Let’s Play Big Ten Secret Santa…

Posted by Patrick Engel (@PatrickEngel_) on December 25th, 2015

Your class, company, or family probably plays Secret Santa during the holidays. To get in the giving spirit this Christmas, we’ll play Secret Santa with the Big Ten’s 14 teams and coaches. As much fun as it would be to give Richard Pitino more hair gel or Tom Izzo some stilts, we’ll stick to practical basketball-related gifts that each Big Ten coach would be thrilled to unwrap.

Santa has a variety of interesting presents for Big Ten teams to unwrap

Santa has a variety of interesting presents for Big Ten teams to unwrap

Here are the gifts we gave each coach and team (in alphabetical order):

  • Illinois (John Groce): This is one of the easier teams to shop for: The injury bug has cursed Illinois, so it gets healthy players from Santa. The Fighting Illini are playing this season without their starting point guard (Tracy Abrams), power forward (Leron Black) and center (Mike Thorne, Jr.).
  • Indiana (Tom Crean): Another easy team to shop for. If you haven’t heard of Indiana’s horrific defensive efforts, you’ve been living under a rock. The Hoosiers gave up 70 points to Kennesaw State and 72 to Alcorn State, respectively. Those teams rank 322 and 349 in the KenPom ranks, and average 64.1 and 60.3 PPG, respectively. Crean needs to start thinking of new ways to get his players to play better defense. Santa gives him a “D-Fense” sign that he can throw at players after bad defensive efforts. Better loosen up your arm, Tom.
  • Iowa (Fran McCaffery): The Hawkeyes aren’t elite in any one area, but don’t have a lot of gaping holes. They do struggle to get to the foul line, with a 25.8 free throw rate, which ranks 337th in the nation, per KenPom. Santa gives Iowa more free throw chances, especially to Peter Jok. The junior wing is Iowa’s second-leading scorer, but has attempted just 23 free throws.
  • Maryland (Mark Turgeon): The one knock on the Terps has been turnovers. They turn it over on 20 percent of their possessions and have six players who turn the ball over at least 19 percent of their used possessions. Maryland finds sturdy handles under its tree this year.

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Rushed Reactions: #6 Maryland 76, Connecticut 66

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 9th, 2015

rushedreactions

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Maryland was too strong up front for Connecticut. The combination of Diamond Stone and Robert Carter ended up being too much for the Huskies to handle around the basket. Stone and Carter combined for 24 points and 20 rebounds, an impressive showing against Amida Brimah. The Huskies made a second half push from the three-point line which made the game interesting late, but Maryland’s earlier work in the paint was too much for Connecticut to overcome. The Terrapins absolutely dominated the rebounding battle (45-24) and pulled down 14 offensive rebounds, leading to 15 second chance points.

    Melo Trimble had a lot to smile about Tuesday evening. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

    Melo Trimble had a lot to smile about Tuesday evening. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

  2. Melo Trimble’s ability to get in the lane was the difference. Trimble was aggressive as usual tonight and that is best reflected in his free throw numbers. The sophomore point guard went to the free throw line 15 times, converting 14 of them. Trimble is very strong and uses his body tremendously when driving to the basket. Connecticut couldn’t keep him out of the lane, a place where he is absolutely lethal. Containing him is key to defeating Maryland and the Huskies just did not do that. Trimble makes so much happen whether it’s creating for himself or for his teammates. He has truly become one of college basketball’s best point guards in such a short time with the Maryland program.
  3. Connecticut needs an offensive presence in the paint. Although a highly talented group, Daniel Hamilton, Rodney Purvis and Sterling Gibbs can’t do it all for the Huskies. While Amida Brimah is a tremendous presence defensively, he is not a factor on the other side of the ball. UConn forwards Hamilton and Shonn Miller are not big enough to have success in the paint against teams like Maryland with strong frontcourts. Granted, UConn will not be facing teams the caliber of Maryland throughout the season but this has to be a concern for Kevin Ollie as teams key in defensively on his talented crop of guards.

