Ten Offseason Storylines From the Big Ten

Posted by Brendan Brody on October 15th, 2014

We’re about a month away from Big Ten basketball once again being a part of our lives. Things at the B1G microsite have been quiet since then, but that doesn’t mean nothing has happened since last April. So here’s a quick refresher to get everybody back up to speed since we last saw Wisconsin lose a heart-breaker to Kentucky in the Final Four. These 10 offseason storylines are in no particular order, but they will impact what will happen this season.

Frank Kaminsky came back to school for his senior season to lead a veteran Wisconsin team with a chance to go back to the  Final Four. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

Frank Kaminsky came back to school for his senior season to lead a veteran Wisconsin team with a chance to go back to the
Final Four. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

  • Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker Returned to School: Postseason souting reports had Kaminsky going everywhere from #15 to #45 in the NBA Draft, even after a regular season where he led the Badgers in scoring and contributed NCAA Tournament averages of 16.4 PPG and 5.8 RPG on 55 percent shooting from the field. Dekker probably could have pursued NBA riches as well, but they both came back to Madison, making the Badgers — with two other returning starters in Josh Gasser and Traveon Jackson — an almost unanimous conference favorite.
  • Gary Harris and a Quartet of Michigan Players Didn’t: Things aren’t quite as rosy in East Lansing or Ann Arbor as far as preseason outlooks go. That’s because to the surprise of almost no one Gary Harris departed for the NBA after his sophomore year. This means that the Spartans will be without three of their four double-figure scorers from last season’s Elite Eight team. Meanwhile, Michigan is rebuilding things from scratch after the early NBA departures of sophomores Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, and Mitch McGary. None of the trio was ever a sure thing to jump to the pros, but things got especially wonky when it was learned that McGary would be suspended for the entire 2014-15 season due to a positive drug test during the NCAA tournament. Another Michigan gut punch was the transfer of Jon Horford to Florida, leaving the Wolverines with almost no experience on the front line heading into this season.

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The RTC Interview Series: One on One with NBADraftBlog’s Ed Isaacson

Posted by Walker Carey on June 25th, 2014

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

With the NBA Draft taking place Thursday night, we thought it would be a good idea to get some input from an expert. RTC Correspondent Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) recently had the please of speaking with NBA Draft Analyst Ed Isaacson, the founder of NBADraftBlog.com. You can follow Isaacson on Twitter via @nbadraftblog.

Rush the Court: Joel Embiid’s back (and now foot) injuries are the hot topics leading up to Thursday’s NBA Draft. How badly do you see this impacting Embiid’s stock and how would you approach these legitimate concerns if you were a team picking early in the draft?

Ed Isaacson: I do not think Embiid’s drop is going to be as drastic as Jared Sullinger’s (Note: Sullinger was medically flagged due to back issues) was in 2012 when he went from being a top six guy to being the 21st pick. My basic thought is that there is no way Embiid makes it beyond the Lakers at seven – if he happens to still be around then. If you are a general manager who is already on board with taking the risk with Embiid – he had a back problem in high school and had it again at Kansas – is the stress fracture in the foot suddenly going to be the thing that dissuades you from picking him? Once there is more information regarding the surgery and the timetable for his recovery, I think that will alleviate some concerns. I still believe Joel Embiid will be a top four pick.

Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins Will be the Talk of Thursday Night (Denny Medley, USA Today Sports)

Joel Embiid and Teammate Andrew Wiggins Will be the Talk of Thursday Night (Denny Medley, USA Today Sports)

RTC: Andrew Wiggins entered college with a ridiculous amount of hype. He was a very good player at Kansas, but it would be tough to say that he was a superstar. Do you believe his year in Lawrence negatively impacted his pro prospects and where do you see him ending up Thursday evening?

Isaacson: He is still the number one prospect to me. Even when Embiid was healthy, I had more value in Andrew Wiggins. One year in college is extremely tough to gauge a player and the Kansas system is much more different than at other schools. The main concern with Wiggins is the question if he is too passive on the court. The exact same thing was brought up last year in regards to Ben McLemore. I am not concerned. He is still a 19-year-old kid and I think he is going to be an All-Star. I have had him at number one throughout the process and I really think he is the best fit for Cleveland.

