Big Ten Weekly Five: 08.20.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on August 20th, 2012

  1. Do you want the good news or the bad news first, Indiana fans? The good news is that a solution has presented itself for the problem Tom Crean was going to have this fall with 14 players trying to fill out 13 scholarships by the first day of classes. The bad news is that means incoming freshman Ron Patterson‘s ineligibility is what led to that solution. According to the Indianapolis Star, the local product — a three-star recruit out of nearby Indianapolis — did not meet the academic requirements to earn admission. According to the Star‘s report, the 6-foot-3, 195-pound shooting guard will consider attending prep school or a different four-year school. He will have immediate eligibility wherever he goes since his letter of intent has been voided. Still, though, the Hoosiers have the top recruiting class in the Big Ten and one of the best nationally — to go along with a likely preseason No. 1 distinction.
  2. Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis is at it again with his big ideas and, this time, he’s got more than just the Spartans involved. Hollis is the brainchild of yet another large-scale event, with plans to include 16 elite basketball programs — including Big Ten squads Michigan State and Ohio State — in a blockbuster event (broken into a pair of eight-team tournaments) for November 2017 in Portland, Oregon, celebrating the 80th birthday of Nike co-founder Phil Knight. Given the list of schools involved, this could be better than most NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteens. It should be an exceptionally tough ticket, but a real treat for hoops fans five years from now.
  3. According to the Gazette columnist Mike Hlas, Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery has been telling reporters he intends to schedule tougher non-conference foes when the program is ready for it. Now, evidently, is not that time. As Hlas points out, the Hawkeyes have three teams on the 2012-13 slate from the MEAC, the 30th-strongest conference of 32, according to the Sagarin Ratings from last year. And if Iowa plays Wichita State instead of DePaul in Cancun, the cumulative 2011-12 record of the Hawkeyes’ non-conference opponents will be 181-234 (88-124 in their respective conferences). If it is DePaul, those records drop to 166-247 and 75-137, respectively. Those figures certainly won’t help Iowa’s strength of schedule. But if they can’t beat those squads, something will really be amiss.
  4. Fans in Michigan are passionately divided between Michigan and Michigan State allegiances, but with both teams now excelling, it’s a great time to be a basketball fan in the Mitten State. And how about this projection for an NCAA Tournament first-round site? The Spartans and Wolverines are both slotted by ESPN.com‘s Joe Lunardi in a very early version of Bracketology as No. 2 seeds playing at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Detroit. You’re not likely to get Michigan and Michigan State fans also cheering for their rivals in those games, but it would be one heck of an atmosphere at the Palace. Lunardi has seven Big Ten teams in the dance, including Indiana (No. 1 seed), Ohio State (No. 4 seed), Minnesota (No. 7 seed), Wisconsin (No. 3 seed) and Purdue (No. 12 seed).
  5. Purdue is taking the early stages of its non-conference schedule way out of the conference. Way out of the country, even. The Boilermakers just wrapped up a 3-1 exhibition tour in Italy, capping the trip off with a 108-72 victory against Amici del Campetto. It’s given coach Matt Painter an early opportunity to see what he’ll be working with this season, with many new faces expected to be in the mix. The Boilermakers’ only loss on the trip was to a professional team from Lithuania. D.J. Byrd, one of the few returning contributors, was 5-for-7 from 3-point range for 16 points in the latest victory.
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Big Ten Summer Check In: Purdue Boilermakers

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on August 6th, 2012

For the first time since the summer of 2007, Purdue fans will not be talking about a player named Robbie Hummel as they approach the basketball season. Even though two of the Baby Boilers — E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson — graduated in 2011, Hummel was still around for his final season at Purdue after recovering from multiple knee surgeries. After an excellent comeback season last year during which Hummel nearly led the Boilers to an upset of #2 seed Kansas in the third round of the NCAA tournament, Matt Painter now prepares his program for a new era in West Lafayette.

How will Matt Painter deal with Robbie Hummel’s departure and a younger core of players?

