The RTC Big Four State Tournament: First Round

Posted by rtmsf on September 1st, 2010

A few weeks ago, the four major college basketball programs in the great state of Indiana announced that they would be starting an annual event called the Crossroads Classic, pitting each school against one of its other state rivals (Indiana, Purdue, Notre Dame and Butler) in an annual basketball orgy of Hoosierness.  We here at RTC loved this idea, and immediately started thinking of other states in the union who could put on a similarly extravagant annual show of hoops.  We were about 99.7% finished with our research when Matt Snyder of Fanhouse published this piece listing the top twenty states that could hold similar in-state classics, causing us to scramble to check the integrity of our passwords (“RTC” doesn’t cut it?) and servers throughout the network.

Indiana's New Crossroads Classic Inspired Us

Seriously, though, Snyder did a great job with the idea; he just beat us to the punch with it.  So we went back to the drawing board and thought about ways to use our research in a constructive way that didn’t rip off the Fanhouse post.  What we came up with is what we’re calling the 2010 RTC Big Four State Tournament.  Here’s how it works.

  1. Similar to the Fanhouse post, we picked the top four programs in each of the 33 states (including DC) with at least that many D1 universities.
  2. We then chose the top sixteen states based on the current status and power of those four programs within each state.
  3. Next, we chose a starting lineup ”dream team” of players from those programs in each state, thinking about how to best integrate them by position (three guards & two bigs; or vice versa).
  4. We also chose two subs — one guard and one big man — as well as a head coach.
  5. We limited each school to two starters and one bench player for a maximum of three per team (sorry, Duke).  We also made sure to include at least one player from each of the four chosen programs (hi, Seattle).
  6. Finally, we seeded the sixteen teams into our bracket and analyzed the matchups.  We encourage you to use the polls below to do likewise.

Which state do you think has the strongest cadre of players from among its Big Four programs?  Here’s our bracket:

We’ll analyze the left side of our bracket today, and the right side tomorrow.  Make sure to put your choices in the appropriate poll box.

#1 Indiana vs. #16 Utah

The most lopsided first round battle pits top seeded Indiana against a Utah squad filled with mid-major flavor. For Utah to avoid embarrassing themselves, they’ll need a heroic effort from elite scorer and potential first team All-American Jimmer Fredette. Much like BYU was vulnerable on the rare occasion when Fredette didn’t deliver, this Utah team void of talent from top-shelf Division I programs will need their do-everything point guard to put on his Superman cape. We suspect Fredette will keep Utah competitive for most of the first half. Tai Wesley is crafty enough to lure Matt Howard into foul trouble and, given the season Weber State just concluded, their representatives are far from slouches. In a near carbon copy of BYU’s second round contest with Kansas State, though, it would be a surprise if Fredette didn’t wear down under the intense man-to-man defense of Shelvin Mack and the common double team. Because of our conditions for picking these teams, sure, but an Indiana team loaded enough to bring a talent like JaJuan Johnson off the bench isn’t going to lose to a primarily one-man squad. The Hoosier State representatives pull away and win by 20+.

RTC Choice: Indiana 84, Utah 62.

#4 Texas vs. #13 New York

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20 At The Top: Big 10 Player Rankings

Posted by zhayes9 on July 30th, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

For the entire 20 At The Top series, click here.

Just two seasons ago, the Big Ten was far from the premiere conference in college basketball. Yet Midwesterners that follow the conference religiously could be optimistic about the future. A number of super-talented sophomores permeated the eleven teams and those loyal fans knew that when this crop of players became seniors- should they stick around for four years- the Big Ten would be special again. A combination of  injuries keeping kids in school, consistently improving talent and teams looking for one last shot at cutting down the nets have created what should be the nation’s most competitive conference in 2010-11.

If healthy, Lucas is the best the Big 10 has to offer

1. Kalin Lucas, Michigan State- Last season was a mixed bag for Lucas, who battled leadership issues part of the season, excelled early in Big Ten play with clutch shots and witnessed his Spartans advance to another Final Four with the All-America candidate watching from the sidelines. Lucas is again dealing with a Michigan State squad that has aspirations of playing on the first weekend in April. A blur in the open floor that excels in transition, Lucas performs well in the team-oriented Spartan attack, although it might take a month or so for Lucas to ease back into tip-top shape. He’s a gifted floor general with outstanding court vision that loves finding teammates Durrell Summers and Chris Allen off screens for open threes. He’s also capable defensively and last year posted a career high 45% FG. There’s no debate who is the captain of this Michigan State ship, and both Izzo and Lucas would much prefer a smoother ride as a senior. If Lucas has an outstanding season and leads his team to a national title, expect the Mateen Cleaves comparisons to begin.

