Previewing Wisconsin-Ohio State: All Eyes on Deshaun Thomas

Posted by jnowak on January 29th, 2013

Here are a few coinciding items pertinent to Tuesday night’s Wisconsin-Ohio State game:

  1. Wisconsin is one of the best defensive teams in the Big Ten.
  2. Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas is one of the best, if not the best, scorer in the Big Ten.
  3. Beyond Thomas, Ohio State doesn’t have much consistent scoring to rely upon.
This man is the focal point for Ohio State every game. Wisconsin should have that in its scouting report Tuesday.

This man is the focal point for Ohio State every game. Wisconsin should have that in its scouting report Tuesday.

That, in a nutshell, is what to keep an eye on Tuesday when the two teams meet in Columbus. Wisconsin has been an enigma this season, struggling through most of its non-conference schedule before apparently getting its act together at the beginning of Big Ten play. But they’ve suffered some puzzling losses while also managing to win back-to-back games without eclipsing 50 points for the first time in 16 years. Ohio State, meanwhile, has won most of the games it’s been expected to, but faltered in most of the marquee match-ups. In a talent-laden conference like this one, that’s not going to get them very far this year. But on a smaller scale, let’s take a slightly closer look at Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas conundrum and how it impacts both these teams.

There are essentially two ways you can play Ohio State. You can let Thomas get somewhere around his scoring average — he scores a Big Ten-best 20.0 PPG — while limiting the rest of the Buckeyes. Lenzelle Smith Jr., LaQuinton Ross and Sam Thompson are all possible second scoring options (with all due respect to Aaron Craft, who is a terrific point guard, but that is not his role), though none have performed with any consistency. Only one of them averages in double-figures (Smith, just barely, with 10.2 PPG) and, consequently, the Buckeyes are one of just two conference teams without two players in the Big Ten’s top 30 in scoring (Purdue is the other). Yes, Penn State, winless in Big Ten play, has two players in the league’s top seven. And Nebraska, nearly as bad as the Nittany Lions, has three in the top 20. But I digress.

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What Did We Learn From Ohio State’s Weekend Loss To Kansas?

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on December 26th, 2012

Except for a tough road game against Duke, the Ohio State Buckeyes had not been tested during their non-conference schedule until their date with Kansas last Saturday afternoon in Columbus. Losing to the top ranked team in the country in their building did not set off any alarms about Thad Matta’s squad, but the 74-66 loss to the Jayhawks has raised a few questions about the players’ overall toughness against good competition. Filling the void left behind by the departures of Jared Sullinger and William Buford was the primary concern coming into the season for these Buckeyes. It is very clear that Matta has a deep and athletic roster but regardless of their talent, they will need to be mentally tougher if they want to compete for a Big Ten title and beyond. It is understood that the younger players will take some time to gel with each other and get used to extended playing time, but after 11 games this season, two aspects of their game clearly needs to improve – patience and fortitude. Let’s examine why they appeared to be soft on both ends of the floor against Kansas.

Deshaun Thomas needs to be more patient against tougher defensive teams like Kansas.

Deshaun Thomas needs to be more patient against tougher defensive teams like Kansas.

  • Poor Shot Selection: Deshaun Thomas has a quick release on his jumper and is one of the main reasons why he is the primary scoring option for Thad Matta. But he relies on the jumper too much during crunch time and smart defensive teams can lock up his mid-range game which tends to frustrate him. This was a glaring issue during the second half against KU when Travis Releford and Elijah Johnson crowded him immediately once he caught the ball in the high post or in the corner around the perimeter. Any time he came off a ball screen, he found a defender right next to him because the Jayhawks wanted him to put the ball on the floor. But rather than making the necessary adjustments and using his quickness to cut to the hoop, Thomas shied away from contact and instead forced up multiple bad shots. As the Buckeyes looked to make a run while down eight points around the four-minute mark, Thomas took an ill-advised 24-footer just a few seconds into the shot clock, thereby setting a horrible example to the rest of his team that had already been too content settling for jumpers throughout the second half. Thomas even admitted as much after the game when he said, “I don’t think they did anything special, they just played hard.” To make matters worse, Aaron Craft, the other experienced Buckeye, took way too many three-point attempts. Craft has never been a great shooter (career: 33% 3FG) but he has been trying to improve his shot selection this season. If he isn’t able to hit consecutive shots from long-range (2-of-6 from beyond the arc), then he should attempt to either drive the ball or defer to his teammates for scoring. Sophomore guard Shannon Scott was on a roll in the first half (15 points), but he did not look for his shot when Thomas and Craft were struggling. Both of the veterans need to be smarter and more patient with their shot selection and make the necessary adjustments when it is clear that opposing defenders are forcing them into taking poor shots. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten M5: Opening Day Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 9th, 2012

