Big Ten Weekly Five: 08.28.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on August 28th, 2012


  1. ESPN has released a list of the 50 best college hoops programs over the past 50 years. The order is based on a scoring system that awards points for national titles, Final Four appearances and conference titles, but also penalizes the program for any NCAA violations or sanctions. The details of their exhaustive scoring system can be found on the ESPN blog. How did the Big Ten fare in this system? Indiana is the only top 10 team on this list, coming in at #7. Michigan State is ranked #11, with Michigan at #13 and Ohio State at #15, which adds up to four B1G teams in the top 15 of this list. College hoops fans love these types of lists and this leads to hours and sometimes days of debates about the efficiency of the scoring system or the historical significance of these programs. 
  2. Speaking of questions that could spark a debate, how about this one: “If you pick any active coach to lead your program, who would it be?” CBSSports.com conducted an anonymous poll among coaches and this was one of the questions posed. Michigan State’s Tom Izzo placed first with 27% of the vote followed by Kansas’ Bill Self at 23%. Now, the criteria on which the coaches voted is tough to decipher but Izzo’s rank should not come as a total surprise for a guy who has been so clutch in March and demands the respect of his players and rest of the coaches around the country. Izzo has won over 70% of his games at Michigan State and has created a culture of tough-nosed Spartan basketball since the mid-90s. 
  3. Matt Painter and the Purdue Boilermakers have released their non-conference schedule for the 2012-13 season. They will participate in the 2K Sports Classic  at Madison Square Garden after playing a couple of home games against opponents that have yet to be determined. The Boilers will play 10 games at home during the non-conference schedule and some of the key match-ups include contests against Xavier and West Virginia. The overall schedule is challenging yet does not seem to overbearing which is helpful for a team that has lost at least three starters from last season. They will field a young squad that needs some time to gel together before conference play begins and playing several tough but winnable games at home will be a huge confidence boost to youngsters such as Anthony Johnson and Terone Johnson. 
  4. Former Iowa Star Matt Gatens is heading overseas to play for a Spanish team, UCAM-Murcia. The team is located in Murcia, Spain, and Gatens has signed a one-year contract with the club after playing for the Phoenix Suns summer league team in July. Gatens hit for 41% shooting from beyond the arc and his long-range abilities make him a good fit for the European style of play. In recent years, some other former Iowa alumni such as Luke Recker and Jared Reiner have played in Spain as well. Gatens gives a lot of credit to Fran McCaffery for his improvement during his senior season as his scoring average increased from 12.6 PPG to 15.2 PPG. Many players take another shot at the NBA after a few seasons in Europe and Gatens has already indicated that he won’t give up his dream of playing in the US again after his time in Spain.
  5. Big Ten fans are aware of the new additions to the Michigan rotation in the 2012-13 season, specifically incoming freshmen Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson, III. Both of these freshmen will be part of a great starting five as they will collaborate with returning players such as Jordan Morgan, Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Trey Burke. But John Beilein needs production from his bench in order to make a serious run at the Final Four and redshirt freshman Max Beilfeldt might be able to contribute after sitting out last season. The 6’7″ forward enoyed a successful high school career, averaging 20 PPG and 11.2 RPG during his senior season. The departure of Evan Smotrycz leaves some playing time for others and Beilfeldt might be one of those new faces in the rotation. MGoBlue‘s Morgan Bailey caught up with the redshirt freshman wing this offseason as he is eager to contribute to a potential national championship contender.
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Big Ten Season Wrap-Up: Iowa

Posted by jnowak on May 22nd, 2012

Let’s not be fooled by the Matt Gatens Show we all witnessed  at the end of the season. (Though, give credit where credit is due — he was fantastic.) This is a talented young club that is on the rise and has the potential to give some conference teams fits in the near future, given their fast-paced style of basketball in the rough-and-tumble Big Ten. But as good as this team was on the offensive end (third in the conference) it was even more dismal on the defensive end (last place). That discrepancy must improve for Iowa to have a shot at becoming a contender in the conference. Let’s take a look back at the year that was:

Matt Gatens was one of the Big Ten's best players down the stretch. (Andy Lyons, Getty Images)

  • In a nutshell: Fran McCaffery‘s run-and-gun style of offense is really starting to take shape in Iowa City, where the Hawkeyes averaged 73 PPG, third only behind Ohio State and Indiana. It helped that the Hawkeyes led the conference in steals, but the wins didn’t add up in spite of the offense due to the dismal defense (allowing 72.5 PPG). Gatens, who worked his way onto the All-Big Ten Third Team thanks to his team-best 15.7 PPG and late-season spurt, did all he could. He got some help from promising sophomores Melsahn Basabe and Roy Devyn Marble, who are sure to be key pieces in the future.
  • Overachievement: The Big Ten had absolutely no shortage of impact freshmen (see Trey Burke, Cody Zeller, Branden Dawson, et al) but Aaron White was a somewhat unexpected yet consistent force for Iowa. He averaged 10.4 points and 5.5 rebounds per game as a newcomer and, in a few more years, could definitely show Big Ten Player of the Year-type talent. He was rated by Rivals as just a three-star recruit out of high school, but showed his big-game mettle by scoring 47 points in Iowa’s two NIT games. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten Tournament Second Round Recaps

Posted by jnowak on March 10th, 2012

Here’s a breakdown of how things went down in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals on Friday in Indianapolis:

Wisconsin senior Rob Wilson was practically unstoppable on Friday. (AP)

Wisconsin 79, Indiana 71
  • The Hoosiers were playing this quarterfinal game without the services of senior Verdell Jones III, who tore his ACL in the team’s win on Thursday, but did have a hometown crowd behind them. As it turned out, it wouldn’t be enough to silence the unlikeliest of assassins: Wisconsin’s Rob Wilson. The senior, who came into the game averaging just 3.1 points per game, went off for 30 to give Bo Ryan his school record 266th victory. The win for the Badgers was also significant in that the program avoided its fourth straight one-and-done appearance in the tournament, setting a date with Michigan State on Saturday. Now can Wisconsin avoid losing three times in one season to the Spartans?
Michigan State 92, Iowa 75
  • It was a game many were watching to see how the Spartans would respond without freshman wing Branden Dawson, who was lost for the year with a torn ACL suffered on Sunday against Ohio State. Those questions were answered by a number of Dawson’s teammates. It was a balanced scoring attack for Michigan State — led by Draymond Green‘s 21 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in just 24 minutes of play — that had 10 players score in the game. If Adreian Payne (16 points, seven rebounds), Travis Trice (nine points) and Brandon Wood (10 points) can all contribute like this, the Spartans are as much a threat as ever. For Iowa, it’s the end of the road for senior Matt Gatens, who averaged 15.7 PPG this year and finishes sixth all-time in career scoring at Iowa.

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Big Ten Morning Five: 03.10.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on March 10th, 2012