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Morning Five: 04.28.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 28th, 2014

morning5

  1. Mitch McGary‘s early-entry departure from Michigan might be the most controversial ones that we can remember. McGary’s decision to leave after his sophomore season was not particularly shocking from a basketball perspective as he would have been a first-round pick had he not been injured this season and even now he is a borderline first-round pick. The reason that McGary’s decision is so controversial (and will be for quite some time) is that he was essentially forced out when he tested positive for marijuana on a random test. If McGary had stayed he would have had to sit out the upcoming season. As a result, McGary will be waiting anxiously on Draft night and John Beilein will have a much tougher task keeping Michigan competitive in the Big Ten next season.
  2. The good next keeps on coming in for John Calipari. After learning that most of his frontcourt was returning, Calipari also found out that Aaron and Andrew Harrison would be returning for their sophomore seasons. This does not necessarily make Kentucky the national title favorites, but certainly puts them on the short list of contenders. The one issue for Kentucky is that for all of their depth on the inside they will have surprisingly lack of backcourt depth. The one interesting aspect of this is that Kentucky might end up being more experienced than their opponents for the first time in several years.
  3. The news at Connecticut was more mixed. The Huskies already knew that they were going to take a hit with Kemba Walker leaving Storrs, but they had hoped that both DeAndre Daniels and Ryan Boatright would return for the senior seasons. Boatright decided to come back to Storrs for one more year while Daniels decided to cash in on a big NCAA Tournament run to enter the NBA Draft. While Boatright will help stabilize the Huskies next year the loss of an athletic presence like Daniels is a big blow. At this point, Daniels is projected as a borderline first-round pick although with his athleticism and skill set he is the type of player who could move up or down a Draft board fairly quickly.
  4. One of the problems with many of the earliest versions of the way-too-early top 25s is that they are based on conjecture and occasionally statements about who is and is not leaving. On April 17, Jordan Adams announced that he was staying at UCLA saying that he was “really excited about the team we’re going to have next year”. On Saturday night, Adams changed his mind and announced that he would be entering the NBA Draft. His reasons for leaving are unclear as he is probably an early second round pick although maybe he assumes that he can work his way into the first round and get guaranteed money or that some team or agent told him that he had that first round guarantee. Or perhaps he figured that going pro was better than spending another year in Westwood. In any event, it puts Steve Alford and the Bruins in a hole as they attempt to replicate the success that they had in Alford’s first season.
  5. We are not used to seeing Wisconsin at the top of preseason rankings as they tend to be underrated, but next year we do not think that should be an issue. The Badgers already have a loaded team and the one piece that we felt might declare for the NBA Draft–Frank Kaminsky–announced that he would be returning for his senior season in Madison. Kaminsky showed tremendous growth this season, but he was still projected to only be a borderline first round pick. His size and skill set would have made him an interesting late first-round pick. Instead he will return to Madison and should make Wisconsin one of the title favorite next season.
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Big Ten M5: 04.03.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on April 3rd, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Frank Kaminsky wasn’t always a star at Wisconsin, so it’s easy to forget that he rarely saw heavy minutes behind a loaded Badgers’ frontcourt in his first two seasons. This year the junior burst on to the scene when he set the school’s single game record with 43 points against North Dakota. His progression into a star didn’t surprise his athletic family that knew it was just a matter of time before he got there. He has now certainly reached their expectations, as he won the West Region’s Most Outstanding Player award last weekend. Kaminsky’s on-court success lies in his ability to play both inside and outside the paint, causing nightmares for opposing teams and representing a big key to Wisconsin’s potential of winning a national championship this weekend.
  2. One of the Big Ten teams facing the most turnover this offseason is Michigan State. Sparty is for sure losing two starting seniors in Adreian Payne and Keith Appling, and is likely to also lose Gary Harris to the NBA. Add in the potential of Branden Dawson also going league and the Spartans could be looking at four new starters next season. This makes starting lineup projections interesting, with Travis Trice, Denzel Valentine, Kenny Kaminski, Matt Costello and probably Javon Bess or a three-guard lineup if Dawson leaves. Michigan State will be a very interesting team next season, having lost a great amount of talent and on paper appearing to be a middle of the pack conference team. Then again, while all the injuries hurt Tom Izzo’s team this season, it gave these reserves minutes that they wouldn’t have otherwise gotten.
  3. Another team facing plenty of questions right now is the other major school sharing the state. Michigan has three potential guys who could bolt to the NBA this spring, which creates quite a distinguishable best and worst case scenario for next season for the Wolverines. If Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary all return, John Beilein’s team won’t just be a favorite to win the Big Ten, but also a national title favorite. If all three leave school, Michigan will still be solid and likely to battle for a top four spot in the conference standings, but its national contender status would certainly be very different barring huge jumps from the remaining players.
  4. The Big Ten had three players in the McDonald’s All-American Game last night. With this in mind the Big Ten Network‘s Shawn Merriman evaluated the top former Big Ten players who participated in the game. Players were rated solely based on their collegiate careers and the winner is none too surprising. Not only is Michigan State’s Magic Johnson the best former Big Ten McDonald’s All-American to play in the game, but he could easily be argued as the best Big Ten player of all-time. Others on the list include plenty of big names like Purdue’s Glenn Robinson and Indiana’s Isiah Thomas and then some college stars like Michigan State’s Mateen Cleaves and Illinois’ Dee Brown. Will any of this year’s three participants have careers similar to what these guys accomplished? Probably not, but you never know until they show up on campus.
  5. Northwestern may have not gotten to play in the postseason again this year, but senior Drew Crawford still has another game to go. Crawford will play for the West in the Reese’s Division I College All-Star Game in Dallas this week. He is one of two Big Ten players invited to the game along with Indiana‘s Will Sheehey, who will play for the East. It is a solid career-ending honor for two seniors who were major contributors for their teams this season. Neither may have made the NCAA or NIT this season, but getting one more game will be good for them to showcase their skills.
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Pending NBA Draft Decisions Will Shape Next Season’s Big Ten

