Otskey’s Observations: Episode VI

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on December 18th, 2013

Battle For Iowa Lived Up To Its Billing

For my money, the best game in recent days was Iowa State’s thrilling win over Iowa on Friday night at Hilton Coliseum. This game was the true essence of what college basketball is all about. It was a heated in-state rivalry between two quality teams in a crazy atmosphere, smack dab in the middle of a basketball-crazed state. It is simple: This was a fun game, period. Although Fred Hoiberg’s Cyclones came away victorious, you may be somewhat surprised to find out that my biggest impression taken from this game was just how good Iowa is. I actually thought the Hawkeyes were the better team for most of this contest. Don’t get me wrong, Iowa State played really well. After all, it beat a team I thought was very impressive so that should tell you something about the Cyclones as well. I thought Iowa had a terrific game plan and evidence of top-notch coaching and scouting was present throughout the game.

Devyn Marble

Devyn Marble and his mates were outstanding. But Iowa State was just a little bit better. (AP)

One specific example of great scouting came late in the first half when Roy Devyn Marble got in the middle of a dribble hand-off by Georges Niang and broke it up, leading to two Iowa points on the other end. Marble read the play perfectly and it paid off for his team. Fran McCaffery’s squad excelled in transition and got almost anything it wanted offensively on the low block with Aaron White leading the charge. Iowa ran some beautiful half-court sets that resulted in plenty of clean looks, especially for White and Marble. The Hawkeyes dominated the glass (but did not take full advantage of it) and answered the bell nearly every time Iowa State put together a charge, except for the final minute where it wound up costing them the game. Iowa simply didn’t make the plays it needed to win late, highlighted by Mike Gesell’s two missed free throws. McCaffery and his team can learn a lot from this game but in the end it is on the players to step up and lead down the stretch. Whether that’s Marble (most likely), White, Gesell, or someone else, Iowa needs someone to be “the man” in order to take the next step and contend at the very highest level in the Big Ten.

Michigan Back On Track?

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Should Amir Williams Be More Involved in Ohio State’s Offense?

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 29th, 2013

After a frustrating first two years in Columbus where the word that might best describe his play would be inconsistency, Amir Williams has been much more of a factor in the first quarter of the year for the #7 Ohio State squad. Through the first five games of the year, Williams is averaging 10.0 PPG, 8.6 RPG, and 2.2 BPG on 65.4 percent shooting from the field. Coming into this season, he was a 50.9 percent free throw shooter, but is now knocking those down at a 76.2 percent clip. He’s also shown more engagement and aggressiveness than he has in his first two seasons. Last season he was a starter, but he still only averaged 16.5 MPG and was observed to kind of coast and float through games without making much of an impact other than occasionally blocking a shot or two. Now he is up to 24.2 MPG, and with this he’s been more productive and especially more active on the glass. So with this comes the question for a team that is struggling on offense despite their good start: Should Williams be getting the ball more inside?

Amir Williams has been a strong presence inside for Ohio State this season (Kirk Irwin, Getty).

Amir Williams has been a strong presence inside for Ohio State this season (Kirk Irwin, Getty).

In the Wyoming game, Williams got the ball on the block a whopping three times. If you look at his statistical line from the game, you might question my math. He went 5-of-9 from the field and scored 12 points combined with 16 rebounds. But the majority of all his points came from tips and putbacks on the offensive end. Throughout the course of a game where Ohio State probably has at least 60 to 70 possessions, he got the ball in post position three times. If this were a little kid parks and rec league, he might have quit or cried to his parents because the other guys on the team don’t give him the ball. I’m not saying he was hyper-aggressive in his post ups, but there were times they could have dumped it into him quite easily and the guards and wings simply moved the ball around on the outside.

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Who’s the Best 3-Point Shooter in the Big Ten? An Analytical Look…

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 5th, 2013

The title of this post asks a pretty straightforward question: Who is the best shooter from deep in the Big Ten? Seems simple enough. But how do you define the “best” three-point shooter? Is it the player who makes the most threes? Is it the player who makes the highest percentage of his threes? Is it the shooting specialist who contributes the most to his team’s wins?  The best approach, of course, is to appreciate all three characteristics. So let’s do exactly that and look into the numbers.

Andre Hollins lit it up from deep last year.

