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

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  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

RTC_final4_atlanta

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

morning5_bigten

  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

morning5_bigten

  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

setDVR

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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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 M5: 10.08.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 8th, 2012

  1. The countdown to Jabari Parker’s final commitment continues. Parker, who is arguably the best high school recruit for the incoming 2013-14 season, has narrowed his list of schools to the final five and only one Big Ten team will be on his mind over the next month, Michigan State. The other four schools include BYU, Florida, Duke and Stanford. Michigan State’s head coach Tom Izzo is not known for recruiting the typical “one-and-done” player but Parker may be one of the best high school talents known in recent years. The high school senior will schedule on campus visits with each of the five schools and is expected to commit by the end of November. Parker averaged 19.5 PPG, 8.9 RPG and 4.9 APG at Simeon Career Academy of Chicago last season.
  2. Illinois’ athletic director Mike Thomas is under immense pressure this season because he replaced both of the head coaches of the major sports – football and basketball. Even though Illinois football is off to a 2-4 start and has not caught the fans’ attention, he hopes that the basketball coach, John Groce, can turn the attitude around rather quickly. Groce has clearly impressed the Orange Krush with his recruiting abilities by bringing in Kendrick Nunn for next season, but he is preaching toughness for the upcoming year. Groce has been pushing the current guards to be in “attack” mode and has been specifically focused on senior guard Brandon Paul to become more consistent. Paul averaged 14.7 PPG and 4.7 RPG as a junior but he needs to show more consistency if the Illini hope to turn it around after a disappointing season that did not even result in an NIT appearance. Illinois averaged 65.4 possessions per game during the Big Ten and Groce hopes to field a much quicker and faster team which will push the tempo of the game.
  3. President Obama’s love for basketball and his pickup games with various stars of the game has been well publicized over the years, but he is taking his game to the Big Ten country now. The Badger basketball squad spent five minutes with the President last week during his trip to Wisconsin and were promised a pick-up game after the election. Redshirt freshman point guard George Marshall helped organize the meeting by getting some help from his former high school teammates’ father who works with the President. Zach Bohannon, a redshirt junior, started the buzz about the meeting on Twitter. Marshall is one of the new faces that hopes to step into Jordan Taylor’s shoes to take over point guard duties. He averaged 17.3 PPG, 5.9 RPG and 5.4 APG during his senior season of high school in Chicago. Wisconsin does not have an experienced true point guard on the roster and Marshall ought to fill that role of running an efficient half court offense for Bo Ryan.
  4. Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft of Ohio State have been hyped for the upcoming season and will continue to remain the primary contributors of the Buckeyes throughout the season. But junior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. has the opportunity to become a consistent second scoring option in this offense and certainly has the talent to take over games if needed. Smith has been working on his game during the offseason and appears to be very comfortable with his role as he hopes to fill in the void left by Jared Sullinger. Even though Smith averaged only 6.8 PPG and 4.6 RPG last season, he showed flashes of brilliance during certain key contests. Against Indiana, he scored 28 points and went off for 17 against Michigan. He has the shooting range and athleticism to succeed in Thad Matta’s offense as the Buckeyes appear to be one of the contenders to win the Big Ten again.
  5. Penn State’s football team has found its rhythm after an 0-2 start and seems to be one of the contenders to finish strong in a weakened Big Ten. The basketball team also seems to be in high spirits as Pat Chambers continues to mold the program by instilling toughness and more importantly, pushing the team for consistency. Football coach Bill O’ Brien will continue to act as the face of Penn State athletics in the media’s eyes due to the negative publicity of the Penn State football program, but Chambers may be the backbone and strong foundation that the athletic program needs during these times. Senior guard Tim Frazier is a good start as he has the ability to lead his team to a solid Big Ten season. Frazier stuffed the stat sheet last season by averaging 18.8 PPG, 6.2 APG and 4.7 RPG.
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Four Thoughts On Ohio State vs. Syracuse

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 26th, 2012

About a year ago, Jared Sullinger shocked the press room by announcing that the would be back for another season despite being projected as a top 10 choice in the NBA Draft. Coming off a brutal loss to Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen, he seemed very confident about his reasons to return to Columbus, one of them being unfinished business because he wanted to lead Ohio State back to the Final Four. Several comparisons have been made between the recruiting class with Greg Oden to the one with Jared Sullinger. Both classes were highly touted and Oden along with Mike Conley led the Buckeyes to the National Championship game where they lost to Florida. Last year’s recruiting class — Sullinger, Lenzelle Smith Jr., Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas — has lived up to the hype as they led Ohio State back to the Final Four Saturday by beating Syracuse 77-70. Let’s examine four key factors that led to the victory over the weekend.

