Big Ten M5: 10.16.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 16th, 2012

  1. Indiana legend and college hoops icon, Bobby Knight, is getting rid of some of his jewelery. Knight is auctioning off his three national championship rings and the Olympic gold medal he received from the LA Olympic Committee for coaching the 1984 men’s national team. Knight won titles at Indiana in 1976, 1981 and 1987. One of the best coaches in the history of the game will have his memorabilia auctioned off by Steiner Sports Memorabilia, with the proceeds of the auction going to support his grandchildren’s education and charities.
  2. How will the Illinois’ senior class be remembered by Illini fans? Per Paul Klee, that question will be answered in March. Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson and Tyler Griffey came to Champaign in 2009 as one of the top 30 recruiting classes in the nation. They were supposed to help Bruce Weber take the Fighting Illini back to the Sweet Sixteen or beyond. But the Illini missed the NCAA Tournament twice since then and got only one win in the other year. Paul averaged 14.7 PPG and 4.7 RPG last season but has the potential to become one of the best players in the conference this season. Even though the trio have the talent, they’ve never been able to put a consistent season together. Most Illini fans would agree with Klee that an NCAA Tournament appearance this season would help cement the senior class’ legacy as a solid foundation for the future.
  3. Mackey Arena hosted a Midnight Madness event for the first time since 2008 this past weekend. Head coach Matt Painter talked about his team’s summer trip to Italy and its benefits before the scrimmage began. Forward Jacob Lawson wowed the crowd by winning the dunk competition, and even though Lawson only averaged 2.9 PPG last season, he will play a pivotal role in Purdue’s frontcourt this year. The Boilers sported a 27.3% offensive rebounding rate and will need Lawson to hold his own in the paint in an offense that will feature guards Terone Johnson (9.2 PPG) and D.J. Byrd (8.9 PPG).
  4. How will Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan fill Mike Bruesewitz’s slot in the rotation during the first few games? According to ESPN‘s Eamonn Brennan, Ryan may try to use a combination of sophomore forward Frank Kaminsky, sophomore guard Traevon Jackson, and freshman wing Sam Dekker. Bruesewitz hurt his leg while diving for a loose ball during a scrimmage last week. Kaminsky is a 6’11” forward who came off the bench last season and could use some game action before the Big Ten season begins. The son of former Big Ten great Jim Jackson, Traevon Jackson is a 6’2″ combo guard who should earn some playing time after the departure of Jordan Taylor. Ryan has also praised guard Josh Gasser (7.6 PPG) for his improvement during the offseason and will most likely start at the point to begin the non-conference slate.
  5. During this time of the year, the “other” basketball league in the country (i.e. the NBA) is going through preseason practices as well. Former Ohio State big man Jared Sullinger was drafted in the first round by the Boston Celtics and has been prominent so far in preseason action. Even though he dropped to the 21st pick of the draft due to his history of back problems, he is happy to be learning from one of the all-time greats, Kevin Garnett. Garnett will not log heavy minutes until the end of the season due to his knee injuries and so younger players such as Sullinger will be expected to keep the momentum going during the gruelling 82-game season. The 6’8″ power forward averaged 16 points and eight rebounds during the preseason opener in Turkey and will certainly be a focal point of the Celtics’ bench during the upcoming NBA season.
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Big Ten M5: 10.12.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 12th, 2012

  1. Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery is very optimistic about this third year in the Big Ten. He strongly believes that the depth on his roster will put Iowa back on the map and ready to contend for a postseason bid to the NCAA Tournament. Tough to disagree with the coach because returning wings Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White averaged 11.5 PPG and 11.1 PPG, respectively, last season. Another wing Zach McCabe should increase his production from 7.8 PPG. In addition to the returnees, Iowa’s top 25 recruiting class consisting of center Adam Woodbury will be an important part of the rotation. Depth is key for McCaffery’s offense which is designed to push the tempo of the game and consistently attack the basket. Iowa’s 65.8 possessions per game was the best during the Big Ten season in 2011-12.
  2. Another coach who is trying to push the tempo of the game is Illinois’ John Groce. The first-year coach would prefer to play an uptempo game but doesn’t believe he has the personnel yet to execute it. According to Groce, Illinois needs multiple guards who can comfortably handle the ball and strive for consistent movement. Returning guards Tracy Abrams (4.3 PPG) and Joseph Bertrand (6.5 PPG) have been working on their ball-handling skills but it might take some time for Illinois to reap the benefits on the court. The Illini averaged 63.6 possessions per game during the conference season but ranked towards the bottom of the league with a 20.9% turnover rate. The tempo will certainly increase in Champaign this season but the fans can only hope for the team to be more competitive than the 2011-12 disaster.
  3. Penn State fans don’t necessarily pay attention to basketball until bowl season is done. But there are several reasons to be excited about Pat Chambers’ team this season and Onward State lists five of them. Senior guard Tim Frazier (18.8 PPG and 6.2 APG) is obviously the best player on the team and arguably the best guard in the Big Ten. But the development of a couple underclassmen – Ross Travis and Jermaine Marshall – will be key for Chambers in his rotation. Ross, who was a true freshman last year, averaged only 4.4 PPG but showed flashes of brilliance during certain plays. Marshall should build upon his 10.8 PPG to play second fiddle to Frazier on the offensive end. Nittany Lions fans don’t have high expectations but certainly hope for improvement over last year’s performance as Chambers continues to build a solid foundation in State College.
  4. After a four-year hiatus, Purdue will bring back the Midnight Madness event to Mackey Arena tonight and the players are excited to resume this tradition on their home court. This is a very important event for the Boilermakers because there are several new faces on the team. Forwards Jay Simpson and A.J. Hammons hope to add some size to the frontcourt and will have ample opportunity to earn playing time. Another freshman guard, Ronnie Johnson, will join two other Johnsons – Terone (9.2 PPG) and Anthony (5.4 PPG) in the backcourt. Head coach Matt Painter is also hoping that the event will help with the recruitment of 2013 player the Boilermakers want, Bryson Scott. The event will incorporate both men’s and women’s basketball team along with the football team who will host Wisconsin on Saturday.
  5. Purdue’s in-state rival Indiana will have their own event, “Hoosier Hysteria,” on October 20 in Assembly Hall. ESPN SportsCenter anchor and a former IU graduate Sage Steele will emcee the annual event. The event will also benefit charities as fans are encouraged to bring canned food items for the Hoosier Hills Food Bank. Both the women’s basketball coach, Curt Miller, and fifth-year head coach, Tom Crean, will address the fans and introduce their respective teams. There is plenty to celebrate in Bloomington nowadays as the Hoosiers are ranked #1 in the preseason polls by most publications. Sophomore forward Cody Zeller (15.6 PPG and 6.6 RPG) has been the center of media attention as he has been a consensus preseason All-American pick and may end up being a top five pick in next year’s NBA Draft Lottery as well.
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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 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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