  1. The Bruce Weber era at Illinois is over. So what comes next for the Fighting Illini? As Loren Tate points out, In a lot of ways this group is in trouble next year. Everything from a depleted up-and-coming junior class to this group’s 3-point shooting talent leaves a lot of doubt for the 2012-13 season. The job should draw the attention of some high-profile names, but the new head coach will have a tough hill to climb.
  2. Speaking of Weber’s fate, there’s one big-name coach in the conference who isn’t pleased about how it all went down. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo held nothing back when voicing his displeasure about Weber’s firing after the Spartans’ win over Iowa on Saturday. “My wife and I shed a tear this morning over it,” Izzo said. “And it was half for Bruce and half for my profession.”
  3. Bruce Weber was not the conference’s only casualty on this Black Friday. Nebraska‘s Doc Sadler was fired on Friday, after Nebraska finished tied with Penn State for last place in the conference this year. It was the Cornhusker’s debut season in the Big Ten, but athletic director Tom Osborne made it clear he wants to see the program head in a different direction.
  4. One positive that really emerged at the end of Iowa‘s season was the strong play of senior Matt Gatens, whose career came to an end on Friday in Indianapolis. Gatens scored just 10 points in the game, after being bothered by the Spartans’ defense throughout and not taking his first shot until 10 minutes and 37 seconds were left in the first half. He finishes sixth all-time on Iowa’s scoring list with 1,621 points after averaging 15.7 PPG this year.
  5. If you’re drawing up a game plan to beat Wisconsin, how much energy would you typically pour into defending Rob Wilson? From this point forward, probably a little bit more than before. The senior, who averaged 3.1 points per game entering Friday’s quarterfinal, dropped a cool 30 against Indiana to power the Badgers to the semifinals. “Needless to say we had a player who was in a zone,” said coach Bo Ryan. Ya think?
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Four Game Recaps: Big Ten Tournament First Round

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on March 9th, 2012

Here’s a breakdown on how things went down in the Big Ten tournament’s first day of action:

Matt Gatens led Iowa to a big win over Illinois (Andy Lyons, Getty Images)

Iowa 64 – Illinois 61

The skinny: It’s been a tough season for Illini fans, and now (some would say thankfully) it is over. Myers Leonard was a force down low for Illinois, scoring 18 points and grabbing six boards, but Brandon Paul struggled his way to four points on 2-11 shooting. Meanwhile, Matt Gatens continued his solid senior season with 20 points to lead the Hawkeyes, but it was his defense on Paul that really was the difference in this contest for Iowa. Head coach Fran McCaffery complained earlier this week about Gatens not being included on the all-Big Ten defensive team, and the senior looked every bit an elite-level stopper in this match-up. All-Big Ten freshman Aaron White had 13 points and 9 rebounds including a key offensive board with about 40 seconds left after a missed free throw by Roy Devyn Marble that helped seal the game for Iowa.

Up next: The #8-seed Hawkeyes will face #1-seed Michigan State at noon today. Iowa only played the Spartans once this season, falling 95-61 in a game at East Lansing on January 10.

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Big Ten Tournament Preview & Season Wrap-Up

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 8th, 2012

Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

Conference Tournament Preview

After a thrilling regular season, it’s on to Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Despite being a three-seed, Ohio State has to be considered the favorite given how well they ended the regular season. If either Michigan State or OSU wins the Big Ten Tournament, they will get strong consideration for a one-seed. Teams like Wisconsin, Indiana and Purdue can all improve their NCAA Tournament seeds with strong showings this weekend.

Northwestern is the only clear bubble team in the conference, and as such is under the most pressure to string some wins together. If the Wilcats can beat Minnesota in the first round, they’ll face a Michigan team that they only lost to twice this season, though both losses came in overtime. Two wins in the Big Ten tournament should make them a virtual lock for their first-ever tournament birth, but it’s much easier said than done with this level of competition.

A Look Back

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Big Ten Writer Roundtable: A look at the Big Ten Tourney

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on March 7th, 2012

Big Ten contributors Joey Nowak (@joeynowak), Ryan Terpstra (@terphimself), and Deepak Jayanti (@10thyearseniors) put their heads together and discussed some key questions heading into the Big Ten Tournament.  Here are their thoughts:

1.) What school playing on Thursday has the best shot to win the Big Ten Tournament?

Joey:  I really think any team besides Nebraska and Penn State (though if Tim Frazier heats up, Penn State could have a repeat of last year) has a chance to do damage. Minnesota and Illinois both have talent and nothing to lose. Purdue is playing better, with the experienced Robbie Hummel at the helm, and has a bit of a chip on its shoulder. Iowa has a guy in Matt Gatens they can ride to a win or two. And Northwestern should come in as focused as any team in the tournament, given what’s at stake for the Wildcats.

