Comings & Goings: Steve Lavin to St. Johns; Oregon Pursues Izzo

Posted by rtmsf on March 30th, 2010

Pete Thamel of the New York Times is reporting tonight that Steve Lavin is set to be hired at St. John’s soon, as an unnamed source familiar with the proceedings labeled today as a “productive and positive dialogue” between the two parties.  Lavin has spent the last seven seasons as a commentator for ESPN after being fired from UCLA after a disastrous 10-19 season in 2002-03.  He was reportedly close to accepting the NC State position in 2006, but ultimately decided against it to remain in television.  This is a solid hire in our view.  Lavin has name-brand recognition with high school kids who have grown up watching him on ESPN, and he’s always been a strong recruiter anyway.  So long as he can connect with NYC-area kids, he should be successful there.  St. John’s has been down for so long that merely getting to a Sweet Sixteen level of success with regularity would probably give Lavin lifelong job security in Jamaica, NY.  And we’ve always had a bit of feeling that Lavin feels he got a raw deal in Westwood, so he should be all the more motivated to prove his doubters wrong there.

The other big news today was a report out of Eugene that Oregon was prepared to offer Michigan State’s Tom Izzo the richest head coaching contract in college basketball history — greater than Kentucky coach John Calipari’s $32M/8-year deal he received last spring.  Phil Knight is backing the search financially and this squares with the rumors that UO was going to attempt to hire a big name this year.  Izzo said today that he was happy where he’s at, which is currently coaching yet another Spartan team into the Final Four.  It probably won’t be Izzo, but someone will bite on this.  The numbers are simply too large to pass up.

In other coaching carousel news, Marshall’s Donnie Jones has taken the head coaching position at Central Florida.  He replaces Kirk Speraw, who was fired two weeks ago after compiling the all-time wins record in eleven seasons at UCF.  So… does this mean that CUSA FrOY and DPOY Hassan Whiteside is going pro? His mother says that early reports of his going pro are premature and that no decision has yet been made.

We’ve already discussed Kansas center Cole Aldrich and Michigan guard Manny Harris’ decisions to go pro in other spaces, but two other prominent players announced their intentions to go pro today.  Seton Hall sophomore center Herb Pope will test the waters, but is likely to stay in the draft, and UTEP junior center Derrick Caracter will also leave school for professional opportunities.  Pope is projected as a late first rounder, but Caracter at this point is not seen as a legitimate prospect given some of his previous offcourt troubles.

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Comings & Goings: Weekend Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 28th, 2010

We haven’t updated this over the weekend because there were some games to attend to, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the college basketball world stopped in its tracks.  So here goes…

The big news of the weekend was that Siena’s Fran McCaffery eschewed several openings in the Big East for a job outside of his comfort zone in the heartland at Iowa.  His work will be cut out for him in Iowa City, as the Hawkeyes were 10-22 (4-14 B10) last year and appear from a talent perspective to be light years away from the 1990s when they were an NCAA Tournament staple.  This article discusses some of the challenges that McCaffery will face coaching and recruiting in the Big Ten.

Meanwhile, St. John’s is apparently taking a hard look at former UCLA coach and current ESPN commentator Steve Lavin, whose hiring would satisfy the Red Storm’s desire for a big-name coach.  A west coast guy, Lavin would need to hire a strong New York-centric staff to handle recruiting the area.  His charisma and the UCLA ‘name’ would certainly help, and the truth is that a Sweet Sixteen-level coach — which is what Lavin was at UCLA and it wasn’t good enough — is probably plenty good enough for the Johnnies at this point.  At least one NY area columnist thinks this would be a great fit.  BC’s Al Skinner is also still reportedly in the mix.

Seton Hall has its guy, as the Pirates hired Iona coach Kevin Willard, who has led Iona out of a 2-28 quagmire to a situation where the Gaels are expected to be one of the top teams in the MAAC next season.  The Hall struck out on McCaffery in part because their pay offer of $700k annually could not approach what a Big Ten school could offer.  Willard was the MAAC Coach of the Year this past season and Rick Pitino is on record as calling him the “best assistant” he’s ever had.

In NBA Draft news, Michigan’s Manny Harris is expected to announce his intention to leave school on Monday.  Harris averaged 18/6/4 assts in a disappointing season for the Wolverines, who missed postseason play altogether.  The 6’5 guard who sometimes struggles with shot selection is projected as a second-round pick at best, but he will have time to assess his prospective position in the draft before making a final decision.

New Mexico State’s Jahmar Young will also test the draft waters after a junior campaign where he averaged 20/4/3 assts for the season.  The 6’5 wing is not currently projected as a pick in either of the first two rounds, so we’d expect to see him back in Las Cruces again next season.

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March 2010 May Belong To Evan Turner

Posted by nvr1983 on March 12th, 2010

Two years ago, Stephen Curry dominated the college basketball scene while leading Davidson to a miraculous Elite 8 run (We were on the bandwagon within 5 minutes of their 1st round game). It is beginning to look like we may have a similar situation this March albeit with a much bigger school. Unlike Curry in 2008, Evan Turner is already a household name for anybody who has any interest in college basketball as he overcame a “broken back” and missing a month of the season to most likely win the National POY. [Ed. Note: The all-important RTC Awards haven’t been announced yet, but it is safe to say if anybody else is the POY our site might not exist the following day.]

Today playing against a Michigan team that was playing for its NCAA Tournament life (no chance of an at-large bid), the Buckeyes found themselves down by 2 points with 2.2 seconds left after Manny Harris hit a fade-away jumper from the elbow. Thad Matta called a timeout to draw up a play. During that same timeout, John Beilein apparently was trying to figure out if he could get reservations at the best restaurant in Indianapolis later that night. You can see the result below:

Obviously, the defense by Michigan was atrocious (nobody on the inbounds, nobody on the Turner, . . .) but Turner still had to hit 30+ footer to win it. And with that shot, I think it is safe to say that March Madness is officially underway.

h/t to Dan Levy

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Big Ten Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 10th, 2010

The big thing from the past week. Big Ten season ends in three way tie. Exciting as the seesaw race was all year, it ended in melodramatic fashion as both Purdue and Michigan State hung on after Ohio State had already won out several days prior. The Boilers and Spartans took care of business, beating teams they were supposed to beat. Michigan State racked up back to back banners, but the big story is that this was the first title for Purdue since 1996. Now to see how many teams can go to the dance based on their performance in the Big Ten tournament.  Four Big Ten teams are in the top 25: #5 Ohio State, #6 Purdue, #11 Michigan State, and #13 Wisconsin.

Power Rankings (final)

  1. Ohio State 24-7, 14-4
  2. Purdue 26-4, 14-4
  3. Michigan State 24-7, 14-4
  4. Wisconsin 23-7, 13-5
  5. Illinois 18-13, 10-8
  6. Minnesota 18-12, 9-9
  7. Northwestern 19-12, 7-11
  8. Michigan 14-16, 7-11
  9. Iowa 10-21, 4-14
  10. Indiana 10-20, 4-14
  11. Penn State 11-19, 3-15

Big Ten Tournament – Indianapolis – March 11th-14th

First Round

  • #9 Iowa vs. #8 Michigan – March 11 – 2:30 ET – ESPN2 – This game could really go either way. The first game was a 14-point victory for Michigan at home, whereas the second game was a two-point victory in OT for Michigan on the road. For Michigan, Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims both had at least 20 in each game, so look for that to continue. For Iowa, Aaron Fuller played well in the first game, but went crazy for 30 in the second game. Matt Gatens was absent in the first game, but exploded for 21 in the second game. Michigan comes in having lost four of six games while Iowa has lost the past five of six games. Iowa should do well inside in this game, but I think Michigan has finally figured out that they can’t rely totally on threes, so I am going with Michigan in this one.
  • #10 Indiana vs. #7 Northwestern – March 11 – 4:55 ET – ESPN2 – This game will most likely go to Northwestern. It is just too difficult to win two games against the same team within a week’s time, especially for a team as inconsistent as Indiana has been all year. The big thing Indiana has going for itself in this game and for this tournament is that they are essentially the home town team, especially if they are able to fill Lucas Oil Stadium with Indiana fans. If not, I think Northwestern has too much John Shurna and too much Michael Thompson for IU to handle. I also think Northwestern will make the adjustments on Jordan Hulls to stop his flurry of threes.
  • #11 Penn State vs. #6 Minnesota – March 11 – 7:30 ET – I am going with Minnesota in this one. They have really come on strong to close out the season, winning four of their last six games, including a 35-point drubbing of Iowa. Both of the matchups between these teams during the regular year were close victories for Minnesota, so I expect this one to be close because it is on neutral ground, and I wouldn’t expect either of the team’s fans to come out in droves. Penn State will need Chris Babb to have a big game along with Talor Battle and David Jackson, while Minnesota needs a consistent performance from Westbrook, Sampson, Hoffarber, and Johnson. The X-factor for Minnesota is Devoe Joseph who struggled in both contests. If he can step up then Minnesota wins easily;  if not they will win in a close battle.

