Big Ten M5: Christmas Eve Edition

Posted by Patrick Engel on December 24th, 2015


  1. Wisconsin played its first game in eight days last night, and its first after Bo Ryan announced his retirement. Interim head coach Greg Gard earned a win in his coaching debut as the Badgers edged Green Bay, 84-79. It wasn’t pretty, as Wisconsin was outscored 52-36 in the second half and turned the ball over 26 times. Redshirt sophomore guard Jordan Hill, who hadn’t scored and played just 27 minutes all season, received 22 minutes and scored 10 points to go along with four rebounds and four assists. Nigel Hayes scored his 1,000th career point in the win as well. Wednesday’s game was also the first for newly-named assistant Howard Moore, whom Gard hired Tuesday for the rest of the season. The former UIC coach was an assistant under Ryan from 2005-10.
  2. Minnesota will enter Big Ten play with a 6-6 record after a disappointing Wednesday home loss to Milwaukee. The Gophers played just seven scholarship players and were without freshman point guard Kevin Dorsey, who is dealing with a foot injury. Fellow freshman Dupree McBrayer, primarily a shooting guard, saw time at point guard — playing him there showed Minnesota’s lack of depth at the position with Dorsey out.
  3. Ohio State freshman wing Mickey Mitchell was ruled eligible on Saturday, just two days after Austin Grandstaff decided to transfer. Mitchell didn’t play in the Buckeyes’ upset of then-No. 4 Kentucky, but he debuted in Tuesday’s 64-44 win over Mercer. He played nine minutes and had three rebounds, but didn’t make his one field goal attempt. Mitchell will team up with sophomore Kam Williams to add depth on the wing behind starters Keita Bates-Diop, Jae’Sean Tate and Marc Loving.
  4. The legend of Nicholas Baer continues to grow. The Iowa redshirt freshman walk-on scored 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting, including 3-of-4 threes, in Tuesday’s 85-63 win over Tennessee Tech. On Monday, Baer earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors after his 13-point game against Drake on Saturday. He’s shooting 46 percent (11-of-24) from three so far this season.
  5. Spike Albrecht may not be done with college basketball just yet. Albrecht’s dad, Charles, told Mike Hutton of the Northwest Indiana Post-Tribune that he believes his son will play next season if he is able to completely rehabilitate his surgically repaired hips, complications from which forced him to step aside for the rest of the season. Since the senior played in less than 30 percent of Michigan’s games this season, he is still eligible for a medical redshirt. Should he come back, it may not be at Michigan, though, due to the Wolverines’ scholarship crunch. They already have four players signed for next season, which puts them at 14 scholarships for next year as of today.
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Big Ten M5: 12.18.15 Edition