But the team I would least like to play this weekend is Indiana. The Hoosiers have won four in a row (the last three against quality Big Ten opponents) and seven of their last eight. They should handle Penn State before taking a great shot at Wisconsin on Friday. They are better on defense than they were early in the Big Ten schedule, and can still score with the best of them, thanks to a solid inside-out game. But the intangible of playing in front of a friendly Indianapolis crowd could be a huge boost. It won’t give them the same advantage they’ve held at Assembly Hall this season, but if the last few years are any indication (when they were terrible), the Hoosier faithful will be out in full force. Don’t be surprised to see them playing Sunday.
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Big Ten Morning Five: 03.07.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on March 7th, 2012

  1. What can we expect from Ohio State this weekend in Indianapolis? Many are unsure, and that includes the Columbus Dispatch’s Rob Oller. The Buckeyes are just 4-3 in their last seven games, and it’s hard to say how that Sunday date in East Lansing would have gone if Michigan State had Branden Dawson for the duration. But Ohio State has battled through its late-season troubles for a share of the Big Ten title. The question is, where do they go from here? Is this the same team many people thought could run the table in the Big Ten? They’ve had role players step up in the last few weeks, but does Thad Matta’s group have the depth to make a run? Only one way to find out.
  2. As of Tuesday, ESPN‘s Joe Lunardi had Northwestern as one of the last four teams in his mock NCAA Tournament bracket. But CBSSports.com‘s Jerry Palm tells Teddy Greenstein that Northwestern needs to win two games in the Big Ten Tournament to seal a bid in the Big Dance. That would mean a win against Minnesota on Thursday, and then an upset of two-seed Michigan on Friday in the second round. It seems the Wildcats’ fate is in their own hands.
  3. Fran McCaffery made no bones about his thoughts on the All-Big Ten teams and how it relates to his Hawkeyes. McCaffery said on his weekly radio show early this week that he believes Matt Gatens should have been on the first team. “I voted him on the first team,” McCaffery said. “I think Matt Gatens is one of the five best players.” McCaffery also said he felt Gatens – a second-team media selection and third-team coaches pick — also should have been on the All-Defensive team.
  4. Plenty of college basketball pundits around the country love hammering the RPI, so why not give this system that a Minnesota graduate student came up with a try? Luke Stanke has developed a statistical model that he says can more fairly choose and seed the 68 NCAA Tournament teams and calls it the “Win Index.” Sounds like somebody’s got a lot of free time on his hands.
  5. It hasn’t been an easy road back for Purdue senior Robbie Hummel, but he was rewarded this week by being named to the All-Big Ten first team for the third time in his career. Hummel, who was part of the “Baby Boilers” class that helped bring Purdue back to the college basketball forefront, is averaging 22.6 points and 9.6 rebounds in Purdue’s last seven games. Hummel is the 18th Big Ten player to earn three first-team berths, and the first since Michigan State‘s Mateen Cleaves in 2000.
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Big Ten Morning Five: 03.06.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on March 6th, 2012