Quarterfinals (projected)

Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by rtmsf on March 3rd, 2010

Jason Prziborowski is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

The big thing from the past week:

Hummel-less Purdue headed for free fall? Robbie Hummel tore his ACL against Minnesota last week, and now he is out for the season. Purdue hasn’t been the same since. Hummel was the second leading scorer and the leader of the Boilermakers, a void that has yet to be filled. Purdue survived against Minnesota, but couldn’t repeat the same result against Michigan State. How will Purdue respond in the postseason to his injury?

Now four Big Ten teams are in the top 25: #6 Ohio State, #7 Purdue, #11 Michigan State, and #15 Wisconsin.

Power Rankings

  1. Ohio State 24-7, 14-4
  2. Purdue 24-4, 12-4
  3. Michigan State 22-7, 12-4
  4. Wisconsin 21-7, 11-5
  5. Illinois 18-12, 10-7
  6. Northwestern 18-11, 7-10
  7. Minnesota 17-12, 8-9
  8. Michigan 14-15, 7-10
  9. Iowa 10-19, 4-12
  10. Penn State 11-17, 3-13
  11. Indiana 9-19, 3-13

Coming Up

  • Indiana @ Purdue – March 3rd – 6:30 ET – Nobody expected their last matchup to be a 3-point thriller, but this is a cross-state rivalry that has endured no matter how each team is doing. Indiana has never really recovered from that last loss to Purdue, but maybe this is the game they need to salvage their season. Purdue is reeling from the loss of Robbie Hummel and this is the type of game they need to win to figure out just how good they will be come tournament time.
  • Michigan @ Michigan State – March 7th – 4:00 ET – Don’t underestimate this intrastate rivalry, even though Michigan State has dominated the series in recent years. Their first meeting was a one-point thriller won by Michigan State; this one is the end of the regular season for both teams, so this is their last chance to prove themselves before the Big Ten Tournament.
  • Wisconsin @ Illinois – March 7th – 12:00 ET – Their last matchup was a big Illinois upset over Wisconsin at the Kohl Center, but this one could be much different. Illinois has struggled of late, losing to Minnesota in addition to OSU and Purdue. Wisconsin, on the other hand, has been playing extremely well, especially with Jon Leuer starting to get his groove back. Illinois has played well at home this year, so that could be the advantage they need to win this one.

Breaking It Down

  • Ohio State downs Michigan State and Illinois, good enough to share. Ohio State has done everything they could lately by winning their last four in the Big Ten, including a big win at Michigan State. They got a little help of their own this past week when the Spartans took down the Boilers, leading to a possible three-way tie for first place in the Big Ten. Evan Turner joined forces with William Buford and Dallas Lauderdale to take down Michigan. Turner was his usual self, taking over at times, but also making the rest of the team better. Most impressive has been the play of Lauderdale, dunking his way to 14 points against the Wolverines. Jon Diebler hasn’t been too shabby either, pouring in 21 points all from long range against Illinois.
  • Purdue should get a share of the Big Ten, but what happens next? Purdue had just gotten its highest ranking of the year at #3 in the country when Robbie Hummel went down, so it is even more unfortunate that the top two teams (Kansas and Kentucky) lost this past weekend before Purdue did. Now they have been leapfrogged by Syracuse and others on the way to dropping to #7, right behind OSU. In watching the Michigan State game I was curious as to who would step up for Purdue, and I think I got my answer: Chris Kramer. Kramer poured in 11 points, 5 points above his average. The downside for Purdue though is that E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson both had off games. That led to their lowest point production of the year, but more importantly, I think it left Purdue wondering what their potential is now without Hummel. They have Indiana and Penn State, two teams that might not test Purdue, but once the Big Ten Tournament begins, a new Purdue must emerge or they will be exiting the Big Dance early.
  • Is Michigan State ready for the dance? Their last game was bittersweet for the Spartans. They beat Purdue at Mackey Arena, giving them a chance for a three-way tie in the Big Ten, but the way in which they won is a problem. It was rather fortunate that MSU could win a game in which they barely shot 40% from the field, 22% from long range, and committed 22 turnovers. It was partly their defense that held Purdue to 30% from the field, but it was also Purdue’s offense sans Hummel that was to blame. Raymar Morgan had a monster 16/11 game and Draymond Green’s 12/11 game wasn’t bad either. The problem for the Spartans had to do with Kalin Lucas and the rest of the team. Lucas was responsible for eight turnovers to go with his eight points, so he will need to cut down on that before the Spartans head into the postseason. MSU should handle Penn State and Michigan, but consistency is an issue with this team.
  • Wisconsin blowing away the bottom. Since their unexpected loss to Minnesota on the road, Wisconsin has been getting it done against teams they should be beating. It’s a little hard to say if they are back to their pre-Jon Leuer broken wrist shape or not, but all signs are pointing to yes. Jon Leuer himself is getting more comfortable and is close to putting up the same type of numbers as he was before the injury. Just tracking his games shows that he is getting close in terms of points: four against Minnesota, 11 against Northwestern, and 13 against Indiana. More impressively and demonstrating his impact on defense is his progression of blocks: one against Minnesota, three against Northwestern, and four against Indiana. Trevon Hughes hasn’t been a slouch either, taking over against Indiana while going 3-4 from long range. They have Iowa and then Illinois to close out the regular season before the Big Ten Tournament.
  • Can Illinois stop the slide and go to the dance? Illinois has now lost four out of their last five games, including two against OSU and Purdue. Those games were somewhat expected, but the real killer was the Minnesota game. They should have been beaten Minnesota, especially at home, but that was a game that really hurt their postseason chances and added a layer of pressure that they really didn’t need going into their last regular season game against Wisconsin. Demetri McCamey really struggled against Minnesota, but at least he showed the type of offensive aggressiveness that they need from him. I think he could lay off a couple of threes and take it to the basket a little more. He actually played very well against OSU, putting up the type of numbers they need from him. Unfortunately they couldn’t stop Evan Turner and that was the reason why they lost. They will need to bring everything to beat a team in Wisconsin that is starting to heat up.
  • Oh where, oh where, has Northwestern gone? Northwestern took care of business against Iowa behind a 29-point effort from John Shurna. The Iowa game was payback for an earlier loss that took away their tournament hopes. That was the high note for the past week, as they took a shellacking from Penn State and Talor Battle next. The question of that game was, John Shurna, where did you go? Shurna struggled from the field on his way to nine points, and fortunately for the Wildcats, Michael Thompson really picked it up on his way to 21 points and was the only player to score in double figures. That’s the type of consistency that has plagued Northwestern during their losses. Next up is Chicago State before closing out their regular season on the road against Indiana. They will be going somewhere in the postseason — it just won’t be the Big Dance.
  • The peaks and valleys of Minnesota’s season. Minnesota was making a strong push to finish out the season and maybe trying to surprise some teams in the Big Ten Tournament, but then the wheels just fell off against Michigan. Minnesota has proved they can play with the big dogs in Purdue and Wisconsin, but then they have also lost to the likes of Indiana and now Michigan twice, the second being a blowout. Devoe Joseph and Lawrence Westbrook led the Gophers against Illinois, but it was all Damian Johnson and Colton Iverson in their loss to Michigan. You just never know what you are going to get from this team, as they continue to prove. I am sure Tubby Smith is looking to next year so he can get some sleep at night.
  • Michigan snaps its third three game losing streak of the season. Michigan has struggled of late, not being able to get more than two guys on the scoreboard. That all changed during their blowout of Minnesota at home, putting up 83 points, their biggest total of the Big Ten season. It happened that Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims both lit it up on the same night, while getting help from Stu Douglass as well. The key to the win, though, was that Harris drove to the basket much more than normal, beating his man for easy layups. That high percentage and not relying on the long range shots led Michigan to a scorching 60.4% from the field. That’s what they should have been doing all year. They could be dangerous come Big Ten Tournament time. They close out at Michigan State before then.
  • Iowa sweeps Indiana. Iowa was supposed to be the team that Indiana should beat, but the Hawkeyes didn’t agree. They swept the Hoosiers and passed them in the standings, ensuring a good possibility of avoiding the bottom of the Big Ten to end the year. Matt Gatens was sensational for Iowa, dropping 25 points on the Hoosiers. They also got their usual performance from Aaron Fuller inside, and that’s all it took to take down Indiana. It will be a rough journey ahead for the Hawkeyes as they finish their season on the road against Wisconsin and Minnesota, as both teams that play very well at home.
  • The Lions bury the Cats. All I have to say here is, who knew? Penn State couldn’t win a game in the Big Ten all year, and now they have won three of four. They have distributed the scoring load which has really helped them not have to rely entirely on scoring from Talor Battle. They have two tough teams coming up in Michigan State and Purdue, but they could upset one of them, as their last matchup against MSU was close. They play a different Purdue team this time at home though, so maybe they could be a spoiler.
  • Indiana’s loses the fight along with their confidence. Count them, ten straight losses for Indiana, and the formula has been pretty clear lately. Indiana sticks around in the first half, or at least for the first 10 minutes, and then lets the other teams pull away, never to be seen again. Indiana is throwing the ball away close to 20 times a game, including a lot of unforced turnovers. The most exciting moment for Indiana in the past week is the first ejection of their coach, Tom Crean. The crowd loved it and was chanting Crean’s name. Too bad for the Hoosiers, Crean isn’t able to suit up, as it is now evident that he has a lot more passion than the young Hoosiers, who have packed it in since their game at home against Purdue. There is some hope that Indiana could come alive against Purdue, but most fans have given up on this team for the year.
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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by rtmsf on February 18th, 2010

