Conference Report Card: Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 13th, 2011


John Templon is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten conference. We will be publishing a series of conference report cards over the next week for conferences that got multiple NCAA bids to recap the conference, grade the teams, and look at the future for the conference.

Conference Recap

  • Coming into the season, the Big Ten was considered the best conference in America. Michigan State was expected to be in the Final Four again and Purdue, Ohio State, and Illinois were expected to be among the nation’s elite. Then the season started and the conference slipped a bit. The Big Ten didn’t live up to its lofty billing, with the exception of Ohio State, which sat at #1 in the polls for a large part of the season. Of course, Robbie Hummel’s knee injury didn’t help Purdue. Illinois wilted under the weight of too much talent and not enough leadership, whereas Michigan State just never seemed to find its footing against a difficult schedule.
  • As conference play went on, all the teams beat up on each other, creating a mess in the middle and leading to four teams (Michigan, Illinois, Michigan State and Penn State) receiving seeds between 8-10 in the NCAA Tournament. The conference went 2-2 in those games. But the disappointment in the NCAA Tournament came from the top seeds that failed to live up to expectations. Ohio State, the #1 overall seed, was dispatched by Kentucky in the Sweet 16 in Newark. Then again, that was better than Purdue managed to do, as the Boilermakers fell to VCU in Chicago. Wisconsin made it to New Orleans, but Brad Stevens outcoached Bo Ryan and the Badgers lost to a lower-seeded team once again.
  • Those losses meant the Big Ten finished a season of much promise with zero teams in the Elite Eight. Much like the conference’s well-publicized bowl game problems, the postseason left a sour taste after many teams played good basketball during the regular season.

The postseason was a struggle for everyone in the Big Ten, even Final Four regular Tom Izzo and his Spartans, which had to make a late run to even crack the field.

Team-by-Team Grades

A’s:

  • Michigan (A): Before the season the Wolverines were expected to compete with Iowa and Indiana to avoid the basement in the Big Ten standings. By the end of it, they were scaring #1 seed Duke in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. It was a remarkable job by JohnBeilein to get a young team ready to play. Darius Morris was the engine of the turnaround. The sophomore point guard scored 15.0 points per game and dished out 6.7 assists per game while leading a team composed of mostly freshman and sophomores. Tim HardawayJr., a freshman, was the team’s only other double-digit scorer at 13.9 points per game. Michigan didn’t have a single senior on its roster this season and, with two more talented backcourt recruits in CarltonBrundidge and TreyBurke coming in, it appears to be ready to be a big player in the conference moving forward although they are still waiting on Morris to officially decide on whether he will enter the NBA Draft.
  • Ohio State (A-): The Buckeyes didn’t get it done in the NCAA Tournament, but they were the #1 team in the polls for most of the season and had the best freshman in the country in Jared Sullinger. The loss to Kentucky certainly put a damper on the season. Still, Ohio State went 34-3 with its only two regular season losses being at Purdue and Wisconsin in conference play. David Lighty, DallasLauderdale, and JonDiebler all graduate, but if Sullinger is serious about sticking around the Buckeyes will be a national title favorite again next season. Especially considering they have two McDonald’s All-Americans in point guard ShannonScott and center AmirWilliams coming in along with small forwards SamThompson and LaQuintonRoss. It’s Thad Matta’s typical reload instead of rebuild plan.
  • Penn State (A-): Qualifying for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a decade makes the Nittany Lions’ season a success. Even though they lost to in-state rival Temple in the second round, 66-64, it was a thrilling game to end a satisfying season that included victories over Wisconsin (twice), Illinois, and Michigan State (twice). Oh, and a loss to Maine. Talor Battle finally got his chance to go to the NCAA Tournament and finished his career with 2,213 points, 624 rebounds, and 517 assists. He’ll certainly be missed next season along with frontcourt veterans David Jackson and JeffBrooks. Thus, Penn State has some size coming in with two 6’11 centers in PatAckerman and PeterAlexis, but the program is probably due for a bit of a backslide.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.18.2011

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 18th, 2011

Throughout the NCAA Tournament, we’ll be providing you with the daily chatter from around the webosphere relating to what’s going on with the teams still playing.

East

  • Ohio State standout Jared Sullinger has basketball in his blood. If you recall, his older brother, JJ, pieced together a solid career for the Buckeyes in the early 2000’s
  • Marquette head coach Buzz Williams believes Xavier guard Tu Holloway would receive acclaim similar to Kemba Walker and Jimmer Fredette if he played in a major conference. A high compliment, but it might be a bit of an exaggeration.
  • With the memory of his late mother always in his mind, Indiana State guard Jake Kelly has led the Sycamores all season. It is tough not to root for a kid like Kelly, as he has battled through all kinds of adversity throughout his career.
  • Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim believes that freshman big man Fab Melo is the Oranges’s “X-Factor” in this season’s tournament. This is a bit stunning to me, as Melo spent most of the conference campaign relegated to the bench.
  • Georgia head coach Mark Fox may get a chance to battle his mentor, UNC head coach Roy Williams, if both teams advance to the second round. Fox got his start in the coaching world as a volunteer assistant at Kansas.