  1. The Big Ten Championship may be split three ways, but don’t tell Michigan that it doesn’t mean something.  The Wolverines did their part by beating Penn State on Sunday and then watched as OSU got past MSU and helped turn Michigan into co-champions.  Disappointment reigned in East Lansing, but for the Maize and Blue, they feel like they’ve earned this banner.  Michigan hasn’t won a conference title since 1986, so even an tri-shared one is a big deal for John Beilein and his players.
  2. There may be a bitter taste in Spartan fans’ mouths after missing an opportunity to claim an outright championship on Sunday, but Michigan State has plenty to be proud of regarding this season and they also have individual hardware to remember it by.  Tom Izzo and senior forward Draymond Green picked up some honors, as Izzo was named Big Ten Coach of the Year and Green was named Big Ten Player of the Year.  For Izzo, it is his third COY award, and Green was also the only unanimous selection to the all-Big Ten first team as well as being voted onto the all-defensive squad.
  3. One of the best debates in the conference this season was whether Cody Zeller or Trey Burke was having a better freshman season.  Both made a huge impact on their respective teams and both were named Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Year.  Each player was also named to the all-Big Ten second team, cementing their spot as big-time players in the conference, even as true freshman.  Burke was chosen by the media, and Zeller by the coaches in the award voting.  Let the debate continue!
  4. For Robbie Hummel, his journey at Purdue has been both successful and frustrating.  His battle with multiple injuries is well-documented, but his play on the floor has always been top-notch when his body has cooperated.  Hummel became just the third player in Purdue history to be named to the all-Big Ten first team three times in his career.  All the rehabilitation and hard work Hummel had to put in just to get back on the court was well worth it, as he returned to form and had another great season for the Boilermakers.
  5. Iowa was represented on the postseason award squads, with senior Matt Gatens named to the all-Big Ten second team by the media (third by the coaches), and freshman forward Aaron White selected to the all-Big Ten freshman squad.  But head coach Fran McCaffery still had some questions about where his players and others were placed.  McCaffery thought Gatens deserved all-Big Ten defensive team honors, and had other questions about guys like Cody Zeller and Tim Frazier.
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Seniors That Will Not Be Forgotten

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 4th, 2012

Senior Week is a big deal in the Big Ten.  “One and Done” is a rare term used around the 12 programs because the players typically stick around longer than 1-2 seasons. They embrace the conference and the fans bring them into their lives during the cold winters. As all the teams play their home games over the weekend, the seniors will be honored.  Some of the seniors already have well documented and recognized careers – Michigan State’s Draymond Green, Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor, Ohio State’s William Buford, and Northwestern’s John Shurna are just a few examples.

But Senior Night is not just about star players. It is also about the players who stuck with the program’s ups and downs over the years. It is about the guys that stuck through coaching changes and losing seasons. These kids played their last conference game with the same intensity as the first one despite their record or place in the standings. The seniors who are used to the spotlight will get their well-deserved dues this weekend but let’s take some time to recognize a few players who finish their careers after making an impact. The following are a few seniors that will be remembered as one of the toughest players over their careers.

Verdell Jones III helped Tom Crean put Indiana back in the right direction.

Verdell Jones III

Eight. That’s how many wins Jones had in conference action during his first three years. If you are reaching out for your calculator to check the winning percentage, that ends up being approximately 15%! Jones knew that his career in Bloomington would not be a walk in the park after the mess created by Kelvin Sampson, but he didn’t expect it to be that bad, especially considering Tom Crean’s ability to recruit quality talent. Jones averaged 11 points per game as a freshman and 14.9 during his sophomore season. The Hoosiers expected him to lead early in his career and he did not shy away from the responsibility. Jones had to do everything during games because of the lack of talent around him. Tom Crean remained positive and tried to keep the team’s spirits up but he couldn’t have done it without mature leaders such as Jones. Jones easily could have transferred after an excellent sophomore campaign, but he stayed with the team through the rough times. He could have been demoralized after Maurice Creek got hurt last season, but he continued to play hard. Creek was supposed to be a running mate for Jones but that never materialized.

All the patience paid off for Jones this season. Indiana beat three top 5 teams at home and they could not have done it without his leadership. He has taken a lesser role with the emergence of Christian Watford and the star freshman, Cody Zeller. But the numbers are the only aspect of his game that went down in his fourth year because he continues to be the strong pillar on the young squad. Indiana basketball is back and Jones has been an extremely key piece of the rebuilding project along with his head coach. Crean and the Hoosiers fans are thankful for his contributions.

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Big Ten Writer Roundtable: Four Questions As the Regular Season Winds Down

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on March 1st, 2012

Big Ten contributors Joey Nowak (@joeynowak) and Ryan Terpstra (@terphimself) give their thoughts on four conference questions as just a few more games remain in the regular season, and the Big Ten champion has yet to be decided.