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Feast Week Previews: Maui, Legends, CBE & Cancun Tourneys

Posted by Andrew Gripshover on November 23rd, 2015

There are talented tournament fields everywhere this Feast Week. The Gulf Coast Showcase has a relatively strong mid-major field headlined by Murray State, Duquesne (which absolutely BLASTED Penn State on Friday) and Texas Southern. Four capable teams — Clemson, UMass (already a winner over Harvard), Creighton and Rutgers — will tussle in another four-team field in Vegas. Looking further ahead, Atlantis tips off on Wednesday before a handful of other events kick off on Thanksgiving Day and beyond. As we did with Puerto Rico and Charleston last week, here’s a look at the event favorite, a dark horse, and the teams who have the most on the line this week. We’ll also highlight a player and a storyline to watch.

Maui Invitational

Despite some early season struggles, Bill Self and Kansas are still the clear favorite in Maui. (Getty)

Despite some early struggles, Bill Self and Kansas are still the clear favorite in Maui. (Getty)

  • Favorite: Kansas. Even with no Cheick Diallo or Brannen Greene for the week and the second half collapse to Michigan State in Chicago notwithstanding, the Jayhawks are still the clear favorite in Maui as the only top 10 team in this tournament. Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor are seniors. Frank Mason and Wayne Selden are juniors. This is an experienced team that might be going on its last ride together. As usual, there’s chatter about this being the year the Big 12 title streak is broken. Winning the Maui title would probably pump the brakes on that notion, at least for the time being.
  • Darkhorse: UCLA. In terms of talent and potential, the Bruins are a clear sleeper. Aaron Holiday, Bryce Alford, Tony Parker  you could easily see a team with talented pieces like these upsetting a still-not-quite-right Kansas in the semifinal and then taking out Indiana or Vanderbilt the next night. Of course, they’re flaky enough that they could brick the last Maui quarter to UNLV, especially after that whole Monmouth thing.

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Maryland Vulnerable Defensively In Early Season

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 21st, 2015

We are a week into Maryland’s most anticipated season since the early 2000s and as of this post, the Terps are 3-0 and will remain the third-ranked team in the nation when the AP Poll comes out on Monday. But with three contests under their belt, their defense — typically a strength for any Mark Turgeon-coached team — has emerged as a vulnerability. On Friday night, Rider (0-3) came into the Xfinity Center, ripped the Terps interior offense to shreds, and almost completed the upset; Maryland pulled out a 65-58 win in the final five minutes. If the Big Ten favorites can’t get back to playing stellar defense like they did a year ago, their season will fail to meet all the hyped expectations.

Rasheed Sulaimon has been great on offense, but struggled to integrate defensively with Maryland.

Rasheed Sulaimon has been great on offense, but struggled to integrate defensively with Maryland.

Last season, Maryland was Top 40 in defensive efficiency allowing only an adjusted 95.1 points per 100 possessions. The Terps accomplished this by putting pressure on shooters which kept their opponents to 31.9 percent shooting from the three-point line and limiting easy buckets in the paint–under 30 percent of their opponents’ shots came at the rim. But this has not been the case this season. The Maryland newcomers — Rasheed Sulaimon and Diamond Stone — have been a boost offensively, but have struggled to fully adapt to Turgeon’s defensive philosophy. On Tuesday, the Terrapins nearly lost to Georgetown because they allowed the Hoyas to get off good shots (61.2 eFG%) which led to an offensive rating of 111. Three days later against Rider, Maryland got torched off the dribble as the Broncs hit 20 of their 36 2-point field goals–an overwhelming majority of which were at the rim. It should alarm the Maryland coaching staff that a team from the MAAC exposed their interior defense in such easy fashion. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mark Turgeon: RTC Preseason B1G Coach of the Year

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 13th, 2015

It’s amazing how quickly things can flip for a college basketball coach. Depending on the status of the program, restless fans and administrators can make someone who’s experienced some degree of success (see: Crean, Tom) feel like his job might be in jeopardy. Other times things can flip in a positive way. Maryland’s Mark Turgeon took a team that had lost four transfers and had little to no expectations coming into the 2014-15 campaign to a second place finish in the Big Ten and Round of 32 appearance in the NCAA Tournament. We here at the Big Ten microsite are banking on Maryland being even better this season; and because of this, the Terps’ head coach is our preseason Big Ten Coach of the Year.