Posted by Brendan Brody on April 2nd, 2014

Even with this season not completely over yet, it’s hard to avoid projecting what the future holds for the 2014-15 edition of the Big Ten. Last year at around this time, only five conference underclassmen ultimately put their names in and heard their names called on NBA Draft night. Three of the five were selected in the first round (Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, and Michigan’s Trey Burke), while two went in the second round (Michigan’s Tim Hardaway Jr., and Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas). This year, that number could potentially double. Ohio State’s LaQuinton Ross and Indiana’s Noah Vonleh have already declared; Michigan State’s Gary Harris is reportedly about to do so; and many others face some rather tough decisions between now and April 27. Unless super-recruit Myles Turner decides to go to Ohio State, their aren’t really any other incoming one-and-done types on the horizon for any of the teams in the league. That makes some of these upcoming early entry decisions all the more important in terms of projecting next year’s Big Ten championship. What follows here is an outline of what those teams will look like if they lose some of their key players over the next few weeks.

Losing Nik Stauskas would be a huge blow for Michigan. (Getty).

Losing Nik Stauskas would be a huge blow for Michigan. (Getty).

Michigan is likely going to lose as many as three of their sophomore trio of Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary, and Glenn Robinson III. McGary and Robinson flirted with coming out of school last season, but opted to stay in Ann Arbor for another year. If the Wolverines lose only Stauskas, they’ll have a ready-made replacement in Zak Irvin. Some play-making ability would be lost, but they’d keep another deadly shooter on the floor. If Robinson goes, then look for Kameron Chatman and redshirt freshman Marc Donnal to get John Beilein’s first looks in replacing his minutes. Losing McGary to the draft along with Jordan Morgan to graduation would leave Jon Horford as the primary big man with Ricky Doyle — a 6’9″ incoming freshman from Florida — also potentially in the mix.