Southeast

  • Florida guards Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton were key in the Gators’ rout of UC-Santa Barbara. The duo has battled inconsistency all season, but yesterday might be a sign of good things to come.
  • After a fairly below average start to the regular season, Gonzaga is finally starting to look like the team they were thought to be. The Zags proved this in their upset of St. John’s.
  • Pittsburgh big man Gary McGhee will seek revenge on his prep nemesis, Matt Howard, when the Panthers battle Butler in the second round. During the Indiana high school basketball and AAU seasons, McGhee never won a game against Howard.
  • Wisconsin got a big contribution from forward Mike Bruesewitz in the Badgers’ victory over Belmont. The sophomore forward recovered from a late-season injury to provide Bo Ryan‘s squad the necessary spark off the bench.
  • UCLA head coach Ben Howland will not rest following his squad’s victory over Michigan State. The Bruins have a big matchup with Florida on Saturday.

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Big Ten Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 10th, 2011

John Templon is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten. With action set to tip from Indianapolis on Thursday, get set for the postseason with RTC’s regular season wrap-up and postseason outlook.

Postseason Preview

The Big Ten Tournament should prove to be quite the entertaining tournament. With so many teams on the bubble, every game is going to have a do-or-die atmosphere to it. Three of the four quarterfinal games, excluding the one in which Ohio State is playing, could propel teams to NCAA Tournament at-large bids. Another important matchup to watch is Northwestern vs. Minnesota in Round 1 – where they’ll probably be playing for an NIT berth.

  • Cold Teams: Minnesota, Illinois, and Indiana
  • Is Battle Ready For last Stand?: The Nittany Lions’ Talor Battle will try to finally make the NCAA Tournament. Can he shoot Penn State off the bubble and into the field?
  • Is Nolen Healthy?: Al Nolen hasn’t played January 22 against Michigan, but he could return this week. Would it be enough to get the Gophers rolling?
  • Can Anyone Stop Ohio State?: The Buckeyes look like a juggernaut, and this isn’t the time to be putting big decisions in the hands of the selection committee. In order to feel comfortable about its #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, OSU probably needs to win the Big Ten’s first. Northwestern played them close at Welsh-Ryan Arena – is a big upset in the making?
  • Will Izzo’s Tournament Touch Get Going?: Of the teams playing in the first round, Michigan State seems like the most likely candidate to reach the tournament finals. It seems like Tom Izzo just has a knack for this kind of thing by now.
  • Is The Next Generation Ready?: There are nine seniors on the three All-Big Ten teams selected by the coaches, and just one freshman. Are players like Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, Illinois’ Jereme Richmond, Northwestern’s JerShon Cobb and Michigan’s Tim Hardaway Jr. ready to play significant crunch time roles? Or will they wilt under the bright lights in Indianapolis?

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Around The Blogosphere: March 2, 2011

Posted by nvr1983 on March 2nd, 2011

If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to rushthecourt@gmail.com. We will add to this post throughout the day as the submissions come in so keep on sending them.

Top 25 Games

  • #1 Ohio State 82, Penn State 61: “Jon Diebler might have missed his first and last triple tries but he connected on 10 straight in between, pouring in a career high 30 points as the Buckeyes clinched at least a share of the B1G regular season conference title by routing Penn State 82-61 tonight in Happy Valley.” (Eleven Warriors)
  • #6 Purdue 76, Illinois 67: “The game almost felt secondary tonight, as the Boiler faithful sent off 33 and 25 with many resounding Mackey cheers, as thanks for four years of dedication and hard work. Once again, the place was clearly deafening even through the TV broadcast. Let’s say that first, everyone: great work again, especially the Paint Crew who always brings it. As is always a concern on a night like this, the home team fell behind. However, it wasn’t really that Purdue was playing poorly — Illinois was just shooting the lights out and playing like the team we all thought they were capable of bring this season. Of course, that only lasted about ten minutes and then they reverted to the Illinois who resides on the bubble.” (Boiled Sports)
  • #16 Florida 78, Alabama 51: “With their 78-51 victory over Alabama Tuesday night, the Gators clinched a share of their first SEC championship since 2007. The Gators (23-6, 11-3) were led by Chandler Parsons’ 19 points and 11 rebounds, as the Gators dominated the second-half following an even first half. The Gators used several second half runs to put distance between them and the SEC West champions.” (Alligator Army)
  • #22 Kentucky 68, #19 Vanderbilt 66: “What a game. I have not been more nervous at any time this year. The Kentucky Wildcats and the Vanderbilt Commodores battled to the wire in Rupp Arena in a wild affair that went down to the last tick of the last second before Kentucky could claim their 15th and final home game for a perfect season in Rupp Arena. But it was by no means a perfect game.” (A Sea of Blue or Anchor of Gold)
  • Nebraska 69, #21 Missouri 58: “This was the second game this season in which I was truly and completely disappointed.  The other — Oklahoma State — could be blamed, at least a bit, on ridiculous travel trouble (anytime it takes you two days to get where you’re going, you probably aren’t going to be amazingly sharp).  Missouri is 30 games through the season now, and the fact that they were able to play their worst game of the season now is, in and of itself, cause for alarm.  In each of the past three seasons, they haven’t played their best in the final week before the conference tournament, but to me, at least, this was possibly a new level.  (Then again, I probably didn’t enjoy the 25-point whipping Kansas laid on Missouri two years ago either. That ended up alright.)” (Rock M Nation)

