The Five Best Big Ten Non-Conference Games

Posted by Alex Moscoso on November 11th, 2014

We’re just a few days away from the first official tip-offs of the season, which will mean that the non-conference portion of the season has begun. Most fans will watch their team play some little-known school for an easy win over the weekend, but there is an excellent slate of non-conference games involving Big Ten teams on the horizon. The five best of those games are listed below. A couple caveats: (1) no games from the Big Ten/ACC Challenge were included because we’ll cover that event in full later this month; and (2) the annual rivalry match-ups (e.g., Illinois-Missouri, Iowa-Iowa State, etc.) were also removed, since those games have already been discussed ad nauseam. This list represents the best of the rest.

The following list is in chronological order and displays each team’s expected record (according to Kenpom) at the time of the game.

Minnesota (0-0) vs Louisville (0-0)

Armed Forces Classic – Aguadilla, PR – Friday, November 14: Minnesota fans will be in for a treat on opening night as the Gophers will headline ESPN’s coverage against the Cardinals at U.S Air Station Borinquen in Puerto Rico. This will arguably be the best match-up of the night, pitting two teams from power conferences in a father/son battle with Richard Pitino taking on his dad, Rick, for the second time in his short career. The Golden Gophers play a similar style as Louisville — including the Pitino family’s patented pressing defense — but they are outmatched in talent. Still, with returning starters such as Deandre Mathieu, Andre Hollins and Elliott Eliason available, young Pitino could be poised to catch his father’s team by surprise and make it interesting. Honestly, just be happy that this game is not taking place on an aircraft carrier.

Michigan State (1-0) vs Duke (2-0)

These two legends face off again as Michigan State battles Duke in their early non-conference schedule. (AP)

These two legends face off again as Michigan State battles Duke. (AP)

Champions Classic – Indianapolis, IN – Tuesday, November 18: The Champions Classic has become an early-season staple as the unofficial marquee event to tip off college basketball. It’s been a successful series as four elite programs — Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, and Michigan State — have rotated match-ups to play each other over a three-year period. This season the Spartans draw Duke and their trio of super freshmen — Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow. But what the Blue Devils have in talent, they lack in experience. An early game like this gives Michigan State a golden opportunity to notch a resume-building win against a team that could end up as a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big Ten M5: 11.07.14 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on November 7th, 2014

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  1. On Wednesday, the NCAA decided that Duje Dukan would get one more year of eligibility and could play in all but the first two games of the upcoming season. Our newest microsite writer, Eric Clark, wrote about the specifics of the decision earlier in the week. The crux of it is that Dukan took a medical redshirt in 2012-13 after already playing in a couple of scrimmages, making his eligibility for a fourth year questionable. In the end, this is very good news for Wisconsin because for all their talent in the starting lineup, the Badgers are not very deep. On Thursday, Zach Bohannan, a former Wisconsin player and teammate of Dukan, wrote on CBSSports’ blog about the complexity of the medical redshirt rule and called for the NCAA to make its application consistent to all players regardless of class. That would make sense, but that’s not exactly what the NCAA is known for. Speaking of Wisconsin…
  2. That same night, we got to see the Badgers in action for the first time in an exhibition game against Wisconsin-Parkside. The game ended with a 37-point Badgers’ win, and Frank Kaminsky showed why he’s a consensus Naismith candidate by contributing 19 points and 11 rebounds in 22 minutes. He even generated a Sportscenter-worthy highlight as he showed off his ball-handling skills, going coast to coast before dishing to a teammate for an assist. We all know exhibition games mean absolutely nothing, but Frank the Tank certainly seemed like he was already in midseason form.
  3. And now for your daily update on the circus formerly known as Indiana basketball. We are now getting a clearer picture on how severe Devin Davis’ head injury is and how long the road to recovery will be for the sophomore. While Davis is progressing, simple tasks remain difficult for him. As Tom Crean describes it: “Progress this morning is sitting up in a chair. Progress is taking a walk.” There’s been a lot of chatter about whether the Indiana head man will be fired during or after this season, so it’s easy to forget that a young man is dealing with a very serious setback in his life. We hope that Davis fully recovers and that this experience, not just the threat of bad publicity, motivates the rest of the Hoosiers’ roster to modify their behavior.
  4. There’s been a good amount of discussion this preseason as to whether Nebraska can continue the success it built last season. Most prognosticators believe the Cornhuskers can, thanks in large part to players like Terran Petteway, Shavon Shields and Tai Webster. But if Tim Miles’ team wants to improve, it is going to need other players to step up beyond that trio. One such candidate is backup point guard Benny Parker, who is hoping that the work he put in the offseason to improve his shooting will make him more of an offensive threat during games. If Parker can become a consistent shooter from deep, that will add another scorer while also opening things up for Petteway and his mid-range jump shot.
  5. Finally, many basketball programs that do not typically recruit top 100 prospects have started to look overseas to find promising talent. For example, Patty Mills became a star at St. Mary’s via Australia and Alex Len became a lottery pick at Maryland via Ukraine. Alex Olah, Northwestern’s returning big man, hails from Romania and now plays basketball at one of the most elite academic institutions in the country. Henry Bushnell from SBNation did a really interesting profile on the junior. It describes his journey from humble beginnings in low-middle class Eastern Europe to now walking around as a semi-celebrity in Evanston. Olah will probably never be a star in this league, but that doesn’t mean his story — and others who travel from afar to be part of the sport we love — shouldn’t be shared.
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The RTC Podblast: Big Ten Preview Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 6th, 2014