Evaluating Last Year: Expectations for the 2011-12 season were fairly realistic in West Lafayette last season because of Moore and Johnson’s departure. Fans weren’t sure what to expect from the returning Hummel but overall, Purdue’s season should be considered a success as they finished 10-8 in conference play and gave Kansas everything it could handle in the NCAA Tournament. Even though Hummel had lost much of his explosiveness due to all the injuries, he still led the team in scoring with 16.4 PPG and his presence created more open shots for his younger teammates — especially Terone Johnson, who averaged 9.2 PPG. Painter’s team did not necessarily pull off many big wins during the season but certainly won most of the games that it was supposed to. The Boilermakers hit a mid-season slump by going 1-4 during late January/early February, but recovered fairly well to secure an NCAA bid for the sixth straight year. A huge win in Ann Arbor against Michigan (75-61) on February 25 was key to locking up an NCAA bid.

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Big Ten NCAA Tourney Thoughts From Sunday

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 20th, 2012

The Big Ten has lived up to the hype.  There are four teams in the Sweet Sixteen from the conference and a fifth one almost snuck in there too on Sunday night.  The experts have been raving about the depth of the conference over the past couple months and it translated into postseason success over the weekend.  Michigan State took down St. Louis in a bruiser on Sunday afternoon and Purdue almost pulled off a stunning upset against the Kansas Jayhawks.  Both games featured excellent performances by two seniors who will go down as one of the all-time greats for their respective programs – Draymond Green of Michigan State and Purdue’s Robbie Hummel.  The following are a few thoughts from the Sunday games.

Robbie Hummel did everything he could to will Purdue to a victory against Kansas

Michigan State over St. Louis (65-61)

Tom Izzo is familiar with Rick Majerus’ coaching philosophy and style of play. St. Louis plays a methodical style of basketball with a strong emphasis on defense. Sound familiar?  That might be the motto of practically all of the coaches in the B1G.  MSU did an excellent job of containing St.Louis’ Brian Conklin by holding him to 3-9 shooting  from the field. Overall, the Billikens shot only 35.3% as a team and 28% from beyond the arc, but by no means did Michigan State roll through the game. Majerus had players such as Jordair Jett who could have easily played for Tom Izzo’s team because of his intensity. Jett resembled the defensive stopper that Izzo would have embraced on his own team. As a result, the game was a defensive battle but the team with the best player on either side emerged as the winner. That best player on the court was clearly Draymond Green and it showed during the final minutes of the game.

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Set Your TiVo: 03.02.12 – 03.04.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 2nd, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

We are going to mix it up a bit for the final three days of the season. There are so many good games on the schedule that it wouldn’t do them justice to leave them unmentioned, not to mention the games with an impact for bubble teams. Here are some quick hitters on all the games you need to be following.

Top games:

West Virginia @ South Florida – 12:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN FullCourt/ESPN3.com (****)

The Bulls notched a huge win over Louisville earlier this week, but many feel they still have to win this game to ensure their spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Mountaineers are hanging on by a thread but could really enhance their chances with a nice road victory in Tampa. This game has Big East Tournament implications as well, but both teams need it more for their NCAA chances. As a member of the Big East, South Florida has beaten 14 of the 15 other teams in the league. West Virginia is the only team they have yet to knock off. This would be one heck of a time to grab that win in West Virginia’s last regular season game as a member of the Big East. Pretty much everything is on the line in this game.

Can West Virginia Win A Big One On The Road?

#11 Georgetown @ #8 Marquette – 2:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN FullCourt/ESPN3.com (****)

Both teams are obviously in the NCAA Tournament so this game is about seeding more than anything. A win over the Golden Eagles would be Georgetown’s ninth against the RPI top 50 and fifth against the top 25. Marquette has just one RPI top 25 win (Wisconsin) so adding another could really help Marquette’s seeding when the NCAA committee debates next Sunday in Indianapolis. The winner of this game will grab the #2 seed in next week’s Big East Tournament. The contrast of styles in this game will be fascinating as Marquette looks to run at home against a disciplined Georgetown defensive unit.

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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.28.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on February 28th, 2012