Other Games of Interest

  • Boston College 76, Virginia Tech 61: After a huge win over Duke that led some to predict that the Hokies were definitely a NCAA Tournament team they came out flat on Senior Night against the Eagles. (Tech Hoops)

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Set Your Tivo: 01.18.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 18th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

A few teams face key road tests tonight, one night after the home squads went 3-1 in the season debut of ESPN’s Big Monday. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#19 Michigan State @ #18 Illinois – 7 pm on ESPN (****)

A Top 50 Rebounder, Green Has Been Solid Of Late For MSU (Excepting That 2-10 Against Penn State)

The Spartans needed overtime to dispatch their last two opponents at home, Wisconsin and Northwestern. Michigan State is doing just enough to get by as Korie Lucious and Durrell Summers have struggled lately. Lucious went 0-8 from the floor against Northwestern while Summers has scored just seven points in the last two games. For MSU to have any sustained success going forward, Tom Izzo must get these two players going somehow. Luckily for them, Draymond Green has stepped up, averaging 21/8.5 over the last two games.

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Set Your Tivo: 01.06.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 6th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

After Jimmer Fredette stole the show late last night, what does Thursday have in store for us hoopheads? Two in-state clashes lead the way, one of them a heated city rivalry. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

Xavier @ Cincinnati – 7 pm on ESPN2 (****)

Mick Cronin And His Bearcats Are Ranked And At Home Against a Depleted Xavier Squad

The Crosstown Shootout is always fun but there’s a heightened sense of importance this year for one team. The Cincinnati Bearcats have the upper hand in the city for the first time in years, undefeated and ranked in the both the AP and coaches polls. Xavier has won the last three meetings, and eight of eleven, though Cincinnati leads the series 47-30. The Bearcats will look to snap their losing streak and show the nation they’re legitimate in front of a national audience this evening.

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Set Your Tivo: New Year’s Weekend Edition

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 1st, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

A lot of the college basketball world was in action on Friday and we have just 27 games tipping off on New Year’s Day. However, a handful involve some pretty good teams. A number of games are on Sunday but not many happen to be compelling matchups.  All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

West Virginia @ Marquette – 11 am Saturday on ESPN2 (***)

An important game for both clubs, this one tips at a strange time (10 am local) on New Year’s Day. West Virginia suffered a surprising loss to St. John’s at home earlier this week and doesn’t look like a vintage Bob Huggins team. The Mountaineers have struggled a bit with defense and rebounding, two staples of Huggins’ coaching career. They rank just #278 in defensive rebounding percentage and aren’t as strong inside as they have been. West Virginia fouls a lot, leading to foul problems and many free throws for the opposition. Marquette will look to take advantage of that with their free throw rate against, ninth in the nation. Look for the Golden Eagles to have a significant edge at the line as a result. A big part of WVU’s struggles has been the reluctance of Kevin Jones and Deniz Kilicli to explode and become big time players. Jones is still a good player but he hasn’t improved to the point where most expected him to. One player who has is Casey Mitchell, averaging 17 PPG which leads the team. The Mountaineer offense is very efficient (#9 in the country) due to effective point guard play from Darryl Bryant. “Truck” sets the tone for a very good half court unit. West Virginia does rebound well on their end, resulting in a lot of second chance points, but their defense and rebounding on the other end of the floor has let them down. St. John’s put up 81 points against them, a stunning number for a team that isn’t considered an offensive powerhouse by any stretch. Marquette will look to push the ball and work it inside in order to get easier looks and be fouled. Buzz Williams has an undersized team but they do a great job of using their athleticism by getting in the paint and creating good looks. MU gets 62% of their points inside the arc and is #11 in the country in two point percentage. They have a good turnover margin as well and will look to get points in the paint through lots of transition opportunities.  Jae Crowder has added another dimension to the Marquette attack, giving them a good scorer inside and out as well as a solid rebounder. He and Jimmy Butler will be key players for the home folks today. Perhaps the most encouraging sign for Williams is the play of Darius Johnson-Odom over the last two games. His struggles from three have been well documented this season but he’s hit seven of his last eleven trifectas. Keeping that hot shooting going will be tough against West Virginia’s #4 rated three point defense but you have to think DJO has some good vibes now. Marquette’s three point defense isn’t very good but they must try to contain Mitchell on the wing. This should be a fairly close game but we like the Golden Eagles to win at home. Nobody knows how the players will react to such an early start but Marquette is playing better right now and should take this one.

