact he is having on his team.
  4. Another player who should be recognized for his unexpected impact is Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky. The junior forward chipped in 25 points in the Badgers’ Sunday win at Michigan, scoring most of his points in the second half, including a three-point dagger that all but put the game away. He was also named co-Player of the Week on Monday and has helped put the Badgers back into the conversation of Big Ten regular season champions, now that they are only two games back. Unlike Pettaway and the Cornhuskers, Kaminsky has an arsenal of other teammates who can step up and have big scoring nights of their own. However, Kaminsky’s improvement this season has given Bo Ryan the most potent offense of his coaching career.
  5. One of the players Kaminsky has to rely on is freshman sensation Nigel Hayes. The young big man scored 15 points and grabbed 4 rebounds in their win against Minnesota this week. Hayes has now won his fourth Freshman of the Week award, only trailing Indiana’s Noah Vonleh with seven.  Vonleh will most likely win the Freshman of the Year honors due to his absurd rebounding numbers, and he is also projected to be a better NBA prospect than Hayes. But since conference play, Hayes has stepped up his game and is averaging 10.4 points per game, not too far off of Vonleh’s 11.3 points per game mark. Regardless of whoever people consider the best, it’s nice to see the tradition of talented big men continue in the Big Ten.
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Morning Five: 02.18.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 18th, 2014