Posted by Patrick Engel on December 18th, 2015


  1. Most universities have now finished the fall semester and are on winter break; with that endpoint typically comes a flock of mid-year transfers. As if on queue, Ohio State freshman Austin Grandstaff on Thursday announced that he is leaving Thad Matta’s program. The freshman from Rockwall, Texas, played in 10 games for the Buckeyes this season, averaging 4.4 PPG in 11.5 minutes per contest. The former four-star prospect in the 2015 class will no doubt command considerable attention on the transfer market in coming weeks. Grandstaff joins former Wisconsin guard Riley Dearring as a pair of Big Ten mid-year transfers.
  2. Illinois is hitting a new low with all of its injuries. In addition to the losses of Tracy Abrams and Mike Thorne, Jr., sophomore forward LeRon Black is now out indefinitely because of setbacks in his recovery from surgery to remove a torn meniscus. Black had already missed four of Illinois’ 11 games with the knee issue, and now John Groce will need to find a way to replace his 3.9 PPG and 3.9 RPG in almost 13 minutes per game. Forward Maverick Morgan should see a spike in his minutes as a result, although the Fighting Illini could elect to go with a four-guard lineup if needed.
  3. After Bo Ryan’s abrupt retirement announcement earlier this week, interim coach Greg Gard has a three-month trial period to prove that he should become the new head coach at Wisconsin. On his first full day on the job, he said he isn’t feeling any pressure and doesn’t care to think about the end result. Gard, a Wisconsin assistant under Ryan since 2001, also said that he isn’t going to make any drastic changes to the team’s style of play even though the Badgers sit at 7-5 and have struggled offensively without its elite core that carried them to consecutive Final Fours.
  4. Minnesota’s 70-52 win over Chicago State on Wednesday indicates a fairly easy win, but the Golden Gophers didn’t pull away until the final 10 minutes of the game. Despite this season’s struggles, freshman wing Jordan Murphy’s performance shouldn’t be lost on Big Ten fans. The San Antonio, Texas, native scored 12 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in the win against the Cougars, just 11 days after he grabbed 17 rebounds in a double-overtime loss against South Dakota. While some may disregard those numbers because Minnesota hasn’t played a great schedule to date, no Gophers player had grabbed at least 18 rebounds in a game since Trevor Mbakwe did so in 2012. “High-Motor Murph” will be a key piece to the puzzle if Richard Pitino’s team plans on winning some conference games.
  5. Purdue is in the AP Poll’s top 10 for the first time since 2011, but the Boilermakers could not care less. Senior guard Raphael Davis sent the team a group text after the rankings came out this week, telling his teammates that their placement has as much to do with other teams losing as it does Purdue winning. While Matt Painter’s squad has risen to third in KenPom’s ratings, it has only two wins against top 100 teams, to Davis’ point. The Crossroads Classic game against Butler on Saturday will tell us a lot more about the quality of these Boilermakers. Elsewhere, point guard P.J. Thompson is optimistic he will play against the Bulldogs after leaving last Saturday’s game versus Youngstown State with a nasty gash under his right eye.
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Big Ten M5: 12.07.15 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 7th, 2015


  1. Newcomers have made a huge impact this season for Ohio State. Freshmen have accounted for 37.9 percent of the team’s total minutes played and 29.4 percent of the team’s total scoring. One prominent freshman hasn’t yet made his way onto the court, though, as Mickey Mitchell is still waiting to be cleared by the NCAA. Mitchell is allowed to practice, but the Buckeyes are “just sort of waiting it out,” according to coach Thad Matta. Ohio State is off to a disappointing 3-4 start, and they could definitely use the services of another wing to complement Marc Loving and Keita Bates-Diop.
  2. Better communication and a more focused effort were two keys in Indiana’s defensive improvement in their win Saturday against Morehead State. After getting embarrassed by Duke last Wednesday, the Hoosiers were able to force 23 turnovers in winning 92-59. The question going forward is whether the defensive uptick is sustainable. Indiana stuck mostly to man-to-man is this game, and the aggressiveness could be seen in the fact that the team logged 62 deflections. Everyone knows that this team can score at will when they don’t turn the ball over, but if they can get things clicking on the other end of the floor, they have a chance to become the team many expected when the season started.
  3. On a day when Purdue’s high-scoring offense wasn’t at its best, senior graduate transfer Johnny Hill made an impact off the bench in Saturday’s win over New Mexico. The guard scored 13 points, but his biggest impact came on the defensive end of the floor. He ended up with three steals, but also caused two turnovers in the second half that went a long way toward swinging the momentum in the favor of the Boilermakers. Hill lost his starting job to PJ Thompson, but much like Jon Octeus last season, has come in and been a difference maker thus far in the beginning stages of the season.
  4. Wisconsin put together a nice week in beating Syracuse on Wednesday and Temple on Saturday. The Badgers have four freshmen in their rotation, and each came through in different ways against the Owls. Charlie Thomas and Alex Illikainen both were key parts of a 19-2 run in the first half that put the Badgers up by 18 points. Ethan Happ and Khalil Iverson have both also had their moments as they get more comfortable. After not looking so great in losing to Oklahoma, the Badgers look to be improving as non-conference play is coming to an end. The improvement of the freshmen heading into Big Ten play will be crucial if the Badgers want to finish in the running for the conference title.
  5. With Derrick Walton Jr missing in action due to a sprained ankle, Spike Albrecht had to play a bit more than usual for Michigan on Saturday. The senior playmaker is still trying to get back to full strength after having hip surgery after last season. Albrecht is slowly rounding back into form, although it may take longer for him to return to the lineup. Both he and coach John Beilein are pointing to the start of Big Ten play as the marker. With Walton’s health always a concern, this would be a welcome development for the Wolverines.
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Thad Matta Has Tough but Doable Task: Winning with Youth