2. Robbie Hummel, Purdue- With Chris Kramer graduating, Robbie Hummel now takes the role as the heart and soul of a Purdue team that has similar expectations as rival Michigan State. Hummel’s ACL tear last February at Minnesota devastated the Boilermakers, and although they rallied to reach the Sweet 16, Hummel’s loss was a crushing blow on all fronts- scoring, rebounding, defense and leadership. Hummel could be cleared for full-contact basketball as soon as August, meaning he’ll soon team with JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore for another shot at glory. Hummel isn’t the most athletic forward on the planet, but he makes up for that with constant toughness, intelligence and effort on both ends. He excels in catch-and-shoot situations around the perimeter, generating good lift with a smooth stroke that can lead to first half performances like Ohio State witnessed last January. Hummel is a very productive rebounder grabbing almost seven boards a game at just 6’8 and only turned the ball over once every 30 minutes during his junior season. The Boilermakers need Hummel’s back and knees at 100% to cross the rugged terrain of the Big Ten and emerge as a favorite to cut down the nets in Houston.

3. Jon Leuer, Wisconsin- Leuer is another typical developed Wisconsin star in the making. He’s a tall, versatile, inside/outside scoring threat who rarely played as a freshman while learning the swing offense, yet gradually develops into an all-Big Ten player by his senior season. Jay Wright raved about Leuer’s game while coaching him at USA Basketball this summer, exclaiming he can shoot, pass, put it on the floor and has great size. Sounds like a complete player to me, and one that Bo Ryan is expecting to take on a larger role with Trevon Hughes no longer patrolling the Kohl Center hardwood. By all accounts, Leuer posted a very impressive junior season, nearly doubling his PPG production, grabbing six boards a game, shooting 52% overall and featuring a solid mid-range jumper. And in typical Wisconsin fashion, Leuer almost never turns the ball over or makes mental mistakes on the floor. His 43 points on 16-28 FG in Wisconsin’s two NCAA Tournament games showed the world his fractured wrist was a thing of the past. Much like Lucas and Hummel, if Leuer stays healthy, he’ll be a candidate for Player of the Year honors in the conference.

4. JaJuan Johnson, Purdue- The Indianapolis native enters his senior season looking to help lead Purdue to a national title and impress NBA scouts in the process. Johnson dabbled with the NBA Draft before electing to return to a loaded Boilermaker team as their anchor in the paint. When Johnson is motivated like he was during the NCAA Tournament, he’s an absolute force. Johnson has utilized his long wingspan and superb instincts to mold into one of the best pure shot blockers in the nation. His offensive repertoire has expanded significantly since arriving on campus both on the low block and in the mid-range game. He also picks up a good chunk of his points by attacking the glass and finishing pick-and-rolls. During a mid-January slump that included three straight Big Ten losses where Johnson scored a total of 18 points and took 19 shots, Matt Painter made it clear the team had to go back to the drawing board and re-evaluate. Most of that frustration was intended for Johnson, who would finally screw his head on straight and peak with a 24/7 at Ohio State and a 23/15 against Siena in March. The allure of capturing an NCAA title in his senior year should be sufficient for Johnson to play motivated.

5. Talor Battle, Penn State- Other than an NIT run as a sophomore, Battle’s name hasn’t been nationally recognized throughout his career, mostly because the Nittany Lions have mostly been mired in losing seasons. Big Ten followers know Battle all too well, probably because he’s torched their own team at one point or another the last three years. Battle will need some more help from his supporting cast if Penn State wants to shock the world and contend in what should be an ultra-competitive Big Ten. He’s a prototypical scoring point guard- evident by his 16.7 and 18.5 PPG the last two seasons- but does a capable job distributing the ball and finding open teammates. Ranking third in the Big Ten behind Evan Turner and Manny Harris in possessions used last season and playing 92% of his teams’ minutes, Battle is the focal point for Ed DeChellis’ offensive attack. When Battle has to put on the Superman cape and do everything, rarely do the Nittany Lions have the same success as when his teammates are also performing at a high level.