Andre Hollins lit it up from deep last year. (AP)

First, we need to create a list of players in the Big Ten who meet certain criteria. For the purpose of this analysis, we will only include returning Big Ten players and use last season’s statistics for measurement. While we recognize that freshmen can be highly effective from long range right out of the gate — look no further than Michigan sophomore Nik Stauskas last year — we have no set methodology for projecting freshman output from their high school performance. Therefore, in the interest of convenience, no freshmen are included in this list. The next criterion is that players must have attempted at least 100 3-pointers last season and shot at least 30 percent from deep. This filters out players with a high percentage from a small sample size of 3-point attempts and gunners who put up too many bricks to be considered top-tier shooters.

The table below displays our initial list of candidates given those criteria, and their pertinent statistics from the 2012-13 season (from basketball-reference.com).

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Big Ten M5: 10.29.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 29th, 2013


  1. Matt Painter needs A.J.Hammons to step up this season in order to compete in the Big Ten, but Hammons needs to show more maturity and his recent suspension will not help his case. Painter suspended his sophomore big man for the Boilermakers’ first two exhibition games and the season opener for violating team’s rules. “A.J. has been suspended for the first three games of this season for conduct not representative of this program or university,” Painter said in a news release. Hammons averaged 10 points per game last season, but is expected to increase his scoring average with an offseason of strength training and general skills improvement. If Hammons can stay healthy and disciplined, his physical talents will carry him through his sophomore season.
  2. New head coaches need help with several facets of the game, including recruiting, player development and strength training. Chris Collins hired former Notre Dame guard Chris Quinn to help him develop his talent in Evanston. Quinn averaged 17.7 points per game at Notre Dame and played six seasons in the NBA before moving into coaching. He was an excellent shooter who played in a disciplined offense under Mike Brey in South Bend. Collins is trying to change the culture at Northwestern and Quinn’s success should help him develop talented wings such as JerShon Cobb.
  3. Speaking of experienced guards, Ohio State has a veteran backcourt with Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith, Jr. College hoops fans don’t need any introduction to Craft’s ability to influence the game on the defensive end, but Smith has the skill set in place to explode offensively for Thad Matta. Two years ago, the pair started in a Final Four game and they are ready to lead the Buckeyes back to the Final Four again. “You have to lead guys,” Smith says. “As senior leaders, a lot of teammates will come to us. Being the older guys, you have to be the one who knows what to do.” If Smith can provide an offensive spark and LaQuinton Ross can take the scoring load vacated by DeShaun Thomas, then Craft can focus on defense and use his leadership skills to help Matta get back to another Final Four.
  4. Experience is something that Tom Crean‘s Indiana squad will lack this season. Will Sheehey is incumbent leader returning, so the coach knows that he will have to rely on freshmen to step up on both ends of the floor. Crean remains patient about the freshmen this season and understands that there will be some necessary growing pains. Freshman forward Noah Vonleh impressed Hoosier fans in the exhibition games, but he will have to evolve his game throughout the season to perform well against Big Ten defenses. “The bottom line every day for us: Do you come in mentally prepared? Do you come in with great energy? Do you come in ready to not only work hard, but compete to win?” Crean asks. Vonleh and another talented forward, Troy Williams, will need to pick up easy points in transition to allow Yogi Ferrell to carry most of the burden in the half-court.
  5. If you haven’t heard the buzz in the Big Ten, Michigan State is the favorite to lock down the league title and contend for a national championship. Sophomore forward Matt Costello is looking to increase his contribution as a sophomore to help his team cut down the nets next April. He hopes to bring a “bad boy” attitude to the floor and help in the “hustle” aspects of the game. “If I can be a Dennis Rodman, I’ll be great with that,” Costello said, referencing the energetic, defensive standout on the Pistons’ “Bad Boy” squads of yesteryear. Tom Izzo’s squads are known as scrappy and Costello could end up being one of those guys who brings great intangibles to a team full of offensive talent with Gary Harris, Adreian Payne and Keith Appling.
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Season In Review: Ohio State Buckeyes

Posted by jnowak on April 16th, 2013

For a while there, it was hard to know what to think about Ohio State. The Buckeyes had a pretty nice non-conference schedule that included a game against Marquette on a neutral floor (aircraft carrier), but it was canceled because of the condensation issue. They played at Duke in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and lost. They hosted Kansas, and lost. And then, suddenly, Big Ten play was here. The Buckeyes had no trouble beating up on the little guys, but then went to Illinois and lost. They went to Michigan State, and lost. Sensing a pattern? The Buckeyes looked good, but they never really looked great.

Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft were the straws that stirred the drink at Ohio State this year.

Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft were the straws that stirred the drink at Ohio State this year.

Until March. Then OSU looked like world-beaters. Ohio State went from a good team in a great conference to a great team in a great conference (one they were responsible for helping make great) when they rattled off 11 straight wins from February 20 to March 24. Along the way, they played their way back into the Big Ten title picture, a conference tournament championship, and an Elite Eight berth. For a while, they were the hottest team in the country. Let’s break it down:

  • The Good: Let’s start with the obvious. Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas were as good a 1-2 punch and complementary duo in the conference, if not the country, as anybody. Thomas is a pure, versatile scorer whose game will translate well to the NBA when he makes the leap. And Craft, with all due respect, is the perfect kind of player you’d want to lead your college team but who won’t likely have much of a (if any) future in pro ball. He’s a terrific student-athlete, someone Ohio State fans and alumni can be proud of, and he’s a bulldog on the court. He ran the Buckeyes’ offense very well, provided leadership, brought some of the best on-ball defense in the country, and showed by the final months of the season that he can fill it up too. When Craft was at his best, the Buckeyes looked unbeatable. That included two huge games against Michigan State, both at the end of the regular season and in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, as well as in the Big Dance. Ohio State was nearly dead in the water after losing three of four games early in February, but they turned it around to become the hottest team out of the best conference in the land. Read the rest of this entry »
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.30.13 Edition

Posted by WCarey on March 30th, 2013


The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

Midwest Region

West Region

  • Wichita State guard Malcolm Armstead transferred from Oregon to join the Shockers without a scholarship and that gamble is paying off as Wichita State preps for a chance to go to the Final Four.
  • Myron Medcalf of ESPN.com writes that Saturday’s game between Ohio State and Wichita State should not be viewed as a “David/Goliath” match-up.
  • Would Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall be the greatest catch of this year’s coaching carousel?
  • Ohio State sophomore forward LaQuinton Ross has matured during his second season in Columbus to become a playmaker for the Buckeyes.
  • Ohio State coach Thad Matta was unhappy with the way Buckeyes guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. performed defensively in the team’s Round of 32 victory over Iowa State, but the junior stepped up his play significantly in Thursday’s victory over Arizona.
  • Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas has a well-earned reputation as a “bad shot taker and maker” and this moniker has not prevented him from becoming the Buckeyes’ most lethal weapon offensively.

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Big Ten M5: 01.28.13 Edition

Posted by jnowak on January 28th, 2013


  1. There may not be a player in the country as impactful as Indiana‘s Victor Oladipo, and that talent was on display Sunday in a huge win against Michigan State at Assembly Hall. Oladipo is essentially the college basketball equivalent of a five-tool player, with the ability to defend, get in the passing lane, pick up loose balls, rebound, score off the dribble and with the jump shot, and make other teammates better with his play-making (and, yes, that’s more than five tools). So why hasn’t his name come up quite as much in the National Player of the Year conversation? Cody Zeller is Indiana’s poster child for the award, but Oladipo has thrived in late-game clutch situations while Zeller has fallen into the shadows. The big man was a non-factor against the Spartans while the guard was the Hoosiers’ difference-maker.
  2. It’s hard to figure where we stand at this point with Minnesota, one of the most polarizing teams in college basketball. The Gophers started the season red hot and emerged as one of the country’s early bright spots. It looked like Tubby Smith would have his best Minnesota club by far — and perhaps the best collection of talent he, himself, had assembled in his career — before the overachieving Gophers hit this current rough patch. So do we chalk this up to us overestimating them early in the non-conference slate? Or is this just the gauntlet that is the Big Ten? Is Minnesota still Final Four-worthy? With all the ups and downs we’ve seen over the course of the first few months, we may not know until all is said and done in April.
  3. For a while now, we’ve known there are two ways to play Ohio State — you either let Deshaun Thomas get his average and try to limit the other players, or try to limit Thomas while letting the supporting cast get its due. Well, Penn State may have thought it would get away with the latter strategy before Sam Thompson and Lenzelle Smith Jr. emerged in the Buckeyes’ 65-51 win over the weekend. The question that remains know is whether Ohio State can maintain this level of scoring from the role players on the team while Thomas still manages his average on a regular basis. If that’s the case, Ohio State probably goes from a Sweet Sixteen-caliber team back to a repeat Final Four candidate.
  4. At long last, Tom Shatel writes, there is a pulse in Nebraska basketball. You could see it in the Huskers largely thanks to coach Tim Miles‘ energy in their win against Northwestern this weekend, and it could be the sign of better things to come for a program that has never been known for its hoops and has the tall order of trying to build itself in the super-tough Big Ten. “Maybe it shouldn’t be amazing,” Shatel wrote for the Omaha World-Herald. “Maybe it should be embarrassing, the idea of cheering effort, celebrating any win. But those who have been around this program for the past depressing decade know the real score: Any pulse is better than no pulse.”
  5. Through something that has been unspeakably ugly for a few games now, Bo Ryan is finding a way to — believe it or not — laugh. Ryan, not known in college basketball circles as a particularly jovial guy, has found reason to grin in the wake of Wisconsin‘s horrible shooting performances of late, including after a close win against Minnesota. In the last two home games, the Badgers shot 33 percent overall, 30.2 percent from the three-point line and 42.3 percent from the free throw line… and still managed a split against a pair of ranked foes.
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Big Ten M5: 01.10.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on January 10th, 2013