Posted by Patrick Engel on November 2nd, 2015

Thad Matta’s entire career can be summed up in one word — winner. Think of it this way: The 48-year old has won at least 20 games in each of his 15 seasons as a head coach. He’s missed the NCAA tournament only twice, and he ended up as the NIT champion in one of those two years. In the other year — his first season at Ohio State — he took over a team that finished below .500 in Big Ten play and was ineligible for the 2005 postseason and led it to a 20-12 record that included an upset of top-ranked and then-undefeated Illinois on the regular season’s final weekend. Doubt him if you dare.

Thad Matta is a proven winner, but leading a freshmen and sophomore-laden team through the Big Ten is a tough task. (USA TODAY Sports)

Thad Matta is a proven winner, but leading a freshmen and sophomore-laden team through the Big Ten is a tough task. (USA TODAY Sports)

While Matta has proven his knack for winning year in and year out, he has a big challenge ahead of him this season. He’s got plenty of talent but not much experience on this year’s team. Seven of Ohio State’s scholarship players have never played a minute of college basketball in Columbus; six are freshmen; one is a junior. There are no seniors. Departed players from last year’s Round of 32 squad accounted for 65 percent of the scoring, 87 percent of the assists and 61 percent of the rebounding. The bottom line is that Matta will have to rely on a group of freshmen and sophomores to replace star guard D’Angelo Russell and four seniors.

Russell is the glaring loss. The wunderkind freshman accounted for 26 percent of the team’s scoring, took 26 percent of the shots and logged a usage rate of 30.2 percent, per KenPom. He was the go-to scorer for a team that didn’t have a consistent second scoring option and really hasn’t since the Jared Sullinger/William Buford days. The good news for Ohio State is that beside Russell (and Shannon Scott’s terrific on-ball defense), no one else did anything completely irreplaceable. No other player averaged more than 10.2 points per game and no departing player had a usage rate higher than Scott’s 21 percent, a relatively average rate. Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning Five: 09.12.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 12th, 2014