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The Loss of Kevin Coble Doesn’t Kill Northwestern’s NCAA Hopes

Posted by rtmsf on July 28th, 2010

John Templon of Chicago College Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Horizon League.  He is also very familiar with the Chicago area basketball scene.

By now you’ve heard that Kevin Coble will not play for the Northwestern Wildcats during the 2010-11 season, or ever again. The recovery from his broken foot is taking longer than expected, and instead of continuing through grueling rehab with the chance of injuring it again during the season which would come with possible life-altering implications, Coble has decided to hang up his basketball shoes. Of course, this story is getting a lot of national attention because of Northwestern’s NCAA Tournament drought and the fact that “everyone” thought that Coble returning was the magic elixir that was going to solve all of the Wildcats’ problems.

Coble Will Be Missed, But He's Not the Tipping Point

I’m here to tell you that “they” were wrong. Coble’s return wasn’t going to fix the thing that Northwestern has to work on more than anything to make the NCAA Tournament — defense. The Wildcats had one of the most efficient offenses in the country last season. They scored 1.12 points per possession, which ranked 33d in the country according to Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted efficiency statistics. Being the 33d best offense in the country is more than enough to make the NCAA Tournament. The problem was Northwestern’s 169th ranked defense.  If Coble had been able to return at full strength this coming season he still wouldn’t have provided the defensive presence that the Wildcats need. A foot injury is exactly the type of problem that hinders your lateral movement, and it is the key to staying in front of people cutting with the basketball. Even when the doctors say you’re fully recovered, these types of injuries aren’t over. So even if Coble had completed his rehab he’d probably be wondering, “What happens if I try this?” on the basketball court. If you’re taking time to wonder, you’re taking too long.

When Coble was healthy he led the Wildcats in scoring and rebounding, and while his rebounding would be nice to have next season, his scoring wouldn’t have been necessary. Coble was essentially the same player his first three seasons at Northwestern with an offensive rating around 110 in approximately a quarter of the team’s possessions while he was on the court. He also had a rebounding rate of 2.7% on the offensive boards and 15.5% on the defensive boards.  But you know whose numbers were better than that last season? John Shurna. Shurna replaced Coble in the lineup last year and became an even better offensive threat. He’s still improving too. His national team experiences appear to have helped him elevate his game. It’s also worth noting that Drew Crawford as a freshman put up an offensive rating of 107.5 and Michael Thompson put up a ridiculous 115.9 last season. With JerShon Cobb coming in and Alex Marcotullio improving, the Wildcats are surely going to be just as good, if not better, on offense next season.

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Soon-To-Be Household Names: 12 Breakout Players for 2010-11

Posted by zhayes9 on July 2nd, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

One of my favorite parts of the college basketball season is watching players make the leap to stardom, from the game notes to the headline, from role player to All-America candidate. Every season players spring up in November and December with performances that make you wonder if they’ve finally harnessed all of that talent and are prepared to take off to unforeseen heights, a recent example being Wes Johnson’s virtuoso two-game clinic at MSG against California and North Carolina. It was Jacob Pullen emerging as a top scorer in the loaded Big 12. It was Austin Freeman pouring in 33 in a huge comeback win over Connecticut. It was Darington Hobson leading the Mountain West champs team in scoring, rebounds and assists or Jordan Crawford scoring 87 points in three NCAA Tournament games. Who will those bust-out performers be next season? Here are my most likely candidates:

Marcus Morris, F, Kansas- On a team with Cole Aldrich, Sherron Collins and Xavier Henry, any Kansas fan will tell you that during more than one stretch in 2009-10, Marcus Morris was their most reliable player. Coach Bill Self expects Morris to break out and become a bona fide star and likely first round pick, forming a dynamic inside-outside duo with incoming freshman Josh Selby and the many wings at Self’s disposal this season. Morris averaged 13/6 in around 25 MPG as a sophomore despite all of that talent around him and I don’t believe it’s a stretch he could boost those totals to 18/9 next season. He’s also shown outstanding efficiency in his game- 57% FG, 66% FT (not bad for a college PF and up 6% from his first year), along with rankings of #52 in offensive rating and #62 in efficient FG% in the nation. Morris is a solid rebounder and even has displayed improving range on his jumper. Expect Morris to be one of the main reasons the Jayhawks remain atop the Big 12 even after their numerous personnel losses.