Aaron Craft and The Buckeyes executed an excellent game plan to beat 'Cuse. (nwitimes.com)

  1. The Buckeyes did not settle for three-point shots. Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone forces the opposing teams to settle for long-range shots during the game. Syracuse frustrates opponents to an extent where they believe that the only way to break it is to chuck up 25-footers. Three-point shooting is one key to break the zone but only with quality looks and when the looks are not there, teams need to attack the paint to force the zone to fall apart. On Thursday night, Wisconsin shot 14-27 against ‘Cuse but they forgot about other ways to score, one of them being to attack the basket. Ohio State’s wings did an excellent job of cutting their way into the paint against the Orange, resulting in 42 free throw attempts. William Buford and Deshaun Thomas could have settled for flat-footed threes but rather they stayed active and remained close to the hoop with their shot selection. Both of them combined for 1-7 from the long-range but 8-10 from the charity line. Overall, the Buckeyes shot only 4-13 (30.8%) from deep but their limited three-point attempts allowed them to exploit the zone via the post, not from 25 feet away from the hoop. Read the rest of this entry »
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ATB: Fantastic Final Four – Buckeyes Squash the Orange, Carolina Misses Marshall, and an All-Kentucky Dream Game

Posted by EJacoby on March 26th, 2012

This Weekend’s Lede. The Final Four is set and ready for action with some of the biggest storylines in years. There were no Cinderella stories on this second weekend, as the Elite Eight was comprised of all powerhouse teams that have been the class of college basketball all season. This week will feature numerous awesome back-stories and matchups to look forward to in New Orleans, but first we’ll break down exactly what happened over the weekend that’s led us to the remaining four teams in the Big Dance. Without further ado, here’s how it went…

Your Watercooler Moment. Russ Smith Runs Wild For #4 Louisville as Unlikely Hero

Russ Smith Sparked Louisville to a Comeback and a Final Four Berth (C. Hanewickel, US Presswire)

The top players in the NCAA Tournament proved their worth over the weekend for their heavyweight teams, but the one team that lacks that superstar performer made for the best story of the weekend. Louisville was a slight underdog against #7-seed Florida in the West Regional Final and the Cardinals trailed by eight points at halftime by surrendering far too many open threes to the Gators. But Rick Pitino’s team stayed within striking distance throughout the second half before perhaps the most enigmatic, up-and-down performer in college hoops picked the perfect time to have his best game. Russ Smith, Louisville’s super-sub that provides instant energy, came off the bench to score a game-high 19 points, 13 of which came in the second half. Smith often leaves coaches and fans scratching their heads with his decision-making, but his no-fear mentality was the difference in this game. Making aggressive moves to the basket and taking big shots late, Smith came up huge for his team in its biggest spot of the season. He finished with 19 points, five rebounds, two assists (and four turnovers), and hit two consecutive shots with his team down by six points to cut the Florida lead to one. From there, Louisville closed out the game and sent the Big East Tournament champions to the Final Four.

Also Worth Chatting About. Late-Game Defense Allows #2 Kansas To Defeat #1 UNC

The Jayhawks defeated #1 North Carolina in the Midwest Regional Final by 13 points, but this was one of the most entertaining and close games of the entire NCAA Tournament. The teams were deadlocked 47-47 at halftime in a high-scoring affair, but the defense took over in this game’s second half. Kansas allowed 63.6% shooting in the first half but it was a completely different story after that. The Jayhawks gave up just 22.6% to UNC in the second frame and did not let the Tar Heels score again after a Harrison Barnes free throw cut a Kansas lead to 68-67 with 3:58 to play. Bill Self implemented a surprising ‘triangle and two’ defense that completely threw off UNC offensively, especially limiting what the Heels could do in the paint. Jeff Withey was unable to repeat his 10-block performance from the Sweet Sixteen, but he and Thomas Robinson got the best of Tyler Zeller and John Henson in scoring and rebounding inside. Combine that with the fact that Tyshawn Taylor had an incredible game going up against Stilman White, and Kansas was too tough for a Kendall Marshall-less Carolina team to overcome. There was not enough offense from UNC when it needed it, but Kansas’ terrific defensive effort was a big reason for that.

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