  1. Villanova picked up a big commitment yesterday from five-star point guard Jalen Brunson bringing their 2015 class to three as he joins shooting guard Donte DiVincenzo and power forward Tim Delaney. As Jeff Borzello notes, Brunson’s recruitment was complex and probably wasn’t decided until after Brunson’s father, who was expected to be part of a package deal as an assistant coach, was arrested for alleged sexual assault. Brunson is from Illinois so this is another tough loss for Illini fans, but it still early in the recruiting season so there are still plenty of big names available.
  2. Josh Pastner’s decision to hire Keelon Lawson is paying dividends more quickly than many anticipated. In addition to having a pipeline to Lawson’s kids, who are all highly recruited, Pastner will also get Dedric Lawson, who was the #7 overall recruit in the class of 2016, a year early as Dedric announced that he will reclassify to the class of 2015. By doing so, Dedric will join his brother K.J., ranked #38 in this class, at Memphis next year. The move should not come as too much of a surprise because Dedric’s birth date would make him eligible for the 2016 NBA Draft.
  3. The season hasn’t even started yet, but we already have a pair of significant ACL injuries to report. The most significant one will probably be at Illinois where they appear to have lost Tracy Abrams for the season due to an ACL tear. Abrams, a senior who started all 35 games last season, averaged 10.7 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game last season. Fortunately for Illinois, they appear to have an adequate and seasoned replacement in Oregon State transfer Ahmad Starks. Valparaiso might not be so lucky in terms of finding a replacement for starting point guard Lexus Williams who will also be undergoing surgery for a torn ACL. Williams averaged 6.5 points and 2.3 assists while starting 23 games as a freshman last season. Unlike Illinois, Valparaiso has not set a time table for Williams’ return after his surgery, which is expected to be performed today.
  4. Outside of the Brunson and Lawson news there were also several other significant announcements. The first comes from four-star forward Mickey Mitchell, who recommitted to Ohio State. Mitchell had initially committed to Ohio State, but reopened his recruitment over the summer before finally deciding (we think) that Columbus was the right place for him. Four-star shooting guard Rex Pflueger committed to Notre Dame giving the Irish more options to help with scoring after Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton leave following this season. On the other end of the spectrum is Kedar Edwards, who reopened his recruitment after having previously committed to Florida State. Edwards was previously expected to play for the Seminoles this season, but for reasons that aren’t clear to us did not enroll. With Florida State picking up several top-tier recruits last week, perhaps Edwards realized that Tallahassee might not be the ideal location for him even for the upcoming years.
  5. We are not sure how many of you have been watching the FIBA Basketball World Cup (judging by the online response we have seen not too many of you), but with the Finals coming up this weekend we were wondering how long the pro experiment will go on. We are young enough (well at least one of us) to not remember what it was like to have amateurs represent us at championship level events against professionals from other countries. It seems like every time there is another international competition the cries for going back to the old format grow louder. While at some level we enjoy seeing the US beat up on the rest of the world, which is something we would expect to do regularly if all of the best NBA players participated, we wonder if it wouldn’t be better just to have a group of players who were really committed to the program although with the brief stops in college for many top players that might not be realistic.
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Seven Sweet Scoops: Luke Kennard Recruiting Battle, Rashad Vaughn Drawing Scrutiny, and More

Posted by Sean Moran on December 20th, 2013


Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at

Note: used for all player rankings.

1. Recruiting Battle Heating Up For Two-Sport Star

Last week, five-star shooting guard Luke Kennard scored 51 points in front of Thad Matta. This past Tuesday he went for 37 points in front of John Beilein. Despite just beginning his junior season, Kennard has already seen his fair share of recruiting attention in both basketball and football. The 6’4” guard is currently ranked as the No. 4 shooting guard and No. 15 overall player in the class of 2015 but was also named first-team All-State for his quarterback play. The Ohio native is currently averaging 40 points per game and in August was named as one of Reebok’s top 25 most dynamic athletes. Louisville offered him a football scholarship, but Kennard has received offers from the nation’s elite in basketball as well. In addition to Ohio State and Michigan, he is being heavily recruited by Kentucky, Louisville, Indiana, UNC, Duke, Florida and Michigan State.

2. Vaughn Recruitment Drawing Scrutiny

Five-star senior shooting guard Rashad Vaughn is one of three remaining Top 100 prospects in the class of 2014. The No. 2 shooting guard in the country and No. 13 prospect overall recently left his home state of Minnesota to play his senior season at basketball powerhouse Findlay Prep (NV). Now his hometown newspaper, the Star Tribune, is questioning the role of Vaughn’s mentor, Pete Kaffey. As noted in the article, Kaffey, 27, began a mentoring role when Vaughn was a fifth-grader. Last year, Kaffey spent the season as an assistant coach at Vaughn’s high school, Robbinsdale Cooper (MN) High and also accompanied Vaughn on various unofficial visits to colleges and AAU tournaments and camps throughout the summer. When he decided to transfer he chose Findlay Prep, a program well known “as a pipeline for NBA talent” and also a school that happened to have an assistant coaching position waiting for Kaffey. While there are no allegations of wrongdoing at this time, it will be interesting to see where the 6’5” scorer lands and if Kaffey ends up working in some capacity on the college staff. Right now Vaughn is expected to narrow his college list down to five finalists which will include UNLV and Iowa State along with possibly UNC, Kentucky, Minnesota or Kansas.