Morris, along with Josh Selby, will lead the KU attack

Kris Joseph, F, Syracuse- Quick trivia question: Who was the third leading scorer on last year’s Syracuse squad after Wes Johnson and Andy Rautins? The answer is the mega-talented Kris Joseph, a slashing swingman from Montreal that has Jim Boeheim already expecting big things heading into his junior season, similar vibes from the Hall-of-Fame coach that we heard last summer regarding Wesley Johnson (and look how that worked out). Joseph has all of the athletic tools to mold into a lottery pick before our very eyes and lead a Syracuse team to back-to-back Big East titles. His first-step quickness is outstanding and Joseph could live at the free throw line this season if his aggressiveness is maintained. Sure, the mid-range shooting game needs improvement, but anyone who watched Joseph score seven of the last ten Orange points in a road win over Georgetown last February knows it’s all about commitment and dedication. If Boeheim pushes the right buttons- and why would we believe otherwise?- watch out.

Terrell Holloway, G, Xavier- Everyone remembers Crawford’s shooting display against Kansas State, but it was fellow guard Terrell Holloway’s clutch buckets and nerve-wracking free throws that kept Xavier breathing time and time again. Holloway will now have to take over as the Musketeers’ go-to offensive threat with both Crawford and senior forward Jason Love on their way out. Holloway saw his minutes jump from 20 to 30 per game in his sophomore season and made newly minted head coach Chris Mack seem awfully smart- his FG% jumped 5% and his scoring average more than doubled. Holloway notched 26 in the crosstown Cincy rivalry game, dropped 20 on LSU, 24 on Richmond and 22 on Dayton, so it’s not as if Holloway is beating up on the dregs of the non-conference schedule. A name still relatively unknown to the casual college hoops fan, Holloway should change that wisdom this season.

Jordan Williams, F, Maryland- The departures of seniors Greivis Vasquez, Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne means diaper dandy Jordan Williams is suddenly the focal point of a Terps offense that will look to relish an underdog role for 2010-11. Williams certainly showed signs he can become an impact big man in the ACC in just his second season at College Park. The headline player of last year’s recruiting class, Williams nearly averaged a double-double and shot over 50% as a freshman in one of the toughest conferences in the nation. Now it’ll be Adrian Bowie, Sean Mosley, Dino Gregory and the baby-faced Williams that will have to lead the push. Williams is the youngest and has the highest ceiling of the pack: a bulky 6’10, 260 pound frame, a high basketball IQ, tremendous rebounding instincts and advanced post moves for a player his age. If his 18/5 on 8-12 FG against Trevor Booker and Clemson, his 15/11 against Brian Zoubek and Duke or his 21/17 in the opening round against Houston are any indication, Williams is the next star for the Terps, and that star could shine as soon as this winter.

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Big Ten Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 10th, 2010

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

Power Rankings (final)

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

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

First Round

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

Quarterfinals (projected)

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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by rtmsf on March 3rd, 2010

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

The big thing from the past week:

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

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

Power Rankings

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

Coming Up

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

Breaking It Down

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

Posted by rtmsf on February 18th, 2010

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

The big thing from the past week:

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

Power Rankings

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

Coming Up

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

Breaking It Down

  • Purdue cracks the top four. Purdue has now beaten all of the top teams in the Big Ten at least once after last night’s win at Ohio State. It is kind of amazing to look back now when Purdue went through their three-game slide at the beginning of conference play, and now they are ranked #4 nationally behind Kansas, Kentucky, and Villanova. Nova’s loss to UConn on Tuesday puts Purdue is in position to move up even higher next week after their big win at OSU (assuming they can get past Illinois over the weekend).
  • Ohio State had increased its Big Ten winning streak to nine games prior to the home loss to Purdue last night. All year everyone has been saying that if you can stop everyone else but Evan Turner, you should be able to beat Ohio State. Purdue was able to prove that notion correct, but Indiana didn’t have the scoring power to overcome it. Against Illinois, Turner had almost triple double numbers (16/11/8 asst), but even more impressively was the performance of Jon Diebler and David Lighty. OSU visits Michigan State on the road next, and they’ll need to win that one to have any remaining realistic shot at the conference title.
  • Michigan State is marching out of their mid-season valley. The problem during the Spartans’ losses was defense, and even though it appears like they have solved that problem, it’s still too early to tell. The reason I say it is too early to tell is because that improved defense has occurred against two of the bottom of the teams in the league in Penn State and Indiana. The other problem during the losses was the lack of Kalin Lucas. That problem has also disappeared as Lucas went off for 24 against Penn State and a much bigger than it seems 13 against Indiana. Michigan State has OSU and Purdue next, so there is no rest for the Spartans anytime soon.
  • Wisconsin’s destiny is in its own hands. The Badgers were upset by Illinois a week ago at home, something that never happens, due to great games by Demetri McCamey and Mike Tisdale. They bounced back at home trouncing Indiana behind Jason Bohannon, who lit it up from 3-point land on his way to dropping 30 on the Hoosiers. Wisconsin has the easiest schedule remaining of the top five teams in the Big Ten. They should win the next four easily, with the exception of their last game on the road against Illinois, which could prove difficult. Illinois will have battled the best in the Big Ten before taking on Wisconsin, so Wisconsin will need to make sure not to play down to the competition for the rest of the month of February.
  • Illinois’s gauntlet continues. Last week I mentioned that I thought Illinois had made great strides and proven that they weren’t gunning for the top of Big Ten just based on their scheduling. I may have underestimated Illinois’ talent and the way they have been playing lately, but I think I was redeemed a bit by watching the Ohio State game. Illinois was blown out early, and never really made much of a run against the Buckeyes. They actually did well in a couple of statistical categories, but really suffered on the shooting end and could never really stop OSU. I was very surprised that Demetri McCamey didn’t step up earlier, and it was unfortunate that Mike Tisdale got in foul trouble, because he was hurting OSU in the zone by keeping the ball high and being able to throw over the top to him near the basket. The tough thing for Illinois though, is that they don’t get to take any nights off, as they take on Purdue on the road this weekend.
  • Northwestern’s slipper came off against Iowa and got put in the closet last night agaisnt previously-winless Penn State. In the Iowa game, John Shurna and Michael Thompson combined for 36 of Northwestern’s 65. Unfortunately, nobody else was in double figures. Also dooming them was the fact that they shot under 45% from the field and 30% from deep, while Iowa shot 50% from both the field and 3 point land. Unfortunately, it was a similar story against Penn State.  The Wildcats did sandwich their two losses with an OT win against Minnesota where all of the aforementioned players were in double figures. I have heard many people say that Northwestern’s shot at the tournament is now over because of those two bad losses, but if they win at Wisconsin and the rest of their games, they might give the committee something else to think about.
  • Has Minnesota left the building? The month of January and now February hasn’t been kind for the Golden Gophers. They sandwiched a couple of wins against Northwestern and Penn State with a bunch of close losses and a blowout to Ohio State on the road. This team overall has just been too inconsistent. Lawrence Westbrook is playing well now, but where has Ralph Sampson III gone? He has been invisible the last couple of games. Devoe Joseph and Blake Hoffarber have been similarly inconsistent. What would make their season at this point is to score upsets against Wisconsin, Purdue, or Illinois.
  • Michigan wins two straight. Looks like DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris aren’t willing to ride off into the sunset just yet. These two have continued to put up huge numbers, with Sims going for 27 each of the past two games and Harris going for 20 each. All they need to win is for someone else to put in a couple buckets here and there, and they have been doing it recently. They also have three games left that they can really put a thorn in the sides of the better teams in the conference, potentially shuffling the standings at the end of the year.
  • Indiana’s streak goes to unlucky number seven. IU has turned into a two-man show lately, with Verdell Jones III and Christian Watford carrying the load. The problem is that these guys aren’t putting up Harris and Sims type of numbers. The Hoosiers need someone else to score, especially inside. The one good sign for the Hoosiers against the Spartans was how often and how many times they scored from the charity stripe. They haven’t shot 89% all year from the line, and certainly haven’t made close to 30 trips in a night either. The part where the Hoosiers really need work is on the defensive end. Everyone has been basically scoring at will, so once the Hoosiers can plug the big hole on defense, maybe their offense will come around.
  • Iowa steals Northwestern’s slipper. Iowa fulfilled its duty as a spoiler this year, or at least if Northwestern doesn’t end up making it into the tournament, they will have. There was some off the court news this past week for Iowa as well, with Anthony Tucker officially leaving the program. In their loss to Purdue, Iowa shot a frigid 30% and then stepped up to shoot 50% against Northwestern, while holding Northwestern to 44% in addition to taking 30 trips to the free throw line. Against Purdue, Aaron Fuller had an uncharacteristically bad game with only two points, but in their OT heartbreaker to Michigan, he exploded for 30. I would say that’s getting back on the right track. They go on the road against Northwestern again next, and something tells me that this result might be different.
  • Penn State finally won a game. The Nittany Lions picked apart Northwestern in Evanston last night by shooting 56%, putting all five starters in double figures and destroying the Cats on the boards (+17).  It was the kind of performance that makes you wonder where it’s been all year?  It was the Talor Battle show on Saturday against Michigan State. It was fortunate that he poured in 30 points against the Spartans. The unfortunate part was that he didn’t have a ton of help, and Kalin Lucas scored 24 points himself, thus minimizing the Battle Effect. This team has two scorers, and they both performed. Michigan State won the game on the boards, something that this Penn State team just doesn’t do well enough.
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Set Your Tivo: 01.19.10

