Nebraska’s Loss to Rhode Island Exhibits Some Danger Signs

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 24th, 2014

It’s not as though Nebraska was going to waltz through the season undefeated or anything. The Cornhuskers cracked the preseason Top 25 because of the finishing run they went on last season and because they brought back pretty much every significant player in the rotation other than Ray Gallegos. That said, Saturday’s overtime loss to an unranked Rhode Island team exhibited several potential trouble spots for the Cornhuskers if they don’t immediately fix some things. We outline three of those problem areas below.

Walter Pitchford is off to a slow start this season for Nebraska. (AP)

Walter Pitchford is off to a slow start this season for Nebraska. (AP)

  • Walter Pitchford is Struggling: The former Florida forward emerged as a quality deep shooting big man last season, hitting 41.0 percent on nearly 50 makes from three. He’s off to a 1-of-11 start from behind the arc this season. One of the most difficult things to do if you’re a good shooter whose shots are not falling is to find other ways to contribute. It’s clear that he’s struggling in other facets of his game, but Pitchford could work through his slump by becoming a better presence on the boards and staying out of foul trouble. Right now the offense is pretty much limited to the Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields show, but last year’s team really took off when the secondary options improved. Rhode Island outrebounded Nebraska by 16, and Pitchford’s lack of activity inside is a big part of the reason why. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten M5: 11.12.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 12th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. What do NBA starters Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bradley Beal, and Michigan State’s Branden Dawson all have in common? They were a few of the highest-rated recruits in the Class of 2011. While the first three players mentioned all moved on to the NBA after just one season of college ball, Dawson is still playing in college, something he didn’t necessarily envision when he committed to the Spartans four years ago. After receiving a second-round grade from the NBA’s Draft Advisory Board, he decided to return for his final season hoping to both increase his stock and get a college degree. If he has a big senior year as the focal point of Tom Izzo’s offense, sticking around might very well have paid off.
  2. Many including myself assumed that Nebraska forward Leslee Smith would be sidelined for the whole upcoming season after suffering a torn ACL over the summer. Well, Smith is actually recovering so far ahead of schedule that head coach Tim Miles recently said that “we’re hoping to have him ready in mid-January, about a week or two into Big Ten play.” This is huge news for the Cornhuskers, as Smith will give the team another beefy inside presence to battle with some of the size the other B1G squads will bring to bear.
  3. Michigan freshman Austin Hatch isn’t on any top 100 recruiting lists, but his backstory is arguably more inspirational than that of any college basketball player in recent memory. After surviving two plane crashes that took the lives of both his parents and left him in a coma for eight weeks, it’s simply amazing that he’s shown such perseverance to stay after his basketball dreams. On Monday night, Hatch scored his first collegiate point in Michigan’s exhibition win over Wayne State. He then received a standing ovation after being removed from the contest, and there probably wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Here’s hoping Hatch has many more nights in Ann Arbor like the one he experienced earlier this week.
  4. Richard Pitino’s battle against father Rick Pitino will undoubtedly mark one of the national and Big Ten highlights of the opening set of games Friday night. Minnesota is looking to prove that it deserves to be in the Top 25, while Louisville wants to defend its top 10 preseason ranking. In advance of the season opener, the duo staged an entertaining press conference in Puerto Rico with the elder Pitino cracking jokes while both coaches sharing just how fond they are of each other’s programs.
  5. Indiana has not had much good news as of late, but Collin Hartman returning to the lineup and playing well in the team’s two exhibitions definitely qualifies as some happier news. Hartman tore his ACL in March, but he’s already back in the fold and looks no worse for the wear. With a depleted roster because of suspensions and injuries, Hartman played nearly 20 minutes in each of the two preseason contests, burying a couple of threes in Monday’s game. If Hartman can continue to shoot the ball well, the Hoosiers will possess some of the best perimeter shooting in the B1G with James Blackmon Jr, Robert Johnson, Nick Zeisloft and Yogi Ferrell also capable deep shooters.
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Morning Five: 11.12.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 12th, 2014