#16 Notre Dame @ #4 Syracuse – 3:30 pm Saturday on ESPNU (****)

This matchup has turned into a really good one with the surprising success of Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish picked Georgetown apart (no small feat) earlier this week and will look to grab a big time road win on Saturday afternoon. The keys here are Notre Dame’s rebounding and three point shooting. The Irish run a great offense at a relatively slow pace and will have to get comfortable in the half court against the Syracuse zone. If the three’s are not falling, this will be a long game for Mike Brey. However, we think they will and Notre Dame has an excellent chance to go into Syracuse and grab a win. Notre Dame is an experienced squad and knows what they need to do here. Tim Abromaitis and Ben Hansbrough will look to shoot over the 2-3 zone while Tyrone Nash will play a big role inside against Syracuse’s Rick Jackson. Nash is the best player in the country at drawing fouls, an important statistic against Jackson and Kris Joseph (52 points in his last two games) inside. If the Syracuse bigs are in foul trouble, Notre Dame has a tremendous chance to win. As a team, the Irish are one of the best at getting to the line and keeping their opponent off it. Their free throw rates are very good on both ends so Syracuse will have to get it done shooting the ball from the floor. That’ll be tough against a Notre Dame team coming off a tremendous defensive performance against the Hoyas. Each team takes good care of the ball so turnovers don’t figure to be a huge factor in this game. The rebounding battle may decide the outcome. Both teams do a nice job on the glass but Jim Boeheim has the best rebounder on the floor with Jackson in the middle. He averages 12 RPG and can single handedly carry the Orange to victory. Getting the ball to Jackson on offense falls to Scoop Jardine, a very good point guard averaging six assists per outing. This is a great matchup between two teams that should contend for a double-bye at the Big East Tournament in March. Syracuse will be favored and obviously has a good chance to win but we’re going to go out on a limb here and take the Irish in an upset on the road.

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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by rtmsf on December 28th, 2010

John Templon of Chicago College Basketball is the Rush the Court correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

A Look Back

Last week the Big Ten was almost able to avoid any bad losses (Penn State’s loss to Maine being the only exception), but it also couldn’t secure any good wins in the final big week of non-conference play. Losses by Michigan State (home against Texas), Illinois (versus Missouri) and Northwestern (versus St. John’s) left the conference behind the eight ball a bit.

A more comprehensive look back on an individual scale can be found at Chicago College Basketball where I named the 1st and 2nd team all-conference performers. Here’s a sneak peak at my first team:

  • F Jared Sullinger, Ohio State
  • F John Shurna, Northwestern
  • C JaJuan Johnson, Purdue
  • G Demetri McCamey, Illinois
  • G E’Twaun Moore, Purdue

The post has the second team, honorable mentions and an explanation about some of the tougher picks, including why Wisconsin’s Jon Leuer wasn’t included.

  • Team of the Week: Iowa. The Hawkeyes beat Louisiana Tech 77-58 and considering the struggles of the rest of the conference last week, especially that of the bottom tier, this was a good win. Plus, this might be the last time I’m able to write something positive about the Hawkeyes as Ken Pomeroy currently projects them for a 6-12 conference record (which seems awfully generous to be honest).
  • Player of the Week: Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State.  Sullinger averaged a double-double with 12.5 points and 12.5 rebounds in victories over UNC-Asheville and Oakland last week. He’s won the Newcomer award so many times I thought maybe it’d be good to let these two outstanding freshman split the awards this week.
  • Newcomer of the Week: Tim Hardaway Jr., G, Michigan.  Hardaway Jr. scored 20 points in the Wolverines’ victory over Bryant this week. He also had five rebounds and two assists.

Power Rankings:

  1. Ohio State (12-0) – Jared Sullinger continues to dominate and the Buckeyes had no problems with UNC-Asheville or Oakland last week. Ohio State has a relatively easy start to the Big Ten season playing at Indiana and at Iowa, so it just has to avoid a slip-up early.
  2. Wisconsin (10-2) – Blasted Coppin State. Who cares?
  3. Purdue (11-1) – More shrugs, we will actually figure something out on Tuesday when the Boilermakers play Michigan. According to Ken Pomeroy the Wolverines are the third hardest team Purdue has faced all season.
  4. Minnesota (11-1) – The Golden Gophers beat South Dakota State. Yeah!
  5. Michigan State (8-4) – It’s officially time to start worrying about the Spartans as they dropped a game at the Breslin Center to Texas last week. Washington is the only elite team that Michigan State has beaten this season.
  6. Illinois (10-3) – Mike Tisdale’s really poor decision on an intentional foul helped Missouri pull out a 75-64 victory in the rivalry game last week. The Fighting Illini enter Wednesday’s game against Iowa on a two-game losing streak.
  7. Michigan (10-2) – For a team that wasn’t expected to do much the Wolverines are sitting pretty entering conference play. Can they keep it going as the competition gets tougher? This is a good piece from UM Hoops about that exact topic.
  8. Northwestern (9-1) – The Wildcats failed their first major test against St. John’s, but also got two victories over lesser opponents. Northwestern now starts a brutal early Big Ten slate: at Purdue, versus Michigan State and at Illinois.
  9. Indiana (9-5) – The Hoosiers are in a bit of a slide having lost two very winnable games in Las Vegas last week and Monday night’s home game against Penn State.
  10. Iowa (7-5) – The Hawkeyes’ defense appears to be keying a mini-resurgence here at the end of non-conference play. It’s back to reality in Big Ten play though with Illinois, Ohio State, and at Purdue to start.
  11. Penn State (8-4) – A double-digit loss at home to Maine gets you sent to the doghouse even with a win on Monday against the Hoosiers in Bloomington.