  • Best Case Scenario: All three come back because they want to win a National Championship. They are automatically a top five preseason team and a Big Ten co-favorite with Wisconsin.
  • Worst Case Scenario: All three leave, with Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr. left to pick up the pieces. An eight-man rotation of LeVert, Walton, Irvin, Horford, Donnal, Chatman, Doyle and Spike Albrecht would still be a fringe Top 25 team, but their would be a good deal of question marks here.

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2013-14 Rush the Court All-America Teams

Posted by Walker Carey on April 1st, 2014

Compiling preseason All-America teams is a difficult task because nobody knows what is going to occur during the season. There will always be players who will fail to live up to expectations and there will always be under the radar types who will unexpectedly emerge to stardom. When our group of eight RTC pollsters selected their preseason All-America teams back in November, nobody could have guessed that only six of the 15 names on that list would live up to the hype: Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Louisville’s Russ Smith, Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, Duke’s Jabari Parker, Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier, and Kentucky’s Julius Randle. The only two players that were projected to to be a first team All-America and finished there were McDermott and Smith (actually, we recognized at the time that a 33 percent accuracy rate was the AP’s historical norm, so we did a little better than that). The nine players we selected as preseason All-Americans who did not make our team — Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, Michigan State’s Gary Harris, Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, Michigan’s Mitch McGary (spent much of the year injured), Arizona State’s Jahii Carson, Arizona’s Aaron Gordon, Syracuse’s C.J. Fair, Michigan State’s Adreian Payne, and Virginia’s Joe Harris — all had exceptional seasons, but they were surpassed in achievements by the names that rose to the top of our list. Here are the 2013-14 RTC All-America Teams.

Note on methodology: voters took postseason performance to date into consideration. Players earned three points for a First Team vote, two points for a Second Team vote, and one point for a Third Team vote. McDermott and Napier were the only two consensus First Team All-America selections. Coming tomorrowThe RTC Coach of the Year.

First Team All-America

team1

  • Doug McDermott, Senior, Creighton (consensus) (26.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 52.6% FG, 44.9% 3FG). McDermott was the most prolific  and talented offensive player in the country in a season that wrapped up his marvelous collegiate career. The senior led the country in scoring and his brilliant play was the biggest reason why Creighton finished the season with a sterling 27-8 record. The brilliance of “Dougie McBuckets” saw him reach several amazing career milestones this year. His career-high 45 points in March 8’s Senior Night victory over Providence put him over the 3,000-point barrier, and he wound up finishing with 3,150 points, good for fifth on the all-time scoring list. There have been few players like Doug McDermott in college basketball history, and there will be few like him in the future. He was an amazingly unique talent that we were all privileged to watch play ball for the last four years.
  • Shabazz Napier, Senior, Connecticut (consensus) (18.1 PPG, 4.9 APG, 5.9 RPG, 1.7 SPG). You can make an argument that no player has meant more to his team this season than Napier has meant to Connecticut. The Huskies improbably took home the East Region title and are headed to the Final Four, thanks in large part to the heroics of Napier. After a sensational regular season where the guard took home the AAC Player of the Year award, he has only elevated his play in the postseason. In the Huskies’ four NCAA Tournament victories, Napier is averaging 23.3 points per contest and has displayed his flare for the dramatic by hitting several important shots when his team needed them most. Connecticut won a national title in 2011 mostly due to the brilliance of then-point guard and NPOY Kemba Walker. If the Huskies are able to replicate that feat this season, it will be mostly due to the brilliance of Napier.
  • Jabari Parker, Freshman, Duke (22) (19.1 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 47.3% FG). In a season when many freshmen around the country received a great deal of preseason hype, no other freshman lived up to the lofty expectations quite like Parker. The USBWA National Freshman of the Year became the first Duke freshman to earn consensus first-team All-America honors with selections to the AP and Wooden All-America teams. It is widely expected that Parker will enter the 2014 NBA Draft after just one season in Durham, and even though his Duke career did not include an NCAA Tournament victory, Parker’s terrific season will not soon be forgotten.
  • Russ Smith, Senior, Louisville (22) (18.2 PPG, 4.6 APG, 2.0 SPG, 46.8% FG). “Russdiculous” entered the season with high expectations and he more than lived up them by leading Louisville to another terrific campaign. After an excellent junior season, Smith only improved as a senior. Known for erratic decision-making much earlier in his career, the talented guard reinvented himself during his senior season. Smith improved his field goal percentage from by five percentage points and his three-point percentage from by six points. That brilliance led a spot as Louisville’s first consensus All-American since Clifford Rozier in the 1993-94 season. 
  • Sean Kilpatrick, Senior, Cincinnati (19) (20.6 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 42.3% FG, 84.5% FT). Kilpatrick finished his outstanding collegiate career with legendary Cincinnati status, as he joined NBA Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson as the only two Bearcats to top 2,000 career points. Along with joining Robertson in the Cincinnati record books, Kilpatrick also became the program’s all-time leader in games (140) and career minutes played (4,315). The elevation in Kilpatrick’s play as a senior also meant great things for an overachieving Cincinnati squad that was the co-AAC champion and was ranked #15 in the final AP poll.