Jason Prziborowski is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

The big thing from the past week:

  • The Big Ten’s top four moved up as a group. Both Purdue and Ohio State reached their highest rankings of the year. The same can’t be said for Michigan State and Wisconsin, but as a group, this is the highest that the top four have been ranked. It is looking very likely that the Big Ten will send at least five teams to the Tournament this year.  Now four Big Ten teams are in the top 25: #4 Purdue, #9 Ohio State, #11 Michigan State, and #14 Wisconsin.

Power Rankings

  1. Purdue 22-3, 10-3
  2. Ohio State 20-7, 10-4
  3. Michigan State 21-6, 11-3
  4. Wisconsin 19-6, 9-4
  5. Illinois 17-9, 9-4
  6. Northwestern 17-9, 6-8
  7. Minnesota 14-10, 5-7
  8. Michigan 13-12, 6-7
  9. Indiana 9-16, 3-10
  10. Iowa 9-18, 3-11
  11. Penn State 9-16, 1-12

Coming Up

  • Wisconsin @ Minnesota – February 18th – 9:00 ET – ESPN – This game means a lot for Wisconsin, as another loss for the Badgers really takes them out of the race for the Big Ten regular season title. Minnesota has nothing to lose and everything to gain at this point. Add to the mix that Minnesota usually plays well at home, and it could spell defeat for Wisconsin. I am sure Trevon Hughes and company will have something to say about that though.
  • Illinois @ Purdue – February 20th – 4:00 ET – ESPN – Last game was a close one that ended Purdue’s losing streak, and since then, Illinois has been playing a lot better. This game definitely has big time potential impact in the Big Ten and as far as seeding goes in the tournament. Demetri McCamey had a monster game last time around, so Illinois will look for him to contribute once again. Mike Davis and DJ Richardson also played well. They will need more out of Mike Tisdale this time, as JaJuan Johnson dominated that matchup and got Tisdale in foul trouble. The Big Three for Purdue will have to lead once again. This should be a good one, although it is always tough to win at Mackey.
  • Ohio State @ Michigan State – February 21st – 12:00 ET CBS – This is another game that has direct Big Ten Title implications. Having seen both of these teams play in person as well as on TV now several times, this will be quite a battle of two very different teams. Michigan State has a much more traditional makeup to their team, with big post guys, shooting guards, and a quick high-scoring point guard. Ohio State on the other hand has oversized guards and an undersized post presence. The game is at Michigan State, so that should give the Spartans an edge. OSU has to be able to stop the post scoring of the Spartans and keep them off the boards, whereas MSU has been able to stop Evan Turner and the outside scoring of Jon Diebler and David Lighty.

Breaking It Down

  • Purdue cracks the top four. Purdue has now beaten all of the top teams in the Big Ten at least once after last night’s win at Ohio State. It is kind of amazing to look back now when Purdue went through their three-game slide at the beginning of conference play, and now they are ranked #4 nationally behind Kansas, Kentucky, and Villanova. Nova’s loss to UConn on Tuesday puts Purdue is in position to move up even higher next week after their big win at OSU (assuming they can get past Illinois over the weekend).
  • Ohio State had increased its Big Ten winning streak to nine games prior to the home loss to Purdue last night. All year everyone has been saying that if you can stop everyone else but Evan Turner, you should be able to beat Ohio State. Purdue was able to prove that notion correct, but Indiana didn’t have the scoring power to overcome it. Against Illinois, Turner had almost triple double numbers (16/11/8 asst), but even more impressively was the performance of Jon Diebler and David Lighty. OSU visits Michigan State on the road next, and they’ll need to win that one to have any remaining realistic shot at the conference title.
  • Michigan State is marching out of their mid-season valley. The problem during the Spartans’ losses was defense, and even though it appears like they have solved that problem, it’s still too early to tell. The reason I say it is too early to tell is because that improved defense has occurred against two of the bottom of the teams in the league in Penn State and Indiana. The other problem during the losses was the lack of Kalin Lucas. That problem has also disappeared as Lucas went off for 24 against Penn State and a much bigger than it seems 13 against Indiana. Michigan State has OSU and Purdue next, so there is no rest for the Spartans anytime soon.
  • Wisconsin’s destiny is in its own hands. The Badgers were upset by Illinois a week ago at home, something that never happens, due to great games by Demetri McCamey and Mike Tisdale. They bounced back at home trouncing Indiana behind Jason Bohannon, who lit it up from 3-point land on his way to dropping 30 on the Hoosiers. Wisconsin has the easiest schedule remaining of the top five teams in the Big Ten. They should win the next four easily, with the exception of their last game on the road against Illinois, which could prove difficult. Illinois will have battled the best in the Big Ten before taking on Wisconsin, so Wisconsin will need to make sure not to play down to the competition for the rest of the month of February.
  • Illinois’s gauntlet continues. Last week I mentioned that I thought Illinois had made great strides and proven that they weren’t gunning for the top of Big Ten just based on their scheduling. I may have underestimated Illinois’ talent and the way they have been playing lately, but I think I was redeemed a bit by watching the Ohio State game. Illinois was blown out early, and never really made much of a run against the Buckeyes. They actually did well in a couple of statistical categories, but really suffered on the shooting end and could never really stop OSU. I was very surprised that Demetri McCamey didn’t step up earlier, and it was unfortunate that Mike Tisdale got in foul trouble, because he was hurting OSU in the zone by keeping the ball high and being able to throw over the top to him near the basket. The tough thing for Illinois though, is that they don’t get to take any nights off, as they take on Purdue on the road this weekend.
  • Northwestern’s slipper came off against Iowa and got put in the closet last night agaisnt previously-winless Penn State. In the Iowa game, John Shurna and Michael Thompson combined for 36 of Northwestern’s 65. Unfortunately, nobody else was in double figures. Also dooming them was the fact that they shot under 45% from the field and 30% from deep, while Iowa shot 50% from both the field and 3 point land. Unfortunately, it was a similar story against Penn State.  The Wildcats did sandwich their two losses with an OT win against Minnesota where all of the aforementioned players were in double figures. I have heard many people say that Northwestern’s shot at the tournament is now over because of those two bad losses, but if they win at Wisconsin and the rest of their games, they might give the committee something else to think about.
  • Has Minnesota left the building? The month of January and now February hasn’t been kind for the Golden Gophers. They sandwiched a couple of wins against Northwestern and Penn State with a bunch of close losses and a blowout to Ohio State on the road. This team overall has just been too inconsistent. Lawrence Westbrook is playing well now, but where has Ralph Sampson III gone? He has been invisible the last couple of games. Devoe Joseph and Blake Hoffarber have been similarly inconsistent. What would make their season at this point is to score upsets against Wisconsin, Purdue, or Illinois.
  • Michigan wins two straight. Looks like DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris aren’t willing to ride off into the sunset just yet. These two have continued to put up huge numbers, with Sims going for 27 each of the past two games and Harris going for 20 each. All they need to win is for someone else to put in a couple buckets here and there, and they have been doing it recently. They also have three games left that they can really put a thorn in the sides of the better teams in the conference, potentially shuffling the standings at the end of the year.
  • Indiana’s streak goes to unlucky number seven. IU has turned into a two-man show lately, with Verdell Jones III and Christian Watford carrying the load. The problem is that these guys aren’t putting up Harris and Sims type of numbers. The Hoosiers need someone else to score, especially inside. The one good sign for the Hoosiers against the Spartans was how often and how many times they scored from the charity stripe. They haven’t shot 89% all year from the line, and certainly haven’t made close to 30 trips in a night either. The part where the Hoosiers really need work is on the defensive end. Everyone has been basically scoring at will, so once the Hoosiers can plug the big hole on defense, maybe their offense will come around.
  • Iowa steals Northwestern’s slipper. Iowa fulfilled its duty as a spoiler this year, or at least if Northwestern doesn’t end up making it into the tournament, they will have. There was some off the court news this past week for Iowa as well, with Anthony Tucker officially leaving the program. In their loss to Purdue, Iowa shot a frigid 30% and then stepped up to shoot 50% against Northwestern, while holding Northwestern to 44% in addition to taking 30 trips to the free throw line. Against Purdue, Aaron Fuller had an uncharacteristically bad game with only two points, but in their OT heartbreaker to Michigan, he exploded for 30. I would say that’s getting back on the right track. They go on the road against Northwestern again next, and something tells me that this result might be different.
  • Penn State finally won a game. The Nittany Lions picked apart Northwestern in Evanston last night by shooting 56%, putting all five starters in double figures and destroying the Cats on the boards (+17).  It was the kind of performance that makes you wonder where it’s been all year?  It was the Talor Battle show on Saturday against Michigan State. It was fortunate that he poured in 30 points against the Spartans. The unfortunate part was that he didn’t have a ton of help, and Kalin Lucas scored 24 points himself, thus minimizing the Battle Effect. This team has two scorers, and they both performed. Michigan State won the game on the boards, something that this Penn State team just doesn’t do well enough.
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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by jstevrtc on February 4th, 2010