Posted by nvr1983 on January 19th, 2010

Now that we’re starting to get into the meat of the college basketball conference we are starting to get quality games on a regular basis which means that we will be having the return of our regular feature. There isn’t a “blockbuster” game tonight like Texas-Kansas State, but there are 3 games that feature potential NCAA tournament teams matching up against each other that are worth keeping an eye on while you try to catch up on the last two hours of 24.

Northwestern at #25 Ohio State at 7 PM on Big Ten Network: This is clearly a big game for both teams. As has you may have heard (from basically every site covering college basketball) Northwestern has never made the NCAA tournament, but despite the loss of Kevin Coble the Wildcats are firmly on the bubble this year. A victory over Evan Turner and the Buckeyes in Columbus would be a big boost following their upset win at home over a Purdue team that is rapidly falling apart (more on this in a bit). To knock off the Buckeyes in Columbus (where they are undefeated this season), they will need big games from John Shurna (16.8 PPG and 7.1 RPG) and Michael Thompson (14.4 PPG and 4.4 APG with a 2.7 to 1 assist to TO ratio). The key for Thad Matta‘s squad will be Evan Turner being Evan Turner (my choice for national POY) and someone else (David Lighty, Jon Diebler, or William Buford–all averaging 13.3 PPG) helping him out so the Wildcats can’t throw double teams at Turner all night. As much as the Northwestern story intrigues us, we suspect that tonight will not help their case as The Villain and the Buckeyes should be able to hold on for the win, but given what happened this weekend a Big Ten upset wouldn’t shock us.

#16 Clemson at #18 Georgia Tech at 7 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: For the Duke haters out there, this game could be viewed as a match-up of the two teams most likely to challenge the Blue Devils in the ACC this season (we’re almost ready to give up on UNC this season). Paul Hewett”s Yellow Jackets have been maddeningly inconsistent alternating between wins against Duke and UNC and losses against Georgia and Virginia. Meanwhile, Oliver Purnell‘s Tigers have started off with their customary impressive early season record with their only losses coming against Duke, Texas A&M, and Illinois with a majority of their wins coming against a bunch of cupcakes in non-conference play (ok, the Xavier win was nice) and they just blew out UNC in Littlejohn Coliseum. The key to this game will be the match-up on the inside with Trevor Booker (15.4 PPG and 8.3 RPG) going up against Gani Lawal (15.2 PPG and 9.2 RPG) and Derrick Favors (11.5 PPG and 8.6 RPG). Despite the Yellow Jackets’ inconsistency lately, we’re going to go with the homecourt and the fact that we never trust Clemson in big games here.