  1. The preseason top 50 players for the Wooden Award has been announced and nine Big Ten players were included on the list. The full list can be found here but clearly the B1G dominates the list which should come as no surprise because there are five teams ranked in the Top 25 from the league. Michigan, Indiana and Ohio State have two players each on the team, while Michigan State’s Keith Appling, Illinois’ Brandon Paul and Penn State’s Tim Frazier round the up the rest of the nine. Paul and Frazier might not lead their teams to the NCAA Tournament but both of them are expected to stuff the stat sheets and should average at least 15 PPG this season.
  2. Speaking of Indiana, Tom Crean is hoping that the suspensions of Hanner Perea and Peter Jurkin will be reduced after the NCAA hears their appeals. Both freshmen were suspended for nine games for accepting benefits from a booster. After losing Derek Elston for a few weeks due to an injury, Crean needs their help in the frontcourt to protect and complement Cody Zeller. The Hoosiers won’t struggle too badly without them but a long suspension will derail their plans to improve by conference season with a full rotation of players. Indiana’s game against North Carolina in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, for example, will be tough but they have enough talent to overcome the Tar Heels without these two freshmen.
  3. The college hoops season tips off today with Michigan State battling Connecticut at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany. This is a big game for Tom Izzo not just professionally but also at a personal level. One of Izzo’s relatives, Michael Izzo, works at the commissary office and will meet the head coach along with his family. Izzo is also happy that the troops overseas will get to see an exciting match-up between two historic programs in college hoops. As for the game itself, Michigan State’s Gary Harris will showcase his talents for the first time on the national stage and the Spartans will look to lock down the Connecticut backcourt of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright if they want to pull of an opening win today.
  4. Ohio State is considered a top 10 team in the country mainly due to the talents of Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft. Not only do the Buckeyes have two potential All-Americans on their roster but they also have great depth at the wing position. Thad Matta will wait until tonight’s tipoff to decide who starts at the small forward position for the season opener against Marquette. Sam Thompson and Laquinton Ross are the finalists for that spot and both are great choices due to their gifted athleticism. Ross was highly ranked out of high school and is supposed to have great offensive skills while Thompson is a very tough defender. Lenzelle Smith Jr. will play at the scoring guard position alongside Aaron Craft in the backcourt.
  5. Minnesota’s Tubby Smith has to be glad that the season is finally here after all of the off-court troubles he’s had to deal with over the last couple of months. But on the flip side, he will also be under intense scrutiny to perfrom and the fans will expect him to show some results on the court. He is owed $2 million this season and needs to prove that he is worth such a big paycheck. Trevor Mbakwe is definitely confident that the Gophers will prove their worth on the court and he has a great supporting cast as well. Rodney Williams can get to the basket in several different ways and Andre Hollins will be great on the perimeter. Smith needs to win consistently over the next two months to divert all of the negative attention back to winning actual basketball games and prove that he has control of the program.
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Big Ten Team Previews: Ohio State Buckeyes

Posted by KTrahan on October 30th, 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 Ohio State Buckeyes.

Where We Left Off: Last season, Ohio State got off to an impressive start, beating No. 8 Florida in the second game of the season and blowing out No. 4 Duke by 22 points in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. However, a Jared Sullinger injury brought the Buckeyes back to earth in Lawrence, Kansas, and they dealt with some periodic inconsistency in the Big Ten. However, OSU still made a run in the NCAA Tournament, knocking off Cincinnati and Syracuse en route to a Final Four loss against that same Kansas team. The Buckeyes lost Sullinger and William Buford, but return a number of returning solid players, putting them in position for yet another deep NCAA Tournament run.