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Seven Sweet Scoops: Dakari Johnson Reclassifies, Tyus Jones Cuts List…

Posted by CLykins on November 9th, 2012

Seven Sweet Scoops is the newest and hottest column by Chad Lykins, the RTC recruiting analyst. Every Friday he will talk about the seven top stories from the week in the wide world of recruiting, involving offers, which prospect visited where, recent updates regarding school lists and more chatter from the recruiting scene. You can also check out more of his work at RTC with his weekly column “Who’s Got Next?”, as well as his work dedicated solely to Duke Basketball at Duke Hoop Blog. You can also follow Chad at his Twitter account @CLykinsBlog for up-to-date breaking news from the high school and college hoops scene.

Note: ESPN Recruiting used for all player rankings.

1. Dakari Johnson Joins Class of 2013

As if the class of 2013 couldn’t get any better, it just did. Center Dakari Johnson of Montverde Academy (Florida) has announced his intentions to reclassify into the senior class. With the move, he will join Wayne Selden, Noah Vonleh and Andrew Wiggins as the four elite players from the class of 2014 to forego their junior seasons in high school. As Johnson becomes a part of the ever-more-impressive 2013 class, he will be ranked as the No. 12 overall prospect and immediately become the No. 1 overall center. A native New Yorker, Johnson transferred to Montverde from St. Patrick High (New Jersey) following head coach Kevin Boyle, who took the head coaching job there after the 2010-11 season. Due to transfer rules, Johnson was forced to sit out last season. At 6’10” and around 255 lbs., he is a handful for the opposition in the low post. He uses his strong frame very effectively with a soft touch around the rim. Due to his size, it proves to be a challenging task for defenders to keep him from where he wants to go down low. He is also very active on the glass, carving out space and rebounding the basketball at a high rate. Among those involved with Johnson include Florida, Georgetown, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State and Syracuse. The Gators were the first school to see Johnson a day after his reclassification. His mother, Makini Campbell, has stated that he will be a spring signee.

Dakari Johnson now becomes the No. 1 center in the class of 2013 with his recent reclassification

2. Tyus Jones Releases List of Eight

The current No. 1 prospect in the class of 2014, Tyus Jones, has narrowed his recruiting list of potential suitors to eight. Baylor, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, Minnesota, North Carolina and Ohio State made the recent cut for the electric point guard from Apple Valley High School (Minnesota). Jones took over the top spot in the 2014 class after the reclassification of Andrew Wiggins. At 6’1″, Jones is an efficient scorer, as displayed at the 2012 Nike EYBL Finals in the summer, where he was the tournament leader in scoring with 25.8 points per game. Capable of carving up any defense with outstanding speed, he exhibits a great understanding of passing lanes on the court. A heady player, Jones is always one step ahead of the opposition, elevating not only his game but his teammate’s games as well. He was also a vital component for the USA U-17 National Team where he helped lead the squad to a gold medal at the FIBA Americas U-17 Championship, averaging 8.5 points and 5.4 assists per game. Outside of trimming his list, Jones has been apart of a rapid discussion in recruiting circles along with classmate and the No. 2 prospect, Jahlil Okafor. Both players have spoken publicly about being a “package deal” in college. Okafor is currently being pursued by five of the eight schools listed by Jones — Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State, North Carolina and Ohio State. Of those schools, the Blue Devils, Buckeyes and Spartans are currently in great shape of landing the top two junior prospects.

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