A Look Ahead (all times EST):

  • 12/28 – Purdue at Michigan, 2 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 12/28 – Minnesota at Wisconsin, 7 p.m., ESPN2
  • 12/29 – Illinois at Iowa, 9 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 12/31 – Northwestern at Purdue, 12 p.m., ESPN2
  • 12/31 – Minnesota at Michigan State, 4 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 1/2 – Wisconsin at Illinois, 6 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 1/3 – Michigan State at Northwestern, 7:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

Fun with Efficiency Margin and KenPom: Big Ten play starts on Monday! Next week this space will get interesting.

John Templon of Chicago College Basketball (link: http:// chicagonow.com/blogs/chicago-college-basketball/) is the Rush the Court correspondent for the Big Ten Conference

A Look Back:

Last week the Big Ten was almost able to avoid any bad losses (Penn State’s loss to Maine being the only exception), but it also couldn’t secure any good wins in the final big week of non-conference play. Losses by Michigan State (home against Texas), Illinois (versus Missouri) and Northwestern (versus St. John’s) left the conference behind the eight ball a bit.

A more comprehensive look back on an individual scale can be found at Chicago College Basketball (http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/chicago-college-basketball/2010/12/all-big-ten-non-conference-teams.html) where I named the 1st and 2nd team all-conference performers. Here’s a sneak peak at my first team:

F Jared Sullinger, Ohio State

F John Shurna, Northwestern

C JaJuan Johnson, Purdue

G Demetri McCamey, Illinois

G E’Twaun Moore, Purdue

The post has the second team, honorable mentions and an explanation about some of the tougher picks, including why Wisconsin’s Jon Leuer wasn’t included.

Team of the Week: Iowa

The Hawkeyes beat Louisiana Tech 77-58 and considering the struggles of the rest of the conference last week, especially that of the bottom tier, this was a good win. Plus, this might be the last time I’m able to write something positive about the Hawkeyes as Ken Pomeroy currently projects them for a 6-12 conference record. (Which seems awfully generous to be honest.)

Player of the Week: Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State

Sullinger averaged a double-double with 12.5 points and 12.5 rebounds in victories over UNC-Asheville and Oakland last week. He’s won the Newcomer award so many times I thought maybe it’d be good to let these two outstanding freshman split the awards this week.

Newcomer of the Week: Tim Hardaway Jr., G, Michigan

Hardaway Jr. scored 20 points in the Wolverines’ victory over Bryant this week. He also had five rebounds and two assists.

Power Rankings:

1. Ohio State (12-0) – Jared Sullinger continues to dominate and the Buckeyes had no problems with UNC-Asheville or Oakland last week. Ohio State has a relatively easy start to the Big Ten season playing at Indiana and at Iowa, so it just has to avoid a slip-up early.

2. Wisconsin (10-2) – Blasted Coppin State. Who cares?

3. Purdue (11-1) – More shrugs, we will actually figure something out on Tuesday when the Boilermakers play Michigan. According to Ken Pomeroy the Wolverines are the third hardest team Purdue has faced all season.

4. Minnesota (11-1) – The Golden Gophers beat South Dakota State. Yeah!

5. Michigan State (8-4) – It’s officially time to start worrying about the Spartans as they dropped a game at the Breslin Center to Texas last week. Washington is the only elite team that Michigan State has beaten this season.

6. Illinois (10-3) – Mike Tisdale’s really poor decision on an intentional foul helped Missouri pull out a 75-64 victory in the rivalry game last week. The Fighting Illini enter Wednesday’s game against Iowa on a two-game losing streak.

7. Michigan (10-2) – For a team that wasn’t expected to do much the Wolverines are sitting pretty entering conference play. Can they keep it going as the competition gets tougher? This is a good piece (http://www.umhoops.com/2010/12/27/recalibrating-expectations) from UM Hoops about that exact topic.

8. Northwestern (9-1) – The Wildcats failed their first major test against St. John’s, but also got two victories over lesser opponents. Northwestern now starts a brutal early Big Ten slate: at Purdue, versus Michigan State and at Illinois.

9. Indiana (9-4) – The Hoosiers are the favorite on Monday night against Penn State, but they’re in a bit of a slide having lost two very winnable games in Las Vegas last week.

10. Iowa (7-5) – The Hawkeyes’ defense appears to be keying a mini-resurgence here at the end of non-conference play. It’s back to reality in Big Ten play though with Illinois, Ohio State, and at Purdue to start.

11. Penn State (7-4) – A double-digit loss at home to Maine gets you sent to the doghouse.

A Look Ahead (all times EST):

  • 12/27 – Penn State at Indiana, 6:30 p.m., Big Ten Network with Gus Johnson
  • 12/28 – Purdue at Michigan, 2 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 12/28 – Minnesota at Wisconsin, 7 p.m., ESPN2
  • 12/29 – Illinois at Iowa, 9 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 12/31 – Northwestern at Purdue, 12 p.m., ESPN2
  • 12/31 – Minnesota at Michigan State, 4 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 1/2 – Wisconsin at Illinois, 6 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 1/3 – Michigan State at Northwestern, 7:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

Fun with Efficiency Margin and KenPom: Big Ten play starts on Monday! Next week this space will get interesting.