Welcome to conference preview season. In this, our third of eight conference preview RTC Podblasts that we’ll be rolling out before the dawn of the season, Big Ten microsite columnist Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) joins us to discuss the key storylines, teams and players to watch among the 14 teams of the Big Ten. As always, Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114) hosts the podblast, and the full rundown of topics is below. Make sure to tweet at us (@rushthecourt) if you have any opinion on which team should be the gang’s new favorite heading into the 2014-15 season.

Also remember to add the RTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after we record. And don’t forget to check out our 2014-15 Preseason Storylines Podcast, and feel free to contact us at any time — we’re listening.

  • 0:00-6:41 – Wisconsin’s Place as Preseason Favorites
  • 6″41-12:17 – Searching for a Number Two Team
  • 12:17-23:42 – Potential Surprise Teams
  • 23:42-25:05 – Teams Set Up to Disappoint
  • 25:05-30:10 – Big Ten Star Power
  • 30:10-32:48 – Tournament Predictions for the League
  • 32:48-34:20 – Bold Calls
  • 34:20-37:10 – Randy’s New Favorite Team Nomination

 

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Thoughts on the Big Ten in the Preseason Polls

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 3rd, 2014

Both preseason polls have now been released as the AP Poll officially made its appearance on Halloween. The Big Ten placed five teams in the AP and six teams in the the USA Today/Coaches Poll. Here’s how all of the teams ranked in each poll, followed by some quick analysis as to what this means going forward.

Bo Ryan and Wisconsin are ranked inside the top 4 of both preseason polls. (AP)

Bo Ryan and Wisconsin are ranked in the top four of both major preseason polls. (AP)

(AP ranking followed by USA Today/Coaches Poll ranking)

  • Wisconsin (#3) (#4)
  • Michigan State (#18) (#18)
  • Ohio State (#20) (#20)
  • Nebraska (#21) (#21)
  • Michigan (#24) (#23)
  • Iowa (#28) (#25)
  • Minnesota (#31) (#32)
  • Maryland (#46) (NR)
  • Illinois (#46) ( #42)

Wisconsin is Getting a Good Deal of Love

The Badgers have already been named a unanimous favorite to win the B1G by both the coaches and the writers, and they are also getting a good deal of respect nationally. Wisconsin received eight first-place votes in the AP Poll, and it also garnered three more in the USA Today/Coaches Poll. Returning four starters from a Final Four team along with the fact that Bo Ryan’s teams are typically better when they have experienced players played a key role in how these writers and coaches voted. But as we saw last season when Michigan State was ranked in the top five to start the season, it’s wise to not crown the Badgers as the Big Ten champs just yet. Even with Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig poised to take bigger roles in the rotation, depth could hinder the Badgers if they get hit with key injuries. Read the rest of this entry »

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Can Nebraska Handle the Hype?

Posted by Brendan Brody on October 27th, 2014

Nebraska essentially came out of nowhere last season, going from a 9-9 start to closing out the season on a 10-4 finish and making the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998. Terran Petteway became a household name in the Big Ten and head coach Tim Miles put himself on the map as one of the brightest young coaches in the land. The team brings back most of its roster from last season and has started this year ranked #21 in the USA Today/Coaches Preseason Poll. Will the Cornhuskers drop back to mediocrity with these expectations or will they continue to take leap forward? Here are some arguments for and against each scenario.