1) Will we see an outright Big Ten champion?  Or is the conference title possibly going to be shared?

Joey:  In other words, will Michigan State beat Ohio State this weekend? I think the answer is yes. It’s hard to watch the Spartans, after how badly they tanked last season, and try to avoid becoming too enamored with them this year. But time and time again they have proven that this really is a special squad that gets it and is tune with so many important factors required to win.

They are one of  just 12 teams in Division I that is undefeated at home (three in the power conferences) and there are too many intangibles working in their favor this weekend: playing at home, Senior Day honoring Draymond Green, Austin Thornton and Delvon Roe, and the motivation to win a title outright while denying Michigan and Ohio State, of all teams. Not to mention how entirely out of sorts Ohio State has seemed lately. It will be a dogfight, but I think the Spartans beat the Buckeyes and claim a completely unexpected Big Ten title all for themselves.

Can Ohio State stop Michigan State's quest for an outright Big Ten Title? (Associated Press)

Ryan:  As much as people in Ann Arbor are hoping to sneak in and grab a share of a conference title (wow, Michigan fans rooting for Ohio State?  Can it be true?), I think that Michigan State is going to get to job done because they are so potent at the Breslin Center. The only thing I would worry about for the Spartans is getting TOO hyped up, which can happen when young men are trying so hard to defeat a quality opponent. The Spartans obviously don’t lack for motivation, and the bigger question to me is what’s going on with the Buckeyes? Jared Sullinger had to bail them out against Northwestern; a team that is very tough this season, but on paper can’t handle Ohio State’s frontcourt. With Sullinger admitting that he has been thinking out the referees and how they are officiating his post game, I’m wondering if that will come back into play in what I would expect to be a very physical game in East Lansing. I think Michigan State hangs another Big Ten banner for Tom Izzo.

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Checking In On… the Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 28th, 2012

Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference. Follow him on Twitter at @Bill_Hupp for his thoughts on hoops, food, box fans and life.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was:

  • Spartan Success: Despite losing guys like Korie Lucious, Kalin Lucas and Delvon Roe, the Michigan State express rolled on. Perhaps no other coach in the country teaches a system and its principles quite like Tom Izzo. Surprise losses on Sunday by both Ohio State and Michigan, however, meant that MSU’s weekend destruction of Nebraska clinched them of the at least a share of the Big Ten title. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
  • Chicago (Evanston) Hope: That wind you felt coming from Chicago might have been a collective sigh of relief from Northwestern fans after senior leader John Shurna sank two free throws with mere seconds to play to help the Wildcats escape Happy Valley with a 67-66 win. Two straight gut-wrenching losses in one week might have been more than Northwestern could have overcome as they sweat out life on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
  • Lousy in Lincoln: It’s no secret that Nebraska has struggled on offense this year. But not since 1961 has Nebraska been so putrid on offense as they were when they were embarrassed by Michigan State, 61-34, at home over the weekend. The Huskers shot under 30% for the game and the loss of leading scorer Bo Spencer to an injured ankle near halftime only hampered their scoring efforts.

The Perennial Lesson In College Basketball 101 Is To Never Count Out The Michigan State Spartans.

Power Rankings

  1. Michigan State (24-5, 13-3) – As good as Michigan State has been this season, how would the Spartans be if Delvon Roe hadn’t been forced to drop basketball due to chronic knee problems? Roe’s presence would have given them more depth and would have taken the load off of Draymond Green at certain points. But it also forced youngsters like Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne to grow up quickly. While they’ve struggled with consistency, those guys are a big part of why the Spartans are Big Ten champs.
  2. Ohio State (23-6, 11-5) – Strange times in Columbus. After riding a 39-game winning streak and destroying most visitors who dared enter Value City Arena, the Buckeyes have now lost two of their last three games at home. Jared Sullinger has seemingly disappeared in big games and crucial moments this season. Read the rest of this entry »
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