Jason Prziborowski is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

Three things from the past week:

  • Michigan State suffers first defeat in the Big Ten – Michigan State has won a lot of close games lately, but this one wasn’t close at all. Wisconsin not only had a 15 point lead at half, but they closed it out with an 18 point victory. This was Michigan State’s lowest scoring night of the year with only 49 points. Durrell Summers might have turned the corner though, with 11 points, but he was the only Spartan in double figures. I admit that I didn’t expect quite this level of thumping, but give it to Wisconsin and their fans. Kalin Lucas also had to leave the game with a sprained ankle, so MSU will be holding its breath to see if he is back in action soon. For those who missed the game, RTC Covered It Live: RTC Live: Michigan State @ Wisconsin
  • Ohio State is turning it on – Wow, what a difference a week can make. Ohio State suffered a close loss to West Virginia, a game in which they had the lead at halftime. They clearly learned from that defeat, and poured it on, especially against Minnesota. What a contrast to the game earlier in the year when they didn’t have Evan Turner, and lost by 11 on the road. They turned that around to produce a 22 point thumping of the Gophers at home. Ohio State had a very complete game against Minnesota, a great sign for them that Evan Turner doesn’t need to carry the load. William Buford has been tearing it up, especially his career high 26/5/5 asst game against Minnesota. And the Penn State game was a foregone conclusion.
  • Is Illinois’s scheduling the result of most of its success? – Illinois is 7-3 and tied for second in the Big Ten, but who have and haven’t they beaten? Fortunate for Illinois, they have had a great schedule up until this point. They have beaten Northwestern, Indiana twice, Iowa twice, and Penn State twice. They have lost to Purdue, Northwestern, and Michigan State. Essentially, they have beaten the bottom teams in the conference, and lost to two of the top teams. That doesn’t bode well for Illinois, as they gear up to take on Michigan State, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and then Purdue. I don’t think they are strong enough to get through that gauntlet.

Now four Big Ten teams are in the top 25: Michigan State #5, Purdue #8, Ohio State #13, and Wisconsin #16.

Power Rankings

  1. Michigan State                  19-4, 9-1
  2. Purdue                                 18-3, 6-3
  3. Wisconsin                            17-5, 7-3
  4. Ohio State                           17-6, 7-3
  5. Illinois                                   15-8, 7-3
  6. Minnesota                          13-8, 4-5
  7. Northwestern                   15-7, 4-6
  8. Michigan                              11-11, 4-6
  9. Indiana                                 9-11, 3-5
  10. Iowa                                      8-15, 2-8
  11. Penn State                          8-14, 0-10

Coming Up

  • Michigan State @ Illinois – February 6th – 9:00 ET – ESPN – Illinois took care of Iowa, and even with the Spartans’ loss to Wisconsin, this is a big chance for Illinois to give the tournament committee a high quality conference win on which they can hang their hats, and it is a way for the Spartans to further distance themselves from the rest of the Big Ten. Illinois needs to play almost perfect to win this game, and both Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale need to step up big time. Last game was a 10 point defeat for Illinois. Let’s see what happens.
  • Wisconsin @ Michigan – February 6th – 4:00 ET – CBS – Michigan doesn’t have a whole lot to lose at this point, so that makes them dangerous. The other thing going for them in this game is that they are playing at home. Up at the Kohl Center I would think it would be all Wisconsin, but in Ann Arbor it could be a different story as far as Michigan playing spoiler. Last game was a six point defeat for Michigan. For the Wolverines to win this game it will have to be more than the Harris and Sims show.
  • Purdue @ Michigan State – February 9th – 9:00 ET ESPN – This is the biggest game in the Big Ten this year, hands down. Both of these teams are going to the tournament, now it’s all about seeding. Purdue played extremely well early on this year, and then slipped at the beginning of the Big Ten, whereas Michigan State struggled a little bit early, but has been pouring it on in conference. This is eight versus five at home. This is what it’s all about. I am very interested to see how Purdue does on the boards, if they’re able to handle MSU’s speed and power, and if they can somehow neutralize its bench.
  • Illinois @ Wisconsin – February 9th – 7:00 ET – Illinois is a bubble team at best right now; the nice Big Ten record helps, but they need to build a stronger case for themselves. Clearly a win against Michigan State would make that statement, and this game would, too. Not sure just a win against Wisconsin would make a strong enough case, especially knowing that many of their wins in the Big Ten have been against lower ranked teams.