morning5

  1. Too often we lead off this space with bad news so it is a pleasure to write about Austin Hatch again and this time for a positive story. You may remember Hatch, a talented high school player who was involved in two plane crashes separated by eight years that took the lives of his entire immediate family. Hatch, who had been a Michigan commit before the incident, ended up staying on his Michigan commitment and after extensive rehab made it onto the court for an exhibition game for the Wolverines hitting a free throw for the first point of his college career. We are not sure how much Hatch will play for the Wolverines during his time in Ann Arbor, but just the fact that he was able to make it back to the court is inspiring in itself.
  2. Nebraska got some good news recently as senior forward Leslee Smith is ahead of schedule in his recovery from tearing his left ACL and is expected to be ready to return by mid-January. Smith averaged 5.4 points and 4.8 rebounds last season and his return would add a lot to a Cornhusker team that could be competitive at the top of what should be a very good Big 12 Conference this season. The news for New Mexico was not as promising as junior college transfer Jordan Goodman is now expected to be out longer than originally anticipated as he recovers from several nagging injuries and is not expected to be back until December. Although the Lobos have plenty of quality in the backcourt, Goodman could be essential in the frontcourt in what should be a transition season for the Lobos.
  3. Today is the first day of the early signing period for high school basketball recruits. While it doesn’t generate the hoopla of the regular period–particularly for football–it is still fairly significant as many top prospects sign binding letters of commitments to institutions. The two biggest names who are expected to commit later this week are Skal Labissiere (#4 overall–looking at Baylor, Georgetown, Kentucky, Memphis, North Carolina, and Tennessee) and Isaiah Briscoe (#9 overall–looking at Connecticut, Kentucky and St. John’s). You may remember Labissiere as the heavily touted recruit who recently announced that he was going to “attend” a prep school that did not exist yet for his senior year. It is unclear if either will sign, for their sakes, we hope they don’t since it binds the recruit to the school, which means that the recruit cannot back out even if everything about the school changes.Personally, we would like to see these letters of intent disappear and simply allow a player to verbally commit, which would allow that player more flexibility if (and when) a coach moves.
  4. Last week, we linked an article from Ken Pomeroy that showed that the AP Preseason Poll did have some predictive value. This week, he has a slightly more broad-based analysis of various predictive models. While the overall analysis is not that complete it does show that the four prediction models that are most often referenced are fairly accurate. In terms of determining which is the most accurate that will be difficult as it will probably require several years of data and we would assume that most of these systems update their algorithms every year so a long-term analysis might not be as useful.
  5. By now, you have probably read a column or seen a Twitter debate about whether this Kentucky team could beat a NBA team. This year the annual ridiculous debate was started by Chris Briggs, the coach of Georgetown College (that’s College not University and not the College of Arts and Sciences at Georgetown University), after Kentucky beat his NAIA team 121-52. After the game, Briggs said Kentucky “could have beaten some NBA teams tonight” and later added that “if they play like they did tonight, they’re an NBA playoff team.” Every year we hear this debate and we reflexively dismiss it as ridiculous although we could envision a scenario where the Philadelphia 76ers could be trying to score on their own basket. However, now that we have a NAIA coach talking after a game where his good, but not great NAIA team got blown out we might have to reassess things.
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Ten Offseason Storylines From the Big Ten

Posted by Brendan Brody on October 15th, 2014

We’re about a month away from Big Ten basketball once again being a part of our lives. Things at the B1G microsite have been quiet since then, but that doesn’t mean nothing has happened since last April. So here’s a quick refresher to get everybody back up to speed since we last saw Wisconsin lose a heart-breaker to Kentucky in the Final Four. These 10 offseason storylines are in no particular order, but they will impact what will happen this season.

Frank Kaminsky came back to school for his senior season to lead a veteran Wisconsin team with a chance to go back to the  Final Four. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

Frank Kaminsky came back to school for his senior season to lead a veteran Wisconsin team with a chance to go back to the
Final Four. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

  • Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker Returned to School: Postseason souting reports had Kaminsky going everywhere from #15 to #45 in the NBA Draft, even after a regular season where he led the Badgers in scoring and contributed NCAA Tournament averages of 16.4 PPG and 5.8 RPG on 55 percent shooting from the field. Dekker probably could have pursued NBA riches as well, but they both came back to Madison, making the Badgers — with two other returning starters in Josh Gasser and Traveon Jackson — an almost unanimous conference favorite.
  • Gary Harris and a Quartet of Michigan Players Didn’t: Things aren’t quite as rosy in East Lansing or Ann Arbor as far as preseason outlooks go. That’s because to the surprise of almost no one Gary Harris departed for the NBA after his sophomore year. This means that the Spartans will be without three of their four double-figure scorers from last season’s Elite Eight team. Meanwhile, Michigan is rebuilding things from scratch after the early NBA departures of sophomores Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, and Mitch McGary. None of the trio was ever a sure thing to jump to the pros, but things got especially wonky when it was learned that McGary would be suspended for the entire 2014-15 season due to a positive drug test during the NCAA tournament. Another Michigan gut punch was the transfer of Jon Horford to Florida, leaving the Wolverines with almost no experience on the front line heading into this season.

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B1G Award Spotlight: Terran Petteway

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 30th, 2014

With the season now turning toward the home stretch, it’s time to start contemplating and discussing which players are most worthy and likely to see their names on the Big Ten all-league teams. As an example, Nebraska’s Terran Petteway has seemingly come out of nowhere to lead the Cornhuskers in scoring in his first season on the active roster, one of a number of first-year players who have helped Tim Miles’ rebuilding efforts. While Tai Webster, Walter Pitchford, Leslee Smith and the now-exiled Deverell Biggs have all contributed in various ways, none have had the impact of Petteway. He’s already become one of the best go-to scorers in the league, checking in at third on the league leaders list at 18.2 PPG. The question to be answered here is where does he deserve to be placed in terms of all-league consideration?

Terran Petteway has been Nebraska's best player, but is that enough to make him first-team all B1G? (AP)

Terran Petteway has been Nebraska’s best player, but is that enough to make him first-team all B1G? (AP)

The usual theory that coincides with how these all-league teams are picked is “to the victor goes the spoils.” Fair or not, given the concentration of talent among 12 teams, a player normally needs to be on team that finishes in the top third of the standings to make the first team. In the last three seasons, only two first-team selections have come from teams that didn’t finish in the top four of that season’s standings (Robbie Hummel and John Shurna in 2011-12). Sitting at 10th right now at 2-5 in Big Ten play, this likely takes Petteway out of first-team consideration unless Nebraska goes on an epic hot streak over its last 11 games. That does not mean, however, that he’s precluded from placement on either the second- or third-team all-conference squads.

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The Seven Most Surprising Big Ten Players So Far This Season

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 13th, 2013

With the season now a little over a month old, it’s time to take a look at how different players are performing in accordance with their preseason expectations. I’m always more of a good news first kind of guy, so I’ll start with the guys who are making a better-than-expected impact first, with the disappointments coming next week. Many of these players are transfers, although some are simply just producing more in additional minutes. The common thread with all seven of these Big Ten breakout players is that they are heavily contributing to wins in more than one way, and doing so at a high level.

Frank Kaminsky has played his way into B1G Player of the Year consideration (Getty)

Frank Kaminsky has played his way into B1G Player of the Year consideration (Getty)

  • Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin (14.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.1 BPG, 1.1 SPG, 42.9% 3FG, 55.4% FG). “Frank the Tank” is leading the Badgers in scoring, steals and blocks. People thought that he’d be able to have an impact with more minutes due to the graduation of Jared Berggren, but no one thought he’d be capable of dropping 43 points in a single game. Kaminsky leads a balanced attack on the offensive end that has five different players capable of scoring 20 on a given night, and he’s a defensive presence to the tune of blocking 7.06 percent of all opponents’ field goal attempts. Wisconsin in general has been a surprise, but Kaminsky has been an even bigger one.
  • Eliott Eliason, Minnesota (5.7 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 2.5 BPG). Eliason got lost in the shuffle last season with Trevor Mkakwe and Rodney Williams getting most of the frontcourt minutes in 2012-13. This year he has emerged as a major rebounding and shot-blocking threat for the Gophers. Eliason is currently third in the league in defensive rebounding rate (26.5%), sixth in offensive rebounding rate (12.6%), and third in block rate (11.74%). On a team that frequently features a three-guard attack, it is vital that someone can clear the glass and protect the rim, which Eliason is doing at an elite level in the early going.

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