Thad Matta Has Gotten to the Point of Annual Final Four Expectations in Columbus

Positives: The biggest positive on Ohio State is how much talent the Buckeyes return. You know you’re a good team when you can bury top recruits on the bench and still have one of the best teams in the country. Junior forward DeShaun Thomas is a favorite to become this season’s breakout player of the year and OSU also returns top junior point guard and defensive dynamo Aaron Craft. The Buckeyes also have a lot of talent in junior guard Lenzelle Smith, Jr., who was somewhat inconsistent last year, but showed his potential at times. Add in sophomore forward Sam Thompson and sophomore center Amir Williams, and this could still be the most talented lineup in the Big Ten. If OSU can put things together by the end of the season, this will be a very dangerous team in March again.

Negatives: What this Ohio State team has in talent, it lacks in experience. Craft is experienced at his position by now, and while Thomas brings a lot of hype, he wasn’t a superstar last year. Then there are Smith and Thompson, who were at best inconsistent last season, and center Amir Williams, who is also talented but barely played last year. The story is the same on the bench, with players like LaQuinton Ross and Shannon Scott, both highly-touted recruits who have yet to prove themselves on a college floor. This team is full of talent but short on experience, and in college basketball, that’s not necessarily a good thing.

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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.03.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on February 3rd, 2012

  1. Tom Izzo‘s affinity for football is well documented — he’s always joked about coaching football, even at Michigan State, and his best friend is former NFL head coach Steve Mariucci — but apparently his passion for other sports extends into the boxing ring, as well. James Dundee, the son of Angelo Dundee, who was Muhammad Ali‘s trainer that died Wednesday at the age of 90, said Angelo and Izzo met once. The two Italians hit it off so well that Angelo never missed a Michigan State game from then on. “He was sitting there saying, ‘That’s my man I-Zo,’” James Dundee said when he happened on his father watching the Spartans on Tuesday. “Once he met Izzo, Dad never missed another Michigan State game.”
  2. If Bill Carmody is concerned about John Shurna‘s minutes, he has a funny way of showing it. The Wildcats played just six men in their 84-74 win against Nebraska on Thursday night, and Shurna played all 40 minutes in the game. Entering Thursday, the senior was averaging 39.2 minutes per Big Ten game, most amongst his conference counterparts. It was Northwestern‘s first win since a January 14 upset of Michigan State when, ironically, the Wildcats got double-digit scoring from four different players.
  3. We’re 23 games into Indiana‘s season and the Indianapolis Star‘s Terry Hutchens still doesn’t really know what to make of this squad. The Hoosiers started the season 12-0 and 15-1 overall, leading many to believe that this team was peaking well ahead of time. Now they’ve fallen back down to earth and haven’t been able to win on the road, so some people are starting to talk about them as an NIT team. Hutchens says they’re more than likely NCAA Tournament-bound but, when such inconsistency is at play, it’s really too hard to make a reliable prediction.
  4. Speaking of Indiana, the Hoosiers will have another chance to finally get a road win — the Hoosiers are 0-31 under Tom Crean in Big Ten games against everyone but Penn State — in an important in-state rivalry game on Saturday at Purdue. The two schools began playing each other in 1901, and there have been some remarkable shifts in power along the way. In the last few years, Tom Crean has struggled while trying to rebuild the IU program as Purdue has thrived under Matt Painter. This season, the time seems to have turned (Indiana is 17-5 and Purdue 15-7), but you can usually throw all of that out the window in a rivalry game like this one.
  5. Ohio State has had absolutely no shortage of talented freshmen under Thad Matta. Is LaQuinton Ross next? The freshman was an ESPNU Top 75 recruit out of high school, but hasn’t had the opportunity to contribute immediately as players like Greg Oden or Jared Sullinger have under Matta. “I’m still part of a great team that has a chance to win the national title,” Ross told the Columbus Dispatch. “I’ve just got to be ready at all times because you never know when Coach Matta might call my number.” Matta has called Ross’ number in five of the Buckeyes’ nine Big Ten games  (he didn’t play at all during the non-conference slate) and, though he has never played more than seven minutes a game, he has scored in each of the last two games he’s appeared in.
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Who’s Got Next? Elite Talents Commit, Top Classes Crumble and Prospects Discuss Realignment

Posted by Josh Paunil on September 28th, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing or different things you’d like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Introduction

Head coaches around the country are watching their top recruiting classes crumble before their eyes. Elite prospects are beginning to commit to big-name schools, initiating the domino affect across the college basketball recruiting world. Recruits are also speaking out on conference realignment and how it will affect their college decision. The first fall edition of Who’s Got Next? brings you this and more as we draw closer and closer to the fall signing period in November.