  1. The finalists for the Bob Cousy Award have been announced and there are four Big Ten point guards who made the cut – Trey Burke, Aaron Craft, Keith Appling and Dre Hollins. Michigan’s Burke is averaging 7.5 APG and is also a leading candidate for National Player of the Year this season. In addition to his fantastic assist numbers, he has averaged 18.2 PPG but his most impressive stat might be related to turnovers – he’s committed just 11 over the last 10 Michigan games. The sophomore point guard has been named the Big Ten Player of of the Week twice already and will likely make the cut for the Cousy Award for the final 10 and even the last five in March.
  2. Michigan State’s athletic director Mark Hollis wanted the the 2013-14 season opener to be held in the Dallas Cowboys Stadium where four games would be played at the same time. But after that idea fell through (thankfully), head coach Tom Izzo is wondering about a “normal” start to the Spartans’ next season. Over the past two years, MSU has opened its season on an aircraft carrier and at an overseas military base. Izzo is looking forward to some normalcy and added that he “leaves things to Hollis” when asked about scheduling the grand openers. The Spartans had to travel back home and play Kansas within a few days after the trip to Germany this season which had to be very tiring, so maybe Izzo’s squad will benefit from playing a run-of-the-mill regular season opener and start a November winning streak.
  3. After two months of basketball, one thing is very clear for the Buckeyes – Deshaun Thomas needs help. The junior forward is averaging 20.3 PPG and has asserted himself as the primary Buckeye scorer after the departures of Jared Sullinger and William Buford, but he needs help from another consistent scorer to spot for him. The second leading scorer for Thad Matta is Lenzelle Smith Jr., who has averaged just 10.7 PPG but has not been very consistent in big games. Smith needs to average at least 14 PPG in order to form a formidable combination with Thomas the rest of the way. The sophomores – Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott and Laquinton Ross – are still getting used to the Big Ten play so it might take them some more time to contribute consistently to the overall offense.
  4. Seniors are highly valued at Wisconsin in the Bo Ryan system because they understand his offensive philosophy and play solid defense. Senior forward Ryan Evans has been very effective on the boards,  averaging 8.0 RPG this season, but he has been absolutely dismal from the free throw line – shooting just 36.5% from the stripe. Evans scores 11.5 PPG but definitely needs to improve his free throw percentage to help the Badgers compete in the Big Ten. The poor shooting is very unusual for a forward who has played a key role during his time in Madison because Ryan ensures that his teams maximize every opportunity on offense and free throws are the easiest and best way to improve offensive efficiency. It is unlikely that this trend will get Evans benched because he is an experienced player who still adds value to the Badgers, especially on the defensive end.
  5. Illinois head John Groce has been heavily scrutinized during his first season in Champaign but there is another new coach who has done an excellent job at Nebraska – Tim Miles. At the outset, a pedestrian 9-6 record may indicate that Miles hasn’t done much yet but he is trying to get Nebraska out of the cellar and onto the B1G basketball scene. When asked about coaching in the Big Ten, Miles said ” I really do feel like I’m in the best conference in the country. I look at fan support, quality of the coaches, the way the teams play — how productive and efficient they are, and they are all well coached.” The new head coach has a daunting task but he has shown so far that he is energetic enough to instill some confidence into a moribund basketball program in Lincoln that will require a long journey to relevence in the historic conference.
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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on January 4th, 2013


Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The first weekend in 2013 dives head first into conference season. There are some key match-ups within the Big Ten and Big 12 that will set the tone early for who to watch over the next two months. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

#11 Ohio State at #13 Illinois – 2:15 PM EST, Saturday on BTN (****)

While Craft brings experience and relentless defense, losing Sullinger and Buford, and the outsized production loads they accounted for, will be an enormous hurdle for the transitioning Buckeyes (Photo credit: Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire).

Aaron Craft needs to lock down the perimeter against Illinois (Photo credit: Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire).

  • It seems odd to say that these two top 15 teams are in need of a win, but that appears to be the case in this particular match-up. Ohio State is 0-2 in its two big games against Duke and Kansas, leaving the Buckeyes without a marquee victory thus far, while Illinois has lost two of its last three games after starting 12-0. Illinois’ shooting has been quite poor over the last three games: star guard Brandon Paul has gone 5-of-18, 3-of-12, and 4-of-10 in that span. Alongside D.J. Richardson, the Illini guards will face a tough defensive test from OSU guards Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith Jr., and Shannon Scott. Paul is always capable of a breakout game, but keep a close eye on his shooting as Illinois typically goes the way he goes. In their two losses this season to Duke and Kansas, the Buckeyes have faced dominant post players. Illinois does not have that asset per se, so that bodes well for the Buckeyes, even in Champaign. Big forward Tyler Griffey is Illinois’ best inside option, but he could have his hands full on defense if he is matched-up against DeShaun Thomas. Craft and the Buckeye perimeter defense is the key to this game and it doesn’t appear that the Illinois defense is strong enough to keep Thomas from scoring. While it will be a raucous home crowd for the Illini, I think OSU pulls off the win.

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The Big East’s Top 25 (or so) Non-Conference Games of 2012-13

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 9th, 2012

While Big East basketball is always a spectacle, this conference season has even more added juice with the impending departures of Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and (eventually) Notre Dame.  However, before we get to conference games, the Big East is involved in some really intriguing non-conference games this season. Big East teams will be playing all over the United States, Germany, and on a few aircraft carriers. Let’s take a look at the best that the Big East has to offer in the non-conference slate this season.

Syracuse and San Diego State tip off the season on the deck of the USS Midway this Sunday (AP)

25. Pittsburgh v. Oakland, November 17, 7 PM

The Panthers have a rather light non-conference slate this season, but don’t expect them to look past the Golden Grizzlies. Oakland has a history of playing tough schedules, and won’t be intimidated by the Zoo. Oakland is coming off of a bit of a down year in 2011-12 when they finished 20-16 (11-7), but made the NCAA Tournament in both 2009-10, when they were knocked out in the first round by Pittsburgh, and 2010-11.

24. DePaul @ Auburn, November 30, 9 PM

Look for DePaul to try to do the conference proud when they head down to take on the Auburn Tigers as part of the SEC-Big East Challenge. This DePaul squad should be better than it has been in years past, returning dynamic forward Cleveland Melvin and dangerous guard Brandon Young.  Auburn is coming off of a poor 15-16 season, and could be ripe for a big non-conference road win for the Blue Demons.

23. Rutgers v. Iona, Madison Square Garden, December 8, 9:30 PM

One of these New York metropolitan-area teams is coming off of a great season that ended in a heartbreaking NCAA tournament loss to BYU. The other is continually striving to build its program, and aspires to have such success.  It almost seems backwards that Iona is the more accomplished team at the moment, but isn’t that what makes college basketball so great? A big performance by the Scarlet Knights at the Garden could go a long way in setting the tone for a run at a tournament berth in the Big East.

22. St. John’s v. Detroit, November 13, 2 PM

The Johnnies tip off their season against a very dangerous Detroit squad led by superstar Ray McCallum. St. John’s has a number of impressive young players themselves, and head coach Steve Lavin will return to the sideline after battling cancer last season. While many look forward to what should be a fun match-up between McCallum and D’Angelo Harrison, the St. John’s star was recently benched in the team’s final exhibition for disciplinary reasons. If Lavin continues to have issues with his top guard, it could prove very problematic for the Red Storm next week.

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