Terran Petteway will once again lead a Nebraska team that won't sneak up on anybody this season. (AP)

Terran Petteway will once again lead a Nebraska team that won’t sneak up on anybody this season. (AP)

Why They Will Be Even Better

Nebraska’s non-conference schedule is more forgiving in some ways than it was last year, but it will give the Cornhuskers several chances to pick up quality wins against teams that could very well be in the NCAA Tournament. The Huskers have rematches against Cincinnati and Creighton at home, and both of those teams look to be down a bit meaning that the home team should have the advantage. Nebraska also plays two true road games against Rhode Island and Florida State. Rhode Island has a really good guard in EC Matthews and Florida State will test them inside with a trio of 7-footers. If they make it through their first nine games with a record of 8-1 or 9-0, they will get tested again in Honolulu’s Diamond Head Classic, where they could play Wichita State in the second round and potentially Colorado in the championship game. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big Ten M5: 10.22.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on October 22nd, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Wisconsin has been justifiably more in the spotlight than any other Big Ten team this preseason, and that’s mostly because the Badgers return four starters from a team that made the Final Four. Despite heightened expectations in Madison, Bo Ryan is just happy to get another chance at his first Division I National Championship. The Badgers’ head coach is “the same coach, he’s always as hard on us if we’re winning games, and if we’re losing games,” according to senior Frank Kaminsky. Wisconsin scaled back its preseason work slightly this year, but the consistency of Ryan combined with his veteran cast makes it hard to bet against Wisconsin playing deep into March once again this season.
  2. Caris LeVert had a breakout season last year, and with all that Michigan lost from its Elite Eight team last year, he will need to take another couple of steps forward for the Wolverines to be back in the mix for a B1G title. LeVert will now be the primary option for John Beilein’s offense, as Michigan will continue to play outside-in running his system. It will be up to LeVert, Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin to step into bigger roles because of the team’s inexperience down low, but the freshmen big men will have an easier transition playing in a system that won’t feature them in much of a scoring role.
  3. Rutgers is now a part of the Big Ten, but it’s not because of anything the school has done that’s noteworthy on the basketball court. The Scarlet Knights are still shaking off the stink of the Mike Rice scandal, but there is a bigger problem than that, according to Dave White of SBNation. The facilities are in grave need of an upgrade, and recruits will only take Rutgers seriously once significant improvements are made. The Rutgers football program has been respectable in recent years, and much of that is due to a complete renovation of their facilities. They need to look no further than the basketball program at Lincoln, Nebraska, to see what a new coach and upgrades to the arena and locker rooms can do. Eddie Jordan might be the right coach for the Scarlet Knights with his NBA pedigree, but they will need more than just him to compete in the Big Ten.
  4. Tim Miles is starting to make a great deal of headway in recruiting the state of Illinois. He has already secured verbal commitments from Class of 2015 members Glynn Watson from St Joseph’s in Westchester, and Edward Morrow from Chicago powerhouse Simeon. Now he has 2016 forward Isaiah Roby also in the fold. Roby hails from Dixon, Illinois, and is a 6’8″ forward with a versatile skill set. He joins Keanu Pinder in the 2016 Nebraska class so far.
  5. There’s a great deal of pressure on Maryland and Mark Turgeon this season as he looks to guide the Terrapins to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in his tenure at the school. Even with the recent injury to probable starter Evan Smotrycz, Turgeon is still upbeat and excited about his team. The injury to the veteran will give him an opportunity to provide more minutes to the freshman class he’s assembled. If he chooses to go small, freshman guards Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens are in line to see more minutes, and Turgeon also mentioned that freshman guard Melo Trimble will more than likely be his starting point guard.
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Big Ten M5: 10.20.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on October 20th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Maryland received some bad news over the weekend when it found out that starting forward Evan Smotrycz will be out of action from four to six weeks with a broken foot. Smotrycz averaged 11.0 PPG and 6.0 RPG last season after transferring from Michigan. He was expected to be a starter for Mark Turgeon’s team again this season, but now he will probably miss key non-conference games against Arizona State and Virginia if he misses the full six weeks. This puts Jon Graham and possibly freshman Michal Cekovsky in line to pick up some of his minutes, at least in the short term.
  2. Not many Big Ten teams had flashy Midnight Madness spectacles like the Kentuckys and UConns of the world, but a couple of schools held public intra-squad scrimmages over the weekend. Purdue was one such team that did so, and the Boilermakers put forth an intriguing lineup with giants AJ Hammons and freshman Isaac Haas on the floor together at the same time. While this unit would definitely lack in quickness if used during the regular season, it could potentially work in small stretches of game action. The major takeaway from this occurrence, however, is that should Hammons get into foul trouble during the season — a fair assumption, given that he had 12 games of four fouls or more last year — it looks as though Matt Painter won’t hesitate to spell him with the 7’2″ Haas.
  3. Nebraska is in the midst of a highly successful football season right now, as the Huskers currently sit at 6-1 with running back Ameer Abdullah sneaking up the list of Heisman favorites. Despite all of that, Cornhuskers basketball is generating a good deal of its own hype heading into the season. Preseason first team All-Big Ten forward Terran Petteway was quoted at media day as saying “now everybody is going to be coming for us.” The Huskers surpassed expectations and then some last year, so it will be interesting to see what happens when they go from being the hunter to the hunted in 2014-15.
  4. Branden Dawson has to have a great senior season if Michigan State hopes to exceed expectations after losing three talented starters, and playing summer ball against former All-American Draymond Green has helped prepare him to take on a greater burden during this year’s campaign. Head coach Tom Izzo stated that if Dawson can bring consistent energy to the lineup, then he’ll have a big year as a leader. One would think that an all-conference season from Dawson will answer many of the questions people have about Michigan State in a transition year.
  5. Another B1G senior who is under the microscope this season is Ohio State swingman Sam Thompson. Thompson has primarily been known for his highlight reel dunks and incredible athleticism during his previous three seasons in Columbus, but the Buckeyes need offense with their top three scorers no longer on the roster. Thompson’s shooting percentages dropped across the board from his sophomore to his junior season, and as a senior he needs to provide more than just athleticism on a team that ranked 128th in offensive efficiency last year. Fellow seniors Shannon Scott, Amir Williams and Trey McDonald all will have different roles on the team from last season, and whether Thompson in particular can blossom into a more complete player may determine if the Buckeyes are capable of making another deep NCAA Tournament run for Thad Matta.
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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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Big Ten Season Grades: Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Nebraska