Breaking It Down

  • The Spartans are back in the top five, but not for long. I have already mentioned the loss against Wisconsin, so what everyone should be watching for now is how they respond. They are at Illinois and then have Purdue at home, so they won’t get much of a break to reflect on the Wisconsin loss. This loss and subsequent games will show what kind of team this is, especially if it turns out that Kalin Lucas can’t play next game.
  • Purdue is streaking again. Much had been made about Purdue losing three in a row, mostly because they hadn’t lost any for the first eighteen games of the year. Well, guess what? They’ve just reeled off four in a row. They are also #8 in the land, so it’s not like they are going away anytime soon. I am not completely sure that Purdue is playing its best basketball right now, but they are winning in spite of that. They gear up to take on the cross-state rival in Indiana, a matchup that right now is more symbolic in nature. They have almost another week to go before taking on Michigan State on the road, the marquee matchup in the Big Ten this year. I am hoping for a close game in Flint, but we’ll see.
  • Wisconsin beats up on Michigan State. It’s no secret that Wisconsin is comfortable at the Kohl Center in Madison, but nobody knew exactly how comfortable until Michigan State arrived. I guess Bo Ryan didn’t want to lose his undefeated record at home to Tom Izzo. Four players scored in double figures, but who really shined for me was Jordan Taylor. He had a 17/4/2 asst game against the Spartans, but what impressed me was how he stepped up when Trevon Hughes had to sit because of foul trouble. Next up they are at Michigan, a team that just suffered a pretty convincing defeat against Northwestern.
  • Ohio State jumps into the rankings. The Buckeyes jumped seven spots in the past week. True, it was mostly because of their recent results, but it is also as a result of other teams slipping. I have already talked enough about Ohio State above, so I will keep it brief. They have reached the easier part of their schedule, taking on the likes of Penn State, Iowa, and then Indiana. They have to make sure not to play down to the competition.
  • Where is Minnesota heading, and how did they get there? Minnesota got torched by Ohio State. It is fairly easy to see why. Lawrence Westbrook disappeared, as did Devoe Joseph, combining for only 12 points against the Buckeyes. They have provided a lot of scoring power of late, but Ohio State clearly flustered them. It is probably due to OSU’s big guards, but there’s something else. They need Westbrook to lead; when he does, they win, but lately he has been inconsistent. They knocked off Northwestern, but that was an exception. Losing point guard Al Nolen to academic ineligibility has definitely hurt the Gophers as well, as he led the team in assists and steals. To read the press release of Nolen’s academic appeal being denied, check out here: Nolen’s reinstatement appeal denied by the NCAA
  • Can Illinois make the tournament? Maybe. I already wrote about who Illinois has and hasn’t beaten, so this section will detail the Indiana game, and what Illinois will need to do to beat better teams. Illinois let Indiana back into the game, something they can’t do against better teams. Indiana actually had plenty of opportunities to win the game, but threw away the ball in crucial spots. What is most worrisome for Illinois has to do with the two Mikes. Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale disappear in big games. Davis has been benched to send a message, and Tisdale scores against undersized teams like Indiana. They can’t rely on Demetri McCamey to carry them again. He had a 19/8 asst game and the game winner against Indiana. Who else is going to step up for Illinois? The status quo won’t get them to the tournament.
  • Northwestern can’t beat the big dogs in the Big Ten. Congrats to Northwestern for taking down Michigan. Michigan is a streaky and dangerous team, despite their overall struggles. Northwestern turned the dynamic duo of Sims and Harris into a very limited solo showing by Manny Harris and a non-existent one by DeShawn Sims. That was really a must-win for the Wildcats. It looks like the Wildcats do very well when they have a balanced scoring attack. John Shurna lit it up for 31 in their loss to Michigan State, but then had only 17 in their win against Michigan. They have Indiana at home and Iowa on the road, two games they must win to make the tournament. If you missed the Northwestern  game, RTC Live was there: RTC Live: Michigan @ Northwestern
  • Michigan’s two man scoring squad can take care of the bottom of the Big Ten. Michigan has done well beating some of the lower ranked teams in the Big Ten and, every once in a while, surprising some of the top teams without key players.  For the most part, they can’t beat the top teams in the Big Ten. They lost in successive games to Wisconsin, Purdue, and Michigan State. Sure, they knocked off Iowa, but then struggled against Northwestern. I guess it is as much as you can ask for from two guys.
  • Indiana still not doing the little things. Indiana lost a heartbreaker to Illinois after a solid thumping at home against Iowa. The good thing for Indiana against Illinois was they got back their characteristic energy they have been playing with all year. They also clawed away at the end on defense and forced some big turnovers on Illinois. Looking at the stats, they are similar in almost all areas except for field goal percentage. They even outshot Illinois from the charity stripe. That hasn’t happened often this season. Where Indiana broke down, though, was at the end of the game.  They had a chance to win, and turned it over.  Verdell Jones has been a solid leader since Maurice Creek went down, but sometimes Jones takes too long to turn it on. He has scored a lot of his points during the comebacks of games, but they need him the rest of the time as well.
  • Iowa’s streak finally ends. I was almost joking that Iowa looked like they would be picking off Big Ten opponents in sequential order from bottom to top, but that didn’t play out for the Hawkeyes. The Wolverines were just too much for Iowa in their last matchup. When you only score 17 in the first half, that’s just too much of a hole to overcome. Aaron Fuller continues to be solid, but the rest of the team didn’t help out.  Especially the bench and their nine point contribution. The key to Iowa’s victories was its rebounding, as they were hitting the boards hard. Against Michigan, a team with a four guard lineup, they were outrebounded by six on the offensive end, and by 11 overall. That’s just too much Windex for a team near the bottom of the Big Ten to overcome, especially on the road.
  • Penn State is still winless. Well, Michigan State had the Big Ten streak snapped, but Penn State hasn’t been able to say the same for their version. Penn State is viewed as the assumed win for everyone in the Big Ten. The only thing they have going for them now is that other teams might not to take them seriously. I think that is the only reason that they were able to take the Wisconsin game to overtime, especially on the road. There is no way the same team that torched Michigan State showed up for that game. Out of their upcoming games, I think the only team that they might be able to catch sleeping is Minnesota. They had a five point loss earlier against the Gophers on the road, so maybe a home game will provide just enough energy to get them over the hump and break their streak.
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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by jstevrtc on January 28th, 2010

Jason Prziborowski is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

Three things from the past week:

  • Spartans in the driver’s seat – Michigan State had a scare from Minnesota on national TV and another from Michigan, but being the experienced and tough-nosed team that they are, closed out the game, while Minnesota and Michigan let them get away. They are two games ahead of Wisconsin now, and even more ahead of Purdue, Ohio State, and Illinois. Will the Spartans run the table? They have to get by Purdue twice before the season is over, so I am not betting on it.
  • Superman shut down in the 2nd half Evan Turner was putting up big numbers in the first half against West Virginia, but then couldn’t get it going in the second half. He had 13 at intermission, and ended up with an 18/11/4 asst game. Anyone other than Evan Turner would be happy with those stats. West Virginia had the answer in the second half for Turner though, and his name is Da’Sean Butler, who ended up with a 21/8/5 asst, and won the game for the Mountaineers.
  • Iowa is on a roll – Looks like Iowa is picking off opponents in reverse order these days. First Penn State and now Indiana. Who’s next? Michigan? Northwestern? Who knows. Iowa is hitting the boards well and playing a very physical brand of basketball these days.

Now four Big Ten teams are in the top 25: Michigan State #5, Purdue #10, Wisconsin #16, and Ohio State #20.

Power Rankings

  1. Michigan State                  18-3, 8-0
  2. Purdue                                   16-3, 4-3
  3. Wisconsin                            16-4, 6-2
  4. Ohio State                            15-6, 5-3
  5. Illinois                                   13-8, 5-3
  6. Minnesota                           13-7, 4-4
  7. Northwestern                   14-6, 3-5
  8. Michigan                              10-10, 3-5
  9. Indiana                                  9-10, 3-4
  10. Iowa                                         8-13, 2-6
  11. Penn State                            8-12, 0-8

Coming Up

  • Wisconsin @ Purdue – January 28th – 7:00 ET – ESPN – This game is Purdue’s chance to get back at Wisconsin for starting Purdue’s three game slide. Wisconsin has a huge advantage at the Kohl Center, but given that Wisconsin should still be without Jon Leuer, this one could be all Purdue at Mackey Arena.
  • Michigan State @ Wisconsin – February 2nd – 9:00 ET ESPN – This could be the most likely game for Michigan State to lose prior to the matchup with Purdue. If Jon Leuer is back, it could be a closer game, but even without him, the home court advantage of Kohl’s Center could be the 6th man that Wisconsin needs.