What They’re Saying

  • Wichita Heights head coach Joe Auer on senior Perry Ellis committing to Kansas: “He (Ellis) adores [Kansas assistant] coach [Danny] Manning, he watched how he handled the Morris twins. He was studious in watching how they developed.”
  • Senior shooting guard Archie Goodwin on committing to Kentucky: “He (head coach John Calipari) told me he wants me bad and I’m a top recruit for him. No matter what, he wants the ball in my hands and he feels like me committing will probably get the ball rolling for the rest of the class. It’s got to start somewhere.”
  • Junior shooting guard Brannen Greene on conference realignment: “I don’t care what conference I play in, I’m more so looking at the program. I think it’s great for the ACC [though] and it’s a shocker. If UConn and Louisville were to join, it would be an amazingly competitive conference!”
  • Junior point guard Isaiah Lewis on conference realignment: “It matters in my recruitment a lot. Certain schools that are recruiting me may go to a conference that I don’t think fits my game. I’ve been hearing a lot, I’m hearing Kansas may go Big East, West Virginia is going to the SEC and UConn is going to the ACC.”
  • Junior small forward Troy Williams on conference realignment: “It doesn’t affect my recruitment, they’re all moving to better conferences to get players and play better teams.”
  • Junior power forward Chris Walker on setting his decision date: “After I commit, I’m hoping to get someone like [Class of 2013 guys]  [center] Nerlens Noel, [shooting guard] Brannen Greene, [guards] Andrew and Aaron Harrison, [power forward] Julius Randle, [point guard] Kasey Hill or [small forward] Jabari Parker to come with me.”
  • Sophomore stud Jahlil Okafor on his recruitment: “I’m a big fan of Kentucky, but I haven’t heard from them. I really like what Kentucky has to offer. They have a lot of history, and they have a track-record for getting players to the NBA, and that is my ultimate goal. They also have a great fan base and the entire state is high on basketball. Ohio State has been recruiting me pretty hard, but Arizona, Georgetown and Illinois are right in there too.”

What Alex Poythress Is Saying

  • On Kentucky: “Kentucky is a good school, I like their offense. Coach [John] Calipari is a good coach. He’s a pretty good guy. He knows what he’s talking about. He’s been around basketball a long time.”
  • On Vanderbilt: “Vandy has been recruiting me for a long time. I’m close with the coaching staff.”
  • On Memphis: “Memphis is a basketball city. I like how it’s a basketball city and they play up-tempo ball.”
  • On Florida: “Florida is a good school. Coach [Billy] Donovan is a good coach. I like how they use their wings.”
  • On Duke being dropped from his list: “Actually, they said they weren’t recruiting me anymore. They sent me an email saying they were going to back out of recruiting me so I said, ‘OK.’”

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Morning Five: 09.27.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 27th, 2011