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ATB: Holiday Hoops? Yes, Please.

Posted by rtmsf on December 23rd, 2010

The Lede.  If you’re anything like us, and we suspect that you are, you spent tonight stationed in front of your television (hopefully HD) for anywhere between four to six hours, munching on way too many Christmas cookies, filling your stomach with eggnog or some similar milky concoction, and watching game after game of college hoops.  Now Texas, now Michigan State and Illinois!  On, Mizzou!  On Gonzaga, on Kansas and Cal! To the top of the polls!  To the top of the key!  Now get out on the break!  Fill those lanes!  Throw it down, all! It was Holiday Hoops at its best this evening, with several marquee matchups on the tube and nothing else on our agenda other than to nod knowingly when the Significant Other Unit started complaining about finishing the shopping.  This guy pretty much nailed it when he said that having the holiday spirit combined with some great hoops on the TV tonight equaled one incomparable thing: bliss.

This is a Snapshot Image of MSU's Evening (DFP/J. Gonzalez)

Your Watercooler Moment. What the Hell is Wrong With Michigan State? Nothing.  The Spartans are who they are.  They were never the second-best team in America — not this year, not last year, nor the year before.  In explaining why there’s nothing wrong with them, we got a little word-happy and decided to turn it into a separate post, which is located here.  Just remember that March basketball is a different animal than December basketball and that Izzo knows and understands this, and you’ll be fine.

Tonight’s Quick Hits…

  • Whelliston’s Red Line Upset Record.  The Mid-Majority’s record of what he calls “red line upsets” was equaled tonight with ten teams from mid-major leagues defeating major-conference teams.  The Las Vegas Classic was particularly inspiring for the little guys, as New Mexico dropped Colorado and Northern Iowa got past Indiana.  The others: North Texas over LSU, Siena over Georgia Tech, Dayton over Seton Hall, Cleveland State over South Florida, Seattle over Virginia, Furman over South Carolina, Green Bay over Wyoming, Butler over Utah, and Northern Arizona over Air Force (note: Whelliston considers the Mountain West a major conference).  And nice representation among the power leagues, with the MWC dropping three games and the ACC, Big East and SEC grabbing two a piece.  Shockingly, the Pac-10 had none tonight (and yes, Oregon State played — see below).
  • Tristan Thompson.  The 6’8 freshman forward was seemingly everywhere for Texas tonight, dropping 17 points and grabbing 15 boards (six offensive) against the typically beefy Michigan State front line.  He’s had his ups and downs this season, but tonight was his best performance of the year, and if Rick Barnes can convince this human pogo stick to crash the glass like this on a nightly basis, Texas suddenly becomes a darkhorse Final Four candidate this year.
  • Jordanesque.  Coming off the bench nursing a sprained ankle to hit several key FTs down the stretch to get a big road win?  That’s what Marcus Jordan did tonight at UMass in a tight contest that could have gone either way, the first such exposure for UCF as a nationally-ranked team.  We’re not going to oversell this — after all, he only scored seven points in fifteen minutes — but UCF is turning into one of the better stories of this college basketball season, and a large part of it due to Heir Jordan.
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Set Your Tivo: 12.22.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 22nd, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Tonight you’ll catch three really good games (including two heavyweight Big 12/Big Ten clashes) if you sit down, relax, and watch ESPN2 all night. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#25 Texas @ #12 Michigan State – 7 pm on ESPN2 (****)

Like It or Not, Izzo and the Spartans Need This One

It’s always fun when two name-brand programs go at it and this one is no exception. This is a big game for both teams but especially so for the homestanding Spartans. A loss here would drop Michigan State to 7-4 against D1 competition and once again ignite the questions about this team’s ability over the long haul, regardless of Tom Izzo’s history. Speaking of Mr. Izzo, he’s back after serving a one-game suspension for employing someone connected to a recruit at his basketball camp. Sparty had no problems against Prairie View A&M but Texas poses a stern test for State. The Longhorns look like a better team this year, playing with good chemistry and stronger defense. Both of these teams rank in the top 15 nationally in defensive efficiency with Texas in the top three in defensive effective field goal percentage. Rick Barnes has a cohesive unit this year that can score as well. With Jordan Hamilton draining threes and Cory Joseph taking over at the point, Texas may just be starting to hit their stride. The key matchups in this ballgame are Hamilton against Durrell Summers and Joseph versus Korie Lucious. When he’s on, Summers can match Hamilton shot for shot. Izzo has moved Lucious to the point many times while shifting Kalin Lucas off the ball. It is essential that each point guard control the ball and get others involved, plus we’re curious to see how the freshman Joseph reacts to the intense environment of the Breslin Center. Each team is deep and talented so the point guards cannot expect to be the stars of the show. The problem for Michigan State all season has been turnovers, something Texas will be eager to force. The Longhorns are deadly when they get out in transition and Michigan State just can’t afford another game chock full of giveaways. Pay attention to the three point line tonight. Michigan State is a very good three-point shooting team, the least we’d expect from what Izzo called a “pretty-boy jump shooting team” after their loss to Syracuse. However, Texas is very good at defending the arc and even better inside it, ranked seventh in two-point defense. The Spartans have three legitimate deep threats and will look to put Texas on notice early and often. On the other end, Michigan State is not good at defending the three. That’s a potentially lethal situation when you have a gunner like Hamilton on the other side. This would seem to be a great time for Michigan State to turn the corner and re-establish itself as a contender with a convincing win over a solid Texas team. We see this game as a closer contest however and Texas can put themselves on the map for good this year with a strong road win. Michigan State is the favorite at home and we’ll take the Spartans by single digits.