Breaking It Down

  • The Spartans are beatable, but haven’t succumbed yet. Michigan State has won its last two games by a total of two points. Sure, one could say that it is luck, or maybe they are headed for a loss, but at the same time, to me it says that they are a team that has what it takes to close out games. The Spartans are solid across the board when it comes to scoring, even though they are led by Kalin Lucas. Raymar Morgan tore it up against Michigan with a 20/8 effort that is even more impressive because it came on 8-9 from the field and 4-5 from the line. I would give the ball to him all day long when he is shooting like that. I think the Spartans will take care of Northwestern at home as well as Wisconsin on the road, unless the Badgers can summon some big bodies to stop the Spartans in the lane.
  • What about Purdue’s bench play? Purdue has started to turn around its slide in the Big Ten, winning their last two games against Illinois and Michigan. What I find potentially troubling in their last game is their bench play, which was practically nonexistent from a statistical point of view. Last game their bench only contributed five points. Is that a problem? Well, not exactly, but when I looked at their losses, the same trend appears. The bench scored nine in their loss to Wisconsin, two in their loss to Ohio State, and five in their loss to Northwestern. This team needs to find a couple guys to come off the bench to contribute, or else any sign of foul trouble will spell doom for the Boilermakers. Let’s see what happens against Wisconsin at home, though.
  • Wisconsin almost loses to who? That’s right folks, Wisconsin needed a heroic effort by Jordan Taylor to escape an upset by winless Penn State. Credit Taylor for pouring it on with a 20/6 asst game, but still, how far has this Wisconsin team sunk? They escaped a close one at home against Michigan and then a nail-biter against Penn State. I think everyone will see what this team is made of in their next two at Purdue and then Michigan State at home. The results, in my opinion, probably will not be pretty for Wisconsin.
  • Ohio State evens it up for the Big Ten against West Virginia. The momentum had been building for Ohio State the whole week leading up to West Virginia. Each team claimed one of the two halves:  Ohio State won the first half, West Virginia the second. Like their respective teams, one player won the first half and the other won the game. Evan Turner was his usual self in the first half, and then disappeared in the second, whereas Da’Sean Butler was nowhere to be seen in the first, and then puller a superhero down the stretch to put it away. It proved that Ohio State is a tournament team, because West Virginia clearly is as well. The bad news for Ohio State is that they had to travel to Iowa last night to grind out a win against a much-improved Hawkeyes team, and then continue on the road in a tough battle at Michigan State.
  • Minnesota can’t close out the close ones. There are a couple trends that are easy to see with this year’s Minnesota team: they can’t win on the road and they can’t win close games. There are a couple exceptions to that: a win at Iowa and a close win against Penn State and Northwestern. Winning on the road and winning the close ones takes mental toughness and this team doesn’t have it. They have a lot of other things: great upside with Ralph Sampson, great scoring ability and athleticism from Devoe Joseph, and Lawrence Westbrook has had some great moments throughout the year. This team won’t be going to the tournament unless they shock everyone by winning the Big Ten Tournament.
  • Illinois’ scheduling luck has run out. Illinois came out for a quick start in the Big Ten, and looked like they might contend for a Big Ten title, until they started playing teams that were better than them, and they haven’t been able to stop their downhill slide yet. It’s interesting to compare the first Northwestern game with the second. In the first, Illinois won by six in OT; in the second, they lost by five in regulation. Digging deeper reveals what happened. In the first game the big men dominated. Mike Tisdale had a career night with 31 and Mike Davis was good for 20. That’s 51 of the team’s 89 points. Fast-forward to the second game: Tisdale with 14 and Davis with zero. Looks like we have a paint problem, here. Northwestern has gotten more aggressive, and Illinois has gotten less aggressive. There’s the season right there. Illinois beat Penn State on Wednesday, and needs to continue with wins against Indiana and Iowa to salvage this slide.
  • Northwestern bouncing around, but is that enough? Northwestern is definitely much-improved from last year, and is seen as a credible opponent in the Big Ten this year. But is that enough? How will the committee take into account what the Wildcats have done outside of the conference, as well as in it? I think they need to go over .500 in the Big Ten to make the tournament. They stand at 3-5 now, and with ten games left, they are going to have win six or seven of them. I think it might come down to the wire because as I see it, the teams that they have the best shots at beating are Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, and Penn State. If they win all of their games against those opponents, they will be 10-8 in the Big Ten.  With a win against Chicago State, that will get them to overall record of 22-9, and definitely good enough to make the tournament. Can they do it? I am not sure, as some of those road games will be tough.
  • Was the UConn game the peak of Michigan’s season? On Tuesday, Michigan lost a tough game against Michigan State at home, one they should have won. This team is erratic, and usually has to rely on the two man show of DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris. They continue to shoot too many threes, and miss more than their fair share. The upside is that they are continuing to hang with top teams, and have a nice break in their schedule if they wanted to go for a  big run late in the season. I feel that all of their games left are winnable with the exception of Ohio State and the regular season-ending rematch with Michigan State. Lets see what the Wolverines can do.
  • Indiana has to be the underdog. Indiana has surprised teams all year, in that they can hang around against just about anyone. They beat Pitt, they beat Michigan, Minnesota, etc. The theme with all of those games was the expectation that they shouldn’t have won, but they did. It has been said that Tom Crean is ahead of schedule as far as returning Indiana to its past glory, but the game against Iowa was an exception. Against Iowa, Indiana was actually the favored team. They didn’t play like it. They didn’t have any cockiness or swagger, no real energy at all. Seeing the Hoosiers play right after the Colts’ victory was a huge letdown. There was no fight in the team that time, but fortunately for Indiana, they have a whole week of practice to find some of that fighting ability before traveling to Illinois. They will need it, too, as Illinois is enduring its own freefall, and will look at this game as a must-win. Indiana needs to rebound better, and take both Davis and Tisdale out of the game. Tisdale destroyed Indiana in their past matchup.
  • Iowa has Hawkeyes. Iowa couldn’t buy a win earlier.  Throw in a sprinkle of their second leading scorer getting suspended, and you have the recipe for a disaster of a season. Someone didn’t inform Iowa, though, as they are actually picking it up each game, and had a chance to score a huge upset against Ohio State. Jarryd Cole destroyed Indiana with his 11/10 night, with eight of those rebounds on the offensive end. Aaron Fuller has been solid all year for the Hawkeyes, but the real surprise was Brennan Cougill, especially when the big man stepped out and knocked down two big threes against the Hoosiers. He literally played a perfect 13 minutes of basketball, not missing a field goal or free throw.
  • Penn State is still winless. OK, I haven’t had to change the title here for a while, and plan on keeping it this way until Penn State wins a game. With the exception of their first Wisconsin game, this squad has kept every Big Ten game close…and has still yet to find a W. I hate to say it, but after looking at their remaining schedule, I am not sure this team will win a game this year. Their best bets have already come and passed. Surprise me, Penn State. I will put you in the headlines if you do.
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Morning Five: 01.26.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 26th, 2010

  1. Some suspension news: Creighton’s P’Allen Stinnett was suspended indefinitely by Dana Altman for conduct unbecoming to the team, and Michigan’s Manny Harris has been reinstated to play tonight against Michigan State.  Harris’ 85-game streak of games played for the Wolverines ended on Saturday when he was held out of their game against Purdue.
  2. Purdue’s Matt Painter and Lewis Jackson have a tough decision to make in the coming weeks over whether the talented point guard will play this season.  Jackson could help provide depth in the Boilermaker backcourt, but there’s a considerable dilemma over whether it’s worthwhile to play him for less than a third of the season.  Not that anyone cares, but we’d sit him out and let him get his legs and rhythm back in the offseason.
  3. Seth Davis’ Hoop Thoughts this week discusses Josh Pastner at Memphis, Texas’ poor foul shooting, Duke’s depth, and some SDSU students that remind us of our Halloween costume from a few years back.
  4. Did the UConn Huskies get their swagger back (and cred) by beating Texas on Saturday?  Jeff Goodman thinks so.
  5. Did you hear that John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats moved to #1 in both the AP and Coach’s Polls yesterday?  Coach Cal was so jazzed by it that he and ESPN’s John Buccigross (both Pittsburgh natives) had a little good-natured fun calling each other “jagoffs.”

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Morning Five: 01.25.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 25th, 2010

  1. Thoughts and prayers from the RTC family to Samford head coach Jimmy Tillette, who collapsed on the bench Saturday during a game versus UNC-Greensboro.  He was in the process of being airlifted to UAB Hospital in Birmingham Sunday afternoon, and was in stable condition, so that’s good to hear.
  2. You may have heard about this on Saturday, but Michigan’s Manny Harris was held out of the Wolverines’ game against Purdue by John Beilein for “unsportsmanlike conduct” during a practice last week.  Of course, Michigan got rung up by the Boilermakers without Harris in the lineup on Saturday, but what did he do?  Word out of Ann Arbor is that he may be held out of the Michigan State rivalry game on Tuesday night as well, which suggests a fairly serious offense (beyond throwing a wayward elbow, per a UM message board).  For what it’s worth, Fab Fiver Jimmy King says that he doesn’t know the specifics, but that Harris needs “to understand that the coach is the man and ultimately you’re the player so you can’t go against the coach regardless if you feel you’re right.”  That sounds fairly specific to us, and suggests a lot Harris did something more than throw a ‘bow.
  3. Tyshawn Taylor got himself into more Facebook hot water last week after posting that he wanted to transfer out of Kansas last Wednesday night (if anyone has a screenshot of this, send it to us).  His FB account was deleted soon thereafter, and Bill Self spent part of his Friday press conference refusing to talk about it.  Whatever the case, Taylor put up numbers of 7/5 in thirteen minutes of action against Iowa State on Saturday.
  4. So what’s wrong with North Carolina?  BP says it comes down to their three-point shooting and defense.  The three-point shooting is understandable, as Will Graves appears to be the only reliable threat from distance, but the defense is a little perplexing given all the size and length there is on that team.  Maybe Roy should consider actually slowing the game down a bit to utilize his interior strength?
  5. That rule about the invisible charge-restriction area under the basket?  The NCAA Coordinator of Officiating, John Adams, thinks it’s working fine.  We absolutely agree that the Shane Battier Rule is a great thing for the game, but we’re not still not clear on why we can’t just put a dotted line down there to make it clearer where the zone starts and ends.
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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by jstevrtc on January 23rd, 2010

Jason Prziborowski is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

Three things from the past week:

  • Purdue’s slide stops – After getting knocked off by Wisconsin on the road, Ohio State at home, and Northwestern on the road, Purdue stops the slide against Illinois on the road. It was Illinois’ first loss at home on the road. The big key in the victory was JaJuan Johnson, who poured in a 24/12 game against Illinois after struggling in their previous losses. Will Purdue continue its ascent in the Big Ten?
  • The Buckeyes  are back – The main reason why the Buckeyes are back isn’t only due to them knocking off Purdue, Wisconsin, and Northwestern in successive games, but more with the way they won. True, it was the Evan Turner show against Purdue, but with him in foul trouble against Wisconsin, the rest of the team stepped up in his absence to win the game. That’s why they are not only back, but I believe they are better than before Turner went down.
  • Iowa gets first win in the Big Ten – I was giving Iowa a bit of a hard time scheduling Tennessee State in the middle of Big Ten play, but it looks like it paid off. They not only won a close one at home against Tennessee State, but then they captured their first victory in the Big Ten against Penn State, both nail biters. I will talk more about that game when I talk about each team.