  1. At the season’s onset, Ohio State was an easy choice for the Big Ten title, a likely Final Four participant and a trendy choice to be cutting down the nets in New Orleans. It was practically national title or bust for Thad Matta, who is yet to win the big one. Now, things are slipping away in front of our eyes. You can’t help but get a sense that the Buckeyes are close to implosion, particularly after Matta uncharacteristically practically threw his players under the bus after a Senior Day loss to Wisconsin on Sunday. Weeks ago, we were wondering if Ohio State could run the table in the conference. At this rate, we might be wondering just how many more they can win.
  2. Many left Purdue for dead when Matt Painter made the widely-publicized decision to kick Kelsey Barlow off the team prior to the Michigan State game earlier this month, but the Boilermakers have responded like few expected they would. Other conference teams seem to have benefited from “addition by subtraction” in recent memory (looking at you, Michigan State). Could this be the case with the Boilermakers? They have won four of their last five, with a great shot to make it five of six with a home meeting against Penn State up next. Robbie Hummel clearly does not intend on ending his career at Purdue quietly. Does anyone want to play the Boilermakers in the Big Ten Tournament?
  3. To fully realize just how unselfish this Michigan State team can be, you need look no further than the inside play of Derrick Nix. Tom Izzo likes to call his junior center “Tragic Johnson” — a play on the former Michigan State superstar point guard’s nickname — for Nix’s desire to pass the ball. At times, Nix would be almost better off just going up for the basket rather than looking for the extra pass. But that unselfishness is what brought the Spartans to this surprising share of the Big Ten title, the Detroit Free Press‘ Michael Rosenberg writes. “We always talk to him about that,” senior captain Draymond Green said of Nix. “He’s so unselfish. But how can you get mad at somebody for being unselfish?”
  4. Bruce Weber probably feels like he’s on an island right now, with his Fighting Illini having lost nine of their last 11 games. It’s all but certain that this will be his last season in Champaign, but Weber has the support of Iowa coach Fran McCaffery.  “I’ve known Bruce a long time. I think the world of him as a person,” McCaffery said Tuesday. “I think he’s done a terrific job there. He’s had phenomenal success. I feel for him. I wish nobody in our business would have to go through it.”
  5. Speaking of Illinois, can we talk about the basketball program without focusing on the head coach’s job security? (Certainly, Bruce Weber would appreciate it.) In honor of the Assembly Hall’s 50th birthday, the News-Gazette‘s Paul Klee pens a nice tribute to the Fighting Illini’s home digs. And it’s not just the Illini that have called it home. Frank Sinatra, Garth Brooks, Prince, Elvis and more have all called the place home, if only for a day or two. With an important home game against Michigan up next for Illinois, maybe the facility can deliver the team a present of its own.
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Who Are the Big Ten Coaches Under the Most Pressure This March?

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on February 27th, 2012

The last week of regular season action is here.  The talk about bubbles popping, seeding and rotations will continue to grow over the next few weeks.  Among the conference tournaments, the Big East Tournament is generally known to be the toughest to predict, but the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis this season might be just as good or maybe even better.  Five teams appear to be locks for the NCAAs at this point — Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Indiana.  There are at least three other teams still in the hunt — Northwestern, Minnesota and Purdue.  Factor in a surging Iowa team to the teams on the bubble and the result is bound to produce some upsets in Indy during the second week of March.  Certain coaches have exceeded expectations this season (John Beilein), while some may have their job in jeopardy (Bruce Weber).  Let’s examine which coaches (in no particular order) have the most to prove over the next four weeks, not just to finish conference play but also beyond.

Bill Carmody is making a strong push to get Northwestern into the NCAA Tournament

  1. Bill Carmody – Carmody deserves a lot of credit for keeping his players’ confidence up after a demoralizing overtime loss to Michigan earlier this week.  The Wildcats were shell-shocked in the overtime period as Michigan drained three shots from long range to seal the deal.  But they are still in the hunt for an NCAA bid after their nail-biting win at State College over Penn State on Saturday.  John Shurna got his coach’s message about a lack of leadership and delivered a 23-point performance on the road.  Carmody will not have a go-to scorer like Shurna next year, so this year might be his best shot to lock in that NCAA Tournament appearance that has eluded the program for so long.  Drew Crawford will lead in Shurna’s absense but his supporting crew will be relatively younger, so the Wildcats may be back into semi-rebuilding mode again in 2012-13. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten Game On: 02.25.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on February 25th, 2012

Six games this weekend in the Big Ten, and tonight features two of the conference leaders.  Let’s get to it.