Mark Turgeon is our preseason Coach of the Year in the Big Ten. (USA TODAY Sports)

Mark Turgeon is our preseason Coach of the Year in the Big Ten. (USA TODAY Sports)

Turgeon did a masterful job meshing his freshmen with his returnees last year. Dez Wells, Jake Layman and Melo Trimble had such great chemistry that it looked as if they had been playing together for years. Team chemistry and leadership were obviously a problem the year prior, so Turgeon deserves a lot of credit for putting things together on the team’s way to a 28-7 record. The one thing that might prevent him from becoming this season’s Big Ten Coach of the Year would be experiencing trouble getting his talented newcomers on the same page this season. Based on talent alone, Maryland has the best and most balanced starting five in the Big Ten. Robert Carter was able to practice with the team last season, so his adjustment shouldn’t be very difficult. But can freshman Diamond Stone and Duke transfer Rasheed Suliamon come in and play their roles without issue? The entire starting five has NBA aspirations down the line, so a major key for Turgeon this season will be getting everyone to share the ball for the betterment of the team. If they do, Maryland should win the Big Ten and rack up the hardware. Trimble could be the Player of the Year; Stone could be the Freshman of the Year; expect Turgeon to make it a clean sweep.

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RTC Preseason Big Ten POY: Melo Trimble

Posted by Alex Moscoso on November 12th, 2015

Maryland’s remarkable turnaround in the past 12 months has been a hot topic in the run up to this season. Mark Turgeon has transformed the proud but suffering program back into national title contenders, and while the head coach who engineered everything certainly deserves a great deal of the credit, the primary catalyst on the floor has been sophomore guard Melo Trimble. The Arlington, Virginia, native was a highly regarded four-star recruit coming out of high school, but no one expected him to immediately dominate in the manner that he did last season. To wit, Trimble finished an All-Big Ten freshman campaign by averaging 16.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG and 3.0 APG. In the offseason, he decided to spurn the NBA to lead an upgraded Maryland roster to a Big Ten title and Final Four before making the jump. There wasn’t much doubt about it: Melo Trimble is the RTC Big Ten microsite preseason Player of the Year.

Melo Trimble is the best player on the best team in the B1G. (David J. Philip/AP)

Melo Trimble is the best player on the best team in the B1G. (David J. Philip/AP)

Trimble was so effective because of his ability to both shoot the three (41.2%) and score inside (55.1% field goal shooting at rim). The shot chart below shows how most of his field goal attempts came from those two spots on the court. Additionally, his slashing ability earned him a large number of trips to the charity stripe: Trimble shot a Big Ten-best 240 free throws last season, where he made opposing teams pay for fouling him (86.3%). This combination of threes, shots at the rim and free throws made him one of the most efficient players in the league, as evidenced by his true shooting percentage of 62.8 percent (second in the Big Ten).

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Team Chemistry the Only Issue that Can Sink Maryland

Posted by Alex Moscoso on October 21st, 2015

Maryland hosted its version of Midnight Madness at the Xfinity Center last Saturday. There is much to celebrate in College Park this preseason as the Terrapins, flush with talent with as many as five future NBA players taking the court, are the favorite to win the Big Ten. With so much professional talent on the roster, it’s no wonder that the smart money is on Mark Turgeon‘s squad to make a significant postseason run next March. This October’s situation is in stark contrast from where this program was just a short 12 months ago. Plenty of stories have already been written about that turnaround, but less has been written about the one issue that can undo all of the hype. Team chemistry among a group still learning to succeed is the one thing that can trip up this Maryland team’s aspirations of conference and national banners.