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on April 30th, 2014

To close out the season for good, we’re finishing our official Big Ten grades with the four top tier teams: Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Nebraska. Yes, take that in one last time — Nebraska ended the season in the top four of the standings in the best conference in the country. For our previously-published grades on the eight other teams in the Big Ten, here are Part I and Part II.

Michigan

Grade: A

This season (28-9,15-3): Last year, Michigan broke through to make it all the way to the National Championship game. And while that was an impressive run, the coaching job that John Beilein did this season — leading the Wolverines to their first outright B1G title since 1986, and finishing just one play from another Final Four appearance — may be even more impressive. It’s important to note where this program was two years ago to fully appreciate the leap that Beilein has guided Michigan basketball through. In 2012, the Wolverines hadn’t yet been able to escape the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament under his direction, and Beilein’s squads were thought of as good but not great. This season, he proved that his success was not just the product of a special player like 2013 NPOY, Trey Burke; it is fundamentally anchored in player development and buy-in from his kids. This season was a successful one by any standard and it looks like the head coach in Ann Arbor has gone and rebuilt himself an elite program in Ann Arbor.

John Beilein has cemented himself as a premier coach after winning the outright title. (Lon Horwedel/AnnArbor.com)

John Beilein has cemented himself as a premier coach after winning the outright title. (Lon Horwedel/AnnArbor.com)

Next season: The Wolverines lose a lot of their roster: Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, Jordan Morgan, Jon Horford, and Mitch McGary. They will bring in heralded recruit Kameron Chatman with returning players like Caris Levert, Derrick Walton, Zak Irvin, and Spike Albrecht joining him. In short, Michigan loses all of its frontcourt experience and its two best backcourt players. The Wolverines seemed poised to fall back a notch, but that was also the popular thought when McGary went out for the rest of this season. The bottom line is that Beilein will find a way to get this team competitive and back to the NCAA Tournament — and he has enough returning talent to get there.