  1. We aren’t sure if the NCAA is taking a tougher look at academic transcripts, but it seems like there have been more major recruits ruled academically ineligible in the past few weeks than we are used to (more likely that is is just the recency effect). The latest incoming freshman to fall under the watchful eye of the NCAA is Ohio State recruit LaQuinton Ross who was ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA. NCAA rules state that non-qualifiers cannot receive a scholarship or play for the year and lose a year of eligibility if they remain at the school. Ross is reportedly trying to circumvent that rule by attending another school and retaking the necessary classes and tests to qualify academically then enroll at Ohio State in January. It is a risky strategy, but Ohio State’s season could depend on whether Ross is able to qualify as the Buckeyes lack depth and experience on the perimeter and Ross could bring an interesting blend that might be enough to propel the Buckeyes into the Final Four given all the other pieces they already have in place.
  2. In a story that may only interest fans that hate Duke (wait, that includes fans of every other college basketball team?) recruit Alex Poythress has reportedly cut his list to four schools and the Blue Devils are not among that group after telling Poythress they are no longer interested in recruiting him. Given the media storm surrounding Mike Krzyzewski‘s potentially rule-breaking recruitment of Poythress during the July recruiting period we have to say this is sort of humorous. We doubt that Duke will ever discuss why they were no longer interested in Poythress so the entire incident will probably just end up being something relegated to Internet message boards like the Myron Piggie saga.
  3. We normally stick to college basketball, but we found Malcolm Gladwell’s article on the financial incentives of some professional franchises (in this case the New Jersey Brooklyn Nets) particularly insightful in light of the current NBA work stoppage and all the debates about NCAA finances. While we have had our qualms with Gladwell’s analysis in the past (see here) he does an excellent job of distilling a rather complex issue into a simple one. Just remember this article and the example of Bruce Ratner when you hear a team or school talking about taking a significant loss on a sport. We aren’t saying that some schools/teams don’t lose money as we firmly believe that many programs are in the red, but it is something you should look at with a grain of salt.
  4. Speaking of the new Barclay Arena, the Atlantic 10 has decided to move its conference tournament there starting in 2013. While we wouldn’t consider this a major coup, it is a nice addition and will help build up the marketability of Barclay’s for more sporting events in the future. As for the Atlantic 10, this will the fifth venue for the post-season tournament since 2000, but does stay close to their major geographic region, which has traditionally been Philadelphia. We are guessing that both Barclay’s and the conference hope that this location can be a little bit longer-lasting than some of the recent previous sites even if the stability of many conference is questionable at best.
  5. When Memphis added Luke Walton to its staff we thought it was little more than a cute marketing gimmick, but it appears that Josh Pastner is serious about utilizing Walton as he has been taking him on recruiting visits including one to visit Alex Poythress who has kept Memphis on his list (unlike Duke). While we do find this entire experiment interesting we do question the impact that Walton’s presence has on the recruits since (1) Walton didn’t play at Memphis, (2) he has no tie to the school other than knowing the coaching staff, and (3) he is gone as soon as the NBA ends its work stoppage. If we were a top high school recruit, Walton coming into our house would mean a lot less than someone like John Calipari or Mike Krzyzewski coming as Walton is nothing more than a celebrity fan kind of like Justin Timberlake except that our sister wouldn’t be going crazy when Walton walks in the house.
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RTC Summer Updates: Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 8th, 2011

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

Readers’ Take

Summer Storylines 

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

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

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Conference Report Card: Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 13th, 2011


John Templon is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten conference. We will be publishing a series of conference report cards over the next week for conferences that got multiple NCAA bids to recap the conference, grade the teams, and look at the future for the conference.

Conference Recap

  • Coming into the season, the Big Ten was considered the best conference in America. Michigan State was expected to be in the Final Four again and Purdue, Ohio State, and Illinois were expected to be among the nation’s elite. Then the season started and the conference slipped a bit. The Big Ten didn’t live up to its lofty billing, with the exception of Ohio State, which sat at #1 in the polls for a large part of the season. Of course, Robbie Hummel’s knee injury didn’t help Purdue. Illinois wilted under the weight of too much talent and not enough leadership, whereas Michigan State just never seemed to find its footing against a difficult schedule.
  • As conference play went on, all the teams beat up on each other, creating a mess in the middle and leading to four teams (Michigan, Illinois, Michigan State and Penn State) receiving seeds between 8-10 in the NCAA Tournament. The conference went 2-2 in those games. But the disappointment in the NCAA Tournament came from the top seeds that failed to live up to expectations. Ohio State, the #1 overall seed, was dispatched by Kentucky in the Sweet 16 in Newark. Then again, that was better than Purdue managed to do, as the Boilermakers fell to VCU in Chicago. Wisconsin made it to New Orleans, but Brad Stevens outcoached Bo Ryan and the Badgers lost to a lower-seeded team once again.
  • Those losses meant the Big Ten finished a season of much promise with zero teams in the Elite Eight. Much like the conference’s well-publicized bowl game problems, the postseason left a sour taste after many teams played good basketball during the regular season.

The postseason was a struggle for everyone in the Big Ten, even Final Four regular Tom Izzo and his Spartans, which had to make a late run to even crack the field.