Melo Trimble looks to lead preseason favorite Maryland to a Big Ten title and Final Four. (David J. Philip/AP)

Melo Trimble looks to lead preseason favorite Maryland to a Big Ten title and Final Four. (David J. Philip/AP)

We can’t talk about potential issues with team chemistry without first talking about the individual players — an incredibly talented group of players, mind you. Maryland returns Melo Trimble, Jake Layman and Damonte Dodd from last year’s conference second place squad. Trimble was the breakout star, leading the team in scoring (16.2 PPG) and assists (3.0 APG) as a freshman. Layman is a lanky, athletic scorer with tremendous upside, coming in third on the team in scoring and minutes a year ago. And Dodd has proven himself as a capable defensive presence in the post, showing even more signs of improvement this season. Additional returnees Michal Cekovsky, Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens make up a deep bench for Turgeon.

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A Love Story: Tom Izzo And March

Posted by Bennet Hayes on March 14th, 2015

After Michigan State won yet another postseason basketball game – this one a come-from-behind, emotionally charged Big Ten semifinal victory over Maryland, a well-known secret was made public: The love affair between Tom Izzo and March is real. “I love March for two reasons: it’s tournament basketball and a chance to win a championship and the weather is getting nicer,” Izzo said. “It’s just a phenomenal time of year.”

Tom Izzo's Team Is Getting Hot In March Once Again. Michigan State Takes On Wisconsin For The Big Ten Title On Sunday. (Photo: USA Today Sports)

Tom Izzo’s Team Is Getting Hot In March Once Again. Michigan State Takes On Wisconsin For the Big Ten Title on Sunday. (Photo: USA Today Sports)

Izzo’s fondness for the calendar’s third month leads us into a familiar story: Michigan State works its way through an inconsistent regular season to find stability and success in March. These Spartans ably fulfilled the opening act of the narrative, putting together a season as uneven as any Izzo has overseen. Michigan State lost 10 regular season games. The Spartans never put together a winning streak longer than four games. And the coup de grace: a startlingly low nadir, a home loss to Texas Southern back in December. But for Michigan State fans, now comes the fun piece of that two-part story. It’s March, and after a gut-check of a win over Maryland, Michigan State has won four in a row entering Sunday’s Big Ten Tournament title game. There’s an especially massive challenge awaiting the Spartans tomorrow, but win or lose against Wisconsin, Tom Izzo has this team approaching the NCAA Tournament at its speediest velocity yet.

The Spartans trailed 12-1 and 23-7 in the first half as a result of both their own spotty shooting and Melo Trimble’s decidedly un-spotty shooting (the Maryland freshman started 5-of-5 from the field). Travis Trice (13 first half points) helped stem that early tide, enabling his team to enter the halftime intermission down just eight points. Michigan State completed the comeback in the second half with a series of emotional surges. No mini-run elicited more sentiment than a 13-0 burst capped by Denzel Valentine’s first points of the afternoon, a three-point field goal with 12:38 to play. They would also wind up being Valentine’s final points, but the burst of Michigan State momentum forced Maryland to take timeout as the Spartan faithful rejoiced in their team’s first lead of the game.

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Rushed Reactions: #8 Maryland 75, Indiana 69

Posted by Bennet Hayes on March 13th, 2015

RTC National Columnist Bennet Hayes is covering the Big Ten Tournament this week in Chicago.

Three Key Takeaways.