Now four Big Ten teams are in the top 25: Michigan State #6, Purdue #13, Wisconsin #18, and Ohio State #21.

Power Rankings

  1. Michigan State                  16-3, 6-0
  2. Purdue                                 15-4, 3-3
  3. Wisconsin                           15-4, 5-2
  4. Minnesota                          12-6, 3-3
  5. Ohio State                          14-5, 4-3
  6. Illinois                                  12-7, 4-2
  7. Northwestern                   13-5, 2-4
  8. Michigan                             10-8, 3-3
  9. Indiana                                  9-9, 3-3
  10. Iowa                                      7-12, 1-5
  11. Penn State                          8-10, 0-6

Coming Up

  • Michigan State @ Minnesota – January 23rd – 12:00 ET – CBS – The scheduling gods don’t have much of a sense of humor for Minnesota, as they just played Michigan State on the road last week, and lost by seven. Minnesota suffered another bruise against Indiana on the road, but Minnesota is tough at home, and I think they will give the Spartans a run for their money in this one. The Spartans are still undefeated in conference and playing very well, but the Gophers might be able to catch them off guard. Big game for both teams for different reasons. Plus it’s the first of a Big Ten double header on CBS, so how much better can this get?
  • Ohio State @ West Virginia – January 23rd – 2:00 ET – CBS – OK, so this isn’t totally a Big Ten double header on CBS, but both games feature at least one Big Ten team. That counts right? West Virginia just lost a nail biter to Syracuse at home, so you know their fans are going to be hungry to take down a Big Ten opponent, especially after losing to Purdue on the road earlier in the season. Evan Turner wants to show just how well the Buckeyes are playing right now, and this will be a great game to show it. This is assuming that Ohio State takes care of Northwestern prior to this game.

Breaking It Down

  • The Spartans take control in the Big Ten. The Spartans are sitting atop the Big Ten conference with a 6-0 record, and have been able to win both at home and on the game, a rarity in this conference. In watching the Illinois game, it was clear that even though Illinois started off hot, once the Spartans gained momentum they never let go, and didn’t let Illinois back in the game. Kalin Lucas led the team with a 20/4 assts game, but had quite the supporting cast, with Raymar Morgan coming off the bench for a 14/10/4 assts game. I was impressed with the unselfishness and physical play of the Spartans. They completely shut down Mike Tisdale like I thought they would. They get to feast on Iowa before traveling to Minnesota, which should be a battle.
  • Purdue starting to turn it around. I have already talked about Purdue’s woes earlier, so I won’t focus too much on it here. I guess the most surprising thing is the rebounding, though. Purdue is getting outrebounded by a margin of six in the Big Ten, and the Northwestern game had a 19-board differential. Rebounding is purely heart and effort, so that’s not a good sign for Purdue. They turned it around against Illinois, so I look forward to seeing if it continues. If you want to check out more on the Northwestern game, RTC was there: RTC Live: Purdue @ Northwestern
  • Wisconsin missing Leuer – Wisconsin stumbled a bit last week losing to a much improved Ohio State team. Wisconsin thrashed them at home earlier in the year without Evan Turner, but not this time. Both teams are different. Wisconsin is no longer at full strength and they’re without an inside presence, whereas Ohio State is a full strength. The reason why Wisconsin is missing Jon Leuer so much is because of what he does for the Badgers inside. They only shot five free throws against the Buckeyes, making four. Contrast that to their Duke game earlier in the season, when they shot 19 free throws and made 13. Jon Leuer shot eight of those free throws. Wisconsin did turn it around against Michigan, but still had troubles on the inside.
  • Ohio State has a huge week. This past week was supposed to be the week that took down Ohio State. Instead, this was the week that will most likely define the turning point in their season. The task of taking on Purdue at Mackey Arena is more than most teams could handle, but the Buckeyes staged a late rally that Purdue couldn’t stop. Wisconsin at home is more realistic than at the Kohl Center, but put Evan Turner in foul trouble and that would spell a loss. Not this time. Evan Turner decided to go for another triple-double against Northwestern, and came up just a bit short with 20/13/8 assts.
  • Minnesota stumbles on the road. It’s no secret that Minnesota would rather play at home, especially in the Big Ten, as they stumbled on the road this week against Michigan State and Indiana. The Michigan State game was expected to be close, but I am not sure many people expected Indiana to lead through much of regulation before staging a very late comeback to win in OT. Lawrence Westbrook and Blake Hoffarber weren’t even a factor in the Indiana game, so they will need to step up if Minnesota should reach their potential. This is a super-talented team that just isn’t quite getting it done. I expect that Tubby Smith will have a heart-to-heart with his team, and they will give Michigan State a run for their money on Saturday after a tough week of practice. If you want to see more about the Minnesota – Indiana game,  RTC was at the game (shameless plug alert): RTC Live: Minnesota @ Indiana
  • Illinois runs into the Spartans, literally. I talked a little bit about Illinois when mentioning the Spartans, so I will try to keep it a little brief here. Illinois apparently loves being on national TV, as they got off to a hot start against Michigan State, but couldn’t hold on once the momentum shifted. I kind of laughed when the announcers were wondering why Mike Tisdale wasn’t a factor in the game, because he was averaging 20 PPG in the Big Ten. He wasn’t a factor because he has done well against Big Ten teams without height in Indiana and Penn State, and once he finally had to muscle up against some true big men in the Spartans, he just got pushed out of the way. The same thing happened against Purdue. If Illinois wants to win against physical teams they are going to have to get it from someone other than Tisdale. The big bright spot for Illinois is Demetri McCamey, who had a 28/9 assts game against Purdue.
  • Northwestern gets board heavy. The big story for Northwestern was how they dominated the boards against Purdue, so it will be interesting to see if they can keep it up. Purdue has some physical and tough big guys like JaJuan Johnson, so I think they should do well against Illinois on the boards. Northwestern got manhandled by Ohio State, down by 21 points at half. They will have to keep from thinking about that game too much, or they will have recurring nightmares throughout the rest of the season.
  • Michigan takes two, and knocks out UConn. The great story for Michigan really is knocking UConn out of the Top 25, and finding a third player beyond DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris. They introduced the national television audience to Zack Novak, who made his only trey at a very crucial time. This was actually the first game I have seen where Sims and Harris didn’t lead the team in scoring. The same couldn’t be duplicated against Wisconsin, who held off the Wolverines’ late charge.
  • Indiana has a down then up week. Watching the Michigan game was disappointing, as everything that could be done wrong late in the game was done. The Hoosiers threw away the basketball at will, and turned what was a semi-close game into a 20+ point blowout. That was the ‘down’ part…now for the ‘up’ part. Indiana did a ton of maturing between the Michigan and Minnesota game. They continued to build on that maturity by winning their first road game of the season against Penn State. Indiana was lights-out in the first half, and then, unlike past games, they didn’t fade midway through the 2nd half. They took it to OT, and even when they started down six, they battled back and forced Minnesota to take a three with seconds remaining to tie. Verdell Jones stepped up with a career high 23 point effort, with Devan Dumes and Christian Watford rounding out the scoring. The usual suspects carried the load for Indiana as of late: Jones, Dumes, and Watford. If you want to see a more in-depth view of the Indiana-Minnesota game, RTC was there: RTC Live: Minnesota @ Indiana
  • Iowa’s scheduling pays off.  Aaron Fuller had a career night against Tennessee State that got him ready for a big game against Penn State. He was good for a 24/10 night against Tennessee State and a 20/10 night against the Nittany Lions. Things are looking up for the sophomore, and for Iowa. Both games were nail biters, so if they get another W this year, expect it to be close. They are in  for a rough haul though, with upcoming road games against Michigan State and Indiana.
  • Penn State is still winless. I feel bad for Talor Battle because he continues to put up big numbers, and almost all of their losses have been close, but they just can’t seem to finish one out. Battle had a 31/7 game against Iowa and a slight disappointing 9/4 game against Illinois in a low-scoring close one. Unfortunately for Penn State, their comeback came up short against Indiana. They will have to keep up their confidence at this point, or else it will be a long road ahead.
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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by jstevrtc on January 6th, 2010