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Rushed Reactions: #8 Michigan 72, #24 Ohio State 69

Posted by Walker Carey on March 15th, 2014

rushedreactions

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s Big Ten Tournament semifinal between Michigan and Ohio State in Indianapolis.

Aaron Craft Couldn't Quite Get it Done on Saturday Afternoon

Aaron Craft Couldn’t Quite Get it Done on Saturday Afternoon

Three Key Takeaways:

  1. Michigan’s hot starts to both halves were instrumental to it earning this victory. Michigan started the game in an absolute flurry, as it scored 15 of the game’s first 17 points. Shots were falling from everywhere for the Wolverines, as they made six of their first eight attempts from behind the three-point line. Ohio State was able to gain its composure and go on a 15-4 run over the final 6:02 of the first half to make it a four-point game, but the Michigan offense was once again ready to explode when the second half started. In the first four minutes of the second half, John Beilein‘s squad aggressively ran its lead from four points to 12 points and was once again showing its outside shooting prowess. Like in the first half, Ohio State recovered from this onslaught and turned the game into a hotly-contested affair. Consequently, it can be inferred that if Michigan did not get off to such hot starts in each half, it would not have been able to grab the victory over its archrival.
  2. Ohio State’s fight was admirable. Thad Matta’s squad was down 15-2 not even four minutes into the game, but instead of sulking and letting Michigan continue its thermonuclear start, the Buckeyes found it within themselves to fight back and make it a battle to the very end. Ohio State is not known as an offensive powerhouse, but the Buckeyes used their offense to key their march back into the game. Junior forward LaQuinton Ross and junior guard Shannon Scott led the offensive attack, finishing the afternoon with 19 and 18 points, respectively. The Buckeyes were also able to shore up their defensive effort. After allowing Michigan to shoot a smoldering 64 percent in the first half, Ohio State tightened the screws and held the Wolverines to a 40.9 percent shooting clip in the second half. While Ohio State ultimately only has a loss to show for its performance Saturday afternoon, the toughness and desire it showed are things the team can build on as it moves into the NCAA Tournament. Read the rest of this entry »
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Otskey’s Observations: Episode X

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on January 29th, 2014

Each week throughout the season, RTC columnist Brian Otskey (@botskey) will run down his observations from the previous week of college basketball.