Wisconsin

Grade: A+

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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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Big Ten M5: 03.27.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on March 27th, 2014

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  1. Wisconsin is certainly used to the Sweet Sixteen and plenty of success under Bo Ryan. Part of the reason for that is how Ryan instills the “method of deception” into his players from the moment they arrive on campus. For a team that is often talked about as athletically outmatched, the idea of Ryan preaching the use of ball fakes and shot fakes during every practice makes sense. This could be important in creating opportunities against Baylor’s zone tonight. The Badgers may also use these fakes to get Isaiah Austin into the air and create foul trouble for the athletic big man. If Wisconsin can remove Austin from the center of that zone, their chances of finding open shots everywhere on the floor improves substantially.
  2. Nik Stauskas certainly was one of the biggest surprises this season in the Big Ten. After he was named first team All-America by the National Association of Basketball Coaches this week, you can add that he is one of the nation’s biggest surprises as well. Stauskas was certainly a good player as a freshman last season but expecting him to be one of the five best players in America this year was on nobody’s radar. With this award, he has put himself in elite company at Michigan, becoming just the 13th Wolverine to be named to at least one All-America team in program history. Now the question is whether he, like last year’s Michigan All-American Trey Burke, can lead his team to a Final Four?
  3. Michigan State has played plenty of big games in almost all the major venues across the country. Tom Izzo has taken the Spartans around the world and even played a game on an aircraft carrier. For all of this talent and history of success, the one place that Izzo’s Spartans have struggled is exactly where they are headed this weekend: Madison Square Garden. When Michigan State takes on Virginia in New York City Friday night, it does so with a 2-10 all-time record there (2-6 under Izzo). Sparty hasn’t won at MSG since 2006 and already lost there once this year to Georgetown. While it is obviously foolish to think the arena itself is causing losses, it is an interesting trend to think about. Izzo says he isn’t superstitious but if the losses keep piling up at MSG maybe he will avoid the arena the best he can in the future.
  4. With three Big Ten teams left in the NCAA Tournament it is easy to forget that Minnesota is still playing basketball as well. The Golden Gophers are headed to New York next Tuesday night where they will take on Florida State in the NIT semifinals, thanks in large part to a massive game from Austin Hollins. For a team playing in the NIT rather than the NCAAs, they are still plenty focused on the games ahead and getting to 25 wins this season. While there is no guaranteed correlation between NIT success and the next season, Richard Pitino’s Gophers are playing well and could easily take home some postseason hardware by the end of the season.
  5. It is easy to forget that Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan has never reached the final weekend in college basketball despite everything he has accomplished while at Wisconsin. Having never reached the Final Four gives him the dubious honor of being named the Athlon Sports Top Coach Without a Final Four Appearance. He wasn’t the lone representative from the conference, either. Iowa’s Fran McCaffery came in 11th, Purdue’s Matt Painter at 14th and even Nebraska’s Tim Miles cracked the top 20 at #17. This is certainly not a list any coach wants to reside on and Ryan has a great opportunity to leave it in his wake this weekend.
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NCAA Game Analysis: Second Round, Friday Afternoon

Posted by Brian Otskey, Andrew Murawa, Walker Carey & Bennet Hayes on March 21st, 2014

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Half the day is in the books, and eight teams are headed home. We may not know what the Thursday evening sessions might have in store for us, but we can be confident in thinking there will be lots of excitement. Let’s continue our analysis of all of today’s games with the evening slate of eight contests.

#3 Duke vs. #14 Mercer – Midwest Region Round of 64 (from Raleigh, NC) – at 12:15 PM EST on CBS

Parker and Duke Face Mercer Today

Parker and Duke Face Mercer Today

Last season, the Atlantic Sun Tournament champions advanced to the Sweet 16. Mercer will try to repeat that accomplishment this season, but winning Friday’s game against Duke will be a very tall task. Duke forwards Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood lead a very talented Blue Devils squad that is an elite scoring team. There are no teams with close to Duke’s talent in the Atlantic Sun so Mercer has no basis for comparison leading into Friday afternoon’s action. Another thing that is working against Mercer is its lack of NCAA Tournament experience. The Bears have not been to the tournament since 1985. On the other hand, Duke has played in every NCAA Tournament since 1995. If Mercer is able to keep it close Friday, it will be because of its strong offense going up against an iffy Duke defense. Mercer averages an impressive 79.5 points per game and is shooting 47.5% from the field. Bears senior guard Langston Hall has been an impressive player throughout his collegiate career and his ability to make plays will be paramount to the team’s fortunes Friday. Mercer is a scrappy bunch that can keep it close in the first half, but expect Duke’s talent to take over in the second half and lead the Blue Devils to a comfortable victory.

The RTC Certified Pick: Duke

#6 Baylor vs #11 Nebraska – West Regional Second Round (at San Antonio, TX) – 12:40 PM ET on truTV

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