Jason Prziborowski is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

Three things from the past week:

  • Big Ten takes down Big East – Purdue beats West Virginia. If anyone tuned in, it was pretty clear that Purdue deserves its #4 ranking, while proving that the Big Ten can hang with the Big East. As an aside, Pittsburgh is currently 3-0 in the Big East, taking down Syracuse for its first loss. Reminder: Indiana beat Pittsburgh earlier this year.  Check out the story here at ATB – New Year’s Weekend
  • Cinderella lost her slipper – Unfortunately for Northwestern, its early season Cinderella had a setback on its way to the Big Dance. Northwestern sneezed, and now find themselves out of the top 25 after losses to Illinois and Michigan State.
  • The Bucks got scratched – I could have predicted the Wisconsin game, especially up in Madison, although I didn’t think it was going to be a 20 point blowout. The one that shocked me though, was the loss to Michigan, especially after they were coming off an upset loss to Indiana. It is pretty clear that the current OSU team cannot contend in the Big Ten. Can Evan Turner come out and play? Hopefully sooner than later.

Now three Big Ten teams are in the top 25: Purdue #4, Michigan State #10, and Wisconsin #17.

Power Rankings

  1. Purdue    14-0, 2-0
  2. Michigan State    11-3, 1-0
  3. Wisconsin    12-2, 2-0
  4. Ohio State    10-4, 0-2
  5. Minnesota    11-4, 2-1
  6. Illinois    10-5, 2-0
  7. Northwestern    10-3, 0-2
  8. Michigan    7-6, 1-1
  9. Indiana    7-6, 1-0
  10. Penn State    8-6, 0-2
  11. Iowa    5-10, 0-3

Top Story

  • Big 10 Madness has begun – Conference play started this past week in the Big Ten, and they didn’t disappoint. Indiana loses Maurice Creek, their top scorer and player, and then they upset Michigan at home. Michigan, not to be outdone, gets revenge for what their football team couldn’t do against OSU. Wisconsin, not wanting to miss out, blows out both OSU and PSU. Surprisingly, only Michigan and Minnesota have at least a win and a loss. Everyone else either hasn’t lost, or hasn’t won.

Coming Up

  • Wisconsin @ Michigan State – January 6th – 6:30 ET – Unless things change with Purdue, this is really the game that decides who will be in 2nd place. Wisconsin hasn’t ventured out of Madison much this year, so hopefully MSU can capitalize at home.
  • Purdue @ Wisconsin – January 9th – 1:30 ET – Apparently the pundits are saying that this game is the one that Purdue will lose, but depending on what happens when the Badgers take on the Spartans, this could be the game that really separates Purdue from the pack.  Check out what the pundits say about the four teams who are left chasing perfection: Four Teams Chasing Perfection
  • Ohio State @ Minnesota – January 9th – 3:30 ET – Ohio State is clearly vulnerable, and this game could show just how vulnerable. I think that Purdue will hand it to the Gophers on the 5th at Mackey, but Minnesota is tough at home, and OSU is not at full strength. The Bucks could fall even further. This isn’t even factoring in what happens with the Indiana @ OSU game.

Breaking It Down

  • Purdue is one of four left still standing. Purdue now has a huge bull’s eye on its back. As one of only four teams left unbeaten, it will make a team’s season to take down Purdue. If Purdue’s Big Three in Hummel, Johnson, and Moore can duplicate what they did against West Virginia, any team in the land will have their hands full.
  • The Spartans took care of business. Like I said last week, good teams are supposed to win games against opponents who aren’t as good, and that’s exactly what MSU did against Northwestern. Tom Izzo hasn’t been happy with the leadership on this team all year, and he benched Kalin Lucas as a result. Lucas got the message loud and clear, and brought his A-game against the Wildcats. He and others will have to bring much more against Wisconsin.
  • Wisconsin shifting gears to spring ahead in the Big Ten. I have already mentioned plenty about Wisconsin both in the games to watch, and what happened in the last week, so I will keep it brief here. Wisconsin had a pretty good draw in their first games, given that they played an Evan Turner-less OSU and then Penn State. They don’t have the good fortune of that continuing, with upcoming games against MSU and Purdue.
  • Ohio State needs a recovery game, and quick. I have talked plenty about OSU, so I will just mention their upcoming game against Indiana. Clearly this is a home game for OSU, so they should take care of business, but if they slip and Indiana brings its varsity team, OSU could be 0-4 if Minnesota doesn’t let them off the hook at home.
  • Minnesota got two bye games, but now has to climb a mountain. Yes, Minnesota had a seven game streak, and yes, Minnesota is 2-1 in the Big Ten. That’s the good news. Now for the bad news. This is now officially the point in the year, as evidenced by the Purdue game last night, when Minnesota has to play real teams.  Like Tuesday’s game against Purdue, their upcoming game against Ohio State is must-see for this reason.
  • Illinois likes long games. Illinois went more than the distance twice this past week, getting the better of Northwestern, and coming up short against Gonzaga. Was Mike Tisdale’s career high 31/11 against Northwestern a fluke? It might seem so, as he followed up with four points and five fouls against Gonzaga. They disposed of Iowa at home, and now hit the road to Bloomington where I will be watching this game just prior to school starting again. I expect to see plenty of fans at Assembly Hall.
  • Northwestern has fallen, can they get up? The good news: my man John Shurna is back, and in a big way. He had a 27/7 game against Illinois and followed it up with a 29/6 game against Michigan State. Clearly, he is a conference gamer. The bad news: not everyone else on the team has come with him, including their defense. Michael Thompson has been ice cold, going 2-10 against Illinois and then following it up with 2-8 against MSU, never achieving double figures in either game. Nothing close to his 15.3 PPG average on the year. The past two games, opponents are averaging 90 PPG, whereas they had only allowed 63.7 PPG for the year. The Wildcats will need to find a way to deal with the Big 10 fire power if they want to make the Big Dance.
  • Michigan continues its inconsistent season. Each game is a new surprise for Michigan. One would have thought they would have come into Assembly Hall and disposed of Indiana without Maurice Creek, but they didn’t. Then, one would think they would fall to OSU, even without Evan Turner, but they didn’t. What is Michigan going to do next? That’s what I want to know. Clearly whatever happens will involve two guys by the names of Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims, the fab two.
  • Indiana steps up in Creek’s absence. Indiana brought the team that played against Pittsburgh to the game against Michigan. I will refer to that team as the varsity squad, as they have brought the junior varsity to a couple games (Loyola, most games in Puerto Rico, etc). The stats against Michigan actually mirror the Pittsburgh game, where Verdell Jones III and Christian Watford led the team. Creek’s points look like they will be coming from Jordan Hulls and Devan Dumes, both streaky three-point shooters. Indiana can play with anyone if they bring their varsity. Will they?
  • Penn State bruised during Week 1. Talor Battle is putting on a one man show. Too bad it’s a five man game. Battle went for 23/6/4 against Minnesota and 15/4/4 against Wisconsin. Penn State’s 46 points against Wisconsin isn’t going to get it done in the Big 10, especially when only 3 points come from the bench. Bench production has been a problem all year for Penn State, as it is probably a cause of the starters running out of gas at the end of games.
  • Iowa is fishing for a W. As predicted last week, Iowa lost the first two Big Ten games. The good news: Aaron Fuller likes to play during conference games (12.5 PPG in conference vs. 5.1 during the rest of the year). Keys to winning: Iowa needs the bench to get involved every game. Against Purdue: The bench scored 9 and Iowa scored 56. Against Minnesota: The bench scored 28 points and Iowa scored 74. Coincidence? I think not. I am still not sure Iowa will get a W for a while. Go fish.
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