Michigan Proving the Doubters Wrong

No team in America had a better month of January than the Michigan Wolverines. Since the calendar flipped to 2014, Michigan has reeled off seven consecutive wins to start Big Ten play and has won nine straight since a two-point home loss to No. 1 Arizona on December 14. Of those seven wins, an astounding four have come on the road in ridiculously tough environments. Seriously, who wins at Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Michigan State in just over a three-week span? Michigan has established itself as a Big Ten contender with a pretty favorable schedule the rest of the way. How have the Wolverines done it? Offense. Believe it or not, Michigan’s 2013-14 adjusted offensive efficiency is greater than the number posted by last year’s Trey Burke-led squad that reached the national championship game. A lot of that can be attributed to the increase in fouls called this season, but it is impressive nonetheless. The Wolverines are shooting the ball fantastically, putting up at least 71 points in all but one of their Big Ten games. Derrick Walton Jr.’s growth has been fun to watch, encapsulated in the and-one that essentially won the game at Michigan State last Saturday. Nik Stauskas’ game speaks for itself and he should be in the running for the National Player of the Year award. Yes, national. (Side note: I love how a guy like Stauskas can back up his trash talk and swag with his game on the court. There are some guys who just run their mouths for the heck of it but Stauskas actually backs it up on the floor. I have no problem with that whatsoever.) Glenn Robinson III has emerged as a steady presence and a fairly reliable scorer behind Stauskas, something that needed to happen for Michigan to take the next step.

Nik Stauskas is leading the way for the red-hot Michigan offense. (USA TODAY Sports)

Nik Stauskas is leading the way for the red-hot Michigan offense. (USA TODAY Sports)

I am a bit concerned about Michigan’s defense which is allowing an adjusted 105.3 points per 100 possessions in Big Ten play, good for eighth in a 12-team league. The Wolverines’ interior defense is not good at all and that’s the place where they miss Mitch McGary the most. That said, all the talk about McGary having such a negative effect on this team was a bunch of hot air from the media who became obsessed with him after last year’s NCAA Tournament. The fact is McGary bogged down Michigan’s offense (without Trey Burke feeding him) in addition to being not 100 percent healthy. We’ve seen the results without him and you cannot tell me Michigan isn’t better. Michigan has been criminally underrated all year long because of the McGary injury combined with a few close losses to very good teams. May I remind you of what I wrote in this very column a week before Christmas. Michigan has always been a factor and it has hit its stride against a strong schedule. The Wolverines are here to stay but really, they never went anywhere. Michigan has been at least top 20 good all year long, now it is a top 10 caliber team.

Do Not Sleep on Louisville

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Big Ten M5: 01.28.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 28th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. At this point it’s really not news when Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo says that injured senior Adreian Payne is unlikely to play before seemingly every contest. Izzo stated on Monday morning that “he [Payne] ran yesterday a little bit more, with more weight on it, but he’s very doubtful for tomorrow,” when asked about his big man’s injury. You have to give Izzo credit for not jeopardizing Payne’s future earnings by rushing him back into the lineup too quickly. You also have to wonder how many other coaches would have had the confidence to hold a star player out knowing that there’s a bigger prize to win starting in March. Sparty certainly has as good of a shot at winning the national championship as any team in America when playing at full strength.
  2. Despite the likelihood of not playing again this season due to back surgery, Mitch McGary is still helping Michigan in every way he can. McGary was seen on the sidelines providing motivation to his teammates any way he can. A recent example was picked up by the ESPN cameras on Saturday in East Lansing, where McGary was shown holding a whiteboard that said “win the game” during a timeout. He’s also been a great resource for Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford, as he can talk the same language with his fellow post teammates and give them constructive feedback from the sidelines.
  3. Indiana showed some signs of turning the corner in its win against Illinois on Sunday. The Hoosiers are far from a polished offensive machine, but they’ve continued to pound teams on the boards regardless. Some of the younger players are also starting to play better, such as freshman Stanford Robinson, who played 29 productive minutes against the Illini. An NCAA berth might still be a stretch, but continued improvement over the season’s last month will go a long way toward getting the program back to elite status in the future.
  4. LaQuinton Ross has taken a good chunk of the blame for Ohio State’s up-and-down season, but Lenzelle Smith Jr. has also been terribly inconsistent with his shooting. After starting B1G play by shooting an abysmal 16 percent from behind the arc, he played much better in the Buckeyes’ recent win against Illinois, hitting 4-of-8 from downtown after going 7-of-31 in the nine games before that. If Ohio State could ever get Ross and Smith going at the same time, they could still become a factor in the Big Ten race.
  5. Iowa could move to a half-game back of Michigan State when the two teams clash tonight in Iowa City. This is one of the biggest Iowa home games in years, as the Hawkeyes have become a player on the national scene for the first time in a decade or longer. Fran McCaffery’s team has already beaten Xavier and Ohio State in a pair of resume-enhancing win, erasing the memory of an 0-7 mark against Top 25 squads last year. With a limping Spartans team coming to town tonight, Iowa needs to capitalize on the fact they are playing the game on their home court against a team at less than full strength.
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Two Questions About Michigan vs. Iowa This Evening