#15 Purdue at Illinois at 9 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: The big question here is how the Boilermakers will respond to Matt Painter calling out the entire team except for Robbie Hummel and E’Twaun Moore after their three-game losing streak. The key for Illinois will be if they can get Demetri McCamey going against Chris Kramer. They will probably rely on their running him through a bunch of screen in their motion offense (ESPN Insider required) to get Kramer off of him. On the other side of the ball, Purdue needs JaJuan Johnson to start playing like the All-Big Ten player that he is and not the guy who scored 17 points combined in their last three games (all losses). If Purdue plays the way they did early in the season, they are clearly capable of pulling off the road win. Given the experience on the Boilermakers team, we’re going to go with them bouncing back on the road against Bruce Weber and the Illini.

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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by jstevrtc on January 6th, 2010

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

Three things from the past week:

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

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

Power Rankings

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

Top Story

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

Coming Up

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

Breaking It Down

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

Posted by rtmsf on January 2nd, 2010

The last time Northwestern (10-2) and Michigan State (10-3) met the Wildcats pulled out a stunning 70-63 victory on the road. Of course the two leading scorers in that dramatic upset were Kevin Coble and Craig Moore, neither of whom will be on the court this afternoon. Instead the Wildcats are led by point guard Michael Thompson – one of the most underrated players in the Big Ten, forward John Shurna and freshman Drew Crawford. #11 Michigan State was supposed to be the class of the Big Ten this season, but the Spartans have struggled a bit early in the season against good competition. They come into the game 10-3 on the season and are led by all-everything point guard Kalin Lucas – who has earned the ire of his coach Tom Izzo – along with two excellent forwards in Raymar Morgan and Draymond Green. #25 Northwestern lost its Big Ten opener in a thrilling game against Illinois, so the Wildcats need to bounce back against a Michigan State team that is making their conference debut. It should be an excellent game, and we hope to see you drop by.

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RTC Live: Stanford @ Northwestern

Posted by rtmsf on December 19th, 2009

Northwestern attempts to continue its miracle season on Saturday against Stanford. Yes, the Wildcats have never been to the NCAA Tournament, but an 8-1 record has caused the dream to live on in Evanston this season. Welsh-Ryan Arena is hosting two schools noted more for their academics than their athletics. Stanford has struggled to a 5-4 record this season, but the Cardinal are coming off a close loss to Oklahoma State earlier this week. Forward Landry Fields is a do-everything forward that can light up the scoreboard, he leads Stanford with 22.9 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game. Northwestern has been bombing opponents out of the gym lately by dropping a plethora of threes. Outstanding junior guard Michael Thompson leads the team in scoring at 17.2 points per game, but it’s a balanced attack that gets the job done for the Wildcats. You could watch this exciting game on the Big Ten Network, but no matter what you should follow along here for an entertaining look at the game and the post-game press conference.

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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by jstevrtc on December 8th, 2009

checkinginon

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

Standings:

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

Four things from the past week:  Big Ten beats the ACC (6-5) in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge for the first time in 11 years.  The second thing is Wisconsin knocking off #5 Duke.  The third thing is Illinois coming from 23 down to beat #19 Clemson.  Last but not least, Evan Turner goes down with a fractured back and will be out for a minimum of eight weeks.  That cost OSU not only a strong leader but over 20 PPG to their stat sheet.  Now four Big Ten teams are in the Top 25:  Purdue #5, Michigan State #12, Ohio State #13, Wisconsin #20.

Top Storylines:

  • Who will lead OSU?  Turner is down for the count with a fractured back, which is really unfortunate, as he was on pace to set a new record for triple-doubles in a season, and continued to put up ridiculous numbers.  With Turner sidelined, who will step up?  Their blowout of Eastern Michigan definitely didn’t test OSU, but their other players should have plenty of opportunity soon to demonstrate leadership.
  • Should we stick a fork in Michigan?  Michigan is near the bottom of the Big 10, losing to average teams.  Will they come back strong, or is this the beginning of a downward spiral that might last all year?
  • Is Minnesota, dare I say, average?  It looks to be that way after losing to Miami to complete their third loss in a row to somewhat average teams.  They blew out Brown, but then again, what decent team doesn’t?  Minnesota also hasn’t demonstrated that they can win on the road, so that will be a challenge all year.

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