Team-by-Team Grades

A’s:

  • Michigan (A): Before the season the Wolverines were expected to compete with Iowa and Indiana to avoid the basement in the Big Ten standings. By the end of it, they were scaring #1 seed Duke in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. It was a remarkable job by JohnBeilein to get a young team ready to play. Darius Morris was the engine of the turnaround. The sophomore point guard scored 15.0 points per game and dished out 6.7 assists per game while leading a team composed of mostly freshman and sophomores. Tim HardawayJr., a freshman, was the team’s only other double-digit scorer at 13.9 points per game. Michigan didn’t have a single senior on its roster this season and, with two more talented backcourt recruits in CarltonBrundidge and TreyBurke coming in, it appears to be ready to be a big player in the conference moving forward although they are still waiting on Morris to officially decide on whether he will enter the NBA Draft.
  • Ohio State (A-): The Buckeyes didn’t get it done in the NCAA Tournament, but they were the #1 team in the polls for most of the season and had the best freshman in the country in Jared Sullinger. The loss to Kentucky certainly put a damper on the season. Still, Ohio State went 34-3 with its only two regular season losses being at Purdue and Wisconsin in conference play. David Lighty, DallasLauderdale, and JonDiebler all graduate, but if Sullinger is serious about sticking around the Buckeyes will be a national title favorite again next season. Especially considering they have two McDonald’s All-Americans in point guard ShannonScott and center AmirWilliams coming in along with small forwards SamThompson and LaQuintonRoss. It’s Thad Matta’s typical reload instead of rebuild plan.
  • Penn State (A-): Qualifying for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a decade makes the Nittany Lions’ season a success. Even though they lost to in-state rival Temple in the second round, 66-64, it was a thrilling game to end a satisfying season that included victories over Wisconsin (twice), Illinois, and Michigan State (twice). Oh, and a loss to Maine. Talor Battle finally got his chance to go to the NCAA Tournament and finished his career with 2,213 points, 624 rebounds, and 517 assists. He’ll certainly be missed next season along with frontcourt veterans David Jackson and JeffBrooks. Thus, Penn State has some size coming in with two 6’11 centers in PatAckerman and PeterAlexis, but the program is probably due for a bit of a backslide.

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Recruiting Rumor Mill: 08.23.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on August 23rd, 2010

There were only a few commitments this week and none of the magnitude of Anthony Davis or Isaiah Austin, but many highly rated prospects are beginning to narrow down their lists, which means we should be getting even more news coming out about them in the next few weeks.

  • Arizona picked up a pair of commitments when it added Nick Johnson and Sidiki Johnson. Nick, a top 10 shooting guard, appears to be the star of the current Wildcat class, but Sean Miller is still out trying to fill up his class even after the sanctions the NCAA imposed upon the program.
  • One of Miller’s target recruits, Jahii Carson, a top 10 point guard, opted against joining the Johnsons in Tucson and instead joined Herb Sendek when he committed to Arizona State last week.
  • Staying in the southwestern part of the country, New Mexico State picked up a commitment from French-born Remi Barry who most recently went to high school in California. Barry will have to sit out a year as he didn’t qualify based on NCAA requirement, which is reportedly due to difficulty analyzing his academic transcript from two continents.
  • Heading back east, Ohio State picked up a commitment from LaQuinton Ross, a small forward who was rated very highly early in his high school career, but has slid down some ranking lists due to injury. If we were Ross, we would take it easy on the talk of trying to fill Evan Turner‘s shoes in Columbus.
  • Bernard Sullivan, a top 15 power forward, announced that he would be committing to Clemson after considering a variety of schools including Harvard, which technically cannot offer an athletic scholarship.
  • Myck Kabongo, the #2 rated point guard in this year’s class, has been hearing a lot of rumors that he was wavering on his prior commitment to Texas and decided he needed to put an end to that speculation by coming out and reaffirming his commitment to Rick Barnes and the Longhorns.

Still committed to the Longhorns

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Recruiting Rumor Mill: 08.09.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on August 9th, 2010

So apparently Anthony Davis has been in the news. . . Outside of that fiasco there was also a bit of other news on the recruiting circuit.

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