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) & Jonathan Batuello on January 22nd, 2014

Nik Stauskas’ pull-up jumper to stun Wisconsin on the road has raised eyebrows around the Big Ten because it appears that Michigan has figured out how to play without Mitch McGary in the lineup. Iowa, on the other hand, doesn’t have any injury issues of its own and appears to be one of the best teams in the country. Two of our Big Ten writers – Deepak Jayanti and Jonathan Batuello – address a couple of key questions heading into Wednesday night’s big game in Ann Arbor.

Both and Nik have been awfully impressive to start the season. These two meet up tonight in Ann Ar

Both Devyn Marble and Nik Stauskas have been awfully impressive to start the season. These two meet up this evening in Ann Arbor.

Both Devyn Marble and Nik Stauskas have been scorching hot from the field lately. Do you expect them to continue their hot shooting in this game, or is there any way one of them and their teams can be slowed down by the opposing defense?

JB:  It isn’t just recently these two have been shooting and scoring well. Both have been the stars for their teams all season and have put themselves squarely in the Big Ten Player of the Year conversation. Granted, their play in the conference season has been particularly superb — in the past two games alone, Stauskas has scored 44 points and Marble 38 of his own. It seems safe to say they both will continue their strong play tonight as it is doubtful the other team can slow them down (Iowa and Michigan are both significantly better offensive teams than defensive ones). The only way they won’t be scoring much is if either team moves its offensive game plan away from them, an unlikely scenario.

DJ: I don’t disagree that both Marble and Stauskas have been carrying the offensive burden from day one, but I’d be a bit concerned if the former falls in love with his three-pointer. Shooting 37 percent from beyond the arc is impressive, but his strength is really his ability to get to the basket. Sometimes when a player is hot from long range, he develops a false confidence that will backfire against tougher competition, especially in games on the road. If Marble attempts more than five three-pointers, that’s cause for concern because instead of going inside-out with his offensive game, he’ll waste possessions without forcing Jordan Morgan or Jon Horford to defend him in the paint. On the other hand, it is equally likely that Stauskas could go cold from the field, but he has shown some maturity during this season in that he’s willing to beat defenders off the dribble when his shot isn’t dropping. He was excellent in pulling up from the mid-range off of picks against Wisconsin over the weekend, so he has proved that he can find a different scoring angle if his three-point jumper isn’t falling.