Purdue @ #11 Michigan, 6 PM, BTN

Michigan's Senior Night against Purdue will be a big game for Zach Novak and Stu Douglass (US Presswire)

  • The Boilermakers need a win over a ranked opponent really bad.  Like, really, REALLY bad.  That’s because Purdue is 1-5 against teams in the RPI Top 25 and 4-7 against the Top 50.  A win would obviously help those stats out, and possibly put an end to the bubble talk surrounding the Boilermakers’ chances for an invite to the NCAA Tournament.  Robbie Hummel is doing his part, shooting 50% from the field and averaging 24.8 PPG over his last four contests. He also dropped a stat line of 16 points, five boards, and six assists the last time these two teams met, and will be expected to lead again.  Matt Painter will have to devise a plan to slow down the smoking-hot Wolverines, who have won five of their last six and have yet to lose at home this season.  It will be an emotional Senior Night in Ann Arbor, as fan favorites Zach Novak and Stu Douglass will be honored.  Douglass hasn’t missed a game in his Michigan career, while Novak was named the program’s first Academic All-American since 1984.

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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.23.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on February 23rd, 2012

  1. No one was surprised that Indiana was able to easily handle their non-league match-up with North Carolina Central last night.  Cody Zeller had another solid game, as the freshman dropped in 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead the way.  The victory gave IU 21 wins on the year, and with their NCAA ticket punched, the fan base is one again rabid for Hoosier basketball.  There is no question that Indiana has great fans, but with some lean years in the first few seasons under Tom Crean, the Crimson and Cream faithful are glad that their program is once again back to meeting expectations.
  2. One team still looking for a guaranteed invite to the Big Dance is Purdue.  Matt Painter is trying to lead the Boilermakers to their 6th straight tournament appearance, but it will be more difficult after the recent dismissal of Kelsey Barlow.  The versatile Barlow often guarded the opposing team’s best scoring option, and now Purdue will have to adjust its defensive schemes.  One player who has picked up his game recently is Robbie Hummel, who torched Nebraska for 29 points in the team’s 83-65 win last night.  With 18 wins and three games left to play, Purdue has to win two of its next three to get to that magic 20-win plateau that many believe will get the team into the NCAA Tournament.
  3. Michigan’s rise to the top of the Big Ten has been a story worth watching this season.  But while young players like freshman point guard Trey Burke and sophomore shooting guard Tim Hardaway, Jr., have been getting the most press, the reason the program has been able to rise back up is also due to the efforts of two seniors.  Zach Novak and Stu Douglass were two unheralded recruits that have bought into the John Beilein system, and have made big plays and big shots throughout their careers.  The 6’4″ Novak has played out of position (at power forward) his entire career, and still has managed over 1,000 career points. Novak and Douglas also each rank in the Top 10 all-time in minutes played and three-pointers made in Michigan history.  They are a big reason why Michigan could win its first Big Ten title in 26 years.
  4. In a game that probably drew an audience of opposing fans as well as Michigan State fans, the Spartans were able to avoid an upset at the hands of Minnesota last night, 66-61.  The Gophers built a big second-half lead but were unable to hang on down the stretch, committing several turnovers and not finding good looks offensively.  For MSU, it was another example of being able to adjust and overcome in a difficult situation.  Keith Appling had two brutal fouls late in the game, sending a jump-shooter to the free throw line both times, but he atoned, going 6-for-6 from the foul line down the stretch to squash any Gopher comeback attempt.
  5. The Big Ten regular season has just a few games left and for seniors like Penn State’s Cam Woodyard that means only a few more guaranteed chances to play before the Big Ten Tournament.  Woodyard has experienced a lot of ups and downs in his Nittany Lion career; winning an NIT championship as a freshman, and also losing 12 games in a row his sophomore season.  He’s stepped his game up this season, and will be a key for Pat Chambers as Penn State tries to mount some late-season magic these next couple weeks.
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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.22.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on February 22nd, 2012