Melo Trimble And Dez Wells Spearheaded Maryland's Quarterfinal Victory Friday Night (USAT Sports)

Melo Trimble And Dez Wells Spearheaded Maryland’s Quarterfinal Victory Friday Night (USAT Sports)

  1. Maryland In Control. This game was tight throughout, with the Terrapins’ lead never extending beyond seven points until the final seconds. But despite maintaining shouting distance, Indiana’s last lead came with 14 minutes to go in the first half. Maryland’s steady march to the free throw line (33 attempts) was one key factor in Indiana never getting over the hump. More generally, failing to stop its opponent from scoring tends to cause teams to relinquish control of a basketball game: This was the story of Indiana’s night and season. Maryland never felt like they were ready to lose control of this one.
  2. Hoosiers Shooting Struggles. Indiana entered tonight having made 40.7 percent of their three-point field goal attempts, the sixth-best mark in the country. The Hoosiers converted just 7-of-24 of their long-range efforts in defeat tonight – a slight downtick in both production and efficiency from January 22, when they buried 15-of-22 long range attempts in a rout of Maryland. Distilling Indiana’s offensive strategy into making threes is oversimplifying things, but it’s no secret that the Hoosiers heavily rely on making long-range shots. It was their downfall tonight.
  3. Attack Mode. This game began at a frantic pace (20 points in the first three-and-a-half minutes), and while the pace of scoring eventually slowed down (only a bit), both teams’ aggression levels never did. They explored transition opportunities, attacked the rim in both the half- and full-court, and were fearless in pulling the trigger from three-point range. No player attacked more aggressively than Maryland’ Dez Wells, who supplied multiple tomahawk jams in the first period. Both of these squads are accustomed to producing more efficient offense than they did this evening, but neither let that prevent them from continuing their relentless attacks.

Star of the Game. Melo Trimble, Maryland. A case could easily be made for Trimble’s running mate Wells (22 points, six rebounds), but the freshman coolly dictated action on both ends of the floor for the Terps. He scored 17 points (on just nine shots), chipped in three assists (against just one turnover), and held Indiana star Yogi Ferrell to 6-of-16 field goal shooting. Trimble’s matchup with the Hoosiers’ lead guard was a much-discussed element of these teams’ first two games and in the lead-up to tonight’s quarterfinal. Any postgame conversation on the topic would have to describe Trimble as the clearly better player on this night.

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Big Ten Coach of the Year: Mark Turgeon

Posted by Alex Moscoso on March 10th, 2015

Whenever it’s time to decide a Coach of the Year award, there’s always a debate on the approach. Should we give it to the coach with the most successful team or should we give it to the coach who outperformed expectations? More often than not, we associate excellent coaching with those who overachieve. That’s because we also associate the concept of “coaching” with those who excel in game strategy and player development — if your team is perceived as better than the sum of its talented parts, you’re labeled a “good coach.” This notion, however, discounts some of the other important aspects of modern college coaching like recruiting, scheduling and fundraising — which lays the foundation for dominant programs to have such high expectations. Our Big Ten Coach of the Year, Maryland’s Mark Turgeon, has had a successful year because of the excellent recruiting and in-game coaching that he’s done, but also because of his ability to successfully lead Maryland through a number of obstacles all season long.

Mark Turgeon's Terps could get off to a rocky start in the Big Ten.

Mark Turgeon led his Terps to a big splash in their first Big Ten year.

First, some praise to our two runner-ups: Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan and Purdue’s Matt Painter. Despite the highest of national and regional expectations on his team, Ryan delivered. The Badgers’ season wasn’t flawless in that they were easily handled in Madison by a younger Duke team and suffered an inexplicable January loss to Rutgers on the road (even without Frank Kaminsky). But make no mistake, Ryan has readied his team to make another legitimate run at the Final Four. Painter, our second runner-up, started the season on the hot seat after two consecutive campaigns below .500. Some smart offseason additions in the forms of Vince Edwards and Jon Octeus, coupled with the development of A.J. Hammons and Raphael Davis, catapulted the Boilermakers to a surprising 12-6 Big Ten record. But as impressive as Ryan and Painter were this season, Turgeon is the coach whose team best exhibited on-court success and overcame significant hurdles to do so. Read the rest of this entry »

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