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Big Ten M5: 1.09.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on January 9th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. A lot of people have questioned exactly how good Ohio State is this season. With a non-conference schedule that ended up being weaker than originally expected with Marquette, Notre Dame and Maryland all looking mediocre, the marquee win hasn’t come yet. After the Buckeyes overtime loss at Michigan State, Aaron Craft wasn’t shy about it either. The senior said “we haven’t really done much this year,” as their first loss came against their best opponent. It’s a good sign Craft and the other Ohio State players are questioning themselves after Tuesday night and not satisfied with an overtime defeat. This team may not have had a daunting non-conference schedule, but losing in that way with minimal contributions from Lenzelle Smith Jr. and LaQuinton Ross shows this team has the talent and ability to be a contender.
  2. It shouldn’t be a surprise at this point to see games like Tuesday night from Adreian Payne. He has proven to be Michigan State‘s stud on the inside all year, but doing what he did through extreme foot pain? Well, that just adds another layer to the growing lore surrounding the Spartan big man. Payne apparently was in near tears before the Ohio State game while taking shots in the practice gym just an hour before the game. His ability to come out and obviously go through the pain and produce on a high level is something everyone would like to emulate. It also likely adds a nice marquee moment early in the Big Ten season as Payne is taking an early lead for the conference’s Player of the Year.
  3. The beginning of Mitch McGary‘s journey back to the basketball court is done. The Michigan sophomore had surgery Tuesday on his back that has caused him pain since before the season began and started the second semester of classes Wednesday. McGary now starts his rehab, which does not include traveling with the team for most road trips. The stress of sitting in a plane or bus for hours is something John Beilein puts secondary to making sure he recovers quickly.
  4. We’ve all complained (or at least heard someone do so) about the new rules this season. Fouls and free throws are up across the country and for a team like Nebraska this has been an especially big issue. The Cornhuskers committed 51 personal fouls in its first two conference games. For a team that is usually the less talented team on the court, fouling and giving its opponents free throws is something it simply cannot do. While no one expects Nebraska to compete for the Big Ten or to make the NCAA Tournament, a few wins here and there could get them into the CBI or maybe even the NIT, so it is still important they play smart and not help their opponents win the game.
  5. It’s become a familiar thing to hear in West Lafayette. Matt Painter said his team needs to “show maturity” as the Big Ten season progresses while it has the week off before playing Nebraska. For fans of Purdue, this line has become as common as hearing about the team’s youth. It certainly doesn’t lack that, playing three freshmen, one redshirt freshman and only having two seniors on the roster. Still, at this point, everyone on the roster has experienced at least half a college season and the lapses Purdue seems to show in games is perplexing (like the first 30 minutes at Minnesota). Painter never seemed to figure out the issue last year, so if the Boilermakers have any chance of turning the season around and going to the NCAA Tournament he needs to find a way this season. That or Purdue’s looking at the NIT, if not the CBI.
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D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera Ready to Become a Household Name

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on January 6th, 2014

Markel Starks is the leader; Joshua Smith is the enigma; and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (DSR) is the scorer. These are the identities of each of Georgetown’s three best players this season. In Saturday afternoon’s blowout win against St. John’s, Smith-Rivera fulfilled his role by dropping 31 points on a remarkable 12 shots. It was a big game for the sophomore guard from Indianapolis — not only did he score in buckets, but he also grabbed six rebounds and dished out three assists. After watching Georgetown through several games, it’s hard to conclude otherwise that Starks, the senior point guard and unquestioned leader of the team, is the most important player on the Hoyas’ roster. He was the reason Smith-Rivera was able to score as much as he did, by setting him up with clean passes right as he came off screens with enough space to get his shot off. But it’s equally just as difficult to come away from the weekend game without realizing the offensive powerhouse that Smith-Rivera has become and concluding that he’s poised to join the national conversation as  an elite scorer.

D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera is JTIII's most efficient scorer. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera is JTIII’s most efficient scorer. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Smith-Rivera is part of a superb 2012 recruiting class from the state of Indiana that includes names like Yogi Ferrell, Gary Harris, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III. Not as highly regarded as his Hoosier State peers, several Big Ten coaches recruited Smith-Rivera but did not make him a top priority. As a result, he decided to stay east, where he was attending Oak Hill Academy, ultimately committing to Georgetown. We need only look at Smith-Rivera’s performance for the season to understand the impact he’s had on the Hoyas’ offense. According to sportsreference.com, he leads the Big East in offensive efficiency (1.27 points per possession) and effective field goal percentage (59.7%). Among conference players, he is in the top five in the following categories: field goal percentage (48.2%), three-point field goals made (32), points per game (17.1), and win-shares (.231 per 40 minutes). These numbers alone would be impressive for any sophomore playing in a major basketball conference, but it is even more so from a player who’s considered a longshot to make the NBA (DSR is listed as the 74th-ranked sophomore at draftexpress.com) due to his physical shortcomings.

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