  1. Whatever they did, it worked. The Detroit News’ Rod Beard takes you inside Michigan‘s intense preparation for Northwestern‘s unique style of play ahead of the Wolverines’ overtime win in Evanston on Tuesday night, helping to keep Michigan on pace in the conference standings. It details coaches’ late hours, the film review, and how the Wolverines planned to attack Northwestern leading scorer John Shurna. The senior finished with just 14 points, well below his average, and Michigan held him in check during the late stages Tuesday night. Looks like all that prep paid off.
  2. Speaking of Shurna, he may not have been on his game on Tuesday night, but the Chicago Tribune‘s David Haugh points out that there’s a lot more to Shurna than just putting the ball in the hoop. The Wildcats senior and Northwestern all-time career scoring leader re-reads the Harry Potter books and is a big believer in humanitarian efforts, for starters. It’s safe to say he’s got a pretty full resume.
  3. It seems Tubby Smith is going to keep tinkering with his Minnesota lineup until he sees something he really likes. With the Golden Gophers on the bubble and hosting Michigan State on Wednesday night, it’s a prime opportunity for Minnesota to make a statement. It looks like that means another lineup change. Amelia Rayno from the Star Tribune writes that fans are likely to see the ninth different starting lineup on Wednesday. Smith didn’t say who the new five would be, but Rayno has good insight into who may be coming and who may be going.
  4. The list of things that may have Bruce Weber in scalding-hot water after Illinois wraps up this disappointing season is a long one. But Ken Thompson of the Lafayette Journal-Courier says straying from the principles of his mentor was part of Weber’s downfall. Thompson writes that Weber — who spent 18 years under Gene Keady at Purdue — never instilled the mixture of toughness and affection that Keady had with his Boilermakers team, and it cost him at Illinois.
  5. As for Purdue nowadays, it’s going to have to change with the departure of Kelsey Barlow. The Boilermakers are trying to reach the NCAA Tournament for the sixth consecutive season, but their task is tougher since coach Matt Painter kicked Barlow off the team last week. Painter said it depends on the match-ups, but you can expect to see Lewis Jackson, Terone Johnson, Ryne Smith, and D.J. Byrd all step up and expand their roles. With four games remaining on the Big Ten regular season schedule and the Big Ten Tournament ahead, those players have the opportunity to make the most of their enhanced roles.
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Checking In On… the Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 21st, 2012

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Boiling Over: Give credit to Matt Painter for making a difficult decision in the stretch run of a season. Painter kicked Kelsey Barlow off the team and suspended D.J. Byrd for the Michigan State game for a “violation of team rules.” They’ll miss Barlow’s experience and slashing ability, but sometimes this kind of incident can galvanize a team.
  • Lincoln > Land of Lincoln: Any doubts about whether Illinois was still playing for embattled head coach Bruce Weber were answered when Nebraska used a 52-12 run to bury the Illini, 80-57, on Sunday. Brandon Paul and Meyers Leonard combined for 11 total points. You just can’t let the worst offensive team in the Big Ten put up 80 on you. Illinois has now lost eight of its last nine games and Weber seems resigned to his likely fate (see video below).
  • Shurna Can Score: Congrats to John Shurna, a nice kid and a fantastic (if unorthodox) scorer who is now the all-time leading scorer in Northwestern history. His deep three-pointer midway through the second half against Minnesota gave him 18 points to surpass Billy McKinney (1,900 points).  More importantly to Shurna, the Wildcats picked up a win to stay in the hunt for first-ever NCAA Tournament berth.

The Spartans And Buckeyes Have Company At The Top Of The Standings. (AP/Carlos Osorio)

Power Rankings

  1. Michigan State (22-5, 11-3) – Not since Tim Duncan in 1997-98 has a player averaged more than 15 points per game, 10 rebounds a game and three assists per game. But Draymond Green has done just that, and he continued to show his versatility on Sunday at Purdue with a 20-point, 10 rebound and seven-assist performance to lead the Spartans to a road win. He has to be the Big Ten POY if MSU wins the conference.
  2. Ohio State (22-5, 10-4) – William Buford has had big games for Ohio State this season, but his struggles late in the regular season may cost Ohio State a Big Ten crown. He shot a combined 5-for-24 in the Buckeyes’ losses to Michigan State and Michigan, and just hasn’t shown the big game leadership that you would expect out of a senior. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.21.12