#10 Missouri vs. #21 Illinois (in St. Louis) – 9 pm on ESPN2 (****)

The annual Braggin’ Rights game between these two border state rivals is always a must-watch, especially when the teams are good as they are this season. Plus, don’t you love seeing that dividing line right in the middle of the arena separating black and gold from orange? Each team is in the top 25 for the first time in seven years but both programs are dealing with a bit of adversity. The Illini are coming off a brutal loss to Illinois-Chicago while Missouri lost freshman Phil Pressey to a broken hand and will welcome Michael Dixon back from suspension in his place. The story of this game will be pace, essentially who establishes their style of play. Everyone knows Missouri loves to get out and run but Illinois can control this game by protecting the ball against the aggressive Mizzou defense, running efficient half court sets and playing to their strength, defense. Ranked #18 in efficiency, the Illini defense needs to always have a man between Missouri and the basket to stop the ball, otherwise the Tigers will carve them up in both the half court and in transition. Illinois will have success if they force Missouri to play half court offense, taking time off the shot clock and limiting possessions. The most important player in this game is Demetri McCamey. The Illinois senior runs their offense and can shoot the lights out from three. He has to take advantage of Missouri jumping the passing lanes and make good passes to his teammates leading to open looks. Bruce Weber’s team has to take advantage of the mismatch on the perimeter when they have the ball. Illinois ranks #19 in three point shooting while the Tigers are #215 in defending the trey. Meanwhile, Missouri can exploit a weak spot in the Illinois defense inside with Ricardo Ratliffe. Illinois’ interior defense is ranked #118 and the Missouri big man should be able to get Mike Tisdale and/or Mike Davis into foul trouble. Missouri has a bunch of scorers on its roster but, remarkably, they don’t get to the foul line often. Illinois is even worse when it comes to free throw rate but they may get there more often against the foul-prone Tigers. Expect a very close game between two fierce rivals with the outcome in doubt late into the second half. We wouldn’t be surprised to see a determined and focused Illinois team rebound from the UIC loss by knocking off Missouri this evening.

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ATB: Coach K Climbs to Third All-Time in Wins

Posted by nvr1983 on December 9th, 2010

The Lede. A Leader Who Happens To Coach Basketball. If you can’t stand Duke and/or Coach K you might want to stay off the Internet for a while because you are going to be hearing about them a lot over the next few months. While the Blue Devils picked up their 19th straight win and 27th in 28 games, this game will be remembered (particularly by those in The Bluegrass State) as the game where Coach K surpassed Adolph Rupp on the all-time Division I wins list. In Duke’s first game without Kyrie Irving, who could be out indefinitely with a toe injury, the Blue Devils relied on their superior athleticism, depth, and execution to crush a respectable Bradley team, 83-48. The Braves’ four losses this season coming in were by a combined 22 points, but they weren’t that fortunate tonight as the Blue Devils blew them out by 35 points. Playing in place of Irving, Andre Dawkins was more than adequate as he scored 28 points including 8 of 14 from beyond the arc. Duke may not be the same dynamic team without Irving, but they are still really, really good. As for Coach K, now that he has passed Rupp for third he only has two more coaches ahead of him (Dean Smith at 879 and Bobby Knight at 902). We don’t think we need to tell you about the type of hysteria that you will see when he approaches those two living legends in the coming weeks and months.

Coach K has his sights set on The General

Your Watercooler Moment. Playing with a women’s ball in Illinois. Coach K might have dominated the mainstream college basketball media’s attention tonight, but the Twitter-verse was dominated by the strange situation in Illinois where the Fighting Illini and Oakland Golden Grizzlies played the first seven minutes of their game with a women’s basketball before Mike Tisdale noticed that something felt wrong and pointed it out to the official who switched the ball. Having dealt with that the Fighting Illini rallied from down nine early to defeat a tough Golden Grizzlies team by a score of 74-63. Although we would like to be able to attribute the Golden Grizzlies early success to playing with a women’s ball (they outscored Illinois 15-6 while playing with the women’s ball and were outscored 68-48 with the men’s basketball) that would be selling their effort short as they led the #16 team in the country until there were 15 minutes left in the game.  Demetri McCamey scored nine points in 62 seconds to give Bruce Weber’s squad a quick seven-point lead, which they never relinquished after that point.

Tonight’s Quick Hits...