morning5

  1. For the past month we have been talking about how dangerous Michigan State will be when it gets everybody back healthy later this season. Yesterday, we got our first indication that the Spartans might not be made whole the rest of the season as Tom Izzo announced that Keith Appling might be out for the rest of the season. After about 20 minutes of panic in East Lansing, Izzo clarified his comments to say that Appling might sit out the rest of the regular season. Still Izzo’s initial comments about “shutting [Appling] down” should serve as a reminder that we should be careful about projecting how a team will look when they get all of their pieces back until those pieces are ready to return.
  2. After the initial buzz around former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter’s move to push for union status for college athletes we had not heard much about the process. We figured that it would be a long drawn out process that would take years. It still probably will, but tomorrow Colter will attempt to make his case at a meeting in front of the National Labor Relations Board. We will not try to pretend to be experts on labor law, but as Dennis Dodd notes the hearing is to help determine whether the players have the right to collectively bargain for workplace rights. It could be another year before the NLRB even makes that initial decision, which does not even account for the NCAA trying to place injunctions, etc on any progress the athletes makes, but it is still an important step.
  3. Over the weekend there were two pretty glaring missed calls that might have affected the outcome of the Arizona-Arizona State game and Duke-Maryland game. The former, Jahii Carson’s pull-up on the rim preceding the other craziness, was pretty obvious to any observer. The latter, the officials and scorekeeper forgetting to change the alternating possession arrow, was less so. Still both the Pac-12 and the ACC admitted that they missed the calls in both situations. In terms of impact, the one in Cameron was probably more significant as it occurred with 6:39 left and took a possession away from Maryland in a game that they lost by two points. At the end of the day, it probably will not affect NCAA Tournament bids since neither Arizona State nor Maryland are getting anywhere near the NCAA Tournament outside of watching from their couch, but it is still not a good look for either conference.
  4. Outside of Jameson’s weekly Award Tour posts we have not put much thought into the end of season awards. But this week’s edition of Seth Davis’ Hoops Thoughts, which includes a list of his top ten choices for Coach of the Year, reminded us of just how much people are sleeping on the job that Larry Brown is doing at SMU. Brown might not end up winning National Coach of the Year honors this year, but he certainly has to be in contention and we would be hard-pressed to come up with ten coaches who have done a better job this past year than Brown.
  5. Speaking of the most impressive coaching jobs this season, Dan Hanner published an interesting article looking at the changes in efficiency margins after a coaching change for current coaches. The way the numbers and trends suggest which coaches are doing good and bad jobs might not be particularly surprising the degree of some of these changes are quite striking. It should noted that often times the trends are often related to things outside of the coach’s control as you will see with Colorado State, which went from an efficiency margin of 7 before hiring Larry Eustachy to 17 in his first season then back down to 3 this year.
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Big Ten M5: 02.12.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 12th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Michigan State point guard Keith Appling will miss another round of games this week due to his wrist injury. The Spartans play Northwestern and Nebraska at home, which are games that they should be able to win without him, even given the parity that the league has been defined by this season. Appling injured the wrist in December against North Carolina, and continued to play through the pain. Whether he should have kept playing, Appling showed a tremendous amount of leadership gutting it out while the Spartans were short-handed. If he and Branden Dawson can come back and regain healthy form when they return, the Spartans are a definite National Championship contender.
  2. Wisconsin needs a lot of things to break their way for them to win the Big Ten regular season crown. They sit at 6-5 right now, but they get a chance to avenge two earlier losses this week with games against Minnesota and at Michigan. The Badgers are back to shooting the ball better, and they withstood a horrible stretch of games defensively to make their way back into the AP top 25 after a one-week hiatus. These games could go a long way to cementing a first round bye in the Big Ten Tournament, along with helping their seeding in the NCAA Tournament.
  3. Many Illinois fans have been clamoring for a starting lineup change to get their improving freshmen more minutes. So when Coach John Groce finally pulled the trigger and put Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill into the starting unit, and this resulted in a win, it wasn’t a surprise that the coach decided to continue with this lineup at Nebraska tonight. Nunn especially has really come into to his own after struggling in the non-conference portion of the schedule. He’s gone from 2.9 PPG to 6.9 PPG, and it will be interesting to see if he continues to improve with the added minutes he’s playing.
  4. There’s a reason that Nebraska Coach Tim Miles is in the running for Big Ten Coach of the Year. Despite not having a bunch of top-100 recruits or a program with a great basketball history, he’s gotten his players to buy in and believe in his system. This can be seen in the fact that the Cornhuskers have come back from some rough defeats to win games that they weren’t supposed to win. One such game was at Northwestern on Saturday. The Wildcats do a tremendous job frustrating offenses, but Nebraska came back from 16-point first half to get their first road win of the season. Miles players haven’t quit, and could be in line for a postseason bid because of it.
  5. Amir Williams doesn’t look like or carry himself like Ohio State’s most important player, but the Buckeyes usually win when he plays well. What has to be maddening for Ohio State fans is the fact that they really don’t ever know which Williams will show up. The Buckeyes lost to Michigan Tuesday night and Williams did not have much of an impact. He got 7 rebounds in 29 minutes, but the Wolverines had 14 offensive rebounds. If Ohio State wants to do anything in March this season, Williams absolutely has have more of an impact and show more consistency.
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Big Ten M5: 02.10.14 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on February 10th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Spartan fans barely had any time to enjoy Adreian Payne’s return, when they got the news that point guard, Keith Appling, will be out for a “couple of weeks.” Backup point guard, Travis Trice, stepped up against Wisconsin by scoring 13 points and hitting a clutch three-pointer during the final minute of the game. Trice’s offense ought to be adequate as long as Gary Harris doesn’t go through a cold shooting slump, but Appling’s health could be concern if he doesn’t come back after two to three weeks because his experience will be pivotal for the Spartans in March.
  2. Speaking of adequate offense, Ohio State‘s struggles with regards to scoring have been well-documented, but when they do put up points in the 60s, they are a tough team to beat. Stating the obvious, when the the “shots fall,” they are an excellent team because their defensive intensity goes up by that much more. Over the past week, Lenzelle Smith Jr. has averaged 14 points per game against Iowa and Purdue, as the Buckeyes are trying to make their way back into the top-25 rankings. Smith is certainly the wildcard because LaQuinton Ross’ 14.2 points per game will need a consistent complement over the next six weeks as Thad Matta’s team hopes to return to the Sweet 16 again in the NCAAs.
  3. Not sure if you have heard, but Michigan’s Nik Stauskas is the team’s best offensive player and the Big Ten defenses have decided to lock him down and force other Wolverines to beat them. Over hte past three games, Stauskas’ has barely averaged 9 points per game because defenses are double-teaming him all over the perimeter, forcing him to pass the ball to the open man on the weak side. Against Iowa, the defensive intensity caused him to turn the ball over four times and he ended up with zero assists. The last three games are not just an anomaly because every team, especially in the NCAAs, will try to force Stauskas to give up the ball, which will not only test his passing abilities but also test Caris Levert and Glenn Robinson’s ability to hit the clutch shots during the final minutes of the game.
  4. More on Iowa‘s defensive intensity, they did not waste any time trying to establish a lead over the Wolverines and were able to shut down Nik Stauskas for most of the game. Their depth on the roster is a strength on the offensive side but can be even more valuable on the defensive end because they can use fresh legs, specifically in the frontcourt, because Melsahn Basabe, Gabriel Olaseni, and Adam Woodbury are formidable defenders in the paint. Roy Devyn Marble, has stepped up defensively too, by guarding Stuaskas for most of the game. Saturday’s win may be a turning point for the Hawkeyes as they continue to gain confidence about their ability to compete with the top teams in the country.
  5. Continuing on the defensive theme, Indiana can’t seem to be get stops when they need to, over the past two weeks. Ten days ago, they lost to the Huskers and they couldn’t hold onto a lead against Minnesota over the weekend either – mainly because of a lackluster defensive effort. “We had some awareness issues at the end of possessions,” Tom Crean said, referring to a handful of defensive breakdowns late in the shot clock Saturday. Crean’s team is technically still on the bubble, but will need to defend, especially against the middle-of-the-pack teams such as Penn State, Purdue or Nebraska.
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Morning Five: 02.10.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 10th, 2014