Posted by jnowak on February 21st, 2012

  1. If Illinois is to succeed in the Big Ten — whether it’s under Bruce Weber or a different head coach — the Fighting Illini likely need to succeed in recruiting top players out of Chicago. It’s a hotbed of talent — guys like Anthony Davis and Derrick Rose come to mind, with players like Jabari Parker and Cliff Alexander set to come out of the Windy City in the next few years — and right in Illinois’ backyard. But the relationship between the school and the city can be a complicated one, Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. If Weber or the next coach can figure it out, it could mean a huge leap forward for the program.
  2. Is Iowa‘s Matt Gatens the most underrated player in the Big Ten? The senior has been sturdy for the Hawkeyes, scoring a team-high 14.88 PPG and dropping at least 15 in his last six games. Gatens played all 40 minutes in Iowa’s upset of Indiana, scoring 30 points on 10-for-18 shooting. “He was just in a great flow and rhythm,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “He’s not only one of the better shooters or guards in this league. He’s also one of the better ones in the country. That is a four-year guy who has been doing it at a high level — a great guy to have walk into your program.” And the fact that he’s one of three Hawkeyes with fathers that have ties to the program makes it an even better story.
  3. Speaking of Gatens, his performance against the Hoosiers was one thing that stood out to the Indianapolis Star‘s Terry Hutchens in the game. It was yet another disappointing road performance for the baffling Hoosiers, who often seem unbeatable in Bloomington, but mediocre away from home. Among Hutchens’ other notes are Iowa coach Fran McCaffery‘s thoughts on Cody Zeller, the disappearing act of Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls‘ search for confidence.
  4. Nebraska hasn’t finished its first season in the Big Ten, but the Omaha World-Herald‘s Tom Shatel already believes the Cornhuskers are in need of change in the program. He says this difficult task must start with the man who has already worked wonders in the athletic program: Tom Osborne. The former football coach has the opportunity to make Nebraska a winning program, Shatel says, by bringing in a coach who can recruit at a high level and showing that the department is committed to the basketball program like it is to the football team. Could a change be coming?
  5. Without question, Purdue could have used the services of D.J. Byrd and Kelsey Barlow on Sunday against Michigan State, but head coach Matt Painter knew he had a tough decision to make. Byrd will rejoin the team, but Barlow is out of second chances. “It’s disappointing,” Painter said. “There’s no doubt about it. It’s disappointing because when you put in time with guys and you give guys a second chance, that’s what it’s all about. You think about the chances you get in life. You think about somebody sticking by you.”
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Set Your TiVo: 02.17.12 – 02.19.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 17th, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

While BracketBusters is always solid, the overall slate over the next few days is full of good, but not great, games. Still, tune in to these games as conference races head down the stretch and the NCAA Tournament field begins to take shape.

#13 St. Mary’s at #24 Murray State – 6:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN (****)

  • Since losing to Tennessee State, Murray State has rebounded with two wins over Austin Peay and Southeast Missouri State. On Saturday night the Racers will get their chance to show the nation they are for real. Playing at home in front of a juiced up crowd on national television, there is no excuse for Murray State to come out anything less than fired up. The three point line is this team’s best friend on both ends of the floor and it will be important against St. Mary’s. Murray State shoots 41% from deep (#8 nationally) and defends the arc very well. Against a St. Mary’s team that ranks a putrid #305 against the triple, that’s a huge advantage for the Racers at home. Steve Prohm should do everything in his power to ensure Isaiah Canaan (47.3%) and Donte Poole(39.3%) get quality shots from the arc against the porous Gaels’ defense. Defensively, the Racers must lock down the arc as they usually do. St. Mary’s shoots a lot of threes and while they don’t make a great percentage they do get just a shade under 30% of their total points from the arc.

    Isaiah Canaan And Company Could Have A Big Day From Behind The Arc Against St. Mary's Average 3-Point Defense (Getty)

  • St. Mary’s has lost two of its last three games after starting the season 22-2. The Gaels are still a likely NCAA Tournament team, but a win here would ensure their place in the field of 68 for sure. In order to win on the road in a tough environment against a good team, St. Mary’s must use its edge on the offensive glass, make threes and get to the foul line. With strong rebounders like Rob Jones and Brad Waldow, St. Mary’s has a clear size edge over Murray State. Only Ivan Aska and Ed Daniel see significant minutes for the Racers inside, two of only three players on the roster who are at least 6’7” tall. While the Gaels have a huge edge inside, they’re going to have to overcome Murray State’s strong perimeter defense. Matthew Dellavedova and Clint Steindl are going to have to hit threes for Randy Bennett’s team to come out on top. Thirdly, St. Mary’s should look to take advantage of a Murray State defense that ranks in the bottom half of Division I in defensive free throw rate. The Gaels get to the line fairly well and make 71.9% of their free throws. It’s so important to control tempo and keep the crowd out of the game and getting to the charity stripe while controlling the boards definitely helps in achieving that goal.
  • This should be a very close game but the edge has to go to the home team. St. Mary’s is struggling a bit right now and Murray State seems to have righted the ship since suffering its first loss. One concern for the Racers is their turnovers (14 per game). If Murray State controls the ball, plays well on the perimeter and gets to the free throw line at its usual clip, this will be the Racers’ game to lose.
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