  • Steve Fisher’s Quips.  His team is now 9-0 after defeating California tonight, but the longtime coach of the San Diego State Aztecs thinks that his home folks might be going a little overboard with their support and faith of the team.  As he put it, “they think we can play the Celtics… and if Kevin Garnett didn’t play, they think we’d have a chance.”  In this clip, he also talks about how big of a deal it is for his squad to defeat a Pac-10 opponent on their own floor, as it hasn’t happened for a very long time (the answer: SDSU last did it in 1982 vs. Oregon in Eugene, well before Fisher could even spell Fab Five).

  • Glens Falls, New York.  Seemingly an entire town came out to watch its prodigal son, Jimmer Fredette, return to play basketball.  The star guard scored 26 points in variety of ways to thrill the beyond-capacity home crowd at the Glens Falls Civic Center tonight.  Take a read through Tae Andrews’ RTC Live at the arena tonight — people were sitting or standing in every available space in this building.  We love to see support like that — more teams should do this sort of thing for the local HS heroes that move on.

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One Man’s Opinion: Contenders After One Month

Posted by zhayes9 on December 6th, 2010

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

After engulfing myself in a nightly binge of college basketball over the first month of the season- taking in games from the Big Apple to the Little Apple and from Cancun to Maui- here is one man’s evaluation on some of the top teams in the country and where they stand heading into the final weeks of non-conference play:

Kyrie Irving has surpassed expectations thus far

Duke- It’s going to take a near perfect effort to beat Duke this season. Being able to lure Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler back to campus coinciding with a severe down year in the ACC was truly the perfect storm of circumstance. One chance a team may have to dethrone Duke is if they lure Mason Plumlee into two early fouls, keep them in the halfcourt and the Blue Devils become three-happy, but Duke does have five players who can catch fire from deep at any time. Kyrie Irving has surpassed any and all expectations during the first month of the season. His court awareness is reminiscent of a 10-year NBA veteran rather than an 18-year old college freshman. His use of the hesitation dribble, ability to split screens, explode to the basket and display innate court awareness has vaulted Irving to stardom. What makes Duke so lethal is that they have a plethora of options that can explode for 25 points on any given night, just as Plumlee did against Marquette or Singler against Oregon or Irving against Michigan State.  There’s three potential lottery picks on this team, but selfishness is never an issue and they flow together seamlessly on the court. I have a hard time pointing out exactly where Duke slips up this season; after all, they don’t face a currently ranked team the rest of the slate.

Ohio State- Here’s the one team I feel would have a good shot at knocking off Duke on a neutral floor right now. They can come close to matching the Blue Devils at every position on the floor if William Buford runs the point. Jared Sullinger has been overrated a bit in the early going. Most of his production has come off easy dunks and layups and I haven’t seen an array of post moves quite yet, although I trust that they exist in his arsenal. It’s his fellow freshmen that should be receiving more attention. DeShaun Thomas is scoring 13 PPG in just over 17 MPG of play and shooting 56% from the floor. I’ve also been wildly impressed with the headiness and intelligence of Aaron Craft at the point. He’s compiled a near 2/1 assist/turnover ratio in the early going and has done a fantastic job finding shooters Diebler and Lighty off screens or Sullinger in low post position. David Lighty is this team’s MVP. He’s a lockdown defender and has really improved his outside jumper, while Buford may have the best mid-range game in the Big Ten. One should always anticipate Tom Izzo’s team to improve as the season wears on, but the Buckeyes have to be the odds-on favorite to win this conference as of now.

Pittsburgh- I know it’s horribly cliché when talking about Pittsburgh, but “tough” is the first word that comes to mind. Jamie Dixon’s teams are never outworked and currently lead all of college basketball is offensive rebounding percentage. Pitt seemingly has an assembly line of big men they can trot off the bench to give Gary McGhee, Nasir Robinson and Talib Zanna breathers. Dixon loves to run Ashton Gibbs off screens for open looks and the junior sharpshooter is connecting better than ever, although he still lacks true point guard skills. Although the rotation will eventually be trimmed down, Dixon has the luxury of digging 10-deep into his bench that Big East rivals like Georgetown and Connecticut simply do not have. McGhee is the type of bruiser inside that every team would love to throw out there for 20 MPG. He gives Pitt’s offense extra shot opportunities and shuts down opposing big men inside. Pitt doesn’t necessarily have the star power of other Final Four contenders, but their toughness and execution as a unit may be enough to carry them to Houston.

Kansas- I think we all need to take a moment to applaud the job Bill Self has done in Lawrence. This program lost two lottery picks and an All-American and have taken maybe one step back. This is a credit to the tremendous depth Self has compiled at Kansas and his staff’s ability to develop players. When Josh Selby is eligible on December 18, this team becomes Final Four good. He could be lumped into the same category as Irving, Walker and McCamey come March. I’ve been wildly impressed with how well the Jayhawks know their roles. The Morris brothers complement each other with Marcus as the inside-outside scoring threat (18.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 65% FG, 9/15 from deep) and Markieff perfectly content with doing the dirty work on the boards and in the paint. In and out of Self’s doghouse during his tenure at Kansas, Tyshawn Taylor has done a quietly solid job filling in for Selby at the point distributing the basketball.  A player who also flies under the radar is Brady Morningstar. Most just view him as a spot-up shooter, but he’s a valuable cog for Self ushering the fast break and setting up teammates for open looks.

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