morning5

  1. By now you have heard that Marcus Smart has been suspended for three games for shoving an Oklahoma State fan (press conference quotes here). You have have probably formed an opinion about the incident as well as Smart and the fan (reportedly a longtime Texas Tech fan named Jeff Orr, who denies using a racial slur). As we stated when the incident occurred there is more than enough blame to go around to both parties here (including the officials and Oklahoma State coaches who let Smart stay in the game and on the court, respectively), but it is pointless to try to assign relative degrees of blame. The unfortunate thing for Smart is that this will be part of his legacy no matter what he accomplishes (see Bobby Knight and his chair). Hopefully he and the fan can learn from the incident and grow from it.
  2. The incident in Lubbock was not the only ugly one involving fans as Oregon coaches are reporting that an Arizona State student repeatedly spit on two Oregon staff members after Saturday’s game. According to Oregon, the same student also spit on staff members at halftime as the set up in Tempe requires the visiting team to walk between two student sections on their way to the locker room. Oregon declined to press charges so we probably will not find out the identity of the student, who will probably still be punished by the school. This incident has already been overshadowed by the Marcus Smart one because the staff did not react physically to the fan and they are not nearly as well-known as Smart, but it is no less troubling.
  3. The Marcus Smart and Oregon incidents will overshadow it (along with the Sochi Olympics and the Michael Sam announcement), but the bigger news in terms of its impact on this college basketball season and the eventual national champion may have come out of East Lansing as Michigan State announced that Keith Appling would be “out for a couple weeks” with a wrist injury. This is the same wrist injury that has been bothering Appling for much of the season and only adds to the growing list of injuries that the Spartans are dealing with this season. When they are healthy there probably is not a better team in the country than Michigan State, but the problem is how infrequently they have been healthy this season and at this rate we are not sure if we will see a healthy Michigan State team this season.
  4. Adam Silver, the new NBA commissioner, reportedly wants a higher NBA age limit raising the age from 19 years old to 20 years old. From a selfish college basketball fan perspective we would love this as it would most likely give us an extra year of college basketball for the best players assuming they decide not to go the Brandon Jennings route and play overseas. Realistically and practically we do not see it happening because as is the current age limit is on tenuous legal ground and it seems unlikely that the NBA Players Association would be willing to acquiesce to this even if it would theoretically give current members an extra year of roster protection from college players. So unless the owners are willing to give the Players Association major concessions on salaries/revenue sharing, which we do not see happening, we would not expect to see this change any time soon.
  5. A lot of people like to throw out various advanced metrics, but few do as good of a job explaining them as Ken Pomeroy does when he takes the time to blog about them. His most recent entry on looking at the factors that contribute to average possession length is a pretty thorough tutorial on why advanced metrics can be so useful. Essentially what it does it boils down several smaller factors into a more meaningful overall stat. There are certainly some limits to what they can be used for, but the field is an evolving one and will continue to get better.
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Key Questions for Michigan State at Wisconsin

Posted by Alex Moscoso and Brendan Brody on February 9th, 2014

Michigan State‘s visit to Wisconsin today might have been a possible match-up of the top two Big Ten teams a few weeks ago. Now, it’s a tale of two different teams. While the Spartans sit atop the league standings, the Badgers has lost five of their last seven and are hoping to avoid dipping below .500 in the conference. Big Ten microsite writers Alex Moscoso and Brendan Brody ask each other questions about this match-up in order to preview what may happen when they take the court.

Sam Dekker and the Badgers have need a big win against Michigan State to stop the bleeding. (Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports)

Sam Dekker and the Badgers need a big win to stop the bleeding. (Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports)

AM: The Spartan’s offense stalled against Georgetown without Adreian Payne and Brandon Dawsen. On Sunday, Dawsen will be out, but Payne will be back in. Will the return of Payne be enough to get this offense back on track and put numbers up against the Badgers?

BB: It’s gotten to the point now where we really don’t know what roster the Spartans will have on a game-by-game basis. Just when they get Payne back, they decide to sit Keith Appling on Thursday night because of his nagging wrist injury. Even without their floor general, they still shot 12-23 from behind the arc against Penn State. Regardless of whether or not Appling plays Sunday, there’s no indication that Sparty won’t put points on the board against Wisconsin. The three-point shooting won’t be there like that every game obviously, but Payne and Matt Costello will be able to get plenty of points in the paint against a Badger unit that struggles to guard inside. In their last seven games, Wisconsin has allowed 51.5 % shooting on two-pointers. Payne will get more comfortable in his second game back, and Appling or Travis Trice should be able to get in the lane like a lot of point guards have been able to do recently against the Badgers.

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